So much to talk about here - thanks for being patient!

First, Thursday night I was forwarded a post about an internship being offered by the International Astronautical Federation, IAF, headquartered in Paris to assist with the International Astronautical Congress IAC2011 to be held in Cape Town, South Africa in the beginning of October.  The position is to start as soon as possible.  Myself, thinking I had a long shot, but that it would be pretty cool, I stayed up til about 2 in the morning Friday to apply for it.  Little did I know that by Friday 4pm, I applied, 'skype interviewed' and was offered the position!  My only problem currently stands that I may not have the full funds covered for the duration of the internship.  I would be in Paris by August 1 and then travel with them at the end of September to Cape Town for the Congress until October 8 upon returning to the States to actually attend school...  I have until tomorrow to find all the funding so we will see!

Then I was off to Belgium in the evening.  Unfortunately our travel on the train conflicted with me watching the live feed of launch, though all Friday morning I was watching the preparations!  Members from my Microgravity Team, Kim, Amber, Steve and Professor Crosby got to travel to Florida thanks to this year's awesome PI, Rudy Werlink, to watch the launch (I unfortunately/fortunately am in Europe!).  You should check out articles written on their adventures here, here.... and here. - Don't worry, they're all different sources! :)

Our group to Belgium included myself, Marissa, Maya, Mark, Karimu, Esteban, Mattia, Matteo, and Francisco.  Our first stop was Antwerp.  Just to let all you Harry Potter fans know, they had a whole display on the "It all ends. 7.13.2011" in the train station.  I'm pretty sure some of the movie was filmed there as well.  We found our hostel and first ate a cake in celebration of Francisco's birthday.  Then headed out to walk around the city and enjoy a Belgian beer.  Fortunately, the cities here are all walkable so we could wander.  We got dinner at a little place and a lot of us ordered pizza.  I like my pizza with less sauce.  I asked Karimu to help me so I could order in Dutch.  I thought I had said it correctly, but when the waiter laughed a little and looked really confused I had a moment of fear where Karimu just thought it was funny to tell me something to say that a) made absolutely no sense or b) is something I shouldn't be saying.  Turned out though, my Dutch pronunciation is just that bad.  Woops!  Good laugh at the table though!

Saturday we woke up and explored the city of Antwerp during the day.  We had to get food first and found a cute little breakfast place.  They had a nice outdoor seating area with a koi pond.  Marissa and I split a waffle and omelet to have the best of both.  While we were eating there were two cute little girls with their grandpa.  One of the girls slipped out of her chair and the other girl blatantly and directly laughed at the other one... seems like something my sister would do to me!  Very cute and funny.

We also walked through a tunnel that is 30 meters below ground and at least 1 km long.  It was so crazy and kind of scary at the same time.  It was very boring looking inside too.  I thought they maybe would have painted murals or something.  Mattia said it looked like something in Russia but was probably "in style" when originally constructed.

In the afternoon we boarded a train to Brugge.  Mark and Karimu headed back to Leiden and the rest of us headed on our way.  Since it was later in the day, we pretty much did a night life tour including tasting some different kinds of true Belgian beer.  It was a lot of fun and the weather was great too.  Going to the hostel, Marissa pointed out it was rather funny that it was selected to stay at an "American" hostel with license plates from each State and other Americana themed decorations.  It was very nice though in the end.

Brugge is a beautiful city and there are many points throughout that have spectacular views.  One has a willow tree just hanging over the water and at night when it was all lit up it was super pretty.

Sunday during the day we did all of the touristy things.  Let me tell you too, the tourist were came crawling out of the walls in Brugge during the day Sunday.  I read that only 20,000 people live in Brugge but there's definitely much more people there - so you know that they are all not from there and just like us.

Two things I observed in Brugge, besides the masses of tourists, it there's lots of lace and lots of chocolate.

The lace is all hand made and can take 10 hours to make a simple small square (like a handkerchief).  They are beautiful though.  Lots and lots of chocolate.  When you go into the chocolate shops, you can usually get a free sample.  The place that had the best chocolate was also the cheapest.  A few of us decided to get a small bag right before leaving so that way we'd have some to take back with us to Leiden to enjoy later in the week... needless to say that the chocolate did not even last the whole train ride home.  At lunch today (Tuesday), Maya commented on Mattia's shirt he was wearing and asked if he got it this weekend (we don't remember seeing him buy it) and his response was, "Yes, while you girls were swimming in chocolate."  That explains it.

In Brugge, they have a french fry museum and a chocolate museum (which includes a 250-some kg chocolate Obama).  We did not go in either of these though because they were kind of expensive (on our travel budget).  Nonetheless, we ate lots of fries and chocolate while there, which I surely believe makes up for it.  In the main square, there are two french fry stands and it is said that there is a battle over which is 'better'.  I think they tasted the same.

By the time we were getting ready to head back home, everyone - and I mean everyone - was dragging.  We had walked so much.  I think some of us were debating if we could literally take one more step, or how far could you walk before just not being able to anymore.

At the train station in Antwerp (we had to transfer), Marissa and I made one last valiant effort and finding a good Belgian waffle before returning back to Leiden.  We asked the vendor if he could make one fresh that moment but said he made them this morning.  We weren't buying it, and since the previous ones we had tried failed, I just will have to remember the one I had in Brussels and a great memory.
Definitely liked Brugge more. (It's probably because of the chocolate).

I'll be sure to post pictures as soon as I get them loaded, but I think that my camera officially died upon arrival in Antwerp and has since refused to turn on. :(   I'm sure that I will think of more things that happened over the weekend to share!