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 For├ža 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!