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Archive for February, 2011

I’m now back in classes, and with two weeks of the current semester under my belt, I’ve become convinced that Belgium is, and has always been, out to trick me.

If you got a chance to read any of my posts concerning last semester’s courses, you’re probably aware that my favorite thing about KU Leuven has been the lack of busy work.  With minor assignments and the dread machinations known as “reflection papers” expunged from the curriculum, classes here seemed to be both stripped to the bare muscle of their being and simultaneously robed in abundance with layers of meaning.  It actually took some getting used to.

Oh, but now it’s back to ways which are far less foreign to my American sensibilities.  I even got three syllabuses (Syllabi? I like syllabi better.)!  Syllabi—in Belgium.  I barely know what to do with myself.  While I ponder it, I’ll probably write up a few reaction papers, mindless though they may be.

The shock my system is experiencing with this change of pace isn’t negative, though.  Quite the opposite.  While I don’t have as much time as I’d like to explore in-depth the subject matter we’re going over in each and every class, the classes themselves are pretty satisfying.  Last semester I only took four classes (while sitting in on another), and this semester I’ve got seven, so there was bound to be more stretching anyway.  I’m just glad that even the classes which aren’t in what I’d call my “wheelhouse” just happen to be focused on issues I’ve touched on before but never had the time to probe more deeply.

It’s like having an extra pile of files thrown on your desk at work when you’re already overburdened, but then finding that those files are filled with tasks you already do, or would like to, on your breaks.

But then there are those blasted reflection papers again.

I don’t know what it is about reaction papers that irks me so.  Maybe it’s that I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be reacting to.  The text?  The lecture?  Discussion?  My feelings?  The meanderings and eddies within my stream of consciousness, where the four  (or more) might meet?  If it’s the last, there will probably be drawings—usually involving a Platygator or a cowboy monkey riding a crotchety ostrich.


(Platygators are friendly but excitable creatures which can be found
primarily in notebooks and moderate climates. Their whimsically
mismatched nature makes them less than ideal study partners.
)

Maybe what makes me hate reaction papers so much is the way they make me feel.  At this level, they seem like some sort of academic Xanga blog.  It’s as though the professor is some out-of-reach girl that I’ve got a hopeless crush on—someone I hope will find and read (by chance) my deeply insightful and poetic thoughts, causing her to fall desperately in love with me.  Except in this scenario, my deeply insightful blog posts are about the process of theological development in the high middle ages.  Ugh.

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Regulars

(Behind me, you can see the Town Hall–the big Gothic building with statues all over.  Just one building toward me, with the white awnings staked out front, is one of our favorite night-time destinations, Brasserie Quasi Modo/Notre Dame.)

Just down the street from our apartment, there’s a bar/restaurant we frequent, called Brasserie Quasi Modo Notre Dame.  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  But it was one of the first restaurants we ever ate at here in Leuven (at the recommendation of an extremely kindly and helpful hotel clerk), and it’s become one of our most reliable destinations in the cities.  The food isn’t amazing, but it’s good, and it’s very affordable; the beer prices are the lowest we’ve found yet, even for fancier brews; and best of all, they take American debit cards, where many restaurants will only take Belgian cards or cash.

We’ve also continued going because it’s one of the few such establishments with a full bar area—it has two actually, one of which often sits empty because so few know about it—and is still considered a restaurant.  The distinction is key.  You can’t smoke in restaurants.

So on more than a few Friday or Saturday nights, we’ve found ourselves either starting or finishing at Notre Dame.  Sometimes it would just be Linds and I, but usually it’s with friends like Justin, Chris, and Abby.  Our visits have become so frequent, in fact, that we almost always sit at the same table (in the bar in the back), and we almost always have the same waiter—a man we named “Happy-face Sad-eyes,” for very obvious and very literal reasons.  Though I can’t explain how, his eyes always seem to be drooped in sadness, while the rest of his face attempts to compensate with a smile; the fight between the two is never-ending.  (I’d heard an old friend describe the same phenomenon once before.)

The events of each of our nights at the bar there were pretty unexceptional in most ways.  We’d come in, wait for too long to be seen by a server, order, get served, then finish our beers over conversation, wait on Happy-Face Sad-Eyes to stop ignoring us so that we could get another round, and repeat.

But last week, while at Notre Dame, we came to a strange and altogether unexpected realization—we realized that without trying, we’d become regulars. (more…)

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I know that some, if not all, of you read this blog solely because I contribute to it ;)… and therefore, you have been disappointed by my lack of contribution for the past few weeks. Let me now take this opportunity to update you all on what’s been going on.

First off, Happy President’s Day. I hope you celebrate by buying discounted cars and furniture. I would appreciate this ridiculous holiday if I were still at school and had the day off. However, I am stuck at home, not working, and bored. Most people don’t have the day off (which makes it not a real holiday in my book) except the US Postal Service. So now, I’m trapped in my house — yes trapped, for it is blizzarding 12 + inches outside — with no Netflix DVD to keep me company. I should have received it today, but since it’s a “holiday” it won’t arrive until tomorrow. Pity party for one.

Other than sitting alone in my house on this fake holiday/snow day, I’ve done a whole lot of nothing for the past few weeks. You may wonder why I wasn’t recording my adventures in snowy MN lately, but I thought that my close friends and relatives would not be terribly interested to know the mundane details that make up my life for the past month and a half.

But if you are dying to know what I’ve been up to, I’ll tell you…

I was only filling in as a receptionist in downtown Mpls until the company hired a permanent replacement for the last girl. That gig is now up, however, my relationship with that company is not. I got an in there in the first place because my mom’s friend works there (I mean, isn’t that how it works everywhere?) and she luckily needs lots of help with her job lately. As this help is temporary and I have nothing else to do, I obviously accepted. However, I’m at the mercy of the regional VP as to which days I can come in and work, etc. So basically, I’m working part-time for a woman in said office as her assistant. It’s decent money, and, like I said, I have nothing else to do, so I’m not complaining.

I told you you wouldn’t be interested…

But anyhoo, if you’ve made it this far in the post, I congratulate you! For now the more exciting news is presented. I have booked a return ticket to Belgium for March 17th!! Yes, by then I’ll have been in the good ol’ US of A long enough to return to Europe, and I cannot wait. I know this last month will probably be excruciatingly long as I count down the days till I get to see my fiance again, but I’m pumped!

So there you have it. Not much going on here besides the occasional blizzard/money-making. Speaking of which, if you have extra cash to spare for the “Lindsey-and-Trevor-Pre-Wedding-Adventure” Fund, donations are now being accepted. For as you may easily imagine, living abroad is expensive, especially when there’s very little income coming in.  Maybe I’ll set up a paypal account on the website 😉

Ok, that was a joke…unless you really want to donate, then I’m serious.

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How has it taken me this long to write a post about soccer?
Come to think of it, how has it taken me this long to go to a live soccer match in Belgium?

This Saturday, cold and drizzly though it was, was my first taste of European soccer on foreign soil. Oh, I’ve seen some big international teams play in the US (AC Milan v. Inter Milan at Foxborough, comes to mind), but I’ve never actually gotten to experience the energy of a European crowd supporting its favorite team. It also didn’t hurt that the home team won 4-1. Or that they have a guy called “El Toro” on the team.

Our team in town, called Oud-Heverlee Leuven (or OHL, for short), plays in the second division (a rough equivalent to our minor leagues, but with some twists), but the quality of play is really very good. Here are the highlights from the game. I thought about recording my own commentary to put over the video, since there isn’t any, but I’m afraid that watching sports with virtual, super-exuberant Trevor would be even more annoying than watching sports with actual, super-exuberant Trevor.

We’re cheering for the team in white.
The really good stuff comes at
1:26 (Goal Heist, the enemy)
1:52 (Goal OHL)
3:00 (Close call for OHL)
3:22 (AMAZING save by the OHL goalie, in which I think you can hear me exlaim)
3:55 (Goal OHL, and a great example of why you never give up on a ball going out of bounds)
5:27 (EXRUTIATINGLY close goal by OHL)
6:28 (El Toro scores a goal for OHL)

My friends Chris, Abby, and I showed up early for the game, for which we were rewarded with ridiculously cheap beer and fries (plus a free Valentine’s Day gift!). Seriously, these Belgians know how to do it right— € 1.70 for a smallish beer, and less than € 3 for fries for two. € 3 for a foot-long bratwurst with onions? Well, that one I’m saving till next time.
The game itself was amazing too, mainly because OHL went down 1-0 just 15 minutes into the game, only tie it up a minute later. That’d be like giving up the opening touchdown only to score on the ensuing kickoff return. Electrifying.

(No, seriously, click that link, and listen to the ridiculous commentary that comes from the color commentator. Do it. Do it now).

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Valentine’s Day Playlist

As part owner and administrator of this blog, I reserve the right to get a little sappy from time to time.  So when I say that I made a Valentine’s Day YouTube playlist (the neo-iTunes playlist, which was the neo-mixed cd, which was the neo-mixed tape) for Linds, I don’t want to hear any “uuuugh”ing or “eeeeeeeew”ing from he peanut gallery.

This is my pre-wedding adventure, dammit, and if I wanna get sappity and twitterpated on Valentine’s Day, I can.

So, baby.  Here ya go.  Happy Valentine’s Day.  Muah!

Just click here to be whisked away to the playlist.

(If the rest of you wanna listen in, too, I guess that’s alright.  I made it with Linds in mind, but who knows, maybe you’ll find some new musics.)

And look!  I made the whole thing without using any Michael Bolton or R. Kelly!  That alone is reason to be proud.

What do you guys think?  Was there anything I left out?  What’s on your Valentine’s Day playlist?  Hit the comments and share your thoughts.

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Super Bowl Sunday was … well, I had a great time, and I guess that’s all that matters.  The game itself isn’t as important, so long as you get to enjoy all four quarters in the company of friends, right?

The original plan for the night had been to visit one of the local bars which was carrying the game—a surprising fact in itself, since the game didn’t even start till 12:30 a.m. local time.  But eventually we decided against the bar idea in favor of a more subdued, smoke-free apartment style atmosphere.  For me, there were really three deciding factors

  1. As alluded to above, you can still smoke in bars here, and smoke the Europeans do.  You can’t hope to go into a bar for 15 minutes without smelling like an ashtray.
  2. More importantly, I hate both the teams that played, and I wasn’t enthused about the prospect of spending a night with their fans, fair-weather or otherwise.
  3. You can’t play the cork game (explanation to follow) in a bar.

Our plans of spending the night in with friends, away from the rabble of green, yellow, and black supporters, hinged on finding some sort of Internet service which might allow us to actually, you know, see the game.  That particular aspect of the plan hit a snag last week though, when a certain federal agency decided to pull a bunch of websites off the Internet (who knew they could do that? can they do that?  apparently they can do that.).

Thankfully, many people who use the interwebs are quite clever.  Who could be blamed if, say, a feed of the game somehow, for whatever reason, appeared on the screen of a computer which happened to be nearby?  I’m sure that I don’t even know how something like that might happen, let alone how to stop it.

I won’t spend time talking about the game—it’s Thursday already, and this isn’t the place you go to for that sort of thing anyway.

And besides, the football game wasn’t the highlight of the night.  No, that was reserved for another game, one that took place during halftime.

No, it wasn’t the Puppy Bowl.  And no, it wasn’t a drinking game involving the number of times Fergie missed a note or will.i.am said the words “Get UP!”

It was the Cork Game.

The game itself is pretty simple.  Two pasta sauce jars are set out at varying levels of height and distance from the throwers, who attempt to throw corks into them.  There’s scoring involved, but I’ll leave the explanation of the details to mrscimo, who invented the game with her husband.  You know.  Cause sometimes Belgium (like any country) gets boring, and you’ve got a bunch of corks sitting around.

(Uprights not pictured)

We even went so far as to add some variant, Super Bowl related rulesets to the game.  In one version, after scoring a point by hitting a pasta jar on the rim or sinking a cork, the player has to flick a cork through two uprights constructed from beer cans.  Now that’s good, wholesome, American fun.

So while I wasn’t pleased with either the Super Bowl itself—it was highly unlikely that a situation would arise in which both teams could lose—the Cork Game Super Bowl I was a massive success.  Add to that a price tag of just 45 cents per can used in the construction of those special uprights and the fact that before construction could begin the cans themselves had to be emptied, and you’ve got yourself for a recipe for a nice little evening.

 

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Has it been a week already?  How did that happen?

Being 4,000 miles apart has left us with some kinks as to who’s going to post what when.  Thanks for sticking around.

Today’s post, the second in our most recent round of photo tours, is going to be a quick one.  That’s cause it’s of my path to the library, through our favorite park—a trip that takes me around 5 minutes.  It’s not so very remarkable right now, what with everything being either dead or wet here, but the park itself has got some really great character.  It’s also pretty gorgeous when it’s covered with either green or white, as you’ll see in the pictures below.

Best of all, there are ducks.  Oh, and a sweet sort-of-castle ruin thingy.

Follow after the jump for more harrowing, duck-filled, school-walking adventures.  Or, you know, just to look at the slideshow.  It really is pretty, I promise.

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