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

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Priorite de droite

Driving in Belgium is very easy you just remember "priorite de droite" or The person on the right has the right of way. "Oui mais non" remember this from our last lesson, yes but no. If you are in a traffic circle the person on the left has the right of way. So understand there are few lights and stop signs except on major streets so you have to go through the intersection looking right and hope the guy on the left doesn't think your stopped because then he can go.

Now what I really like about driving in the neighborhood is the streets are 2.5 cars wide, but they park on one side of the street on the 1st-15th then the other side the rest of the month. The traffic goes in both directions understand so which ever side the cars are parked on, these people have to wait. On the the first and 15th it is very hard because till everyone moves, they are parked on both sides of the street.
May 1st priorite' coming home

April 30 priorite' leaving the house

Things to know first "Bonjour", hello, we kiss just on one cheek in Brussels, Paris it is three kisses. Bye, au revoir, or salute. Thanks you, merci. Thank you very much merci beaucoup. By the way Brussels in french is Bruxelles, in Dutch, the other most popular language here, it's Brussel.

Left gauche right droite now here's the tough one straight ahead is tout droit, this will have me turning right quite often.

Today I had a job interview at the Army base. This is about the only way to get a legal job in Belgium having just arrived. So I will be working for Army Air Force Exchange Services, AAFES, as it is known, for as long as I can stand it.