Lieber biegen, als brechen – Thanks to the almighty internet, I found this German quote meaning “Better bow than break”
Barbara – Thanks to internatonal exchange, I met this German young lady when she did her Study Abroad semester at my home university
Liège – Thanks to Barbara, who showed me around the small Belgian city where she is doing her Erasmus, I had an opportunity to discover a different side of Belgium
That morning on the 1st of April, 2015 I caught a train from Brussels to Liège to see Barbara (and the city) but it was definitely not a joke. The first thing she said to me when I hopped off the train was “this is so crazy” and I agree. Less than a year ago we met and became classmates; 3 months ago we became friends but she was about to leave Hong Kong, and I believe we both thought we wouldn’t see each other again any time soon. Turns out we made it to meet in Europe and yes we had a good time ! Of course I can’t say I went “all the way” from Hong Kong to Liège, as I am in the UK for my exchange and in Belgium for my holidays and it literally just took me an hour from Brussels, but it indeed required a lot of coincidences for this rendezvous to happen. I feel so lucky and so blessed.
Liège is exciting in its own terms. It is obviously not a popular tourist destination but it is worth visiting if one is already in Belgium. Ask any of my friends and you will know food is the most important thing in my travels. In Liège I had my first and the best gaufre (waffles) and moules frites (fries). (Told by Barbara and also later confirmed with my Belgian friends, waffles of Liège are slightly different from that of Brussels, so it was worth the visit !) The gaufre we had was made fresh to order, and slightly sweeter than that of Brussels. So when the shop lady handed me the gaufre it was still hot. It was definitely one of the best feelings in life when you have warm food in your hands under a cool, windy and rainy weather.
Also, I could never forget sharing the basket of moules frites with Barbara in a 2-floor food place because 1. the fries was superb; 2. the food place was very interesting; and 3. Barbara is such an amazing companion. Moules frites is special (and different from all other fries in the world) because it was fried twice. In the food place we saw how the moules frites were prepared and it was absolutely fascinating. The daily demand is so high the raw potato fries were stored literally in plastic bins and we were at once shocked because we thought the bin was used for trash ! Everything happened in a really high speed and the shop smelled so good.
After we got our moules frites we moved upstairs to enjoy the food, the warmth and had a nice chat. The food place was very cozy with the wooden furniture. We had a 4-people table so very soon 2 other customers sat next to us. It was funny because while they eavesdropped our conversation Barbara also eavesdropped theirs. We were talking in English and they were in French. According to Barbara one of them said “I could never speak English as fluent as them” and the other one mentioned about a piece of food we left on the tray. It was absolutely funny obviously because they didn’t realize that Barbara is very good at French !
Other than that, we also had a very substantial conversation. We talked about her funny experiences travelling in China, our languages (mainly Chinese actually), development of our countries… etc. I wouldn’t reveal what exactly we talked about but Barbara offered me a question. It was a simple one but it was the most difficult to properly answer, which means it was not merely a topic of discussion, but an issue to think about. I thought I knew something about China but it was since her question I was truly awaken and made aware of the deeper roots of issues in the Chinese society. I have to be honest that I never forgot her question and up until now I was still thinking about it. (I know this paragraph is very ambiguous and so if she doesn’t mind, I will include the question in this blog, which was : I (Barbara) have seen our classmate from Mainland China. He/She always say “No” or “I don’t know” when I ask him/her questions. It seems his/her life is a bit dull and I couldn’t imagine him/her being creative or innovative. But why has China grew so fast economically over the years, while its young people are not innovative at all or having barely new ideas ? How was it the case ? What is supporting China’s growth ?)
There certainly were other things we have seen and done in Liège, but the main point really was about meeting a friend you know you won’t see very often. I feel most welcomed when she invited me over to her home because it was a family apartment and the kitchen was warm and cozy when we had a coffee chat. I guess Barbara is a very typical German person because on her you will discover all the virtues of the German people – punctuality, self-discipline, logical reasoning, hospitality to friends, etc. I am so glad I knew her, and I am happy I caught up with her in Liège. By the way, happy birthday, Barbara ! 🙂