|The Luxembourg Square round about, which is popular for after work meetings place in Brussels. (Photo:Luke Anami/Standard)|
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is not an ordinary city for first comers and my preparations had to be thorough, notwithstanding that it was the last days of winter season in Europe.
When I got the chance to visit Brussels, news of my father-in-law’s death coming close on the departure date almost made me cancel the trip.
Prof Simeo Esipiku, a man who had taught for more than 35 years in top USA universities, had just passed on. But here I was planning for my first ever visit to Europe. The sombre mood that engulfed his death and the fact that I had to leave family members grieving was too harsh to bear.
Nevertheless, duty beckoned and I had no alternative but to juggle between Kakamega, Eldoret and Nairobi counties in a span of four days and still travel 6,000 miles over North Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been the main centre for international politics. Hosting principal European Union institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
The preparations for the visit were intense stealing away the excitement of flying for over six hours nonstop. An interview for an Schengen visa, and frequent visits to the Belgian Embassy in Nairobi meant I was entirely on travel mode three weeks before the actual date of travel.
As I found out, one requires a travel insurance including medical cover. It must cover the duration of the requested visa and annual insurance may be required if you are requesting a multi-entry visa.
My purpose for a stay in Brussels was to undertake a study on how the European Union, especially its monetary union works vis-a-vis the East African Community, which is still negotiating one. That meant I had to schedule appointments with senior EU and European Community officials and MPs well in advance.
Having been a victim of food poisoning in various cities that I had previously visited, this time round I made adjustments just in case!
My love for ugali and kuku (chicken), a Kenyan meal far away from my motherland, was not lost to Customs officials at JKIA when they rummaged through my bag that contained a packet of local maize meal, tea packs, and wimbi (millet) flour, among other local food stuffs.