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February 26th 2007
Published: February 26th 2007
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I thought I'd do sort of a summary post to cover the past 5 days since Carnival ended here, before we move on to Brussels for our date with Nelly Furtado. We haven't had any incredible, major, exciting adventures, but we have been having a good time just hanging out in one place with our new international dorm buddies and pretending that we actually had a home for once.

Wednesday was the first day of Lent, thus, saw the end of Carnival. Darn. Instead of waking up at 1pm to make plans for a night of costumed adventures, I woke up at 1pm to Phoebe and Ellen asking me the question, "So, Jess, what are you going to give up for Lent? We're giving up processed sugar!" Uh... yah. Me, give up sugar for FORTY days? No. The suggestion was made that I give up coffee. Psh, obviously THAT's not going to happen, especially since Vicky has promised to show us the best Belgian coffee. Chocolate? No way. I'll use the Vicky excuse on that one as well. In the end, I decided to "give up" pop, which was pretty much a cop out because I've been steering clear for pop since we left Asia, where I seemed to drink it more than water (and my teeth can attest to that...) Hey, I just don't feel that connectioni to Jesus like they do. I guess that I was the only one that was able to make a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely), though, because I'm the only one who hasn't cheated yet or abandoned the Lent resolution all together. Phoebe and Ellen were pretty much eating sugar that day in the form of jam (and it got worse from there, trust me) and Derek, after pledging to give up junk food, has consumed McFlurries, pop corn, frites, etc. Oh, and then Phoebe switched to "no beer," except that she made the transition directly before we went to the Irish Pub. That didn't last long.

Wednesday was pretty low key. It took us quite a while to get our act together, make a massive meal, and get going. Finally, though, we made it down to Phoebe's building's reception desk to borrow some tennis rackets. While renting them, we were introduced to a guy who was standing there (I don't know why) who apparantly was a famous Dutch tennis pro in his day! We ALMOST got him to play with us, but he copped out because he was wearing loafers. Trust me, though, loafers or not he would have beaten the pants off of us. We were TERRIBLE! Playing doubles, our single goal for the afternoon was to get 10 consecutive hits in a rally. We weren't going to let ourselves go in until this happened. It took over an hour--yikes! Phoebe and I both admitted that we'd only played a couple times before, but Ellen and Derek both have tennis experience. You never would have guessed it from our performance, though. I think we put on a pretty rediculous show for those watching out the windows.

That night Phoebe, Ellen and I went out to the Shamrock, which is the Irish Pub that all of Phoebe's dorm friends head out to on a regular basis. It was a pretty sweet, cosy pub. At closing time they played the "Cheers" song, and that summed it up pretty well. Phoebe's friend Cat had 2 friends visiting from Scotland, so we had a good evening with them.

The next day after the same slow start routine as before we finally rounded up enough borrowed bikes to go on a bike ride to Belgium! Maastricht is right on the border, so it wasn't too arduous a journey, but I still think it sounds cool to say I biked to another country for an afternoon jaunt. We were looking for a little pub to have a Belgian beer at, but the towns were just teeny tiny little farming communities and we couldn't really find one. I'm sure there was one around, but it was getting dark and we ran out of patience, so we stopped off at the absolute FANCIEST Esso station I have ever seen. It was made of nice rounded stones and had a great selection of nice wines and champagnes inside. Plus, they were playing some great tunes over the radio, including such favourites as Nelly Furtado "Flames to Dust" and Sharkira "Hips Don't Lie." This trip has seriously turned me back into a lover of pop music, which I wasn't in to at all when I left. Anyways, we had a little dance party in the Esso station. The clerk there loved us, and I could tell she wanted to laugh at us but thought it would be rude. We wouldn't care, though! We bought some Belgian beer and fancy chips (Mmmm!) and headed off to find a farmers field to have a picnic in. As I mentioned, however, we took ages to get started on this bike ride so it was already 6:00pm and dark and cold. The picnic idea seemed less and less appealing by the minute. A little way down the road, we found the perfect solution. Some floodlights were lighting up a soccer field and a coach was setting up for a practice. We parked our bikes and set up camp at the edge of the field. Then, we proceeded to greet every player who arrived for practice with a cheery, "hello!" as if it was a regular occurance for us to be there. It turned out that it was the town team, made up of guys in their early 20's from the looks of it. They loved us, too, and we could tell that the boys were trying extra hard for the benefit of the "English supporters (insert Belgium accent)." We weren't able to stay long because we had to get to the grocery store before it closed at 8:00 so when our beers were done we peddled back across the border to Holland.

That evening, after cooking a massive and delicious meal as always, we went to the local "coffee shop," called Heaven. It's so funny to hear everyone around here throwing out phrases like "oh, are you going to heaven tonight?" or "I'll meet you at Heaven at 8!" I'm sure you're all aware what "coffee shop" really means in the Netherlands. It was actually SUCH a nice place, though. The area we sat in was like a wonderfully decorated garden with lots of plants and statues and a fountain with a little pond. It even had a nice English style streetlight. Oh, and my coffee (real coffee, don't worry) was delcious and not expensive at all, plus it came with a cookie on the side!

The next day, Phoebe and Ellen were supposed to set off for Paris to meet our friend, Mo, while Derek and I were going to spend the weekend staying in Phoebe's room without her. However, Ellen was experiencing terrible stomach pains, and they got so bad she decided to go to the clinic despite not realllly being able to afford it. The doctor told her she had a bladder infection and gave her some anti-biotics and painkillers, but an hour later she was in absolutely unbareable pain and I just didn't see how a bladder infection could be the sole cause, so back to the doctor she went. This time she got complete diagnosis--kidney stones. Honestly, I have NEVER seen anyone in such agony in my life. It was terrible. I read aloud to her to help take her mind off the pain, but it was still excruciating until Phoebe returned with the new medication and Ellen basically passed out. The new drugs turned out to be much better, but we couldn't be sure exactly what to expect for the next few days so it was decided that Ellen should stay in Maastrich with me and Derek while Phoebe went to Paris alone. Ellen seems to have passed the stone now and has been feeling great for the past two days, but I think it was the right decision for her not to go.

We stayed in all Friday for Ellen's sake but on Friday night Ellen had itchy dance feet and wanted to make up for her non-Paris weekend so Derek and she made plans for a big night on the town with some of our friends from the dorm here. I wasn't really feeling like going out so I stayed in (and ended up talking to my dad on Skype for 2 hours!!! Haha, I love free internet access) Before they went out, though, we went back to the coffee shop. Heaven was closing early so we had to move to another, more seedy place called "Cool Running." Earlier in the day we'd seen a guy get carried, unconscious, out of it..... things were pretty quiet during our visit however. Ohhh and also that night we made an amazing meal of thai green curry. Yes, Dad, I can actually make meals like thai green curry (with a bit of help from directions on the container). It was so good. The main point of weakness of the meal was the rice, which was rather gummy and gross. I guess I can make curry, but the skill of rice creation still elludes me.

Oh, and you know what else elludes me? The skill of making toast! This is so embaressing. They don't have a toaster here, just a large toaster oven sort of thing with a really sketchy timer. Everyone just cranks the timer then keeps an eye on their bread and takes it out manually when it looks about right. Well, I completely forgot about my toast and there were about a million noisy Spaniards in the room that added to my distraction, and my toast turned to charchol--setting off the fire alarm in the whole corridor (and probably building!!!) It was soooo terrible because people were still sleeping and in the shower and stuff. So awful. Everyone was just kind of standing around but I knew I needed to contact security immediately to tell them there was no problem so that that fire department didn't come (which we would have been charged for) but everyone just seemed to be guests staying in other people's room and they were just chatting animatidly in Spanish. I kept yelling "LISTEN! Does anyone actually live here? How do I tell them there's no fire! HOW DO I TELL THEM THERE'S NO FIRE!!!!!???" Finally, I discovered I needed to call 666 to get security on the line but no one picked up. It was OK, though, because some guy came RUNNING down the hall to the kitchen to check out the situation, saw there was no fire, and eventually the alarm was turned off. Brutal. I've kind of been staying in Phoebe's room since the incident.

Did I learn my lesson, though? No.

So, today I was making breakfast by myself. There were two other girls (both residents) in the room. I was watching my toast like a hawk for ages to ensure there would be no repeat of the previous day's drama. However, then the kettle started screeching so I went to pour the water for my hot chocolate and stir it and.... SMOKE! Again! It wasn't nearly as bad as last time but it could have been in probably 30 seconds more. There's a fine line between toast and charcol with that thing. Luckily I managed to open enough windows fast enough to avoid any alarms, but it was terrifying. I said to the other girls, "I'm SUCH an idiot! (I was really, really really mad with myself). I can't believe I did that!" Then, sheepishly, "I was the one who set off the alarm yesterday." "We know." one replied. Oh. And.... I returned to Phoebe's room. I haven't made toast since.

We didn't really do anything much today because EVERYTHING, even the grocery store, seemed to be closed today since it's Sunday. Thanks GOODNESS North America isn't like this. I only have 2 precious weekend days for getting things done when I'm at home, and Sunday is definitely a very important part of that weekend. If I wasn't able to accomplish anything, I don't know what I'd do. I think I'm going to start planning Sundays as travel days, because we're never able to really do anything on Sundays, so we may as well just sit on the train during that time.

Tomorrow, Derek and I got to Brussels for the night to see Nelly Furtado, live and in concert! We're really excited. We wanted to make huge signs but, as you know, everything was closed, so hopefully we can find an art supply store in Brussels when we get there. She's so huge here--it's really unbelievable. People get all excited and impressed when we say she went to our highschool, even though she gradded 7 years before us.

OK, well, it's nearly 2am and if I don't got to bed I'm going to miss the train tomorrow, so I'd better go. I don't really have any pictures to post right now, but I'll try to take some at the concert (although concert photos never work out very well).


27th February 2007

Loved the toast story. So nice to know that absent-mindedness is not my exclusive domain within the family. Maybe toast abstinence can be your default item for Lent. I also got a chuckle from your stories about your friends' broken Lent commitments - the road to hell... Hope you enjoyed Nelly. Best wishes, Mom

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