Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: fellowship

Not enough time for Leuven

I’ve been to Leuven, but I’ve never written about it. In fact, I’ve been to Leuven four times last year, but each time I went, I headed directly to a specific meeting point for fellowship, and never explored the city beyond the route that I took.

To introduce Leuven a bit, it is in the Flemish region of Belgium, which means people there speak Flemish, not French. Leuven is located north of Louvain-la-Neuve and east of Brussels, forming an equilateral triangle on the map. Leuven is home to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), which is directly related to the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL, where I am at) as UCL split from it in 1968. I don’t know the entire history behind the event, but due to some language tensions, what used to be known as the Catholic University of Leuven split into KUL and UCL, and UCL “moved” to Louvain-la-Neuve in Wallonia, providing French-language instruction.

My visits to Leuven generally began at the train station as I arrived at around 19H00. Then I would stroll down Bondgenotenlaan (name of a street) until I got to the Grote Markt and took a turn onto Naamsestraat (another street name) until I reached my destination at 19H30 for the start of fellowship. At the end of fellowship, I took the same route back to the train station at 22H00 in order to catch the last train back to Louvain-la-Neuve. Unfortunately I don’t attend this fellowship anymore due to the tight timing. Sometimes I can’t make the train that gets me there on time, and leaving early at 22H00 doesn’t give me much time to mingle at all 😦

The few times I was there, however, I really liked Leuven. The wide streets and the gorgeous Gothic architecture were certainly refreshingly different from Louvain-la-Neuve. I’m sure there’s much more to see beyond the limits of the city centre, and it’s a trip I’ll have to re-take one of these days, when the weather is slightly better.

The silhouette of an unknown structure glowed prominently straight ahead of me as I walked down Bondgenotenlaan, towards the Grote Markt. In October last year, I usually arrived in Leuven right before sunset, just as the sky was turning dark. This was taken during my first time in Leuven, and that silhouette really stood out and amazed me.

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One year – then, now, and favourites

It’s been one year since I arrived in France.

It’s been one year since I started this blog.

It’s been one year since I stepped into this exciting stage in my life.

It’s really been one year. Wow.

I want to make this a comprehensive and representative post of the past year, in Bordeaux, in Louvain-la-Neuve, and really, just Europe in general (minus the one month back in Canada).

What changed since I first stepped foot into Bordeaux? What didn’t change? Let’s try chart form.

As another school year has just begun (yup, second year thesis student now!) I thought I’d take a memory trip back and list some “favourites” of the year in photos. This will definitely be a fun entry to write and also to look back on in the future!

Favourite place in Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse at night, by the Miroir d’Eau

Without a doubt, it is the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror by the riverside. I like to take strolls at night after dinner and somehow I often end up here to chill or just watch the reflection of Place de la Bourse in the water while waiting for the mist to come out every 15 minutes. When it is not too cold, I love to take off my shoes and dip my feet into the water, sometimes having water fights with my buddies who come along. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re truly in France, carefree and relaxed.

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Fun with GCC

February has probably been the busiest and most productive month since coming to France, both in terms of work and fellowship activities. After a few weeks of juggling between projects and finishing experiments, work is finally winding down a bit as I prepare for my visit to Belgium, which is in exactly one week. It’s a bit strange; I feel like I just unpacked, and I have to pack again. Three months – not exactly a long time but not short either. How do you pack for three months?

As for fellowship, the intense series of activities wrapped up with our Lantern Festival celebration on Saturday. It was similar to the Chinese new year celebration, only this time we had more helpers from Paris who brought along a short theatrical play that they performed. There were a riddle-solving contest, as riddle-solving is a traditional activity for the Lantern Festival. It seemed like the participants had tons of fun being part of the celebration, but I think it was much more fun being part of the organizing team. Seeing all the hard work of the past month paying off is worth all the back-aching nights of planning and preparation. Go team GCC!

Before and after the event, I was making an effort to ask my adorable friend Sharon to take as many pictures of me with my fellowship brothers and sisters, because I wanted to have some lovely memories to look at when I’m away. I missed quite a few people as it was hard to get everyone to take pictures with me throughout the busy day, but here are some good ones.

Annie and worship team member and event emcee, Bai Yu. I find that Bai Yu is always smiling and has a special, charming aura about her that makes people feel so happy and comfortable around her ❤ By the way, that big red dot on my face IS a sticker, not a gigantic pimple.

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Marché de Noël

Leaving two extremely event-filled weeks behind me, I finally have some time to sit down and catch up on some updating. The winter holidays officially began on December 27th, but the lab was mostly empty by Wednesday of the previous week, so I took a slightly extended break. (It’s France. What do you expect?) Within two weeks, I was involved in a Christmas church gathering (and the numerous rehearsals beforehand for our performances), a visit to the Christmas market, a trip to Paris, a new year’s eve countdown night, and countless gatherings with fellowship friends. Busy indeed, but a fulfilling end to the year 2010.

On Christmas day, some friends from the Groupe Chrétien Chinois de Bordeaux met up to take a stroll down Allée de Tourny, where a Christmas market was taking place until December 30th. The sun shone brightly and deceivingly, but little did we know, until we got out, that it was quite a chilly day. Nevertheless, the festive atmosphere surrounded us and we passed a pleasant afternoon at the market before ending the day with an enjoyable dinner party.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise stated, these pictures were taken by friends using their better-than-mine cameras. I just leeched some off of them because I didn’t bring my camera that day.

Every carnival/fair/market has to have a merry-go-round of some sort. The new vocabulary of the day is manège, French for merry-go-round. We had a lot of fun watching the manège go round and round, like the wheels on the bus. YuXuan, the youngest member of our fellowship at the age of almost 3, went on a ride with his dad and seemed to have the time of his life! Even some of the older ones in our group relived their memories aboard this childhood favourite.

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And I thought the strike was over

Today, Sunday, December 19, 2010, is the third consecutive day of the public transit strike in the city of Bordeaux. Now, I wouldn’t mind if the strike reduced tram and bus frequencies; we’d just be waiting a bit longer and have trams that are more packed than usual. But no. Our dear French friends decided that it would be a good idea to paralyse the public transit system by shutting down 2 of the 3 tram lines. The operating line would have one tram every 15 to 20 minutes. In addition, only about 5 bus lines out of 100 were running. This lasted two days and is continuing today.

Not cool, man, not cool.

The consequence was that I had to walk to work on Friday, which actually wasn’t all that bad. Normally it took 12 minutes or so via tram, so walking only took 35 minutes. However, walking over to Pessac from downtown Bordeaux on Saturday for my Christian fellowship meeting and Christmas gathering rehearsal wasn’t such a great idea. It takes 25 minutes by tram, and it would have taken an hour and a half or more if I were to walk. Uh oh.

Well, a friend came up with the unusual yet brilliant idea of taking the train. Not tram train – the REAL train. It didn’t occur me that there would be trains running from downtown Bordeaux to Pessac, but alas, there were…and it would only take 5 minutes to get there. I still had to do a bit of walking though, as getting to the train station on foot from my house took half an hour, and walking to the meeting place from the Pessac train station took another 15 minutes. Still better than walking for an hour and a half.

So the trip consisted of the shortest train ride I have ever been on, literally 5 minutes from origin to destination. At least SNCF wasn’t on strike at the same time…thank you for being considerate, my French friends.

The week in review: it snowed again, although only for a very short period of time, which didn’t allow the snow to accumulate. Friday at work was the lab Christmas lunch, where a potluck was held. My contribution was, of course, the cheesecake that had been successful last week. There was also a fun gifts exchange, elaborated below. On Saturday we had our weekly fellowship meeting, which took place smoothly despite the traffic interruptions. I brought tea cake to the gathering (pics to follow) – yes, tea cake actually exists, Andrew.

First snow of the year, about a month ago, when I was still staying in Talence. This was enough to halt the the public transit system. It was apparent that Bordeaux is not designed to handle any snow beyond what is shown here – a very delicate city, indeed. Lots of trouble that day…

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