A frame, a mirror, and a canvas: Thoughts on New York

A frame, a mirror, and a canvas: Thoughts on New York

Every city in the world can be described by one of these three metaphors: a frame, a mirror, or a canvas. Rome, a perfect mirror, is a place where nobody comes as a stranger. Layers and layers of history laid upon each other produce a strange genealogy of time. There is always a piece of you in Rome to be discovered. You have been there already in distant reflections of a mirror-city.

Women and War in Belgium

Gabrielle Petit stares defiantly into the distance, under gray skies in Brussels. Almost every morning, I walk beneath Petit’s stern gaze on my way to the archives, thinking about her last moments and about the long history of women and warfare. Gabrielle Petit was a Belgian woman who became swept up in the chaos of the First World War (1914-1918), after Germans overran Belgium in August 1914 and occupied the country. Petit fled as a refugee but then returned to Belgium as a spy for the British Army, gathering information on German military dispositions across Belgium beginning in August 1915. German soldiers soon became suspicious of Petit’s movements in occupied Belgium and arrested her for spying in February 1916. A German military court tried her for military espionage and condemned her to death. Gabrielle Petit allegedly say: “I will show you how a Belgian woman dies,” before being executed by firing squad on 1 April 1916. The bronze statue commemorating […]

A reflection on racism with Mary Wilson

Throughout my time in Belgium, I have recognized how differently Belgians see and perceive issues of diversity compared to Americans. In the United States, we are confronted with our race more often than Europeans, sometimes subtly with racial identification, such as on a form or survey, or through bolder individual acts where our background is questioned. In Belgium, improving diversity means looking at disparities in class and language, but the issue of race is often overlooked. It has been incredible to be a part of Fulbright’s commitment to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion and identity. The Fulbright Belgium Commission has been very proactive in seeking events to continue conversations about this topic, including the special opportunity to discuss the intersection of the American civil rights movement and Motown with Mary Wilson of the Supremes at European Parliament. After a meeting a week prior with the Fulbright diversity initiative, founded by Sangeetha Ramakrishna and Rianne Delacruz, I was eager to […]

Getting around in the USA

At the end of my very enriching year in the USA, I find myself explaining to a lot of people that I have not only expanded my professional experience and network substantially but also enjoyed daily life in the USA. My family and I have discovered the small differences compared to living in Belgium, and thereby, we have learned so much about ourselves and our spontaneous lifestyle. We have been given a perspective outside our old box. Given my field of research is obesity, the obvious differences I have seen are in food preference and food culture, but a very interesting aspect for me was the American view on mobility.  Most Americans that I have met, didn’t bother traveling for a few hours, by car, or by air-bus. A lot of the students and researchers have to travel outside their home region to pursue the best education or workspace possible. Following that, it also becomes a quality label if you […]

Which Language for Local Food in Wallonie?

I just returned to my dissertation fieldwork site after 38 years thanks to a Fulbright Scholar’s Grant.  Back in the 1980s I examined the use of the regional Gallo-Romance dialect, Walloon, in Liège, Belgium and particularly in the puppet theater.  Over the past couple decades I’ve gotten increasingly interested in how people resist the global industrial food system. Upon arriving at the Liège train station last week, my interest was piqued by the poster announcing a show of local alimentary products called CBon, CWallon (http://www.cbon-cwallon.be). It took a minute to understand that they were not using aberrant initial consonant clusters, but the practice of using a letter (or number) to stand in for the name of that letter, like the francophone usage of K7 for “cassette.” I went to the C’est Bon, C’est Wallon Fair today, wondering whether the Walloon language would appear as well as the products of Wallonie. One of the first booths I saw was a beer […]

How a biochemist in Belgium found community through music

In high school I was definitely a band kid. I played in every musical group available to me, and my world revolved around music.  The sense of belonging and community I felt as a member of a musical ensemble was unparalleled. This was why I kept playing in college, even as I decided to pursue a career in biotechnology research. When I applied for my Fulbright grant, I proposed that I would join a local orchestra to foster the same sense of belonging with my Belgian neighbors. When I arrived in Gent, I began researching different community groups. I found the Gent University Harmonic Orchestra (GUHO), a student-run,100-piece wind-instrument orchestra. I filled out an online questionnaire, and I was invited to audition. When I arrived, I played a short audition piece and was invited to stay for the rehearsal. During this first rehearsal, I was surprised how mentally exhausting it was for me to keep up with the directions and […]

A year in Pittsburgh

As a Fulbright Visiting Scholar I, together with my husband and two children (one and three years) went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We arrived on a cold Sunday, December 30th in an empty house in a suburban area. During our first month, we had snow, 0° Fahrenheit and snow days (schools, universities, certain institutions are closed due to the cold).

The Kindness of Strangers

Moving abroad takes a lot of faith: faith you will overcome the language barrier and culture shock, faith that you will be welcomed into the community, and a lot of faith that you are doing the right thing, even when things get tough. Luckily, my hop over the pond has been a pretty euphoric experience so far, mostly due to the kindness I have seen and found in Gent. Last night, I decided to make a trip to a sports center on the other side of town. As I sat down on the tram, I glanced at Google maps on my phone for the name of my stop. I had 5% of my battery left, just enough to make it to my destination. I stuck my phone in my coat pocket and read a book while I waited. After I exited the tram, I reached for my phone to check the directions again. Nothing. I rummaged through my purse, but […]

Life in the Midwest. For Real.

When I told my friends that I got a scholarship to go to the University of Missouri, most of them had the same reaction. I can’t blame them: before starting my application process, I would have had the same question… I used to explain to them that it was a small town somewhere in the Midwest, 600 kilometers south of Chicago. Today, as I am about to leave, my answer would be totally different. Columbia is not just a spot on a map anymore. It is a town and a University where I’ve been living for four months, and where I felt welcome from Day 1.

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