On April 1st 2017, ICC Belgium organized an ICC day. For me, it was a nice occasion to meet almost the entire ICC Belgium crew and/or some good old Belgian friends again, and because date and time was suitable, I decided to go there.
There was only one major problem that I had to sort out: All my friends were – except for the ICC day – busy with school, university or just not there.
In the end, Silke suggested that I should book a hostel room at Hostel De Blauwput in Leuven, which is very close to the train station in Leuven, and Leuven is not too far away from Brussels. Furthermore, Pawel (See the entry below) prooved that it should perfectly work arranging myself in a hostel, so I went for it!
I called up the hostel for additional information about the location, what’s nearby, etc. Then, I reserved my room via E-Mail.
Because it is not possible to receive seat reservations done by the DB mobility center, I met the train station personel in Marburg who handed them out to me, before guiding me to the train.
In Frankfurt, I stopped at the DB lounge to wait for my train and have a drink.
The trip to Leuven worked out as it should; however, there were some language problems in Liége, when the assistance picked me up to get me over to the IC train to Leuven. They apparently didn’t speak any English, Dutch or German, and I decided to learn Latin a couple of years ago, not French. Mistake? Might be, but at the time where I had to decide between French and Latin, I didn’t think that far… So the only thing I could do was trusting them; and what can I say? I arrived in Leuven, so yay! 🙂
The guy who picked me up in Leuven was kind enough to guide me to the hostel, which was right next to the train station. After the payment, Steve (one of the hostel’s staff members) showed me around in the hostel and provided me with some additional information about the hostel, how to access certain areas, etc.
When the formalities were done, I started looking for a place to have dinner. I didn’t know the city of Leuven too well, and – as mentioned above – most of my friends who lived in Leuven were busy with other important things.
Luckily though, Joyce (A Belgian ICC participant) was able to get in touch with some of her friends who eventually picked me up to hang out a while, have dinner in a Belgian fry-shop, as well as a good laugh.
Back in the hostel, I went to the hostel bar for a typical Belgian beer, and met a nice Dutch couple who coincidentally spoke German fluently and even lived in hamburg for a longer time, so we had a quite long and interesting talk.
When we went back to our rooms after the bar was closed, I was just about to shut the door when a lady stood in the doorway talking to me in French; and as I already said, my French skills are aweful. 😦
Because I didn’t want to be impolite, I tried to tell her that I don’t speak any French, which she either didn’t understand or didn’t care about. She pushed me asside, went into my room obviously explaining the room structure to me, moving around my luggage, before she finally left the room; but this wasn’t over yet. I was supposed to record a voice message to friends of mine, when she again knocked on my door. When I opened, she again talked to me as if I would perfeclt understand her and put something around my wrist before she left. As my friends told me afterwards (because the recording was still active), she gave me a sign that I should show other guests in case of I need any help from her. She was wearing the same kind of sign around her wrist, so I just had to ask around for a lady with a sign similar to mine, who – in addition – doesn’t even speak my language to properly understand my problem. Sure it was meant to be a friendly way to offer help, but it is way easier asking a person for help who
speaks one of my languages. 😉
The next morning at 7AM (Just as Steve assured me the day before), a staff member picked me up from my room to guide me to the train station, where I got assistance on my way to the train to Brussels Central. Furthermore I met Eline and some other people from ICC Belgium on the train. However, due to technical problems with the train, we had to abandon the train and change into another train to Brussels.
Finally in Brussels, ICC Belgium volunteers were standing by to pick us up and get us over to the location where the ICC day took place.
All of a sudden though, Youssri (ICC Belgium staff) told us that the ICC day cannot take place, because he just spoke to the director of the school who denied access to all the rooms, which were quite shocking news indeed! But, if you paid closer attention to the date of the ICC day stated above, it could have been clear that this could only be an April fool’s joke. Hell! For a moment, I really believed him! :O
The ICC day was similar to the ICC day I attended before; however, there were more workshops to choose in different languages (French, Dutch or English). The App Exchange workshop was meant to be in Dutch; but for everybody’s convenience, we switched English or we sometimes just spoke both and did some translation work so everybody could understand, just in case of vocabulary problems.
We came up with a huge variety of apps for iOS and Android which the participants of the workshop announced and used (more or less) frequently.
Lunch was surved at 12 and I took the advantage to talk to some people that I already met before.
Later on, we again splitted up for different workshops. This time, I chose “working with PDFs”, an official English-speaking workshop. 😉
We had a coffee break in between, before we were taken to the gym hall, where blind-football was introduced by Anderlecht, a Belgian football team.
Eventually to wrap it up, we all met for a final assembly to listen to testimonials of past ICC participants. I also said a few words concerning ICC, the influence on my entire life and my independence nowadays. As a bonus, traveling to Belgium and organizing my stay in a hostel room – more or less – arranging myself and, most importantly, my actual participation at the ICC day was a good demonstration to show possible future participants, parents and other interested people what kind of influence ICC can have and how easy it can be traveling independently with a visual handicap.
Together with Silke and Eline, I traveled back to Leuven, where we arranged some stuff in my hostel room and at Eline’s place. then, we went to a japanese restaurant for the traditional dinner with the ICC Belgium delegation who organized the ICC day.
The next morning, I could sleep a little longer and have some breakfast at the hostel buffet.
First, I was a little curious how I could find out what was offered at the buffet and how to get stuff… But just a few seconds after I entered the dining hall, a guest approached me and offered her help at the buffet and even informed the kitchen staff, who told me to raise my hand if I wanted something.
Well, what can I say? There was absolutely no need to attract attention; a hand full of guests constantly showed up to offer me some more bread, yoghurt or coffee. One nice lady even took my bowl of muesli I was actually still working on! Luckily I spoke Dutch; because just before she went off with the bowl of muesli, she announced that she would be right back with some extra yoghurt on the muesli, because she noticed that I had more muesli in the bowl than yoghurt, which was indeed a little dry.
I went to the reception to check out and asked for help to get to the train station. The receptionist was busy, but a random guest who listened in to our conversation offered his help, because he was going to go to the train station anyway. I got assistance to board the train. Back in Liége, the guy who picked me up was the complete opposite of his colleagues from two days ago. He spoke English, Dutch and German fluently, and we ended up speaking a mixture of those languages.
In Cologne where I had to change trains, it took a while for the assistance to find me. When I boarded the train in Liége, the conductor didn’t take me to my reserved seat, because she wanted to sit close to the train staff in case of a problem. It was the first time that a conductor did that, and on the other hand, it caused problems in Cologne because I wasn’t located at the coach where I should have been. Plus, I don’t know what kind of area of the train I was sitting in, but I had less space for my luggage and the seats were not as confortable as usual.
Anyway, the guys in Cologne found me and helped me boarding the next train to Hamburg. From there, all the rest was business as usual. They picked me up in Harburg, took me to the train to Stade and my mother picked me up.
Most of my Belgian friends I was talking to were astonished that I was willing to come to Belgium anyway, even though I had to book a hostel room because nobody was available. To be honest, I was astonished myself; but not about the fact that I just did it. Actually, it is the fact that everything just worked out more than the way I wanted it to. And if I had no plan, I worked something out spontaneously on the fly!
This trip has tought me another great lesson, and I am looking forward to take advantage of my experiences on my future trips!