It started to be a big hit when many people wanted to take a picture with my University of Utah scarf, so he are the pictures. They include people from: Spain, France, Hungary, Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Belgium, Morocco, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Italy.
The Youth European People's Party (YEPP) meeting that I attend had a guest speaker who is a Member of Parliament from the country of Hungary, Professor Gyorgy Schopfin (center of the photo). The professor was reelected in 2009 to the European Parliament, he is sits on the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and he is a substitute member on the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) and is on the subcommittee on Security and Defense (SEDE)
The discussion topic was about the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) Policy Paper for the European Council. The Professor brought a clear coherent sound of mind into the topic. The questions that were raised are how and when Europe will be moving more towards a joint-security and defense plan. The current plan is constructed to EU member states to take care of their own plan, but must follow under EU guidelines. To put it in better terms, think of it as California and Maine have their own security and defense plan; whereas the US Government in reality are the ones who protect the security of the United States. The European Union is trying to grapple with the many challenges it faces on trying to enlarge their current system. It is something to think about the many uphill challenges they still face Europe. Overall, if the EU can come this far into what they have accomplished, then I think sometime in the near future they will be able to achieve this milestone.
I'm the second person on the left side of the photo.
My colleague/friend insisted that I must go to the city where she is from-- Paris. I said of course, I need to. I booked a cheap bus ticket from Brussels and I was on my way.
I had a wonderful time in Paris. My friend showed me around the city and I was able to see what Parisians do. In the day time I went and did the tourist things to do and see. At night I went and seen what the Parisians do. That was a wonderful time I was able to spend with my friend. While I was in Paris, I went to the Arch of Triumph, then I walked down the Champs-Elysees. As I was walking down the street there was Christmas lights up, also a Christmas market; I went and seen some of the shops they had set up. Later that night I walked over to where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried. It struck me while I was at the building that the only places I have ever seen that had anything historical significance of Napoleon have been his defeat at Waterloo and his burial place. I need to go to a battlefield, like Austerlitz, where Napoleon was victories. After seeing Napoleon's burial place I then decided to walk over to the Eiffel Tower. It was almost 10:30 at night when I got there, and I told myself how often it is that I'm in Paris. I paid for a ticket to climb the stairs to the 2nd level of the tower. Bear in mind that I had been walking around all day on tour, so I was really sore; especially when I got to the 2nd level. The site of the city was worth it.
I have to say one thing about Paris is to defiantly go there if you have a significant other. For guys especially go there and be romantic, because I can guarantee that it will buy you more time to stall before you have to buy an engagement ring for your girl.
The food and the social atmospheres in Paris are wonderful. I know when I went to Italy the food was great, but in Paris it is a different kind of food. In Paris, they love there outside cafes. At the cafes there are heaters installed to help keep customers warm during the winter months.. Also, I noticed a sense of elegance the Parisian show during dinner. It was really nice to see that. When you are in Paris, I know it is cliché, but the Parisians love their wine and cheese. If you got there, you must try it, because it is delicious. The coffee is amazing, in Europe in general, but particular in Paris I thought it was the best.
It was nice to see and say goodbye to my friend Erika and her boyfriend Raphael. I have gotten to know the both of them really well over the last couple of months, and what I an excellent way to say our goodbyes.
When I go back to Paris I will defiantly make more time to go see an Opera show, see Versailles palace, and take more time to tour the Louvre.
The bottom picture is Raphael and Erika
It has been a wonderful experience getting to know my colleagues. I have two more weeks left on my training ship, but unfortunately there time is up and they have to move back to their home countries. I will talk about where my friends will be going in their bright future careers:
Starting with Maria, I can foresee someday she will defiantly be the Foreign Minister of the EU. She has the right education and is currently building her credibility that will someday make her the driven force in EU international affairs.
Marta, is a brilliant lawyer, whatever course of law she decides to choose, whether it be lobbying or legal practice, the law firm she will work with will have a highly valuable asset. If I ever need to lobby the EU or simply need to get out of trouble, while I'm in Europe, I will defiantly give call her for legal advice.
Erika plans to become more involved with both the academia and diplomatic world, with her expertise knowledge about the Middle East countries I can foresee her being more involved with shaping the EU's policy towards the Middle East region; maybe even running for European Parliament or French politics.
Javier Mira, I have talked about him many times throughout my blog. If I could bring a phrase to mind that best describes him, it is, 'he is the most interesting man in the world'. He seems to know everyone and he is always doing something fascinating. He is currently promoting a centre-right leaning political party. He is going places, whether he runs for political office in Spain or for a European Parliament position.
I was able to take photos 1 & 2 with them. (left to right) Maria Hidalgo (Spain), Marta Bartolome (Spain), myself-Collin Bess (USA), and Erika Luozato (Paris, France). The first one Erika is holding a mouse pad that has the EPP Group's image on it. The second one is with my University of Utah scarf.
The third & fourth picture is our last dinner together before everyone goes there separate ways. (left to right) Marta (Spanish), Shivanni (New Zealand), Marisha (London, England), Maria (Spanish), Claudia (Portuguese), Emanuele (Italy), Collin Bess (USA), Pierre (France), Rafael (Burgundy, France), Erika Luozato (Paris, France).
Brussels around this time of year features their Christmas Market, St. Nicolas Day (Dec 6th) and Christmas festivities. I had the wonderful experience to go see the Christmas Market, and the light show in Grand Place.
The Christmas Market is literally small little wooden shops that are set up all on the streets of downtown Brussels. You could buy a lot of different things in these shops, more than likely there is a shop for something that you want ranging from jewelry to candy. It is a nice opportunity to go and buy some Christmas gifts for friends and family.
The light show in Grand Place was amazing. The light show is sequenced with the music that was being played. I told people that we have this in the US, but with people set it at their homes. They were amazed, and I had to explain it is someone who has to have a hobby for it, because it takes months to set up. It is nice to see some of the old historic buildings light up with all sorts of colors. I will provide pictures; it is a nice site to see. In the middle of Grand Place they have a Nativity scene and a giant Christmas tree.
The food and drinks are special as well this time of year. There are many shops where you can buy “Vin Chaud”, which is red wine that is served hot. You can only find these in the northern European countries. Many of my European friends, who are from the Mediterranean countries, were ecstatic to have some, because it does not get cold enough back in their home countries to drink Vin Chaud.
This is the first Thanksgiving I have missed. However, I was able to go out with some and friends, and meet some new people. My friends Javier (Spanish) and Emanuele (Italian) met up with me after work on Thursday night to go out and have something to eat. In addition, Javier invited some his friends that are from Mexico and Cuba. Their names are Mario and Werlando (Cuba). It was the closest thing to Thanksgiving, and I was in good company. During the conversation we were able to have wonderful discussing about politics and current international affairs that are going on. Everyone there, except Emanuele (Socialist), is from a conservative political party. If you would like to read more about what parties Mario and Werlando are from, Javier listed them below on his statement.
Javier wrote this for his social media campaign (it is translated in English):
Con dos magníficos delegados del Programa Fundación Faes de Visitantes de#Iberoamérica en Bruselas: Mario, del Partido Acción Nacional de México y Werlando, del Oswaldo Paya-Movimiento Cristiano Liberación de Cuba. Tras su visita al EPP - ...See More— with Ema 'n' Uele and Collin Bess at Luxemburgplein / Place du Luxembourg.
With two magnificent delegates of the Faes Foundation program of visitors of #Iberoamérica in Brussels: Mario, of the National Action Party of Mexico and Werlando, Oswaldo Paya-Movimiento Christian Liberation of Cuba. Following his visit to the EPP - European People completo Party Hq and CES - Centre for European Studies... time provide for freedom alongside Emanuele and my good friend of the Republican Party, and Mr Collin Bess. "Viva Cuba libre!"
Picture left to right: Mario (Mexico), Collin Bess (USA), Emanuele (Italy), Werlando (Cuba), Javier Mira (Spanish).
(listed from left to right) Elmer Brok (Germany, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee). Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Representative Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY).
I was able to have the opportunity to sit in on the exchange talks with members of a US Congressional Delegation. The reason why they were at the European Parliament, to be frank, was because they were on an apologetic tour about the Snowden NSA leaks. The days before they were at the Bundestag, in Germany, and then they travelled to Brussels, where they had meetings for two straight days with members of the Commission and Parliament. Ever since the story broke, many governments have been furious over the revelations; especially Chancellor Merkel in Germany. She accused the NSA of tapping her phone for a number of years. The main tone of the meeting was trying to re-establish the friendship between both the US and EU. A few weeks earlier many members of Parliament travelled to D.C. to have high level talks with many US Government officials. In the on-going efforts to try and re-establish the damage Snowden caused, the US Congressional members, who sit on the subcommittee of European Affairs travelled to Europe, in a chance to cool the hot-tempered hostilities with many of the representatives of government.
(Below is a picture of me watching the exchange that took place).
One of the opportunities while interning at the European Parliament (EP) is having the chance to attend one of the Parliament’s plenary sessions in Strasbourg. The complexity of the European Union is vast, but here is some background information to understand the system a little bit better: The European Parliament does business in Brussels, Belgium; however, once a month the plenary session is held in Strasbourg, France. While Members of Parliament are in the city this is where they vote on everything. Think of it as the EP drafts legislation in Brussels, but in Strasbourg is where they vote on everything. The reason why they do this procedure is Strasbourg is an important historical location for the early foundation of the European Union. The Strasbourg region in particular has always been a highly contested area between Germany and France, the city and the surrounding area has been going back and forth between both countries for hundreds of years. The region is rich in coal and raw materials to make the essentials for military weapons. That is why the region is really valuable.
After World War Two, the European Coal and Steel Community was formed in the region. It laid the foundations for the EU that is the main capstones of the Institution. This is why the city is more of an iconic symbol for the EP to take one week out of each month to travel to Strasbourg and vote.
I was amazed how beautiful the city of Strasbourg is; especially the European Parliament building. The EP building sits on both sides of the river, and a glass-walkway bridge connects the two main buildings. The city itself was designed to have the river encircle the city. I was able to see some of the sites the city has to offer, like the Cathedral (it is a huge building), Petite France very traditional look), Republique Square, and I was able to take a short bus ride over to the Rhine River to Kehl, Germany (The Strasbourg bus systems connects to both countries).
I was also able sit in the main room to see and watch where all 700+ members of the European Parliament go to vote on legislation, amendments, and reports. The only way I can relate is, for example, if you watch ‘Star Wars’ and there are many members that make up the Galactic Republic, that is how I felt watching the plenary session. The room is gigantic and when you see 700+ people are in a room you will get the feeling.
When you are at the plenary session in Strasbourg you are constantly busy. Try to imagine a month's worth of work to be voted on in a week. My first day at the session, a meeting went on until 9 o'clock at night. Each night MP's were there until sometimes 11 o'clock at night.
On the last day of the session, when everyone was getting ready to take the train back to Brussels, my Spanish colleague (Marta Bartolome) showed me around the building and took a few photos of myself, where everyone has to take photos when they go to the Parliament.
I highly encourage people to visit the city of Strasbourg, not only for the beautiful sites, but to go and visit when the Parliament is in session.
I received a message from Paul Salazar, who is one of my friends back at the University of Utah and a former Hinckley Intern. Paul is currently doing his Masters degree in International Relations at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He told me to come and see London one weekend while I’m in Europe. Well, the last couple of weeks have been interesting at the Parliament. Since that traitor Snowden made accusations to the news agencies and gave critical classified information to the Chinese and Russians, many countries have had strong push back to the US and President Obama; many countries that make up the EU have been particularly furious. I have been in meetings where MeP’s are trying to derail the US-EU trade talks, and say that the US is listening and reading every piece of European Date. It is an irony that an American, (moi), is in the room when they say these things. I guess we really are listening in. (I’m being Sarcastic). A break was defiantly needed.
Paul was able to meet me at the train station, and then from there he guided me through the complicated “tube”. I really like the infamous phrase “Mind the Gap” that is written in yellow paint on the tubes platform. We had a great time; it was nice to have a nerd out session with someone who has the same passion as me for history and IR affairs.
We went and took a tour of London and seen the famous sites. Later on we went to the MI6 headquarters and took pictures. One of Paul’s classes is on Secret Intel, so he has been studying a lot about the secret MI6 intelligence service. It was a bittersweet moment when were able to walk right in front of the building, literally a few yards away, and then we began discussing some of the history of MI6 and the CIA.
My trip was fun, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to take show me around London.
I was invited to attend a Centre of European Studies (CES) conference; here is the topic that was discussed: The European centre-right is convinced of the importance of reforms for creating competitive economies and achieving lasting growth. This conference concentrate on recent positive developments and challenges in undertaking economic reforms, focusing on national and EU levels, and highlighting approaches and policies that can serve as examples to others. The speakers also address factors that give the European centre-right confidence for the upcoming elections at European and national levels. A collaborative publication of the CES and its member foundations, From Reform to Growth: Managing the Economic Crisis in Europe (2013) providing a background to the debate. I was able to get a copy of the book, and it is a very detailed book that looks at countries on a case by case basis.
The speakers were: (from left to right in the photo)
Moderation: Roland Freudenstein, CES Deputy Director and Head of Research
Sidonia Jędrzejewska, MEP (Poland).
Alvaro Santos Pereira, former Minister for Economy and Labour, Portugal
Gunnar Hökmark, MEP (Sweden)
It was nice to hear the speakers discuss some of the challenges they faced while they were at the forefront of trying to fix Europe's economy. My personal favourite was the Swedish speaker Mr. Hokmark. The way he described the economic approach to fixing Europe's problems was really witty. After the conference was over I was able to meet him, and I told him he could possibly be the Ronald Reagan of Europe, he told me thank you!
After the conference I was able to meet & network with many people. One of the pictures includes some of the future leaders and policy advisors of Europe. The other photo shows myself with Miriam (Bratislava, Slovakia) from the IRI Institute, and my Spanish friend Javier Mira. Overall, the evening was great!
One week before every plenary session (Strasbourg) the European People's Party (EPP) holds a meeting where all the members EPP that sit on or are attributed somehow to the foreign affairs committee (AFET) met to discuss how the EPP plans to vote, debate, and strategically plan the other parties' intentions. I have been going to all of these meetings since I arrived at the European Parliament; however, this meeting was the most interested one for me, because I will be traveling to Strasbourg for the November plenary session. The topics that were discussed on the agenda I will be working on during the trip.
Some of the things that will be on November's plenary session agenda: Agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation on drug precursors; Joint debate-European Defence; Macro-financial assistance to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Emergency Humanitarian aid relief to the Philippines; (AFET) Koppa report- the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy; (AFET) Gahler report- The European Defence Technological and Industrial Base. Those will be the most interesting and highly debated.
During and right after the meeting my Spanish colleague (Maria Hidalgo) was kind enough to take a few pictures of me while I was listening to different members speak/debate.
YEPP stands for Youth European People's Party; it is the youth version of the right-of-centre political party (EPP) in the Parliament. It would be the equivalent to the Young Republicans back in the United States. My Spanish friend, Javier, invited me to go to the meeting. While were at the meeting a Member of Parliament, who was also the former VP of YEPP, gave a fascinating presentation the EU's budget; because that is the committee she is on. The MeP's name is Sidonia Jedrzejewska (Poland). Sitting next to her on the right side is the President of YEPP Konstantinos Kyranakis (Greece).
After the MeP gave her presentation on current EU negation budgets, I was able to watch members of YEPP from a variety of countries give their point of view on issues and YEPP policy. A stark contrast, when comparing the US & EU is, that the Republican or Democratic Platform is almost the exact same when it is adopted on the national level, then other state parties adopt the platform,(there may be slight variations from state-state). However, at the EU level there are 28 countries that make up the EU and each country has its own right of centre political party within the country. One example is the YEPP's stand on immigration is fair and moderate; whereas a member from the Netherlands who was in the room said his country's political party doesn't agree with that stance, and he explained they take a far-right approach. That is the major difference I noticed.
Later on after the meeting concluded we all went to have dinner. I was able to meet & talk with many of the possible future leaders of the EU. It was a wonderful opprotunity.
During the meeting Javier happened to take this photo of me, while I was watching the speakers:
To start off my day, which turned out to be a really long and unexpected day, my plane at Rome's airport was three hours delayed, so that pushed my schedule back for the day. When I got back to my apartment I literally had to drop my bags off and then proceed out the door to head to work at the European Parliament. When I arrived at my office my colleagues were glad to see me, and wanted to know about my trip in Rome, so I told them all the exciting things that I did. My Spanish colleague, Javier, asked me to join him at an event later that night. I asked him what the event was about and he told me a Spanish futbol (soccer) coach was coming to speak. I said sure why not, I will go to the event. The Spanish soccer coach that I met was Vicente del Bosque. Here is a little background about him from a Wikipedia page: "Vicente del Bosque González, 1st Marquis of Del Bosque (born 23 December 1950) is a former Spanish footballer who is currently the manager of the Spanish national football team. After taking over from Luis Aragonés – who had led Spain to European success in the 2008 European Championship – Del Bosque went on to lead the national team to win their first-ever World Cup in 2010, and then to retain their European Championship in 2012. Del Bosque is also known for having coached Real Madrid from 1999 to 2003, which was the most successful period in the club's modern era. He is to date the only football manager to have won the Champions League, the European Championship, and the World Cup."
I had no idea of the magnitude of a person I was meeting until after the event. I met someone that people in the U.S. might associate like Ute's football coach Witt or NFL's Patriot's Coach Bill Belicheck. I was really fortunate after the event to accompany my Spanish colleagues to a room where a wonderful photo-op was taken. At first I wasn't going to be in the picture, but the older gentlemen I was standing next to in the photo told me to join the group. In the middle is Senor Bosque, and I am on the right of the picture.
These are the type of unexpected events I enjoy while doing an internship, because who knows what or who you will see. I have been really fortunate to meet someone like Senor Bosque.
(Senor Del Bosque is in the middle with the blue tie. I am on the far right of the picture. )
My Belgian friend, who is the President of the Belgian Rugby Fan Club, asked me to join him and watch a friendly match of rugby. I said okay, why not, I have never seen a rugby game before in my life. Before we got to the game my friend Nicolas told me that rugby players have respect both on and off the field for each other. It is not like soccer were the game is plagued with many hooligans that the police have to deal with. In rugby the players will usually have drink with one another after the game. When we got there he tried to example the rules to me, but he said it is best watch and go along with the game. When the players came out the stadium, they were to my surprise holding each other’s hands or their arms were on each other’s shoulders. This was the kind of mutually respect Nicolas was telling me about. Before the game started we were sitting in the middle of the stadium, and the stadium was divided into factions: On our left the Flemish people (Dutch Speaking) were chanting their way to say Belgium, and to our left the Wallonia people (French Speaking) were chanting in their way to say Belgium; and in the middle of them were the Tunisian supports. It was an interesting combination.
The game started and it was intense to watch them play. I had a perception on how tough rugby players are, but after seeing them in action it reaffirmed my belief that they are a lot tougher than U.S. football players; especially since the NFL has been making all of these safety rules in the last few years, but that is another subject for a different day. To explain the game a little bit, to me it looked like a giant game of “smear the queer” or “last man standing” like we use to play in our backyards when we were kids. That is when someone has the ball and they try to go as long as they can before they are tackled; same concept in rugby. When the players pass the ball they have to use two hands to throw from the side, but they have to throw behind them, kind of like when a running back in the US has to toss the ball back. They have almost the same concept of touchdowns and field goals, so that was easy to pick up on. One thing to point out is the rugby ball can thrown and kicked while the teams are trying to make their way up & down the field.
The game ended in a victory for the Belgians. After the game both teams congratulated each other and we were able to go down to the field and meet the players. Nicolas use to play rugby so he knows a lot the members of the team, and he introduced them to me; he also introduced me to the head coach of the Belgian rugby team, and I was able to get a picture with him. As I was walking away both the Belgian and Tunisian rugby coaches were exchanging greetings and talking to one another. After that I was able to get a picture with the Tunisians down on the field. These loyal fans were by far the most fun to watch. The Belgians would cheer and chat, the Tunisians did the same thing, except they had a drum they were playing during the entire game and they were waving their flags non-stop. I also saw them on the field doing the most bizarre dance moves. I don’t know if it is a Tunisian thing or those guys were doing their own personal signature dance moves.
Rugby is a game defiantly worth seeing and this is one game I think should be introduced in the US. Soccer is alright, but rugby is the real deal, not just the game itself but the way respect has been integrated into the game I think is something most teams should have.
A couple of weeks ago the European Parliament held an event where the Portuguese island of Madeira showcased all of the wonderful food and wine that makes the island so special. My colleagues told me to go and taste the food & wine because Madeira is know for it. I was able to go to the event and taste the wonderful sea food and wine. At the event there were some very beautiful girls dressed up for the Madeira Wine Festival. My Spanish colleague, of course being a typical Spaniard was persistent that we take a photo with the gorgeous girls. I was a little shy to take a photo with them, but they were really nice and told me to take of photo with them. So here is my picture with the ladies from the Madeira Wine Festival.
One of the things on my bucket list was for me to go to Italy, to see the homeland of where the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family came from. I finally can say I have been to Italy. My boss sent me an email and told me that he was going to be in Strasbourg, France for a week, then after that he was going to Washington D.C. for a week, so he strongly encouraged me to travel somewhere in Europe. I then booked a flight and hostel, now I was ready to see the sites of Rome.
Before I went to Rome I drafted a very detailed list of all the things I want to see while I was there in the “Eternal City.” Part of my university study was history, but my topic I studied the most was Roman History. I took Roman History classes from Dr. Addams at the University of Utah, and I can tell you he is one of my favourite professors. He made his lectures so fascinating that many people were inspired to learn more about the Romans. This was my chance to see where Roman History all began, happened, and unfortunately ended. On my first day I saw the Coloseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. I can tell you it took me about 5 hours to get through the whole site. I was sadden to see how much destruction was caused on those historical buildings and monuments, but when Rome was sacked in 410 AD by Alaric the 1st of the Visigoths tribe that was the downfall of the Roman Empire in the West, but in the East or the Byzantine Empire survived until 1453 when the Ottoman Turks sacked the city of Constaninople (Modern Day Istanbul). The buildings were taken down and used for many of the Catholic Church buildings you see in Rome today, or like the Pantheon, the Catholic Church simple converted into a church. Back to my point is I would sit overlooking the sites trying to imagine what it looked like in the time of Caesar, Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Constantine, and try to imagine what went on at those sites.
Roman History wasn’t the only thing I did; I went to all of the famous sites Rome has to offer. St. Peter’s Square of course and the Vatican Museum, which the art work is the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life. When you see all of the pieces of art work walking through all of the corridors heading to the Sistine Chapel, well what I’m trying to say is spend at least 3-4 hours just at the Vatican looking around. The Sistine Chapel is something worth seeing, and trying to imagine what it would be like to be a “fly on the wall” when the Catholic Cardinals are electing a new Pope.
The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are sites defiantly worth seeing, but there will be a lot of tourists. If you can when you’re in Rome see the Trevi Fountain both during the day and night time. I went there multiply times to try and find the love of my life, but she was not there. haha. She probably got wind that I was coming and took off. haha. Still, I had to throw a coin in the fountain and make a wish, I’m in Rome and the saying goes “When in Rome.”
The Pantheon is a glorious site to see and to walk in. I cannot believe the vastness of Roman engineering. I had a good idea of what to expect based on the pictures and videos I have seen of the Pantheon, but it is something else that you have to experience while in the building. Also, a little history of the building is that it is now church and people are also buried there. Like Emmanuel the 2nd or Italy’s first King. I highly recommend just going there and walking around inside or just sit outside on the fountain. While you are sitting just stare at the marvellous structure and trying think about the history of what went on in the building.
One of the days while I was in Rome I decided I needed to go see the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is the sea on the west coast of Italy. I took a train ride to a small town called Santa Marniella. This was not a tourist town; it was a more local spot. It was really warm in Italy, so much that I was able to go swimming in the sea. It was a breath of fresh air to finally be able to see the sun again. Since I have been in Brussels the weather has been nothing but cloudy and rainy; very depressing weather. In Italy the weather was perfect. I had lunch at a restaurant right on the beach. I stayed there for a couple of hours and watched the waves go in and out.
While I was in Italy I would try to attempt Italian, but I was horrible at speaking it; however, the Italians were delighted I tried to speak their language. When I would meet an Italian and at some point during our conversation I would tell them in Italian "Mio nonno e mia nonna erano in Italia” which means my grandfather and grandmother were from Italy. I would tell them how they both came from small towns in Northern Italy, and they both left in the 1920’s when Mussolini came into power. I explained they did not meet each other when they both lived in Memphis, Tennessee. I would also tell them how to pronounce my grandparents surnames in America, and of course it is a different pronunciation in Italy. After having conversations with many Italians and telling them this story I got the feeling that I was more accepted, or maybe it was a connection I felt because Italy is in my blood. At the end of the day however, I am an American 100%, but I have Italian ancestry.
The food was amazing, it is slightly different from Italian-American cuisine, but the base was very similar. The only difference I noticed is they do not cook the noodles all of the way through like we do in the US; also, in the US we tend to use a lot of marinara sauce, and in Italy it is a lot less with their pastas. I can remember when my grandpa was still alive he would get flustered if we used a lot of marinara sauce. Right down the road from my hostel there was a restaurant were the father cooked and his daughter was the waitress. I went there almost every night and talked to them. They called me “America.” It was a bitter sweet moment when I told them it was my last night; the daughter nearly cried that I was leaving. I was able to get a photo with them.
I think I have found a new city I defiantly want to go back. I loved Rome and Italy; just the atmosphere I felt was enough. There is so much history and historical sites that I could never get bored of the area. Someday I will go back.
My good Belgian friend Nicolas invited me to go with him and his friend Claude to the German-speaking part of Belgium in a little town called Eupen to possibly meet or see the King of Belgium. I first asked my boss if it was alright to take work off, and he gave me the green light. I got up early in the morning to make the drive out to the western part of Belgium, which is really close to the German border; hence the German-speaking province. When we got there the sleepy town was bustling with all the exciting about King Philippe 1st and Queen Mathilde making their first trip to the town. The reason why this exchange was filled with enthusiasm was because King Philippe is only months into the start of his reign; his father King Albert the 2nd abdicated in July of 2013 due to his health. So this was a chance for many Belgians in the province to meet Philippe as the King of Belgium.
While were waiting for the King and Queen to make their way down the street, a side note, Nicloas is the President of the Belgian Rugby team, and he happened to bring his giant Belgian flag with him to the event. We were extremely easy for attention to be attracted in our direction, so much so that a TV news crew came over and started to interview Nicolas. During the interview Nicolas told them that I was an American that came all the way to Belgium to see the King of Belgium. The anchor and the cameraman shifted their focus onto me and began to ask me questions. The first question they ask was what I thought about the event, I simple told them that Americans do not understand the concept of Kings or Queens because we do not have one. The reporter then said would Barrack Obama get a warm greeting like this? I answered back "it depends on what area the President visits". I then began to explain how Belgium is an interesting place where three different groups of people make up the identity of the country and the King can come to places like this town and meet the people. I said it is a great and wonderful experience to witness. They told me I did great and then the news crew exchanged information with Nicolas on what station they were from and what time they air on the TV later that night.
After the reporter left King Philippe and Queen Mathilde made their way onto the balcony and gave a speech. Afterwards they made their way down the street to shake people's hands. To my surprise I happened to be right in the line of fire to shake hands with King Philippe. When I shook his hand I told him I was from the U.S., he looked at me like he was trying to registrar what I was saying, so I said I'm from the United States. During the handshake I was trying to let go so he could move on, but to my surprise he still held on. After I said I was from the United States he said "an American, good!" I happened to get a picture with me shaking the King's hand that I will post on the blog.
While the King was making his way down the road my friend Nicolas was like a kid in a candy shop. He was taking a lot of photos. Nicolas is the ideal Belgian who is filled with passion towards Belgium, so it was no surprise for me to see him filled with ecstasy when he shook the King's hand. The King told Nicolas that he recognized him from somewhere. Nicolas explained to him that he is the President of the Rugby team in Belgium and he has been on TV a lot giving interviews.
After the excitement we decided to continue the guys' day out and go to a whisky distillery, looking at an old Belgian border castle, and then Nicolas and Claude wanted to go eat at a Burger King. I thought how fitting we met the King of Belgium, so it is only suitable that we go eat at a Burger King. One problem, there are no Burger Kings in Belgium, but there is one in Aachen, Germany. Since Germany is a Schengen region, there are no border guards at the checkpoints, so it is like crossing States back in America. I was excited because this was the first time for me to step on Germany soil.
When I got up to the German/Belgium border we stopped the car and got out to take some pictures at the "Deutschland" sign. I thought how almost 70 years ago this was a major defensive structure that U.S. soldiers were trying to breach across. Off on the side of the road I noticed the "Tiger Teeth" anti-tanks traps were still in the fields. I stopped and thought about the many soldiers sacrificed their lives for trying to cross into Germany; now it is really simple for me to do. I am a history person, so this is the kind of things I think about when I see an area of that significant importance.
After we ate at the Burger King in Aachen, Germany we made the journey back to Belgium. Except the route we took went through the Netherlands to get back to Belgium. I was excited again because I was in three different countries in one day: Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. How exciting to experience something like this.
Later that night I was getting ready for bed and I got a message from Nicolas that said I was on TV. I was shocked and clicked the link he sent where to my surprise I was in the video (about 2 minutes in ).)(Click the BLUE words that says video) Now I can tell people I meet the King of Belgium and I was on Belgian TV.
These are the kind of events I have cherished to experience while I have been on the European Parliament internship. I can only highly encourage future interns to branch out and make new friends, because if I didn't get acquainted with Nicolas I would have never had this opportunity.
During everyone's lifetime there might be an unexpected event that occurs where two people meet and start talking in a casual conversation, then at some point during the conversation a connection is somehow made either by establishing that the two people both know someone in common or a location they have both been to. The word to use after an encounter like this is called "it's a small world". Well I had one of those encounters today here at the European Parliament of all places.
It all started when I went down to the travel agency in the parliament. They help people who work at the parliament find cheap flights, train tickets, and car rentals. When I first walked into the room I noticed that there was a giant poster of Navajo National Monument, and in the letters "UTAH" were plastered across the bottom of the poster. I was instantly ecstatic to see a picture depicting my home. I live and I'm associate myself to this region of Utah; I'm not from the Salt Lake area. So I asked the travel agents if they have been to Utah, and a Spanish guy by the name of Marcos said yes he has. After I purchased my plane ticket to Rome, I started to talk to Marcos and asked him what parts Utah he has seen. He told me that the area he went to was Zion National Park. I was alert at this point and said I live right next to Zion National Park in a small town called Hurricane. He said wonderful, and then told me about some of the trails he and his wife hiked. I then had to ask him what restaurants he ate at while he was there. He told me about one restaurant in particular he liked, I then asked him if he ate a restaurant that was at the location of an old gas station, he said yes. I was shocked, and I said that sounds like the old restaurant I worked at for a summer to save up some money before I moved up to Salt Lake to attend the U. He then told me he had some pictures of when they ate there. Lord be hold he had a picture that he took of the eccentric waitress that worked there when I was there working. Also, in the in the background of the picture was the gift shop my cousin works at. He then showed me a picture of the food they ate, and I told him about how I disliked the black beans they served, because no one ate them; well he had a picture to prove he ate them.
Before I left he gave me his card and told me that his wife is an excellent cook, he then invited me to come over to house to have some good ole Spanish home style cooking. I said I would love a home-cooked meal; something I have been defiantly getting home sick for. He said "great, over dinner we can talk about the sites in Utah." I told him it is a deal.
I emailed my friends and family to let them know what happened. The same phrase kept coming up over and over again, "it's a small world." It is quite funny on how sometimes what a small world we really live on. If anyone has a story they would like to share similar to mine, please comment at the bottom, I would like to hear it.
My week at the European Parliament has been slow, because the majority of the people are in Strasbourg, France for the plenary session. That is when the Members of Parliament go and vote on legislation. So this week granted me the energy after work to network and meet people. I will first tell about my encounter with the New Generation political party from Spain, and then I will tell how Belgium is going to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
My Spanish colleague told me to come with him at meet people from a political party of his. I said sure why not. When I arrived I was the only American at the dinner table, but they were kind enough to speak English to me; I'm still trying to grapple with Spanish. I told them about American style campaigns and how to effectively initiate a grassroots movement. This was vital information for them to learn more about, because they are starting their own political party and campaigning back in Spain. The party is called the New Generation. It is different concept for Americans to grasp the idea of starting a new political party, but in Europe it is the way things are done. Political parties are always rising and fallen in Europe, and it takes either a charismatic person or a collective group of individuals to form a party and win seats to get representation into their governments.
At the end of the dinner we walked over to the front part of the European Parliament building then we gathered around to take a picture with the Spanish flag. I was not going to be in the picture, but Spanish people are really persistent so I went with it. The group I was with ended up posting the picture on their website and Facebook for a promotional campaign for "Hispanidad", here is a definition from the Wikipedia page on what the event is:
"Various countries celebrate 12 October as the Día de la Hispanidad ("Day of Hispanicity" or "Hispanic Day"). Since 1987 Spain has celebrated this holiday as its Fiesta Nacional de España. In the other nations of the community, the day is also celebrated as a commemoration of the date in 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, marking the beginning of the diffusion of Spanish language and culture as well as its lasting impact on the New World."
So now I can say I'm in a picture with the New Generation political party members. The political party has similar cornerstones mirrored with the Republican Party in the US, except it is the younger generation that is creating a new movement. They are pushing for less taxes and pro-business growth polices in Spain. If you read the Financial Times you know then that Spain is facing a very high unemployment rate, and people in the 18-30 year range is estimated to be in the 50% bracket. While I have been here in Brussels I have met many people from Spain that have moved to Brussels to work, because there are no jobs back in Spain. Obviously change needs to happen and young people are starting to have more of a voice in Spain. It was interesting experience to hear some of the stories about Spanish politics. I hope this generation of people can be successful, because I'm in the same generation age group back in America. I fully agree that it is time to remove the baby boomer generation out of office, through elections. Now my generation has inherited a set of problems that will plague us for the rest of our lives. The only way for us to do this is actually participate in the democratic process and vote.
After talking about politics I will talk about my adventure with the Belgian vs. Croatia soccer game. First off soccer is called futbol here in Europe, but as an American I refuse to called futbol, so I call the sport soccer. Belgium needed to win or tie the game in order to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Belgium won the game, and the streets went crazy. People were erupting with celebration; fireworks were going off, and then a massive party began. I ended up buying a scarf that had the Belgian team called the Red Devils on it, and a funky looking hat; which most people were wearing. I wanted to fit in like a local. While walking around the streets of Brussels it didn't matter if you knew the people, all you had to say was "Brazil", and people began to scream and cheer. I encountered a younger group of kids who are in high school, but they were at a bar. In Belgium the legal drinking age is 16; defiantly culture shock for me to encounter. When they got up from the table they walked by me, keep in mind I was decked out in Belgian gear, they then began to cheer towards me in French. I said I do not speak French, and I asked if any them spoke English? A few did. Then they asked where I was from. I told them the US. They all cheered and ask if people from the US know about Belgium, I said not many people know about Belgium other than Bastogne. The group of kids told me to go back home and tell Americans about Belgium, I said I would.
Later on while I was sitting down with Emmanuel who is my Italian friend/roommate; also we were with are new friend Claudia, who is from Portugal. While were sitting down two Belgian girls were looking for a spot to sit down and I asked them if they would like to join us, like any gentlemen would do. During the duration of the conversation they told me they worked for Thalys, which is a train line that runs to Paris. They made the offer that I could take the train to Paris for free if they working on that day. I said thank you, in return I offered them a tour of the Parliament sometime. Everything was going great, until they asked what are some of the things people do in Utah. I told them about skiing and going to the lake, stuff like that. Then my Italian friend told them that I hunt and kill the deer bambi. He backed it up by saying I have seen the pictures on Facebook. I explained to them yes I do hunt. They were absolute mortified from this, and proceeded to keep asking me why I shot bambi. I tried to explain to them that first off I do not shot bambi, I shot deer when they are older, but there was no going back. My popularity fell faster than Rick Perry after his gaff during the presidential debate. So anyone reading this the moral of the story is don't tell European girls that you hunt. I hope we parted off well, we exchanged names for Facebook and told each other we should hang some other time. We shall see.
That was my week of excursing's in Brussels. This week I will be going to watch the Belgian-Wales soccer game on a giant screen in Grand Place.
This weekend was long and fun. I decided I would go to Brugge from the strong recommendations made by my colleagues, and of course I wanted to see Brugge ever since my roommate in D.C. made me watch the movie "In Bruges" that stars Colin Farrell and Brandon Gleeson. FYI for the French way to spell the city is "Bruges", and the Dutch way is "Brugge". My colleagues also told me that if I planed my trip right I could make a quick stop in Ghent on my way back. My usual traveling buddy decided not to accompany me on this adventure, because he was twitterpated over a Portuguese girl. I could not blame him, if I had to choose I would have made the same decision; except I would have taken the girl to Brugge.
Brugge was awesome. It really is the Venice of Belgium. The canals are awesome, the city is really historic, and the homes are very nice looking (I'm guy so I cannot say "cute" haha). Unfortunately, I did not walk up the tower, due to my knee, but I did take a canal boat tour. My driver was the best. When we went by this hotel he told us it is the best hotel in Brugge, he then proceeded to tell us how he slept with a beautiful women there, who ended up being his wife. They have been married for 35 years, and he told us of all four times they have been there a daughter was conceived. Defiantly TMI, but he was funny.
For those of you who have seen the movie "In Bruges", remember the dog in the sitting in the window? Well he is still alive and we went by and he was laying outside his window soaking up the sun. I also saw the hotel where they stayed at and seen where Colin Farrell made his daring jump out the window and landed in the water. I really enjoyed Brugge, it was only a 15 Euro train ride there and back. I highly recommend future interns go there.
On the way back I stopped in Ghent. I didn't like it as much as I liked Brugge. I took a boat tour there as well. I talked to the boat driver after the tour, because I wanted to know where the "Treaty of Ghent" was signed. That was peace treaty for the US & Britain for the War of 1812. The war lasted from 1812-1814, but when the treaty was signed in December of 1814 Andrew Jackson gave the British a whooping at the Battle of New Orleans, in January of 1815. The war was over, but one more unofficial battle occurred. The reason why the battled took place is it took a while for communication to travel and reach everyone. Just think if the British reached the information and pulled out of New Orleans, then Andrew Jackson would have never got the national spotlight that was the catalyst for him to be the future President of the United States. After I told my boat driver the history, he told there is preparation for a 200 year anniversary in Ghent. Before we parted ways he looked at me then told me that the British are the problem, we both laughed, but I was feeling real awkward inside. We shook hands and walked away thinking to myself I cannot belieive there are still deep rooted feelings like that. I then proceded to make my to the city center, then I walked back to the train station to head back to Brussels.
Imagine that you get up at 8:00 o'clock in the morning, take a hour and half train ride, stop, see the sites in Brugge, then on the way back home you stop and see the sites Ghent. It wasn't until seven o'clock in the evening before I got home. I was worn out, but my Italian roommate insisted we go out. Later that night we went to an event all over Brussels called white night (Nuit Blanche). The event lasted until 3 am, which by the strong determination from my roommate we stayed out until 3 am. The event had about 30 different art, video, dance, and music exhibits all over downtown Brussels. They give you a map and you follow the numbers or you went to one that looked the most interesting. The event was fun; Salt Lake needs to do something like this.
Well as you have read I had a fun, but long day. When I got home I could barely move my knee, but that is not going to get me down. When I was in D.C. the best inspiration I got was when I heard about the phrase on Speaker Boehner's desk in Latin that says, "Illegitimi non carborundum" which means 'Don't let the Bastards Grind You Down'. That is the position I take when I'm dealing with troubles in my knee. The other Latin phrase I use while I'm traveling when I want to see and do everything is "Carpe Diem" or Cease the Day. That is the mind set to have; especially for days like I encountered last Saturday. The way I look at it and tell myself is how many more times am I going to be here? I need to do it now and I will rest when I'm back home in the States. I will continue to have more weekends like this, so keeping reading my blogs to see what I did.