Banter from Brabant

Monday, July 09, 2007


In February a friend had a party in Brussels that coincided close enough in time to my birthday that it was considered to be for my birthday by the guests. This party was hosted by our (married) friends Nico and Luciana from Argentina/Spain/Italy... (Argentines seem to commonly have multiple citizenships). This party began with a game of Risk that lasted 7 hours and had to end with a peace agreement rather than world domination. Interestingly, another time we tried a round of Risk, the game also lasted 7 or more hours only to end in armistice rather than domination. This reflected a continuous shifting of alliances that effectively blocked significant gains made by anyone cashing in Risk cards (we got past the 60 armies mark with no victor!). For anyone that plays Risk... this is an unfathomable outcome.

In this particular risk game, it was an American from Louisiana and an Egyptian from Cairo playing together -- both good friends of ours -- and holding on to Africa most of the game. The Argentine of course struggled to hang on to South America while the girls (Beth, Luciana and Keisha of the Bahamas), with their German 'advisor' who was actually in the German Army, were centered around Greenland (Canada and Northern Europe). I held Australia after taking it from a Greek guy who was eventually relegated to Irkutsk and decided to end himself in a tragic display of Greek 'heroism' against the dominant power - at that point me. This crippled me significantly. However, the self-proclaimed victor (and decidedly dominant power at the end) -- after armistice was signed -- was an Italian that held most of Asia and North America.

Aside for that little spiel about the Risk game, what was interesting about this party was that 10 or 11 nationalities were represented and the party was a great time and went quite late. Everyone got along quite well.

Now, six months later, we had a party/BBQ in our backyard. Many of the same people were here. However, we also invited the friends of ours from Leuven (both those we met through Beth's program and some Flemish guys we met randomly at a bar and eventually became good friends with). This party had about 10 or 11 nationalities represented again, however, had one other aspect: a two crowd social division. While Beth and I, along with Bert and Peter the Flemish friends mixed between the two cliques, they themselves did not interact much with each other. Namely, the people from Leuven in Beth's program sat on one side of the lawn while the people from Brussels in my school sat on the other.

I find that it is interesting that people can become fast friends across continents when they have very little choice and know nobody, however, in less than a year, social groups have already coalesced and intermixing becomes more difficult. This reminded me of the dinner parties we used to have in Minneapolis, or should I say Kelley's dinner parties, where the St. Paul and the Minneapolis crowds did not mix voluntarily despite having mutual friends. Fascinating.


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