Sunday, August 30, 2009
She was staring straight at me and I could not tell if she was irritated or joking.
"euh I usually don't play outside"
Heck, I usually don't play at all. Calling me a musician is really too much honour for a flutist that hardly manages to get her flute out of the box 3 times a year. Fortunately the former director of the former youth choir in my home town who is currently directing a solidarity choir from Ghent still e-mails me now and then allowing me to get my flute out of the box if my schedule permits.
Today we were singing at the opening of a new B&B in Oud-Heverlee, a village in the forests just south of Leuven. A big house nicely restored at the edge of the woods, art from befriended local artists in the rooms and garden, a pizza oven next to the terrace, a big herb & vegetable garden and many fruit trees as a source for jam: "tussen kunst en konfituur (between art and jam...in a Dutch poetic alliteration) seems a nice place to stay.
But if you want to play outside in the garden on a windy day...you need clothespins to attach your music sheets to the music stand :p.
with big tears rolling from his cheeks.
The trauma too big to explain
while grasping for breath in staccato.
We all held our breath at the sight
but his dad had understood and acted swiftly
"Come on, we'll ask the nice man for another one,
we'll go together, "
They walked off one big hand holding a little hand,
the other little hand holding a melting ice cream cone
decorated with grass and dirt.
We exhaled and murmured simultaneously
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
It's only after she had loaned me the book that I started noticing it in the windows of book stores. Apparently it is giving Stieg Larsson some competition who has almost a monopoly in the top 10 book sales last year here in Belgium. Apparently Giordano is the youngest author ever winning the most prestigious Italian literary price , the Premio Strega with this debut.
Right from the start the 2 main young protagonists and the reader are smacked in the face with two huge traumatic experiences that will continue to impact the future lives of these young people on a day-to-day basis. Immediately the tone is set and the suffocating feeling had settled in on me when reading.
Both characters struggle with communication and emotions and they seem to be locked up in their own bubble of introspection (autism??), genius, self-destruction, solitude, obsessions and the inability to truly connect to anybody else, despite their deep friendship with each other. As a reader you are intrigued and shocked by their evolution and life choices and you're dragged along. The entire time there was an ominous feeling as if both of them were doomed and the foreshadow of more tragedy was on the next page. Thrilling and choking but also hopeful in a subtle way at the same time.
At the end of the book I was left wondering whether I had enjoyed the book or not. I'm really not sure. It surely kept me reading once started and the images & writing style used was really enjoyable. Yet I could absolutely not relate to the arid social world of Alice and Mattia and I wish I could have smacked them on the head a couple of times. But that probably wouldn't have made a difference to them at all. I guess that's the problem really.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
And some other princesses were invited to the party...and also a little prince who was not at all intimidated by all the beauty bling bling going on.
If your favourite cartoon is Strawberry Shortcake and your daddy owns an excellent bakery , you might get this incredible birthday cake!
Others were very undisturbed by all the pink princess stuff
And the adults enjoyed the castle, the shadow of the trees, the food, the company, ...
Presents and toys that all the men enjoyed!
Little boys need to move, climb, swing, hang, ...
A moment of boys talk
More playing around
And a perfect image of a perfect summer night
Thursday, August 20, 2009
But I had a second chance today: our choir was invited to sing at the opening of a theology congress in Leuven about "Prophetic Pastoral Care and Counseling". It was strange to have choir rehearsals during the summer....after all it's the "new year's eve period, right?" Anyway, despite the incredible heat, we did quite well and it was a very warm & enthousiastic group that didn't hesitate to sing along when we invited them too.
It was the first time ever I attended a part of an academical congress, unlike some other choir members that work/study at the university. According to them, they usually have a welcoming speech and immediately an introductory presentation or lecture or something. Here the entire program was "welcome by organizing committee" "welcome by representative of ..." "welcome by representative ...".... It was rather repetitive and following some sort of protocol with mandatory welcoming of honorary guests etc. Interesting to watch. Quite a colourful group too: very international , very eucomenical (Indians in saris, bishops, Orthodox church patriarchs in their black attires and typical long beards, ....) .
Part of me would like to join them in the coming days, I think it'll be quite interesting. Although I'm not good for listening to lectures and I'd not pay that much money for them. But I wish all the participants an inspiring week!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
In the past I've always been more into folk and popular music but not quite a rock chick so I never felt like paying a lot of money for groups I don't know very well. We had some tickets for Fridaynight last year so we went to see some concerts on the Oude Markt that was shockingly empty (not anymore on saturday, so I read)
This year the formula was new again or rather a return to the roots: only Belgian groups but the entire festival was 100% free . It would last only 2 days though. A good reason to head downtown after my choir rehearsal, right? However there was already a very big line to enter the old market square: the new formula sure got enough people moving. Standing in line more than 30 minutes for some type of DJ set....we didn't think about it very much and walked on. The big market square had another DJ on a small side café as well....not quite big enough to name it a real stage. Geeez, the other pubs had more surface than this Stella café. The Vismarkt had from 22u onwards a movie projected....on an almost empty square. Sure. The only place where there seemed plenty of people and a nice atmosphere was the De Laeyenssquare where DJ Zaki was playing. So 3 DJ's and a movie at 22:30. Pffffffff.
We ended up at the Hogeschoolplein where we had no difficulty at all to find an empty table and to get served right away. Hmm pretty weird for Marktrock. So some parts of Leuven were busy whereas others were totally not.
All the media claims the big success and I guess the Oude Markt was constantly filled and 95000 people is quite succesfull. Yet once again it didn't touch me at all. The roads were filthy, there were lots of roudy youngsters out and as I said before, the business was very local....not quite my piece of cake. Rozebrils's post didn't convince me of the opposite either. I don't know what it is, but Marktrock and I just don't hit off. We don't seem to find each other.
Last night there would a concert from Bart Peeters & Yevgueni before that. I'm sure I would have truly enjoyed those concerts and I am also sure the Oude Markt would be packed. But we were still driving back from the family BBQ and couldn't quite make it anymore. So we had to resort to our iPod and a Bart Peeters concert on there which we've both sung out loud in the car while driving back home. Our little private concert after all. It was really good! ;)
Yesterday was very hot. the 15th of August is traditionally a family BBQ at Jan's family and sometimes we need to sit in a tent for shelter against the rain & cold, yesterday we were in the tent to look for shade. But since the tent also prevented all wind, we all ended up sitting in a long row in the small patch of shade along the trees. Quite a funny sight.
So this morning I ventured out to church, despite the cloudy sky in a T-shirt and some shorts. Brrrrrrr. I looked like a defeathered chicken. Our daydreaming yesterday about cool dives had evaporated. So we ended up checking out a bike tour in the woods around Leuven. Last week we had been biking in Limburg with our in-laws and it was very very nice. I've been in awe in the past with the nice biking network available there...as well as elsewhere in Flanders. Over the last year we had gotten a few of the cycling network maps and with those and the fietsnet.be site we mapped out a nice little tour, smaller than last weeks so it should be nice and relax.
Just when we were about to leave ready with long pants on (goosebumps, remember), the sun came out bright and shiny. Ok, give me a minute, let me change back into my shorts.
Sunglasses: check, T-shirt : check and shorts: check we were off.
The woods were lovely but the roads were not paved. After a series of bumps, branches and rocks on the road my arms were more tired than my legs. Wow, this tour wasn't going to be as smooth as last week's!
And then only the cobblestone patches started....bbbbbaaaaadddddddllly ppppaaavvved ccccobbbleeestoone. I think we did part of the Via Appia as the road surely wasn't maintained in a long time anymore. And I started feeling whiney and longing for nice concrete patches while I wondered if my bladder muscle would last on all the bumps. Oh don't get me wrong....I love the Belgian countryside cobblestone roads, but I now know I am not made for cycling on them. Heads of for the cyclers in the Hell of the North!!
At one point there was a board next to the path: "warning, road in batch shape". No fucking way, really? So cool you tell me, now can you give me an alternative, please?
(a well maintained cobblestone road...unlike some in the forrest)
a house at the edge of the woods
Fortunately after the woods we ended up near corn fields and villages...which of course have a pub on the main market square with a terrace out to lavish the many cyclers coming by. All refreshed I made it in one piece home...although my shoulders and my ass...ough.
lesson learned: check the color code of the roads on the map: cobble stone roads count more than double in distance!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
For some earlier food memories, please read here.
Our family usually drove south towards a sunny beach destination each year. The year after my sister had been on a summer camp in Switserland , she asked for a mountain vacation for a change. My parents didn't mind a change and Carinthia in Austria would provide us with mountains and lakes. I was 6 years old then.
- On our way up to Austria, we stayed for a couple of days in Bavaria. I remember the typical chalet style of the hotel inside with lots of carved woodwork. A curly carved wooden staircase lead us towards the basement breakfast area where I always announced our entry with a loud "Gruss Gott". I loved that friendly warm greeting and all the people in Bavaria said it all the time and they seemed to quite like it when I returned the favor! Aaaah love and attention, what else does a child need?
It must have been one of my first conscious stays in a hotel. I was totally in awe with the little basket of tiny little fruit jams. At home I totally didn't care much about jam in the morning but these tiny plastic containers, each holding a different fruit taste, were very inviting for sampling. How cute and funny and colourful!
- Once arrived in Austria we lived in an apartment in a chalet and it came with a milk service: we were entitled to go and pick-up fresh milk each day at a neighbouring farmer. There were 2 metal containers in the house and with those we had to walk each morning to the farm to get them filled. I don't remember anymore if it had already been boiled for us or whether we still had to boil it.
Anyway the taste of fresh milk is something you must quite get used to if you've been drinking 2% tetra pack milk all your life! What a difference in taste!!!!! But somehow I didn't believe there was anything else available, so I drank it and started liking my fresh milk. I liked the walk to the farm even more. Upon our return in Belgium the tetra milk was very bizarre, but I have not drank fresh milk anymore since!
At the age of 7, 8 , 9 (and 16) my family went on vacation to a Spanish vacation village where we rented an apartment for a couple of weeks (after a more or less adventurous journey). The complex was built against a hillside with staircases and flowerbeds climbing up next to the whitely plastered archways. The appartment complexes were conceived as little villages with their own pool, supermercado, playground, ice cream stand, ... and there were a lot of other tourist children around that I became friends with. I am still in touch with some of them although on a very rare frequency.
My sister and I loved it and during the first kms back on our way home my parents could enjoy 2 sobbing kids in the back. Every year we suggested to go back to Spain. In my mind Playa de las Fuentas had become to the most idyllic vacation spot where I'd later come back with my children as well. I pictured my adult equivalent walking my offspring up and down the stairs and pushing them on the playground swing.
When returning later on as a teenager I had taken enough distance from my childhood location crush to also notice the loose tiles, plaster falling from the walls , the lack of entertainment possibilities for adults, the villa's on the hill cloning themselves eternally in a race to beat the urban development along the waterfront etc... Playa de Las Fuentas is honestly just an ordinary tourist town like 13 in a dozen but not to me when I was 7-8-9!
- Often my mother did some cooking herself but we were also regular customers at the local restaurant Sancho Panza further in town near the marina. There weren't many other places to go to to be honest. The restaurant was located on the first floor but you first needed to go through a gallery downstairs with a painting of a fat sympathetic guy on a donkey. I never forget the image or name of Mr Sancho unlike his boss...what's his name, the long weirdo who fought mills.
Upstairs the restaurant was filled with big round tables and big wooden chairs and big ventilators on the ceiling turning in vain to bring some cool air in.
We always took the gazpacho. After this nice cold soup was served a trolley was ridden next to us full of little pots. The waiter pointed to each pot one after another and we could nod if we wanted to add a bit of these goodies to our soup: cucumber pieces, bread crumbs, onions, red peppers, .... A small buffet of accompaniments to throw in the soup is quite exciting for a kid. Hot summer days still make me crave for gazpacho ...but Jan doesn't get it why I get all active and why I need to buy cucumber and start chopping onions etc in order to eat gazpacho. But you see: gazpacho without all the little add-ons is fake. There's no point eating gazpacho without them!
- Once every summer vacation in Spain we also phoned Sancho Panza beforehand to order our yearly paella!
The first time the waiter served me with a enormous intimidating pan of paella. When he added with a smile "Todo, eh! Todo " , I felt hopeless and discouraged. I ate and ate but each bite I took, miraculously got replenished in the pan again. I even think it was growing bigger in a very sneaky way. You simply didn't see that I was eating at all!
It was delicious but there was no way that I could finish the pan and I started feeling desperate. I seriously feared that the waiter would not take away the pan before I had finished it. I feared his disapproval for ordering a paella when clearly I could not eat it and I don't deal with disapproval well. I try to avoid it anyway I can. I pleaded my parents and my sister to help me. They did so for a bit, but since they were struggling with a huge pan themselves, their help was rather inadequate.
My sister noticed I was truly not at ease anymore and she quickly signalled at a different waiter that they could take away my pan. The original waiter came by later on again patting me on my shoulder and winking "Todo eh". Only then I realized he had never expected me to finish it at all! Phewww, how silly.
- Every Wednesday there was an evening market in the nearby village in Spain. Black people selling loads of cheap wallets and wrist watches, gypsys with colourful earrings, .... It was all quite exotic and exciting. Highlight of the evening was the churros however. Crunchy outside, soft inside....hot and sweet, covered with icing sugar. Lovely!
The most exiting was the discovery of the churros itself. In our childhood there was an educational child craft program "Kameleon" where they had shown us what churros was and how it was made. How exciting it is to all of a sudden find a churros stand on a market in a foreign country . The fact that I was in Spain and churros is Spanish so that it was rather logical didn't beat my enthusiasm and surprise!
- My sister had become friends with a group of young Belgians whom also had a girl my age in their family. We always hang out together around the pool and each afternoon they had the habit of getting a whole bunch of Chupa Chups. My parents didn't let me eat a lot of candy and I wasn't in the habit of asking either but a coke taste Chupa Chup could not be resisted.
A few weeks ago some people in the dive club arrived with a bucket of Chupa Chups at the campground. Aaaaah nostalgia!!!!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A film made by Jacob (9 yrs.), Victor (8 yrs.) and Casper (6 yrs.)... my cousin's sons. I'm not going to post each film if they keep producing at this rate, but this one really is much cooler than the previous movie....so here it is :)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Here's some out of my childhood.
- I am a slow eater. And that has always been the case. When I was a toddler, my parents got me dressed in the morning and then I was put at the breakfast table with 2-3 slices of bread and a cup of milk. I nibbled tiny bite after tiny bit but never managed to finish in time. That's why my parents often needed to ship me in the car with the remainder of my breakfast in my little hands only to hope that I had finished by the time we arrived at school. (*)
- We all ate a warm meal at lunchtime at school. Up to grade 5 we ate the questionable food from a caterer. Together with the kids that brought sandwiches to school we were seated in a big hall with very long tables and red and green thick plastic table sheets that just wanted to get pinched with our forks. We just loved the little decorative holes grouped by four.
In kindergarden the hall emptied steadily until I was the only one wobbling my feet back and forth at the long tables with only the cleaning lady whome I befriended, to keep an eye on me. On some rare occasions the teachers had to come and get me there when the lunch break was over and I was still sitting in the kantine.
Staying until the last was a strategy that would remain handy until I went to high school: teachers were always attending in the kantine and instructing us to finish our meal and empty our plate...but they never had the patience to stay for those very last 2-3 slow eaters. As soon as they left, we could throw away whatever we did not want to finish. Usually we left right behind the teachers :p.
There was reason to not finish our meal though: I volunteered with some friends in the winter to stay behind and help with the dishes. So we could stay inside the warm kitchen and gooff around without much supervision and we usually ended up playing volleyball with balls made from wet towels. We also could keep an eye on the overdue glass containers with peas and apple sauce etc that the nuns kept in the pantry and which sometimes disappeared depending on the caterer's menu. Eeeek. The nuns never checked the limited consumption periods anyway and thanked us for our work with very gross soggy potato chips. Eeeeek again.
In grade 5 and 6 we could eat in the "big kantine" of the neighbouring high school. Those meals were cooked by the high school students in the cooking/horeca department and were of good quality. Nevertheless I could be a picky eater and felt big enough not to be told anymore what to eat and how much to eat. Tough luck since we still were supervised by our teachers. But as soon as the big kids started coming in (their lunch break started later), we became invisible islands on the filled tables and we weren't checked anymore....just what I needed. Even my mom usually left after I had assured her that I'd eat everything. Yeah right, very credible. They sure knew but were happy to leave on their own break.
- When I was about 3 years old (?) the older kids in the neighbourhood were mocking me for still riding my tricicle and asked me whether I had no bigger bike to ride. My answer was positive but I explained them that my father still needed to attach some smaller supporting wheels before I could use them. 5 minutes later they were sitting down on our driveway with tools and a bit later I had a little red bike with 2 big and 2 tiny tires to ride. Yeaaah. As a thank you they received all my easter chocolate eggs that were still waiting in the fridge for a friend who'd eat them. Yep, I have disliked chocolate as long as I can remember.
- Every summer we left on vacation and when we were back, we went a few times to the beach. Every single time my mom would make the same salad. A salad that she'd never make at another occasion except for the beach or for that first lunch on our long drives to the south of Europe. We always ate it in colurful tupperware containers and it always held exactly the same 4 ingredients. No changes ever and we all loved it. Seriously there's nothing better on the beach or on a parking bench than cold potatoes, thick pieces of dried salty ham, tomatoes and mayonnaise. Man man, I tell you, we loved it so much! Haute cuisine for the summer time.
- When I was 11, I went on a Kazou (CM) camp to Domaine the Massembre in Heer-Sur-Meuse. Camps aren't usually the places where you make culinary discoveries. Yet it was there that I learned that corn flakes were a great alternative to slices of bread for breakfast. Poured in a big bowl and soaked in cold milk until they were half crunchy half soft, I let them melt in my mouth. From then on there had to be a box of corn flakes in the cupboards at home! And they are still a welcoming change in my breakfast routines!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I indulge the cherries fast
only pits remain.
My shoulder is sore
so I can't lift anything
which comes in handy.
Pain radiates down
from my neck to my elbow:
How to hold myself?
I stare so confused
at the coffeemachine that
pours next to my cup
I'm not quite awake
yet placing my cup wrongly.
I need coffee now!
instructions not is
IKEA this assembl'd
Haiku read an the
this is a nicely
assembl'd IKEA haiku
after some puzzling
My feet are itchy
My legs are itchy as well
I hate mosquitos
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Office space structured like the Swedish do
(the boxes in front is old paper that will get picked up)
Our dive gear neatly stored in the room that looks like a tv/ironing/guest space again!
I think it's a scam from the Belgian government: by letting so many prisoners escape, they solve the overpopulation in the prisons. By offering the American government help for the guantanamo prisonors they are doing well on transatlantic diplomacy but by due to the high probability of another escape they also turn it in a mockery and get the anti-guantanamo/pro-peace/human rights/anti-american lobbyists on hand.
Or it's just one big Belgian joke as the Dutch press is saying.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Fact 2: The situation in our prisons is that bad, that we'll start "storing" prisoners in a Dutch prison we can use.
Fact 3: Belgium starts to have a ridiculous long list of spectacular or absurd prison escapes going from helicopter escapes to simply tieing bed sheets together allowing 28 (!!) inmates to climb outside.
Fact 4: The Belgian government has offered to help the American government in closing Guantanamo by accepting some of the Guantanamo inmates and lock them up in Belgium. The first ones would arrive in September.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
It was amazing how we had transformed our basement!
Then I cleaned up my room at my parent's house and I arrived home with many boxes that we placed downstairs.
Then we started diving actively in Belgium which is impossible to do without the needed equipment for each of us ...
Then we were still renovating resulting in many materials, left-over paint, etc. to store somewhere ....
Then a tv and other electronics break down and you buy new and the other one needs to be put somewhere until you find a better solution for it ....
Then we started camping with a brand new tent, electric cooler, party tent, ... ready to use downstairs....
It was amazing how we had transformed our basement!
Electronics were brought to the 2nd hand stores, archived documents moved to the attic and other stuff got sorted and boxed. 4 garbage bags are waiting for the garbage run, even more boxes with old paper for the paper run and 2 boxes will go to the container park. Furniture got rearranged and Ikea sold some Ivar racks. Floors got washed and space has been created.
It is amazing how we have transformed our basement!
Aaah less is clearly more: more space, more structure and more energy.
* I got this handy laptop pillow/table that fits on my lap and keeps the laptop more stable and my legs cooler. Yeay.
* We think Ikea should have VIP parking spots for Swedish cars.
* I found a pile of diskettes with back-ups of university work . Jan replied "oh do we still own a computer with a diskette drive?" Wow, makes you reflect on the technological evolution huh!
We arrived well in time only to find the square already well filled with a big crowd. The start of such an event is a bit hesitant. Although hopefully everybody came with the intention to sing along, it's a bit strange to start singing out loud in public in the middle of a crowd. But it didn't take long before the 10000 people didn't care anymore and were just making fun. And a bit later there's many papers waving along, people are dancing etc .... Oh yes a party it is!
the choir on stage
the crowd in front of us.....just as many people behind us!
"Heb je even voor mij" ....and the square is full of polonaises. Talk about a "wrong" party!
"Lac du connemara" and Leuven explodes.
Does someone find me in this picture series????