Monday, December 10, 2007

I love my French class. If you are stupid and you only know one language English is the one to know. Everyone in my French class speaks at least two, so someone can help them out in some language.
The Italian guy is helping the Indian guy in English, and the Mexican guy is helping the Brazilian guy in Italian. It makes me laugh. The teacher starts telling us all this stuff and all I can think is "if I understood what she was saying would I be here?"

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Lost? Oui! I am always "perdu" whether I'm driving, walking around or listening to someone talk.
So French fries aren't French, they are Belgian as posted on my June 13th blog, what about French toast? Today I found out this is called "Pain perdu" or bread lost. When your bread is old and stale you soak it in milk and egg. Why would someone do this to perfectly good bread what are we thinking? They must think it is really strange that we do this with fresh bread.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stephen Stills "Four and Twenty Years Ago" might have been inspired by his French class. This was written I think before he met his French wife but in french 80 is "quatre-vingt" four twenty. The Belgians say a few numbers differently from the French. 70 in French is "soixante-dix" sixty ten, the Belgians say "septante" more equivalent to seventy.

Now in French class the books have pictures to help you understand what they are saying, there is a page of people in a town, you are supposed to figure out who is discribed by each paragraph.

Freddy Cuvelier, Il travaille dans l'immobilier. This guy is a realtor, no clue in the pictures for this. Il a quarante-quatre ans. Ok that 44 years could be one of 4 guys. Tres ambitieux. Very ambitious, not really seen in the pictures. Il fait de escalade. He mountain climbs. That's the guy wearing the climbing harness. Il est dynamique, travailler. Yeh a guy that rock climbs is going to be a dynamic traveller, he'll go all sorts of places, WRONG. He's a dynamic worker, they faked me out, why would a guy that has better things to do be a dynamic worker? I'd never seen travail, used except as the verb for work, why would I think that?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So, Chinese is "Chinios" so"Chenois" the village we live in, "Chen" is dog so Dogese? Well I was told it might have something to do with oak trees, nice try Ed.

As we are learning to conjugate verbs. "Est" is seen again. meaning "is" . So how do you say "it's east"? "Est est" ? No "c'est l'est" sounds nice. In a sentence, "Oui Celeste, c'est l'est". Kinda fun.

The Roman languages all have a formal form of "you", in French "tu" is "vous" for the formal. It is also the plural or "they". My instructor pointed out English does not have this formal form. I started to think about being in Texas where someone might say to you, "Ya all need anything?". this could be said to a single person, or a group. We wondered if this being the south if maybe this came from the French?

Sebs summer job

Seb worked at "B.D. World "for his summer break. They had an event downtown where all the shops had promotions. Seb and another employee wearing costumes of famous cartoon characters handed out discount coupons. B.D. as they say in french stands for "bande desinee" or strip drawing. The Smurfs, and Tin Tin are Belgian.

Monday, September 17, 2007
This is a pretty funny film, Anne and I really related to all the misunderstanding between language and culture. If your a Woody Allen fan, this is a french female version of him.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chez Moi

"Chez moi," my house. Easy enough. I've heard this for years. "Moi" is my, "chez" must be house. The judges say wrong. "Chez" translates as "at". Figure that one out. Classes start next Saturday. I'll be going to a Flemish school to learn French, this should be interesting. GLTT is in the next town over. I can take the train very easily.

Amelie's new school, La Cambre, she will go to GLTT on Saturdays with me for German

Friday, September 7, 2007

Antartic scientific housing, made in Belgium

Containers on sleds will be pulled by this turbo snow cat.

This is the building that will be shipped to Antartica to be used to house scientist. Pretty interesting project. The structure will be wind and solar powered.

As they are sitting here the double pane windows with very thick glass on one side, will be mounted with about a foot of air space between. So two double pane windows.

Belgain politics, a note from the "Economist"

Sep 6th 2007 Sometimes it is right for a country to recognise that its job is done
A RECENT glance at the Low Countries revealed that, nearly three monthsafter its latest general election, Belgium was still without a new government. It may have acquired one by now. But, if so, will anyone notice? And, if not, will anyone mind? Even the Belgians appear indifferent. And what they think of the government they may well think of the country. If Belgium did not already exist, would anyone nowadays take the trouble to invent it? Such questions could be asked of many countries. Belgium's problem, if such it is, is that they are being asked by the inhabitants themselves.True, in opinion polls most Belgians say they want to keep the show on the road. But when they vote, as they did on June 10th, they do so along linguistic lines, the French-speaking Walloons in the south forFrench-speaking parties, the Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north forDutch-speaking parties. The two groups do not get on--hence the inability to form a government. They lead parallel lives, largely in ignorance of each other. They do, however, think they know themselves:when a French-language television programme was interrupted last December with a spoof news flash announcing that the Flemish parliament had declared independence, the king had fled and Belgium had dissolved, it was widely believed. No wonder. The prime minister designate thinks Belgians have nothing incommon except "the king, the football team, some beers", and he describes their country as an "accident of history". In truth, it isn't. When it was created in 1831, it served more than one purpose. It relieved its people of various discriminatory practices imposed on them by their Dutch rulers. And it suited Britain and France to have a new,neutral state rather than a source of instability that might, so soon after the Napoleonic wars, set off more turbulence in Europe. The upshot was neither an unmitigated success nor an unmitigated failure. Belgium industrialised fast; grabbed a large part of Africa and ruled it particularly rapaciously; was itself invaded and occupiedby Germany, not once but twice; and then cleverly secured the headquarters of what is now the European Union. Along the way it produced Magritte, Simenon, Tintin, the saxophone and a lot of chocolate. Also FRITES. No doubt more good things can come out of the swathe of territory once occupied by a tribe known to the Romans as the Belgae. For that, though, they do not need Belgium: they can emerge just as readily from two or three new mini-states, or perhaps from an enlarged France and Netherlands. Brussels can devote itself to becoming the bureaucratic capital of Europe. It no longer enjoys the heady atmosphere of liberty that swirled outside its opera house in 1830, intoxicating the demonstrators whose protests set the Belgians on the road to independence. The air today is more fetid. With freedom now taken for granted, the old animosities are ill suppressed. Rancour is ever-present and the country has become a freak of nature, a state in which power is so devolved that government is an abhorred vacuum. In short, Belgium has served itspurpose. A praline divorce is in order. Belgians need not feel too sad. Countries come and go. And perhaps away can be found to keep the king, if he is still wanted. Since he has never had a country--he has always just been king of the Belgians--he will not miss Belgium. Maybe he can rule a new-old country called Gaul.But king of the Gauloises doesn't sound quite right, does it?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Belgian coast

The kite sailors have out numbered the board sailors here about 20 to 1. It gets really crowded here on the weekends. It's a destination that causes traffic jams like coming home from Tahoe on holiday weekends. The Belgians and Americans are still protecting the coast together a WW1 and 2 tradition.

Veere, Holland

Sailing in Veere, Holland is very nice. Popular as you can see, the habor gets a little crowded. We visited Middleberg as well as Veere. Very nice towns. Nice shifty breeze to keep you sharp on small boat sailing. Some barge traffic but not to bad.
Very nice buildings, a nice outdoor market, bikes to rent, and miles of bike paths.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

La Nuit Musicale de Beloeil

You know how in some languages you always want to buy a vowel. Way to many consonants. Well French don't seem to have that problem. "Beloeil" what are you supposed to do with that?

Like "RATATOUILLE" the new PIXAR film, they do the phonetics rat-a-too-ee is a dish made in "Nice" pronounced knee's, with tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, in Belgium it's got potatoes and other stuff. Anyway "Beloeil" pronounce bell-lew-ee is a town out passed NATO, head quarters. This castle is there built in the 1300's, the same family still lives there. They have events there and use it as a park to pay the expenses. Last night was "La Nuit Musical de Beloeil" The night musical in Beloeil. A night of Schubert music on 13 different stages all over the grounds.

It was topped off with fireworks at 11:30. Great castle, beautiful grounds, and a nice evening. It was a bit crowded, I think we will pass next year. Kinda sad since I've gone every year since I've lived here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Kinda like the Russian River

Today we were in Dinant, home of Adolph Saxe, the inventer of the Saxaphone. It's quite a town with a great Citadell and Church. Today was "Jour famille amusement", FFD, Family Fun Day.

River kayaking the class .5 river. One waterfall got a lot of water in the kayak but nothing really to get excited about. Great scenery and check out this castle.

Me and the gang

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Met up with the Tracey family visiting friends in Germany, Helen is sitting to the right of Anne and I, she missed being in the photo. This is what I learned going to Cologne for the day.
If you click on this photo and enlarge it you can see the signs with the town names. This is on the north side of Brussels where all of a sudden I have no clue what these towns are. I'm supposed to be going towards "Liege" the French spelling of this town, well now all the signs are Flemish, which is similar to Dutch. What is really strange, we were on the way to "Cologne" which I don't know the Flemish for but the German is Köln . So now you need to know the spelling for towns in three languages just to drive a couple of hours.
As we were coming back the signs had the German towns in German and the Belgian towns in French so "Liege" was back.

As we got out of the car we saw a miniature "Louvre" type structure. This is a sight were they are digging up the Roman city below the street level.

This is what you see looking down into the pyramid

Next of course something French, "la plus ancienne masoin parfum", this Italian living here created a new fragrance and named it after his home town. The word "cologne" in French is not as we use it in the states as the Kleenex of the perfume industry but only for fragrances from the city of Cologne, just as they use "Champagne"

This is definitely the Kleenex of Gothic, the DOM as they call it, like the Doumo in Florence, an amazing building that really gives you an idea of the power and influence of the church in Europe. When you look up Gothic architcture, this building is usally at the top of the page.

Monday, July 2, 2007


Pronunciation 101. East, West, North, South easy enough. Well lets first try to understand the rules for pronunciation. When do you pronounce the last letter in a word? Well it's pretty tricky. Let's start with "Est" or East. "Est" is also a conjugation of the verb "etre", pronounced "e" the last two letters thrown out. For east it is "est" you use them all. Now "ouest" like "oui" starts with the "w" sound and is pronounced "west" like west. So "nord" or north is "nor" the "d" is silent of course unless your saying northern "nordiste" where the "d" is used. "Sud" I see all the time, in the "nord" of Europe of course everything is "sud" but Belgium being the big beer capital of the world, I thought they were referring to suds as we refer to foam on the beer. WRONG, anyway back to 101, "sud" is the pronunciation with a long U, "syd" as they do the phonetics. OK so now I have to figure out the short and long vowel rules which don't seem to match ours, when to use and drop letters and don't forget the accented letters I don't have the keyboard for.
"Chapelle ouest" the 40th anniversary of SHAPE in Belgium, a service to remember class mates that have died

Just to show you NATO isn't wasting any money up grading class rooms at the international school in SHAPE. Still as they were when Anne went there in 1978
I found Biff from "Back to the Future" he was there the Conference Championship year, go Spartans, must be something in the name that inspires greatness.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Graduation Day

Amelie and her childhood friend Charlotte graduating High School
not as formal an event as we are used to
No cap and gown but Amelie sports her "Ian Anderson Boots".
She would have been a Tull fan if she was 30 years older
Seb passed all his tests also, so no studying this summer.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"La bataille de Waterloo"

Monument to the Battle of Waterloo

It's interesting, I've never really been a history buff, you have to wonder about the effects of the past on the present. Let's start with the Dutch and the French thing in Belgium. You can see here that the English, Dutch, and Germans a very important alliance took down Napoleon. So why didn't the French go home? Has to kind of make you wonder who won that war.

Now here's one of the first big European alliances and the French were on the outside. So today there is NATO, and yes they are a member nation, but they have pulled out there military support. So they get the advantages of the treaty without the cost. Which go beyond the cost of providing military. The relationships the French have with some nations would not be there if they were more involved with NATO, and that would effect the cost of resources. It seems what the French don't like is the US running the show, but Belgians I talk to feel that the US is paying for it they should run it.

I'm in the bakery this morning and asked why it was so quite. They told me it was because of Napoleon, now this bakery is across the street from the Wellington Museum, most of the time you'd think Napoleon was the only person there. A battle of 200,000 solders, 60,000 killed.

Wellington gets a bit of notoriety in Waterloo, he was the British General at this famous battle, but still people refer to Napoleon much more often. What she was referring to was the re-enactment of the battle which took place all weekend on the sight of the original battlefield.

British troops taking position for the first part of the battle,
mount of the monument in the background

The battle field

This kinda reminded me of going to the Crosby golf tournament and trying to see Arnold Palmer but all you could see was the umbrella's in front of you. Today you would be going to the AT&T to see Tiger Woods, here you'd want to get a glimpse of Napoleon, Wellington, or Amelie's favorite Jerome, Napoleon's brother.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


You see a lot of signs as your driving around, "Friterie", is a place that sells "frites" what we would call fries, or french fried potatoes. Now if they called them that it would be " pomme du terre au Francais frit", a little long since they call the potato, apple of the earth. The fries here are a big deal as you can see, they are served as a lone snack all over the place, with salt or mayonnaise, another Belgian thing. The reason they are called French fries is they are french cut potatoes fried.
You see car lots on the side of the road, the cars have signs that say "occasion" they use this word as we do but in this case they have another meaning, opportunity.
Another word I saw a few times under a road speed sign, had me wondering. Is this something I need to worry about? "Rappel" again they use it as we do, to rappel down something with a rope, but in this case I think it is a reminder, of the speed limit. The judges say YES.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


We had Anne's mothers 70th birthday party, about 40 family members were there. I don't have the group picture but it hit me a little strange when I was the only one saying "Fromage" everyone else said CHEESE. I talked to my sister in Italy about this. She said they say cheese there also. Did you know that in Italy and here they understand GREEK so if something is complicated they say, "c'est du chinois" it's chinese to me.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Grand Oiseau est mort

The other day we went to this park, again on the grounds of an old castle. They had fenced areas with birds. This one reminded me of "Big Bird" on Sesame Street, of course they have a French version, "Rue Sesame" but no "Grand Oiseau" no "Kermit la grenouille" they changed it all around. Anyway it hits me a little strange, as you might notice frog or "grenouille" is feminine "la" but "homme-grenouille" is masculine frogman.
The castle is fixed up very nicely with a modern resturant bar, where we had our afternoon cafe.
as you can see, "il n'y a personne ici" nobody is here, another strange word you might think you understand. If you heard "je n'ai vu personne" any english speaker can see that is, I saw a person. Judges say WRONG, it translates I saw nobody. A few people were there but as you can see when the wind blew all the water in the umbrella's was blowing around, pretty wet. It's 2.5 eu's to come here and they have tennis courts, boats, miniture golf, and all sorts of things for the kids.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Today I am going to take my driving test again. I got 80% the first time on the sign identification portion. You need 90% to pass. There are about 200 signs in the Belgian driving code. I guess we use a lot more words which keep down the number of signs you need. When everything needs to be multi-lingual it gets out of control. They also warn you when you are coming to a crossing and then put a sign at the crossing. A little redundant. And signs for all the exceptions to the rule "priority a droite", which are constant.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Autres directions

Monet's famous Lilly pondBen, don't know if the youth of today lacks focus or Monet's house just does this

Our first trip to France. We went to pick up my nephew and see some sights. Ben was to meet us at Versailles at 10 AM. he actually was there, we were not. We arrived in Paris a little late. The short cut wasn't that fast. We had a hard time finding signs that pointed us in the right direction. But we found plenty of signs saying "autres directions" other directions in English. We just went that way.

After getting to Versailles we found Ben and decided it was a good day for Monet's house. Great village, great museum, great day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Le Chat

NATO, SHAPE, what does that mean? It's English "Supreme Headquarter Allied Powers Europe". I got a job doing my little part for world peace. I'm making pizza for the troops. Believe it or not that involves quite a process. I loved waiting a hour, the office is closed for lunch 12-1, to have a guy stamp my paper, mind you he does nothing else, he doesn't keep a copy, he doesn't write anything down, just looks at it and stamps it. Now this wasn't so bad except now the next office is closed from 1-2 so we wait for them to open.

Well the cats "le chat" need food, I'm out on my own all alone in the Del Haize, that's Belgium's big grocery chain, they are actually a US company now. We have two cats "Nous avons deux chats", adjectives must be the masculine or feminine form to match the noun. " Nous avons un grand chat et un petit chat. " If I am talking about the mouse, that "un grand chat" likes to bring us in the morning, "la souris" , " Nous avons une petite souris." So where do you find the pet food? What do you know, the isle sign says "les animaux, la cuisine", I can understand that. They were not saying animal "cuisine ", another french word we use in English, but that the animal stuff was on that isle and the kitchen stuff is on the other side.

"Le chat meteo" the weather cat. It's great, he comes in, jumps on the bed, I can smell if it's raining out side. Nothing like the smell of wet cat. He makes sure I can feel that it's raining also.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Je vous ecoute

Yesterday we entered a friend of Anne's home and I was greeted with "Bonjour, comment allez-vous?", this was a woman a few years my senior. I knew this did not deserve my normal response, "bien, et toi?" The more formal came out of my mouth quite smoothly, I'm sure the subconscious from my grade school french was at work, "Bien et vous?" I kissed her on the cheek, judges say "NON" even though I have been in her house at least 6 times now, that was too familiar, another learn by doing project mistake.

I forgot to tell you, at the cafe the waitress arrived and greeted us with, "Je vous ecoute ". I thought she was speaking Dutch, I hadn't heard this before. Anne answered in French so I had to ask, is she Flemish or French? French, what's wrong with you? What did she say when she came to the table? "Je vous ecoute ", or "I'm listening to you", now that would sound a little weird or maybe rude in English but very polite in French, like above "vous" shows respect.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Chien Mechant

See the signs on the gate? Click on the photo to enlarge.

Yesterday was May 1st a big holiday here, workers day. Originally the Feast day of St Joseph the worker. I understand the weather is not usually this nice this early in the year, it has been great for the whole month and people are really taking advantage of this. We went out and of course I misunderstood, I thought we were going to a new coffee house. But we were going for coffee and to see some new houses. This place for coffee is on this really nice pond with a large area around for hiking, picnicking etc. I guess this was part of the property for the castle there. It seems all over Belgium these land holders have given up a lot of their property for public use.
Well what Anne was showing me was the new houses. These are very large places on nice lots. I asked if these were the "nouveau riche", I love having these french phrases that we use. She told me this was old money that had downsized from the castles that had become to expensive to maintain. So when were these new places built, oh about fifty years ago.Near the pond and the restaurant, the castle had a barn and living quarters for the workers. In the picture you can see the signs on the gate. They are in French and Dutch. "Chien Mechant" I thought, they sell dogs here, now "Chien", is dog but "Mechant" is wicked. So don't go cruising in the gate to buy one. It was a really nice day. Now "Bonjour" literally is good day, translates as hello. "Bonne journee" is good day or have a good day. Sebastien always says "pourquoi pas" why not, I use that alot. sounds a lot better that just "oui". Let me try a sentence here. "Pourquoi pas as un cafe avec moi." I think that would mean why not have a coffee with me. "As" is the conjugated verb "you have". "And the judges say", "NON" , Sebastien the "pourquoi pas" expert say's, I should say "Pourquoi pas prendre un cafe avec moi" literally you should take coffee, not have.

Not really Starbucks, ok it's better

This is the restaurant building

This is one of the downsized castles, really cuts down on the staffing needs