February 24th, 2008

duchess

Greetings From Gent

I'm here, I'm exhausted, and I could really use a good footrub. But Gent is really pretty, and the trip went fine, so all and all things are good.

Left last night at 7pm. Managed to sleep a tiny bit on the 8-hour flight, really not more than an hour maybe. As we were landing, I started feeling really ill. Some kind of combintation of not sleeping, being cooped up for so long, pressure, food, and/or I don't know what... just hyper exhausted.

After getting my passport stamped and picking up my bag in Amsterdam, I found myself in a small collection of Americans on my team from Detroit and Boston. So I didn't have to worry about making the rest of the trip alone, happily. We took the train to Antwerp, then switched, then trained to Gent. I slept for the majority of those two trips. When I got off the plane, I felt sick. When I got off the train, I just felt sleepy. So some significant progress was made.

In Gent, we all went immediately to a waffle vendor, and then the eight of us stood in the train station eating amazing Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce on them. Then we found some taxis and headed to our respective hotels. The city is pretty booked, so we are spread out among about five hotels. On the plus side, three of them are in walking distance of one another.

I'm alone in mine, which had me worried at first but less so now. My mentor T shared a cab with me and two other newish guys. He said, "How about we all go check in, take a minute to wash up, then we'll meet at Renniekins' hotel and we can give her an overview of the area, then get something to eat?"

"I like this plan," I said, "It's very Renniekins-centric."

On getting to my hotel, I discovered that I couldn't check in until 3pm -- it was only 1pm. They let me use a tiny bathroom though, and I washed up a bit and changed clothes. Then I hung out in the lobby, my bags tucked behind the front desk.

When the guys arrived, we all went walking around the old part of Gent. There are three cathedrals within sight of one another, which is odd -- but very pretty. There is a river, a castle, and a variety of old buildings. Cobblestone streets everywhere, which makes me question the idea of running outside. On the other hand, the weather is lovely today. No rain, and over 50 degrees.

After T gave us a tour, we settled into a restaurant for some Gent Beef Stew and Belgian beer. I had the Leffe Blond I think? I liked it okay (no rave reviews, because I really don't care for beer. But I had to give it a try.) Flemmish is nothing like any language I know, so the signs and menus are challenging. Fortunately it appears that everybody speaks English with varying skill levels, which is a relief.

After the stew, we split up. It was 3:30 so I was able to check in. I did so, unpacked, and started to wind down a bit. I quickly discovered that I was not unwinding so much as crashing. I was sitting upright at a desk, looking at my email, when I saw the screen go blank several times -- only to discover it was my eyes closing, not a technical problem.

I forced myself to get up and explore Gent some more. I didn't want to fall asleep so early: I think the best way to combat jetlag is to stay up until I can call it an early bedtime.

I went inside the prettiest of the cathedrals, strolled around the old town a bit, admired the river and various architectures, and bought some chocolates. Tasty. I also made sure I know where I'm going tomorrow morning, so I won't get lost.

I forced myself to walk around until 6:00, and now I'm back. In theory I should stay awake for 2 more hours, but in practice I'm really tired. I also don't have anything to do -- my feet hurt so I don't want to walk more, I have nobody to talk to, and anything that involves sitting and/or reading will probably mean me falling asleep. I suppose I should go to a pub for a bit, but that sounds like a lot of effort! I think I'll lie down, rub my feet for awhile, read a book, and see how far I can make it.

Tomorrow begins business meeting intensity -- wheee!