It’s “summer” in Belgium. And by summer I mean that it’s sometimes warm, occasionally hot, maybe raining. In other places in the world you can guarantee that summer means hot. These are the kinds of places that I am used to living in. And these are the kind of places where air conditioning is normal, expected, and, for most people, an absolute necessity. This is not the case in Belgium. O.k., I get it. Not often necessary so why install it? Fine. I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t like it, but I’ll live.
However, I will never, ever, ever understand why Belgians don’t use screens. In a country of no air conditioning, where opening windows to get a small breeze is the only cooling option, they don’t use the one simple tool that will KEEP THE BUGS OUT.
Mosquitos, flies, bees, wasps, spiders, and, a new one for us this year, the wheat bug.
Let me tell you about the wheat bug, otherwise known as thunder bugs, storm flies, or thrips. They are small and black. They look like a tiny piece of mechanical pencil lead and they are currently everywhere. You can’t get near a field where crops are growing and not get covered in black bugs. Our most recent brocante outing was to a town surrounded by fields and the bugs totally kept me from concentrating and therefore earn a great big thumbs down from me.
We have managed some other local trips without getting smothered in thunder bugs. An evening family bike ride, a stop in Ath for a quick afternoon explore, a trip to Pairi Daiza that was only marred by those damn bugs when we got back to the car and found it filled with them.
While visiting wheat-bug-free Ath we stumbled on yet another local street game. Jeux de Paume, an old version of handball, was being played in an empty parking lot with an audience of beer drinkers and a grill going on the side with the requisite pain de saucisse. You never know what sort of local fun you’ll find on a Sunday in any random village. From what we could tell, two teams hit a little rubber ball at each other using flat gloves. They usually get in about three hits total before each team high fives each other, yells a lot, then serves again. Scoring is identical to tennis, there’s a referee with a whistle, a big jug of water marked II that changes the serving line possibly and that’s all I could pick up. The ball often hits windows and passing cars and sometimes spectators.
And now let me tell you about my proudest moment thus far in Belgium. Was it the first time I drove without the GPS yelling directions at me? No. Was it the first time I held a conversation in French? No, as that hasn’t happened yet. It was just the other day. I opened a window and had two flies zip past my head and into the living room. “That’s it!” I said to the empty (not counting the flies) room. I marched to the hall closet, rooted around for the box that held the screening that we bought last year and never used because the weird Velcro system that was supposed to hold it in place was worthless and didn’t work, promptly dumped the weird Velcro system into the trash, and duct taped that screening over the gaping hole that is my living room window. Yes, duct tape.
Oh, yeah! (Which I always say in my best Vector from Despicable Me voice.) I beat the system! I pulled one over on Belgium! I can sit in my living room at night with the light on and not be attacked by mosquitos. Oh, yeah!
And now we’re just a few days from our big summer trip. And I’m pretty sure there will be no wheat bugs at the beach. Oh, yeah!