Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rubbing it in BIS

Just in case you hadn't realised it by this, ...

in 24 hours Jan and I are sitting on a plane towards Hurghada in Egypt to spend a week diving in the Red Sea or relaxing on the beach with a good book and our iPod. Yipeeee.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The race has started

.... and I am ready to watch it again! Or what else did you expect? (hey that was an excellent motivator not to procastrinate getting my suitcase ready, just for once!).

Peking Express , year 4 has started. This time the hitch-hike race goes across South-America rather than Asia. Excited what that will be like !! And what the contestants will be like?
From all the stupid boring reality tv shows that exist, this is a race full of adventure, interesting people and interesting cultures! And it sure started with a bang in Rio. I hope a Belgian couple can win again for the 4th time in a row!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rubbing it in

When i look outside:


For those who stay at home....



For those who don't stay at home!!! Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah:

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Too many people on the road on a Sunday

Thanks to Batibouw and its popularity, I could enjoy this afternoon a traffic jam around Brussels from Sterrenbeek on the E40 up to Strombeek. Grrrrrrrrrrr.
Gosh I pity those people, I can only imagine how busy it must have been on the fair this afternoon. Glad I wasn't there!

After 20 minutes of waiting I took the exit in Zavemtem and decided to drive through downtown Brussels rather than staying on the ringroad. It brought back memories from working in Brussels and I sure didn't miss it. It rather brought back my eternal negative prejudices against Brussels: ugly buildings, inspiringless avenues, arrogant drivers, ... Well mind you the only part I drove by was the business area around the NATO headquarters and then the Leuvensesteenweg in St-Joods-ten-Noode. Not the most exciting neighbourhood, I am sure. Once I reached Madou I was glad to dive into the bowels of Brussels. I wonder how many hours I have already spent in those tunnels in my life! Way too much for sure.

Fortunately Katrien forgave me being so late and spoilt me with a splendid lunch! That made up for al the unexpected traffic frustrations. Thanx!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mud, Trees and glowing landscapes

Right now I am sitting in the sofa with the laptop on my lap, my diving course book to study, the tv on, a glass of wine, a notebook , etc.... Perfectly installed not to come out of the sofa anymore. My feet will appreciate it, I am sure.

Today I went on a 14 km walk in the woods and villages south of Leuven at the language border. A friend of one of my friends, who lives here in Leuven as well, was so kind to invite me on this day out. Great opportunity to get to know some people here in the area and I hadn't been out on a real long walk anymore in a long time so I was quite excited.

It turned out a really nice day and the predicted loads of rain fortunately stayed out most of the time. This route lead us through Meerdaalwoud, the 2nd biggest wood in Flanders just south of Leuven, "hollow roads" (does that translation make sense?) and some villages and fields....and mud!


Beautiful hollow roads



the weather gods were on our side




what a cutie




here the mud became rather wet




hmm we all have some laundry to do tonight!

Canneloni


During the last weeks, I haven't cooked a real big meal anymore as Jan usually does the cooking at home. That works out great for me since on weekdays I don't have the energy all days to come up with a true healthy fresh meal. He cooks on the days he works from home or stuffs the fridge full of yummie leftovers from the weekend.

But this weekend Jan is staying in London and the leftovers are all gone of course. So tonight I set myself the goal to find a new recipe and to cook a big meal: A fish canneloni. It felt great to mess up the kitchen again ;-).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reunion with ex-colleagues

When I left my job with Accenture I knew I wouldn't hear much from most of my colleagues anymore. We worked together well, I had no problems with them. But we weren't exactly close friends that met each other outside of work and I knew neither of us would do many efforts to stay in touch. With some of my managers, my counsellor and some of my colleagues however, I would like to stay in touch because I respect them very much and I want to know how they are doing later on in life. But except for a brief very occasional e-mail once or twice a year, all of that faded away. Thanks to LinkedIn.com I kept in track of who was changing jobs at which moment.

Much to my surprise I received an invitation a couple of weeks ago for an informal "Accenture Alumni" event from our former community. I had very mixed feelings about it at first: "what was the point of meeting the people again that you haven't talked to in 3 years? " "wouldn't the people that have stayed and that probably promoted up to a manager position now, look down on my job in a "non-technical" world such as a brewery...my job without the title "manager" (yet)? " "Great, isn't such an alumni get together the best way to stay in touch and to keep a professional network" "I wonder what x is up to" "will it be an evening where accenture is going to profile itself and make a big show on good they still are?" "I really hope y will be there, that would be cool".

And I accepted the invitation. As it came closer, I had some feelings like you see on tv-series when an old high school reunion comes up: I really wanted to make a good impression, wear my coolest clothes, ... and at the same time I knew that was a fairly rediculous reaction. But I couldn't help it. :p. Until the day itself. Then I started being genuinely excited to see some people again that I had lost touch with.

You are not going to believe it but I arrived as 3rd!! (I was still half an hour late, but I remembered the good consultant tradtion of coming late for internal events, so I didn't worry). At first there were a lot of silences and the conversations were a bit unnatural. The obligate questions came for everyone "where do you work now" "where do you live now" (most of us had gone through the process of moving/buying/renovating :p), "do you have children yet" (most of them had just had a baby last year so it seemed or were expecting a baby) after which the first pictures got exchanged etc. After all the mandatory chitchats had happened, the conversations became looser and the natural old little groups came back together (I don't mean that in a negative connotation at all!) and all of a sudden I had the impression there had not been 3 years in between. The big mouth was still the big mouth, the nerd was still the nerd, the quiet guy was still quiet...so to speak and I felt quite at ease with those people. In a strange way I felt I knew them, maybe more than the last year that I worked for them. That last year I started feeling unhappy in my job and as a result in my relations with my co-workers, whereas now that didn't play up. I am really happy that I went and I hope we'll keep on getting together just from time to time. We still won't become "friends" and I don't need that, but it would be nice if we could all stay in touch. The old community that stays alive.

The evening was nice too since we got to tast some really excellent, rare wines that were very very nice. The only problem was that the wine tasting went on for quite a while and we only got our food served after 22PM. Phew, that was a challenge and I had the impression we all jumped on the food by that time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Born with a brick in our stomac

In North-America people are said to live the "American dream". About Belgians it is said that we are born with "a brick in our stomac". Our Belgian national dream is to own our own house, to have built or renovated it to our wishes so it becomes our dream house where we live for the rest of our lives.

On average, I don't think we move as much as other cultures, although the younger generations are probably more mobile. Still, seeing the small surface of our country, we never really need to move when we change jobs.

Belgians like security (there is a reason we have the second biggest savings quota in the world after the japanese...we don't spend, we save!), we like to own our house. After all it's the most stable saving anyway. But it's more than just a financial transaction...it is our home, the place we feel good at, the place we get very attached to. And most of us don't just want to buy the house someone else has designed or built, no no no, we need to have our own input and change it to our wishes.

At tv multiple reality shows like "De Brekers", "The Block", "baksteen in de maag", "De Werf", present us multiple construction sites and adventures followed by multiple design and decoration programs. It shows our society's interest for the subject.

The last years I was fully participating in the national sport of renovations and I actually like it. I don't think I'd be able to simply move into someone else's house just like that, unless I know it's a temporary place. Also most of my colleagues and friends have gone through renovations / moving/ house buying during the last years, so we surely could exchange experiences during our breaks :).

Today Belgian's yearly biggest construction/renovation fair has started again: Batibouw. It draws 370000 people which accounts for 3% of our population! But Jan and I won't go this year and I am relieved as a matter of fact. Or it's better to say: my back and my feet are relieved. The fair is so big and the result are sore feet, and sore arms and a sore back after carrying bags full of folders and documentation for hours during the multiple halls. Batibouw is interresting if you still need to start major works. But once the major works itself have been finished, you can't get much inspiration there for interior decoration. The focus is too much on bricks, heating systems, roof systems, climatisation, central vacuuming systems , windows, stairs, etc... The halls about kitchens and bathrooms are quite interesting and get you dreaming but we have fortunately made all our choises by now. Yippeeee.

Family tree

I did not advertise my family tree yet, but for those of you that are interested: it is available on Jan's website. It currently holds 367 names and it dates back to 1707 on my mom's side.

It is pasword protected since there are a lot of living people named in it that I do not know personally. I'm not sure how protective other people might be about their own data on the internet. So I just wanted to respect their privacy and I added this pasword on it. But if you know me it is a real giveaway. And if you are reaaaaaly curious and you don't know the pasword, ask me for the pasword and I'll e-mail it.

And if anyone has any corrections or additions, please let me know! I'd really like to keep it up to date or to enlarge it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Confused answering machine

Last Friday I came home rather late after hanging out in Ghent that evening. Before stumbling upstairs to crawl unther the little feathers, I saw a little light flickering on our phone. Jan had just come home from London before me but had not listened to our answering machine either.

"Hello, I am just calling once more for those lights on the Ford Focus. It's already been 2 weeks and you first gave me the wrong lights for a Opel Corsa. You were going to call me when the correct lights came in but I still haven't got a phone call from you. I've already tried to phone you a couple of times. [slightly irritated] Well I am expecting a phone call, you can reach me on my mobile phone, you have the number. If not I'll phone you back."


Euuuugh...ok? Well I went to bed with a big smile on my face. Sorry buddy, I don't have your mobile phone so I didn't call you back but if you read this: ....YOU DIALED THE WRONG NUMBER ;). Good luck on your car lights.

Friendly customer service

I guess we all sometimes use our blogs to vent some of our frustrations. That can be very therapeutic and I sometimes really want to warn people about certain situations. In the past I've already been complaining about bad call centers and the horrible customer servicefrom my ex-telecom supplier .

This time however I want to share a positive experience. I just phoned with the customer service call center from Telenet to ask a question about my refund for the part of my prepaid subscription that I didn't use after moving. And there was no waiting time and the agent was very friendly! Way to go. Just as you'd want them to be when you have a question or a problem. And I'll get my money in 3 weeks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

18 months

Luisa turned 2 years old last week and Renée and Stef are almost 1,5 year old. Wow time flies. Especially when I see the cute pictures of Allie's newborn Masyn, I realise how much our nieces and nephew have grown already...and how full of activity they currently are! I'll add some pictures taken from Stef today. And I also wanted to congratulate Allie, Paul and Kaelen for their family addition! Hurray, I am so excited for you all!



"I am always so excited when food is on its way! Yeaaah food!"



Playing with the parrot on mommy's old bed in supervision of my "opa"!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

No warm sweater day

Yesterday was warm sweater day in Belgium. Following the media hype on the global warming and the changing climate, yesterday we were all stimulated to turn the heating down for a couple degrees and to wear a warm sweater instead. Multiple schools, institutions and companies, Alken-Maes as well, were participating. It was a symbolic action to raise awareness on the climate, similar to the european campaign a couple of weeks ago to turn all lights of between 19h55 and 20h00.

Well... the warm sweater day wasn't a big succes. Not many people were wearing a warm sweater at all. 16,5 C in February!! On the other hand who wouldn't have turned down his heating a bit automatically? We were sitting with our window wide open and we all got really a strong spring feeling. That's not hard if the sun's out and the horses are grazing next to your window.

I actually met the horses a bit closer last week. Their grassland makes a U around our "chalet". Usually they are inside their cabin in the morning and evening and they hang out at some distance from our office but one evening when I was locking the door, they came peaking with their heads from around the corner. So I had a chance to "meet" my neighbours and pet them a bit on the nose.

obvious

Is it obvious that we have been painting the first layer in the basement this afternoon?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Honestly, I am not very fond of it. I feel it is very much commercially forced on us....toooo sweet, tooo pink, too unnatural. It makes me think of sticky overly sweet not yummie candies. But I always remember a funny episode of my student exchange in Canada.

In Belgium Valentine's day is the day of Love...meaning love between 2 lovers, not love as in parental love or the love for a friend. On Valentine's day in Canada I simply went to school not thinking about this holiday at all since I had no boyfriend, so as always, it was not a holiday that concerned me.

At the moment I entered the hallway, a friend (I think it was Rita) came to me and gave me a Valentine card. I was stunned and did not really know how to react. My gosh, did Rita fancy me? Was she a lesbian? What did I need to tell her? How could I tell her I was not in love with her?

I was standing there perplex but Rita didn't notice, she was busy checking the small pile of cards in her hand that she still had to distribute? What the hell...was she going to declare her love to many people at once?

This was still going on in my mind all very quickly when my host sister Julia ran to me. "Hi there, here is my Valentine card for you"...and she was gone already with a pile of cards in her hand as well.

Within 1 minute I had received 2 Valentine cards from female friends at school and I noticed that everywhere Valentine cards were being distributed. Either the school was full of bisexual non-monogamous relationships or I was simply confused by different cultural interpretations of Valentines day. Clearly in Canada Valentine was also celebrated among friends...Another lesson learned and since then I always have to smile about this memory on Valentines day. Those are by the way the only Valentine cards I have ever received in my life :p

Belgium: Land of chocolate, beer and an unhappy union

It is always interesting and educating to learn about your country through the eyes of a foreigner, so I had to read today's article in the Chicago Tribune.

And unlike often when you read such an article and you think "geeez they don't get it at all", I wasn't offended by this one. It was written after the controversial TV broadcast in Wallonia, which clearly is still getting worldwide attention.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I am not a donkey!

Fxxx Fxxx Fxxx Shit Putain Auwwww, it is about the 10th time that I hit my head against our basement ceiling above the stairs. I keep on doing it. Auuwww it hurts.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Scary moment

Following Allie's recent post on traffic frustrations and crazy drivers, Jan also had his portion of traffic irritations today. I heard multiple comments while we went to visit his and my parents today "what the f..." "stupid driver"... when drivers in front of us were all of a sudden braking for nothing, driving on the middle lane forever, not driving too straight etc.... The usual type of "sunday drivers".

We had a very scary moment though when driving home. It was fairly busy and all of a sudden I saw at the edge of the left lane something big red "waving" up against the concrete edges while the cars on the right all made sudden movements towards the right. A big piece of cloth, so I thought for a second but just a fraction later I realised that it was actually a car crashing upwards.

I missed what happened next since I was trying to brake safely myself and going to the right, but the car actually managed somehow to land on its 4 tires again, drive a bit further and then come to a safe standstill on the side of the road. 5 other cars had already stopped and went to check the people inside so we went on.

But I can assure you....my heart was pumping very hard for the remainder of our drive. Gosh, that could have ended very differently!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Basement transformation

I have not written in a while about our renovations in the house, so you might be thinking that all is finished since I have moved. But that is far from true and we are not resting yet. Every weekend we try to work at least one day in the house to keep the transformation going. Last 2 weekends were dedicated to the basement.

All my boxes and some furniture is still piled up in one part of the basement, whereas we are getting the other part ready for a spare tv/ironing/relax room. Today we finished the second layer of plaster on the gyproc edges and we painted the ceiling.





The entry to the basement has already been finished at the end of last year. Under the stairs are our freezers and laundry corner.





And remember our Ikea battle? well our storage is already in full daily use , partly with food and drinks, partly with tools and material needed for the renovations, so we'll win some room after we're all done....one day.

Friday, February 9, 2007

An office in a "chalet"

Since I work for the brewery I have been a true gipsy in the office. My initial desk was in a building one street further, next to a pumpkin and leek feeld looking over a farm building a bit further.
But I often had to go to the different platforms and I worked in Strasburg, France for 6 months.

When last project started to switch all platforms, we had to sit together as a team, so I moved with my desk to the other side of the building with the rest of the team when setting up the system. What followed was a gypsy year where I moved from platform to platform across the country. In the mean time the second building had been sold and last fall when all platforms had been switched from software and the project was running to its end, I got a desk with my boss and a couple of colleagues in a very small meeting room. After almost 3 years with the company, I was getting to know the head office, the cantine, and the many faces around.

But the meeting room was needed and so after 3 months all 6 of us packed our binders in boxes again and moved to the "chalet" behind the head office. Part of the team had already been there before. It's a small wooden structure that holds 3 rooms and some toilets. The name "chalet" is a real eufimism but it has its perks. We have more space than the small meeting room before, we actually have our small meeting room next doors. And it looks out at a grassland with 2 horses in it. They sometimes come and look at our window and then turn around, lift their tails and start pooping :p.

Yesterday with the snowy landscape we felt ourselves a bit in a true chalet and since we cannot adjust our electrical heaters very well, the heat made us even thing we had a fireplace going or a sauna.

So anyway.... how many people can say their office is in a chalet???

4 hours of snow...and traffic jams

Some random thoughts during my 2h30 trip to work yesterday :

* why can it snow on Monday night for 90 minutes and still having clear roads and why is there cms of snow on the roads now when it was so well announced that it would snow?

* Would those 2 undertaker cars I crossed come late for the funeral??? Would a funeral have to be postponed ? Can a deceased person be late for or miss its own funeral due to a snow blizzard?

* I love snow but I hate being in a snow traffic jam because all you see is the back of the car in front of you and some slush on the road.

* if you have a buxus in the garden in the form of a big boll with a smaller boll on top of it, there is no need to make a snowman anymore when it snows. You get one naturally.

* Where are those big trucks with salt when you need them??? There is supposed to be so much salt on the road but I don't notice that at all? And why is traffic stuck soo much.... I know there is snow on the road, but it's not like you cannot drive through it?

* Would that slush track I see in front of me, which shines so much, be just watery or is it icy?

* Remember the time that I had to drive to The Hague and all the cars were sliding off the road and it took me 4h30 hours...And remember the time I got stuck on the highway in 2004 for 3 hours because the trucks couldn't progress anymore?

* what a hassle, this traffic jam...in a couple of hours this snow will already have melted. It's not even worthwile being in a traffic jam for hours if it's only going to be white for a couple of hours.


* Am I the only one not having left at 8 h yet and not having arrived at work before it started snowing??? (I would think yes when talking to my colleagues but when hearing about 350km of traffic jam around Brussels, then clearly I was not the only one late at work).

* why didn't I work from home today????????

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Honest as a child

I was reading this today and with a big smile on my face I remembered visiting my grandmother in the hospital when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I don't even remember why she was there, how long she was there etc . But I remember very well the next episode:

She was in a room with 3 other elderly woman in it. We were visiting and when we were leaving my parents told me to go and shake a hand to each of them to say goodbye. So I did. When approaching one of the ladies I noticed she had a lot of facial hair on her upper lip.

I was amazed. I had never seen a woman with a moustache at that time. In my simple child world men could have facial hair but women don't. And yet here I noticed an exception to that rule.

In utter amazement, I yelled out loud "eeeeeh look, you have a moustache".

What followed were my parents lecturing me and making me appologize unwillingly. I truly remember being so confused and I remember a feeling of unfairness. It was unfair that I got lectured because that old lady did have a moustache. But my parents did not agree with me. That day I learned a lesson on "acceptable behaviour in this society" and that you should not always be honest "out loud" but I found it very very confusing.

Deciding fast

Among my friends Jan and I have a reputation never being able to decide our vacation plans. The last years some trips have taken weeks of considering different destinations, periods, ....When I wanted to go East, Jan came up with destinations in the West, when I proposed cultural destinations, Jan seemed to propose nature so to speak. The conclusion repetitively was "we don't know yet, we'll think a bit more about it".

But now I can surprise all of them. After 2 days of looking, it's already booked!!! How about that, huh? This time it all was clear: it had to be a diving destination (since I want to /need to finish my PADI course before mid april), work and our expected wardrobe installation narrowed the potential time range down to 2 weeks , ....

So we booked 1 week Hurghada in the beginning of March! Cooohoool!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

It snows


I could not believe it but it actually started to snow a bit in Belgium....To be honest, I had not paid much attention to the weather predictions of potentially some "winter showers". But I could actually drive home in a whitening landscape.

I love watching the snow falling down. It is so calming and peacefull, except when you watch it from your windshield. Then the flakes seem to be drawn into your windshield at great speed. It's quite hypnotizing if you have to stair in it a long time. I was quite tired when I got home, but at least the roads were overloaded with salt so no problem to drive at all.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Labels

Thankx to the forced transition from the old blogger to the new blogger, you can now enjoy labels unther my most recent posts to find other posts in the same category. Feel free to click!

Bi-lingual

For the bilingual Dutch-English speakers among you: go check out this hilarious blog that I found thanx to Bart. They seem to have stopped posting, but I sure hope they find some more inspiration.

For those of you that don't understand Dutch: it might even be more funny for you although you'll probably start wondering whether you've lost your English as well :p

Yoga as integration project

Now that I have moved, I need to integrate myself more in Leuven and meet new people. ....so I went to my first Yoga class last Thursday. Thankx to Google, I had found out that there is twice a week a yoga class in the school behind the corner here.

I don't really know what yoga is all about, but I was curious enough to show up despite some nerves though. The group was bigger than I expected (> 30?) and as expected were mainly people older than 40 but not exclusively female as my stereotype mind expected.

I guess Yoga is supposed to relax your mind, but since it was my first experience with it ever, my mind didn't quite relax. The entire session thoughts were flying around in my head like crazy:
"do the other people close their eyes or do they keep them open?"
"am I wearing the appropriate clothing"
"damn I didn't hear if I had to breath in or breathe out when crunching"
"I am probably the one who can bend the least of everybody here....oh no, the lady of there has some difficulty too. Phew"
"aaah I already have to breathe out and the others still seem to keep their breath"
etc....
"oh my gosh you gotta be kidding, this lady next to me is standing on her head!"

Nevertheless I quite enjoyed it and when I came home I felt totally relaxed and sleepy...which is ok at 10PM. And I am sure that next time the novelty will start wearing off.

Am I a cat or dog

You Are: 50% Dog, 50% Cat

You are a nice blend of cat and dog.
You're playful but not too needy. And you're friendly but careful.
And while you have your moody moments, you're too happy to stay upset for long.