Now, I have to admit...When we first got here, it was very overwhelming and that feeling of, "Great, now what?" finally hit. It is a strange feeling to know that you are completely on your own and there is NO ONE you can turn to and ask questions or do the next step for you. So when you don't even know what the next step really is, and you are in a place where you have to search for the English version of everything--hoping there even is one--you get a little shakey. I think Dani and I had a similar feeling when arriving at the Brussels train station, because rather than immediately going anywhere or doing anything we found an internet cafe and spent a good deal of time there.
Eventually we knew we had to leave the train station and find our hostel though. Fortunately, our confirmation sheet from the reservations--which we had printed out--had very descriptive directions for reaching the hostel. UNFORTUNATELY, it was all English and all the signs and descriptions around us were in a mix of French and Dutch--so we did not even know which language to use if we wanted to! We would ask people questions but half of the time their answers made no sense or ended up being wrong! I think we rolled our luguage in circles for a good thirty minutes trying to figure out the difference in the tram and metro, where they ran, where we were supposed to go and get off, where to get tickets, which tickets to buy--aah! Lucky for us, we figured it our correctly the first time--I must say, however, I do not like the trams here--the tube was much more spacious.
While we found our hostel without a problem, our troubles were not over. Turns out we had to pay in cash--but of course we weren't carrying 80 euros just on us! The hostel worker directed us to a bank that had ATMs (mind you it was Sunday so of course they weren't open.) Well, for whatever reason it would not let us take money out--every machine said the transaction was interrupted. We found another bank and continued to have the same problem. None of her cards were--none of mine! Great. How in the world were we going to get in the hostel now?? Where would we sleep!? You see, the worst part about these situations is, sure, we could call up someone back home--a parent--and explain the crisis, but what is anyone going to do back in the states but say, "Oh no, that's no good..."
Turns out there was a secret door we only noticed when a man came walking out! I saw him from behind me and thought, "Hmm, I thought the bank was closed--where did he come from?" I went to the door and saw a card swiper and tried my debit card--DING!--The light turned green! Inside there were about six or eight different types of machines. The first ones gave us the same rejection as the others but FINALLY one asked for my pin number and the transaction was a success!! I had hard cash in my hand!! THANK GOODNESS!!
At least the hostel has paid off. There are a lot of Americans and it's great to hear some English. The workers are very patient and accomodating. The rooms are clean--we share one with 14 other travelers--and they provided bedding (including a nice big comforter!) There is free internet (no USB connections though, so I'm going to have to figure out how I will get pictures on here.) Oh and even better--free coffee in the mornings!! It's an entire coffee/espresso/cappucino machine!! I've been missing that!