Brussels Revisited

Exactly one year ago, I traveled to Uganda via Brussels airport. I arrived at the terminal the same second three suicide bombers, at the other terminal, pulled their triggers. Killing fourteen innocent people and leaving eighty-one injured. I was stuck in nearby Leuven for four days where I wrote this following text. Then I continued my travels via Paris CDG, arriving in Uganda on Easter Sunday.

3/22/2016 Brussels Airport 

I was at Brussels Airport when the bombs exploded. I didn’t hear nor see it. But I saw hundreds of people running in my direction. My first thought was „how can so many people be late for their flight?“. How little did I know.

We then assumed that there was some sort of attack. One Swede threw up his hands „seriously, this is my fifth terrorist attack“, as if he had a collecting album. We stood at the A Terminals and waited for news. The sudden, eery silence was only interrupted by a school class playing fussball. They didn’t worry. Each of their loud cheers was answered by other people’s yelp. The mood was tangled and tensed.

Fifteen minutes later the airport announced evacuation. Most travelers didn’t follow the instructions at first and thought it was a fire drill. One officers pulled me gently off the restrooms. People had to leave all their luggage. One woman said „back home I announced I wanted to be less controlling, less attached to material things and have a blast. I didn’t mean it this way“. It was sad to find out later it was real and people died.

While walking outside the terminal, I overheard a couple saying „ah evacuation, thank God we wear functional clothing“. One person rejoiced „finally, I can also mark myself safe on facebook“. Some ordinary tourists discovered their inner journalist and metamorphosed into realtime reporters with selfie sticks. They got this ambitious look on their face like they’re part of something bigger. Now anything was suspicious, the floor, the planes, the weather. Me, I was just cold. I wore summer cloths and a rain coat.

Back in Hamburg, I was worried „will this raincoat warm me for five minutes between the bus station and airport? And protect me from the warm African highland monsoon?“ Little did I know that I was about to stand outside the airport for 5 hours. There I was freezing and thus started dancing, imagining minimalism music. Some people complimented my sweet moves. I was thankful I didn’t start a sad flashmob. In fact, I felt horrible. I also hadn’t slept or eaten in two days. I started crying and put on sunglasses. I was cool crying. I ate all the chocolate that I initially bought for my hosts in Uganda. Me, dancing and crying with sunglasses, raincoat and eating chocolate. This image will stay with me for a while. Still, I had no idea what really happened.

Hours later me and all the other hundreds of people were escorted out of the airport area, followed by journalists and cameras. No one really knew what was going on. I was hoping planes would leave soon. My first stop was at a gym hall where I rested on the floor. We then were advised to go to Leuven, a small town outside of Brussels that was not affected by the attacks. We were told to look for hotels and return to the airport the next day. At the train station, I became friends with two young American women on their way to Delhi. On top of everything, one of them had food poisoning. All hotels were booked. We became friends with despair.

Eventually, we got the last beds at Leuven City Hostel. It was packed only with people who were there involuntarily. There were Turkish guys interrupted on their way to Berlin, two Czech couples trying to get to Havana, and two girls from Bielefeld because they wanted to go to Louvain-la Neuve but confused it with Leuven (Leuven in French is called Louvain). 

 

3/23/2016 Leuven

We still don’t know how to go on. First, we were so happy to be able to sleep. This morning, I woke up at seven from the construction on the other side of our hostel wall. They started working to The Final Countdown. I didn’t care. So far it seems there will be no flights until further notice. The airport is still marked a crime scene. The airlines seem to be as uninformed as us. I’ve been waiting in their phone line for about five coffees. It seems like I will stay for even more coffees in Leuven. Me and my new friends spend time together. For example, we go into stores just to be warm. The hostel life feels a little bit like an involuntarily Erasmus experience but without luggage. I made so many friends, also because I’m the only one with an iPhone charger.

Leuven is a cute Flemish university town. Our first encounter was a blessing. Three Belgian guys gave us free food. An entire cake, a baguette and oranges! Everyone here is dressed nicely. Us not so. Rather three girls in oversized bulky raincoats. We felt so foreign. We weren’t underdressed enough to look like we dressed up like that. We three just stuck out like accidentally stranded backpackers. It’s small details like that, a silly rain coat, which made one feel foreign. What must bigger differences feel like?
My thoughts are with everyone affected by the attacks.

3/24/2016 Leuven at night

It’s astonishing how fast I can get used to a standard. Even though it’s involuntarily, I’m enjoying the hostel life. On Tuesday, I was plain grateful that I’m alive and that I could sleep in a crowded gym hall. On Wednesday, I didn’t mind my sleep being interrupted by The Final Countdown constructions workers. Because any time is the time for The Final Countdown. But today I’m already complaining about the cold shower and other people having fun: Last night my sleep was ruined by a huge party.

National mourning does not apply to university students. It’s semester end party in Leuven, a city whose main essence is the university. Fifty thousand students celebrated before their exam period. And the main party seemed to be outside my window. I looked out and was greeted by young, innocent faces, not yet corrupted by the many dirty years of university.

They partied it up right in front of us while we tried to sleep.  Someone peed against our window, thinking it was a wall(?). Then I did something I haven’t done since the military. Not shooting! Geez! I rolled in my ear plugs so hard that I could only hear my own heartbeat. My desperate hostel mates, for the first time since food poisoning able to sleep, went outside to complain like we were forty years older. Hey can you party quieter? Was I angry because I was still recovering from the shock of terror while they were partying? Or because I wasn’t partying but they were? DJ Ingrid needs some rest.

Now my bed was as quiet as a shooting range. I googled „how do deaf people know when to get up in the morning“. I was worried that I wouldn’t hear my alarm clock. Because I have a train to catch. Also, as a suspicious German tourist, I slept on my traveller checks. I hoped no one would mug me. Or if they did mug me, at least wake me up afterwards. Thanks mugger. I woke up again in the middle of the night because I lost my one ear plug. I looked for it closely as if it was a spider or gold. It was 6.30 and the party was still going on. Now they really got my DJ Ingrid street cred.

I got up. That one old dude still blasted youtube videos in the lobby. (The last two days – and nights – he has been playing the same video of people doing the time warp again and again and again. And again. Btw, he’s not stranded here but apparently lives at the hostel those past ten years. Maybe he doesn’t know who he is. And the time warp is the only thing that connects him to his past self). At 7.00, The Final Countdown began as usual. My hostel mate asked politely how I slept and we just burst out in hysterical laughter. Like cocaine addicts asking each other how they liked their mediation.

Today my voyage continues. I said farewell to all my wonderful hostel friends, all departing in different directions. Frankfurt, Amsterdam, blablacar. Only that one old dude stays. He’s having the time warp again for breakfast. In a few hours, I will try to get to Brussels main station. I bought the last available train ticket to Paris Charles de Gaulles. For the first time I will have a big birthday party with hundreds of guests – I will celebrate it on the airplane to Addis Abeba. My flight has been rescheduled for the fourth time now.

 

I got safely to Brussels main station. Boarded the TGV to Paris CDG. Met up with my Indian friend from Stockholm, who happened to be there. Boarded the airplane and continued trip, that would shape my view of terrorism, of Africa, politics, and western beauty standard forever. 

Pics Pics Pics

I have never ever uploaded the photos of me from my old apartment in Hamburg. They were shot by my friend and photographer Stefan a.k.a. Stimmungsfänger (“mood catcher”). We basically just had coffee and sometimes decided to take a photo.  I’d say, he caught my mood quite well. (I did not upload the ones being hangry.) Here they are:

 

casually flashing neighbors

 

Painting dis shit on fire

 

Dj Ingrid legt auf allmöglichen Event auf. Sogar im Bett. Mit Handy.

 

Der grösste Asi von HH-Winterhude

 

When you take too many selfies and donnu which to post

 

Self portrait en plain air

 

Wenzel behind cheap curtains

 

clean work environment

 

Ingrid’s The Office

 

Curating my nudes on the floor

 

Or as my mom said ten years ago “When you have your own flat, you will be tidy.”

 

Hello Berlin Goodbye Hamburg

Tschüss Hamburg. Hello Berlin.

My most favorite artwork at my Hamburg flat.

 

Yup I’m moving to Berlin. I’m already writing this blog post from the capital. Apartment hunt here is literally a hunt. You’d be more successful with a gun. After 30 viewings, I had five new friendships, a pen friend, 15 fake accounts asking for money, two job offers – but not a new flat. I thought, before finding a home I would have a new stand-up act. Several tenants wrote me that they have given their flat already to someone else but my application was the funniest:

 

 

Before I have a new flat, I have a whole new comedy act.

 

But now I found an apartment. It was pure luck, zero guns. I haven’t fully moved yet. But I have relocated some of my stuff already, first of all my shoes. Due to that, even my next door neighbor in Hamburg has felt my recent absence. Back when I moved in, I might have even introduced myself with “I’m the one with all that trash by the door”. Now she sent me a message asking “it’s so tidy in front of you door, did you leave me already?”

 

 

If you’ve followed my old, infamous blog, you know I’m not the queen of interior design. The only furnishing concept I have is “art instead of furniture”. And “I don’t own things”. Will it be different with the new apartment? Updates will follow soon (or occasionally on my snapchat @ingridwenz). Btw, everything that is too ugly for Instagram goes on my snapchat. This was yesterday’s update, showing the most recent condition of my new domicile:

 

Too ugly for Instagram? Put it on snapchat!

 

Do-it-yourself-ingrid

 

 

The only annoying thing right now is commuting between Hamburg and Berlin. Some people say “the best part about Berlin is the ICE to Hamburg”. It’s less than two hours – but 60 Euro one way. I downloaded the flixbus app the day my BahnCard expired. Flixbus is 10-15 Eur and takes three to four hours. It was social relegation at the touch of a button. I did bring the Bahn Magazine from my last ICE ride to read on my first Flixbus ride, looking like a snob, that once had money. Hitchhiking will never be an option, though this might be one of my most favorite cartoons of the last months:

 

 

Unrelated to apartments but related to Berlin: I’m playing at a show in Berlin this Saturday called “Comedy auf Deuglish”.

Bis Bald,

Ingrid!

A trip to the Gym

„I was at the gym today“, I told my friend proudly. He replied „did you have a gig there?“.
Wow. Was it that out-of-the-way of me to be at a gym? Guess so. I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years. And that one time doesn’t count, when I was just handing out flyers for my close-by comedy show. (No one came).

A few weeks ago, I ran to an open mic to get a spot. That’s when it hit me. When the only work out I get is sprinting to an open mic, there’s clearly something wrong with my fitness. And career, because I didn’t even get the spot.

I used to be athletic, though. I mean, I was on a Bundesliga team. (Granted, it was Rugby. There are so few players, when you start, you’re automatically Bundesliga. In Germany, Rugby has the same development index as Comedy. Okay, who am I kidding, I never actually played a Bundesliga match, but I saw one, from the bench, park bench). But Rugby wasn’t my only exotic sport, I also played Headis regularly. So regular, I even modeled for it (was accidentally at practice when a curious photo team showed up):

That one time I was athletic and a camera team showed up.

 

 

So, I need to work out again. But I would never sign up for a gym deliberately. I hate gyms. Hanging onto some work out device while I think everyone stares at me because I probably use it wrong? Is there an anxiety-gym? At the entry of any gym’s atmosphere, my motivation burns up in a split second. And it’s too cold to be running outside. And no group sport, since my ankle is broken from when I once tried high heels. And no yoga, because I always fall asleep. Yes, I have many excuses. I have more, need one? So what now?

 

Am I doing this right? Why is everyone looking? Help. (c) Ingrid Wenzel

 

So one day, on my way to getting my daily dose of cake, I saw a little raffle next to a bakery. I could win something. How exciting! Oh, just a personal training. You almost got me!
I participated in this raffle. It was my way of effort to work out: Now it was in their hands. Leave fitness up to fate. I did draw a big smiley on my raffle card, awkwardly waving it into the personal trainers’ faces. Heyyy pick me right. I really like winning.

Guess what. I did win. Or they did pick me, having seen my untrained body. (They probably marked my card “Winner! She needs it the most!!!”). Or they let everyone win, cuz that’s marketing right? Anyway.

Sooo, I went to my first class on Monday morning. I was out of shape and nervous. What should I wear? How close will I be standing next to the personal trainer? I took a shower before my training, applied body lotion, did my nails, even flossed. The last time I did all that, I got myself a new boyfriend.

My prize wasn’t a normal, awful gym. It was a gym where you get black, skin tight suits and electric shots (EMS)! What?! What have I gotten myself into? But the trainer calmed me down by saying “you would be the first person to pass out this week”. The first one this week? It was just Monday morning! He hooked my functional sausage-skin to the power. Bzzzzz. 
Here’s what it looked like. Also, I think this is the best self-portrait I’ve ever drawn:

EMS: Elektromyostimulationstraining or Egon M. Schiele? (c) Ingrid Wenzel

This electric shock work out lasts only 20 minutes. I can do that. It tickled, I didn’t go out of my way. Wasn’t even sweating. (I only took a shower afterwards because the suit smells of other people’s sweat.) I even enjoyed it (not the sweat). I must have looked like someone, who chills while being electrocuted. Back at home, I felt accomplished and had more cake.

The backlash awaited me the next day: a surprise muscle ache in places, I didn’t even know I had muscles. I will do it again. Bring it on! Turns out, EMS is not only super efficient, it’s also expensive. Looking at my fellow gym partners, I’m never sure if they’re rich or lazy. Good small talk topic for my next workout. Make Ingrid’s body great again.