Thursday, June 22, 2006

Honking Car Horns and Other Phenomena

Raise your hand if you're in the United States. OK, now keep your hand raised if you've been following the World Cup. Just as I suspected... Now, put you're hand down if you were NOT born in the US. A-hah! I knew it. That leaves, what...3? All right, put your hand down if you played soccer in high school or served your mission in Brazil. As we see, only one hand is still raised. That's what I try to tell people here. For unidentified reasons, Americans think that baseball is more exciting than soccer, leaving soccer only above cricket and curling. Not so in Europe, as I'm sure all of you already knew, but I'm going to write a blog entry about it anyway...

The World Cup is big here. You don't have to follow it to know who's winning their games. You can tell by which flags are blowing out of the open windows of the cars driving around honking. For instance, while we were in Liège, we watched the first part of a game and then went to dinner so we could get home before it was too terribly late. We knew when they scored because of the cheers coming from around the city as we ate, and we knew when Ghana won, thanks to the cars (maybe just one really loud car?) that kept going around honking. In fact, when we got back to Brussels 3 hours later, I was sure the Italians had won the next game, but it was still the Ghanaians honking. (As it turned out, Italy had very little to celebrate, tying with the US after scoring two goals, one for them and the other for us. Although I didn't see the game, our Brazilian friend Eduardo told us that the US actually played really well and the Italians weren't so good. The US kept it tied while playing almost the entire second half short-handed.)

Which leads me to my next point. For some reason it is entirely acceptable for people to tell me that my team stinks. Before the World Cup even started, a girl told me that even though we think we're the best at everything, we're not going to win the World Cup. I assured her that we knew we weren't going to win. It's pretty obvious, even to us, that the other guys are better at soccer than we are. That's why you can't even find World Cup on US television, unless you have satellite or go to the Spanish channel. She was certain that I was the only one who knew we weren't the best soccer team in the world. Come to think of it, I think there're quite a few Americans who never even heard that the US women were the best team once. Since then a couple of other people have come to gloat that the US played a pretty lame first game and had their goal scored by the other team in their second. (No one told me that also happened for England). Actually, I've pretty much been voting for Brazil, Ghana, and Argentina the whole time anyway.

As it turns out, I'm having a lovely time following the World Cup for the first time. It's actually pretty exciting at times, especially since most of the games that I see I watch sitting next to a Brazilian who knows what's going on. (If you want to know what's going on, find a Brazilian. They know. Men, women, maybe even four year old children (though I haven't seen one) from Brazil all scream strategies and plays at the television. Ask them how they feel about Ronaldo too.) So, if you have a few minutes, give it a shot. (Pst! They have really short soccer games that are made of only important plays called "highlights" here. ; )


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In search of the secret Liège waffle recipe...

La recherche de la recette secrete du gaufre de Liège continue... Cette fois ci, on est à Liège, le lieu de naissance de ce gaufre si delicieux. Arrivant par train, on descend au Gare de Palais, le gare plus près au centreville. Le premier bâtiment qu'on trouve est le Palais des Princes-Evêques, aussi nommé le Palais de Justice. Donc, on le sait comme le cerveau des opérations du gaufre liègois...

Mais personne est là. C'est vide, comme si c'était un fin de semaine. Tout à coup, je me rends compte - en fait, oui, c'est un samedi. Alors, on part et on cherche plus d'indices qui pourraient nous aider. Marchant sur la rue Feronstrée, on voit ce qu'on cherchait! Un gaufrerie!! En fait, c'est nommé "Le gaufrerie," et l'homme parait content de nous voir.

"Dis-nous la recette secrete du gaufre de Liège et personne va mourir," je lui dis en voix basse.

Il a l'air confus et étonné. "C'est quoi dont tu p..."

Mais on est parti. Nous ne pouvons pas l'expliquer, c'est interdit. Ça sera un peu plus difficile qu'on l'imaginait...

(for those who are interested, below is the same story, translated into flawless English by Babel Fish)

The research of the receipt secrete of waffle of Liege continues... This time Ci, one is in Liege, the birthplace of this so delicieux waffle. Arriving by train, one goes down to the Station from Palate, parks it more close with the centreville. The first building which one finds is the Palate of the Prince-Bishops, also named the Law courts. Therefore, one knows it like the brain of the operations of the waffle liègois...

But nobody is there. It is empty, as if it were a weekend. Suddenly, I realize - makes some, yes, it is one Saturday. Then, one leaves and one seeks more indices which could help us. Walking on the street Feronstrée, one sees what one sought! A gaufrery!! In fact, it is named "the gaufrery," and the man appears glad to see us.

"Tell us the receipt secrete waffle of Liege and nobody will die," I say to him in low voice.

He has the confused and astonished air. "It is what of which you p..."

But one left. We cannot explain it, it is prohibited. That will be a little more difficult than it was imagined...

(y para los que prefieren español, aquí es la historia, traducida de inglés a un español divina, también por Babel Fish)

La investigación del recibo secreta de la galleta de Lieja continúa... Este ci del tiempo, uno está en Lieja, el lugar de nacimiento de esta tan galleta del delicieux. Llegando en tren, uno va abajo a la estación del paladar, parques él más cerca con el centreville. El primer edificio que uno encuentra es el paladar de los Pri'ncipe-Obispos, también nombrado las cortes de ley. Por lo tanto, uno sabe que tiene gusto del cerebro de las operaciones de los liègois de la galleta...

Pero nadie está allí. Es vacío, como si fuera un fin de semana. Repentinamente, realizo - las marcas algunos, sí, es un sábado. Entonces, uno se va y uno busca más índices que podrían ayudarnos. ¡Caminando en la calle Feronstrée, uno ve lo que buscó uno! ¡Un gaufrery!! En hecho, se nombra "el gaufrery," y el hombre aparece alegre vernos.

"díganos que el recibo secrete la galleta de Lieja y nadie morirá," digo a él en voz baja.

Él tiene el aire confuso y asombroso. "es lo que de las cuales usted p..."

Pero uno se fue. No podemos explicarlo, él nos prohibimos. Eso será poco un más difícil que era imaginado...

DISCLAIMER: The previous story may or may not reflect the opinions of the author and its events may or may not have actually occurred.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Benefits of Crime

If you've never been pickpocketed before, you may be missing out. Not only does it raise your adrenaline level, but it also gives you a heightened awareness of your surroundings. Ok, I'm being facetious, but I also can't deny that my first pickpocketing experience was quite a rush.

First, the details. Talyn & I were on our way to downtown Brussels so Talyn could try a Greek pita for the first time (they are quite popular here). Because of our long 8 minute wait for the metro (which would be a short time to wait for any UTA bus), there were a lot of people. Talyn got on fine, but I had some trouble, as a few people in front of me wouldn't budge. After having barely gotten on, the guy in front of me pretended to drop his cell phone, and bent down to get it. I then felt him feeling around my shoe and ankle, and being startled, I blurted, "Qu'est-ce qui arrive?" (it's kind of funny that I spoke French in that situation) I then felt my wallet being pulled out of my back pocket by a guy behind me. I immediately turned around, looked the scoundrel in the eye, and fixed my eyes on his hands. My wallet! Without even thinking, I grabbed around his waist as he turned to run off the metro, took my wallet back, and handed it to Talyn. I then took him by the shirt and held him up to the wall until he begged for mercy. (Ok, I didn't really do that last part, but 6'5" Dave would definitely have done it if he were there)

Then came the awkward part. Though the distractor got off the metro, in the kabuffle, the pickpocket didn't have enough time before the doors closed. So, imagine me and him (or, "mean him") standing next to each other as we rode to the next stop, when he quickly got off. It was the most awkward minute of my life. One part of me wanted to kick him and another wanted to just say something to him, but my peaceable side won, and I did nothing. I guess I could have done something like announce to the whole car that they should hold on to their wallets or call the police, but I suppose my feathers were too ruffled up to do anything that gutsy. Plus I didn't have my posse with me to back me up if necessary.

At this point, you're probably wondering what you could possibly be missing out on by not having been pickpocketed. I'll admit, it's not for everyone. But the exhiliaration that comes from recounting this story to people like you and realizing how cool it must have been to watch this whole incident play through made it all worth it. And I guess the fact that they didn't actually get anything from me.

So, how do you prevent such a situation from happening? One thing that I have done is put my wallet in my front pocket. I have been told this before, but it's so uncomfortable and I figured that if my back pocket were deep enough, it wouldn't be a problem. Turns out they get around that. Viddy (one of the other interns) tells me that he keeps a dummy wallet in his back pocket and a real one in his front - if he gets pickpocketed, the only loot would be an Albertson's card and an old BYU All-Sport Pass.

I am glad that I was lucky enough to walk away with all of my valuables, and I will most definitely be more careful in the future. Just remember that as people find solutions, others find ways around these solutions. The pickpockets are getting smarter. Are you??


Monday, June 12, 2006

Waffles, Waffles, Waffles!!!

So, I assume you’ve all heard of Belgian Waffles, but I have reason to believe that you really have no idea. Years ago my curiosity had me asking numerous people what the difference between a regular waffle and a Belgian waffle was. The best answer I could get was that a Belgian Waffle has deeper holes. While that is true, that’s hardly even the tip of the iceberg.

There are three main types of Belgian Waffles. First gaufre de Bruxelles, second gallette, and finally gaufre de Liege. I’ve only tried two of the different kinds, but I’ve been doing my research. A Brussels waffle is rectangular and usually topped with powdered sugar and then whatever topping you want to pay for, ice cream, chocolate, and fruit (no syrup). I haven’t tried one, but apparently they’re lighter than gaufre de Liege. They do have deeper holes than the waffel’s we’re used to.

Gallettes are like waffle cookies. They’re small and round with very, very shallow holes. They’re the mother of waffle cones I think. You mostly buy them at the grocery store, whereas you buy the others either at the grocery store or at waffle stands situated wherever you decide you’re in the mood for a waffle. I had a couple of galletes this morning with chocolate spread. They were yummy.

Finally, the Gaufre de Liege, in other words Liege Waffles. These are by far the most predominant, and for good reason. They’re heavenly! They are nothing like any waffle you can get in our hemisphere. They’re crispy and soft and chewy and sweet and buttery and they have little sugar balls throughout. They average €1,50 each plain and hot, but you can find them cheaper. You can buy packages of them at the grocery store, although they aren’t as good as fresh, they’re still leaps and bounds above even the best Ego waffle you’ve ever had. You can buy the same toppings you put on the Brussels variety. But, unlike any waffle you’ve ever had, it needs nothing. You can eat it completely naked, and people do on far more than a regular basis. (You all know I mean that the waffle is naked, not the eater-of-waffle, although we are an Europe).

Naturally, I want the recipe to these guys, because none of you are ever going to believe how good they are until you can try them. So, I started looking for the recipe. I googled it just like any good wife of an IT graduate, and this is what I found…Lots of people looking for the recipe. However, in addition to all of that, I found a fraternity dedicated to promoting and defending the recipe. (Confrérie de la Gaufre Liégeoise) That’s right. It’s a secret recipe!!

So, I thought, “But how do all the street vendors have the recipe?” So I asked one. It turns out that the waffle franchises have to buy the dough already made. All the waffle makers do is take them out of the freezer and cook them. So, I’ve been looking around for the recipe, and I have found some that come close, but I’m afraid that the rest of you are going to have to come here to try the real thing. Here’s the best recipe we have so far. We want to experiment with a bit less yeast and maybe add a pinch of cinnamon.

1 Kg Farine pour pâtisserie (The closest you can get to that at home is cake flour)
350 g warm milk
100 g fresh yeast (not dried!)
4 eggs
20 g of salt
½ packet of vanilla sugar
500 g melted butter
500 g sucre perlé (Those are the little sugar balls. You can’t get them at home. We’re thinking just break some sugar cubes in smaller pieces, but not that much smaller.)

Prepare the dough with all the ingredients except the butter and sugar.
Let it rise 30 minutes
Work the dough little by little adding the butter.
Add the sugar
Make little balls about 100 g each
Let them rise 15 minutes
Cook them about 3 minutes in a 4 by 7 waffle iron.

So, next time you take a bag of cheerios to church to keep you kids happy, think of us in Belgium where the kids carry waffles instead of cereal. (And I'm not kidding either!)

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Jet lag? What jet lag?

The exhilaration that comes with international travel can be dampened somewhat by an abrupt change in schedule caused by a difference in time zone, known as "jet lag." Arriving at a destination at lunchtime after having seemingly left at dinnertime on the same day can make it difficult to adjust to the new schedule. Especially after a day of travel, one can feel inclined to go to bed at the standard hour and rise the next day, feeling invigorated.

Many, however, have experienced the undesired consequence of waking up, fully rested, in the middle of the night or not being able to wake up until early afternoon. Their biological clocks are still running on their local time from back home, and unless sleeping habits are changed, then can go many days on this irregular schedule.

So what's the solution? How do you minimize or completely avoid this jet lag? The answer is simple, but it takes willpower. Adapt your schedule to the local time. In other words, even if it's already 1:30am for you and it's only 7:30pm where you are, stay up for another 4 hours until the regular sleeping hour. Or even it's only 8:00pm for you but midnight where you are, go to bed and do your best to fall asleep. (I usually don't have this problem because traveling in itself makes me feel like it takes 4 hours out of my day) In fact, the same advice goes for meal times - assimilate to the local time.

Although I haven't traveled too much, after talking to others who have and trying out this advice for myself, I am convinced that this is how you can minimize jet lag. Adjust yourself to the local schedule and make the most out of your vacation.