Epic Belgian Email #23

Hello hello!

I think there’s nothing quite so slow moving as the Monday right
after a nice mini-vacation.

After a rather unexciting week (I read lots of academic blah
blah articles about women and laws and religion and stuff in
ancient Palestine…), I took a field trip to Paris with a
handful of classmates and Professor Bretschneider. The reason
for the trip was to visit the Louvre so we could get a
first-hand look at some of the artifacts we’ve been discussing
all year. We also used it as an excuse to do the first part of
our “interdisciplinary seminar,” which means each student had to
do a presentation.

Before I get into details about how the trip went, I feel that I
should take a minute to acquaint you with the classmates in
question. In order of who I tend to spend the most time with,
then, meet my class:

Piraye: The only other female in the program, Piraye hails from
Turkey. She has a degree in Civil Engineering and is writing her
thesis on GIS (Geographical Information Systems) used for
mapping out water resources of ancient sites. :p She’ll probably
get a real job some day. On the other hand, she is something of
a wild child. She really likes to party, she really likes boys,
and she really likes to talk about it.

Jeroen: This guy is one of those really smart people who can’t
stop talking about stuff you don’t really understand. He already
has two other masters degrees – one in Psychology and one in
Anthropology – and next year he will be going to Cambridge to do
a PhD in (uh…) Cognitive Evolutionary Paleoanthropology. No
one else in the world even knows what that is. I’ve stopped
asking since every time I do we usually end up arguing about
evolution. In any case, he’s the only student other than Piraye
who also lives in Leuven, and as long as we stay away from
academic subjects, we tend to get along just fine.

Jan: Jan is the self-proclaimed Great Cypriot King of Black
Topped Pots. His other degree is in Art History. He will talk
for hours about furniture construction on Cyprus if you give him
a chance. Very friendly and easy to get along with, he also does
the best impressions of our professors (especially Professor
Hendrickx, hehe!)

Fabrice: aka, the Crazy Waloon. Fabrice is the only student from
the French-speaking half of the country, for which he gets a lot
of grief from the other guys. He has a very quirky personality,
and is passionately devoted to the Assyrian Army, despite having
a degree in Egyptology. Don’t let him start talking about it,
because he will never stop. He also tends to call me “my love”
and will take any excuse available to tease me about how much I
break his heart. As long as he keeps his hands off, I don’t mind
humoring him.

Tom: I see less of Tom than the others. He did half of this
program last year, so he’s only in half the classes. Also an
Egyptologist. I have a hunch he might be kind of afraid of me…

There are five other students I know of, but I see them so
rarely that they don’t get to be mentioned here. That then, is
the cast of characters. Ah yes, and of course, Professor
Bretschneider. He’s worth mentioning. He’s German, maybe 40ish
years old, with an 8 week old baby at home. He speaks a lot of
languages (not necessarily well) and is very enthusiastic about
stuff in museums. He also likes to poke fun at my American-ness.

So the pack of us caught a train on Saturday morning. Most of
us, in any case. Fabrice somehow managed to miss the train. No
one was surprised. :p

Once in Paris, we dropped off our things at the hotel and headed
straight to the Louvre. The plan was to spend two hours each day
doing “class time,” and the rest of the weekend would be ours to
spend as we liked.

The first hour and a half was spent getting an overview of the
ancient Iran displays. Very interesting things, but standing
around is not the most comfortable way to receive a lecture. We
eventually had to give up and take a coffee break in the
fantastically overpriced Louvre cafe.

It was on the way back into the museum after our break that we
rediscovered Fabrice, who had apparently caught a later train
and was now in the ticket line. (“Only in France,” says
Bretschneider of the rather amazing coincidence that we found
him.) We collected Fabrice, did another hour and a half of
class, then gave up for the day.

At Jan’s insistence, we did a fly-by visit to the Cyprus
display, hit Assyria on the way back for Fabrice, then headed
out in search of a cafe to have a nice pre-dinner drink. We
ended up getting rather lost and confused, however, so we
eventually abandoned our drink in favor of just getting dinner.

For that we headed to Montmartre, where Jan knew a really good
little restaurant. Bretschneider, who had gone to see a friend,
called to try to meet up with us, but phones were not working
properly and once again we were all very confused. But half an
hour later, we accidentally bumped into Bretschneider as he
wandered in front of Sacre Coeur. (“Only in France!”)

Dinner was really excellent for most of us. The restaurant was
very small and french, and the wine was abundant. I had beef
bourguignon which was VERY good. Jeroen and Fabrice ordered
something called “andouillette” which turned out to be tripe.
Oops. We got to hear about that for the rest of the weekend.

That was all for Saturday. Home to bed, then up in the morning
early enough to make some notes for my presentation. The day
went much the same – off to the museum for two hours (which
turned into three) of class. Presentations were all fine, but
got a bit long toward the end. As I went last, no one at all was
paying attention any more by the time I started talking. Oh
well. What no one heard me talk about was the Mesha Stela
(sometimes called the Moabite Stone). Nice black rock with some
nice Phoenician script on it telling all about how King Mesha of
Moab kicked Israel’s butt about 830 years BCE.

We did a bit more museum wandering after class was over (speed
walked through the Italian painters so we could see the Mona
Lisa), then settled down in the Tuillerie Gardens for a coffee
break. By then, it was pretty much time to head home, so we
grabbed a quick sandwich and went to catch our train. I got back
to Leuven quite late, and was very happy to see my bed.

So that’s the story of my weekend!

In other news, I think I have my thesis pretty well lined up. My
plan, as of now, is to write about the roles women played in the
public and private aspects of religion in the Iron age of
Syria-Palestine. 🙂 Okay! I have a theme, time to roll with it.
So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next three months. Good to
have a plan.

But this epic has gotten plenty epic enough. I suppose I’d
better let you get back to your regularly scheduled days now. On
the off chance something exciting will happen in the upcoming
week, I’ll be writing again soon. 🙂 In the meanwhile, much love
and many hugs to all! Mmmmmmwah!

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