Belgium 6 1/2 month report

Or: what I did over my non-vacation.

A few of you might recall that I was going to move to Ghent for a year-- I did, but have been until recently on dial-up so I haven’t been posting much. So here’s the report.

Belgium’s cool. The beer’s extremely good and I have had a lot of it. There are a few pubs here in town with 200+ beers available (“on-tap” isn’t a big priority here, though, although most places have 5 or so taps). The fries are also brilliant-- I’ve discovered samourai souce, which rocks. And all hail the great uitsmijter-- THAT’S a lunch.

The weather’s been better than I expected. It’s less rainy and poopy than, say, Eugene, Oregon, although being most recently from the central CA coast I’m about tired of the winter.

All the locals on working out that we are American have been really cool about it-- they really are good at separating people from their government and usually just share Bush and Schwarzenegger jokes with us good-naturedly. Historical memory is long here and it’s relieving not to be reviled.

Research has been interesting. Libraries work very differently, and it was a surprise to learn that although the school HAS an electronic catalogue, that it only covers things published since 1986 and that the huge banks of card catalogues (with utterly bizarre (to me) organizational conventions are not just there for show). The university has like 130 individual departmental libraries, and they all have different organizational rules. Makes me really appreciate LC conventions. I’m also occasionally taken by surprise by odd holidays that don’t get much attention in the states. Like, I think in a few weeks the libraries will be closed for Pentacost Monday.

The university building where some of the humanities departments are has a big closed-off interior courtyard, and 2 guinea-pigs and a bunny live in there. This amuses me. Ghent’s an odd town. There is a bar here which is superlative in its oddness so that I can’t really describe it. . . (Het Velootje) so I’ll leave it at that. . . has anyone else been there?

We have been following cycling a bit-- it’s great to go to the pub and the big race is on TV and everyone’s following it. Imagine going to a pub and instead of college football being able to watch the cyclocross world cup. We went to one evening of the Ghent six-day races, which was totally cool and had race styles that just don’t happen in the states (like derny motorpacing on an indoor track). This Sunday we’ll head out to Bruges to see the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. My favorite antique store find so far (in Leuven and I so wish we had gone ahead and bought it) was a homemade art brute sort of framed narrative cycle of the Passion of Eddy Merckx in the 1974 Tour or something, in which he faces trials and carries a cross and is threatened by a serpent made from a burst inner tube and triumphs in the end and offers a votive leg to the Virgin Mary.

My Dutch has gotten a tad better, maybe-- at least my accent’s improving. People no longer ask me if I’m from South Africa or answer my questions in German (which was all strange and confusing, but at least I guess I don’t have an American accent, so that’s good.).

So overall it’s been swell. I think this spring and summer will be nice-- it will be great to get to enjoy outside a bit more and have longer days. I hope I get some work done soon. . .

Good to hear everything is fine. What’s your housing like? And have you yet visited your Northern neighbours?

The weather, at least, appears to be improving, so there you go.

Ah, I’m green with envy. You have a whole year in one of my favourite places. So until I can get back there in May, I can console myself with the thought that someone is keeping our seats warm in the Galgenhuis and the Waterhuis. Have they put the sculpture back on the canal yet? The first year I took my partner, there were all kinds of strange and wonderful pieces on the canal (including an unfortunate man made of plastic tubing, positioned on all fours on the canal directly below the Waterhuis. Water circulated through his passages at regular intervals, emerging from his mouth with unfortunate sound effects, and acting as a disincentive to overindulgence.)

I lived in Liege (Luik for you I guess) for a year and miss it terribly. Drink a Jupiler or 17 for me, and if you ever get to Liege, please visit the Pot-au-Lait, wehich is now a cyber cafe, but was the coffee shop where I hung out with other exchange students every Wednesday afternoon back in 1994.

Hell, maybe we can work something out where I can get a case of Jupiler shipped back to Canada :slight_smile:

Have a blast, try the Lapin sauce, visit Oostende and enjoy the boardwalk and the ladies. Climb the tower in the Brugge town square and tip one back. Man, I wish I was there.

Tusculan-- have made it up to Amsterdam a few times, and Leiden a couple of ties to visit a pal and visited Delft for the first time-- cute town. I got to aaze and amuse my in-laws with several sightings of zwarte Piets in December, which is a kind of odd thing, but, hey. Strange holiday traditions are cool. Dutch beer is also improving greatly, so it’s possible to find a good drink in Amsterdam now. We’re heading back up to A-dam and maybe Haarlem in a couple of weeks.

C-Eve-- no, I haven’t seen that sculpture. It sounds hideous. . . Yes, I am keeping your seat warm at the Waterhuis. I love that pub-- they always have the bike races on and they have the swell Delerium Tremens signs with the LED dancing elephants. I hevae heard, though, that there is a pub on the Vrijdagmarkt that serves the super-secret Westmalle “Extra” so I need to work that out. Pleasant to find as well that Westvleteren/ St Sixtus is so easily available here.

CCanuck-- yes, we tried to jump on a train to Liege a few weeks ago but I kind of spilled a cup of coffee on the computer that morning instead. I’d like to check out more of the Walloon side of things-- like Dinant, too-- but haven’t made it too far. We will, at the very least, heard over to Liege for the Tour de France prologue stage-- there’s also bits in Charlerois and Waterloo, Arlon, etc this year. Oostende–check. Brugge belfort-- check (gasp gasp). And I will tip one back-- get in touch when you head this way.