Saint Valentin

I’m legal! Happy Valentine’s Day to me, indeed!

My bureaucratic nightmare is almost over. After my final two-hour visit to the Schaerbeek commune yesterday, I was awarded my very own Belgian identification card.

I breathed in disbelief. Finally. It only took six months!

I feared having to give the card back today during my visit to the Watermael-Boitsfort commune. Even though I’m officially a legal resident of Brussels, I need to change my residency address and status. Given the trials thus far, I was expecting the worst. Miraculously, I get to keep the card even while the processing continues.

Finally, I am no longer stuck in Belgium! Freedom!

I rode the wave of happiness to BOZAR, the city’s immaculate center of fine arts. The BOZAR puts on a world of high-brow events, from classical concerts to literature lectures. The eight-story palace has three concert halls on top of its lecture rooms and exhibition spaces, a maze of creativity.

Hours were spent in the gorgeously laid-out Cy Twombly exhibit, which showcased the famed painter’s generally unknown Polaroid collection. The photos were taken over a range of nearly 60 years; a dream-like look into Cy’s creative process.

A number of couples, young and old, strolled hand-in-hand through the exhibit. I didn’t think much of this in relation to Saint Valentin, but on my bus ride home, I noticed a number of men carrying elaborate bouquets of flowers and wearing goofy smiles.

I’ve been told that Valentines Day is celebrated more in Belgium than any other American holiday. But it’s not the corporate Hallmark affair that it is in the States. Supermarkets aren’t stocked with obnoxious pink fluffy things and heart-shaped decorations are generally absent from window displays.

Some romantics get into the spirit, filing into small flower shops and chocolatiers. But there don’t seem to be any grandiose expectations. The “angry girlfriend disappointed over the boyfriend’s lack of surprise gift” doesn’t exist. Those without significant others aren’t royally depressed. It’s a small-scale celebration of genuine adoration, which individuals don’t have to notice unless they want to.

That said — any excuse is a good excuse to gorge oneself with chocolate. Especially Belgian chocolate. And I intend to dive in momentarily. Happy Valentine’s Day, all.

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2 thoughts on “Saint Valentin

    1. It’s mandatory to anyone staying in Belgium for any extended period of time. So in order to legally be in the country after your visa runs out, you need a Belgian ID. That way you can leave the country and enter it again (although this isn’t always enforced). Without one, you also can’t go to non-Schengen countries (anywhere in the UK, for example). It’s mandatory to have one even if you don’t plan on leaving Belgium, though. Law enforcement can ask you to show them your ID at any point, and if you don’t have one, you could get in trouble. They’re all electronic and are used for fines and such.

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