ICC Weekend edition #1 in Antwerp, Belgium

And thus, another great event organized by ICC Belgium has come to an end… but hang on, that doesn’t mean I have already finished writing how it actually went:

Organizing my stay wasn’t too difficult, as ICC Belgium took care of the accomodation and further organization of the entire ICC weekend, so the only thing I had to organize myself was the arrival and departure, not too much to worry about (I thought).
First off, there was a problem with my desired connection. I would travel from Marburg via Frankfurt to Düsseldorf by train and then change for Deutsche Bahn’s IC-Bus to Antwerp. The problem with the IC-Bus was (and obviously still is) that the IC-Bus will depart from the bus stop (where it should be, of course) and the train station staff is not allowed to accompany you anywhere outside the train station, due to insurance reasons; therefore, the MSZ (Mobilitätsservicezentrale: Deutsche Bahn’s mobility center) offered me to book the assistance for the train connection which would have taken less time, but it was more expensive.
I would have perfectly understood it if DB said they do not accompany you from the train to a bus because it was Flixbus or any other possible companies operating long-distance busses.
However, as the IC-Bus is operated by DB themselves, I called up their complaints department. It was a quite positive talk; the lady on the phone was really sorry for the inconvenience and, for the time being, sent me a promo code to get a discount when booking the train trip to Antwerp.
Of course, complaints have to be forwarded to the right departments to actually let them know about the issue but rest assured, I shall be informed about any developments. The last few weeks though, there either was no further investigation on that matter or they just didn’t let me know, who knows…

Anyway, I booked the train connection with the promo code instead and, a few days later, tried to arrange assistance for my booked train connection which was – according to the online schedule – still up to date.
The MSZ called me up just a few minutes after my inquiry to inform me that assistance for my desired connection was not bookable because the ICE train was cancelled between Frankfurt and Cologne. The connection itself was still valid on the website and usually if a train is cancelled, they won’t be shown on the schedule anymore; strangely, they just placed an attention sign which, when clicking on it, revealed a short note that the train is cancelled.
we were right back where we started: at the IC-Bus connection via Düsseldorf.
I explained the reason why I went for the train connection and as a result, they booked the assistance from Marburg to Düsseldorf and instructed the staff there to pick me up, that I need to take the IC-Bus to Antwerp and that they should guide me as far as they can go; and in worst case, Adrian, Philipp and Marie could also pick me up from a certain spot in the train station on their way to the bus stop.
I even got a new promo-code after I cancelled my booking to buy a new ticket valid for the bus connection.

On the day of departure, everything went as it should and in Düsseldorf, the lady who picked me up guided me straight away outside the train station to find the IC-Bus and she instructed the bus driver to help me boarding the bus when he is done cleaning it up. He also arranged that I could sit together with Adrian, Philipp and Marie who arrived at the bus stop later on as well.
We arrived in Antwerp with a little delay so I called up Anthony to let the ICC Belgium guys know about our delayed arrival before we eventually made it to the train station to find our train to Antwerpen-Berchem; we ended up asking someone for help in order to find the right platform.
Some volunteers were already standing by in Berchem to pick us up and get us over to the Scoutshuis, where the entire event took place.

A short tour through the most important areas of the Scoutshuis and a few arrangements in our rooms later, dinner was served, followed by a welcoming speech and a couple of leisure-time activities (speed-dating, Karaoke and card/board games), after which we went to the ICC café for a drink and a chat.
Later on, a group of volunteers suggested to go out with those who are interested and find a suitable bar nearby, so that’s what we did!

The next morning after breakfast at 9:30, a short assembly meeting took place in which the workshops were presented and at 10:00, it was workshop time. Before the ICC weekend started, we created a wishlist for workshops in advance so they could assign us to our desired workshops.
I ended up in networking which, in comparison to ICC in Zadar, was a little different. As I mentioned in previous blog posts about networking already: every workshop leader has different topics in mind, so the networking workshops are never equal to each other.
This time, we not only talked about how to create networks and what kind of network we already have; we additionally were divided into groups and talked to our neighbors as if we would meet the first time and would like to get to know each other, for example. It was rather difficult to accomplish, given that I knew my neighbors from ICC or elsewhere, so we at some point ended up asking about each other’s lives eversince we met the last time. Anyway, the whole thing was basically about one’s personal appearance, so the workshop leaders went round to listen in to our conversations, giving hints on how to appropriately look at each other and how to possibly express ourselves in a non-verbal way. A piece of cake, you might say; but it can be quite difficult for a blind person to accomplish.

At 12:00, a lunch break followed and another assembly meeting plus another workshop session (“Traveling Abroad” in my case), led by the Trio Infernale 😉 (Silke, Eddy and me) from 13:30 until 15:30.

Before the leisure-time activities started (16:30-18:30), we had a small break in between.
The leisure activities on the schedule were:
* Sightseeing in Antwerp
* Showdown
* Jam-session and
* Board/Card games
I went for Showdown and I do admit that I had to cope with a colossal loss of 1:12. Well, it was my first time after YEARS playing it and, whereas in Riga I could practise a little bit and warm up, we just randomly selected opponents to play against and started straight away in Antwerp. Sure I lost, but it was funny anyway.

We had dinner from 18:30-20:00 and spent the rest of the evening chatting with people in the ICC Café or elsewhere. As far as I remember, there even was a dancing activity going on, which I skipped to have a short rest before joining the others later onagain.

The next morning, breakfast – as usual – took place from 8:00 to 9:00 and after a short workshop presentation and an awesome wake-up call (proudly organized by ICC Belgium) in the assembly hall, Silke, Eddy and I had our second round of the workshop “Traveling Abroad” and, if you check the podcast, you’ll find a short talk about the workshop with the three of us and Alice, one of our participants from the UK.
As a conclusion, some of our participants were completely new to the topic traveling abroad and they appreciated our workshop. I hope we were able to teach them some possible ways to get started themselves. In any case, the input from our participants was amazing! We again learned a couple of new things concerning what comes in handy when traveling, such as “Busbud”, an accessible app to search for long-distance bus connections of all kinds and companies.

The ICC weekend basically slowly came to an end after lunch when the first few people started to depart. As I was going to depart a little later in the afternoon, I had a little chat with some people from the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Belgium.
Together with some other participants, Eric drove us to Antwerpen-Berchem to drop us off at our desired trains.

I did mention earlier that there were no direct connections from Frankfurt to Belgium (same goes for the other way around) at this time and especially on that particular Sunday, the train connection back to Marburg was horrible! So what options did I have … either taking this bloody train connection and risk missing a few trains due to possible delays – therefore being stuck for an hour or more -, taking a long-distance bus or perhaps take advantage of Blablacar?
During one of the English meetings in Marburg (I think one week before the ICC weekend), I mentioned my travel plans and how stupid the train connections were. Coincidentally, Alejandra also planned to stay in Belgium for some time and also leave on Sunday, November 4th and we both had a profitable discussion later on, after which Alejandra booked us two seats in a Blablacar from Brussels to Frankfurt.

Alejandra therefore picked me up at Brussels Central and we went onwards by Metro to catch up with our driver.
We were four people in total and the ride was very pleasant indeed; it furthermore gave me confidence to try out Blablacar on my own someday, should trains or busses not suit me.
After all, the ride took just as long as the actual ride on the ICE train from Brussels to Frankfurt and there was no traffic jam at all!
He dropped us off at Frankfurt central station and we took the train back to Marburg after a little snack.
Honestly, as pleasant and fairly smooth the entire ride was, I was super exhausted and would have probably overslept Marburg if Alejandra didn’t wake me up in time.

To summarize the weekend: It was an awesome experience and I really appreciate the way ICC Belgium supports and promotes ICC, eventually even giving anybody the chance to participate (as long as they are between 16 and 30) or get involved in the organization of the event.
However, fun can’t last forever. I really appreciated the long breaks in between during the course of the weekend but when the event was over, it was a good thing indeed having a few more hours in hand to recover by sleeping very long to be rested the next day.

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