Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Made in Belgium: Absynthe Minded

Absynthe Minded was probably the most award winning band in Belgium in 2009. One of their most recent singles "Envoi" was flying high in the charts and won some tv awards and was the number one on the Afrekening 2009 at Stubru. Their 2005 single "My heroics part one" was voted best Belgian single for the last decade.

So enjoy some of Belgians top singles......

My heroics , part one





Envoi - 2009

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The castle of Horst

In Western Europe we are so spoilt with rich history & heritage sites that you can live for 3 years at 15 km from a marvellous water fortress and not even have bothered to visit it. It's not like we had not often already suggested to go for a walk or a fantastic brunch near the castle of Horst with friends but somehow those plans never got executed.

But this afternoon we headed to the "birthplace of the Red Knight" , famous from his own comic strip series. Upon our arrival we saw a big group of little princesses in marvellous pink & yellow dresses and young knights equipped with little swords , crowns & red capes. Unfortunately we were not in the right attire to join the fun looking birthday party. Bummer.





With a self-guided audio tour we explored the old donjon, climbed the 30m high claustrophobic uneven staircase to enjoy the view on the nearby hills, walked through the dining halls, basement & old kitchen.






Look look, see the signs of spring!!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring energy

"so let there be light"
and we cleaned the winter dust
from all the windows


*************

the spring sun woke up
voices in the nearby gardens
full activity

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Made in Belgium: Zap Mama

Belgium has had some African kolonies , Zaire or Congo being one of them. Marie Daulne's Belgian father got killed in the riots of the independence fights after which her Bantu mother fled to nearby pygmy villages. After a couple of months they were airlifted and evacuated to Brussels where Marie grew up. She studied Arab, Asian and African polyphony and returned to Congo as a young adult to train herself in pygmy vocal techniques.

In 1990 she founded with 5 other young girls "Zap Mama" and their first CD was so refreshing, exotic that it became the best selling world music CD in 1993 in the western world. Zap Mama bridges music & cultural influences from Europe and Africa with a strong focus on the voice as a musical instrument. Marie Daulne travels with her ever changing band all over the world and can hardly be called a Belgian anymore as she's a true global citizen.

I find it very refreshing to hear bands like Zap Mama that are so different to much of the commercial music we get to listen to every day. It's so sunny & happy, don't you think?



Sweet Melodie




Brrrlak



Iko Iko (soundtrack Mission Impossible II)



Bandy Bandy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A 'spring' walk on the top of Belgium

What to do if you wake up on the first day of spring to look out at a heavy grey sky loaded with rain clouds? Since dry spells were predicted coming from the west....we headed to the east.

And we stopped at the Signal de Botrange, Belgium's highest point (694m) where we made a small hike along the Nature park of the High Fens. Much to our surprise (or naivity...it's not the first time anymore that we notice the temperatures are considerably lower up there. We should have known.) there was still snow and icy patches on the trails. The first signs of spring weren't very strong yet and in the foggy rain we seemed to be the sole walkers on the trails. Magnificent atmosphere!





On top of Belgium...on a 6 meter high monument reaching the full 700 meters




Warming up and discovering a local beer "Reinhardstein" named after the nearby fortress.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Page turner

As a child I could spend hours reading, flipping page after page in a rush to find out more until relief came at the last page. I got into trouble in music academy as I was sitting in class with my music sheets in front of me and my novel on my lap. When I had exams, I had to ensure to have brought all books back to the library if not they would have always received priority above my class books. It didn't stop me procrastinating though as I became an expert in kneeding gumm bolls from eraser residue which I could then turn into eg self-made dices for games .


Although I still continuously read books over the last years, it's in a much more interrupted way with an average speed of a bit more than 1 book per month. Although I often long to simply disappear into a story again for a longer time, I rarely have the time or concentration or interest to keep reading for more than 15 minutes at a time.

In vacations that can be different. On our last day in Egypt (mandatory non-diving time before our flight) I continued reading a thriller from Michael Connelly: "Echo Park". It's not the first time that his books manage to keep me in their grip although usually it takes a few dozen pages to get into it. This time was no different.

After a while I looked-up and told my friend "uh oh, some more people died, shit, it really started". When I was asked a bit later if I'd feel for a walk I could only answer "Nope, I'm in the middle of something here, but don't worry, I'm progressing well, I should be done in 1-2 hours".


And for the first time in probably more than 20 years, I finished a book in 4-5 hours of almost non stop reading (which includes the start on the previous day). Wow, that felt good :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Signs

I've seen the first open daffodils today. (exit highway in Rumst). Yeaaay
And in Leuven the first crocusses are open on the vest. Yeaaay.
And our windows were open today. Yeaaaay



....I love the first signs of spring

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Made in Belgium: Vive la fête

Time for some party :). Today I want to present Vive la fête , an electronic band from Ghent, to you all. Founded by an ex-dEUS band member and his girlfriend, this band often brings music which trigger a lot of 80ies nostalgia to me. Apparently they are quite hot in the fashion world and are often played on the catwalk.

I do enjoy their sound, but don't think I'd enjoy a full album of it. How about you?


Vive la fête - Ne Touche Pas



Liberté



Nuit Blanche

Monday, March 15, 2010

Voucher madness

Our little slate in the kitchen was completely full so we really had to go run some errands. Weaponed with our grocery list we headed to the nearby Delhaize. One of the things I like about this store are the self-scanning devices which you use while filling up your cart and which allow you to skip the lines at the cash registers, (unless you're occasionally elected for a control after which you need to unload your goods after all).
Ah the joys of technology enabled efficiency that make you go faster at the check-out, faster than you are able to glance at the headlines of the exposed gossip magazines to learn who's cheating on who. So fast that you almost regret not having chosen a conventional way to check-out.

Well ....it's faster up to the point you need to pay. Because then of course you first need to give your loyalty card. Every store has its own loyalty card and since you're shopping there anyway, why wouldn't you take it and enjoy the perks that come along? I make sure I always have have the correct card at hand at the check-out so I don't have to dig into my cluttered purse and browse through my collection of loyalty cards in there.

And then of course you shouldn't forget to put the discount vouchers that you've collected on your way through the alleys or which you've cut out at home in promotion folders, on the conveyer belt. Those don't always work with the scanning devices so they must be handled afterwards. Apparently the Belgians are the most promotion bon crazy culture in the world. Belgian marketeers clearly believe we distrust price promotions directly applied in the displayed price, so they attach a stickers on the products or put vouchers on the displays to take along and to be subtracted of the bill at the cash register. At least it gives the customer the certitude that the price got lowered and the marketeer might hope that people forget to bring the voucher along. Even 'better' are those promotions that give your product as free trial : first you pay and then you mail the voucher with all your details to the Belgian promo agency after which the money + value of a stamp will be credited on your bank account. Why would you oppose a little bit of administration if you can get a product for free? And the marketeers are filling up their databases with interested people so it's a nice win-win situation.

Anyway so we were at the cash register and the final balance to pay had finally been established.
"That makes a total of x Euros please"
"We'd like to use our food cheques to pay"

The Belgian wages are one of the most highly taxed in the world, so the government has worked out a system of non-taxed incentives over the last decades. 40% of all Belgian employees receive paper 'food cheques' that can be used as means to pay for food products in stores, restaurants, etc...

"No problem, which value please?

Damn! A little bit stressed I grabbed in my purse to see whether I'd first find Jan's or my envelop of cheques since they each have a different monetary value and also different due dates. Hmm no, first I found the ecocheques, one of the measures that our government took last year to help out its poor citizens suffering from the financial crisis by boosting them with yet another cheque to be exchanged for ecological products (Kyoto's deadlines are coming up soon I guess, so why not invent something new that would look good in Kopenhagen?). We all still have to figure out what to do with those but we still have nine months before they become invalid. Maybe some of our CFL's will need replacement by then. No wonder we are all voucher/certificate/cheque crazy if our own government stimulates the employers to pay out part of the wages in this kind of stuff!
... Ah and that's the gift voucher my employer gave me in the contest they organised last year for the employee cutting down the fuel usage of their company cars most drastically. Thanks for being ill and immobile after surgery in the second quarter I somehow ended up with a gift certificate as well. Thanks for that!

"7 euro"
"Ok you can give me 12"
"Here's the last 8"
"The balance is still ...."
"I also have a few 5 euro cheques which I'd like to use".

You receive those every time you reach 500 points on your Delhaize loyalty card. Unlike some other stores that collect points that you can exchange for some lousy products that you'd never want, Delhaize gives you a cash credit on your bill. Handy.

In the end we had managed to settle our entire bill with vouchers and certificates without having exchanged any money.
"And you are entitled to 2 new loyalty cheques" she said while handing me 2 of the same vouchers I had just paid with together with my cash ticket. Euh...yeah right, sure. Thank you.


Ah the joys of technology-enabled efficiency. I'm so glad the store has self-scanning to make it all go smoother!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Diving

That f*cking wetsuit
is a frustrating hassle
to get in and out

************

My right hand covers
my mask and regulator:
ready to jump...SPLASH

************

My breath bubbles up
in a multitude of bells
until they surface

************
We stare in the blue
at the queue of the rattle
hoping to see it

*************

Float'n through schools of fish
above bright waving corals
cornucopia

***************


Leslie at My Mommy's Place is organising her bi-annual Haiku Buckaroo Contest. It's not too late to enter yet! Don't forget to visit other participants!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Made in Belgium: Customs

Customs made their debut in 2009 and scored a huge hit with "Rex" immediately with a number 1 position in De Afrekening on Studio Brussel. I really really loved it and dedicated a post to them last fall.
At that moment they had just launched their second single "Justine". At first I had to get used to it a bit and didn't think it would become such a good hit as Rex but I was wrong. This band from Leuven (!) has scored again.


Enjoy ....and don't forget to check out Rex as well


Justine

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Choir magic

A voice rises up
to join the other voices
into harmony



Interested in our choir concert in Leuven? Mark April 25 in your agenda!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weather shock

If you come from this (temps > 25C)



...it's quite painful to touch ground again in freezing temperatures and see salt trucks on the road and read that the ski slopes in the Ardennes have once again opened. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. When's spring going to start?

Fortunately today is a sunny day which is nice inside behind glass :p

What it is all about...

It's not about all the equipment...




It's not about getting briefings...



It's not about getting in and out those wetsuits all the time or cleaning masks, etc...





It's not about the best jump...




It's not about logging dives ...






But it's about that moment you can go under to find the tranquillity and wonders of the underwater world. Aaaah blessfull.




And of course it's also about relaxing



Friday, March 5, 2010

Last week I was visiting some friends in Egypt

It was so great seeing them again. We had a great time and I miss them so much already. Aaaah tough goodbyes.

Jack & Olly the banner fish



Chloe the crocodile fish


Beatrice the bat fish & her friends


Sven the star fish


Peter the sea pipe


Chris the cornet fish


Morris the giant murray


Louise the lion fish



Peggy the parrot fish


Nemo and his dad


Mike & Fred the milk fish


Gus the marbled grouper


Mr Ray