Thursday, December 27, 2007

The best thing about Christmas

For the second year running, the Belgian version of Triple J has very successfully run a christmas campaign (music for life) where three of the most popular DJs present all the shifts for 24 hours a day, 6 days running, without food (living on a staple diet of brown juice...) in a glass house in Leuven only playing requests. The catch is that all requests must be paid for with every single cent raised going towards a particular charity (involved with the red cross). Last year, they raised over a million euro with the government generously doubling this figure to help destroy the remaining landmines and treat the victims. This year, the Belgian's raised 2,5 million euro (with another million from the government) to aid in providing clean drinking water to the poorer countries. The whole "music for life" campaign began in the Netherlands in 2005, last year including Belgium, this year, with Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland, and next year, three new countries are going to join in. I was completely blown away as to how much people will do to help! Every song I heard on the radio was at least worth €50, but on top of requests, there was also the opportunity to bid on ebay for a lunch/dinner with a celebrity. We almost managed to go along with Annemie and Hans (they were bidding their paycheque away!) but were just outbid in the last 10 seconds! (The lunch went for over €500 mind you!).
It was just amazing the way the country stopped to listen to the radio 24/7! I know it is such a shocking indication of how rich we really are if we can afford to donate over €3 million in less than a week, but in the spirit of christmas, it is truly a much better feeling than the instant rush of opening a present of your own!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Alone, restless. Breakfast table in an otherwise empty room

Fourth winter christmas down... not so bad, not so great. Definitely no Morris/Christiansen/extended family/globe trotters any of the cousins pick up - type christmas. No matter how long I will be here, I am afraid to say that I don't think that it will ever feel like a real christmas to me. There is definitely the element of over eating, but no freshly caught seafood, no beautifully presented salads. The alcohol element is universal though, but there is no retiring to the beach to play volleyball or cricket or just lay in the sand and watch the active family members do so.

However, with that said, this christmas had a new element - the presence of a playsation and something called a Wii. So, we all took turns to sing along karaoke style with the TV (even Pepe had a go. The YMCA sung by a 75 year old Belgian can be quite fun!), then playing tennis and bowling etc. (even though only on the telly...). It was a little strange though - having the TV on all night was probably what got me through without tears. I think in the future, we are going to have to share our christmas' between countries...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

There is no sense in telling me, the wisdom of a fool won't set you free

Being my 4th Christmas in Belgium, I have the not so secret hope (and the endless broken record playing in my head) of that of Bing Crosby... and I am crossing my fingers that it may still be so...

The past week, we have had only sub zero temperatures, bringing of course, much a yucky frost, but along with that, the white stuff I call snow, but everyone else calls frozen mist. I'm not so picky - it is white (not grey, being from smog and all...) and is an absolute fairytale to look at... white ghostlike trees which glisten so sweetly in the sunlight with confused birds flying around, knocking the layer of snow off the fine branches onto an unlucky pedestrian. Picturesque.

Found our wedding rings on Thursday, and did the girly wedding dress tryout on Friday with Stefanie. Taking it easy, but cautiously - don't want any stress in planning, just wishing to enjoy the ride all the way! Found my dream dress, am just praying that the bonus from work will pay for it. Yes, it is lost money etc. But, this is something I am not going to whinge about - I honestly don't care - I have lived in such a decadent lifestyle my entire life - and don't mind being selfish once in a while.

Am honestly looking forward to the gathering as much as the wedding itself... I know by the end of the night, I will be very unfashionably a blubbering mess, incredibly grateful for the friends Tom and I both have made who will be there - especially those from here! Still 18 months, but progress is being made!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Well it's been a long time, long time now

Since being informed last night, by my dear, daggy fellow bf (BF standing for something else than best friend, something horrible in Flemish...) that I have been horribly late with updating my blog, I thought I would smear some vegemite on some wholemeal cruskits (how do you spell that?!) and write a quite update while Tom exercises his brain watching some Jimmy Neutron on TV.

Since the 2nd of December... I have ripened to the colour of 27, with many a fantastic gift for this little princess. On my birthday, I was nicely treated by all concerned (but sadly surprised by some friends who had first forgotten, but quickly remembered) - mum and dad calling me at 3am Australian time (when I was born - lucky they still had jetlag from their trip!), and many kisses were given at work! I was welcomed home to an apartment full of balloons and streamers (with a theme of the Belgian equivalent of the Wiggles...) and lovely quotes pasted throughout all the rooms. We then ate at Tom's parents' place where I saw my gift - his sister painted a black and white portrait of the two of us (abstract). Will post a picture of it once I take a photo. VERY impressive gift!

From the 7th until the 10th, we were in the wonderful company of the newly engaged Tim and Tash (he popped the big question the night before we arrived!) so there were many toasts to be made (and being in wine territory, this didn't seem to be a problem!). Now the two of them will leave with interesting last memories of Tom and Ingrid... Tash has a new word added to her vocab - one I am sure will make its way into the english language... Marginal (adj. To be used when referring to yourself or another who does something so 'cheap'. For example, me saying that I cannot afford a €1 bottle of wine, but wishing to stay in classy accomodation is simply marginal. (This did not happen by the way!).

This weekend has also been quite packed - spent the whole day with the extended Mattheus family in East Flanders (belated birthday lunch with Pepe and Rosa) followed by seeing the rest of the family, and a visit to Koen, Stefanie and Willem on the way home. This afternoon, it's bowling with Tom and Nita (Tom's, Natalie's and Tom's mothers' birthdays...) Am looking forward to next weekend already!

View of the pyranees from Perpignon

Playing Silly Buggers on the Mediterranean

Tom on the top of Força Real

Sunday, December 02, 2007

See the nation through the people's eyes, See tears that flow like rivers from the skies.

IF you have a spare €1 or AUD$1.69 it might be worth the small investment to download this from itunes (living Darfur from Mattafix). Every single cent raised (not profit, but raised) is going towards helping those in Darfur. This video was funded by Mick Jagger and filmed entirely in Chad near the border of Sudan in a refugee camp - so far as I know. Although with all the campaigning against what is going on I am failing to see or read of much improvement, but there is still a little hope surely?

Otherwise this week... I stayed at work late on Thursday with the 3 other usual suspects (Stef, Nathalie and Carla) and we treated ourselves to tempura/sashimi around the corner from work - gotto love the 'eating-out' lifestyle here; there are restaurants EVERYWHERE! Then on Friday evening, we had all decided to go to see BodyRox in stereo sushi (one of the bazillion clubs in Antwerp) so this included yet another gastronomical event earlier in the evening (although, eating at 11pm is also a luxury here - no longer is it the 9pm kitchen closed rule)!. So we danced for a few hours in the club, but by 2am I called Tom to come and get me because we were due to babysit the next day, and I didn't want to be an absolute wreck (am starting to feel a little old!). BUT, on Saturday, my whole day was disturbed because we weren't actually due to babysit - Tom had a surprise dinner planned for me (since my birthday is midweek) and we went out, with his parents to a new italian restaurant and ate until we almost passed out. Now it is Sunday, I am tired, and am looking at the mess we live in and have no motivation to do anything about it. Was quite content to watch a few episodes of Twin Peaks, when we received a phonecall to go and play a few rounds of squash followed by Maarten cooking for us! I can never say no to food, and squash. Although I can see me sweating a little too much alcohol, but it is a good way to cleanse/detox myself!

Next friday we will be boarding the luxury jet provided to us by the one and only ryanair, this time to Carcassonne (between the pyranese and the mediterrranean. I am sure by the end of our stay, I will be shedding a few tears, my dear friends will be heading home and ending their 3,5 year stay in Europe. I will miss them dearly - it has been such a comfort to have them near me, plus fantastic travel companions!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Up so early, feel so bright....

...didn't get much sleep last night

Actually, I did, but a few times last week, I was a little behind in the 40 winks. Last Wednesday, Dave, Maarten Tom and myself headed off to the newly opened Lotto Arena in Antwerp (oh so far away...!) to see Kele Okereke and the rest of Bloc Party. I was quite impressed with the venue - typical U shaped concert hall, but we could choose to sit or stand (being over the age of 25, with all of us out on a 'work-night' we opted for the sitting option. But this didn't stop Maarten and myself from sprinting down the 3 flights of stairs when the dancy numbers started.

Lowlight of the night: FUCKING FREEZING outside; strange sounding supporting group (very monotonous, repetitive, musically unchallenging songs)

Highlights of the night: 2 encores, with Kele re-appearing in the mascot outfit for the Antwerp Giants basketball team (see clip I have attached from some lucky bird who must have been in the front row); plus the audience involvement - 2 girls even went so far as to show their boobies to the unsuspecting group. This brings me back to the big day out, 1999... I never saw so many boobies as when Blink 182 took stage...

Then, on the weekend, we first babysat Natalie, then had to quickly finish organising the surprise 50th birthday party for my other mum - Loreine or Moe (east Flemish word for mum - pronounced moo (yes, like a cow...!)).

Tom and I were on bar duty - skulling the cokes (so buggered after babysitting) but luckily, we had help from Philippe, Jan and Maarten. Thank god!! So, thank you guys - many grumpy 50 year olds would have gone thirst if it werent for you!

We were busy there until a little after 3am, then came home and crashed. It was a fun night, but don't recommend the bar work at a party to anyone!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I can do anything I want because I look good in leather

This week has been quite a tiring and emotional one.
We made our way to Brussels last Sunday (only to get lost and do 3 laps of the Basilique - grrr!!) and were welcomed with open arms at Louis' girlfriend's family home. After a few minutes of uncomfort, this was quickly replaced by a huge cup of tea with lemon and some friendly happy chit chat (in French. erhm....)

The whole intention of our trip was to have some nice photos taken: Louis and his father in law are keen hobby photographers and have a huge setup in the garage, and he has been offering us to come for a good 6 months so we finally took him up on his offer (along with another classmate of theirs; Mieke and her boyfriend, Jornd).

After a few hours of some single shots on digital, Tom and I expected that we would make our way out to the local bakery and buy ourselves something, but since Louis' girlfriend (Daphnè) works at a bakery, they had already a huge delicious buffet planned for us to feast ourselves on. Made up of millions of soft cheese, italian fine hams, sun dried tomatos with capers and all sorts of different antipasti delicacies (not to mention the ever flowing vin rouge) we went back for more photos. After the digital tests were done, we moved to the precious analogue device - however, the photograhers were having some slight problems with the flash etc...

When it was my turn to take the stage, I suddenly felt pressure (typical ingrid style stress) and after a few shots, was unsure how to pose (although this was more about spontaneous shots) and acted like an absolute petulent child and just had a little 'model breakdown' I like to call it! But I think that Louis took some fantastic shots and we will definitely go back again.

Then, this week, while at work came the huge emotion spinner: my sister has offered to pay for a ticket for me to come home for Christmas. Apparently it is a 'big one' this year with all the Christiansen's and extended Morris's (apart from us...) and Emme (being in the high salary category) has kindly offered to fork out for a ticket. Two problems to overcome: Seat availability AT CHRISTMAS (ha!) and the fact that I have 0 days left until 1 January. The first problem was quickly overcome (although a little dearer than normal, at $2500 AUD) and not too steep, but the second problem is still yet to be decided. The belgian holiday system is different to that of Australia. Very complicated, but in short, you receive ALL of your holidays for the year on the 1st of January (31 for me). Then you plan your year around these days. So I have asked my boss if I could 'steal' 4 of my days from 2008) but he is afraid that if he allows it for me then other people will ask for favours as well etc. So I can understand him. All I have to do is wait until Monday, but in short, I am not getting my hopes up!

And to make this blog a little longer, I cut a chunk out of my thumb this week! Would enclose a photo, but it is a little yucky!

Let's hope next week will be better (starting today!). We are babysitting Natalie Flies for a few hours this afternoon, followed by an evening of partying drunk 50 year olds for Toms' mother's surprise 50th birthday party. Tom and I have elected to do bar duty (and will probably be standing there until 6am. Grrrr. These old teenagers!!)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Last night, after many months in the planning, Carla, Nathalie, Stefanie and myself treated ourselves to delicious steaks and dessert (followed by a complementary bottle of Champagne from the boss) in the 2140 in Borgerhout (a suburb of Antwerp). After quite a crappy day for 3 of the 4 of us (with Nathalie taking the cake on worst and me having a relatively sober day), this was an evening which nearly didnt go ahead. There was all intention to go dancing in a poxy top 40 club afterwards, but after a full week, we were all starting to feel old and tired and chose for our own beds instead! Next time, we will plan to go in the weekend!

Tom and I decided to play with the apple functions and took a picky - didnt turn out so badly actually!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sweet seduction from a magazine

Not entirely too much to say today, but it is a public holiday here and with Tom studying for most of the day, I will amuse myself with non-costly exercises like reading, speaking to my gorgeous sister on skype and eating!

It seems that there are always public holidays here in Belgium, but I think this must be because they are nicely dispersed throughout the year. We have 2 in november, so this little Gen X-Yer will not be working her bum off too much this month.

Anyway... this week, Tom went to see the Cold War Kids with Maarten in Leuven. We bought the CD while we were in Australia and Tom took an immediate liking to them (with me being absolutley sick of hearing the line 'I promise to my wife and children...'). So on 29 October, they played here and according to Tom, while they were technically fantastic and have great music, the concert lacked any sort of atmosphere and they ended on a wierd instrumental number. Apparently, this is the first concert tom has been to where the supporting act outshone the main. So, Tom is now a fan of Patrick Watson and will be following him until the next craze comes along!

Next week we will see Bloc Party (once again) - probably not as cozy this time, but I have a thing for Kele and think he will entertain regardless!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bones sinking like stones, all that we've fought for

After reading my whiney entries I have decided to add another link to a friend of ours who is bravely motorcycling his way around the world, just to show you all that some people truly do remarkable things!

In our relatively non-eventful lives, we welcomed Jean-Marie (for you Aussies, the Jean is pronounced like Jean-Claude Van Damme...) - a Toyota Yaris. Gust was starting to pollute and die a little too much for our comfort, so we sold him to a nice African man who was to ship him off to Guinea - probably to sadly house a small family. But hopefully will bring some happiness to somebody.

Other news... my sexagenerian parents have bravely ventured out of Australia (not for the first time in their lives mind you) to the wonders of South America. Despite being a tourist hot spot, specifically in the past 5 years, I am still quite proud that they are still stepping outside of the proverbial comfort zone that many people their age tend to stay within. Am not entirely sure how my father enjoyed his flights from Rocky-Sydney-Auckland-Santiago-Quito, but I am sure once they are there, they won't have any regrets. Plus, once they make it all the way to Patagonia, I know dad won't want to come back. I have a lot of respect for the both of them, attending Spanish classes (run by a native Columbian) for the past 6 months, preparing them for this trip. I do pity poor South American who tries to converse with my ultra Aussie dad (who refuses to pronounce things the way they probably should be) but am happy mum is on hand!

Back in België, we have also been dealt a horribly early and cold winter this year. On Tuesday I scraped a cm of ice off the car (in October!) causing many a swear word, while the onlooking workmen (putting pipes in our street) were just watching smoking their ciggies. Sooooo - I am hoping that we will have a white christmas, because let's face it, I don't think there will be many of these in the future. But also, there may be the opportunity for the once in 10-20 year chance to see the 'elf steden toch'. An outdoor ice-skating marathon through 11 cities through the Netherlands. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Time one thing occurred to me: What's real and what's for sale?

We have now been engaged for a few months, the wedding will not be until 2009, but I still cant seem to control myself. I have never considered myself as a girly girl to get consumed in the wedding stress, but am now finding myself spending hours looking at dresses, rings and ideas on the internet. It has now come to the point where I am banning myself from being so selfish (at least until January next year) and focus on other things in the meantime!

Our wedding was originally just to be a quiet small beach wedding where the official dresscode was to include thongs, followed by a barbecue and much dancing into the early hours. It is amazing how quickly this changes into something more chic and elaborate due my lack of backbone from hearing everyone elses contributions. 'That sounds nice Ingrid... but won't your guests want somewhere to sit'? OR 'That could work, but since people are already travelling so far, don't you think you could treat them to more'? SO, I am starting to succumb. Not that I am really stressed over it (not yet anyway!), but I have just come to realise that people will always try to make you question yourself. I know that it is just human response, but I think this is the first time in my life that is for something big.

I have many friends who have had babies in the past year, and I know it is even worse then. All mothers will give their own personal beliefs on raising a child - breastfeeding is the ONLY way to go. How can you not breastfeed? Shouldnt you check the nappy? Surely you should wake junior from his nap - he must be hungry now. Why are you drinking that tea? There is caffeine in that! In my day there was no baby food in the supermarkets - we made it all ourselves.

If there is anything that I have learnt over the past couple of months, it is that every bride and mother has their own ideas as to how they wish to do things. The best thing a friend or family member can do is support them in their decisions. They may be strange, cheap, odd, easy or heaven forbid, different - but as long as nobody is really hurt, and the person making the decisions is happy, then what's the problem?

With all that biting, I know that people are just trying to help, give suggestions, and back-up plans - but rest assured, I am not a shotgun bride, I have 21 months to plan and would like to be married the way Tom and I have dreamt.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Words like violence break the silence

It has been an interesting week for us - financially... I will apologise in advance for playing the poor victim growing up in a luxurious society, so all my whining is really meaningless - however sometimes we all just need a vent!

Poor Gust needed a new choke this week - so I managed to drive him to the Garage (while stalling at every set of lights, then starting him up with huge revving to keep the motor running... had many interesting looks from the BMW, Audi and Mercedes drivers around me!) so after a few days, he received a new thingy in his choke and was completely better.... until he caught the flu again 2 days later. So he is back at the Garage (after getting sick in the middle of Antwerp - poor Tom's nerves!) and we dont know if we will ever see him again. So time to take the trusy bike everywhere again, now that the temperatures are already hovering around 10°C. It's going to be a long cold winter for this little whiner!

On top of this, I am having huge issues with the student entitlements in this country. Fair enough, Belgium boasts such a great education system - HOWEVER - you are only entitled to any sort of student benefits until the age of 25.

I have been more than happy to forgoe one income, eating out and changing our lifestyle in general, but when the national public transport organisations force a full time students to pay €300 / 3 months for a train ticket (as opposed to €60 for under 25 years and under) I start to get a little shirty. Especially in the inexistance of an 'AUSTUDY' equivalent. Ironically - Tom would be entitled to a 'scholarship' with his school fees and books paid for IF we didn't have a de-facto relationship - However, I would not be allowed to stay in the country if we didn't have a de-facto contract. Go figure.

So, yes, once again, my problems are luxury problems - but sometimes, just sometimes, I would like to breathe comfortably and not count EVERY cent we spend.

By the way - it wasnt all drab this week - I managed to get onto the radio last weekend. Thought that I would request a song, and didnt realise they would call me back for a chat. It turns out that being Australian does have some 'fame' benefits here. So the lucky people of Belgium listened to my damaged Flemish for a whole minute, followed by the lovely voice of Mike Patton and Faith No More with Midlife Crisis (my second choice actually, but they didnt have any James in their library. Scandalous!)

PS - our street is looking very bald...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me?

The Willem Herreynsstraat is coming to the end of an era... The beautiful trees which have lined our street for many a year (apparently) are to be chopped down tomorrow. As you may see, we live in one of those rare streets where the houses are all nicely shaded by the huge amounts of foliage these trees provide with a lovely canopy to drive/ride under.

BUT - they can be a nuisance to some of the residence come winter time - the more beautiful green leaves in the summer means the knee deep redish/brownish slushy mess come autumn/winter. Not to mention our letter boxes starting to jump out of the ground due to hazardous roots. So apparently the Edegem shire has decided to knock all of these trees down and put up piddly little new ones instead.

Although I should be happy (that the other residents will be able to wipe the sweat from their brows from the fear they had from the approaching roots to their foundations), I couldnt help but think that the most beautiful (yet overused by stinking rich 4WD tennis mums) street in Edegem was losing its trademark.

So this blog goes to you, Willem Herreynsstraat. I will always remember your trees (sorry dad, i have no idea which sort they are) and the massas of leaves.

PS - was proud of the citrus marinated salmon I whipped up this evening, so decided it was worth a photo too!

Friday, September 21, 2007

City dweller, successful fella

As soon as it is over, it begins again... next week, 2nd year begins. So, freshly unrested, Tom begins Monday morning with developmental psychology followed by individual psychology and clinical psychiatry. Nice and heavy to begin with! And, this semester, he is looking at many a 6am start (to get to uni on time) so come Christmas, we will both be crazy!

Not much new happening for me - just preparing myself mentally to begin studying again in January, but more details, once that is finalised...

Had an interesting day at work today - discovered 3 secrets, (ALL good) but am bursting with wanting to everyone. It will ALL come out in due time (thank god for me and my coal mine mouth) and let me just say to all 3 of you - YAY!

To all of you who are interested... yes, we are engaged, but no, we haven't taken the time to stress ourselves out yet in any sort of planning. We have a vague idea as to where, and how we wish to be married, but when... dunno! I will let you all know in good time - especially those who will be travelling the distance. It is a slight dilemma for us, because now that I finally have made some great friends in Belgium, it is quite an ask for people to pay such a sum of money to see us wed. You do know that I would pay for you all if I could. BUT we do promise to put on such a lovely show!

To those Aussie readers - I will be calling on all favours to maybe billet some of our friends out...! Thanks!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Four to Go

It is now official in e-mail print - Tom has satisfactorily made it through his first year - with flying colours!

From my point of view, it has been a long and quite tough year (less socialising, tighter strings on the food budget) but with that said, I wouldnt change anything about it. I am living with a very happy guy, who thrives at university and is constantly excited with what he has learnt. Giving up some slight luxuries really doesnt matter at all when we can still survive luxuriously (we have a roof over our heads; warm, clean water; food never runs out) so let me say to the next 4 years - Bring it on!

Onto London... we took our first trip underneath the channel (previously we have just flown to heathrow in transit to somewhere else) on the Eurostar (comes highly recommended) taking us roughly 2,5 hours to reach Waterloo station. We were some of the last passengers to travel to waterloo - from November on, the Eurostar will be travelling to and from St Pancras (I think...).

We were in all of our Autumn (for tom, Winter) glory, and greeted by a stunningly summery Kym (won't forget that lovely Cretan dress!) and a suited up Benj in a 35°C tube station. Poor Tom was being chivalrous to carry the backpack and wear his winter woolies standing up in an overcrowded tube at 11pm! BUT despite sounding negative, this was a great start to a lovely weekend because we knew that it was at least slightly warmer in London than in Belgium!!

Our hosts had all the drinks and nibblies waiting for us in their apartment in Wapping, along with the necessary oyster card (for the tube)! So while we didnt go out on the Friday evening, we still managed to drink a bottle of champagne and too much wine sitting on their terrace. The following day was to lead me to a long lost cousin - Ingelise (see any difficulties in this family with two people going by the name of Inge?!) and her hubby, Peter at the burrough markets (near the London Bridge tube stop). With that said, I dont even know which one of the bridges is london bridge! The only interesting looking structure going over the Thames was the millenium bridge (for padestrians only as far as I could tell). So we all enjoyed a nice brunch overlooking the market followed by a nice leisurely stroll along the Thames. This walk included:
-a pirate ship (they seem to be everywhere!),
-the Tate Modern art museum
-the Globe theatre (for Shakespear enthusiasts),
-2 Dali exhibits
-the London Eye
-View of Big Ben
and probably more which I have already forgotten. We crossed the bridge alonside Big Ben which found ourselves in Westminster. This is where ALL of the monopoly names were! Peter even mentioned that they run a Monopoly Pub Crawl in London, and he made it all the way to Leicester Square. I knew that if I went, I am sure I would have been flat on my face somewhere around Pall Mall...

That evening we dolled ourselves up and had a yummy Indian dinner in Soho followed by our engagement present from Kym and Benj - tickets to the theatre to see Avenue Q. (more for my benefit, but Tom had a blast!). I thought it was a great - slightly naughty - show! This followed by a stroll to Leicester Square to catch up with a really old friend, Evan proved to be an amazing day.

Risking long blog territory... Sunday was to be the Aussie BBQ day (calling in a few expat friends in London, some currently living in Sweden, others we all knew from uni days). Everything was running to schedule - beautiful salads, piles of meat, a fresh gas canister, an unused barbecue.... when we discovered, on sunday that the gas canister didn't fit with the Barbecue fittings... a moment of panic for us all... should we go to the pub? What the hell do we do with all of this food? So while Kym and I downed a bottle of Vodka, we let the night sort itself out, and it turned out beautifully. Somehow, the sane and sober people took charge of cooking lovely little tapas style nibblies, the boys did their token trips down to the off license to keep the beer supply plentiful and the rest of us ate and socialised!

By Monday, I was completely buggered - 10 points to Kym and Benj who had to get up and work... we did some more touristy things before heading to the train station. Both tired, cranky and disappointed that we somehow lost the Tate (how, dont ask) and when we finally found it, we realised that the Dali exhibition had closed the day before. BUM. Had a good look around at the rest and was nicely impressed. Caught train back that evening, needed to take Tuesday off due to copious amounds of virally created defence mechanisms clogging up my head, only to pass it along to Tom, 2 days later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The news WE get from Australia

I had to laugh when I read that the chasers got up to some more mischief last week. It was actually on the front page of the train newspaper - and I recognised the dick head immediately from the chasers war. In case you were unlucky enough not to see what happened...

You can sometimes miss good aussie humour here!

Will post some pickies from London shortly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Open your eyes, the world is outside your door

Here's one for you mum and anyone else who is disgraced yet fascinated with the Australian language...

Hey do you speaka my language?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I can fly, but I want his wings.

First things first - what the hell is this hype thing with Facebook? Why has it affected all of my aussie friends (self included) yet when I ask people here about it, they look at me numbly. Why do aussies have such a computer addiction (look how many people have blogs/myspace/facebook) yet here NO-ONE (except the really intense IT junkies) has even heard of them. Perhaps people don't seem to leave home for vast periods of time like they do in Australia - and hence the blog phenomenon but I am still trying to figure out the facebook/myspace addiction.

The first question that springs to mind is 'why are so many people spending this time online in Oz when the weather outside is ALWAYS lovely?!' Are we a lonely culture? Do we find solace in sitting behind our PCs rather than chatting to our spouses/friends/children etc.? On top of that, I find it a little bizarre (perhaps just a tad bit sceptical!) that a computer tells me how many friends I have! - And I needed permission from the computer to say that Tom was my fiance...

Ok - I am a little black and white here, and do find some of the gimmicky things quite fun - but when it comes down to it, despite these sites being 'social' platforms, aren't we a little more antisocial than we used to be?

Just a smallish bee buzzing around in my bonnet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My love she throws me back a rubber ball

No photos this time...!

Have pretty much settled back here in Edegem - and to my surprise (nice surprise mind you...!) we have another public holiday tomorrow. YES - another one. This one is for the original mothers day (apparently) but I just think that the Belgians like to take advantage of anything which has an occasion attached and call it a public holiday. I shan't complain!

Have settled back into work, sort of. I don't know what it is - whether I am easily influenced, whether my mood is dependent on the weather, whether subconsciously I am somebody else, or if it is due to my huge amount of time off work, but strangely it feels different to be back at work. I am not feeling as dependent on my friends as I did leading up to me leaving, and I have managed to offend one of them with my oh-too-frank foot-in-mouth attitude (as many of you are aware, I list this as one of my personality traits in Oz). I think I have played it pretty safe here for the past 3 years, and must be still switched on in Australian mode. Mental note to self - different things offend different cultures...

Have had a realm of reactions after announcing (what a pretentious word) our engagement. Typical for traditional Belgians, I have received many lots of 3 kisses (not just one - 3 means something REALLY good!) but conversely, some people have brushed it off as being a natural progression, with one person even going so far to say that 'nobody gets engaged in Belgium anymore - it doesn't mean anything. People just get married'. Up until that moment, I was sitting up on a big fluffy cloud, but you can be sure that the proverbial cartoon villain with the bow and arrow shot that cloud from beneath me and I fell VERY quickly. Am over it now though - have had enough kisses to last a little while!

Otherwise, not much has changed - haven't seen much sun (except through the window at work for around an hour a day), Gust is still behaving, Tom is studying his bum off and I am counting down for our trip to London. (Yes, always need to have the following vacation booked!).

Monday, August 13, 2007

More Pickies from our trip

Yes - I know I just seem to put up photos but bear with me - it isnt all that often that we get to go back to Australia and we had such a lovely time - my only regret is that I didnt get to see everyone that I wanted to see. But - I know there are no hard feelings...!

There will be more to come too...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Photos from the first days

I don't know what more to ask for, I was given just one wish

We have arrived, landed safely and are back in our lovely little apartment with only one drawback - I contracted that god awful ekka-time flu (yes - I do believe it is the flu for the first time in my life - sick for 1,5 weeks and counting...). So the flight was long and I felt dreadful from being sick, plus feeling sorry for myself for straining my (lack of) muscles playing with Emme's footsal team (sooooo much fun!) and being punished for it 2 days later. BUT - enough whining...!

Onto other news the blog has not yet heard... for something completely old fashioned (according to the Belgians anyway...) - Tom and I are engaged! We had a very romantic trip up to Bowen and Eungella 2 weeks ago, and he popped the question on the beach at horseshoe bay (with Sigur Ros playing in the background) with me bursting into tears in utter surprise! Now in true Tom and Ingrid style, we have been enjoying our relationship for the past 5 or so years, so now we intend on enjoying our engagement for some time to come! NOTHING is yet planned except for the resizing of my ring.

Am slightly missing home today - especially because a lot is happening for my dear little sister, but am sure I will become accustomed to the Belgian way of life again soon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bowen and Eungella

Some happy snappies from our little journey up north - despite long car trips, an entirely relaxing experience with a countryside littered with hundreds of cane farms...

With a spectacular arrival at horseshoe bay - we were able to see the sunset over the water (due to the geography of the penninsular)

The next day we headed up to Eungella and witnessed one of the local ringtailed possums eating al-fresco while we were inside with the warm fire.

We also did a little walking, attempting to spot the platypuses (yes, not platypi nor platymapus) and achieved some luck later in the evening. Unfortunately our little camera isnt cut out for night time photography (in great detail!)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Photo updates

Since we have 2 Christmas dinners and 2 birthday parties in July, I thought I should post some of the pickies relating to the above...

The Christiansen family Christmas in July (nb: no lights - complete blackout...)

Dad demonstrating the difficulties of eating too much, too late at night (see his little Bessy present!)

Tom cutting his birthday cake (another cheesecake!) with Nicole (shares the same birthday as him!)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I just wanna wish you well

I suppose I have been a tad bit slack when it comes to updating... We have been here 2 weeks now and have quite happily fallen into the rhythm of fresh fruit salads every morning, enormous tapas style lunches and great tasty dinners.

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas in July, and ironically the power decided to shut itself off (in the entire Emu Park, Zilzie and Tanby) for 2 stints of 1 hour each - so the Turkey had a little trouble cooking. BUT - at around 10:30pm we had a delicious roast with veges (by that time we emptied 2 bottles of bubbly) and poor dad had to crash in his bed within 5 minutes of finishing his meal. Not used to these late nights anymore!

Emme heads back to Bris on the weekend, and Tom and I have decided to rent a car and head up north for a few days - hoping to get up to Bowen and maybe Eungella before coming back here for 2 nights and then heading to Bris to stay with em for the remainder of our holiday. Am already balking at the thought of flying back...

Have already decided that 2 years is far too long between visits - am quite happy to come back once a year from now on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Catch up at the Sailing Club

From left to right...

Brock, Rachel (+1), Katchia, ikke, Danielle (+1).

Everybody seems to be proliferating...!

We both ad a great evening of sukiyaki with Dan and Katchia last night as well (including some wine and a game of cranium!). I think it's time we can call tom a real aussie now that he can participate in 95% of the questions from the Australian Cranium!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A little silliness

Just realised that I am quite difficult to understand while laughing...

Translation = "And the best bit about this is Tom already filmed this once before and forgot to press record".

This is what crazy people do to entertain themselves on long-haul flights...

Friday, July 13, 2007

The wonderful world of jet-lag and qwerty keyboards

We are finally here (although still recovering a little) after around 30 hours in travelling... Will have to start mentally preparing myself already for our return flights...!!
It has been a frosty 5 degrees the first two nights, and in a huge house without any heating whatsoever, it is a little nipply, but lucky for us, it warms up to a nice 20 in the daytime with not a cloud in site.
We have spent our first few days just seeing the neighbours, sleeping (more like passing out), taking a little trip to Yeppoon and just trying to get into the rhythm here. While this seems to be working for tom, I am currently sitting here wide awake for the 2nd morning in a row at 5:30am...

Some of the benefits at Singapore airport - Free foot massages! Of course we took good advantage of these!

The first sunrise I have seen for probably 15 years. Quite magical actually, and didn't realise the luxury I grew up in. These photos are taken from my parents driveway.

And of course, beautiful princess Bessy (with her tennis ball)!

One last note, first thing I noticed here is the silence. Feels incredibly eery at night, but once the sun starts coming up, the birds all start screeching and I feel at home again with plenty of noise!

A special thanks to Katchia for calling around yesterday, so unexpectedly! We are heading over to Yeppoon together today to visit friends, and I look forward to it!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


De valizen staan bijna klaar, dus Tom dacht dat het tijd was om een lekker porto te drinken.

lalalala - Lakonia

Last year, in July, Tom received a voucher from lakonia and being the procrastinators we are, we finally validated it yesterday (since it expires while we are away, and we couldn't have that!). Basically, it is a heated pool + spa + another spa + sauna + steamroom + cold pool + sunbed which is completely private per couple. So we, of course, took advantage of all the facilities, with the steamroom being my particular favourite.

2 days until we depart, and nothing done as yet. At least (most of) the clothes are clean...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

There is an answer to the darkest times. It's clear we don't understand it, but the last thing on my mind is to leave you

Well here's my half-annual contribution again. Ingrid normally keeps you up to date as good as she can so I don't need to make any more comments. For those of you who know her: frankly, I am not allowed to mess up her blog!

I've finally finished my first year of uni in Belgium. It has been a wonderful year and one of the best choices of my life to commence something I really believe in. I made it through with only 2 fails, which for Belgian standards is not too bad, especially because I didn't consider myself smart enough to pass even one in the beginning of the year.

Quick note: In Belgium the schooling system works a bit differently from the Australian one. We have 2 semesters which contain 12 courses (7 the first, 5 the second semester). You have a 3 week period of exams. If you do not pass an exam, you get a retry in August. That's when you need to pass, otherwise you can't go up a year. I can give an explanation of median and average and standard deviation to show you all what I learned and to prove that I am not doing badly, but I'll keep it to the simple explanation that the average is 3 to 4 fails on the first go (for psychology anyway). Since I did not receive my complete score yet, I am still better than average.

The problem with psychology is that it is one of the most popular courses at the moment. We started with 240 students. By the time the first exam period had approached, there were about 180 left and for the second exam period we had numbers of around 100. Of the remaining 100 students probably another 60-70 will remain in the second year. This is all due to the simplicity they give to psychology on television these days. For once and for all - people, psych is NOT telling people what clothes to wear to feel good or how to stop eating because you're fat! One of my favourite therapies is electric shock therapy; it looks like fun and you can inflict pain on somebody without being blamed.

Anyway, I'm pretty confident for the summer because I know which errors I made. With this blog I'd also like to give full credit to Ingi for allowing me to go and also to withstand my moods during the exam periods, she's been bliss! Kym and Ben, I'd also like to thank for their patience when they came over during the first exam period and noticed my tension. At least with all the techniques we learned it was better the second semester.

Most important thing we learned over the course of the year: "NEVER EVER have friends or family as patients and if you do: charge double"

Now everything is finished and I am having a week off before we fly to Australia. It feels like a camp I've been on and now I've returned home. You always come home from camp or holidays and you feel bored, restless, missing the buzz,... There's no more studying and I still have to get used to it.

But I am sure that it's not going to take long since I am now rejoining my friends to say goodbyes before we leave (read: drink alcohol and talk about soccer).

I would promise to write sooner now, but I won't since Ingrid will take over.

Funny quote: "80% of statistics is invented on the spot"

Think about it next time somebody tells you that 70% of all people do this or eat that...

Whoever knows the author, I'll buy you a beer

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Since we are leaving in just a little over a week, and Tom will be spending his birthday with my family in Australia, today was the perfect excuse for his mother to take him shopping for his birthday presents. Although, I have no doubt that more will follow...

So since the 'sales' officially began today (a concept which does not exist in australia - all shops are obliged to have sales only in July and January - for the rest of the year, it's illegal, we joined another 45 trillion belgians in Antwerp. But we happily emptied our bank account before our holiday (smart move...) and helped Tom's mother do the same!

Have enclosed a photo from last night - catching Jan aware... we spent the evening at sinksefoor (Antwerp's version of the carnival/ekka/show) and only did one attraction (the crazy house), and a photo from today: some sort of strange and tacky Hare Krishna shrine. Apparently, Antwerp is celebrating India at the moment by carrying a throne with a fake Krishna god through the main streets and ringing little bells. A little odd, but I suppose it isn't hurting anybody (although the confusion factor is rating quite high!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Haruki Murakami

You may or may not be aware that the latest book craze in this household is the works of Haruki Murakami... Tom has already polished off 3 of his novels, while I am currently on my third - Norwegian Wood.

Without being too caught up in the world of fantasy, Murakami manages to touch on a variety of subject matters, somehow adding a surrealism to them. For example, the idea that one of the main characters was able to speak fluently to cats in 'Kafka on the Shore' did not at all seem to surprise me, nor make me believe I was off with the witches and warlocks. I have become emotionally addicted to each of the novels I have read, which has never happened to me before. I am lead to believe that 'Norwegian Wood' is one of his only novels which doesn't touch in the 'supernatural' (for want of a better word) and once again, I am captivated. Tom has even proposed that our next big holiday (after Australia) to be Japan - which of course, I will always say yes. Although much of his books are set in Tokyo, he also encompasses the scenery in and around Kobe, Osaka and the island of Shikoku.

So in this day of terrible reality TV/copshows/teen dramas (TV in general), if you like a light, yet spellbinding read, you know where to look!

Friday, June 22, 2007


Will do my best to translate the song... the lyrics are great (if you can understand...!)

May I come in? May I come in? To begin a song over the things that I can remember from the good old days, a life without worrying, ambition or regrets. Kicking a ball around all day, coming home at dark, just mucking around, and no concentrating at school. If we were dared 3 times, then it had to be done. Teasing girls and asking girls out and 'I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?'. Life was so simple everyone, so simple everyone, so simple as asking someone out.

There were no mobile phones, no channel ten and nobody who wanted to be Hannibal or Murdock. Only Playschool, The Bill, It's a Knockout were our only worries. We weren't allowed to do anything but did everything, Donald Bradman was a hero, our dad's still had hair, and we counted all of our coins for 'the show/ekka', showing off in the dodgems. The chipmunk ride taking precedence over our commodore 64s. There were no CDs, no MP3s, only cassettes, and thanks to National Lampoons, we have seen our first boobies. Life was so simple everyone, so simple everyone, so simple as asking someone out.

Third verse, pot, pot, pot, fat (cannot translate - some scout song here...!), the one hundred metres freestyle was our first certificate. Going to a festival - yay- we get to go to bed late, the refl-fl-fl-fl-flex on our tennis racquets. Yeah guys, we were big: we were either a professional footballer or a pilot. And hating wasn't yet a national sport, except for maybe the pork chop on our plate. It was cool to have patches sewn on the knees of our pants. Time to stop, can i have the bill? It was so simple everyone, so simple everyone, so simple as asking someone out.

WOW - my first ever translation (and not knicked from the web!) - AND from dialect! shocking tho!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Change everything you are, everything you were, your number has been called

Great news today...

A certain wonderfully beautiful dear friend of mine is making a special visit to see us while we are in Australia. She will remain nameless due to the trip being a secret surprise for her partner... Not that he will be reading my modest little blog!

You know who you are and will not believe how happy I am that you can come!

On another note... if you haven't already noticed it, please take a look at the following...
Make Some Noise