The ICC Day organized by ICC Belgium took place on Saturday, March 31st, 2018 but this time, I didn’t plan to attend this ICC day as a normal participant; instead, I offered them to help organizing a workshop on traveling abroad, which was gladly accepted!
As Silke also came up with a similar idea, we started organizing the workshop together. In addition, as I didn’t plan to rent a place on my own again, I asked around whether anybody would be interested in joining me for a few days in Belgium.
We ended up being five people in total, so I started booking the hostel from Friday to Sunday. Because Philipp and I already arrived on Thursday and the hostel we planned to stay in was full, I booked a small apartment for one night at Condo Gardens Leuven.
On Thursday, the day of arrival, the train connections to Frankfurt were terribly bad due to a construction work, so I was forced to take a quite early connection and wait almost two hours before boarding the ICE train to Belgium. It didn’t really matter to me; this way I could enjoy some solid lunch and a chill-out in the DB-Lounge.
Then, the assistance picked me up to help me boarding the train and finding the right seat; the rest of the trip went as it should.
I met Philipp in Liége Guillimins where assistance was standing by to board us on the train to Leuven (Luckily, one of them at least spoke German).
When we finally arrived in Leuven, we decided to take a taxi to the Condo Gardens because it would have been quite a walk. It was no problem for the assistance guy to give us a hand to find a cab that drove us to the Condo Gardens. We first had some difficulties finding the receptionist, because their office was not occupied and nobody else was around. However, our taxi driver was able to find someone who finally checked us in. Coincidentally, the receptionist also spoke German.
The apartment was fair enough; a living- and a dining room area, a small kitchen and a staircase leading to the upper floor where the beds were located. After we unpacked our stuff and made ourselves familiar with the apartment, we consulted Google Maps and Blindsquare to find a fries shop nearby for an evening snack.
The next morning, we got breakfast served in front of our doorstep, so we just had to open the door and take it inside. We first thought that one breakfast would have been fairly enough for both of us but in the end, we were surprised how much we eventually ate. We cleaned up the place and washed the dishes before we packed our stuff and left. Luckily, we were flexible (as far as the checkout-time was concerned).
The weather was nice, so we just spent a few more hours on a bench in the backyard of the Condo Gardens, before we finally moved out to find the good old Hostel De Blauwput.
First, we again tried Blindsquare, however, we got lost a few times, our phone batteries were quite low and we were assuming that at least one of our friends was already waiting at the hostel, so we called a taxi, which was more difficult than I thought.
We ended up calling six different taxi companies; either they didn’t pick up the phone or they announced that they couldn’t send us a cab due to limited capacities; well, lucky number six finally offered us a taxi, so there we went.
At the hostel, we met René and together we checked in. Steven – a hostel staff member whom I still knew from my last stay – helped us arranging ourselves in our room and showed us the most important things. Eversince ICC 2017, they even got braille lables at the room doors and in the elevator, which made it way easier finding our room.
Unfortunately, Eva wasn’t able to join us due to some construction work which apparently blocked the way from the Netherlands to Belgium.
Silke and Julien joined us later in the evening, so we went out for dinner, a drink and a nice talk.
The next morning, we left the hostel at a quarter past 7AM, when one of the hostel staff members picked us up to guide us to the train station. Since we couldn’t take advantage of the breakfast buffet, we got breakfast packages prepared the evening before.
At the service desk of the train station, we checked in for our assistance and they boarded us on the train to Brussels Central.
In Brussels, we arrived half an hour earlier and therefore took advantage of our breakfast packages whilst waiting for the ICC Belgium volunteers to pick us up. When they arrived, we first gathered at a starbucks café and were then splitted up into small groups for the cars.
At the K.I (Koninklijk Instituut) Woluwe where the ICC Day took place, we first had a coffee and some biscuits before the introduction to the ICC day started. After some background information about the camp and ICC Belgium and an introductory movie by ICC Belgium from ICC 2017, the workshops were announced and we splitted up for the workshops of our desire. As I was one of the leaders for the “Traveling Abroad” workshop, guess where I went… 😉
The workshop was very highlighted! I couldn’t count how many we were, but I think at least 10 people (more or less). We first got everyone introduced and asked our participants what they expect from this workshop and whether they had a visual impairment or not (which is important to know because depending on your remaining sight, you will gain different experiences).
Our first topic was about arranging the journey (where to book tickets, how to request assistance and what else to take care of). Then, we talked about where to stay (Hotel or Hostel, AirBNB, Couchsurfing or elsewhere) and how to get around at a foreign location.
The last important topics we were able to talk about before we ran out of time were about solving random problems and getting clear of random obstacles on the journey and how or where we might possibly get handicap discounts on public transport or at other locations in general.
The workshop was a great success, and we did not regret organizing it and would gladly do it again, let it be on an ICC day or the camp itself! We got more input from the participants than we expected and therefore were not able to talk about everything we planned to, but we covered the most important things and got some more ideas how to implement some of our participants input in future workshops.
During the lunch break, we got to talk to some of our Belgian friends and had a great laugh teaching French, German and Dutch phrases to each other. Don’t bother, those phrases were running-gags and are only important to know for insiders. 😛
After another short introduction to the next available workshops, we splitted up again and I chose “The Great App Exchange”. We got to talk about a lot of apps for traveling, booking flight- and train tickets and other lifestyle-specific apps.
A small coffee break later, it was time for leisure-time activities and since I never signed up for the jamming-session on ICC itself, I signed up for it this time.
Geert, a teacher at the K.I organized this activity and we formed a combo with keyboard players, a drummer, a fluit player and Youssri and I as the percussionists playing “Mission Impossible”! It was a hell of a great combo, and I really started to regret not taking part at any of the jamming-sessions on ICC so far.
At the end of the ICC day, we had a testimonials round, where all those who participated in ICC in the past so far were talking about their experiences. In the end, we watched a small movie about ICC 2018 by the university in Zadar, Croatia and after everybody who helped organizing this ICC day got a great “Thank you” and an applause, we were taken back to the train station of Brussels Central and claimed our assistance for our departure back to Leuven.
Back at the hostel, we were a little surprised when we inserted all of our cards into the card reader next to our room door, just to find out that none of our cards worked. Julien went downstairs to the reception and it turned out that they were mixing up dates and therefore threw our cards out of their system as if we already left.
When he returned with a couple of new cards which also didn’t seem to do the trick, it turned out that the receptionist gave us cards that work, but only for the room one floor below. After another card-exchange, they finally granted us access to our room.
After a short chill-out, we went by bus to Downtown-Jack, a restaurant somewhere in the city center, where we again met Anthony and Serhat for dinner and a nice talk.
Back in the hostel, Silke and Jesse stayed with us because René already left and we booked space for five people anyway.
For breakfast, Philipp, Julien and I were on our own because Silke and Jesse had to leave a little earlier. Surprisingly, the dining hall was nearly empty, but one of the hostel staff members helped us getting our desired food.
We checked out and stowed our luggage in the hostel’s luggage room and went to a café nearby, before Philipp left for his train back to Germany.
As for the night from Thursday to Friday, I consulted Couchsurfing and tried to find a suitable host and I found Bianca. However, due to a performance of her it was difficult for her to host but we agreed to meet on Sunday and kill some time before our departure; so whereas Julien brought Philipp to the train station to claim Philipp’s assistance for his journey back to Germany, I was standing by at the hostel to wait for Bianca to show up.
Together with Julien and Bianca, we went to a nearby supermarket to get some typical Belgian groceries. Before we went to the train station and splitted up, we had one final coffee break at a café and shared our travel experiences.
Instead of claiming my assistance for the train ride to Brussels airport, Bianca decided to accompany me and she even helped me until we reached the gate and the boarding began. This way, we were even more flexible and had some more time to continue our exchange of travel stories.
On the plane, it was the same procedure as usual. The flight was short and nice, and I was more than surprised when the assistance was already standing by a few minutes after our arrival. When I consider how long I usually had to wait for the assistance (especially in Hamburg) in the past, this was a new record! Outside the transit-area, my mother picked me up by car and we finally went home.
It was an awesome weekend and – of course – an awesome workshop we led, and I am looking forward to future events like another ICC day or the ICC camp itself! Furthermore, especially the journey back to Hamburg was one of the smoothest journeys I ever had which also caused the least stress, so yay! But, as you probably already read below from other travel stories of mine, you should know that situations like this one are not always likely to happen this way…