Jul 9, 2014

American Eyes

Today I stayed in bed until after 11am, even though I'd been awake for more than two hours. I just didn't want to get up because it's raining, chilly, summer, and I have nowhere to be for hours. And it was so good.

Yesterday morning we took the Hoffman's to the airport so they could make the long flight back to America. The house is weirdly quiet and devoid of activity (hence I was in bed until after 11) with them being gone, and we already miss them. We don't have much planned since they left, so I have a bit more time to write about Belgium through American eyes.
When I arrived in Belgium, I knew nearly nothing about soccer football; which is unfortunate as the World Cup was just beginning. It didn't take long before I had learned to love this sport that the rest of the world adores. It also helped that team spirit was huge in Belgium. Flags hang from windows, out of cars, and handed out with purchases at the store; Red Devils merchandise is everywhere and on everything. You can't help but get swept up in the fun and excitement of it all. I heartily cheered both the USA and Belgium; and while I am sad that the US didn't beat Belgium in their game against each other, I won't begrudge Belgium their win. It is pretty funny to me, though, that once Belgium was knocked out of the Cup, all support and excitement disappeared fairly quickly.

Another thing that strikes me as funny is the closeness of everything. In a matter of hours you can leave one country, drive into another, and get mostly through that one, too. For Americans, distance is so different than that of Europeans. I would think nothing of taking a two hour car ride to go to the beach for a day, or visit a friend, or go shopping in a specific store; here, that's a weekend road trip to the other side of the country.
At lunch, there is the usual lunch meats and cheese with tomatoes, lettuce, and butter. However, there are also: bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles, chocolate spread (similar to Nutella) on bread, a spread made from Belgian cookies on bread, cheese or meat with jam on it, among other things. Now I've learned that these things aren't really so unusual, but at first, they seem pretty strange. In stores there are plenty of products labeled "American" that are very far from American products, like the "American filet" that is thinly sliced raw meat (which no American would touch with a 10 foot pole, unless they were putting it on the grill), putting hard-boiled eggs on your burger (which is super yummy, fyi), cocktail sauce on burgers (no, not that cocktail sauce, this is ketchup + mayo), and curry on and in almost everything. When you order a cup of coffee at a restaurant, you automatically get a little cookie or piece of chocolate with it, however there are no refills; much different than the American: you order coffee, you get coffee, no more, but you get free unlimited refills.

Friday is fry-day, and you will never hear me complain about eating Belgian fries every week; they are definitely different than American fries. Chocolate is eaten on a regular basis, and beer has an entire culture.
photo by Frank Hoffman
So there's a little bit more about Belgian culture through American eyes. I'm loving every minute of being here and experiencing life in another country, and I still can't believe how blessed I am!