On mortality

If I am going to die here in Brussels, it will probably be from one of five ways:

1) Dehydration

Europeans like their bottled water. I experienced this in France — asking for water in a restaurant like it’s nothing, and then paying 5 euro for a very fancy glass bottle of sparkling water. But in France you can ask for tap water. In Belgium, there is no such option. It’s not that tap water here isn’t drinkable; people just don’t really drink it. I’ll carry around a Klean Kanteen on occasion, but I’m always conscious of the fact that everyone else is carrying recently purchased plastic. During a break at school, students will jet to the vending machines for water and soda. At a cafe, beer is generally cheaper than water. So as a broke college student, I have to order beer — it’s the most economical decision.

2) Car crash

Belgian drivers are crazy. This might be because they’re drunk all the time, but they drive real fast sober, too. The streets are tiny and windy, and six-exit roundabouts with zero lanes are ubiquitous. And even though pedestrians technically have the right of way at cross walks, Belgian drivers won’t pause unless they’re about to hit you. Or until they hit you. It’s not just my imagination, either. Statistics back up my paranoia — last year, Belgium, a country of less than 11 million, experienced 777 road deaths. It was a good year.

3) Heart attack

I have never eaten so many fries in my life. And Belgian frites are double-salted and double-fried. And covered in mayonnaise. Enough said.

4) Construction accident

My street has been under construction ever since I have arrived. This isn’t unusual — it seems like all of Brussels, and every major European city for that matter, is under construction. I’m used to this, though. There’s always construction at UC Davis — new dorms, new student centers, new whatevers. But the construction is always dramatically fenced off. Outsiders usually can’t even see what’s going on, let alone have to sidestep bulldozers that are mid-action.

5) Exsanguination

Specifically, exsanguination by tripping on a cobblestoned street and falling onto broken glass. It may seem unlikely, but I’m clumsy, and there’s a lot of broken glass in Brussels. With general drinking merriment going on at all hours of every day (see #1), it’s only logical that beer chalices would perish in the process. And by the metro stations, shards of beer and vodka bottles glisten in the moonlight. Hopefully I remember never to hippie-out downtown and always wear shoes.

On that note, I will probably see you in the states in eight months.


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