Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Belgium, Part 1

Surprisingly enough, there are loads of pretty fantastic people to meet outside the limits of the Dirty O. They have taught me some of life's most important lessons, and some tricks to get by. You're welcome.
1. Never trust a man who can't stop peeing.
2. Always dry between your toes
3. Some people just need a reason to complain because they haven't had a good bitchfest in a while. Even if they do attack you very personally, just let it roll and know that this person is pathetic to be acting like this at 48 years old. For example.
4. No one, but no one, talks about your mother like that. To take a stab at your upbringing is presumptuous, rude, and totally uncalled for. Yes, I am in fact having one of those bitchfests I was just talking about. But I still like your mother; she seems like a very nice woman.
5. Sandpaper can be used to shave. Yes, like that thing on TV. Fine grain works best because it doesn't hurt.
6. Jungle fever is real. The most frequent cause is over-exposure to South Americans and the knowledge that they will not always be directly available.
7. Graduation goggles are also real. It's the same idea, but with absolutely everything and everyone that won't be around in a very definite amount of time.
8. Good God, no drummers.
9. As my AP Euro teacher says, it's just sandpaper. As my father says, tu t'enfarges dans les fleurs du tapis. You're tripping on the flowers in the carpet. That is, don't make life difficult by getting caught up in the details.
10. It's OK to be the Big Spoon and tell 'em who's boss. It's also just fine to be the little spoon and appreciate that you have someone to watch over you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Things You Take for Granted

If you grew up in Belgium:
1. beer
2. a relatively spotless history, if you don't count Congo
3. fancy things like castles and a royal family
4. art and architecture
5. multiculturalism without hate crimes
6. protesting and going on strike
7. the right to complain. Seriously, if you whined like that in the New World, you'd get your ass handed to you.
8. The food is fantstic.Even just the speculoos, waffles, and beer found in the vending machines should be appreciated
9. public transportation can get you across your cute little country in like four hours. If that doesn't work, you know how to ride a bicycle. You know how long it takes to drive across the United States (because Canada is too big and full of islands to make this comparison)? Like two weeks. And that's without stopping to pee.
10. All those Catholic holidays you get off from school

If you grew up Across The Pond:
1. poutine
2. asphalt
3. machismo and badassery
4. Everyone sort of speaks some version of the same language. Most people speak English in the North of the continent and Spanish in the South. Those two groups don't interact, so it almost works out. If not, you can always try Espanglais.
5. snowmen
6. automatic transmission
7. You don't really need to tell anyone what happens stateside. It usually makes international news. Embarrassing? Extremely. But it saves the trouble of having to tell people what goes on in your country.
8. maple syrup
9. time to choose your path in life. Belgian students have to decide on a career and a definite lifestyle at, like, twelve years old
10. Graduation, Prom, the big game, standardized tests, and all that nonsense that gets made into these huge milestones to sort of make life interesting for high-schoolers

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I tried to make birthday cupcakes a few weeks ago. It was a very important birthday, so I aimed a bit high: margarita cupcakes. I bought a bottle of tequila and some cupcake papers and went to work. The end result was a citrus cake with tequila frosting. The only way to explain what went wrong is to cite my ignorance. These are the things you take for granted if you eat cake in the New World:
1. Matching units of measurement between recipe and measuring cups
2. Not having to use scales
3. Your limes come from Mexico or, you know, someplace typical for limes. The limes here must come from northern Russia or something. Like there is no way this stuff was grown in fertile soil. Plus, I can taste the Tsardom. And the limes are inside of lemons, which are in oranges, inside grapefruits...
4. Cupcake tins
5. Frosting
Despite the conversion complications, this cake looks really nice. Actually, the biggest problem was that the limes were useless. I ended up replacing most of the lime juice with lemon juice and tequila, which is how we ended up with this situation in my refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Boterham = boter+ham. It's a buttered ham, right? Wrong! It's a sandwich. Not even a sandwich. It doesn't deserve the honor. It's a piece of bread with something smeared on it. Sometimes with another slice on top if you're lucky. So imagine my surprise when I found out everyone around me ate buttered ham for breakfast. "Oh, you know, I can usually eat two, three. Sometimes I put one on top of the other and I call that one." Three buttered hams for breakfast? I knew people ate a lot across the pond, but this is ridiculous. Without butter or ham, how will I survive? A breakdown, you guys. But it's cool. It's just a half-assed sandwich. They don't put peanut butter and jelly together though. That's the only boterham in the New World, but they think it's weird here. "Protein and fruit? I can't even imagine. They're so weird in your country." Oh it's on.

You, Too, Can Become Belgian

Every country has its thing that isn't trendy anywhere else. Belgium just has more of them, that's all. While they're striking in protest of whatever isn't stylish in Belgium that week, they occupy their time with the following things:
1. dancing like poultry. Every non-Belgian in Belgium knows what I'm talking about.
2. being proud of their non-government
3. hating Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe this isn't everyone, but I've heard from a lot of people that she just looks mean.
4. eating cabbage
5. telling me I have obviously heard of this band, because they're famous in Belgium
6. looking like Justin Bieber
7. having more hair than reasonable
8. smoking
9. complaining about public transportation
10. doing their best to look ballin' when mommy drops them off for school because they're not allowed to drive yet
11. telling me that I'm not allowed to drink back home, so it evens out not being allowed to drive
12. they eat peppers too. Everything is pepper flavored. Like bell peppers, not like spicy or salt-and-.
13. complaining about immigrants
14. being hipsters- big glasses, dreadlocks, ironic sweaters, generally being underground. It's getting difficult to tell all these alternative people apart.
15. complaining about school, forcing me to resist telling them about walking through snow uphill both ways, past Ford Street in the North Country winter to get to the library, so I could do some research for my 50 page English paper.
16. talking about feelings
17. talking about Belgium while Japan is melting see: Prince Laurent in Congo. i.e. not seeing the Big Picture
18. Idioms. There is not a single Belgian who speaks literally
19. Surrealism. Just accept what is happening and everything will be just fine. Watch out for the bicyle-pianos, accordeon-trumpets, and amputee guitarists.
20. going on strike about something else

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Duidelijk, contrary to its appearance, has nothing to do with doubt. It's actually the opposite, like clear or obvious. I'm not sure what I thought. Doubt-like? So early on in the year, when I was sitting in class trying my best to learn information in a language I couldn't understand, and the teacher asked if it was duidelijk, I nodded vigorously in hopes that she would help me. The only response I ever got was something along the lines of OK, fine, moving on then. I was left days on end without answers until a dictionary told me I was asking the wrong questions. Then I found out Belgians don't give straight answers anyway. These poor people will be so heavily stereotyped by the time I have to leave.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I was in Spanish class at the beginning of the year and the teacher was asking us to translate widely-known Spanish words into Dutch. I spoke more Spanish than Dutch, so I had a fifty percent chance of success. She asked my group what guerra meant. Someone said oorlog. I said, "no, no, guerra is when people go 'piu, piu!'" and I showed off my best finger gun. My classmate looked at me strangely and replied, "Ja, oorlog." I pointed to my wrist. "Horloge." Ah.