Monthly Archives: March 2011

Culture Shock 40.000 Volts

Belgium is so…different! And the people actually LIKE Americans, and they WANT to practice their English with them!

Saturday was kind of a slow day, walking around the neighborhood. Vilvoorde is a small town about 8 km outside the center of Brussels, so we have to take a bus in. My Personal Francophone lives in a little yellow townhouse with blue shutters, surrounded by red brick homes, and I knew it was a good omen when I fell in love with the place before I even knew it was his.

“I really like that yellow one,” I said. “Please tell me it’s yours!”

He looked at me and smiled. “It is.”

I got unpacked a little, and showered, and ate a Belgian breakfast. Unlike American breakfasts of coffee and hash browns and eggs and toast and bacon, Belgians prefer to shovel in as much morning sugar as possible.  Coffee, Nutella on bread, waffles (made with sugar in the bottom), chocolate of course, and…spekuloos. As much as I LOVE the chocolate here, the spekuloos makes coffee even more worth it than the caffeine does. American ginger snaps really don’t compare. We walked around the neighborhood, and I once again indulged my morbid side with a short visit to its little cemetery.

Sunday we bussed to the center of Brussels, where he showed me not only the Grand Place, but Belgium’s national hero.

Manneken Piss is about a foot tall, and urinates most magnificently, albeit in a childlike way, into a little scallop-edged fountain under the eyes of thousands of charmed onlookers.

His much younger sister Jeaneke Piss squats over a similar fountain in a little alley, across from the bar bearing the image of a Pink Elephant and carrying a very strong, dark beer known as Delirium Tremens.

Monday I discovered his university. The Free University of Brussels was founded in 1835 and was an oasis of free thinking during the years the Second World War. It’s a beautiful campus, though a mismatch of neo-Gothic and postmodern style.

I think his mother liked me at dinner, even though there was no occasion on which to profess my knowledge of elephants, and I think his friends liked me at the party after because I could tell them about elephants and use a few curse words.

I know for a fact that if he comes to visit the U.S. this summer, five or six extra Belgians will fall out of his suitcase.

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J’ai un Elephant

I also have:

consumed a ridiculous amount of chocolate.

seen the beautiful Grand Place of Brussel Zentrum (center of Brussels)…which has Gothic revival buildings.

Eaten said chocolate IN the Grand Place WITH the beautiful buildings AND My Personal Francophone.

Also, it was dark chocolate. ^^

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Hello Belgium

Dear Reality,

I would like to submit my letter of resignation from your company, affectionately known as Real Life. I have found my fantasy land, and its name is Belgium.

It has chocolate covered waffles. You don’t.

As in, the sugar is INSIDE the waffles.

You don’t have that.

It also has milk chocolate shaped like elephants,

which you don’t have either.

And really good coffee.

And, also, Reality, you don’t have the Cutest Francophone in the World, who meets you AT the airport WITH the elephant-shaped chocolate and MAKES you the coffee and SERVES you the waffles.

Therefore, I tender my resignation, effective immediately.

Sincerely,

Emily K. Iekel

P.S. You can’t fire me, I quit.

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Belgium Here We Come

My suitcase is packed, my backpack is (unfortunately) full of homework, and my purse groans with the amount of stuff packed into it.Clutching my boarding pass, weighted down by baggage, I stumble desperately toward the shuttle which will take me to the correct airport terminal for my flight.

In other words, it’s spring break!

This time tomorrow, I will be firmly established and somewhat unpacked in the house of My Adorable Personal Francophone, whose plans now include a trip to neighboring (insofar as all the Low Countries are close together) Amsterdam and the medieval town of Brugges. He promises to take me to the jewelry museum in Antwerp (I will claim no responsibility for this development; if he hadn’t told me it existed, I wouldn’t have known about it in the first place!), though he swears that if I shop he will leave me there by myself.

He is also planning a party, possibly a costume party, and inviting most if not all of his friends, whom I can only hope speak English. I really really hope so–my knowledge of French has expanded since that weekend in Paris, but is still limited to:

Hello, my name is Emily.

I’m sorry, I don’t speak very much French.

Where is the toilet?

I have an elephant.

You have one, two, three, four, five elephant.

She’s gone mad! It’s a scandal!

With these excellent French phrases I hope to charm the hearts of Belgians everywhere…well, especially that of his mother.

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