In the summer of ’08, I went to Europe with the People to People program. In my mind, the most memorable place we visited was Brussels, Belgium, because I got lost there for a good half hour. Since we were apparently mature enough to wander about without the chaperones, but not enough to be completely on our own, we used the good old buddy system. My buddy was Nicole, a nice but sometimes ditzy Floridian. The chaperones turned us loose in Brussels’ Grand Place, a really lovely square with a lot of intersecting back streets, and gave us a time limit of two hours with threats of being sent home if we were late. Being 16 at the time, and not concerned with the consequences of our actions, Nicole and I decided it would be fun to go down a few of the back streets and explore. Brilliant idea, right? After a while, we decided to go back to the main square to buy a waffle and people watch. It then occurred to us that it would have been an intelligent decision to pay attention to the turns we had been making. We decided to turn around and wander back in the vague direction we felt would lead us to the square. After a while, I turned to her and voiced what we had both been worrying about: we are hopelessly lost. At that moment, our guardian angel appeared, in the form of a restaurant owner. He said something to Nicole in Italian, and she, taking the chance that he would understand her, responded in Spanish. They conversed for a bit, with me standing there feeling especially “small-town” Anglo American, and she turned to me and said that he told her how to get back to the main square. After thanking him profusely, we bounded down the streets, taking lefts and rights at the small markers he had told us, and broke out into the main Grande Place. At that point, I was so relieved that I could have cried. We felt that, having succesfully found our way back and having successfully interacted with what we decided was “a local”, we deserved a reward. And what way better to celebrate not getting left in Belgium than to reward oneself with a nice, hot, smothered in chocolate, Belgian waffle?
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