Europe makes the US look like an infant. The house that I have been living in for the past 4 months is in the “new” part of town, yet it is as old as Lexington’s oldest buildings. As you can imagine, this makes for some fun treasure hunting.
Europeans have markets and flea markets all over. Two in particular, and rather famous ones, that I visited are the Camden Market in London, England, and the Jeu de Balle market in Brussels, Belgium. Both markets, like most, are based on bartering and/or stiff negotiations…more on that later.
Having taken French for several years, I developed an affinity for some of its most prominent authors. Lucky for me, I came across three matching volumes of Molière plays in Brussels. (I also saw his final resting place in Cimetière du Père LaChaise in Paris.) Printed in the 1930s and kept in excellent condition, these three books were any French literature dork’s dream.
What was standing between me and those books? A few euros, a six year old, and his dad. Twenty minutes after some stiff negotiations in poorly spoken French, as it was not the first language of anyone involved, I got away with what I wanted.
I had a similar experience at Camden Market, buying some traditional French tableware that had wound up in London. Studying abroad isn’t just about studying and making friends. Getting around a new town, a new country, and a new continent opens hundreds of doors that let you experience a piece of someone else’s life, and sometimes let you bring that piece back to remember it for years to come.