Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ultimate cosiness

Don't you think that one of the most fantastic things in the world is waking up after a long good night of sleep and not having to get up right away? You are still a bit asleep, but awake enough to feel the softness and warmth of the duvet in your bed. Hmmmm fantastic to just doze off a little more, before you are 100% awake.
Too bad that there's always that nasty deadline to get up on weekdays, even though I stretch it as far as I possibly can.

we didn't win :(

Hmm it didn't work out that well for the Belgian tennis players in Australia.

Kim struggled in her semi-final against Mauresmo and was in a third set at an equal score when she fell over and injured her anckle. Despite medical care on the court, she had to leave the game giving a ticket to Mauresmo for the final.

Justine did win her semi-final in 3 sets and was facing Mauresmo in the final. But she was ill and in the second set she gave up. So we didn't win :(. And mauresmo got her first grand slam title in a very weird way, which is a bit sad for her as she was playing really well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Power outage again

Yesterday evening I was happily chatting with jan when it happened again....booom darkness and silence in the appartment. Another power outage.

Since it happened at the end of November as well, my reflexes were a bit better. Rather than starting to bump into things, I immediately opened the curtains to get some moonlight in. That was actually very funny: the entire street was once more in utter darkness but from the windows of the opposite houses I occasionally saw the round moving light of a flashlight. I could just picture in all those houses people touching furniture, moving slowly while trying to find quickly that lighter of that flashlight etc and then helping others :-). My neighbours on the floor below and 2 floors below were also screaming to each other "is it out over there tooo???".

I quickly put on some candles around the house and managed to sms Jan with the last battery I had on my mobile to ask him for a wake-up call...you never know how long the power is out and what your alarm clock will do when it comes back up. He then spooked me by phoning me on my fixed phone...I had never realised that the telephone gets its own electricity over the telephone line itself and that it was still functioning. Anyway, it was nice having someone to call me in the darkness and to tell me what time it was.

After cleaning up my table in candlelight, and brushing my teeth in bathroom candlelight (weird experience) , I went to bed since there really was nothing else I could do in the dark...but at that time one hour after it went out, it went back up. The happy loud scream down below was an extra confirmation, in case I didn't see my alarm clock flashing. Oh well, I was ready to go to bed, so for once I've been in bed really early. I admit it, I did do some reading in bed still, but this morning I was very much rested. Maybe I should have a power outage more frequently.
I should not say that too loud as power outages seem to become a plaque in the area around Ghent. Over a year ago there were about 10 of them in different parts of Ghent in 2 weeks time... that many that their came questions about it in the parliament. But so they claimed it was all coincidence (line broken, power cabine on fire, car crash near a line, etc...). Still, there are far too many power outages in Ghent, ...but I so far only had 2.

Up to a Belgian final???

Woohoo, our two great Belgian tennis players, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters just made it both to the semi-finals of the Australian Open! ... and they don't have to play each other in the semi finals so we can have once more an all Belgian final!
I think it's been since jan 2004 that that has happened again (in 2003 they somehow had the habit of playing grand slam finals against each other). Then they both started suffering from injuries, they had come backs and injuries again etc...

I honestly feared that Kim wouldn't make it as she started off this grand slam with an injury but it does not seem to bother her anymore. Due to beating Hingis this morning and Justine who has beaten # 1 Davenport yesterday, Kim has become once more the number 1 in the world of female tennis. wooohooo.

Lets now just all cross our fingers that they both win their semi-finals (that'll very tough I fear, very hard opponents, all ex number 1 players) so we can enjoy an all belgian final in the weekend again.

Hup Kim hup
Hup Justine hup.

Geef er een goeie mep op.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A sunday afternoon walk in Grimbergen

Grimbergen village centre with abbey church

Today we went for a walk in Grimbergen, the northern suburb of Brussels that despite its closeby location of our capital still has kept a Flemish rural village charachter. That was a real pleasant surprise to this girl here full of prejudices against Brussels.

We walked around the abbey of the Norbertijnen where they originally brewed the Grimbergen beer (that is currently brewed by Alken-Maes, my employer). A little further on our walk we discovered 2 water mills along a little creek and some old castles ! Very cool!!

A castle ruin in the village park

View on Grimbergen

A warning for the local wildlife....


... Which was looking very threatening

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Kitchen!!



aaah I just also wanted to tell you that we ordered our kitchen today! Wow.

Family tree

Recent chats with Janet, the daughter of my dad's and my aunt's Canadian cousin, and a visit with my aunt Laura who is born in Canada, made me feel like taking up my old family tree again. More than 10 years ago, I worked on it with the help of my aunt and her 2 Canadian cousins with whom was writing letters.
At that time I drew it on a sheet of paper, but it was hard to maintain it as I always had to start over branches as soon as their were marriages or children out of lack of space on the sheet.

Thanx to an hour of google I found recurring information of apparently the top 10 of genealogy software, tips to start your genealogy and some shareware. With a lot of enthousiasm I started immediately downloading this shareware and testing it and with the same big enthousiasm for this reborn hobby, I entered the 210 descendants of my greatgrandmother that I am aware of. Cool, now I can just easily add people, make new connections and republish some of the available reports. Fine, I customise the reports exactly the way I want them, but it's a whole lot easier than doing it manually!!

While chatting with Janet again, I could ask some questions that my aunt had of some cousins she hadn't heard off and I could send my family tree over to Canada. Thanx to that, I am now already e-mailing with Janet's cousin who sounds very enthousiastic about getting to know her Flemish roots and who is willing to help me out finding more addresses in Canada and the missing data.

It's really cool. I am actually not interested to dig further into time, not right now for sure, but I'd search all descendants of my greatgrandmother. Those are my relatives, some of them my age that are running around on the other side of the world with their own stories and lives.

Last week was therefore a week full of family news. Some news was good: new contacts, working on family tree. Some news was negative: a cousin of my dad and my aunts pen-pall is ill and another cousin, Maurice died this week. We knew it withing 12 hours later (the magic of internet huh) and I could tell my aunt who has known him. So now I've been thinking of a funeral today that happened in Ontario of someone I have never met or seen. Yet I felt a little bit connected to this funeral. I am related to his grieving family! A family I'd like to get more in touch with!

Telecom frustrations

Sometimes you can feel very hopeless as a consumer, being bullied by companies and not knowing what to do against it. My dad has been fighting a telecom operator, Scarlet, since the end of October already and there is still no solution in sight.

Scarlet used to be my old internet provider (when I still was using my @pi.be or @planetinternet.be), but we had already experienced a couple of times that their customer service was inexisting. When I moved to my own appartment, I took adsl from a different provider, Versatel. My dad still used my old e-mail for a while but we gave him an adsl subscription for his birthday (from Versatel as well). After running both e-mail addresses for a while, I stopped my subscription with Scarlet with an registered mail. Indeed, in the beginning of November after 4 weeks, they confirmed the stopping of my subscription.

2 weeks later, I get an e-mail and my parents get a letter with felications from Scarlet for ordering a ADSL subscription with them... something we never ever did. So I immediately phone them to tell them that this is a mistake and that I am not interested in that subscription. No problem, it'll be cancelled.

But another letter arrives with the same message (no problem, it'll be cancelled once more), the adsl on my dad's telephone line gets switched from versatel to scarlet by our national telephone operator who is just carrying out orders : as a result my dad cannot log in onto Versatel anymore, neither to Scarlet since we don't have a running subscription yet and we don't want one (no problem, it'll be cancelled for sure, but stopping back that process can take some time since all these parties are involved), Versatel tries to setup our adsl a couple of times without success so they say( no problem, it'll be ok, just be patient, we'll send out another reminder), .....
until 2 weeks ago when we got confirmation and congratulations from Scarlet that our ADSL was now active and we could start using it. It also included some appologies that it took so long and it included our first invoice. When we phone them, they say they can only cancel it after we send a registered mail since we ordered this subscription. ARRRRRRGHHHH, my dad and I could kill some people last week. But no problem once more, they'd cancel this subscription. They were not sure if they could pay for our subscription with Versatel that we hadn't been able to use for over 2 months already!!!

thanx to an old colleague, I got the website and the e-mail address of a government mediator in telecom problems. Last week I sent Scarlet and that mediator a long letter, lining up all the facts. From Scarlet we didn't get any response (neither did my dad with his registered letter of the week before), but the mediator has taken on our case. Phewww, that's already a relieve and giving us hope again. I do hope that these telecom operators do respect a bit this government agency. We'll see what happens now. Let's all cross our fingers, so that my parents can maybe in the coming weeks surf on the internet again and read this blog here!!

Note to all Belgian readers: Never ever become a scarlet customer!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Dutch wedding

The beautiful sweet bride Amber

Yesterday we were invited to a Dutch wedding of one of our Dutch friends and former colleagues at KPNQwest in The Hague: Amber. She married her big love Martijn. It was a very interesting experience and a good opportunity to see some differences between our neighbours in the north and ourselves.

The marriage ceremony itself took place in a hall in the historic 5 stars spa hotel of Scheveningen (The Hague): Kurhaus, right next to the beach. It's a really great location, but in Belgium you always have to have the cival service in the town hall. The civil servant that had to marry them turned out to be a great stand up comedian. Rather than dryly going over the procedures and marrying them really quickly, he just talked to us all and made us all at ease. One joke after the other came and we were just all cracking up. So it was not only a marriage at a great location, it also was really really funny.

Right after the service we had a reception with champagne....and the wedding cake. Interesting combination we think, as Belgians, but apparently a strong tradition in the Netherlands. We also found out that an invitation for the "evening feast at 20h30", actually means that you arrive after dinner already which is served at 17h30. Hmmm, the ignorant Belgians had almost arrived with an empty stomac in the Belgian tradition of going at the table at 9PM until after midnight. Fortunately we did find out at time so we could go to a Mexican restaurant at 5PM (oh great memories came back, nostalgia everywhere in The Hague!). Who eats already dinner at 5 pm anyway?



a bunch of old KPNQwest colleagues: me, Renate (never worked for KQ), Ivo, Amber, Arnaud, Christel & Nathalie). Only Jan was missing on the picture since he is holding the camera ;)

silly us having a good time

The evening party was with a live band which would be quite unusual in Belgium, we usually just hire a DJ. It surely adds something to your party! The only downpart was that they had to take 2 long breaks in which the dance floor got totally empty again and the party just turned into a reception again, so they had to build it up every time again. Fortunately Amber comes from Dutch Limburg ( a region at the Belgian border with Belgian Limburg and Germany), a region known for its parties and carnaval. Soon some of her relatives started singing some regional songs and managed to swing up the party again up to the level of a big carnaval.

a little bit of carneval: the 'polonaise' is international on marriages

I just had to proof that we were served with "meat krokets"!!! How Dutch can it get? ;) yummy though

What all marriage parties have in common across borders is the "faulty" music: all the village people, old disco, cheezy songs where everybody can act silly and little stereotypic danses (e.g. macarena). Those are just a must on a party like this and they were definately present as well.

Renate and Christel doing the macarena

The thing that completely puzzled us was that it ended, when the belgian party would start: at 1 AM sharp. There's one last song (a slow) where everybody makes a circle around the couple to wish them luck. Then the lights go on, people finish their glass, say goodbye and go home. I was just having a really good time, all hyper and energetic and really in the mood to dance. :(. A Belgian marriage always lasts until 5 AM-8 AM, ..... one the last guests leave in fact and the couple remains until the last. If they are really tired, it is possible that they subtely try to stimulate people to go home, but you never actually tell them to go home. We had fun and didn't wanna go home yet.

The rest of the weekend was nice as well. It was really fun to be an entire weekend back in the centre of The Hague, it was one big nostalgia weekend, riding the bus and tram with Jan again, eating in restaurants where I used to go etc. :-).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

tbeste veur tniew joar - Uuk zuu veeele

Ghent was selected and awarded as the most 'cosy' city of 2005. They wanted to stress that during the past holidays with a remarkable campaign. Since a lot of people always dress up their houses with christmas men (how we name Santa Claus) and lights, why not wish the passer's by and our neighbours a good holiday.

So we all got a poster in our mail: on one side of the street it is a Lego man bringing a toast in the Ghent dialect "tbeste veur tniew joar" (het beste voor het nieuwe jaar/ all the best wishes for the new year) . On the other side of the street they got 3 lego men answering the wish with "uuk zuu veeeele" (ook zo veel / the same too you). Also the 2 main towers in the historical city center wish each other all the best wishes for the new year.



The posters itself are not really the nicest creations (haha funny remark, they couldn't take Playmobil figures since they'd show the man with a glass of alcohol. pfff stupid Playmobil), but the effect is quite strange though. When I walked last weeks through my city, I felt like crossing through a ping pong back and forth and back and forth of wishes. It might not have a long term effect against individualism in the cities, but it sure brought some humor in our streets and neighbourhoods.

I must honestly admit that I didn't put up my poster, since I am on the 3rd floor with skylights. Nobody would see mine. Well, maybe the birds would have seen it. Hereby I appologise to the birds and I wish the "tbeste veur tniew joar!!!'.

uuk zuu veele.

Living at home again

It's so unbelievable but I am living at home again. I've slept in my own bed for 5 nights in a row already, that hasn't happened in the last 3 months. I either was in Liege on hotel, in Leuven working and approx. 1 or 2 nights a week at home. But I hardly spent any time at home.

This weekend we cooked again, we were just lazy at home and it was great. It was also fun to do grocery shopping in the neighbourhood again (no need for that if you live in a hotel most of the time). It's actually a bit strange again to find my rhythm at night: cooking, eating, washing dishes, combined with some relaxation. And soon my back log of household chores will start again, but I promise that it won't stress me out... at least not in the beginning ;).

and for the colleagues who read this: no offense though. I did enjoy all the evenings together in the hotel and all the food and multi-langual conversations in the restaurants.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Last evening in ibis liege

The New year started like the old one ended: with long working days. But it is supposed to be the last week that we stay in Liege. From next week we'll try to support this platform from a distance. Yeaaaah then I can go home every day. Home... being home every evening, that must be very strange. It sounds very surreal. If I'd be able work a little bit less long then, that would be perfect.

and I need to start a diet after this unhealthy hotel/restaurant life. I probably started this year with a personal weight record. :(

Monday, January 2, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all. I wish you all that your new year''s resolutions come true (apperently most people give up on them within the first week already... hihi not me, because I can't start working on them yet in the first weeks. ;-) ).

My New Year started with a good night of dancing at a big party and with a very very sleepy first day in 2006. that's good, that's how it should be. I think the first of January is designed to be sleepy and lazy in the sofa. By the way, all Belgians who have watched the show of Geert Hoste, I hope you also enjoyed his hilarious act on 'Je hebt me 1000 maal bedrogen' as much as I did. I couldn't help cracking up. Hilarious, just hilarious.