Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Musée d'Art Fantastique

Brussels is a strange town. You never know what you're going to find, or where a particular path will lead you. I thought I had gotten used to this, and that there wasn't much left that could surprise me. How wrong I was.

I went to the Horta Museum for the first time last week with some guests that had been staying over. The house was gorgeous with the feeling of almost being a living breathing being. There was something beautiful to be found in every detail to the point where it became difficult to process it all.

After being so stimulated and moved by such a work of art, we left to make our way home. It was only a few doors down we came upon something so strange, so bizarre, so completely different that we decided to stop in for some comic relief. This was the Musée d'Art Fantastique, and fantastic it was. There was a beer festival going on at the time, so we couldn't resist going in. We were greeted by this:
And this was only the beginning. I don't know if I can properly describe some of the things I saw, so I suppose I will just have to let these pictures give an idea. You had better believe I'll be going back the week of Halloween! So enjoy, and if you are in Brussels and you are up for something... well, like this, go. Gawk. enjoy.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Romance in the Cheese Aisle

One thing I've really had to get used to while living in Brussels, and really, Europe in general, is lack of space. In the US, especially in the suburbs, there's nothing but space. The roads are wider, the restaurants bigger, the aisles in the grocery store are big enough for 2 carts at once! Imagine!


Here in Brussels I feel like I'm in the way everywhere I am. Waiting to be seated in a restaurant anywhere I stand I'm in the way. Shopping for clothes I have to squeeze between racks to let other people past. On some of the sidewalks it's impossible to walk by another person without touching them.

Of course, this closeness, this lack of space is always made more difficult by certain individuals who seem to have no concept of the people around them. People will walk down the narrowest of sidewalks 3 in a row (slowly) and will make no move when someone tries to go the other way or pass them. Crates are left blocking half an aisle in stores where a child will have parked his or her tricycle blocking the other half. People will MAKE OUT in front of the cheese section of Delhaize making it impossible to reach the parmesan or gouda! I mean, really. The cheese section?

So maybe I'm a spoiled American (ok, I definitely am), but at least I don't feel the need to have some tongue with my cheese.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Kitty Dance...


Inspired by the orange thread.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eew, bugs...

I hate bugs.

I don't think this comes at a surprise to anyone that knows me. I don't even really think this comes as a surprise to those people that don't know me, but have seen me around bugs. The make me do crazy things like jump around and shriek at awkward times. I would not do well in the rainforest. I would almost certainly be making more noise than the monkeys, while my leaping around would frighten off any other interesting wildlife.

So now that you have that background...

I was in Holland last week, er, 2 weeks ago? It doesn't really matter. In any case, I was in the South of Holland with all the trees, where the average age can't be lower than 65. I was sitting outside with Miguel and most of his family eating dinner at the hotel, when a bug decides to fly over to me and land on my shirt. (They are like cats, the are instantly attracted to the person that is most disgusted with them.) I maintain a certain level of calm as Miguel goes to casually brush it away. Only, it doesn't go as planned. Oh no.

I can see by the look on his face that something has gone horribly horribly wrong. And that I'm not going to like it. Yep, that icky little bug has gone DOWN my shirt. Shit. How do you maintain any level of dignity in front of your in-laws whilst digging around the front of your shirt for a bug? A bug that you're afraid to touch? It looked like I was trying to fondle myself. At dinner. Shit. The alternative was to strip. Which is better (or worse?)??

Mercifully, before my shirt was clean off, Miguel said, oh, it flew away, it's gone. Now, I was pretty skeptical, I didn't see it fly away. I thought I could still feel it. But when the alternative was stripping, I thought ok, maybe it really is gone. I tried to calm down, but I was still laughing/crying from panic and sheer embarrassment for a good while.

So, the meal ends. (I know you didn't think the story was over yet...) We go back to our room. I had not yet forgotten about this bug, and I was anxious to make sure it had indeed flown away. Miguel had confessed later that he lied, and that he hadn't seen it fly away. Shit. I got undressed with my eyes closed and asked him to check.

He laughed.

There it was, squished and plastered to my boob. Not that I saw it, my eyes were closed the whole time. He brushed it away. I cried. Then laughed. Then cried.

I hate bugs.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cat Saga


I have been meaning to post about this for some time, but have put it off for good reason. Anyway, here goes.

Last month, Miguel and I were walking from the Foire du Midi to De Bruckere to see a movie. We were nearly to Bourse, when across the street we saw a black and white cat in front of a convenience store. We decided to go over and check it out, since we rarely (if ever) see cats on the street here. This cat was hanging out on a busy sidewalk, not flinching at people or dogs, just standing her ground. I thought this was strange, especially since our cats are scared of everything. She came up to us, so I started petting her and convinced Miguel to go to the store we were standing outside of to get some food. As soon as he was near the door she started meowing (she had a deep, loud meow) and going crazy! We tried to get her some water too (by buying a styrofoam carton of figs, taking out the figs and pouring water in there). The moment we openend the tin of food she was at it. She had bits of it all over her face, and we could tell she had been starving.

At this point I had seen enough and refused to leave her there, though Miguel was worried about making her our problem. (At this point I had guessed she was a girl because many people here do not fix/sterilize their animals.) We asked for a box in the convenience store, which he gave us reluctantly, but when I tried to put her in it she jumped right out. One of the neighbors in the same building as the convenience store had been watching all this played out, and threw us down a roll of packing tape. (We also found out from another neighbor that the cat had been around there for a few days.) I put the cat back in the box and held it shut while Miguel taped it up. She struggled a bit, and meowed as we walked her home (a schlepp from Bourse). As we walked I began to get nervous. I had already called my vet at home (on a Saturday night) as well as everyone I knew that might be able to take her in. I was reluctant to bring her home because I didn't know if she was healthy and I did not want to expose our cats to anything.

By the end of it, no one was able to help, and I didn't feel right about leaving her in a park, so we took her home and locked her in our (very large) bathroom. After spending some more time with her, petting her (which she loved) and feeding her a bit more, we noticed that she was skin and bone... everywhere but her belly.

I immediately left the bathroom, grabbed my computer and googled "how to tell if a cat is pregnant." According to what I read, we indeed had a pregnant kitty on our hands. So what was left to do but give her a name? We settled on Fabiola (also thename of the queen of Belgium). We were resolved to at least get her to a shelter, though they were all closed on Sunday, so it had to wait until Monday.

During this time I made sure she was well fed, had plenty of water, a warm bed and a toy to play with. She got plenty of attention, and we began to grow attached. She purred when petted, she purred when she ate, she meowed when we came in the bathroom, she played with us, used the litter box like a pro, but mostly she slept. I became resolved to do everything I could for her, though I knew that adopting her, especially in her condition and with 2 cats of our own, would be next to impossible.

So Monday rolled around and I found a list of all the shelters in the Brussels area and called all of them, asking if they had room for our little, up-the-spout Fabiola. All but one, Blue Cross, were full. When I called Blue Cross all they said to me was bring 10 euros. I can't say that this gave me the best feeling about the place, but there was no other option. Laura, a friend of mine, and I decided to go that very morning. I packed Fabiola up in a carrier (one we no longer use for our cats), and carried her to the taxi hub nearby. 14 euros later, we were at the shelter and talking to the woman at the front desk.
She spoke no English, took my 10 euros, asked a couple of questions and summoned a guy from the back room. He lifted the carrier and took her though a door, down a corridor. Not having had a chance to say goodbye, I asked the woman at the front desk if he could bring her back, she told me in cold French no, and mentioned something about microbes. I tried to argue with her, but my already mediocre French failed me, more so because I was growing more upset by the second. There was nothing to be done. I couldn't get her to listen to me and I could no longer keep the tears behind my eyes. We had to go.

The taxi driver was waiting for us, as he said he would, and as soon as we got in the floodgates opened. Thank god Laura was there, if only to give me a much needed hug. We got back and I called Miguel in tears, begging him to come home for lunch, which he did. I explained what had happened, and he decided to call to see if we could get her back. The gist of that phone call was that no, we could not get her back. We had signed the cat over to them. Not only that, but they didn't have to release any information about the cat and it would have been illegal for us to keep her.

Now, I understand that she may have belonged to someone else, but any vet here can check for a chip or a tattoo (which most pets have here). Also, it's entirely possible that once her owners found out that she was pregnant they got rid of her on purpose. It then occurred to me that what if all the shelters had been full? Would it still be illegal? What were you supposed to do then. It turns out, if that is the case, you just have to leave the cat where you found it. To me that is just unbelievable.

So we got no more information from the shelter. I would think that when it's a person's job to care for strays and take in animals they would be more compassionate. More understanding. Nicer. I just couldn't believe my experience. One thing is sure though, in case Fabiola's time is running out at the shelter they have my number and will call me.

So that is the end of the story. I know it's not the best of endings, but I do take comfort in the fact that she will at the very least be fed and well looked after.


If you read this and are looking to adopt a cat or kittens, the website for the Blue Cross in Belgium is here. Fabiola is not listed yet, but I imagine that is because she is still nursing.


Overheard in Brussels

I was walking into town with Miguel yesterday, and as we walked by an Italian restaurant we heard: "Guarda la questa bianca bianca!" (Look at that extremely white girl!) I didn't think much of it, until I turned around and saw that they were pointing at me! I know I'm pale, but I didn't know I was that pale! *sigh*

Monday, August 9, 2010

Our Nightly Concert...

video

This video was taken from our bedroom window at about 12:45am. He had been singing for about a half an hour before the video and is still singing now. Grrr....

*Update* He just stopped, it's now 1am. I yelled "Arete!" down there, which seemed to do nothing, and was about to call the police when he left! Miguel said I should have blown my Vuvuzela at him. That's a much better idea....

Come back singing guy... Here singing guy...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Now You're in Brussels..."

I heard this song on the radio at Delhaize the other day and nearly fell over laughing! And now, thanks to The Belgian Waffle I have video! I am practically in tears laughing. My god.

*edit* Scratch what I said before. I actually have tears streaming down my cheeks right now from laughing so hard.



PS., Here is the original song by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys for comparison. And oh, what a comparison.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Of Baking and Patriotism

So it would seem that I am destined to be followed around by the letter B. Why, you ask? Let's see. My name is Brody. I live in Brussels, Belgium. I'm a blogger. And now, I bake! Professionally!

I had the absolute luck to be approached by the owner of a rather nice cafe here in Brussels to begin baking for them! He had heard I baked from another cafe owner and friend, and decided to give me a shot! Now, I have never in my life baked on such a large scale as I am required to do with this job. 12 cakes at a time, measuring flour and sugar by the bag, but, though I was daunted at first (and still am a bit) I find that I'm getting used to it, and actually really enjoying it. The only downside is... the heat. I know, I know, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And really, once I get going, it's not so bad. But when the weather is right around 90F (32C), and you are stuck in a basement kitchen doing heavy lifting with ovens blazing, well, then we can talk!

The great thing is, I love doing it. I've always loved baking (probably because then I have something tasty to eat), and so far I still do. I was posed the question last night that since I bake so much now, do I still enjoy doing it on my own time. I tested that out today, the 4th of July, by making an American flag cake. That was my plan for my big show of patriotism (as of last night after some bowling and a few beers).

My idea was to get some food coloring at Delhaize and use 3 different colors of frosting to decorate. Easy, right? Well, this is Belgium, so, wrong. No food coloring to be found (where I could have sworn I saw it before), so I decided to get a bag of M&Ms thinking to use those instead. When I got back home I found that I did have blue food coloring and colored red sugar sprinkles, score! Here are pictures, it's not the most beautiful cake ever, but at least it was tasty!
My friend Laura, also American, came over to share the cake with us. Fun was had by all!

So there you have it, I still enjoy baking, especially when it's an imperfectly rendered symbol of patriotism!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Sign from Above

Yesterday was the kind of day (with regard to weather) that makes you feel lucky to be alive. It was that perfect temperature, warm in the sun with a stiff cool breeze, and not a cloud to be seen. I decided to go for a walk in the royal park, bring a book, get some ice cream, make an outing out of it.

After a nice walk, I got an ice cream cone and sat down at the perfect empty table, partially in the sun, partially in the shade. I was concentrating on not letting the dripping ice cream get all over me and thinking to myself: "Today, I really like Brussels." No sooner had I finished that thought in my head... *SPLAT* A bird shit (or shat?) on my table, the splatter narrowly missing my purse. And I mean a big shit. That thing rocked the table!

I laughed, a little stunned, wondering if I should move (but where to? All of the other tables were taken) or if I should worry about getting a special delivery on my head or even in my purse. Is bird poop like lightening? Will it strike the same place twice?

I tried to maintain my calm, ice cream-in-the-park attitude, but all I could think about was what would I do if a bird pooped on my head, like, would I laugh or cry? Would I take the metro home or walk? And so, the mood was effectively ruined and I decided to head home.

So what do you think, was it a sign?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Camera Troubles...

So I have had bad luck with cameras lately! I bought my camera (a nice little Canon Powershot SD870 IS) 2 years ago, and up until recently it has served me very well. Now, not so much.

First, the screen started to give out, strips of pixels just died. Then more patches were gone! Because the camera doesn't have an optical viewfinder, this is very annoying. But ok, I was willing to deal with it, since the spots didn't show up on my pictures. Fine.

Well, I decided to break out the camera yesterday to try to capture a pic of Cleo and Sophie getting their play on. I was taking pictures and video, no problem... until I decided to look at them. In every picture there was a fuzzy black line from the top of the screen to the bottom, and it was darker when I had the camera zoomed in. Ok, I thought, maybe it's just the camera and it won't show up on the pictures! WRONG. Examples:
It's just my luck, too, that the flower carpet is this year! It only happens every other year, and here is a picture someone else took of it:So while normally I would be content enough to wait a few months and save for a camera, all I can think of now is NEED CAMERA NOW. It doesn't help that after playing around with Dad's camera for a while, I am seriously coveting a Canon Powershot G11.

Time to get schem- er, saving...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Observation

The weather has been really lovely here the last few days, and it has put me in a great mood! I was walking around in the sunshine 2 days ago, going to check out DOD (why have I not gone there before?) and I was paying no attention to the sidewalk. Then it occurred to me: It is risky to walk along and pay no attention to the sidewalk in Brussels. One of two things will imminently happen. 1) You trip on the cobblestones, or 2) step in dog poo.

Ah, the sad truths of living in Brussels. Good thing there's plenty of chocolate!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shooting and Palais de Justice

Well, apparently Brussels is going to shit.

Miguel has been following the news a lot more closely in his new job, and just called to tell me that two people were JUST shot dead at the Palais de Justice; one judge and one court employee. At around 11am. On a Thursday. A beautiful sunny Thursday. WHAT THE HELL? Here's the info.

Last Friday night there was also a stabbing in Place Flagey. No one was killed, but three injured.

Finally, I only recently found out about an attack at the Porte de Namur metro, MY metro stop, on New Years Eve 2009/10. One man was attacked and thrown from a good height onto the tracks. Though he survived, this attack probably scares me most of all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

OH. MY. GOD. WANT.


Please, oh pleeeeeease someone get this for me!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Of Crime Shows and Imaginations

So I really have an obscene amount of things I need to post about, not the least of which is my parents' visit now almost two weeks ago (le sigh), but I wanted to start with this.

I have come to the conclusion that I watch way too many crime shows. This is a fairly new thing for me, since I had never watched an episode of any of the acronym shows (the CSIs, NCIS) or the others: Bones, Criminal Minds, Castle, The Mentalist while in the US. Since moving here, however, it's all I watch, granted, it's the only thing that's on other than reruns of According to Jim or Charmed. So now Miguel and I have several "crime nights" a week.

Now, I fancy myself pretty used to seeing violent acts and stuff on tv, I don't really squirm when seeing a particularly gruesome body (though I usually choose not to eat much during those), nor do I have nightmares. Unfortunately, however, I think my tolerance is wearing off.

I have always been wary of going into a dark (supposedly) empty house or building (i.e. when house sitting, or during a power outage), but now my imagination is getting more vivid. When letting myself into the basement of the cafe, I often turn the lights on and look around for a body. When I get upstairs and open the bathroom or storage room door, I do the same thing, waiting to hear the heavy thud of something grisly falling out.

Now, today, not 20 minutes ago, my crazy imagination reared its ugly head here in my apartment. I had just stepped out of the shower, when I heard a heavy knock on the door. Not being prepared for a visitor, and kinda panicking, I yelled (in English) "Who is it??" No answer. I heard footsteps, and then a far off knock, probably upstairs. I tried to put it out of my mind despite my pounding heart and get on with my post-shower ablutions. No sooner had I turned on my hair dryer, there was another loud KNOCK-KNOCK, and no footsteps. I tiptoed by the door in my bathrobe with no intention of opening the door, all the while cursing my lack of peep-hole and praying that this was not some kind of attacker that could break through the door after realizing that there was no one else in the building. I waited silently for a while, listening, feeling my heart beat faster and harder than normal. After a while I heard the footsteps retreating back down the stairs and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I would live, at least for now, to see another crime show.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A little Introspection

Indecision. I have to wonder if it plagues anyone other than me, though I know deep down that it does.

I am so torn between whether I am self-centered and selfish to a fault, or selfless to the point of sacrificing my own happiness for that of others (or, in some cases, just one other). How do I know which? Or is it both, each being spurred on by the other.

All of my life I have been plagued by indecisiveness. When asked to pick a stuffed animal or 2 to have on my bed, I had to have all of them so as to hurt no ones’ feelings. When asked what was my favorite day of the week, my answer was all of them for different reasons (assignment failed). When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had 5 or more answers, depending on the day. I always thought that when I grew up, I would somehow know what it was that I wanted to do, whether it turned out to be veterinarian, marine biologist, concert organizer, writer... but the older I got, the more confused I became.

Every time I decided to focus on something new, I would make it to a certain stage, and then it would cease to be fun, or, what I had imagined it to be. Just like when I went to Sunday school at the local synagogue and quit the moment we started to actually learn Hebrew. I’m not sure if I lack the drive or focus, or if I just like too many things.

As it turns out, one of the upsides of this particular personality trait is that I’ve become a bit of a renaissance man (er, girl). I know a lot about a lot, just not enough about any one thing to be any kind of expert. I can tell you all about the parts of a cell, talk knowledgeably about taxonomy, quote many great writers, tell you all about music from the Middle Ages to what is playing on the radio as I type this. I can skillfully clean an espresso machine, snake a drain, train a cat, cook a delicious coq au vin. I can do all these things and more, but where does all the fit in on a CV/resume?

I feel that I have been trapped by Brussels. When people ask me how I, an American, came to live here, I find it hard to tell them the truth. I came here for my husband. I came here for him and for his job without a second thought to what I would do. Sure, I had TEFL certification, but did I really want to teach? No. It was merely a plan for something I could do until something better came along, though I still have no idea what that was supposed to be. I’ve lived here for 1 1/2 years, and I have never had both feet in the country. I have ideas like opening up an English language bookstore, or starting an English language newspaper, but I know those will take time, and I plan on being out of here in 2 years, maximum.

So what’s left for me here? I’m teaching a lesson or 2 a week, working part time (very part time) at a cafe and doing a tiny amount of baking (for said cafe), and I’m doing some babysitting on the side. Though I’ve applied for many an office job (at the US Embassy and NATO) I don’t really have the right skill set (or interest) for those kinds of jobs to make me all that happy. I don’t want to work for a big corporation, or a consultancy, and I really have no interest in public diplomacy. It doesn’t help matters that my French is barely functional. (I am really quite good at stating what I do not want and what I am not good at, but not so good at the opposite.) So, as it turns out, Brussels is not the best place for little old me.

But there I go, blaming Brussels, when, wouldn’t it be similar (if not just the same) anywhere I go? My indecisiveness would come right back to bite me in the ass, and I would be right back to where I am no, just at a different locale. What does this mean for my future? Am I doomed to work at jobs I am unhappy in (or, perhaps simply bored by) for the rest of my life? Should I just bite the bullet and get the non-ideal job, knowing that it does not have to be permanent, just so I have something to do with my time (not to mention an income)? Am I clinging too hard to my principles to let myself even have half a chance?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

1 Kiss, or 2? (Or maybe 3?)

As an American in Europe, I encounter all kinds of cultural differences and I try to adapt accordingly. These include everything from table manners (eating everything on the plate vs. stopping when full) to how direct to be when asking a favor (extreme American politeness vs. being straightforward to to the point). I have found problems with one, in particular, that until recently I remained silent about. Kissing people on the cheek. I have no problem with the custom, in fact, I think it's nice! No, my problem lies in the awkwardness of the nuances in that custom.

Some people kiss on 1 cheek. Right or left. Some kiss on both, right then left, or vice versa. Then you get into the 3 kisses, right left right? Left right left? Which way you go and how many often depends on the nationality of the person you are dealing with. But then, if a French person meets a Dutch person, whose style gets precedence? As an American, do I get a say in the style? If I start going left, does the other person have to go left? What if we both go in the wrong direction and bump noses (or worse, lips?)? What if I go for one, they go for 2, and I look like I don't like them, because I can only stand for 1 kiss? Or what about the opposite? If I go for another kiss and come on too strong? Or what if they don't do the kiss thing at all, and are really just going for a hug and I get it all wrong? Oh, the anxiety!

And then there's the kind of kiss. There's the actual full contact kiss on the cheek, the cheek touching and kissy noises (but no actual kissing), there's the cheek touch, but no kissy noises, the air kiss with no touching of the faces... I'm sure there are more, and all add to the anxiety fo these social encounters! So what if I go for a full on kiss on the cheek and totally offend someone who wants nothing to do with my lips on their face?

And then you get into how soon do you kiss people? Normally there's one meeting with just a hand shake and then after that kisses are fair game. But what if this is a business associate? A client? A friend of a friend? How many meetings does it take to get to that level of familiarity? Do people get offended if I get it wrong?

Perhaps there should be a standard way of doing it? Or if that is no good, what about a list of guidelines for the outsider (erm, me) so I don't feel so flustered every time I say hello or goodbye to someone and end up feeling completely awkward!

Though I have to say, I feel better knowing that this is a problem for others, including other Europeans! The Irish, the Germans, the French, the Dutch! I'm not alone! Still, though, I would love to have a version of the kiss greeting to stick to that could at least be somewhat universal. Anyone else?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Newspapers in Belgium

To whomever reads this in Brussels, or really, anywhere in Belgium...

I know there are daily newspapers like Le Soir and De Standaard online as well as the less regular Bulletin and Flanders Today, but do you feel the need for a more regular local newspaper in English? I find that I settle for not knowing what is going on around me rather than look online or try to decipher newspapers in other languages. Yesterday's incident made me realize that if the incident had not happened so close to me, I doubt I would have known about it at all. It really made me realize how little I know about the goings on in the country I live in.

So here's the question: If there was an English language free daily paper, would you pick it up? Read it? Even get it delivered? I'd love to hear any opinions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Armed Robbery, 1 Dead, 2 Injured

There are so many things I've been wanting to write about lately, and I will get to them. First, though, I have to address something that happened today very close to where I live in Brussels.

I live on Rue Saint Boniface, which is a very "up-and-coming" neighborhood with lots of restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. It also blends with the Matonge, which is the Congolese quarter. Many of the buildings are beautiful and boast Art Nouveau architecture. This area is also a real mixing pot of all different cultures, inhabited by immigrants, expats and even a few Belgians! It may have its faults, but I have really enjoyed living in such a dynamic and lively place.

Today, though, something happened that is making me consider moving to another area. I was just finishing lunch with Miguel, our friend Laura had just left with her little dog, Wilson, in tow. It was nice and sunny outside, so we had the window open. That's when we started hearing sirens. More and more sirens, prompting us to look out the window. Traffic was being re-directed, there were lots of police cars and some ambulances, then a helicopter circling. Miguel was about to go back to work, so he said he would check it out and let me know.

About 10 minutes later he called to tell me someone had been shot outside the jewelry store on Chausee de Wavre (just about a block from our apartment). He said they were blocking everything off and treating someone on the street, someone may have died. I went down to find the situation unchanged, I couldn't see much, but the helicopter continued to circle ominously.

I later came across this article (which can be translated via Google translate).

I'm still rather shocked about this. I know violence happens in cities, as do robberies, drug use, etc., but to have a violent crime happen just a stone's throw from my front door makes me uneasy to say the least.


UPDATE Both robbers in the Chausse de Wavre case were apprehended. Now, Brussels is dealing with another jewelry store robbery in Schaerbeek in which one of the assailants was killed and the other wounded by the shop owner. There was also a fatal shooting on the ring road as well as riots in Saint-Gilles.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today has been quite busy! Miguel's aunts and cousin are coming into Brussels tonight to stay for a couple of days!

I'm trying to be a good hostess and have the apartment clean and a nice dinner awaiting their arrival. The place is clean enough, I made brownies, coq au vin and I have a soda bread in the oven (it is St. Paddy's Day, after all!). So I'm finally having a sit while the bread bakes and the stew reheats!

Maybe it's time to start celebrating...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Stubborn, Optimistic American Abroad

There are so many differences between Belgium and the US. It's hard to know where to begin, it's also hard to stop myself from complaining sometimes. But...

I'm sure I've mentioned the lack of "service" in "customer service." Well, here I go again! On Friday night, Miguel and I went to the movies to see Shutter Island. The theater was packed and the movie was fantastic, but the problem came when I got home and realized I had forgotten my super-awesome Sigg water bottle in the cup holder of my seat. Miguel, being the wonderful husband that he is, and it being late (10:45pm, weirdos are out by then) offered to go back to retrieve it for me. So off he goes, braving the weirdos and clubbers on my behalf. Sadly, he returned a few minutes later, water bottle-less.

At first I thought he was joking when he said he had no luck. Apparently, the woman there said that he couldn't go up to the theater because there was a movie going on. Also, though he made it clear that it is an aluminum bottle (so I don't have to keep using plastic ones), she said it would probably have been thrown in the trash. Uh... what? She also radioed the clean up crew, who said they had cleaned the theater and found nothing. This was Miguel's report. He told me to leave it be and we could check again in the morning.

Maybe it's because I'm American, instilled with such values as optimism and stubbornness, but I was not about to accept that answer. I looked up the movie showings, and when Miguel had gone back there was no movie showing in that theater! Oy vey. So, to Miguel's protest, I equipped myself with my Swiss Army Knife and my cell phone and headed out to wage my battle with UGC Cinemas and retrieve my beloved water bottle.

I arrived (after talking to Miguel on my cell all the way there) and walked in feeling good. I explained in my horrible French that I had left my bottle there. She said yes, your husband was here, but there is a movie going on now. I said, in my stumbling, but forceful French, "No, there is no movie in that theater, I was in the last showing that ended at 10:30." She looked at her board and said ok, go ahead. Already I had done better than Miguel!

I schlepped up the stairs to theater 14, went through both sets of doors and burst into... a pitch black theater. I quite literally could not see my hand in front of my face (as Groucho Marx would say, "You wouldn't get much enjoyment out of that!"). I didn't dare to walk forward for fear of tripping over the seats, so I went back to the hallway. Luckily, I had brought my ipod touch, which has a handy dandy app called "flashlight" which is just a white screen that gives off just enough light to make a difference. With that on, I inched down the aisle seeing wrappers, plastic water bottles, etc. everywhere (they obviously had not cleaned that theater) until I came upon my very own light blue aluminum one! Triumph!

I went back downstairs thinking 2 things: How I won, and how I would gloat to the woman downstairs, but more importantly, to Miguel! The American way works! Of course, once I saw the woman again, I held up the bottle and said happily the equivalent of "I find it!" and then tried to push, rather than pull the door, looking more than a little like an idiot. Oh well.

So there you have it. Score one for the foreigner!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ga Ga for Gaga!

So this is a blog normally devoted to the trials and tribulations of living in Belgium. Well, and my cats. But I feel the need to post a little something different tonight.

I just bought my tickets to see Lady Gaga in concert in Antwerp! Love her or hate her, most people know of her, and have heard at least one of her songs or seen one of her crazy outfits. Some people dismiss her as "too weird" while others are of the opinion that she is, well, not all woman. Me, I find her (and her music) fascinating, intoxicating, bizarre, fun, addictive and just plain genius.

Her latest video if for the song "Telephone" which is featuring Beyonce. It is some kind of crazy mashup of Tarantino (Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill), Thelma and Louise, Michael Jackon, Madonna and of course, GAGA.



Just watch it. Trust me.

I also really liked this break down of all the action and themes.

So that's it for now, I cannot WAIT until May! Gaga, here I come!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jobs!

The time has come to find a job! A real job. Not just a lesson or two a week along with baking a couple batches of brownies for Ulric. Both of those things are good for an extra couple bucks, but the fact is, I (we) need more, and I want to be busier. So, since I got back to Brussels after the holidays I have been on a quest for the right job for me. Here in Brussels. Those 2 things don't seem to converge very often here, so this is a challenging project!

Option 1:

Teaching English at a school or getting jobs through a company. At this point, teaching at a school is MUCH more tempting. It would mean regular hours, not having to register as an independent (which would mean having to pay for insurance, pension, etc. out of pocket and in advance). I have applied to a childrens' language school here in Brussels, and have an interview on Friday! That should be interesting, and could be really good for me!

Option 2:

US Gov't. There are a couple of openings there that really interest me, an events coordinator and the other is to handle logistics for visitors (to Brussels or Belgium, I'm not sure). Both require someone who is detail oriented (definitely me) and someone who wants to deal with people a lot, and all different kinds of people at that, which sounds awesome. Not to mention that they pay generously, and I could get in with the American community there! So I need to get the info on the positions and get cracking!

Option 3:

Internship at the Radisson Blu (hotel). I'm not sure if the position is even paid, and I wouldn't be able to start until July, which is definitely a downside. The internship would be for 4 months, with the expectation that I would be hired when it was over. I can't say that it's something that really interests me, but at this point I suppose I should keep all my options open.

I am also totally open to other things that come my way, or at least I'm trying to be. I'm not all that interested in getting in with any of the European institutions, lobby groups or consultancies, and unfortunately that makes up a lot of the jobs here. Still, though, I'm trying to think outside the box and do whatever I can. In the meantime, there will always be the brownie baking and a couple individual lessons.

In other job news, Miguel has something big coming up, but I hesitate to give details, just in case I jinx it. So... more on that later!