The moon is more beautiful in Brussels than it is in Gainesville. It looks bigger, brighter, and shines against a more vibrant background of the perfect blue. It seems to provide an impossible amount of light, making every building here more impressive by night than by day. I have to remind myself that it’s the same moon that I see from outside my apartment in Gainesville, muted by streetlamps and the monotony of the life I escaped with my trip to Europe.
Brussels and I are still in the honeymoon stage. My life here is not one that I take for granted, but one that I cherish with every Flemish sign and waffle vendor I see. I feel cool and metropolitan when I take the metro and know which landmarks are at which stops. I feel cultured (and a little snobbish) when I can easily haggle in French at the marketplace outside the Gare du Midi. Every time I walk the Grand Place at night, I annoy everyone around me by insisting that this is the most beautiful place in the entire world. I still haven’t gotten over how incredible this city is. But maybe, soon, I will. Maybe, no matter how beautiful a city is, eventually it just becomes the place you live.
I take the metro to my internship every morning (I work from 9-5:30) and I silently curse the tourists with maps who stand in the middle of the metro station like deer in headlights. I rush past the EU Commission on my way to the office, sparing a brief smile and nod for the kind homeless man who sits in the same place every day and now recognizes me. I drink coffee in the office kitchen, absentmindedly staring at the EU Parliament not a mile away as I think about my work for the day and how sleepy I am. Too soon, I’m getting accustomed to life in Brussels. So soon, in fact, that a week in, I don’t really feel so much like a tourist anymore.
Still, I look up at the Belgian moon sometimes and I feel very far away from home. I’m in a limbo; not quite a tourist, but definitely not a local. My best friend gave me a book a few days before I left for Brussels that has helped me deal with this minor identity crisis. It’s a collection of essays by Joseph Roth on the topic of France. He, like me, travelled abroad and wrote about it for a publication in his country of origin. He marvels at the beauty of his new home, and at how different everything is. For me, it’s the moon. For Joseph Roth, it’s the Great Bear constellation. His words, as he looked up at the sky thousands of miles from his home, decades ago, ring true for me. His words give me comfort every time I feel far from home: “And if you think some of it is foreign, you’re mistaken. Everywhere is home. The Great Bear is a little nearer, that’s all.”