MIM

That’s the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels. As a former music student and a current resident of Belgium, to not go to this museum would be… almost sacrilege, or something. A lot of the older (sometimes stranger and not so old) instruments were actually familiar in the sense that I’d already seen plenty of pictures of them because of school. You were given headphones when you went in and there were little boxes you could plug them into to hear examples of music played on the instruments you were looking at. To listen to everything in full would take a very long time. There are 4 floors of instruments. There’s a restaurant on top where you can go to to access the roof for a wonderful view of Brussels. Unfortunately by the time we got up there, it was raining.

You might be wondering who I went with. Friends of mine from Laurier (Nathanael and Beth) who just got married and are here for their honeymoon. They flew in to France and spent a week in Paris. Nathanael has family in Ghent and that’s where they’re staying right now. They were actually in Louvain-la-Neuve the other day at the Tintin museum (the Hergé Museum), but I was busy with my family. It was really neat to get together with two friends from home and to share together our love of music (and Belgian waffles!). Driving in Brussels is….interesting. I’ve been a passenger twice, but still. It took me 25 min. longer than planned to get to the parking lot I wanted to go to because I kept missing roads. Some of the roads are very narrow and sometimes there’s a lot of roads all going off one place and it’s a little confusing. Eventually I found it and got parked. Now, last night I had searched for walking directions from the parking garage to the museum. What should have taken me 10 min. or less took me 40! They were late as well, so at least they weren’t waiting for me, but bah! They’re setting up for what seems to be some sort of music festival/concert shindig (I was focusing more on driving and walking to find the museum than looking closely at the posters to see what it is) so there are ways blocked off and there’s construction. I had my written directions (which only work really well if you take the right exit from the parking garage, which I think I did, but still) and a map from one of those handy travel books and I still managed to get myself lost. I basically walked in a big circle, back and forth a bit. They had stuff set up for the shindig in my way and I think that’s where I got confused. I was walking on the street I was supposed to be on and then WHAM! it’s a street I thought I was supposed to turn on, but the name was wrong. I was angry at myself because I could have saved a lot of time if I would have just done things differently, but sometimes you don’t know until after. If I ever go again, now I know! They were late as well and only arrived about 5-10 min. after I did, so in a way, getting lost kept me busy and now I will recognize that section (around the Central Train Station) if I ever happen to go again. Part of it was knowing what the museum was near, but also trying to find specific streets and being turned around and not knowing which direction I was headed in. I think I should invest in a compass. That would be a good thing. Besides, it was overcast so even if I could tell direction from the sun or whatever (yeah right), there was no sun to help me.

I even got asked for directions to the Albertine Square. I basically said it was in ‘that’ direction. I knew that was where I had parked, but I didn’t know exactly how to explain how to get there in a simple way and in French. I guess even with my backpack and standing outside a museum I looked like a local, go me! Haha, just kidding. She probably just asked me because I was just standing there. Easy target. Hey, if I know I don’t mind helping. I kind of like being able to give directions and knowing where I’m going and what’s around me. My Mom had right to fear when I got my driver’s license (or rather, to worry) because up until then whenever I was in the car I had my ‘nose in a book’ and didn’t know how to get anywhere. I have a much better sense of direction now than I did 9 years ago. Ouch. 9 years ago. That’s when I got my permit, not my full license. It’s still scary. I know I’m not old, don’t get me wrong, it’s just odd to think of my life in terms of me doing things like driving, 9 years ago. When I was 16, ‘9 years ago’ would have been playing with barbies, jumping on the trampoline, driving (there it is again) the go-kart in the drive-way (at least I didn’t crash it into the tree on our front lawn – *cough* it was Lisa *cough*). Actually, I can’t remember exactly how old I was when we drove the go-kart and had the trampoline, but it must have been when I was around 7. For me it’s just a little strange to think that that long ago I was starting to do ‘grown-up things’.

The Museum. I did see some crazy odd instruments I’d never seen or heard of before – have any of you heard of a keyboard/cello contraption or a set of self playing brass instruments? I mean like the player-pianos but brass instead – and a theremin, which I’ve actually studied a bit in my later years at university, but never seen in real life. I’d seen a picture or two, but not very good ones. Those things are odd. But that’s 20th Century experimentation for you. There was also a small showcase on musical torture instruments. You see, to be a virtuoso at the piano, you almost have to have certain hands. At least if you want to play some of the great composer’s piano works you need to be able to play more than an octave (spanning 8 keys) with one hand. I just reach an octave, I have stubby fingers. Sometimes I can make it 9, but that’s pushing it. They had contraptions for (what we assumed) stretching the fingers longer (not good – dislocation and breakage do not help your case!!!), a contraption to stretch your fingers wider (it looked like it could hurt if gone too far, but also might just be nice to stretch those muscles like all the others), and something that we think was for coordination. There were 5 metal rings hanging below 5 metal key type pieces. We assumed you put one hand in the rings and played the keys with the other. Doing this would help the fingers do the same motion at the same time. So when you have a lot of runs you need to play, both your hands work together in the same fluid motion. Of course you don’t use the same fingers at the same time – pinky/thumb, ring finger/index, middle/middle/, index/ring, and thumb/pinky. I remember practising exercises on the piano that helped with his, but there was no contraption! The things people would do for an edge. Then of course they probably just ended up doing irrevocable damage and still couldn’t play! Like Schumann; we’re pretty sure he invented his own device to stretch his fingers. Then again, he went crazy in his later years…

I told them that when I’m going around places I’ll see people and think they’re people I know. I’ve seen quite a few possible doppelgangers. I think I’ve already mentioned this fact in a post…hmmm. Beth told me that she saw one of my doppelgangers (I have at least two) somewhere. I guess the girl was staring at her. She thought ‘either she’s staring at me because I’m staring at her (trying to figure out if it was me or not), or she’s staring at me because it is Holly’. Unfortunately it wasn’t me.

I’m so glad I was able to spend a few hours with them today. They leave tomorrow. I haven’t seen Beth in at least a year and Nathanael even longer. She plays the clarinet, he the saxophone. So I was never in any ensembles with them, and neither were in my year so we never had any classes together, but Beth and I were both on the Music Association Executive and…I’m not sure how I initially met Nathanael. Maybe at a S.A.M.E. event. That’s pronounced ‘Sammy’. It stands for Student Association of Music Educators. In first year they came into my skills class and I remember seeing their sign thinking ‘why would you use the word “same” on your posters and what the heck does it mean?’. Now it makes sense to me and I can’t think of it any other way. I’m kicking myself because I wanted to get a picture of them/with them, but I forgot!!! Nathanael got a picture of Beth and I and I know I got an arm/hand of each of them in some pictures, but that’s all. It’s not something that happens everyday; you’re in a foreign country for an extended period of time and you’re able to meet up with friends who just happen to be honeymooning in that same country. Oh well. At least with this I’ll always remember ^_^. Kinds of makes home a little closer.

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