Monday, February 27, 2006


Well, thought I should update after our relatively uneventful weekend. We went to the theatre with my colleagues and their partners on Friday night, to see a show written by another one of my colleagues - a musical with 2 stars. It was actually very good, with well written music and kept the audience gripped for the entire performance - but with one slight set-back: my language skills are still not good enough to understand shows in dialect, and musical performances without subtitles. So, once again, I enjoyed myself by laughing along with the rest of the crowd, and clapping when they did (which is what old people do when they dont understand, I'm sure!). But we went out for a few drinks afterwards and had quite a good time. Thank god I had enough wine to numb my skin to the outside minus temperatures...

Saturday was shopping day (when we rolled out of bed), followed by an uneventful dinner cooking and more red. I decided to stay up and watch a bit of football with Tom, and when the time reached around 11pm, he said - ooooh, you're in for a treat - Emmanuel IV is on tonight. I had absolutely no idea what he was on about, but was about to achieve another european first: Emmanuel movies are known european soft porn 'classy' movies - in French. They are like a classy Mills and Boon for the telly. Well, I can assure you, the wine enabled me to enjoy a full 5 minutes of it before I was snoring - dont remember going to bed, but woke up not so happily to our upstairs neighbour pouring his insides into his toilet - 11 times is where i stopped counting first the tap tap tap, then the hideous coughing sounds. So Tom and I lay awake for around 2-3 hours with this entertainment. Was even considering drinking more wine or taking some pills, but laziness prevails somehow...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Just a super quick note before Tom gets to work.... for any of you who didnt know (or have the slightest interest), Barcelona won against Chelsea yesterday, much to the delight of our neighbours, I'm sure. At least our couch still only has one broken plank (no additions to this were made yesterday - I threatened Tom that if he broke the rest of it, he would have to go out and buy a classy couch to support his jumping weight...). For football, it was actually not that bad - 2 own goals and a red card. But dont expect any more football entries from moi...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hey man, nice shot

Differences between Belgium and Australia part 2: Soccer. All important soccer or football, even for me. You can compare it in a way with Rugby in Australia, but then again it is nothing like that. Supporters of rugby are passionate and love there team. We would die for our team. I play soccer and am a huge supporter for FC Barcelona. I can honestly say that I would rather lose every single game for a whole season as long as Barcelona wins. We won 2 big games in a row last two weeks until this weekend we lost again. In the same period while we won, Barca lost twice until they finally won again this weekend while we equalized. Well I was happier this weekend. This week it’s Chelsea- Barca. And that date has been crossed in my agenda for weeks now. My mood during the next week depends on this game. Barcelona were kicked out of the Champions league last year by Chelsea, which resulted in me sulking about for a month and ever since hating Chelsea and everything that surrounds it. I can honestly say that I won’t even go on a holiday to Madrid because they are arch rivals and I hate the city! You might say I’m crazy but I am actually one of the mild supporters or fans.

I read or am reading books about fans of soccer. I just read Fever Pitch by Nick Hornsby (writer of about a boy). Hated the book, but it shows the fanatic supporter in England. But if you really want to know soccer in Europe, read One year with Verona by Nick Parks. It is not only a book about football but it wants me to move to Italy at once. It has got such nice descriptions about Italy, it’s marvellous.

But anyway football is life here. Me and Ingrid have had plenty of discussions about football and me watching it. Lately we even got a system. I “book” television a couple of weeks in advance and off course I can watch every game when Barcelona is on. I think Ingrid watched one game with me and then decided she would fled the house every time Barcelona is playing. She doesn’t get that it is not a stupid game for us, it is our life. We talk about it, we play it, we discuss it, we think about it, we even imagine it is us on that field. We love players but most of all we love the club. There’s a notorious story of the Barcelona club captain moving to the Arch rivals Real Madrid. Ever since then and even nowadays (he doesn’t play for Real anymore) we still despise them. Players are nice as long as they play for us. But otherwise we hate them! Profoundly!

I brook the couch last year while cheering for a Barcelona goal. But it was well worth it. I can honestly say that I am the worst person to watch a game with when my team is playing because for me it is not a game, it is dead serious. Today and tomorrow are just two days running up to Wednesday, match day. And then on match days I wear my Barcelona shirt with my name on, sometimes even to work. And all day long I check websites to see the line-ups, hear what players and coaches have to say. Have a look at the opponents website. On normal days I check soccer news at least 3 times a day. All the gossip, injuries, transfers, I probably know them all. Event he most stupid details I know. Don’t ask me what I did in 1990 but ask me something about the 1990 world cup and I will probably know it.

And after all this I still have a life, go out, am a normal person, listen to music,…
But there’s always football. I am just happy I found one person in Australia who is as crazy as me about soccer. I sometimes event think he’s worse because Tim moved to Liverpool after all. But then again, I still dream of living in Barcelona for one year, just to follow the team. But I keep telling everybody it is because the Spanish lifestyle and the architecture in the city.

Well I always invite everybody to find differences between Europe and Australia, there are lots more but the more peculiar the better

You're a breath of fresh air, to me

Just a small post for Monday. I thought it would be worth mentioning that here in Belgium, we are in full swing Eurovision mode! The tack factor is absolutely sky high, but people take it so seriously. One girl just had her hair straightened, so she is the best candidate, but there is another girl who sings in Spanish (yes, as if 4 languages werent enough for her to learn), so she is also up there with the favourites. There are heats and finals on every night, just to compete in the elite Eurovision song competition! I was wondering how the heck could I have missed it all last year, but apparently Flanders has a competitor one year, then Wallonia has a competitor the following year. Another good idea - divide a country which is up there in the top 10 smallest countries in the world into even smaller divisions. Whatever rocks your eurovision boat...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Turning, away from the light

Well it is finally Sunday, after a crazy, full week. I am just about to head down to watch Tom's soccer team play one of the last games of the season, and no doubt stay and drink all the wine the team has bought me (at €1 per glass, you cant really go wrong, especially in a country without cask wine!). Yesterday we aged a few years while we put our first ever offer on an appartment. It is bound to be rejected, but there's no harm in trying hey? And if we get it, there will be absolutely no excuse for no Australian visitors, because we will actually finally have 2(ish) bedrooms. But, haven't actually bought it yet, so will just have to sit tight for the time being.

Aside from this, not much else has happened this week. I passed my level 2 Dutch exam (have no idea how), so now I am enrolled and eager to begin level 3. By June, apparently I should be nearly fluent. But, let's just see. By June, the weather also takes a drastic turn to bettersville, hence causing longer stays on cafe terras' enjoying many a pastis with a view of the river in sunlight until 10pm. So perhaps the rate of my learning may just drop a smidgen...

And there is another reason for this... Happy Birthday Therese! Sorry no phonecall - made the mistake of calling Emme for her birthday at 5:30am, quite inebriated from a ridiculously expensive dinner at the classiest restaurant we could find (celebrating my level 2 victory). I didnt think that such an early wake-up-call would be appropriate for someone not in my immediate family!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So you dunno where you're going, but you wanna talk

No interesting photos this time... just the dilemma of the fading winter and ridiculously long autumn. I dont know how we will be able to stay here for another 3 Winter/Autumn times... it is funny - I know copious amounts of research have been directed towards European weather, and depression, but I dont actually know the results. Could they be linked? I was thinking this over yesterday, and actually, despite it appearing the obvious answer, I remember coming across several people in Australia who suffer or had suffered manic or chronic depression. So I am lead to believe that there is some other factor... but as I look outside, at a grey, 5°C day, not knowing weather it will snow later, or reach 15°C, I cant help but look forward to some stability in temperatures. For some reason, despite being a generally happy person, with an extroverted character, in the winter time, I become a timid mole, too afraid to talk to anybody. And, I dont think I am alone. Its days like these, that I come to work, do my thing, and wonder, is this all there is (to life?) - cant be.
Brain thinking too much...better down some wine after work today...

But, dont worry, if it is sunny tomorrow, I will forget all my troubles and get on with life!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Your Shoulders are frozen (cold as the night)

Well, finally I have come to posting some more photos (of recent)!! Still coming to date with the 21st century and using photo-websites... havent quite got that down to a fine art yet!
These are some pickys of in and around Pest (one side of the Danube in Budapest - interestingly, the other side is called Buda). Pest is the poorer side, but very different in a good way (and excruciatingly cold). The heated springs (both real and artificial) seemed to be scattered everywhere, with people using them in their lunch-breaks from work. We even had a group of old men sitting in the large spring we were in, playing chess for hours. Hope they left for a pee...
The other photo is a typical mode of transportation - a bit more of a novelty for Tom than for me - I am used to seeing student bombs all over Australia, but in this part of the world, nobody owns a car older than 10 years old! So, Tom was excited to see these old things everywhere!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How to have fun with packing material...

Alrighty then! After a few heavy entries, I thought I would finally put this silly picky on the blog! It was taking a little before Sint Niklaas (6 December) with 2 of my colleagues (Dorien and Jeff). We received something or other, and it was packed with white stuff which is very easily cut into the shape of a beard! So, we gave it a go, found the work camera and had our lovely pictures taken. See, I really do work hard here!

Friday, February 03, 2006

People are fragile things, you should know by now...

I think I am entitled to make some comparison between Australia and Belgium since I lived in both countries now. It was just lately when we were on holiday in Morzine that I noticed the little differences between the Aussie and Belgian-mentality. I think it is extraordinary how we are all so similar and yet so different in our simple little things.
One thing that has always stuck in my mind was following:
- greetings:
Belgians always kiss girls when they meet. Doesn’t matter if they were just introduced or you’ve known them for years but you always give a kiss. You kiss each girl when you enter somewhere and you give every guy a hand.
But then there are exceptions. You kiss someone three times with special occasions (birthday, Christmas,…) Some guys even kiss each other, yes, even non-gay ones but totally different story altogether. I like kissing all the girls but it also creates some nasty situations such as: the girl hasn’t washed herself in ages, or her facial hair is covering more spaces on her face than yours,… As you leave the same routine takes place.
This little ritual has the big advantage that you have to get close to everybody and be introduced. So after one round everybody knows who you are and you’ve got a good idea as well. It also creates an openness since people are immediately forced into your personal space line and you are in theirs. But this will also force you to be friendly to people you don’t like (Belgians are champions in this)! And it takes up a lot of time because you can’t kiss half of the group and forget the rest!
And that’s how Belgium works. For every little ritual there are rules of what to do and what not to do. Some I love and some I can’t stand.
Ingrid learned the little rules the hard way sometimes by doing something every one of us always wanted to do but never did because it didn’t fit the “rules”. I don’t think Australians are so stuffed up to care about rules. Off course you are not going to greet your best friend on a party the same as your boss on a Monday but it is all a bit more casual. It almost seems like there’s a secret manual (only for Europeans) going around with every possible situation and every possible solution in which it is explained how to behave. And I think this is a world-problem: just because you are not aware of some rituals and normal behaviours and fall a bit out of tone, you are looked upon as a savage or dumb or someone without an education.

I just think people need to be more tolerant towards different cultures. This is just a dumb difference between Australian and Belgian cultures but in essence it is the cause of a lot of problems worldwide. I just don’t see the point of starting a war or fatwa just because Ingrid didn’t know that you have to stop kissing my Grand-dad on his birthday after 3 kisses. We can laugh away such a culture difference why can’t we do it with other “meaningful” things and see it as what it is. Just a stupid mix-up because of not-knowing the culture

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Well all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

Nothing like a bit of Van Morrison to get anyone in the mood :)
Currently, I am in the process of attemting to put together a presentation for uni about Australian culture. Yes - both words are placed in the one sentence and have left me quite stumped. Everyone at work has suggested I write about the aborigines, but to be honest, I know as much about the aboriginal culture as the people in Belgium do - sad hey? So I have spent my lunchbreak on the internet searching for somethings Aboriginal, which could have been done by anyone in the world, really! Thought I would mention a bit about our barbecue culture as well, but is that really culture, or an excuse to go outside and have a beer? Oh well, it should prove interesting... at Christmas time, everyone had to give a presentation over what happens in the festive season from their own country - again, as an Aussie, I was a little lost for words. Of course, there is the obvious Santa, but what is his real history, except for a fabricated fat man, dressed in red, loosely based on Sinter-Klaas/Sint Niklaas when no doubt an American discovered him and couldnt pronounce his name properly, creating Santa Claus. Not much of a nice historical tradition to tell a class! Yeah, he comes from the North Pole, has elves, reindeer and a fat wife, buy why?! So clearly, the culture presentation will prove very uncultural. Who knows what they will ask for next? Independence wars... Australian food... differences in lingual dialect... (apart from FNQs, I cant tell if someone is from Kalgoorlie or Hobard). Should prove a challenge!