Archive for November, 2010

Working from Home

As most of you already know, I’ve recently started work at my internship. It’s a part-time gig, but I still have to work everyday. And right now, that’s kind of perfect for me.

Going into my 3rd week working, I’ve discovered a few things that I really like, and just a few I dislike about working from home.

To begin, working from home is awesome. Do you need a list of reasons why it’s so awesome? No? Well, I’m going to give you one anyway. I love lists:

1. No commute = I don’t have to spend 10 euro/day getting to and from Brussels! WOOT!

2. You can roll out of bed at 8:45 and still make it to work at 9.

3. Don’t have to bring/buy a lunch

4. I get to eat lunch with Trevor 🙂

5. Don’t have to dress up in my best work clothes

6. The hours are super flexible

Just so you know, I still do get dressed for work everyday, even if it’s just jeans and a t-shirt. I mean, I am still at work. And I do have to commute to Brussels at least once a week on Fridays, so it’s not like I never see my co-workers/boss ever. Plus, this gives me a good excuse to get out of my tiny, stuffy apartment.

There are also a few downsides about working from home, though, I would say they are upstaged by the upsides. However, there are times when I would prefer to be in an office. These include:

1. Having to use my limited internet bandwidth to Skype with co-workers

2. Sometimes spending the entire day in my tiny apartment

3. My butt gets really sore from this chair

4. Being forced to listen to Trevor’s cacophony of noises which include, but are not limited to:

  • playing the same Michael Bolton song 9 times in one day
  • his chewing noises as he is in a constant state of eating something or other (he’s munching on a carrot as I write this)
  • his angry and/or excited exclamations as he reads the latest soccer news headlines

Not mentioned above is the fact that this internship is unpaid which is an obvious con! However, paid or not, it doesn’t change the fact that working from home is awesome, and I love it. Really, I recommend it. You should try it sometime. As long as you don’t have anybody chewing in your ear all day, I’m sure you’d enjoy it as much as me!

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Gobble gobble

If there’s one thing Belgians truly excel at, it’s having holidays.  Of course, here they’re not called holidays; they’re called Feestdagen (literally “Party Days”).  Since we’ve been here, there have been four, and there are even a couple more before we head home for Christmas.  But the Belgians, even with all their holiday taking, their minimum four weeks of paid vacation per year, and their two—count them, two—Christmases (more to come on the first one, Dec. 6, later), still haven’t had a holiday to match a good old-fashioned US Thanksgiving.

So with the prospect of another Thanksgiving away from home and our families (our third straight as a couple) looming, Linds and I were a little down.  Not too down, of course—it’s bloody Thanksgiving, and for my own part, the “Minnesota nice” in me rebels so strongly against any feeling of unthankfulness on or leading up to the day that I distrust even the tiniest internal display of dissatisfaction.  But even when we were in Boston, at least we were surrounded by a wonderful community of people we had grown to know and love, and who, perhaps more importantly, could really cook.

We didn’t expect much out of the day this year.  Linds had to work on Thursday, and I had to prepare for class on Friday.  Far from our families, our hometowns, from Theology House (which had become our home away from home for the holiday), even from football, there just wasn’t a very high likelihood that we’d get to have a real Thanksgiving like we had in Boston or at home, and we’d largely resigned ourselves to that fact.

Somehow, though, we found ourselves just as blessed as in years past.
How we were a part of a miraculous Thanksgiving, plus pictures after the jump!  (more…)

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Sometimes the little differences are things that stick with you most from place to place.  Take for instance, fire hydrants.  How often do you really notice them, aside from when you’ve accidentally parked next to one or when something nearby is on fire?

Honestly, I could have gone my whole life under the assumption that fire hydrant technology is pretty much the same everywhere, having plateaued years ago.  But one trip to Liege changed all that.  One trip, and this little feller.

Isn’t he cute?

In a moment, my eyes were opened to a whole world of fire hydrants.  Well, not really.  But this photo does beg a few questions:

  • Are there other cities around Europe which also have their own, specially designed fire hydrants?
  • If so, who is catering to these cities’ needs?  Is there a dedicated fire hydrant factory somewhere?  A whole company?  Can I take a tour?
  • And what’s so advantageous about this particular design?  Is it functional, or is it simply aesthetic?
  • Did the designer take inspiration from two monsters from The Legend of Zelda and Admiral Ackbar?

While new worlds haven’t exactly been opened before my eyes, I do truly wonder if we’ll keep finding quirky versions of mundane objects in our continued travels.

Here’s to hoping.  Hit the comments if you’ve found any other excitingly normal objects in your own travels.

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So all you blog frequenters are probably scratching your heads thinking, “Didn’t they already write a post about how laundry is different? Why are they writing about it again? They must really be running out of ideas. Did I leave the oven on? Do I even have an oven?” But soldier on, dear readers. I swear, this post is different, more different, than the last one on the same topic.

We decided to celebrate Lent late this year by forgoing laundry for at least 40 days since our last visit to the laundromat. You may, or may not, be surprised at how much dirty clothing can accumulate between two people in a 26 square meter apartment. I kid you not, we piled our darks alone into two jam-packed suitcases and wheeled them to the (newly discovered) nearby laundry-doing facility. We’ve separated the whites, sheets, and towels, but they are for another day. We just can’t take the financial strain of washing them yet, and the token machines don’t take credit cards, so this is all coming straight out of my liquid assets.

You might be wondering what “expensive” means over here in terms of laundry-doing. Let me clarify. “Expensive” clothes-washing in Boston was when they raised the price of drying by 25¢ to $1.50/load. Quarters take on a whole new value when they are the only means of paying for laundry. However…


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Leuven Rules!

So in our 2 months in Belgium, Trev and I have day-tripped to a few other supposedly worthwhile destinations in this tiny, diverse country. After so far visiting Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, and Liege, we’ve come to the conclusion that Leuven is just the best.

Oh, I know what you will say. “You only say that because you live there, and you’ve have had time to get to know its quirks, its shops, its streets, and its bars and restaurants.”

This may very well be the case in some instances, but hear me out. Just because I say I like Leuven better than the rest of the cities previously mentioned, doesn’t mean those other cities aren’t great in their own way (except Liege which truly sucked), they just don’t have the same charm, beauty, convenience, or vibrant student population as Leuven does. I will proceed to compare Leuven to the above listed cities and tell you why, in my opinion, the city in which I currently dwell is superior.

Follow after the jump for photos and in depth comparisons.


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As you might know if you’ve been following along, Lindsey, Lindsay, and I made the trip to Liege this weekend.

Somehow, we got much more and much less than we bargained for.

The “much more” came in the form of the creepiest, longest, most crowded and inescapable carnival that any of us had ever seen—Liege’s “October Fair,” which for some unfathomable reason occurs in November.

Below is one of my favorite sights from the evening—a faux-Wendy’s burger trailer.  How do you say classic double with cheese in French?

Follow along after the jump for a photo tour of the rest of the weirdness. (more…)

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We’ve been planning for some time to introduce a couple of knew post categories, and since I feel so bad for leaving many of you in the lurch with that last one, I thought it’d be prudent to lay one on you.

This week’s installment of Belgian Products comes to us from a window front in Liege.  You might be able to find it, if you ever attempt to follow the signs to the city centre, but you’ll also be forced to walk about 3 miles next to absolutely nothing while you contemplate whether Liege is actually a city.  Of course, if you completely ignored the signs and many maps that litter the path from the train station up the riverfront, you’d be able to completely skip this store front, along with about 2 miles of boring.  As a result, you’d get to the city centre much more quickly than we did.  But then again, you’d never know about this fantastic Belgian product.

Yes, it’s the saddle chair, and though it’s available all over the world, it was the first time we’d ever seen one, and it was featured pretty prominently in one Belgian window display.

So what is it that could possess someone to purchase one of these maniacal, medieval torture chairs?  Well, maybe you enjoy coming home from work with sadle sores.  Perhaps you’re looking for another reason to wear those spiffy, $50 cycling trunks with the maxi pad  in them in addition to your morning bike ride.  Or who knows, maybe you’re sick of having that pesky external genitalia.

Or maybe you think they’re … comfortable?  But then you’ll have to try to convince me that this woman looks comfortable.

Whatever the reason, we hope not too many Belgians are using these at the office.   It could spell disaster for their birthrate.

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An inDSent proposal

This post may go over the head of many of our readers, and for others it may miss the mark entirely.  Specifically, it may not be very pertinent to you if you don’t own one of these.  (Don’t worry though, Linds and her friend Linds are on their way back from Brussels, and they’ll probably have something for y’all before Monday is done.)

No, not the beer; the Nintendo DS.

This little device, despite having been available in various forms since 2005 (an entire era has passed since then, in terms of tech development), has got a pretty amazing ability.  It can let me play games with you from across an ocean.

Why haven’t we done that?  Seriously.  Here I am, having a DS.  And there many of you are, having your own DS and playing many of the same games I am playing a world away.  Howsabout you and me get together for some Mario Kart?  Howsat sound?  Hmm?  We can do a couple laps, have a balloon battle, maybe trade some paint?

Keep following after the jump for a list of games I’ll be playing while I wait for you guys to get online.

Also, rubbin is racin. (more…)

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Market Day

I love market day.  (You can tell that Lindsey and Lindsay do too.)

It’s one of my very favorite things about Leuven.  Twice a week, two separate city squares are completely blocked off from traffic and filled with impromptu tent cities filled with, well, everything.

Need some fruit?  Well, if you need a pallet of it—TROIS EURO!
Bread?  Yeah, we got that.
Fish?  It’s on ice, just past the guy selling kitchen cleaning solutions.
A five kilo wheel of edam cheese?  Sure, if you can pick it out from the 90 other cheeses piled around it.
A sweater vest?  Why not?!  Socks?  Who doesn’t like to buy socks within seconds of buying bread.  (I personally don’t ever purchase socks unless I’ve got bread on hand.)
Spiced olives?  Nuts?  Candy?  Waffles?  Used glasswares that a  couple has obviously stolen from bars?  Women’s underwear?

Wait … what?  Oh yeah.  The market’s got that too.

And though the prices may not be quite as good as can be found at the local grocery store every week, the value of market day’s ability to help shake up a diet and a Friday afternoon simultaneously can’t be overlooked.  Other cities have got bigger, more hectic, but cheaper markets (Brussels daily flea market is a great one), but there the risk of getting older, lower quality fruit increases—to say nothing of your likelihood of being pickpocketed going through the roof.

The best part of the market, though, is the connection you feel not just to the food, but to the people you’re buying from and around.  The strange, spontaneous, but subtle excitement that comes from buying whatever your heart desires from a real live person—who actually freaking hands your purchases to you—can’t be denied.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider that once you’ve gotten to know a grocery store (a great feeling unto itself), you don’t have to speak to a single person until you’re prompted to pay.  With self-pay, you don’t even have to do that anymore.  The only moment you’re likely to touch another person during the whole experience is in the unlikely event that your hand brushes the cashier’s as you take your change.

Follow the jump for more, plus cute puppies and unidentifiable, exotic fruit.


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It’s been awhile since we’ve posted a door picture. Thought that some of you would enjoy this one:

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