Highway to Halle (or the 4th ICC Weekend in Belgium)

Some synthetic TTS voices pronounce „halle“ similar to the word “hell”, and it certainly was a HELL of a trip. Nevertheless, it was definitely worth it!

The current Corona situation once again made it possible for ICC Belgium to organize one of their legendary weekends live and in presence in Dworp (a small place near Brussels), which was, of course, a great opportunity to go abroad for a weekend.

As I started traveling together with my salesforce colleagues in June, I travel by train a lot more than I ever did before during the days in Marburg, and so far, there has never been a serious delay or any other kind of complication to deal with on my journeys. The trip to Belgium though was a mess from start on.

I decided to depart earlier that day in order to arrive early enough and unpack my stuff before the weekend would officially start. Still in my flat, the DB Navigator app informed me that my train from Frankfurt to Brussels was canceled; but we would probably deal with this problem in Frankfurt itself.

So, I arrived at the central station of Darmstadt and the assistance showed up as planned, but when I arrived in Frankfurt, nobody was there to pick me up. After a few minutes of waiting, I decided to ask for directions to the next service point where they double-checked their files but couldn’t find my booking, so they started calling other departments and started discussing about what to do next. The discussion seemed to last somewhat longer, so they offered me to sit down until they could sort it out. The only problem was that, in approximately 10 minutes, a train to Cologne would depart, from where I could still catch the train to Brussels that – for some reason – was canceled between Frankfurt and Cologne.

Therefore, I asked them whether they could bring me to that particular train before that. They agreed after thinking it over, but also told me that they won’t be able to forward the information to Cologne because they couldn’t find an assistance booking on file.

Unfortunately, there was an extra change involved in Cologne Deutz/Fair, and the ICE train arrived late. The conductor phoned ahead to notify Cologne Deutz about my arrival, and assistance was standing by to get me to the right train onwards to Cologne Central. As no assistance was guaranteed there, another passenger whom I met on the ICE train offered to accompany me, as he also wanted to go to Belgium. Although the ICE service to Brussels was a little late as well, we missed it by just a hair and thus had to wait for 2 hours for the next train. We spent some time in a restaurant and then boarded the next train to Brussels.

Conveniently, the train to Halle, the pick-up spot specified by ICC Belgium, departed from the same platform opposite and the passenger I met confirmed it after double-checking, so I was fine without assistance as well.

I already phoned ahead to let ICC Belgium know about my delay, and they told me that I might have to wait a little longer for the pick-up crew, who also waited for some other folks arriving later to depart to Dworp together.

We eventually arrived in Dworp, but there was no time for unpacking right away because dinner was already served. Plus, I was super hungry after that hell of a trip!

After a short welcoming ceremony, we were split up for the leisure-time activities that could be chosen online prior to the weekend. I went for the music-quiz which was both challenging and fun trying to beat the other teams.

The organizers came up with different challenges, such as humming a song played on a headset and make the rest of the team guess what it could be, or trying to sing along to a part of a song with the correct lyrics.

As usual, the bar opened at the end of the leisure-time activities, so the rest of the evening we kept socializing and having drinks and snacks together.

The next morning after breakfast, there was a short assembly, after which we split up for the workshops, such as cooking, lay-outing, as well as social workshops.

In the “Taboo-session”, we talked about a variety of topics that might be difficult to discuss in certain environments. The participants and workshop leaders were very respectful and we could exchange opinions or personal anecdotes in a cozy environment.

After lunch and a short break, it was time for the 2nd workshop session with a mixture of social- and technical workshops, such as an introduction to Reaper or a programming session for beginners.

I ended up in a workshop about stepping into the labor market. God knows I found a safe and, most of all, great job with a lot of opportunities, but it doesn’t hurt hearing and sharing each other’s experiences. Plus, participants who might have been new to the labor market could possibly profit from those who already gained some experiences.

One topic that obviously had to be discussed was the question whether you should mention your disability or, to be precise, when is the right moment to do so, as it is just a matter of time when the employer finds out anyway.

After a short coffee break, the leisure-time activities started, one of which was a forest game where you slipped into the roll of different creatures, working alongside or against your team accomplishing different tasks, riddles and challenges.

During the course of the game, you were supposed to find the evil person working against your team, which turned out to be not too easy after all.

The rest was business as usual: Dinner, farewell-party, sleeping (I think), breakfast, and one last workshop session before departure.

I ended up in a workshop where we talked about different useful gadgets, such as navigational aids like the FeelSpace Navibelt, a smart cane named WeWALK, as well as smartphone accessories such as the Hable One.

Plus, the workshop leader brought along some of these products to put our hands on – something that I really missed since COVID was around, as most of the exhibitions such as the Sight City couldn’t take place in presence.

Lunch and the time to depart came around quicker than wanted and, together with a bigger group of Dutch participants, we boarded a train from Halle to Brussels where we split up.

Philipp and Marie, two well-known German folks with whom I already traveled a couple times after ICC, joined me on the train from Brussels to Cologne. Due to a technical fault on the train, crew and passengers traveling to Frankfurt had to change into another ICE-train standing by on the same platform, so one of the conductors gave me a hand boarding the other train.

This time, Frankfurt was aware of my booking, and assistance was standing by to bring me to the train heading in the direction of Darmstadt.

As months have passed, restrictions in different countries once again make it more difficult to organize ICC-related events, and online activities like the “World Bar” are organized more regularly again. However, they don’t replace the activities in presence, as well as possible travel anecdotes and experiences resulting out of them.

Therefore, I keep my fingers crossed that, maybe someday, COVID19 will be defeated or at least somewhat under control in order to make coming together as “easy” as it used to be.

That being said, stay healthy, hang in there, and stay tuned for future posts.


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