I have been sick this week, but I am feeling better, and I’m even perky enough today to write complete sentences! Hooray! Blogging time!
I’ve had several cultural notes that have been rattling around in my head for the last 4 months but never made it on paper. Until now.
1. Drinking and drinks (not exclusively alcohol) are extremely important in Belgian culture. If you enter someone’s house, you will be asked what you want to drink. Don’t say no. Cafés here are places to come in and drink something with friends---no food involved. Good drinks are important, and this is partially why Belgian beer is such a big deal.
2. On that note, Champagne is known as the drink of the dead because it’s supposedly so invigorating that it will raise the dead.
3. Stores here are not logically organized. At all. Have fun finding the flour and the sugar---they will be nowhere near each other. Neither will the vanilla or Oregano even though they are both used to flavor things. Shopping becomes a scavenger hunt.
4. Also, often large supermarkets do not carry things like hand sanitizer or baking soda---those things are sold in pharmacies (which are not part of the supermarket, like in American Walmarts).
On to more general stories and such.
I got an inside look at the Belgian medical system a while back---mandatory physical to be able to work in the field as an educateur for school. None of us had to pay---free physicals here. Sweet. The patients are called by a nurse, who then designates a cabin (basically like a stall) where they leave their coat. Then they are taken through a door on the opposite side of the stall to a room where basic info is taken by a nurse. I noticed that while they used a computer occasionally, most of the information was kept on paper. Then the patient is returned to the cabin to wait for the doctor, who takes them to yet another room to do their exam. I guess they save money on fully equipped rooms, but on the other hand it’s rather discomforting being asked to leave your pants in a cabin and then follow a doctor down a hall to the exam room. I suppose they coordinate these things carefully to avoid patients meeting each other in their underwear, but still. Plus your coat and anything else you might leave in there is prone to walking off because those cabins are not locked or protected from the general public sitting in the waiting room reading People magazine.
Sunday Julia and I got to go with Fezzy to Tourcoing to an exhibition of Eugène Leroy’s art. I had never heard of him before, but it was pretty cool stuff---lots of huge paintings with literal inches of paint over materials. His style had a lot of texture and was relatively abstract. Julia and I had a lot of fun reading the titles and then comparing our views of the subject and finding other interesting things like dogs and extra faces. Lovely afternoon.
Hopefully I will be feeling better tomorrow and I can pursue some socializing with Belgian friends for the new year---I really really hope I can! Marianne is on vacation this week, as are Jean and Gilles, so if not there will be other quieter things I can get into. We'll see.