The horse show yesterday night was actually a show put on by a sort of school for stunt horsemanship. It was pretty amazing; the teacher had 4 miniature horses in all kind of formations without any lines or direct control on them, one student stood on two galloping horses, and there were a lot more acts. The professor, an old man, looked a little frail (on purpose) but was standing on one foot on cantering horses, hanging on to the tail of a cantering horse, and driving his team of minis at a gallop in hairpin turns. It was very impressive. The show itself was actually in France, so that was kinda cool to see how easily it is to be international here.
We just got back from having dinner at Veronique's (Marianne's sister). We ate a lot of good food (cheese-stuffed mushrooms, roast ham, a luxurious French potato dish (the potatoes are cooked in butter for 3 hours before being baked with ham), bread, some kind of creamed fish-sticks for appetizers, and then cake and coffee. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera) and a lot of good conversation too. (A note on Belgian table manners: napkins don't go on your lap, you don't unfold them to use them, and you fold them instead of crushing them. Also, bread goes on the table next to your plate, not on the plate.) I am understanding a bit more during group conversations, which is a very very welcome improvement. Jean-Luc (Veronique's husband) is very friendly and interested in politics and history, so we had a discussion about WWI and WWII. He was saying that WWI was a lot worse than II because all the survivors had absolutely no support when they tried to go back to being civilians. I mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front and he knew the French version. Julia told me that our school was used as an English hospital during WWII, which I didn't realize (wow). We also had a good discussion about Hercule Poirot and comics. Apparently there is a small village in Belgium with an actual Hercule Poirot recorded as being born there, so they say that that is his birth place. Hercule is also the name of their greyhound. He was found in a well in Spain, with a broken hip and leg, with 6 dead dogs. He is rather shy, but improving.
I took my 5 lb bible with me to church today so I could read the scripture in English. It helped a lot in guessing the gist of the sermon. Everyone at the church is very friendly and I like to go.
Julia and I gave Gilles his birthday present today: a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jam, and a spoon to eat it with. Simple, quirky, and well-received. Gilles had Jean try it, and poor Jean bravely said he had to get used to it. I guess it's only Americans and half-American ex exchange students who like peanut butter. Speaking of which, one of the dogs found my peanut butter stash in my suitcase and ate a package before I caught her. Dagnabbit. Thank goodness it was only one dog and one package. I might have cried if they had eaten all of them. Belgian Peanut Butter is just not the same. I have moved my stash to a safer spot, so everything's under control now. Although I do have 6 dogs in my room at the moment. The more the merrier.
PS: Marianne, Jean, Gilles, and even Julia liked my American cookies. Gilles says they're not what he calls American cookies, they're Alaskan cookies, and he's used to Wisconsin cookies. Even so, he liked them. Jean (the artist) happily remarked that there was a rainbow in his cookie. And Gilles also noticed that they were the colors of the gay pride flag, so that was perfect. Success.