Friday, March 13, 2009

Explaining American things to Belgians

One interesting part of moving here to Belgium is that I've had to explain some American things that I've always taken for granted, or never thought about too deeply.

Back in November, one of the professors had us all over for Thanksgiving - we had turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce, and it was great. While we were eating, someone around the table looked at John (a fellow New Englander over here) and me and asked us to explain the origin of Thanksgiving. So we started explaining, and realized we were giving the 'pilgrims and indians sat down and were friends' story from the era of hand-outline turkey drawings and paper pilgrim hats.

The other day in lab, we ordered pizza, and one of the secretaries asked me what American pizza was like. After I got the most stark difference out of the way (American pizza is a lot bigger - here, one pizza is for one person) I started sort of rambling about New York vs Chicago pizza and told them about having to mop the grease off of Greek pizza with a napkin (though I didn't make as many grease/Greece puns as I probably should have).

Then of course American idioms are always fun to explain - 'the early bird gets the worm' for example (my labmate: "why do they want a worm?"), or 'catch-22' or 'petered out' (I explained that one to my friend Elseline, and the next day it had morphed in her head into "Jaspered away').

Of course, they've had to explain a lot to me as well, like why the word for "lawyer" and "egg custard" are the same (advocaat - but actually no one could really explain why) or why people always walk into each other on the sidewalk (it's because the sidewalks are narrow, or because people are aggressive, depending on who you ask).

Luckily when it comes to beer we all speak the same language (being "Chimay alsjeblieft"), and no one's asked me to explain NASCAR yet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our Begijnhof

Here are some sunny pictures from around the Groot Begijnhof, where we live:

This is the outside of our apartment.

This, too, is right outside our place.