The Little Things

Here at It Must Be Tuesday I spend most of the time showing off our life.  That was the whole point of this.  Keeping people we know in the loop of our time overseas.  Our big trips, parties, awards won by the kids for good grades or for knowing the pledge of allegiance (Scouts do love their badges and will give them out for any reason at all.  Breathing?  There’s probably a badge for that.)  New cars, birthdays, visitors from near and far, have all had their very own posts.

But the big things aren’t the only thing living overseas has to offer.  Because daily life isn’t about the big things.  As much as I would love to swim in the Med or hike in the Alps or watch fireworks over Mons on a daily basis, that’s not the way it works.  I mean, of course it doesn’t.  Daily life is about the small things.

Now, if you know me at all, you have heard me complain about Belgium.  From the ghastly weather to the constant road construction.  From the language barrier (my fault) to the most ridiculous road rules (not my fault).  From the sound of my voice, you would think I didn’t like living here at all.  Not true.  It’s taken two years of experiences, but I’ve discovered some everyday, small things that I’ll truly miss when we go back “home”.

Let’s just start out with travel.  Yes, I said small things but you can’t talk about living overseas without at least a mention of the number one good thing about being on a foreign continent.  Just take a look right.  See that list of countries?  Bam!  Two years worth of vacations right there.  Feel free to click away!  On every one but Ireland.  That trip is coming soon.

(And now onto the small stuff.)

Bon.  Or Bonne.  As a wish, that is.  I mean you’ve all heard the expression bon voyage.  We even use it in English, but did you know you can add it in front of pretty much anything?  Often heard from the cashiers at the grocery store, or the sellers at brocantes, or really anyone, in place of “Have a nice day”.  I just love it.  Bon Dimanche! (good Sunday)   Bon marché! (good market)   Bonne ducasse! (good Ducasse… at the doudou)    Bon week-end! (you can probably figure that one out).  I’ve been wished every one of these.

Good ingredients.  You know when you’re reading a Martha Stewart recipe and she insists, in her patronizing way, that you only use the “best quality” chocolate?  None of that pedestrian Nestle.  Or you find a gourmet vegetable side dish that recommends you use “haricot vert”?  Or some fancy pants blogger shows you a picture of her ingredients and it includes imported Italian tomato paste in a tube instead of a tiny can?  That’s all we get here.  Best quality chocolate?  We’re in Belgium, for Heaven’s sake.  Tube tomato paste?  Easy.  (And, I must admit, one hundred million, billion times better than from the tiny can.  I could eat it by the spoonful.)  And, while American recipes that call for “haricot vert” are actually trying to suggest that you use only short, skinny, young green beans, the literal translation is : green beans.

Love of the yield.  Driving here is often more fluid than in the states.  There are very few stop lights and even fewer stop signs.  Nearly every intersection that would have a stop sign in America, has a yield instead.  Even when there is a stop sign, it’s much more common to see people slowly roll through than come to a real, complete stop.  Roundabouts take the place of four way stops.  If you are afraid of driving into a rotary, stay off the roads.  Now, with this comes the right priority, and we all know how much I detest the right priority rule.  But, get this!  It might be going away!  This article gave me faith in the Belgian road system.  My favorite quote?  “Peeters insists that the priority rule doesn’t lead to more accidents, citing figures that show that just 10% of accidents involving death or injury are the result of a failure to observe the priority rule.”  Just ten percent.  Which means that one out of every ten accidents where someone gets hurt or killed are caused by the right priority rule.  Imagine the statistics if you added in the fender benders, since right priority usually happens on slower speed limit roads.  And, with any amount of luck, that will be the last time I mention right priority on this blog.  But no promises.

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Bread.  Really good bread.  And pastries.  Really pretty pastries.  Becoming a baker, whether as a pâtissier (pastry chef) or as a boulanger (bread baker), requires study and apprenticeships and more study and tests and amazing ability.  They command a lot of respect.  These are not kids hired for the overnight shift at Panera.  There are artisanal bakeries, where everything is made by hand, but even the chains and grocery stores, with their bread from frozen dough, are better than what you get in the states.

I love being called “Madame”.  It sounds so much nice than “ma’am”.

With the Binche carnival coming up, I feel that folklore needs a mention.  Maybe it’s due to having such long history, but folklore is a popular thing to celebrate over here, particularly in Belgium.  With stories of dragons to slay and giants who marry, bears who terrorize cities and relics that need parading, the country has an enormous well of stories from which to draw.  We’ve seen St George and his horse chase a dragon around the Mons grand place, leeks dance around the square in Tilff, giants spin through Tournai, and, if the weekend is free this year, I hope to watch cats be thrown from a balcony, followed by a witch burning, in Ypres.

That’s not all, of course.  There are waffles and beer and French fries and beautiful summer weather, however fleeting.  And brocantes.  I absolutely love brocantes.  There’s a lot to like over here.

What got me thinking about all of this is our shortening time here.  We’ve still got a bit to go, we’re really not sure just how long in fact, but our current group of friends is shrinking at an alarming rate.  Everyone is leaving!  Over the next few months our social circle will, for lack of a better word, disintegrate.

So, bon voyage Tritzs and Solomons (and Fields’ and Gwons and Isabels and….)

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And Bon Mercredi to the rest of you!

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