Sunday, September 20, 2009

Every now and then...

We need to stop and smell the roses.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Return of Picture of the Day

Here we have Bob L'Eponge instead as "Bob le Gaufre" (Bob the waffle). How very appropriate!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back in Belgium

I'm back in Brussels, and while I am glad to be back, and glad to get back into the swing of things, I have immediately been made aware of the flaws of this city (and country). And no, I'm not just talking about the weather!

Just in the last couple days:

1) Slow service at restaurants/cafes- Now, I know this is the case in a lot of Europe, and I know that I'm American, and that the American system for servers (getting paid basically nothing and working for tips) is seriously flawed. And I even know that it's nice not to be bothered sometimes when you just want to sit with a coffee and a book, or with a beer and some friends for an extended period of time. However, if you need to make a movie or something, it is best not to even try to go out. Getting the check is an effort, and I have succeeded, once, in walking out on a 50 EUR tab (don't worry, I went back to pay the next day). We stood outside of the restaurant debating whether to go back in that night for 10 MINUTES, and no one came out to make us pay, or even noticed. Then the next day, it was actually difficult to pay. So I guess the restaurants here (like the public transportation system) run on guilt.

2) Bandwidth caps- These are basically a limit on how much you can use the internet, download and upload things. This is a pain in the ass. As soon as you go over your limit (20-50GB per month) not only are you charged per GB, but internet speed falls to about the same as dial up. Very few other countries have such things, and I'm sure if enough people complained about it they could be removed, but the people here seem to be overwhelmingly passive, and so, while living here I must conform. (This leads into the next topic...)

3) People are PASSIVE- If there is anything wrong here with service (restaurant, internet, phone, cable, heating, etc.) the way to deal with it seems to be to just accept that there are flaws and move on. No one wants to deal with said flaws, it's too much work, so they just let them go. The sidewalk on Chausee d'Ixelles has been torn up for God know how long (I trip every single day I go out) and does anyone ever think, hmm, perhaps we should fix this? Nope. (Part of the problem is there are large stones set in sand. Sand which shifts over time, causing those large stones to crack under the weight of so much foot traffic.) We just turn a blind eye, or, in this case, stare at our feet so we don't trip. With this explanation perhaps you can see how Belgium went without a government for 8 months.

4) The Post Office- I never have good luck at the post office. When packages come for me, apparently they ring the bell, but I'm suspicious, because even when I'm here ALL DAY, I don't hear it, and then have to go and pick whatever it is up. Also, I had friends visiting a couple months ago, they wanted to send some Italian olive oil back home to friends and family, so I took them to the good old post office (where the queen of mullets -short bangs, short above the ears, straight and all the same length in the back down to the base of her neck- is always on duty). Over a month later I went back to retrieve something, and they show me a beat up package which still contained it's bottle of olive oil. It took me 10 minutes of broken English to get them to give it to me, but also to get out of them that it had been sitting there for 2 weeks, and I hadn't been given any kind of notification! And the final straw: I sold my old laptop on ebay a few days ago, and I needed to send it out to the Netherlands. I took it to the post office, and surprise: it wasn't all that expensive! (yay) However, because it was over 3 kilos, it could not be insured. They don't do insurance. What the hell??? They actively try to sell you on insurance for packages in the States! And it was not allowed! You'd think the bigger the package, the more likely it should be insured! So fingers crossed it gets to its destination...

ALL of that said, Belgium is a nice country to live in. I have a nice apartment, I live in a great neighborhood and I enjoy my life here. But maybe, just maybe, they should put ME in charge of a few things.... (Muahahahahaha!)