Or that should it be, but it’s snowing outside, thick nice snowflakes. It won’t stick, cause it’s been raining all day. The garden is a swamp at the moment. No pics of the swamp, nor of the snow, sorry!

To cheer me up, I entered this contest that Cinnamongirl put out to celebrate spring. If you go there, make sure to tell her Diana sent you!

An Afternoon With Fimo

When we changed our bookcases, we noticed at the bottom near the floor, the back to back bookcases left a perfect mouse hole. So I started joking about putting a mouse there with a piece of cheese.

Then I looked online, and decided Fimo Soft was the way to go. It’s also handy they have creative tips, and one of them is how to make a dangly cat and a dangly mouse. So we went to De Banier in Aalst, and bought all the Fimo that was needed.

The fimo lingered on the bookshelf for a couple of weeks, cause I never had time to sit down and play with modeling clay. But then yesterday, after my written dutch exam, I decided it was time to have some fun. So I printed the “instructions” (they’re not detailed instructions, if you want to see something a bit better, check out the sheep, I think that will be next in queue), and put an oilcloth on the table, and started playing with Fimo. After some tweaking here and there, and adjusting the amount of clay for the head and ears, I actually had enough to make arms and legs out of Fimo, which suited me. And the result was baked this morning (before going to the oral dutch exam):

Fimo Mouse

Since I had some grey clay left, I also made a tiny mouse, and a dish:

Mouse in Fimo Mouse in Fimo

And we all know, mice love cheese, so I made some cheese as well. And since I was already playing with Fimo, I remembered my mother in law had seen some mushrooms for her dollhouse at DaWanda, but I found them too expensive, and told her I’d make some for her. So I also made a prototype of those mushrooms:

Cheese Cheese

And thus, we conclude that playing with modeling clay is not only for kids. Because I had a blast doing this.

Last Week…

It was effing cold! Nearly every day it froze overnight, reaching temperatures of -6C and below. Yes, I know that’s nothing compared to other places.

Anyway, those nights left us with this:

Frozen Field Frozen Field

That’s the field across the street where someone keeps sheepies. The same sheepies that greet me when I walk by. That is actually their feeding field, their sleeping field is to the right. It looks like it snowed lightly, but it’s only frost. *brrrrr*

Long Due Post: Carnival

So I said I’d talk about Carnival here, and that was three weeks ago! Carnival is an important holiday / party day here, or so I’d think, seeing as kids get the whole week of school, most of the stores in the city centre close, and basically everything stops until it’s done and over with Carnival.

The thing that called my attention most was the boxed street furniture. Not joking! See yourself:

Boxed Street Furniture

Boxed Street Furniture Boxed Street Furniture Boxed Street Furniture

These pics show a roundabout with all the sculptures in boxes, some trees in boxes, and even a parkingmeter in a box. It’s handy, for a week you don’t have to pay for parking, starting about two or three days before carnival, and until two or three days afterwards.

I couldn’t take a pic of it, but the shops in the center actually barricade themselves. Yes, barricade. The whole façade protected by plywood, so that the drunkards-partiers can’t break in and steal. Nice, isn’t it?

The Carnival itself is four days of partying, street parades, music, street food, etc. I haven’t ventured in it after the description Jan gave. I can tell, however, there is still alot of confetti to clean off the sidewalks. It’s been two weeks, and they’re not clean yet!

I Can Vote!

Yes, the bureaucracy (or bureau-crazy, as we may call it) it’s done. And I will receive my voting papers via snail mail in the next weeks, and then I can go to the post office, and vote.

Today started like no other day, getting out of bed at 5.30 am. Too early! Walked a kilometer to get to the bus stop, the bus was already there, which freaked us out (yes, Jan was so nice as to come with me so I would not get lost in the big city). Bus was fast and arrived at the train station early. We went to the platform to take the train direction Brussels Airport. And here it’s where the adventure starts.

About five minutes before the train is due, an announcement informs us that the nice train we were going to take, is delayed for at least 15 minutes, making us be.. you guess it, more than 15 minutes later than we want to be at the consulate. So, we change platforms to take the slow train (the one that makes every single stop) to Brussels Central. At least we’d be warm in the train. When we were arriving at Denderleeuw, another announcement tells us there is a connection with a fast train to Schaarbeek, that stops at Brussels Central. So we get off the train, and in the next train.

Finally, we arrived at Brussels Central. First leg of the trip is done. Finding our way around the train station was not easy, but not complicated either. Lets say, Brussels Central is messy. We followed the mass, hoping it’d get us to either the street, or the bus stop. The mass was mostly going to take the metro, but, before you arrive to the metro you can take an exit to the bus stops. I’m glad I saw the signs pointing to the bus stop! Once out, we were lucky, and within one minute the 63 arrived. We had looked it online, it should stop at La Presse, but anyway, we thought it safer to ask the driver. “S’arrête à La Presse?” (pardon mon Français!), and what was the bus driver’s answer? “I don’t know, you better go check on the screen” Yes, you read well, the bus driver did not know where his bus had to stop. That was a first.

Anyway, the 63 does stop at La Presse, and we got there. Off the bus we go, and try to locate where the heck we are on the map. Each of us pointed in opposite directions “I think it’s that way”. First was wrong, second was right. Anyway, we finally arrived at the consulate, about 1h 40 minutes after leaving home. What a trip, yes?

We arrived at the consulate at 8am. The consulate does not open till 8.30 am, but I needed to be there early in order to get a number that would allow me to get all the paperwork sorted. First in line, at least. Half an hour later, and a bit colder than when we arrived, they were so kind as to open the door. Meanwhile, about half a dozen workers had walked by us and got in the nicely warm building, completely ignoring us save to say “Good morning”. We longed for the waiting room, with chairs and warmth. Yay, first in line, I’ll get this stuff sorted fast, I thought to myself.

First thing you do upon entering the Consulate is strip yourself of any metal and put your purse and said metal (coins, watch, belt, keys…) through a scanner while you walk through a metal detector. I love it, not. Then, the security guard asks to see your ID card, which he then proceeds to log in the computer, and asks you what the (*bleeep*) you’ve come to do here. You answer, get your ID card back, and you’re sent through another door, to another waiting room with windows, where you again tell the person what you want to do. I got my number, and three papers to fill in. I only managed to fill in half of the first paper, that would register me as non resident with the embassy, before my number was on screen, and I had to take the elevator to the first floor.

First floor, I got nicely asked to please move to the first window… And then I got nicely told that my paper wasn’t completely filled it.Well duh, of course not, I have had no time! Anyway, I finished filling it in, handed it in together with my ID card and a picture, and about 20 minutes later, I got a bad photocopy about 10x5cm, with a stamp and a date saying I have registered as non resident. I also get my ID card back, and a photocopy of it. YAY! One thing is done.

To request voting via snail mail, I am sent to yet another office. At least it’s the same floor. The person who is supposed to be in that office is however talking with a friend in another office, and yes we could see her there, talking, and doing nothing! Five minutes later she decided to come do her job. About time. It takes another five minutes to hand in the request for voting via snail mail, and get it signed and stamped by the worker. Thirty minutes later, I am finally out of the place, and I will be able to vote on the elections.

Afterwards, we had to get the bus back to the train station. The bus stop that is closest to where we got off reads “Forbidden to get on the bus, only getting off the bus” I did a WTF? eye roll for good measure, and off we went to try to find where we were allowed to get on the bus. Walk walk, and get to the bus stop where you can get on, which is actually the next stop. We got off at Brussels Central (Gare Centrale) after asking the driver, who this time knew the stop was that one. Looked out for a place to have a coffee, after all, it was already 9.30 and we had had breakfast before 6am.

Back to the train station, a train direction home was delayed for about 5 minutes, which made it possible for us to get on it. As we were setting foot on the platform, the train started to move. Byebye train, we missed you! Back to check on what platform is the next train for home due. Change platforms. See the train that will arrive before ours is in direction of Kortrijk, and that it stops at Denderleeuw. It beats waiting for nearly half an hour for a train! So we get on the train direction Kortrijk, get off at Denderleeuw (again), and wait for the connecting train that will take us home. Back in Aalst, we decided to run some errands, and since it was late-ish, had lunch. Then Jan took the bus to go to work (he had only half day off work), and I took the bus to get back home, and surprise MIL was on the bus! So at least I did not have to go all alone.

And thus, kids, finishes the adventure of how Sade got her papers to be able to vote in Spain. On our next story, we may talk about the Carnival in Aalst, and I will hopefully have pics too. Yes, this was a wordy post. If you made it till here, go on, post a comment, and then you can go to the kitchen and have a cookie too!

Public Transport

This post inaugurates the Living in Belgium category. Pop open the champagne, pour a glass and make a toast. Ok, now that it’s officially there, lets start, shall we?

While I’m living here for a few months, and studying for some exams for my degree, I decided to take Flemish lessons (or Belgian Dutch, yes it’s different). This requires me to go to Aalst, and since I’m carless and can’t bike to save my life, I have to take the bus. This would be no problem in Madrid, you walk about 5 minutes and you most likely will encounter a bus-stop, or a metro-stop, and you know the bus (or metro) will show up in 5 to 10 minutes. However, bus stops here are few and far in between. I have to walk 10 minutes at a quite fast pace to get to the bus stop. Then you wait for your bus.

Buses here are very regular. So regular they are always on schedule. And you better check that schedule, unless you want to wait for 20 minutes until the next bus that you need passes by the stop. Yes, you read well, buses only pass every 20 minutes, on school days. So you have this nifty booklet, with the lines you’re interested on, and it tells you when the bus stops at your stop, and when it arrives at the stop you want to get to. Which is nice, and allows you to plan your trip to get there on time. You usually can choose from being there too early, and being there too late.

Bus Schedule

Then, we have the lines. This is so much fun. The line I take stops always at the train station, and then continues to the other end of the line. When it goes from End 1 to Train Station to End 2, the bus stops at one platform at the train station. However, on the way back, from End 2 to Train Station to End 1, the bus stops at a differen platform. It sounds like two different lines would work better, doesn’t it? In fact, they were two lines, until they merged them, and made this mess. How did we find this? We took the bus in the wrong direction once already. Luckily, it was a saturday and I was with Jan, so we could ask how the hell to get home.

And finally, buses change lines when they arrive at one end and scare the shit out of you. Yes, they change lines, without telling you! There I was, after my first day of class (more of that on another post), reading on my book on the way home, and we arrive at the end of the line, but weirdly enough, the bus stops at a different corner. I am perplexed, I ask to get down (I had to open the door by pushing a button), and check that my bus is no longer a #X, it’s a #Y! Where did my bus go?! At least I was home, or well, a 10 minute walk away from home.

Walking home is also quite an experience. My walk is a nice stroll on a paved semi-rural road (Hi, Sheepies! Hello Mr. Rooster!) that has no sidewalks. So I have to walk on the road. I was taught, as a pedestrian, if the road has no sidewalks, you walk on the left, so you can see the cars that come up to you and try to avoid them. Apparently, the rule must be different here, because every single pedestrian I’ve seen on that road walked on the right. Yesterday, on the way to the bus stop, I was nearly run over by a nice camionette that decided to drive 70km/h on such twisty badly paved road. Today it was quieter, but tomorrow, oh tomorrow, tomorrow I get to walk that road at dawn! I have bought a couple blinky lights to hang from my purse in the faint hope the cars will see me and not run over me.

Next in the series, I don’t know yet!