Archive for the ‘General Musings’ Category

It’s Christmas in Belgium!

Well, sorta.  Actually, it’s just the Feast of St. Nikolaas, which is, admittedly, a lot different from Christmas.  They still have regular Christmas on the 25th, but as you might have guessed from the name of the Feast, the 6th of December focuses on celebrating St. Nikolaas, who is the inspiration for our own Santa.  Even so, there are some distinct differences between Christmas and this mini-Christmas-before-Christmas.

For starters, Sinterklaas (or St. Nikolaas) isn’t exactly Santa Claus.  In fact, the first time I saw him, it was in this form.  That’s him made of chocolate on the left.

Mmmmmmmmmmm, candy Pope!

For about a week, I actually thought Sinterklaas was the Pope.  After all, Belgium is a Catholic country, and KU Leuven is pretty jazzed about Rome and the Pope in general.  But when I started to notice that this image kept popping up in children’s stores, I started to wonder.  Catholic or no, I’ve never met a kid who was clamoring for a Pope action figure.  If it comes down to a Ninja Turtle or the Pope, a Ninja Turtle is gonna win every time.  (This principle, I’m sure, holds true in the hearts of children and also for any scenario in which the Pope might actually get into a fight with a Ninja Turtle.) (more…)

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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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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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Write us!

On Friday we made a plea for you to keep commenting on our posts, and already we’ve noticed an increase in comments.  Thanks for being awesome readers.

We love the feedback, and we love to see who’s adventuring along with us, but we also want to hear from you via e-mail.  If you’ve got time, drop us a line.  We’re trying to work our way through lists of people that we’ve been reminded of while here, but there are only two of us, and there are hundreds of you.  Let me put it another way—it’s parable time!

During my first year at BU, when I was really scraping for cash, I did what any out-of-work college student does when faced with the question of whether dignity or food is more important—I offered myself up as a lab rat.  My favorite of these studies was one that I took part in at the Danielsen Institute at BU, which was designed to test whether a specific practice of daily meditation could decrease stress levels.

For the purposes of the study, I was asked to identify four persons and focus on them during my guided meditations: the first was a person who I’m very close to; the second, a person I admired or who I look up to; the third, a person I felt antagonistic toward or didn’t like; and the fourth was a person I didn’t know but had regular contact with.

So for 8 weeks I meditated for around 20 minutes a day, thinking positive thoughts about all four of these people and generally hoping for good things for them.  At first it felt very hippy dippy, but as time went on, the practice did help me relax, and it was a good excuse to think about people that I like and to feel better about people I don’t.  But for the purposes of this story, it’s the fourth person, the person I didn’t know, that we need to focus on—Beatrice, the cleaning lady at the Theology House.

See, a funny thing happens when you spend 20 minutes a day thinking about a person, especially when you don’t know them: you start to think you do.  Here I was, taking time out of my day to hope that Beatrice was enjoying her job, that things were well for her at home, that her kids were okay, and that she would just be happy in general.  Meanwhile, Beatrice was thinking about why someone in Theo House kept peeing on the bathroom floor.

The real problem was that I didn’t realize that this shift was taking place.  It never crossed my mind that the hippy dippy research study I was taking part in might actually be changing me demeanor toward others and not simply my own personal feelings.  So one day I came out of my room, and there was Beatrice.  Not realizing that we had never actually met, I asked her how her day was going.  She answered tersely that there was urine on the bathroom on the floor again and if I knew who was leaving it.  After answering that all the residents of the house had been trying to figure out who the culprit was, I proceeded to ask her about her family, her home in Portugal, and when she had come over to the States.

It wasn’t until we ended the conversation 20 minutes later that I realized how strange the whole interaction must have been for her—when she asked me my name.  She seemed to have enjoyed our talk, but she also seemed pretty flustered to have been sucked into an accidental 20 minute break by a complete stranger who, in her eyes, may or may not have been peeing on the floor regularly.  It had never occurred to me that she didn’t know me.  I knew that I didn’t know her, but I had somehow become invested in her by hoping good things for her for weeks on end.

What, you may ask, does any this have to do with a pre-wedding adventure blog (aside from reaffirming what you already know by reading it—that I am a very high-context person)?  Just this: that while you all are reading about Linds and I doing tiny fridge squats, running through medieval cities, trying to get our heat turned on, and generally drinking too much beer, we’re so caught up in those things that we sometimes lose touch with the fact that life is moving along just as quickly back home in the States.  And while it’s great that you are getting some insight into what we’re up to, it’s strange to us that we’re clueless as to all the adventures you’re making.

So please, write us!  It doesn’t have to be a long e-mail or letter, and it doesn’t have to be substantial, but you writing us is the best way to ensure that your name will move up the list of letters to-be-written in fast fashion.

We love writing for you, but because there are a lot of you, we necessarily have to cast a pretty broad net.  So please, write soon.  We miss you all a lot.


Trevsey & Lindvor

We love the feedback, and we love to see who’s adventuring along with us.

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Since we live in a small apartment, it’s tough to get a workout in.  And with all the reading, sitting, and typing we do all day, there’s just not a lot of time for activities like dumbbell curls and jogging.  That’s why we’ve designed these healthy exercises to help tone up.  They’re perfect for anyone living in a tiny apartment, but they’ll be especially helpful if that apartment happens to be in Belgium.

Small Fridge Squats
To begin the exercise, squat to reach the food in the fridge.  Once your body has reached the level of the food, extend your arm to grasp the food, then extend your legs in a rising motion.  End by placing the food on the counter.

For added difficulty, try picking up heavier foods.  Next, as you place this heavier food on the counter, realize that you are, in fact, poor, and that eating that right now will probably end up costing you another 5 euro later on.  Now squat back down, replacing the food in the fridge for later.
Works: glutes, thighs, and triceps

Tiny Stair-stepper

Gingerly step from one step to another, remaining on the balls of your feet.  Be sure to be extra ginger; if you’re not, the staircase will probably break apart beneath you, leaving you in a pile of rubble on top of our kitchen table.  (Cleaning the rubble, however, could be a nice arm workout too.)

For added burn, ascend and descend the stairs with your arms slightly raised away from your sides for balance.  This will help work your lower back, and it will help keep the stairs from swaying so violently that they pitch you off.
Works: the calves, quads, and balance


Most people shiver out of necessity, taking for granted the wonderful health benefits that come along with debilitating cold.  But shivering can also be a vibrant part of a healthy lifestyle.  It’s a whole-body workout that’s sure to hit all of your target zones, melting the fat away like a leather belt attached to a paint shaker.

To add to the burn, drink hot tea while you shiver–the caffeine suppresses the appetite and works as a natural diuretic.  Not too much though!  Too much tea will warm you right up, and that’s the major no-no of this powerful new exercise.
Works: whole body
Note: If you can’t find a place with ideal shivering conditions, come to Belgium and sit on our cold wooden chairs and hard wood floor that never seem to warm up, no matter how much body heat you lose.  If you can’t make it to Belgium, tell your landlord to call a group of unskilled, unqualified “handy-men” to “fix” your heat for you.  You’ll be shivering in no time.

Running away from Trevor’s cold hands

This isn’t my favorite workout, but Linds swears by it.  To begin, find a Trevor (this may be difficult, as the only one is currently in belgium).  Stand in close proximity to his icy cold hands, preferably while showing skin on your arms or neck.  When the Trevor’s hands come near you, run in the opposite direction until you either hit a wall or trip on a pair of shoes.  These short-burst sprints will add to your lung capacity and burn calories quickly.

Try this exercise after warming up from a good shiver and glass of tea, as the endorphins from the shakes and the caffeine from the tea will combine perfectly to help give you that extra jolt you need to get away from Trevor’s icy grip.
Works: heart, lungs, legs

Phone raises

No matter what my workout plan, I always like to add at least one exercise for my arms.  That’s how I came up with the revolutionary exercise I’ve dubbed “phone raises.”  Though lifting your phone to your ear doesn’t exactly count as weight training, doing it enough times will help tone and sculpt your biceps, triceps, and wrists.

Begin by picking up your phone.  Hold the device in front of you, carefully typing each digit of your landlord’s telephone number (this fine motor focus will help build long, lean muscle).  This might seem like a one-and-done exercise, but believe us, it’s not; there’s no telling how many reps you could get in before your landlord actually decides to pick up the phone.  In the rare event that your call is answered, don’t worry.  Simply hold the phone in place for as long as possible, until the landlord assures you that Bruno will be over to fix everything later, or as is usually the case, informs you that–no matter what the content of your request–“This is not possible.”
Done on the phone too soon?  Don’t worry.  Give ’em another call.  There’s sure to be something more around your place that needs fixing.
Works: biceps, triceps, wrists, patience

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The coolest thing about classes here isn’t just, as I alluded to  earlier, that they don’t include busy work.  I’m sure there are a lot of schools back in the states like that too.  No, the reason I flew across an ocean to start school at a place I’d never been or seen beyond a google image search was because I had an inkling that the academic climate in here was somehow different.  That’s a very broad sort of statement to be making, but I think it’s a true one.

It’s not as though the classes here were designed for me, per se, but they were certainly designed for a certain type of person, and I just happen to feel that certain type of person is an awful lot like me.  It’s a very nerdy sort of person.  Let me illustrate. (more…)

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I said I would write more about Leuven, and I guess the first thing to mention is the beer. Belgians treat beer as something to drink slowly and savor, similar to how the French treat wine. Here beer is cheaper than soda, bottled water, or just about any other beverage on a restaurant menu. The same was true about wine in France (which is my only other point of reference other than America as you all know).

But beer isn’t only ridiculously inexpensive, it’s also ridiculously good. In America, you have to pay quite a lot, by comparison, to get a decent beer or wine at a restaurant. An average brew here will run you about 2 euro at a restaurant for 33ml, and it’s amazing. The cheapest beer available, Stella Artois usually, is less than that, about 1.70 euro or so for 1/3 liter. And they never serve beer in the bottle either, oh no, it’s always on tap in each brand’s specifically designed glass. Bartenders are excellent at pouring it too with the perfect amount of head. It’s a very serious business.

I should probably also mention that Stella Artois is brewed here, and has been, since 1366, though it’s basically the Budweiser of Belgian beers. I’m not particularly fond of it, but when in Leuven…

Some other delicious and nutritious Belgian beers include, but are not limited to: Westmalle, Leffe, Duvel, Hoegaarden, Jupiler, and Kriek. Many of these are available chez your local liquor store, so when you feel like splurging, I would suggest you try one. You won’t regret it. (more…)

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