Today I had the innocent notion that making American chocolate chip (except there are no chocolate chips. I decided m and m’s would do) cookies would be a good thing to do on a Saturday. I had been mulling this over for several days, so I already had flour and sugar. All I needed was baking soda and some brown sugar. I knew the little store nearby doesn’t have baking soda so I set out for the bigger store further off. After walking through the rain and searching for baking soda for half an hour (I DID find corn meal, though!) I had the brilliant idea to ask. Turns out baking soda isn’t used for baking here; I continued the search at the pharmacy. I made it home and triumphantly asserted that I was going to make cookies. Then I discovered that there was no butter. So off to the nearby store I went for butter (note: all butter here is salted. Unsalted does not exist). Even with conversions, I’m not quite sure if the scale here is functional, so I just guesstimated everything. 3 hours later, I have succeeded at putting the first batch in the oven. Unfortunately, I think they needed more flour, so they are rather melty. Oh well, I’ll just have to eat the bloopers. Ufda. I miss Costco. (Everything here is in teensy packages). And my wheels. My kingdom for Garfunkel! It’s amazing how difficult doing something little like making cookies can be in a foreign country. I’m discovering a lot of those.
Tomorrow is Gilles’ 21st birthday (not a big deal here; the only new thing you can do is get into a casino) so yesterday night Jean organized a surprise party for him. 6 or 7 of his friends from around here came and spelled ‘Joyeux Annie’ (happy b-day) in balloons for him and hid in the living room. When Gilles arrived with Jean he was very pleasantly surprised. Julia and I came and hung out with them for several hours while they drank, smoked, ate birthday cake, and took turns wearing a balloon hat. They were very friendly with us and did their best to speak as much English as they knew. They were mildly horrified that Americans (or at least I) live without drinking, smoking, sex, and eating( they don’t think Americans eat much because I turned down some chips and remarked about how Belgians eat). They made a bargain that if I tried to sing a French song they would try to sing an American song. So I tried Toi plus Moi, but discovered that particular tune is unpopular with this particular crowd. Champs Elysee went over much better, and they joined in. Then they tried to sing Yellow Submarine, which was quite humorous. We said goodbye around midnight, but apparently the party continued until around 5. I didn’t notice, because I slept like a rock. A very happy rock.
This week has gone alright. I am understanding more, slowly. I had my first real test Friday in Psychology. I think it went alright, but the grading system here is very different. 50 percent is passing, but next to no one earns 100 percent. 100 percent is if you go above and beyond perfection. Teachers grade tough. So we’ll see.
Tonight we are going to a horse show, so that should be fun. Tomorrow I am going to try to catch a ride to church, and then we are eating at Marianne’s sister’s place. Jean and Gilles are here through Monday because it’s a holiday. I’m not sure if we have school. I’ll have to find out. Jean showed me some of his art today---wow. He’s in his second year at art school. He really likes Halloween, which doesn’t really exist here. He has a lot of cartoons with vampires and witches and ghosts and whatnot---makes me feel at home. He also showed me a lot of his studies, which are also really cool.
Fall is barely starting here, with the first leaves falling. No frost yet.
Other random fact: because I just got done telling my family that we never eat beef here, we had steak and fries today for lunch. And spinach. Nom.
YUS! I finally got the flour right and my cookies look American and amazing! And they taste good too! Phewf. Only 4 hours. Now I can share the superb nature of American cookies! (Cookies here are hard and more like biscuits---not soft). MUAHAHA, I feel accomplished. Saturday’s mission is now complete.