Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Invitation to pay

The city of Leuven has sent me an 'invitation to pay' my parking ticket....does that mean I can refuse?
"Oh well, it's rather inconvenient right now, maybe another time. But thanks anyway!".


And why do tickets take one week to arrive in the mail on your payment due date?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Clocks

Darn...I had just switched all the clocks in the house to winter savings time, and then the electricity fell out. Yihaa start over!

Challenging schedule

Since I moved to Leuven last winter, I realise I need to get to know local people and make my own friends beside the friends that Jan already has here...And although I love just getting home and cocoon in the cosyness of our home while relaxing after a long busy day at work, I realise you don't make friends in your sofa.


So I started Yoga classes already last year and I still enjoy them very much, but it's not quite the place where you can chitchat a lot with the other people. Besides, I am far the youngest there so it seems. After playing the flute for many many years in the youth choir of my home town, I missed not being active with music anymore in the last years. So I had set a goal of searching a fun young choir in Leuven to join. I am not striving for a perfectionist classy performing choir, since I am not a trained singer at all, but an enthousiastic group of young people to drag me along in their fun. And so I did at the end of september...after 4 rehearsals, I must say that I am starting to get the hang of things, start to finally remember a few names etc. It's really fun and I am very glad that I can make music again, this time with my voice. wooohooo.


But my physical condition still is totally unexistant as was proven multiple times last summer. I really really must do some sports. Not more sports...just some sports. It's a bit shamefull to not being able to bike a lot around here since I always have to ride uphill getting home and I get totally out of breath while those thousands of students just race by me easily on their bikes. Jan joined a diving club last September but that one test lesson had scared me off. Those people are sooo not in my league (well I suppose I am not in their league rather than the opposite). After their warm-up training I had to crawl out of the bad with heavy cramps in my legs and toes.
But seeing Jan happily leave each weekend, made me realise that I wasn't going to get any better sitting at home waiting for him to get home either. After weeks of hesitating (emotionally I am demotivated by the knowledge to be so much worse than the others / rationally I know I need that training and that I can only get better) ...I joined the diving club last weekend as well. So if you ever come on over and watch the training: I am the one peddling 1-2 lenghts behind the others in a clearly different style as well.

And I also started aerobics again , something I did enjoy when living in Ghent.

Hmmm aerobics, choir, yoga, diving club swim training....my schedule is getting quite filled up! It might get a bit more quiet on here now and then but I think all these things are good for me. So wish me luck in all my new hobbies!!

Escape from the Dutch invasion

Yesterday evening there was a concert from Frans Bauer in the sporthall around the corner. Already from the morning we saw a whole bunch of Dutch trucks lined up, installing power generators, sound and light systems etc... Both Jan and I were scared that they'd be playing a famous song already when walking by towards the swimming pools, a song that would stick in our heads all day long. Well, for me it was too late anyway. The entire afternoon the most 'wrong' song you can think off 'Heb je even voor mij', was in my head where my body got tempted to start a polonaise dans on my own through the house.

I was quite thankfull that my friend Sofie had planned her yearly birthday party on the same evening so we could escape all Bauer fans in the neighbourhood :p. An evening in good company of friends, lots of food, alcohol and lots of silly jokes. At the end of the evening I was laughing my head off until I was crying and my belly was sore. I didn't even know what I was laughing about anymore, but I couldn't stop. Awesome :). Just like when Sofie or Sandra and I were on vacation together! Oooooh and now we've booked another vacation the 4 of us to go diving again in Egypt next spring. fun times ahead of us...and lots of laughter I hope :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Triple

One our previous governments (a long time ago you know, when Belgium still had federal governments ) was really into e-government. And Leuven always wants to be a pilot in any project. As a result Jan was one of the first Belgians receiving his electronical ID with electro chip and computer card reader that would give him access to to be developed online applications.

Years later, the chip from his ID simply fell out. He applied for a new ID and all was solved.

Today he received another card reader, as an appology! Wow now we have 3 card readers in the house. So if we have a visitor in the house with another electronical ID, we can all access our civil records in the database of the federal government at the same time! Fun fun fun , who needs more entertainment :p

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wordgames for rice

If in the coming weeks my English begins to become more qualitative , the reason might be that I am no longer a 'novice' in the game www.freerice.com. If you read this post, it is truly 'compulsary' to click through to there . The game is very applicable because of the sponsor's generosity, however the succesrate is dependable of you all. Common, come and help the world become more 'prosperous'. So let's 'commence'

so what the hell am I talking about: Freerice.com is an online English vocabulary game with multiple choice. It adjusts the level to your response level. For each correct answer, the sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to the UN Food program. So it is a bit like the hungersite, but much more fun.

Pretty cool huh? So which levels are you all reaching?

Random thoughts

* The cold war ended...and now we suffer from global warming



* when my nose's right side is plugged, my right side of the face truly feels heavier. I surely hope I don't tilt my head yet.



* A colleague mentioned on the phone that I sounded hollow. Hollow?? If anything applies, it sure isn't hollow...some spaces that should be hollow are definately filled up right now.



* Since there is global warming, there are a lot more hot spots.

Brrr

oooh there was for the first time this fall/winter a bit of ice on my windshield this morning to scratch away. That's always a bit special, that first frost of the year, isn't it? The temp was still -1 for a while!

Scratch scratch scratch...unfortunately you can't win anything.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A walk around the block

Jan convinced me to go out for a walk this weekend anyway and so I did and I enjoyed it. In the beginning my cold actually seemed to get better while walking so we extened our intended tour a little bit. Unfortunately now it's hitting back twice as hard to me :p.

But while doing the walk I grabbed my camera along since I still had to/wanted to answer's Carol's post where she tagged me to post some pictures what you see when you walk around the block in your area.

I could have filled this post full of historical magnificent fabulous buildings of Leuven, but we walked in the for outsiders maybe less known edge between Leuven and Heverlee towards the Abbey.



We have a nearby park with also some new business development, administration offices and a brand new very modern big sports centrum (swimming pools, climbing walls, fitness, basketball hall, ...). Very very handy to have it so closeby!



Railroads everywhere (incl the international Thalys high speed line Cologne - Brussels - Paris) and pedestrian railroad crossings



Some neighbourhood houses


'De Vesten' or the green space where the old medieval city walls used to be. Some parts are still visible as a clear green space with roads on both sides. The actual city center of Leuven is still a perfect circle because of those old city walls.

De Abdij van 't Park, an Norbertine abbey just around the block.
For more pictures of other walks, check out here a nearby castle or when we were showing Lisa around in and around Leuven.
Whoever feels like playing along, just leave me a comment, so we know that you are playing!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My excuse to be a couch potato this weekend.

When I wake up with a soar throat, I know something more is coming up. Soar throats are an omen for me, not just for the soar throat but for more to come. When I felt desperately tired after a good night of sleep, I knew for sure that I wouldn't be up to much this weekend. It was just a matter of waiting until that cold would break through. Those are in fact the worst moments: just before your nose starts running and you start sneezing when the pressure is building up in your head. Well also the first hours of continuous nose running and blowing are pretty tough, when you can only breath through your mouth.

I went back to bed for a couple of more hours and have spent a fairly quiet afternoon. In the mean time the nose running has started and I seem to have a brain that only consists of snot anymore as thinking is hard.
....oh well, this is a phase that will pass and then the cold will get easier and by the end of the week I am probably coughing my lungs out and then I am done and over with it. But not yet.

so sorry but I won't post any SOS this week. Not with this current fluid brain of mine ;). But you can always visit Brillig or walking kateastrophe, to find the other participants.

Friday, October 19, 2007

pheeewww close call

Do you sometimes think 'Hmm it's been a long time since I made a back-up...I'll have to do that this weekend". And of course that weekend it does not happen and then you plan it again...and it doesn't happen?

If you recognise this pattern, stop reading now and go and make a back-up.

I have a desktop computer which is sitting at my desk, next to Jan's desk that has its own computer (yeah if you merge two households, everything is double!)...but actually I hardly ever used my desktop as we also had a <1 year old laptop. That one is in the living room and was usually in the evenings on my lap when watching tv etc. As a result, all pictures got first downloaded on the laptop because that makes a cool picture show screensaver with all my pictures, ... since a couple of months we have an external harddrive in order to make a little network between all computers and to back-up our important data. I did transfer...a little bit but never finished it.

And then it happened last Monday evening. Jan wants to login on the laptop and it doesn't boot. It doesn't even show the first bios screen, ...it simply does nothing. Black screen. Only a black screen.

....

G: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah help my pictures, last year's pictures are all on the laptop."
J: "well the laptop is in warranty and we have a backup of everything, so no problem"
G: "...eummm we don't quite have a backup of everything. We lost last year's pictures, except the New England one"

My mind raced, started making inventories of what was on the computer, while its screen remained stubbornly black.
We quickly found the warrenty, but we feared that they'd service it by starting a system recovery while erasing the hard disk. No no no, I did not want to loose my pictures, my dear pictures, my memories.

It was already late at night so we went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I wasn't tired anymore. I was mourning for the loss of my pictures, I was angry for not making a back-up, I was trying to remember which pictures had already been posted on a website, which ones I had copied for my parents and would be on their computer as well, etc... My sighs, my turning, ... kept Jan awake as well until we both got up again for another session of computer CPR.
Removing the battery did not work, removing the memory did not work, surfing the internet did not help (except that we learned that those HP notebooks had had hardware problems before and that in the US the warrenty had been extended). Finally at 1 AM (while I was neurotically cleaning all the piles of papers on my desk next to him) Jan was chatting with an HP technician in some support session who also concluded that it must have been a hardware problem, but he recommended to buy an external case for hard disk drives that could read the hard disk. If the disk itself was intact and the laptop was simply not starting up, we would be able to copy the hard disk before sending it in.


And so it happened today. Thanks to a "Silent, slim and stylish Icy Box" we've been able to read the hard disk from the laptop, make a full back-up. And I have allll my pictures again! Wooohoo, Jan is my hero ! And I promise to never postpone a back-up anymore. I learned my lesson.

And now we can send the laptop to HP without worries what they'll do with our hard drive. I've got all my visual memories back. And I am rediscovering my desk with my PC again ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

books books books

Gosh oh gosh, there is a book meme going around and all the people that have participated are like people who read literature with a capital L, teach literature, read 100 books a day so it seems, .... and guess what....Jen tagged me!?
Gosh I feel intimidated to say the least as I am clearly not in their league, but I do like books so I am playing along. To say more: I'll combine 2 book meme's that Jen published last week!

Total number of books

Hmm not many really. I've always been a library girl. Since I never read a book twice I truly don't see the point in buying books really, because they'd just be gathering dust afterwards.
Jan however has bought a couple of them and I did get seduced in a bookstore last year. Not counting for travel guides, I would own together with Jan a maximum of 20 books? Totally different than Anno's bookshelf no? My gosh her collection just blows my mind!

Last book read

Solefall (original title) from Kim Smage. It's a Norwegian police detective, the first one I read from this author...it was ok, but it didn't turn me wild either though.

Last book bought
The kiterunner - Khaled Hosseini ....I was in a book store and got seduced. However it's still like a little treasure on my nighttable while I read my library books first as they are always due :p.

5 meaningful books:

ok can I bend the rules a bit since I don't really know if I can list 5 meaningful books like that. I'll make it a bit broader.

1 ) Pietje Puk - Henri Arnoldus: this child series about Pietje Puk were the first books I could read in the library. The first joy that I could borrow books to read, not to look at the images! And the stories about this friendly postman that always got into trouble are truly heartwarming and funny. Afterwards in grade 2 I could upgrade to the series about Mr Pompelmoes!

2) Lemniscaat (NL) and Averbode (B) : 2 Well known publishing companies that publish child and youth books in Dutch. They published the books of frequently awarded youth authors like Jan Terlouw, Evert Hartman, Johan Ballegeer, Thea Beckman, Karel Verleyen, René Swartenbroeckx, .... Seeing their label on the back of a book guaranteed much reading pleasure!

Gosh who hasn't read 'Koning Van Katoren', 'Kruistocht in spijkerbroek', 'Celines grote oorlog', 'Oosterschelde, windkracht 10', 'Kinderen van moeder aarde' , 'We trouwen als de keizer komt', 'Aisha'...as a child here and has not fallen absolutely in love with it?? Those were big large books full of historic or cultural references, very informational and yet mesmerizing. I was drawn into new worlds, I got addicted, ...I am drewling again when thinking back about those books. My friends and I , we all tried to read them first, the most, ....I had to rush to finish them so I could start the next one and yet I did not want to finish them ever. Later on when I was working in a summer job in the library, I started secretly reading them again. I didn't see the movies that were made from them though.
When in grade 9, 'youth literature' was added to the curriculum, our teacher was very upset that she had to teach child books rather adult books...until she was pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth of these books.

Truly as an adult, I've never found books that I loved so much as those books from Dutch and Flemish writers that I've been reading between age 9 and 14!

3) The name of the Rose- Umberto Eco: how more brilliantly can anyone combine history and a thriller in one book? The best of 2 sides....well the best, I would make an editorial cut in some of the lenghty political discussions in it.

4) The time traveller's wife: since I saw it recommended everywhere I deliberately searched for it in the library. Usually I just wander aimlessly around and pick the books where my eye falls on it (although I do search more detectives, historical books or books about foreign cultures). Why is this in my little list here: because I just read it a couple of weeks ago and it was the first book since a very long time that made me cry. It was quite different than I had imagined yet I was drawn into it more and more.

Another one that moved me very much as well is Paula from Isabelle Allende. Unlike Allende's other books full of peculiar characters, this book was soooo real. The pain it held was soooo real. This was a mother talking to her daughter in coma. It leaves you breathless.

5) the bible: not because I read very often in it at all, yet I do value it! I think it was the first book I ever bought actually.



The second meme that Jenn challenged us last week was to take the top 106 unread books from librarything.
The instructions are: Bold what you have read, italicize those you didn't finish, strikethrough the ones you hated, put *asterisks next to those you’ve read more than once, and put a + cross in front of the books that are on your bookshelf. Underline books that are on your "to read" list.

woooohaaa, that's going to be funny. All those English classics that I've never touched or don't even know. No Belgian books in the list? Hmm I don't think I'll have to do editing. so here's my list:

Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
+ Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
+ The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
QuicksilverWicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
+ Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
DuneThe Prince
The Sound and the Fury
+Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of BeingBeloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novelCollapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership DownGravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers


Any other booklovers that want to play? Allie, I know you like to read! And Jenn in Holland, didn't you like to read as well. I am curious which books are special to you guys!

Varnish and waffles

Last weekend we varnished our bathroom floor. After 1.5d of sanding the wood and varnishing it, my arms felt so heavy as if they had been hanging below my knees....funny feeling when I truly pictured that ;). Anyway, another chore ticked of on our renovation to do list! :)

But Sunday afternoon my mom treated us for my birthday with a big big waffle bake! Fun fun fun and very yummie. And of course little Stef was in the center of attention again and he loved it!



Enjoying a nice sunny fall weekend


helping to feed the neighbour's ducks...or rather scaring them a hartattack and then flying back over the fence with some help.
playing with the fallen leaves
hunting for the neighbourhood cats who already have learned to stay away!

Monday, October 15, 2007

splogs

ARgh, it happened again....different URL, same lay-out, same theft. Bastards hiding behind machines. pfff.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The journey, part 3

To read what happened before read here and here...





So there she was in the departure hall full of waiting people while she had no more time to wait. While fighting panic, she ran into the little Asian woman again.

"Please help me, I am missing my flight!"

"Follow-me"


Without more explanation the lady opened an unused check-in desk, took the luggage and started hitting the keyboard after which she handed her a boarding card. Pheww, her angel. Behind her a long line started to form but the little Asian woman closed the desk without pity. Then they both ran towards the gate. The little Asian woman wished her good-luck and disappeared again.




Since it was already past boarding time, she ran immediately to the desk to ask the air canada hostess whether boarding had already started.

"We'll start right away, can I see your boarding card?"
The hostess studied her boarding cards and said "oh but you have to sit down anyway since you have a 'standby' ticket. You'll have to wait if someone does not show up because the flight is fully booked. I will call you at the end of the boarding process. There is 2 more people waiting."




Whaaaat? No no no nooo, that was impossible. She stared at the boarding card where all of a sudden the words 'standby' were marked. She could not miss her flight. She did not where to go in Vancouver and what to arrange to switch flights. How could she reach her host family that she didn't even know and who were waiting for her in another airport in Canada? She was totally devastated. First the long line at the immigration services, then the check-in, now a stand-by ticket. It was not meant to be. She gave up and went to sit down waiting for her last hope: three people had to be missing so she would have a seat.




A minute later the hostess walked up to her seat.
"Can I have a look at your boarding card again?"...while she took it, she switched the card and they looked each other in the eyes. "We'll start boarding now, you can come to the gate".


There was no more 'standby' marked on the new boarding card.




While boarding, the stewardess pointed her to a stewardess seat in front of the plane facing the other passengers. All passengers were staring at her while she was leaning forward during take-off. They were still staring at her while leaning backwards during landing. But she didn't care: she was on the flight! She had made it and was about to arrive at her destination!!




The local airport was much smaller than she had imagined: one simple building and a landing strip next to it. She had never seen such a small airport before. They had to walk towards the building and she noticed an elder couple waving wildly through the window while holding a big sign "Goofball". These total strangers which she had never met would be her parents for the coming months. She gathered her luggage, took a big breath and went through the door into the arrival hall. The man and woman ran to her and embraced her with a big hug.




She had arrived. She was a Belgian exchange student in Canada.




If you want to read more soap opera stories, check out Brillig or walking kateastrophe, to find other participants.

Friday, October 12, 2007

USA from European eyes

The following post was started during our vacation in New England. I started to write down some random observations, differences, thoughts as a European travelling through the USA: positive and negative ones. For that last category: please, do not feel insulted by anything that I write down. It's just really my personal thoughts during a short visit where I might lack background knowledge or where I am influenced by a different background etc.

  1. When you order a soda/pop, you always get a straw in your glass. However other drinks do not get a straw. Why is that? I always felt like a little child when I got a straw...I really can manage drinking from a glass already :p
  2. Drinks are huge! Meals are huge! I always had to leave the table with a swollen stomac ! During those 2 weeks I have not eaten any dessert. No wonder this country has a habit of using doggie bags. I'd always be able to use a meal and drink twice: half of it consumed in the restaurant and half of it consumed at home. At least I'd not feel as guilty as in Belgium when I can't finish my meal.
  3. It's very handy that there are tourist information offices everywhere. And that you get 'resort maps' full of tourist attractions. However at a closer look, many of those attractions are the local pizzeria, a craft store and other commercial businesses. I am more interested in the name and history of an old building e.g. the church or town hall, the house of a famous inhabitant, the history and culture and stories behind. I don't travel to go shopping. If those are attractions, anything is an attraction. Unfortunately those 'sponsored' maps left me wondering which church we drove by or whether that big beautifully renovated building had a specific history. They could not give me the answers and they were impractical for me although I totally understand the commercial logic of sponsored maps. It's just that label "tourist attractions" in the legend, that annoyed me. The maps itself did come in handy to drive through the bigger cities!

  4. You are allowed to turn right at a red stoplight! Whoo scary if you are not used to do so.
  5. In Europe there is a prejudice that Americans are way more fat than an average European or at least that extreme overweight is much more common. Our first impression in Philidelphia airport seemed to reinforce that image: heavy people where wobbling through the hallways frequently if they weren't driven in some kind of cart, while nobody seemed to stare at them (although I had to restrain myself not to turn around). It also looks like some skincolors are more prone to weight gain, must be a social class thing. Later on during our vacation I didn't notice this as much anymore. ...I also had to think back to point 2.
  6. When it is not hot outside, when your drinks have been refridgerated, it is NOT necessary to full your glass 60% with icecubes! It is tooo cold, it gives me shivers down my spine. Since the drinks are too big (see point 2), by the time I finish my pop it's very watery!
  7. Waiters are much more polite and welcoming in the USA than in Belgium where waiters keep much more of a distance and try to be more invisible. It probably makes our waiters look rude in the eyes of a foreign visitor in Belgium. "Hello my name is x, I'll be your waiter tonight. "how can I help you tonight" 'Do you wish anything else", ... In general our waiters on vacation were very cheerful etc. which is quite nice. Then I am always suspicious that it is not genuine and that they just want to get a bigger tip. I guess that is a justified motivation, only I am not part of a tipping culture. We've probably been really rude as we had no clue on how much tip we were supposed to give. After some questions to SMID, we realised we had been very lousy tippers. Sorry , we didn't mean to. I am just used to "service included " prices and I am already happy that I don't forget to leave a tip!

    It also often happened that we were still eating and the waiters already brought our bill on the table to use "when we were ready, no rush" even before we had had the offer for a dessert. I suppose this is meant to be polite , yet in Belgium it would be the opposite. If you get your bill unsollicitedly in Belgium, I'd never set a foot in the restaurant again as it would be a sign that they want you to leave asap. In Belgium, the customer needs to have the opportunity to eat dessert, finish the meal with a freshly set coffee (not one that's been boiling for an hour already) , keep the conversation going at the table etc until he wants to leave and until he asks for the bill.

    I found it also found it funny that a lot of waiters told us their names, one even wrote it down for us. Huh? Is that because we are supposed to know their name if we have a complaint? Or do they think we would tip more if we know them in person?
  8. In a conversation in our B&B , the lady was in awe about the number of vacation days we get (legal minimum of 20....very often around 30) (in france approx 40 days, I believe) and the number of legal holidays: 10. I had no idea that Americans would have that much less vacation days. Some foreign expats in Belgium had pointed out once that Europeans take so much vacation and travel that much. I had never realised there was such a difference.

    The B&B lady was also in awe about our social security system (Belgians go on average 11 times a year to their doctor and a doctor visit costs nett around 5€...waiting lists is something we don't really know, ...), the fact that university tuition is only about 500 € when I studied and that we can get our degree as a result without too many student jobs, student debts, etc....

    Her jealousy decreased however when I told her that approx 50% of my wage is taxed, and that my employer needs to pay an additional 50% of employer taxes to the social security system. The labor cost in Belgium is one of the highest in the world.

  9. The American society relies much more on private intiatives than on public/government initiatives. Belgians reason "hey I am paying already so many taxes, so let the government take care of that" (see point 8). Americans seem to be hostile/suspicious towards government involvement and any increase in taxes. Even American democrats would not want the European level of government involvement, I believe. Since I grew up here, I don't share that feeling at all.

    yet I admire the level of community involvement that many Americans display: volunteering in church school, in their children schools, in service clubs, 'friends of the local historical society or museum', ... I felt lazy as a European and selfish. And yet I was disturbed by the begging of the numerous organisations that tried to collect money to restore their lighthouse, or to keep their museum running or to .... So much fundraising/begging going on.
  10. Fire departments seem to take such a prominent role in New England villages. The death of some fire fighters in service was all over the Boston media when we arrived. Either it does hardly ever happen in Belgium or we do not pay much attention to it.

    But the New England fire departments are also very visible in the villages: the tiniest village consists downtown of a white steepled church, a white steepled hall and the fire department building. I am sure foreigners can drive exstensively through Belgium without seeing our fire department buildings, yet they always seemed to jump into our attention during our trip. They don't seem to take such a special place into our society. Would that be because we have no wooden buildings? Or does our society not place 'heroes' in the center of attention?
  11. The smalles North-American village has its own museum of some sort, well advertised in the tourist information office, funded by local mecenae (see point 9).
  12. In the USA you see people having jobs that would simply not exist in Belgium eg pointing the correct queue at the airport, bagging groceries in the supermarket, ...
    I suppose labor is too expensive in Belgium (see point 8), yet I can't help wonder if such a job feels rewarding to do?
  13. I can't watch tv in North America....they just broadcast little bits of shows in between the tv commercials....gosh it drives me crazy! Thank goodness we still have a few channels without advertising and the other ones still only have half as much advertising. And publicity interruptions during a news broadcast (and the multiple chitchat between the hosts) makes the news look like a show without any objectivity...Or I saw the wrong news broadcasts, :p.
  14. I love take out coffee and breakfast restaurants!! It's pretty hard or rather impossible to go out for breakfast in Belgium. Now we could just get up and go....and stop anywhere when our stomac started rumbling. And you can just get coffee anywhere ... Perfect. I didn't drink any of those (usually they are those glass pots that are just boiling over and over again, ....can't be good. ) but it ensured that Jan made plenty of stops and I could go to the washroom. Pretty handy :p.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Belgometer

A major Flemish newspaper launched an online test to measure how pro-Belgian or pro-seperaratic they are. After one day 60000 (Flemish?) people have tried it already. Quite interesting to see what type of stats come out of it:

  • The average participant is 54% seperatistic (50% being neutral....so slightly edged towards separatism but not very convinced seperatistic either).
  • People from Brussels are 75% pro-Belgian
  • Older people are more seperatistic than young people....I find that very interesting. Do we loose our empathy, patience and solidarity when we grow older?
  • Man are more seperatistic, woman are more pro-Belgian.

I am scoring fairly average but more pro-Belgian than seperatistic which fits with my previous statements.

oh....and the government negotiations are still going on with 2 subagreements signed so far (on immigration and foreign affairs)....so there is still hope for our federal government ;-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

roadworks, help

aaaaah help, there are roadworks going on in front of our door for the next 2 nights! Yes, nights...they have to close of a major crosspoint so it's happening at night. And it's loud, very loud. And I feel the floor trembling slightly from the heavy machinery.

Help, I want to go to sleep but I don't know how I will sleep the next two nights. And I have some demanding days at work ahead. Perfect! :(. Too bad we don't have our new windows yet with double glass. I'll have to do with the old single glass of the old house and some earplugs.

Goodnight!



Update on 11/10/2007: They actually progress well and stopped working just before 1 AM. So it was a shorter night, but yet I did have a couple of hours of solid sleep. I had a few coffees at work and I am alive and kicking! Lets hope they speed up tonight as well and then 2 weeks of work will be all over. Yihaa.

Thanks for your sympathy!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sad day, disappointing day

Since April I had been looking forward to October 9th because we'd be going to the Police. Wooohoo Jan had surprised me and he had somehow managed to get tickets for us despite the incredible speed that the concerts in Antwerp had sold out.

However the day would not be totally a happy one. Last week my mom sent me an sms during my choir rehearsal (phone was off) with the unhappy tiding that my uncle had passed away. My dad is a lot younger than his sisters, so his brother-in-law was already of high age and widower. Nevertheless he was quite ok and still lived at home in his own house where he was being spoiled daily by his four daughters hopping by to help him run the household. Suffering from a cold that troubled his breathing a bit the last week, he had still spent an evening with his family together and then passed away peacefully in his sleep the next morning. He had just celebrated 6 weeks ago the birth of his 6th greath-grandchild.

Today I attended his very serene and beautiful funeral with live harp music, where the entire family gathered as well as for the traditional meal afterwards (is that a Belgian thing: the family has a meal together after a funeral?). Despite the sad occasion, it was good to see them all again and to be gathered to support each other.

While driving from the cemetary to the restaurant, I heard in the news that the concert of the Police had been cancelled tonight since Sting suffers from severe voice problems. Oh crap! what a disappointment. I had hoped that something cheerful would end this sad day, but I guess not. Let's hope they reschedule a new concert, rather than refunding us the tickets, because I was really looking forward to seeing The Police. Jan was already joking that this could end up being the cheapest birthday present he has ever bought me. Well that could make me laugh anyway today.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The journey, part two

Read what happened before here.



She looked around again after the second call for a doctor, but she didn't see any response in the cabin. It didn't look good for her neighbour passenger and she could not concentrate on the movie anymore. She kept checking her watch.
5 minutes passed since the second call
10 minutes passed since the second call
30 minutes passed since the second call



When the steward walked by again, she could hold it anymore and got up to him.

"What is happening to my neighbour, where is he?"
She was whispering as she expected very negative news. She whispered as to warn the steward not to speek up , not to warn other passengers who were still oblivious to the disappearence of the passenger.
"oh he is getting much better, don't you worry, he'll return to his seat soon".


Half an hour later that was indeed the case. The man that she had feared dead, walked briskly back and seemed totally fine at first. But at a closer look his left arm was 3 times the size of his right arm as if it didn't belong to him anymore. Some unknown allergic reaction to the food so it seemed for which he got some standard first aid pills and afterwards some pills out of the private supply that some doctor did have on board. Her worries shifted to pity when looking at the bestrangered arm towards envy when the pills clearly had a strong sleeping effect. The next hours she was trapped next to a snoring thick armed man and she desperately wanted some of those pills too so that she'd be able to sleep a bit as well. How slow can time pass anyway?


Her stress levels were slowly rising again when they approached Vancouver. This time she needed to get her Visa because there is no Canadian embassy in Belgium anymore so her visa would be handed into her passport at the moment of arrival, so the letter from Paris had stated. But what if something had gone wrong, what if there had been a misunderstanding and she didn't get her visa? Would she be sent back? She didn't trust it entirely.
And she needed to get her luggage and check it in again as the local destination she was going to had been unknown for the Brussels computers. And all of that in only 2 hours in an unknown airport. Her host parents had a long drive to the airport, so it would be difficult to warn them if she'd miss her flight because they would already have left home. She remembered her promise to herself to ask help as much as possible, so she asked the stewardess more info about the building at Vancouver airport and what to do in which order. The stewardess wrote down that there was a passenger on board who needed 'special attention'.


When unboarding the plane, a tiny little Asian woman was waiting for her, nodding briefly. She felt a giant next to this lady.
"Do you need assistance?" she asked abruptly.
"Yes please, I don't know where to go and I have little time, but I need my luggage and my Visa and I need to go ..."
"Follow me" and the little woman trippled away through hallway to the huge zigzag lineup in front of the immegration services.

The Asian lady left her there at the end of the line. A line that did not seem to haven an end. After half an hour she was still miles away from the desks. Too much time to worry that something could have gone wrong with the assignment of a visa. Too much time to worry about missing the connecting flight. Too much time to see another man of her flight becoming nervous and bribing some people to skip a flew places in the line, only to still miss his next flight after which he made a huge scene.
Damn, it really can take that long that you miss the connecting flight! The nod in her stomac was back. She had no idea how long it would still need take, neither where she had to go after the immigration services.

After 75 min it was finally her turn and her visa was swiftly stamped in her passport. She could enter Canada and study there during one year. Pheeewww so far so good.
She almost ran through the glass doors where she found her luggage next to a conveyer belt and then she rushed to the next doors. The check-in hall had many Air Canada check in desks, only with hundreds of people in endless lineups in front of them. Everyone just seemed to carry 5 suitcases along. Tears welled up in her eyes while she ran further looking for a desk with a smaller line-up. Another long wait and her boarding time was marked in 15 min. There was only one flight a day and she'd need a miracle to catch it. What could she do???....



....to be continued


If you want to read more soap opera stories, check out Brillig or walking kateastrophe, to find other participants.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tram 3

Since this morning I have to put a 3 as first digit of my age. Or tram 3 came by , as we say in Dutch. Hmm sounds quite differently. It sounds so " mature adult"...I guess I am an "adult" right since those students downtown look so young to me :p. 30 something isn't 20 something anymore, the period in which you study and start working and still need to make so many life choices and where you can still do lots of silly things. 30 something seems the period that you are settling down. I feel pretty settled down though without the need of too many silly things anymore. "not too many", I said ;).


Anyway, I not much planned this weekend except going out for some drinks with one of my best friends. And that's fine, I like having a blank agenda that can be filled up as it goes. And I don't want to let this go by just like that either...I just didn't get organised in time to have a true party. So that'll have to happen later on in a couple of weeks.


Oh yes, and we're going to see the concert of The Police on Tuesday. That was an early birthday present. Yeah, Sting and his buddies saw on the calender that it was my 30th birthday and they decided to come and celebrate with me. Be jealous!!!!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Negative thoughts - laughter

I was going to type a rant about our f*ing software system always has new problems, about incompetent software suppliers and their poor excuses, about all the user complaints arriving at my desk, about being sick of working late and coming home totally exhausted, about falling behind in my planning due to the everlasting ad hoc problemsolving, ....about being fed up by it all, about being so tired ....

but there is a TV show on with stand-up comedian Wouter Deprez and we are laughing our heads off now...Pheeewww let go all the stress! He is so hilarious. I am totally forgetting that a stupid manager was bitching to me today.

It is WEEEEEKEND

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Negative thoughts - positive thoughts

I was going to type a rant about our f*ing software system that still has problems, about incompetent software suppliers and their poor excuses, about all the user complaints arriving at my desk, about being sick of working late and coming home totally exhausted, about falling behind in my planning due to the everlasting ad hoc problemsolving, ....about being fed up by it all, about not finding parking spaces because of the road construction works in front of our door, ....


but I went to yoga class and I am totally zen right now. During the excersises my mind keeps going all places apart from my exercises, but I do walk home relaxed, so that's so coool!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Splogs

What a doubtful honor: my soap opera story from last Sunday got stolen (=copied) and published on a splog full of adds. There it is word for word in German.




Grrrrrrrrrr. I feel ripped off. I don't want to make publicity for this site by generating a lot of hits, but if you do really want to check it out, you would please me if you could all report this blog to blogger while passing by....you know: that flag thingie on top of the screen? And please enter 'tourismnonstop dot blogspot dot com' also in http://www.splogreporter.com/ for me, will ya? thankx!


Any other ideas?