Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bloggy stuff

I should go to bed now....but it's just for once a really wonderful hot day and I am so enjoying sitting outside in the garden that I don't want to end it anymore. So despite knowing better, I'll write another post before I go to bed.

I still have some stuff outstanding to write about. I am sure some people are thinking I totally neglect them by now. But I simply had so much to write about all the fun activities I've been doing this summer, that I haven't had time to type out anything else.





First of all I've been really honored to have received this web award from Lies who blogs at "het leven zoals het is: Leuven (life as it is: Leuven). She seems an energetic upbeat young mother who blogs in a fun way about day-to-day activities and events. Too bad if you can't understand Dutch as her blog is worth a visit! We seem to share some music tastes and love for good food, events in Leuven ....and we totally have similar renovating experiences and I love what they've done to their house. Needless to say that I smiled proudly when I read that she loves my blog because "she has a strong opinion about things, always nice to read (hmm really do I express such strong opinions...didn't realise that myself) and she has excellent taste when it comes to houses" ... Hey thank you girl!


As a good blogger it is now my turn to pass this award on :

  1. for those of you who love some good pictures that sometimes show you beauty where you don't expect it at all: Looking Into is my daily stop for beauty in small things, patterns, ....
  2. Jenn at A2eatwrite : recipe's that make me droole, book tips that make me dream, posts that make me think about society,....but mostly a blog where I feel like coming home each time.
  3. Jenn at Something to Say: About Life in The Netherlands : because you cannot not love Jenn!!!!!!
  4. Tessa at Morgen komt Polly: when reading her posts, she simply feels so authentic.
  5. 1 Picture a Day : a picture blog I just very recently discovered but whose pictures do seem to touch me.
  6. My dear friend Allie at A Day in the Life of the Whittinghams: if you want honesty and authenticity in all emotions, you should visit her blog a visit.

Talking about Allie....she left me a meme today. Persistence pays off I suppose, as I still haven't done her meme tagged in March. So I feel that guilty tonight that I am doing it right away. Hahaha. It's a meme that's seems to be going around quickly among the blogs I read. the goal is simple: post 6 random facts about yourself.

Pff tough tough... I immediately think about the fact I don't like like chocolate, that I play with handkerchiefs a lot, that I watch numberplates, I bend my nails... but all of those things I've posted already in the past. Ok let me think

  1. I react allergic to insectbites below my knee and not above. Both are itchy but insect bites below my knee generate fluid and crusts and get more swollen or if I didn't scratch it right away, they can make bubbles. I do always scratch them in the end. (and after sitting outside all evening in a skirt....my legs are getting very itchy...argh).
  2. When I am stressed I need to go to the toilet all the time..... unfortunately I am very easily stressed.
  3. I am passionated by trying to grow herbs in our little garden....but I don't cook very often anymore and when I do, I often forget to use them :p
  4. I've worked on my family tree in the past but I am more interested to fine all the descendents of my great grandmother...rather than going back in time to find unknown names.
  5. We are getting married next June.
  6. Since I blog I don't write many (long) e-mails anymore to people like a few years before. However I do check my e-mail constantly whenever I am online.
  7. (since I never played Allie's 8 randon things meme in March, I'll add a bonus fact) (and I asked Jan for inspiration)
    I can't distinguish left from right according to Jan, but that's only because he's always mixing them up, so when he's giving me directions I anticipate the opposite and go the other way. ....but sometimes he actually meant what he said and then you get an interesting discussion.
Anyone who likes to play, feel free to leave a comment and go for it!!!!!!!

Support all faiths: this is important



Please do me a favour and go read this at SMID's blog. She can explain it much better than I do, but I totally agree with her message!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mediterrean

oooh there's a cricket out in the neighbour's garden somewhere....what a fun summer sound. I close my eyes and imagine that I am in the Meditterrean!!!!!!

Projects

I'm back from a 2 day workshop at Heineken near Leiden, NL. I'll probably curse a lot in the future on this new project that landed on my desk...but right now it felt good to be on an international project again and meet my "new" colleages. And I still like the no-nonsense approach of the Dutch at the moment. Reminds me of the past days in The Hague.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gentse Feesten

We just got back from the Gentse Feesten. I could write a long post about the street artists, the food stands, the people dancing I saw....how different it was to spend mainly an afternoon there and go home in the evening (at a moment I arrive in other years)....I could write lots on how fun it was to discover unknown festival locations to me a bit further from the crowded historical center. How great it was that the predicted thunderstorms stayed out until we were back at home in our sofa. I wanted to talk about how good it feels each time to be back in Ghent.

...but I'm too tired now so you'll have to do with pictures.







Streattheatre of the Miramiro festival: Les Goulus bringing "The horsemen". Absolutely hilariously satire on French aristocrats training for the Olympics. Their facial expressions were priceless. Zoom in on the picture! Oh you can see them at work here!




View at the Portus Ganda


People tango at St Jacobs


Streattheatre of the Miramiro festival: Oko Sokolo with "Living room". A poetic and intense dance/acrobatic play.



Streattheatre of the Miramiro festival: Dujoli Cirkus with "Fin de Sieste".




Tropical music at the Polé Polé festival

Let's sing

video

For those of you who think that we only party on Friday nights in Leuven are wrong. Yesterday the event "Vlaanderen zingt" (Flanders sings) came to the Oude Markt in Leuven to sing 37 hits together with an enthousiastic crowd. It was a lot of fun. And singing we all did!

So I challenge you all to give me title and artist of the next lyrics. Even you...silent lurkers. take your chance and make a guess. And sing along!

=> for those of you speaking English

1) All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.
I'm standing here outstide your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin, it's early mornin'
The taxi's waitin', he's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome I could die

2) Young man, there's a place you can go
I said, young man

3) You're so hot, teasing me
so you're blue but I can't take a chance on a chick like you
That's something I couldn't do

4) Well we hired our funds, saw pretty girls a comin'
There wasn't quit as many as there was a while ago
We hired some more and then we started runnin'
All down the Missisippi to the Gulf of Mexico


For the Dutchspeaking

A) Z'n bed blijft koud de hele nacht.
En ook z'n flat is vast een bende
Omdat er niemand als ie thuiskomt op 'm wacht

Maar een .....

B) Mexico Mexico oh land van al mijn dromen
Met je gitaarmuziek bracht je de romantiek
voor hem en mij

C) Waarom ik en niet een ander?
Waarom ik die nooit verander?
Waarom koos je mij uit een lange rij?

D) en de knaap zei onbevreesd
Meneer, meneer ach meneer
ach meneer een mooie vogel wil ik zijn



Tropical Beleuvenissen

Scene at 25/07/08

Picture a grasfield under the trees full of people sitting, talking and little children shaking freely to the music and running around ...Turn a bit to the left and enjoy the view of a few dozen people dancing swiftly bearfooted to salsa music... Move a bit to the right again to watch the mucisians bringing their salsa music on stage.

Where am I?...

For those of you who answered:

A) Polé Polé festival at the Gentse Feesten. => no points. There is no grass to dance at Polé Polé even though there can be great tropical music.
B) Baudelo park at the Gentse Feesten => half a point. This scene could very well be at the Gentse Feesten in Baudelo.
C) Beleuvenissen : the tropical night => you won a point. Regular readers know that friday nights are "Beleuvenissen" in Leuven and that's where I am usually hanging out.
The weather has finally gotten a bit smarter: temperatures were consistent with the tropical music being performed everywhere in the city. So everyone has come downtown in cheerful summer dresses and was sipping cocktails and shaking to the music. Summer in the city at its best!!!!!!!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Battling with the queen of the bitches

I moved from Ghent to Leuven 1,5 year ago. At that moment I obviously cancelled all my utilities contracts, internet subscriptions etc etc... while checking cancellation periods and cancellation procedures etc...

You can imagine I was rather shocked to receive a letter in June from a collection agency with the request to pay an outstanding internet invoice that I would have failed to pay. The amount had already more than doubled due to administration costs. If I failed to pay within x days, it'll all get worse etc etc... Immediately I remembered all the trouble we've had in the past with Scarlet and since a collection agency was already involved, I feared this wouldn't get easy either. But I was certain I did not have to pay this unknown invoice as it dated from after my cancellation period.

A phone call to the former internet provider Tele2 turned out easier than I had expected it to be: the agent on the phone confirmed to me that this must be a mistake as the invoice dated from 2 weeks after my cancellation period. They'd make a creditnote for the same amount and contact the collection agency to stop their procedure. After some enquiries she managed to take note of my new address to ensure she didn't send off the credit note to my former address in Ghent as I really wanted a written proof that the situation was ok.
That same day I got a second letter from the collection agency, but that must have been sent before Tele2 could have taken action so I ignored it.

....

3 weeks later I had not received a credit note yet and just when I started to worry, I got a third letter from the agency. The interest they were charging me was getting higher and higher and I was now officially declared as failing something (there is some legal Dutch term for it which I cannot translate). If I didn't pay within 5 days, it'll proceed to a judicial officer (who have the power to come and get stuff out of your house in worst case).

Then I made the mistake to make a phone call the the collection agency itself. I had not expected a friendly and easy call but I had not prepared myself for a battle with the queen of bitches either. When I started to enquire why the procedure had not been stopped yet and if they had not received the notification from the internet provider that the invoice was wrong, I got interrupted right away in a very rude way. I tried to stay firm , consistent and polite and urged Mrs Superbitch to let me finish my sentence.

"no I had to listen to her, because I knew very well I had to pay this invoice. I might have cancelled my subscription in January and I was no longer customer since February but this invoice dated end of February applied on costs made in January and I knew that very well"
"the internet company Tele2 had nothing to do with my file anymore as they had legally transfered my file to the collection agency so they could not help me in any way. And why would they even try to help me since I was no longer customer. Why would I think they'd bother at all?"
"the fact that I had never even seen this invoice was irrelevant. She had proof in front of her(computerlogs etc) that the internet company had actually sent me the invoice ...If they would not have had that proof in their hands, Tele2 would have never been able to transfer my file to the collection agency. If I had not received the invoice I could always try to sue my postman but frankly she couldn't care less. Besides, I had not mentioned my new address to the internet company upon cancellation of my subscription (eum...true...why would I?) and that was a breach of contract. If I would have read my contract well, I would have known that".

Whenever I tried to say something she immediately interrupted me and launched another salvo of intimidating insults.

"What do you want to do....go to court for this one invoice?"
"I had to listen to her because I had still not paid and they had already sent 3 letters. Clearly I was being stubborn to this. I had to make my own decision, but from next week onwards the outstanding amount would have been multiplied by ten. But hey, it was my choice...frankly, the longer I waited the better for them, so she didn't care. But I simply had to listen so I wouldn't be whining the next week and claiming that I had not known what was about to happen".


Seriously after that phonecall, my hands were shaking and I had tears in my eyes from feeling so helpless and angry. Wow, that agency sure had the right woman in place at the right spot. Anyone would pay her a gift, just to make sure she stopped talking!!!!!! Even though I knew she was wrong....because I did NOT have to pay that wrong invoice, I did feel intimidated. And I worried that they would go up the next step before I could fix the situation somehow. The thought that it was not worth all the discussions and stress and potential problems and that I maybe should quickly pay what they asked for, crossed my mind for a moment.

So I phoned back to Tele2. The agent on the phone was very friendly and helpfull again and she admitted right away again that I did not have to pay the invoice. But they had somehow not gotten around to actually creating the credit note and stopping the collection agencies procedure. She confirmed to me that they were legally allowed to still stop the procedure at the collection agency (unlike what they told me) because this invoice was faulty. I tried to be very friendly and firm (from the past, I have learned that aggressive and angry phone calls only trigger defensive reactions) but also sounding desperate to convince her to act immediately. She assured me that she understood the urgency and that I could be 200% it would be ok that afternoon.



But I didn't trust it anymore. I did not dare to sit and wait for a credit note anymore. The next day I called back and got confirmation that the credit note was made, my balance was zero and the collection agency had gotten instructions to close my file. But they can't confirm that on fax or e-mail. Argh. A little bit anxious I phoned the collection agency as well where now a very sweet lady with warm voice answered "oh but that file has been closed. You really shouldn't worry anymore".

So I don't....but I'll be really happy if the credit note is in the mail as a physical proof. Then I'll be certain to have won my little battle with the queen of all bitches.


PS: I actually pity her. Does she play a role (how shyzofrenic would that be?) or is she all the time like that. How sad to have such a horrible personality!!!!!!!!

World Youth Day memories: Cologne 2005

In 2005 Benedict XVI announced that the next World Youth Day in 2008 would be organised in Sydney

While the World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney is over already and I was reading the different media coverage on the event, my thoughts went back 8 and 3 years frequently over the last days. Some flashbacks and thoughts to share....


***


Before



When you are regularly getting together with people you've met in Rome 2000 and you know the persons working at the episcopal youth organisation planning the World Youth Day tour for the Flemish delegation, it seems obvious that you go to the next World Youth Day . But when you are already 28, working, in a relationship, it becomes a bit less obvious as well. And yet it takes place in Cologne at 3 hours from where you live. Surely you cannot miss it.

So I joined the Flemish delegation with another 100 of us just for the closing weekend of the World Youth Day in Cologne. In the days before I left, I followed closely all media news on the event from home. It was very frustrating to see how the way journalists approached the pelgrims over and over again: we got to see protesters distributing condoms, they questioned youth about the pope and his visions on gay marriage, female priests, etc... This is getting so old. You either agree , partially agree or disagree with the Vatican and for western Europeans it's usually the latter. But it's so frustrating that focus in the media always goes to the same 5 or something controversial issues when covering the catholic religion. Yeah sure, condoms, ....that nicely brings the essence of the Christian faith. That surely is what the World Youth Days are all about. Grrr what a narrow-minded approach in its own.


***


Friday 19 August, Cologne

We got on the busses on Friday afternoon on a grey cold August day and drove to Cologne. As we only joined for the last 3 days (2 nights) we were hosted in a schoolbuilding unlike the majority of the Flemish delegation who was staying in host families in a parish at the edge of Cologne. As a matter of fact, the majority of all pelgrims at the World Youth Day was staying with German families. I find that very impressive and doubt somehow that the Belgians would manage/be willing to do so. Thumbs up for the German hospitality!

In contrast with Rome where the public life had completely disappeared , Cologne still seemed to continue its day-to-day activities with the pelgrims mingling in between. The traditional Road of the Cross on Friday evening was taking place in the neighbourhood where we staying together with other groups hosted in neighbouring parishes. While Germans were glancing at us from behind every window, we walked in a slow solemn march through the city towards a park for a short celebration. I felt their eyes peaking at my back while we were staring closely in the candle we were holding and shielding from the drippling rain and while were trying to sing our songs a little more firmly.


***

Saturday - Sunday 20/21 August 2005

This morning we had celebrated a last Eucharist with the hosting parish and all the host families. Even though I had not been in one of them, I could feel the warmth that had surrounded them all week. What a great community.

After the long goodbyes we all gathered in busses to drive to our assigned parking lot...in the middle of nowhere in the fields out of Cologne. On the highways we saw bus karavans going in all directions but luckily no traffic jams got generated. From the parking lot we started our hike towards Mariënfield where the night wake would be held by Pope Benedict XVI. Some other thousand of pelgrims from all nationalities had to leave from the same parking lot and we all hiked in long rows of singing, chatting, ...people through the fields. From across the fields and trees we could see other lines of people waving flags , praying out loud, ... coming nearer to us until roads merged in bigger and bigger groups.



When we arrived at Marienfield at our "entry gate", we saw people from all sides arriving and filling the location. Flags everywhere, all going to the same central point. Somehow I wondered if the arrival of a Crusade would have looked like that. (or any other big invading army). But this army was singing, laughing, having fun.

We installed ourselves in our designated sector and I find a little big of space to unroll my sleeping bag next to a Mexican (who still sends me an e-mail now and then of which I don't understand a single word), a group pelgrims from Strasbourg France and an American family. Later on I heard that each pelgrim had 0.7 square meter....I had exactly the room for one sleeping bag while using my backpack as pillow. If you wanted to go somewhere, you had to jump from sleeping bag to sleeping back. So at each walkway, you saw people taking off their shoes and tiptoeing on their socks over the other people's belongings gently. It was noted in the press afterwards that this clearly was not a rock concert crowd as they had never seen youngsters being so respectfull for each other. (I read similar press comments about Sydney this year: the city would have first been a bit reserved or even hostile against this invasion of pelgrims but slowly the friendly happy open pelgrims would have won the sceptic's heart...I am not surprised.)

The crowd didn't overwhelm me as much as in Rome: first of all I had expected it to be huge, secondly it was less than half the crowd as in Rome (800000 people slept there at night, the closing Eucharist was attended by 1.2 million people).
However this time my pelgrimage was not preceded by an exhausting week, so I could pay much more attention to the service, the texts , the vigil, etc (in Rome I had dozed off by the end of the evening and was woken up by the fireworks at midnight :p). This time I truly was curious to "meet" the brand new pope Benedict XVI. As was the habit with his predecessor, the crowd started scanding his name upon his arrival: "Beneditto". He waved it away, but still seemed to enjoy it very much. Whenever he mentioned the previous pope John-Paul II he got a huge applause...and I started to have a feeling that he mentioned John-Paul II quite often (on purpose?). Other than that he didn't allow much spontaneity in his teachings. They all seemed well prepared and structured and whenever the crowd interrupted something he sayd by applause or scanding or so...he simply paused until we were quiet again and then continued where he had left off. No spontaneous jokes in between....only heavy theological explanations. Although good, ...it was heavy to listen to.


I remember the weather predictions to be quite desastrous for the weekend: cold and rainy. I was equipped with a big plastic to use as a shield if necessary. But somehow the clouds remained in a big circle around Marienfield with an opening above ourselves. While that weekend there were inondations in Belgium (border at 30 min drive from Marienfield!)....we stayed dry and even got some sunshine. I have pictures of the clouded sky making a big curve around us with a nice blue whole above us......I don't know what to think about that phenomenon to be honest, but it sure struck me.

Rome 2000 was overwhelming and I remember mainly the friendships I made and the international meetings with the other pelgrims. Cologne 2005 had much more focus on the content for me. I am really greatful to have been able to participate twice. And from now on I follow the current participants with all my heart and thoughts during the next World Youth Days. I hope it is as powerful for them as it was for me.

Up to 2011 in Madrid!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

World Youth Day Memories: Rome 2000

While the World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney is over already and I was reading the different media coverage on the event, my thoughts went back 8 and 3 years frequently over the last days and I had to think of all the people I knew that were in Sydney. Some personal flashbacks to share....


*****
Sat 12/8/2000, Taizé


This morning we gathered with all Flemish participants in the Brussels cathedral where the Belgian Bishops preceded a Eucharist to kick-off our World Youth Jubilee trip. For the first time we (a few hundred adolescents and young adults) all got together and met. All seated on the floor of this ancient cathedral we listened to the gospel, received our welcome bag with songbook, textbook and the divisions into smaller groups (people of same age group + region). After a long busdrive we arrived in Taizé where we got a first feeling of the mass that would await us in Rome. Right now we were laying down in our sleeping bags on the floor of the modern church there. We had gotten permission to sleep in the church for one night after we participating in the daily evening meditation with its typical chants together with the other 6000 visitors at Taizé at that moment. The service was impressive in its modesty. I was glad to have seen Frère Roger who has founded this inspirational oecumenical community.



****
Monday 14 August 2000 (Provence)

We are hiking with our little group of 10 in the South of France to our evening location which will apparently be the playground of some school near the Italian border. After 3 days we already start to know each other a lot better. We sit down now and then and discuss the figures of Paul and Peter or some bibletext. Doing so we learn each others visions, questions, doubts, frustrations and we share experiences. We're a really fun group joking around when hiking and hanging out together in evenings too when we have reached our location. I think I also get to know the other group that shares our bus a little better as well. They also come from the region of Ghent. (sidenote: I am regularly still in touch with a couple of them!)


****
Tuesday 15 August 2000 (Rome)



All roads lead to Rome right? It surely seemed like it. The further we drove into Italy, the more busses we crossed with the big Jubilee flags on it and people waving at our own bus karavan. We had to enter the city by bus before 4 PM as the entry roads would then get closed off afterwards for all tourbusses. After a lot of confusion among our guides and the Italian volunteers about the assigned sleeping places (the assigned school which was full right away) the girls from our bus got our own private sleeping place in another little school nearby. Woohoo no overcrowded classrooms for us! After dropping off our suitcases we headed out in the direction of St-Peter's square where the official opening of the World Youth Day was taking place. Right away we were faced with the biggest challenge that we'd have to face again and again over the next days: overcrowded metro's, overcrowded streets and squares and a lot of time to get from any place to another. Rome was litteraly invaded by young pelgrims. We never managed to get on St Peter's square but had to be content to listen from one of the sidestreets. One of the Flemish priests who had studied in the Vatican guided us back by foot in order to avoid overcrowded metro again.



****


Wednesday 16 August 2000


This morning we attended the regular teachings by one of our priests or bishops which we later on discussed in our usual little groups. Some Dutch pelgrims join these Dutchspeaking sessions.
Right after that the Flemish delegation was scheduled to go to Saint Peter where the "holy door" was open for the first time since 25 years. I didn't really get this 'pelgrimage' very much. We had to wait for 4-5 hours in line to get at the entrance and as there was too many people we couldn't all go through the "holy door" anyway or walk around at ease in this wonderful basilica. After waiting that long, I did squeeze myself into another queue to make sure that I walked through the golden gate. I know my parent's did so 25 years ago...who knows...maybe it's my children's turn in 25 years? Nevertheless the morning wasn't very meaningfull to me and we missed most of the afternoon's festival activities in our quest for food.
Lesson's learned: always return to the assigned food location even if that costs you an hour of transport time. Showing up at other food distribution locations without notice messes up the Italian organisation and doesn't provide you any food! So next time we'll always go back to the big parking lot at the edge of the city near our sleeping locations.

***
Friday 18 August 2000 (Rome)

The last days we had a lot of fun at the Youth Festival. After the morning teachings which are organised across the city for each language, we have a choice out of a wide variety of activities: visit of the catacombs, watching a play about the life of Saint Catharina, attending Taizé prayers or prayers from other religious segregations, going to different (religion-related) concerts, ... Our adult chaperones usually spread out over one of those and whomever was interested could follow them....or you could head out on your own in little groups. We were slowly getting used to the overcrowded metro's and were finding our way around the city. Apart from the pelgrims and the thousands of volunteers in their blue T-shirts, Rome was deserted. At the Trevi fountain we came across a very confused touristic couple who had no clue in which mass event they had shown up.

Tonight we made it just in time back from our dinner location where we shared dinner with some nice Argentinian people (you only get food if you show up in groups of 6....so sometimes you must team up with other unknown hungry pelgrims...which is a good way to meet new people!) to participate in the Crossway which was lead by the Pope John-Paul II at the Colloseum. Our little radio transmitter didn't pick-up the broadcast translations very well, but we noticed a Flemish flag waving a little further and we could squeeze up to another Flemish group lead by the bishop of Bruges who was giving us direct translations from the Latin used.
The crossway was very powerful! It was the start towards the end festivaties of the World Youth Days over the weekend.

***

Saturday/Sunday 19-20August 2000 (Tor Vergata, Rome)

Tor Vergata was incredible. There's no way to describe the feeling of the pelgrimage we took today and the vigil and sleep-over we had together. No one can imagine camping and praying together with 2 million of people. The power....the silence....the joy.

After walking for hours with our backpacks in the burning heat....across highways in an endless march that seemed to reach from horizon to horizon...while being sprayed at now and then by the fire brigades to keep us cool... we finally arrived at the terrains of Tor Vergata outside Rome. We installed ourself in a little corner of one of the sectors near the crossroad of 2 walkways.. The mass there was unimaginable. I'll never see such a crowd again in my life. How would I ever be able to feel lonely again as a young Christian in the secular west-European world? If I'd ever feel sticking out, odd again...I'd have to think back at Tor Vergata and know that there's still plenty of other young Christians out there.

In the beginning of the evening the Pope John Paul II arrived by helicopter at the scene which must have been a magnificent sight from the air. Personally I couldn't care less before I came whether the pope would be there or not. As most of the other Flemish participants I have a fairly critical attitude towards the Vatican. The pope had not looked very much alive anymore in his recent tv appearances, so how would he be able to adress us anyway.
We had however already met a lot of pelgrims from other parts of the world for whom the pope's presence was very important. Much to our surprise the entire terrain started scanding "Joanni Paulo (clap clap...clap clap clap)" when he arrived as if he were a big popstar......and it was breathtaking and catching. On the big screens everywhere we could follow his little ride through parts of Tor Vergata in his transparent mobile. He looked like a different man, waving, smiling, 20 years younger all of a sudden.

That night during the vigil lead by the pope, I learned a lot about the role of young people in the church, the role of modern saints that the pope wanted to give us as role models, ..... But remarkably enough I remember most my surprise that John Paul II was a man with a good sense of humour. All his teachings were directly translated and broadcast in multiple languages which we could pick up with little portable radio's. I don't remember what he said specifically anymore but I remember laughing a couple of times throughout the night, and him spontaneously responding to some of the scanding/singing/shouting. I also remember the silence in prayer that we managed to get together with the 2 million of us. I get shivers again thinking back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monte Mare Tauchzenter in Rheinbach

What do you do when outside dives are cancelled due to stormy winds at the Dutch coast? Go to an indoor diving pool across the border in Rheinbach, Germany: Monte Mare.
So what do you do all the time in a not enourmous pool that you can access all day? Take lots and lots and lots of pictures of each other while playing with the available props ! (and swim a bit and do some exercises).










Besides playing in the water, we also enjoyed the waterslides, the pool with waves and the huge sauna complex.
PS: Snooker, after posting your scuba handstand, I wondered if I could do one as well. I had never tried. So here's my version of it :)

Heating again

Rain, 10°C outside and our floorheating at home got activated (and the fireplace was lighted when we visited family). Argh, do I need to say more? Even the weather doesn't take our national holiday serious anymore.

The predicted weather improvements 'd better last for a long time to make up for this miserable summer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Old memories at Beleuvenissen

Jo Lemaire at the Grote Markt
We missed the folk edition of Beleuvenissen last week due to our camping trip, but last Friday night we headed downtown again. After a brief walk around on the Grote Markt and Margaretaplein , were respecitivaly Jo Lemaire and Sergio & The Ladies were playing, we headed to the Oude Markt. Jo Lemaire has a magnificent voice but I did not like the brassband that was accompagnying her. And Sergio's duet with his ladies didn't even meet my expectations for an unknown cover band. I surely will see better next week on the Gentse Feesten.


So we headed over to the Oude Markt as De Kreuners would surely make the market swing. We were not the first ones with that idea as the market just got closed off when we entered the entry road and we really had to squeeze ourselves into the crowd. Quite soon people started leaving though, creating some more room to move around. I couldn't blame those who left: although De Kreuners were playing their well-known songs and new single, Walter seemed to be totally uninspired and just doing his job. It really looked like a bunch of successful tv-presentators, tv hosts and producers got back together to sing because a contract obliged them too, but they didn't know to rock anymore.

As De Kreuners aren't really a band you can catch on singing 100% at the perfect pitch with stunning musical voices, neither are their lyrics moving literature. But De Kreuners bring fun, atmosphere, many many hits to sing along.

The Oude Markt at Beleuvenissen



I caught myself singing along out loud on songs I had not heard anymore in years, but which had played endlessly 15-20 years ago. Words bubbled up with ease from long forgotten parts in my memory. I saw myself sitting at my desk again with my tapeplayer on while doing my homework. When I was 12 or 13 my sister arranged with my parents that I could go to my first concert ever while she'd take care of me...De Kreuners indeed :p. I was the only one in my class who could go.
And the years afterwards I looked in all popular magazines for posters and pictures of Berre Bergen. Hmm how insane can you be as a teenager :p? (while I am at it, I must also admit having had posters of the long-haired André Aggassi and Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller!). Oh gosh, how shamefull).



After a while Walter found his old self, started getting in touch with the public, his stupid jokes came back and he managed to have the crowd sing along loud on most of the hits and to even turn around with their back to the stage for a picture for the back of their next CD. This concert was taped for one of their live DVD's....I'm somehow suspicious that they only needed one hour of material. Anyway, the last part of their concert surely rocked and I am very glad that I didn't leave in the first 15 minutes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heating

I usually set the temperature in my car at 21-22 °C and it automatically adjusts: some airco when needed in the summer, heating in winter....

.... in winter? Did I type in winter?
My car started blowing warm air this afternoon because it was too cold in my car. It was only 13°C and raining outside.


I am getting depressed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Belgian political mess

On Saturday 12/7 19:45 the earth trembled in Court-Saint-Etienne in Belgium with a force of 2.1 on Richter's scale. On Sunday 13/7 16:00 the earth trembled again in Court-Saint-Etienne , this time with a force of 3.6 on Richter's scale. On Monday 14/7 3:30 and 4:00 the earth trembled 60 kms further in Dour with a force of 2.8 on Richter's scale.
Earthquakes with a force around 2 are not entirely unusual in Belgium but those stronger than 3 are far less frequent. And 3 earthquakes in 36 time is really unusual.


On Tuesday evening Belgium got a much bigger shock. Our prime minister Yves Leterme went to the king to resign while stating "The federal consensus-model has reached its limits". Pretty scary when a federal prime minister loses faith in the federal model. Our king has not yet accepted the resignation but has started a week-long consultation round.


And now what? titles one of the main Flemish newspapers De Standaard. Good question.

How could we end up in this mess? Sure there are people in this country that want to split up Belgium, but this crisis is not about splitting the country or not.

* It's about the centrist political party CD&V joining a kartel with the more radical right-wing nationalistic party N-VA. Even though the NV-A wants to evolve to an independent Flanders, the CD&V only wants a consitutional reform that gives more autonomy to the regions. In the race for the 2007 elections they make bold statements about a state reform.

they'd bring "good governance", "would not step into a government without an agreement for an extensive state reform in the government agreement" , "split BHV with 5 minutes of political courage" etc...

Unrealistic statements that would lead them straight into impossible negotiations and the choice to lead a government without credibility or abandon their own political leader and make the government fall.

* It's about Yves Leterme and other politicians making a career in the regional governments and rising up on the political ladder without any federal experience, without the need to keep the delicate balance between the 2 country parts , being able to make controversial statements that created distrust on the other side of the language border.

* It's about a group of Flemish politicians and citizens so scared to loose their own identity and clinging to something that in reality does not exist anymore: the pure Flemish identity of the villages around Brussels. Brussels is a multicultural city where many languages are spoken but Dutch is surely not the main language. The peripheral is more and more evolving to a Frenchspeaking region despite the official Dutchspeaking statute. Rather than accepting this reality, activist groups enforce the road signs on the ringroad in Brussels to be solely in Dutch because on Flemish territory the roadsigns must be in Dutch according to the law. They want the facilities that are active in those peripheral towns around Brussels with a considerat minority of Frenchspeaking people to fade as a temporary integration measure and not a permanent acquired right.....There's activists that lookup any media event to show up with Flemish flags and wave them in front of the camera's, creating very ambiguous feelings for me when I see the Flemish flag which is a reason I resent them for. The examples given in this article are incidental but shamefully true.

* It's about a generation of "navel-gazers" , thinking that there's no more important problems in the world to tackle but our own regional relationships.

* It's about a generation who mistakenly thinks you can force/prevent a negotiated compromise through deadlines and provocations.

* It's about paranaoia Wallonian politicians not even trying to consider moderate state reform propositions that could rationalise our current state structure. They scream "no" to everything as if they are afraid to gain more autonomy myself. While they give cooperative messages on Flemish tv interviews , they give other views on the Wallonian tv. When the prime minister resigns they all act surprised. How hypocrite can it get?

Can you tell I am slightly disgusted by the current leading politicians?

The irony is that this government did agree about economics, finances etc... All parties in the mean time do agree as well that some reform is necessary! If the CD&V and N-VA wouldn't have created their own deadline for a state reform agreement, they would have been able to govern and spend 4 years of their legislature to work out a consensus about our future state structure. Then the frenchspeaking parties would obviously need to agree with one of the suggested structures at one point. I do believe the Flemish had softened their demands already a lot over the last 13 months.

So what now? They'll work something out even if it is once again a technical temporary government or some temporary legal workaround to organise new elections. But it'll delay all important decisions and operations once again and that was the last thing Belgium needed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leterme I: game over

More than a year ago there was an election campaign where Yves Leterme, head of the Flemish Christian Democrats CD&V (together with a kartel of Flemish nationalists NVA), former Minister-President of the Flemish government won the elections mainly due to his promise to reform the Belgian state structure to give the Flemish region more autonomy and to split an electoral district (and also because Belgium was a bit tired of the 8-year old government). Very controversial promises on the other side of the language border. Immediately everyone realised that the coalition negotations would be difficult as his Frenchspeaking counterparts clearly didn't trust him.

When celebrating his victory (with plenty of Flemish flags in sight), he claimed never to go into a government without guarantees on that state reform. His party members had claimed that it would only take "5 minutes of courage" to split the Brussels electoral district.

6 months later he had 2 failed coalition attempts and he agreed to step into a temporary technical government lead by our former prime minister Yves Verhofstadt. This government would only take the most urgent measures and in the mean time he'd negotiate for a true new government that had to step in on March 20th. The Christian-Democrats had succeeded to convince their kartel partners to agree with this government even though their was no guarantee yet for a state reform.

When the new deadline came near, it became obvious that Leterme would not succeed in a political compromise among the involved political parties across the 2 language sides in those points of discussion. Leterme reached his deadline and formed a government....with no agreemend on any point yet though. He had simply given himself a new deadline for an agreement: 15th of July. His own party threatened to step out of the government they were leading themselves if the other political parties had not agreed upon the split of the electoral district etc... by then. In the mean time he would proceed a goverment without the promised state reform.

The negotiations went on and the political tactics continued. On the one hand this government was trying to make some decisions and agreements on economic and social matters....while at the same time the provocations across the parties continued. Yet Leterme declared "the atmosphere was good"....and they had reached agreements on the methods to negotiate. Dugh.

Tensions rose again last week and this afternoon it became clear for all involved that no agreement would be reached. Despite a full agreement on the financial matters and economical-social plan, ....Leterme and his partners could not reach an agreement on a state reform. He would go to the parliament tomorrow and ask for a further delay in order to organise a new negotiation structure which would involve the regional governments in the discussions. A new agreement on how to negotiate, but no agreement about the content on its way. A delay which would not be accepted by his own party if they were faithfull to their own declarations of the last week.

13 months after our elections we are without government again. Leterme would be now on his way to the king to resign according to breaking news flashes. I hope the king was not in bed yet or he'll have to get out of his pyama's again to receive this late guest. I guess Leterme has finally realised that his government has no credibility anymore whatsoever. They'd become a joke even before they had started. His 5 minutes of courage have turned in a very painful year for the entire country.
The formation of a new government can start again (they can't organise elections just like that as the electoral district around Brussels has been declared in contradiction with our constitution so it must be reformed before any elections....ironically enough that's the point they can't agree upon). I think he had no other choice. I hope some more moderate parties that have not pushed themselves in the corner with unrealistic promises can take the lead now and soften the tensions. But I fear it'll remain crazy for another while! Arggggh. Stupid macho narrow-minded politicians. I'd like to smack them all in the face.


(will be continued unfortunately)

(more background info here)

Diving and camping proofs to be a good combination

The company was good , the camping quiet and green and our new tent and new sleeping bags have survived the test of rain showers on Friday night and of the cold on Saturday night.



A campfire to battle the cold



Gnomes, bus wrecks, helicopter wrecks...you can find it all under water if you want at Lac de L'eau d'Heure (and if you can navigate...which Jan can...not me quite yet).


In the old quarrel of La Croisette the big carps were hungry and looking for company






I'm looking forward to the following club weekend.

Leuven beer capital

So Leuven is the capital of beer again as it houses the world's biggest brewer once again as the Belgian-Brazilian group Inbev now has succeeded taking over Anheuser-Busch . These global headquarters are just a few km from our door in downtown Leuven. (yet I work for the competitor).



source: http://www.leuven.be/showpage.asp?iPageID=7096


source: http://www.leuven.be/showpage.asp?iPageID=1677

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How can you make sure you have to work late?

If you plan a big system update in the weekend (executed by your supplier who has proven their capacity to blunder previously) ...

If you do so in a weekend where you take a day off and you go on a three day trip after your ex-boss agreed to do the testing on Sunday (but you need to brief him properly and document the changes to him)....

If you had planned a last minute new software training/hand-over from a very very pregnant colleague who leaves on maternity leave on your last day before that same weekend...

If you have other meetings on that same day as well...

If you still need to do some last minute testing because the supplier fixed something last minute in the test environment....


Then you get a long hectic day!
And now I am tired but my brain keeps racing in overdrive....I suppose I'd better not continue to blog anymore tonight.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

100000km

My car has passed the 100000 km barrier. Whereas the first 50000 km have taken me a year to drive, since then another year and a half has passed. Clearly Leuven is closer to my work than Ghent, so I am driving less distances. And I am less on highways so it are slower roads but less major traffic jams also. Nevertheless I am still 90 min a day in my car. Pfff crazy if you think about it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Free market

Obama, speaking at a news conference in the city where Anheuser-Busch is headquartered, said no U.S. law could prevent shareholders from agreeing to sell the company to InBev. The American brewer is known for its Budweiser brand.
"I do think it would be a shame if Bud is foreign-owned," Obama said. "I think we should be able to find an American company that is interested in purchasing Anheuser Busch if in fact Anheuser Busch feels that it's necessary to sell."

A shame? Emotionally yes as Bud is an true American icon. Such words probably do appeal voters, so they might fit Obama's electoral strategy. But economically they don't make sense. Hey, this is the free market operating. The market will decide whether INBEV's bid with a 30% premium is sufficient or not. I thought the USA was pro free market and opposed to protectionism, mr Obama? Pushing American firms to buy Anhauser-Bush purely to keep it American is not a cost-effective strategy that will proof the most jobs/R&D/innovation/profits in the long run.

It made me think of the words of my former Scottisch director when a Heineken & Carlsberg consortium bought Scottisch & Newcastle. This take-over marked the disappearence of the last UK owned brewer. Scottisch press wondered whether their government could prevent this take-over to happen. This director said " this is the difference between the Irish economy and the French economy: the French is much more protectionistic and has more direct government involvement than the Irish. Although tough at first, the Irish economy has chosen the best strategy in the long run and its economy now outperforms the other European economies. Governments should not prevent the free market in such (take-over) matters".

I agree. Even though no country likes to see its "icons" fall in foreign hands.

New conversations at work after 5 PM

Since last week I have a new cue at work to make me aware that it's 5 PM.
All of a sudden the conversations in the office next to me change

"No no don't draw on that sheet, I still need to work with that"
...[triple triple triple]
"Is this where you work?"
"Yes this is my desk"
...[triple triple triple]
"Is this lady from your work?"
(I stare in the blue eyes of a little girl in the door opening)
"Yes she's one of my colleagues"


"oh hello, did you have fun today?"
[some nodding] "yes I ate spaghetti"

One of the perks of my company is summer day-care onsite. But it stops at 5 PM and all of a sudden all the offices fill with childrens voices and the sound of running in the hallway.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sleep

I slept 11 hours last night. It was fantastic. I so needed it, I am always tired lately.
And for once since long, we had no plans for the day. All our coming weekends are fully booked and yesterday was also a busy day with a very good dive in the Netherlands (mmm I saw so much lobster, sole, crabs, ...and other delicious food ) and a birthday celebration in my family in the evening.

I love all those fun activities and the company of friends and family. But I was so grateful today for not having to leave the house at all. I enjoyed going to the market, doing some laundry and then spending hours on a mattrass in the garden with a book. I really need more days like that. And now I'll be going to bed early again to make sure I don't start off the coming week tired again. Yes yes I am full of good intentions!

Beleuvenissen

It has become a tradition : my Friday evenings in July are usually reserved for Beleuvenissen. A historic city center full of music on 7 different squares on a summer evening sure appeals to me.

We had only left our house when other pedestrians were already asking directions to go to the city center. We wouldn't be the only ones heading there. Last Friday was the 20th anniversary of the festival.

We started the evening with an excellent dinner on the terrace of Rodin's at the Oude Markt in Leuven (knicknamed "the longest pub (counter)"). We were sitting right next to the stage where Bart Peeters would perform that evening. While the square was filling with a big crowd, we decided to stay where we were so close to the stage. After his fantastic performance last year at the festival in Dranouter, we sure wanted to see his concert this year. Sure enough a couple of minutes later he came out of Rodin's where the group must have had dinner as well. Oh gosh, Bart sure is skinny when seeing him so close.

The concert started with a bang and soon enough the little walk-way behind our back was also filled up with a crowd blocking our sight and people were trying to walk through the tables outside in a desperate attempt to get to the other side again. Being waiter in Leuven sure can be challenging! Despite the fact that the visual aspect of the concert had been eliminated we really enjoyed the music and the atmosphere. It felt a bit magic to hear the cheers rise up from the square from the (for us) hidden mass.

Satisfied that we had heard the most important concert of the evening, we tried to get a quick glance of the other 6 stages in the next hour. We didn't stay too long at the energetic yet monotonous percussion act at the Vismarkt, neither at the traditional singer-songwriter Bart Herman (hey...he has the same bassist as Hans has!!) , we gave no attention to the Royal orchestra from the army and since Marino Punk had moved up a street and was playing in a very narrow street that was already crowded, we didn't stay there very long either. The evening ended with some jazz/funk grooves from Funkfuse and with the contagious energy of the ever amazing Boogie Boy .

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Meeting Jenn in Holland and Kate

Some more pictures of my meeting with Jenn in Holland last weekend to make you all jealous.



In case anyone was wondering: yes she is as warm, friendly, cheerful, spontaneous and enthousiastic as she appears on her blog!




And she was so nice to introduce me to her colleague Joy and to Kate from "A Ceaseless Mind". And we even phoned with Fourier Analyst to make our little blogger meeting complete.