I am having such a good time out here in Antwerp, I decided to stay another week. Actually this decision was not so much related to the city as to the project, but the city ain’t bad either.
Anygma moved me from the bed & breakfast I was staying at last week to an apartment they had rented for some of our art director’s students. The students haven’t arrived yet (I kind of want them to have, since it’s a bit lonely/boring). As I complained last time, I haven’t had a way to plug in my laptop, so my computer use has been constrained to work. Today I thought I would go into town and get a power converter.
Almost everybody here can speak English, but where’s the fun in that? I figure I will learn more Flemish if I don’t have something to fall back on. So as I was going into town I resolved not to talk to anybody in English. Navigating the tram system to get downtown was pretty easy—all the trains are numbered and color-coded.
Downtown was a huge, wide street with shops on either side and thousands of people walking around. It looked like a carnival. That illusion was amplified by waffle and ice cream stands on the street corners (I got a waffle covered with chocolate ice cream and fudge sauce—delicious!). However, other than the high density of people, it was all quite familiar. I found a large electronics store and grabbed the adapter, and went to stand in line to buy it. A woman who worked there babbled something in Flemish to me and pointed to another line. I knew she was saying that this one was about to close or something and I should wait in the other one.
It’s pretty interesting how much I can comprehend without understanding a word of Flemish. Communication is much more than words.
After I bought the converter, I got lost in town. I knew I was going to Groenplaats, so I asked a woman on the street, “Groenplaats?” and pointed my fingers back and forth, and she pointed me in the right direction. I walked a bit that way and didn’t find it, and that’s when my plan was foiled! I did the same thing to a guy tending a shop, and he gave me directions in Flemish. To the blank stare on my face he responded “do you speak English?”. I shook my head confusedly. “Well what do you speak normally?” Daft! He got me! In my embarrassment I responded “I speak English but I’m trying not to!” He gave me English directions… darn.
And now I am safely back at the apartment, using my computer (hooray!), able to call people with Skype (hooray!).
It’s still fun being out here. A bit tiring, but great fun. The Anygma project is amazingly cool, Conal Elliott has opened my eyes to a new approach to software design (well, maybe not totally new, but he pushed me into the pool that I was dipping my toes into). The rest of the team is smart, competent, and open-minded, and great fun to work with. The food is absolutely delicious, the strangers are kind and helpful, there are many beautiful women to look at. My adolescent reservations about moving out here are now shadowed by my excitement for this place.