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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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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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North American Scum

So it’s been an outrageously long time since I’ve posted anything on the blog (since Christmas, to be exact), and I thought it high time to change that…at least once in a while.

As many of you know, I am back State-side adventuring in Cold Capital USA, otherwise know as Minnesota. It’s going to get down to -15 degrees tonight with wind-chills in the -25 range. You’re jealous, obviously.

My adventure continues in the form of me trying to get work permit/visa processed so I can return to the fair land of the Belgians and wave my legal employment status in the face of their fractured government.

“AHA! You see these coveted documents I hold here in my hands? These mean you can’t kick me out of your tiny, though rather significant, country.” BOOYA!

But this process is indeed taking way too long. I blame Belgium. Don’t they understand that I am willing to work for free?!…that I am contributing greatly to their economy with my many chocolate, waffle, and beer related purchases while simultaneously shelling out cash each month for my over-priced, under-furnished crawlspace of an apartment? Jeez, Belgium.

However, it’s not all bad being home. I’ve picked up another job here, one that actually pays money and forces me to come into an office and dress up. Since I haven’t been paid for about 4 months, it’s a nice change. Plus, they are well aware that I am eagerly awaiting my triumphant return to the Eurozone and are totally okay with it. I’m having less luck in that respect in Belgium, so I’ll take what I can get. Plus, no one refuses paid work when you have nothing else to do and are losing money daily right? RIGHT?!

In case you were wondering, I am filling in as receptionist/admin assistant until they find someone to permanently replace the last one who quit. And just to clear up your misconceptions, being a receptionist is a lot less glamorous than they make it appear on TV, okay. I have no cute fiancé across from me with whom I can pull pranks on annoying coworkers, and my boss is not a complete buffoon. I just answer the phone, greet people, file papers, shred documents (oh so much fun), and fax things mostly. Oh, and sometimes I fill up the fridge with water and soda. On very special occasions, I even get to make a pot of coffee or two! I know, I know, you are seething with jealousy.

So that’s an update on my life. The other one is finishing up his finals before taking (another) 3 week long break before the second semester starts. Seriously Belgium? Christmas break before finals then more vacation? Reason #45,983 I need to move back there.

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Xmas Miracles

While Lindsey’s been living it up with all of you back home, I was languishing in the oppressive beauty of Belgian Christmastime.

Here are some pictures of the prettiest damn snow I’ve seen in a long, long while.  Be warned–there are secret couples.

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What a beautiful snowfall—it’s what my Velda would call “Christmas Snow.”  The whole day (the second to last of the Kerstmarkt) was miraculous.  I’m having trouble forming sentences about it, so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

And while we’re on the subject of miracles, here’s one for you: somehow, despite the entire nation of Belgium running out of de-icer, I’m currently on my way home.  Not enough miracle for you?  Here’s one more: I’m writing this post from the sky.

That’s right.  This is me, sitting in a chair, watching live cable television, writing a blog post, and enjoying a (complementary!) cocktail while being propelled through the air by a ton of carefully formed metal and wires.  Miraculous.  Oh yeah, and once upon a time, Jesus was born.  nbd.

 

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I’m a real boy!

Today I finally received my Belgian Identity Card—three and a half two and a half months after arriving.  Okay, so I could have gotten it two weeks ago, had I taken the time to go to city hall.  But navigating between the chaotic business hours for the many offices I’ve had to visit, the more or less constant stream of holidays, and strange municipal observances isn’t as easy as you might think.

The card itself is just one of many pieces that have begun to fall into place over the past month or so.  Since my last academic update, my thesis topic has been accepted, and I’ve started the process of finding funding for next year, when I hope to begin the PhD program here.  Unlike in the States, funding for individual programs like mine have to be cobbled together from various sources, including the Flemish government, and the onus for finding such sources falls largely on the student (in this case, me).

On the one hand, that means I’m largely in control of my own future (with the aid of my advisor), but on the other, it means I’ve got to begin marketing myself not only to schools but to private and government organizations.  In addition, I’ve got to pass all my exams in January and June with good marks to ensure that I actually get into aforementioned PhD program.

Though the two things don’t appear immediately to be related, the fact that I have my identity card gives me a lot of hope for my search for funding.  Why’s that?  Well, despite the fact that it took three and a half two and a half months to get the card, despite the fact that the offices I needed to visit to get it were sometimes only open for 2-4 hours per week (and at staggered intervals), despite the fact that I had to fill out far more paperwork than was probably necessary to get it, while providing five passport photos, and despite the card’s relative unimportance to anyone (I have, after all, survived my entire time, renting an apartment, getting health insurance, paying tuition, and receiving a stipend, without one), and despite it sometimes seeming as though I’d never get the card itself, at the end of the day, I actually got it.  It is now in my possession, and I am now a legal resident alien here in Belgium.  And that ain’t nothing.

Maybe it means that this new adventure of getting funding—of essentially trying to convince government bureaucrats, think tanks, and others that they should pay out of their own pockets for me to study here—is one that’ll yield some fruit.

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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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