Epic Belgian Email #10

Epic Emails enter the double digits! And this on is only two
days late, for all the fun I’ve been having. 🙂

I put Dustin on his train home this morning, which means it’s
pretty quiet and lonely around here this evening. It was a
really nice visit, though, and even my housemates agree that
he’s welcome back whenever he wants.

The parts of last week that weren’t devoted to going to class
and doing the minimal necessary homework were mostly spent
playing tourist here in Leuven and partying with my housemates.
One of the highlights was the street party on Wednesday night:

“Feesten als de beesten met Jozef II”

That’s the slogan on the yellow posters advertising the party.
The literal translation would be “partying like animals with
Jozef II.” Personally, I like my own translation – “getting
jiggy with Jozef II” – better, although it doesn’t match the
little pig nose and tale someone drew on Jozef’s portrait.

The houses on my street (Jozef II-straat) are mostly occupied by
students, and students with too much homework usually think of
something else to do instead. In this case, they decided to
throw a big Get To Know You party. Each house brought out a
table and chairs, and if you wanted to, you could have food or
drinks to sell at your table. My house had little glasses of
Jenever – a festive fruit-flavored alcohol. Then you wander
around sampling pancakes and beer and Jenever and get to know
your neighbors.

I was amazed at how many people showed up, and at how late
everyone stayed out. I think a party like this is a bit unusual
here, so everyone came to see how it would go. It was dreadfully
cold, but with Jenever and hot pannenkoeken to keep you warm,
it’s hard to complain.

Once the festivities on Jozef II-straat died out (the police
showed up around midnight to tell us to give up and go inside –
noise laws say you have to turn off your loud music at 10:00) we
took the money we’d earned selling our Jenever (the parts we
didn’t drink ourselves) and went out to sample some nice Belgian
beers. It made for a pretty late evening, but it was a ton of
fun.

Other activities for the week included a trip to the open-air
market on Friday morning, where I admired the ugly scarves and
stripey socks. We bought some terrifyingly smelly (but
oh-so-delicious) Peperkass (black pepper cheese) and some lovely
rotisseried chicken. The chicken has ended up in every meal
cooked since then: chicken soup, chicken pasta, chicken tacos…
I’ve stopped short of chicken on toast, although the thought has
crossed my mind…

Speaking of chickens, I suppose I should take a tangent and
mention that the chickens are doing just fine. They’ve
discovered the joys of flinging the straw from their house all
around the yard. They continue to lay lovely eggs.

So that was the week. During the weekend, we meant to go
someplace exotic, but it turns out that last-minute cheap
tickets are hard to get on weekends, so we ended up going to
Brussels. Really, Brussels does count as exotic, but since it’s
so close it doesn’t seem as alluring as someplace like Prague.
😉 In any case, the hot water at the house had stopped working,
so going anywhere with a working shower sounded like a great
plan.

Brussels is a really lovely city. I’ve been through it on the
train many times, but never gotten out to look around. We spent
most of our time in the center, wandering around Grand Place and
the shopping/restaurant districts. We also toodled around the
Palace and checked out the ruins of the old (early medieval)
palace beneath the Place Royale.

The last adventure worth mentioning is last night’s pancake
feast. Several weeks ago, we had a pancake (pannenkoeken!) party
in my house. Marianne was making pannenkoeken, and I was going
to make good ol’ American fluffy pancakes. Sadly, I couldn’t
find any buttermilk (mostly because I didn’t know the dutch word
:p) so I tried to find a recipe that didn’t require buttermilk.
Sadder yet, my pancakes tasted and looked exactly like
Marianne’s. Not bad, just not exactly what I had intended.

So yesterday, Dustin and I went to the grocery store on a
mission and came back with all the good things needed for nice,
fluffy, American pancakes. Including nice (canadian) maple
syrup. Then, with only minimal trouble (related to not having
measuring cups or tablespoons) we whipped up pancakes for my
very appreciative housemates.

What started out as a late-night breakfast break quickly turned
into a full-scale pancake party. We munched pancakes and talked
about all things Flemish and American until well past 1am. Oops!
My roommates are not night people. But for some reason, they
really liked to talk to Dustin. Hmmmm… Maybe because he
squashed spiders for us? Marianne promised to stock up on
spiders for the next time he comes to visit. Not sure how well
that worked as incentive…

And that brings you up to date! The last important detail is
that my computer is fixed! This means there should be new
pictures up on my webpage soon. Stay tuned, and I’ll let you
know when they’re available.

In the meanwhile, I’m sending my best to everyone in all your
corners of the globe. Hope everyone survived the feasting and
shopping frenzy of last week. Hugs and love until next week –

🙂 Laura

PS: Thank you for all the goodies, mama! I promise to put them
to good use (and maybe even share…)

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