September 28, 2010

A walk around Linkebeek

Well, I realized that even though I've posted pictures of things like boat lifts and beer, I haven't taken many of the town I live in.

So the other day, I took a walk around Linkebeek with my camera, taking pictures every hundred meters or so. I'll try to narrate it so you can follow where I go, but if I lose you, don't worry-- the pictures are pretty anyway.

Here we go, then...

Up the stairs...

And into Linkebeek.

 The church you saw in the previous picture is to the right (outside of the picture), and I take a left when I reach the intersection ahead. 

Here's Delhaize, the little grocery store. Within five minutes, you can walk here, buy a fresh loaf of bread, and be back home. 

Continuing down the sidewalk, I pass the Maison Communale, which is like the town hall. This is where I had to go when I first got here, to make sure I was in Belgium legally.


Around the center square...

 And turn right.

The streets aren't easy to follow, are they? Every intersection you hit, there's at least six different choices.

After the white sign which says Bruxelles/Brussel Ukkle/Uccle, you are in a different region of Belgium-- the capital region. The district of Uccle is where my school is. More on Uccle and my school soon.

Got a picture of a bus-- I take bus 43 to school every morning.

 Here's my bus stop. The ads on the shelter change weekly-- but this time it advertised chocolate. Mmmm. 

View of the other side of the Maison Communale. From here, I turn left, and head towards the train station. 

In the distance...

 You can see this building. I haven't been to the café yet-- I'll save the 3€ beer for a special occasion.

The train tracks-- that way to the center of Brussels. 

Bridge over the tracks. Don't cross them any other way-- it's not a smart idea.


Gare du Linkebeek. It's not exactly a happening place, but it's colorful....
I turned around here, and headed back towards the town. 

Turned left, down this street...

 Here, you can see Noï, the Thai restaraunt in Linkebeek. The food there is delicious.

Back into the village...

You can see the Delhaize sign across the square.

A couple views of the church and the area around it: 

And now, I'm on the same path I started from-- the stairs are straight ahead. 


Aand, back down the stairs...

So, there you go. A quick tour of Linkebeek. Hope you enjoyed, and didn't get too completely lost.

September 20, 2010

Exciting news

For those of you in Cortez, I have some awesome news. Today Ysaline Spaey, my host sister, will be heading to Cortez to live with my family for the rest of the school year. She'll be attending Montezuma-Cortez High School as a senior, experiencing life in small-town America. Please do all that you can to welcome her!

She flies into Durango tonight, and will probably start school Thursday.

If you want to get a hold of her, her cell phone number there is the same as mine.

I'm super excited-- for her, my family, and you guys-- my community. It's going to be awesome.

Brussels-- the chocolate and the beer

Two weekends ago, I toured a chocolaterie and a brewery with some other AFS students from my region. 

Here are some pictures!

I started my day at the train station at Linkebeek. The train ride from Linkebeek to the middle of Brussels is less than 20 minutes. 

We went to the chocolaterie first, and watched one of the workers there make pralines-- chocolate candies with a creamy filling. Per day, this guy makes over 10,000 pralines. 

 The chocolaterie buys giant (20 kilogram) bags of chocolate...

 ...and puts them into this machine to melt and temper. 

And they mold them into shapes and into candies. Mmmm... 

After the chocolaterie, we got on the tram...

and headed into the center of Brussels for lunch. I got some pictures of the streets and the Grand Place and the ambience:

I want a hat like these guys had:

A beautiful day at the Grand Place...

here's a panoramic view:

C'est joli, oui?

After lunch, we went to the brewery. 

And at the end, we sampled the beer. Though I'm sure it was some of the best beer in the world, I didn't much care for the taste. It looks pretty, though, don't you think? 

After that, the group split up, and I headed to the Grand Place again, and found a marching band. A little different than M-CHS, but not too much:

And, one last nice picture of my day in Brussels:

September 9, 2010

Little things about Belgium

So, after a little over three weeks here, voila, some more observations.

Belgians LOVE comics. They're called BDs, which stands for Bandes Dessinées.

75% of the music you hear on the radio is American. Many people love the music, but only understand some of the lyrics. 

The TV show called CSI in the U.S. is called Les Experts here. People love it.

People love American TV in general, actually. 

There are very few stop signs-- drivers are supposed to yield to other drivers on the right side. They don't always do so.

Therefore, there are LOTS of traffic jams, called bouchons.

If you have a moto (little motorcycle), few of the traffic laws apply to you.

A popular saying: the tram is always right. Around the city of Brussels, there are lots of trams-- electric streetcars. You always yield to the tram, because it's bigger and doesn't stop.

The busses are usually late.

Friends-- both guys and girls-- kiss each other once on the cheek to greet one another-- called a bisou.

Very few people at school hug each other.

At school, people take notes with a fountain pen. And use rulers to underline things.

Belgians have very nice handwriting, compared to Americans.

Before class, people stand by their chairs until the teacher says they can sit.

Cafés serve alcohol--they're like bars.

There's two kinds of waffles (called gaufres). Les gaufres de Liège are dense, chewy, and sweet, while les gaufres de Bruxelles are lighter and puffier.

Belgians love Spéculoos-- crunchy cookies that taste somewhat like extra sweet graham crackers.

There are no drinking fountains. Anywhere. If you want water, you buy a bottle of it.

Popular breakfast: bread, butter, and chocolate sprinkles on top.

You can buy cherry- or rasberry-flavored beer.

Fanta isn't bright orange. It's a yellowish-color.

Iced tea (like Lipton) is carbonated.

When you buy frites (fries), you have about 25 different sauces to choose from to go with them.

Speaking of frites, people here are very insistent that frites were invented in Belgium. Not France, like the American name suggests.

Wherever you go, there's lots of grafitti.  

If you get something wet, it takes around 3 days to dry.

The clouds move extremely fast. It can be sunny one minute and raining the next.

It rains here. A lot.

Here are some things I will elaborate on later:

Belgian politics are very complicated. Very, very complicated. 

Many people play field hockey-- it's like a combination of soccer, hockey, and golf.

Almost anyone you talk to speaks some English.

I'll continue to add things as they come up. 

September 6, 2010

Bike ride II

Well, I can add another thing to my list of firsts: Saturday was the first time I've ridden my bike 40 km alongside a canal to visit the largest boat lift in the world.  You never know when that'll come up in a conversation.

It was really impressive, actually-- Frederick (my host dad) and I visited two giant-- I mean giant-- boat lifts. I have some pictures of them, plus some of the countryside. 

A little background: canals have to be completely flat so boats can go either direction without fighting against a current. However, Belgium isn't completely flat. So either locks or lifts have to be built. This canal used to have locks, but locks are slow and can't carry huge ships. So they've built boat lifts like the Plan Incliné de Ronquières.

How it works: basically, canal boats are put into a giant box of water, and winched up or down a giant ramp. That allows them to navigate the 68 meter elevation change.

This canal had two ramps, so more traffic could go at the same time.

Here's a picture of the ramps from underneath.

The ramp is 1,432 meters long (Thank you, Wikipedia), and can hold boats up to 1350 metric tonnes.

After they get to the top, the box is opened, and they can continue on.

This lift also had a giant observation tower, which we went inside. The view was great.

Those are the tracks for the cassions. 

And here's some Belgian countryside: 

That farm doesn't look like anything around Cortez, does it?

Finally, a last picture of the tower, and we were on our way down the canal.

It was strange-- I've never ridden a bicycle somewhere completely flat. It's not like anything I'm used to. It was very easy, though!

After a while, we came to another lift. This one was different-- it wasn't an inclined plane but basically a giant elevator. A seriously giant elevator.

Called L'ascenseur funiculaire de Strépy-Thieu, it winches the cassion 73.15 vertical meters, making it the tallest boat lift in the world.

A panoramic view from the bottom:

We watched one of the cassions move:

A last photo of the me and the lift--

And then back up the canal. I realized why it had been so easy-- the wind was behind us. This time, however, it wasn't. We rode single file, having to switch off now and then.

By this time, the light was better, so I got a few more pictures:

So, another beautiful bike ride in Belgium.