Oh, you know the rest.
I do feel kind of crappy though.
The reason for my absence, as I mentioned, was that I was in Brussels for a conference. Two conferences actually. The first part was the EUR (European Affairs) PAO (Public Affairs Officers) conference. That conference was a gathering of all of the Public Affairs Officers from all of the European posts.
The second conference was the EUR Policy Conference, which included all of the Chiefs of Mission, Political Chiefs and Public Affairs Officers from all of the European posts.
And you know that in a crowd that large, at least one person is going to be sick. And when you are locked in a room with that crowd for five days, chances are good that you too will end up sick.
So I have a cold. Fortunately not a bad one, but my "nap" yesterday did last four hours!
So let's see...some random notes from the conference...
* I got to meet the owner of the Steelers.
* one of the speakers sounded just like Derek on Grey's Anatomy.
* some political officers will leap into their Ambassador's seats when the Ambassadors are in a different session...ambitious much?
* One of the speakers at the PAO conference was talking about race in America vs Europe and seemed to have bought into every stereotype he had ever heard...all Americans are descended from immigrants (hello? American Indians are Americans!) and our oldest monument is the Alamo(?! um...Cahokia anyone?) while Europe has 1500 years of culture. And Europe has only had internal immigration for 200 years and immigration from outside Europe for 60 years? Seriously?
* One non-American speaker kept saying "eeeeyyyyyy" as a filler...sounded like Arthur Fonzerelli.
* Leonidas White Chocolate (in fact, all chocolate there)...OMFG!
* Also, mussels in white wine sauce...OMFG!
In all, I found the conferences useful and interesting. I made some new friends and got to spend time with some old ones. We had dinner one night at Ambassador Ivo Daalder's residence, which is just an amazing historic manor house. We spent time at NATO and at a very ornate former French club built in the 1700s...blown glass chandeliers, antique mirrors, carved columns, statues of cherubs playing musical instruments...and chairs that were comfortable for no more than 30 minutes.
The city itself is amazing...such beautiful old buildings!
The traffic is a bit insane, and unlike Estonia (which I found myself missing after a few days), crossing the street, even with the light, is, shall we say, an adventure.
Everywhere you see reproductions of Manneken Pis, which is a statue of a little boy peeing and was built in the early 1600s. I wandered upon it my first night there, but sadly, without my camera (hence the chocolate representations of him above), and was unable to re-find him my last night there (the only other time I had to wander around much...I took my camera that time to prove I had been somewhere other than the Sheraton and a conference room!). There are a number of legends about him, the most famous being about the two-year old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the two-year-old's troops were battling against the Berthouts in Ransbeke. The troops put the boy in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
But the one I like better is that he was the son of a prominent lord and he wandered off. The distraught father promised to erect a statue of however his son was found...and they found him urinating in the woods...
I left the conference more certain than ever that I am a PD officer and feeling I had found my people. And I certainly hope to return to Brussels, hopefully with more time to explore this amazing place.
Most Eyebrow-Raising Story of the Week
1 day ago