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Archive for the ‘It’s Big in Belgium’ Category

So yesterday’s portable outdoor urinals?  Those were nothing.  I submit for your appraisal, the following.

Nothing?  Not doing anything for you?  Just a normal manhole cover?  Guess again.

At nighttime, that innocent looking manhole automatically descends from its place in the pavement and becomes the top of this.

Apparently having to go is a huge problem here.

How did we not know about these earlier?  Well, there aren’t a great many of them.  I also assume that they’re strategically placed at “hot spots” around the city.

How the statistics for where an outdoor urinal would be needed were gathered, or more importantly who got the honorous task of gathering them, is a mystery to me.  Maybe he had to go undercover by drinking a bunch with college kids and then walking around till he had to pee.  Or maybe he had to test the ground water for … trace elements … and by “trace elements” I mean “pee.”

Proper indeed.

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There have been a great many things I’ve not quite understood since relocating to our Belgian locale.  There are advertisements that go over my head, festivals I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind, and a host of cultural faux pas which I likely still don’t know I have committed.  There have also been moments which seemed so natural and non-foreign that I could swear this is Leuven, Ohio–not Leuven, Belgium.

Then there’s one last class of cultural interaction, and it’s perhaps the most confusing.  These interactions are characterized by intense confusion, because they seem to be simultaneously native, common sense, and foreign in the extreme.

Case in point.

While we were out the other day, we happened upon a bank of these puppies.  If you haven’t surmised it’s purpose yet (the background of the photo should help), here’s another clue.

That’s right.  Outdoor urinal.

Being that it’s festival season, there’s an obvious need for extended sanitation options, and whether we’ve yet to discover this one in the States or whether we knew about it and flat out could not accept its existence, I’m not sure.

I mean, I was under the impression that the specific group of people expressly indicated as the primary market for these devices by their (above) markings had, you know, been using outdoor urinals for a while–lamp posts, alley ways, and the like.

But I guess if that sort of thing becomes a problem, you’ve got to be proactive.  Here, I guess that means centralizing and containing the messy business.  I’m just not sure that I’d ever be able to use one.  I mean, I could use one in theory, but practice is another thing.  What if nearby women-folk would be offended?

Oh, wait.

That’s my girl.

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I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but during Linds’ hiatus from Belgium …

I grew a beard.

Yes, a beard.  That most hallowed and revered of all the many facial-hair configurations.  No other is so honored as to have an entire month—two, if you count both Novem-beard and Janu-hairy—dedicated to its cultivation and coiffiture.

In doing so, I have joined ranks of great thinkers like Socrates and Augustine, writers like Jules Vern, strategists like Clovis, the first Frankish king, Ulysses S. Grant and Rick Aguilera.

And of course, yours truly.

Damn.  I look good.

(more…)

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I’m not really sure how to say this, especially given the temperature in Minnesota right now, so I’ll just come right out and say it.

It’s not really winter in Belgium anymore.

Fine.  It’s January, so it’s still technically winter, but any self-respecting Minnesotan or New Englander would be hard pressed to call what we’re experiencing “winter.”  I’m talking temperatures between 25 and 50 degrees every day.  Rain.  Not snow.  And also—in a somewhat strange turn for Belgium—sunlight from time to time.

Despite these facts, people here insist on bundling up.  You would not believe the looks I get when I go out for a jog wearing shorts and a long sleeved T-shirt.  As I’ve noted before, people here don’t really understand jogging in the same way we do, so their incredulity at my bare legs in what they call “winter” is doubled.

But their shock is nothing compared to mine where winter apparel choices are concerned.  The picture you’re about to see is one of something people actually wear.

Yes, the Moon Boot.

Many of us who grew up during the 90s will likely associate the Moon Boot with the Nickelodeon Moon Shoe—an ill-conceived and short-lived “toy” that was no doubt the cause of countless broken or rolled ankles among children—and let me assure you, this wonderful piece of winter-wear looks no less idiotic when worn in public.

Moon Boots are, for all intents and purposes, just really stupid winter boots.  Really stupid winter boots that people believe are fashionable.  Really stupid winter boots that you have to pay through the teeth for.  That have about nine bloody inches of foam padding on all sides.  That make you look like some sort of cartoon character.  Does that about sum it up?

I’ve tried to catch a picture of these atrocities in the wild, but as yet, I’ve been unable to.  It’s sort of difficult to casually take out a camera, turn it on, and snap a photo of someone on the street without looking like some sort of stuffed animal footwear obsessed creeper.  I usually don’t even get the camera turned on before I become aware that it might be obvious that I’m walking closely behind someone who’s wearing miniature beanbag chairs on their feet.  I’m afraid that I might be given away by the excitement which must no doubt twinkle in my eyes, as if I’m a wildlife photographer about to snap the photo of a lifetime.

Seriously, look at these things.

It’s like a snowboarder punted a muppet so hard its fur came off.

 

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So this post continues our series entitled “It’s Big in Belgium” where we make fun of ridiculous Belgian products. We begin by examining this amazing window display we found while roaming around lost in Liege.

We passed this vitrine on display in a pharmacy that was closed (I mean, it was Sunday), and we had to stop to get a better look. I wish the photo below did it justice.

As you can see, the tiered display of maxi pads helps one visualize just how absorbent these articles really are. In America, the common maxi pad comes in only 3 levels of absorbency: light, normal, and super. But Belgians seem to comprehend that not all of life’s needs fit perfectly into 3 prescribed boxes of small, medium, and large. One may have need for a slightly bigger, more uncomfortable looking, post-pregnancy like absorbency. This is where the fourth pad comes in. I imagine this tier could be called the “Uber-flow Pad.”

Now, I apologize if I offend anyone with my insensitivity, but that pad is enormous. I know it doesn’t look that impressive in the photo, but believe me, it was huge. What really got me though, besides its size, was the display itself. I mean, why do maxi pads need a tiered window display anyway?

This second product, while equally hilarious (in my opinion), is slightly more inappropriate…depending on your point of view I guess. I mean, we ARE in Europe, where standards of propriety are relaxed compared to America. But still, someone should have double checked this label before this product went into production.

Cock’s Fresh? First of all, the apostrophe is ambiguous. Is the cock in possession of this freshness, or is it a conjunction, “Cock is Fresh?” Either way, it makes no sense when looking at a package of filet of horse. That’s right, horse. They eat that here. And no, I have not tried it, and I don’t plan on it.

Putting the obvious innuendo aside, we didn’t see a single meat product with this moniker that actually contained any chicken. So…they should consider renaming something more appropriate like “Random Sliced Meat of Various Origin Wrapped in Plastic,” or something like that.

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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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