It’s May 4th, 2011. I have been living in Belgium for four months, officially.
So in honor of this momentous day, I decided to write a piece on four “haves” and four “have nots” I have come across in my four months in this great country, not to mention great CITY of Ghent…which has made it on Lonely Planet’s list of Top 10 Cities for 2011!!!
I am starting with four things that “Belgium Has”…that America does NOT (and if America does, then I’ve never seen it so it doesn’t count anyway does it?).
Before we go any further…and whether you are American, Belgian or Vulcan, you should watch the video below.
I watched it BEFORE moving here and I still moved here anyway. It’s one of those videos that make you laugh and learn something too, which is rare these days. I’m SO glad someone took the time to put it out!
So. Without any further ado…
H A V E S:
1. Bread Machines: Like vending machines for bread! Not “bread makers”, but machines you put money in to BUY whole loaves of freshly baked bread! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw one. I love bread, in such a passionate way.
True story – Last week when I was babysitting little Elise and we went for a walk, I was harassed by some gangster sheep. Apparently he is the rebel in the flock and made a run for it when the shepherd was not looking (I’ve always wanted to use “shepherd” in my writing, this is awesome).
I ran so hard with the baby stroller (thank god I had buckled Elise in) and high heels that I ended up taking a wrong turn and getting lost.
With only my lip gloss and iPhone and Elise’s baby bottle filled with water (which I did take a sip of I was so thirsty from running), I thought I’d be able to survive at least an hour out in the sun while finding our way home.
Just when I thought I should give up and call someone to come find us (in Lochristi btw, which is 20 minutes from where I live), I looked across the street and saw…a bread machine.
Yes, I took a picture of it, because it was the most beautiful thing to me that day.
I felt like it was a sign from God that I was not really “lost”…that I should just chill out and buy some bread and eat it. I felt like that’s what God wanted me to do! So I did.
Elise loves bread as much as I do. So together we finished like 5 slices and voila, we actually found our way back to her house! Amazing.
P.S. ONE DAY after posting this blog (so it’s now Thursday, May 5th right now as I add this part to the blog) I came upon another bread machine just a few feet away from a restaurant I was having dinner at. There was a little old lady trying to buy bread from the machine and she was having a hard time so my step-sister-in-law had to step in and help. I don’t think the old lady even realized I was filming, but I was WAY excited about getting it all on film!
2. Red Light District: I realize there are other countries that have these “districts” but this isn’t about other countries, it’s about the US and Belgium. And in the US, we don’t have an official red light district. We have lots of unofficial ones (my apartment in NYC having been one of them) but, nothing like the one here in Ghent (and I want to head to Amsterdam eventually).
This past Monday, the day after Easter OMG, my husband Davy and I took a trip into the city because most everything was closed as it is a major holiday here (Easter Monday) but we figured the sex shop would be open! I’ve only WALKED through the red light district here in Ghent, so this was my first “drive-thru”…
In general, sex and sexuality in Belgium is WAY MORE open than it is back in America. Anytime I’ve ever traveled through Europe I’ve always thought it funny that we Americans think we’re so “open” yet we’re actually pretty closed off when it comes to exposing our sexual lives.
I’m not saying that people here walk around with their tits hanging out…or pushing their balls into your face or anything, but there is definitely less taboo here. And whether it’s on television or radio, or in a sex shop, pretty much anything goes.
And if you know me, you know I love “everything goes”…
I thought it was SO cool that Libidos let me film inside their store. AND they gave us free batteries for all our purchases!
I personally think they should make room for a little cafe or something (they have two floors in their store) because sex toy hunting can make you hungry!
Davy and I walked out with a full bag of new toys so we could test them out in the name of research and baby making. We were both hungry.
But we had to settle for some Penis Pasts and Pasta Boobs to go…or “takeaway” as they call it here in Belgium. Amazing.
3. Speculoos: I don’t know how to explain the magic that is Speculoos.
It’s like Christmas morning when you’re opening your gifts and then someone tells you Christmas is happening again the next morning just for you so there are more, bigger, better gifts coming your way…
Okay, maybe not exactly, but this stuff is amazing.
Whether you get it as a paste (“pasta” they call “paste” here which is weird because pasta is pasta too), or a cookie, or in ice cream, or soft cheese, or foreplay, you can’t get enough of it.
It puts Nutella and peanut butter and other spreads (there’s a joke here somewhere) to SHAME.
AND, Speculoos has a great story too…a Mrs. Fields cookies-type story. Apparently some housewife named Els Scheppers (how cute is she?!) came up with the idea on a show called “The Inventors” (“De Bedenkers”) and got the financial support to produce and distribute it! Good for her!!! This shit is the bomb!
But now there’s like MAJOR drama about it all and the New York Times even published a story on it! I love drama! I love Speculoos!
During my long distance relationshipping with Davy last year, I brought home so much Speculoos in all its glorious forms and my momz started HIDING it from me claiming “You gonna living in the Belgium and eating this any time you want so I thinking fair if no more for you, all for me now” and that was the end of that discussion. My momz doesn’t really get excited about anything, but she was excited about Speculoos! Amazing.
4. Pee Stands – Not to be confused with port-o-potties, which we’ve all used at some point in our lives…and if we haven’t, Jackass gave us plenty of footage into what can happen inside of one.
I never thought I would admit this but I have SEEN the Jackass footage…because Davy brought Jackass 3 HOME with him one night from the video store as if I would say “Awesome babe! I’ve always wanted to watch Jackass 3!” Not.
As you can see he also brought home Saw 7. If only I had some balls I would have been happy to sit on the couch and scratch them while watching these movies with him.
But back to pee stands…when I was here last July for my birthday, the Festival of Ghent was going on (which this year it’s the 17th-25th of July)…or the Festival of Jun as I now call it since my birthday happens in the middle of it all on the 19th.
I saw for the first time these “port-a-pee-stands”. I’m sure there are those reading going “What’s the big deal?” well, the big deal is, I had never seen them before. They are definitely not used broadly in the US…like I said, we act like we’re so progressive but we’re not.
And of course, being the ridiculous persona that I am, I jumped into one of the stands just so I could send the picture back to my friends in New York…and now everywhere else I suppose.
But the pee stands I’m referring to as #4 on my list here are not these portable ones, no. I’m talking about the mother-of-all-pee-standedness.
Sleek structures with a hole in the ground for men to walk up to, unzip, pull it out, pee, shake it off, zip, and walk away from. Like the one here on the left, with the dude with the pony tail nice enough to provide an actual demonstration (I was on the way home from school and I couldn’t help but stop, take a picture, then thank him of course).
There are some “old” pee stands that are not nearly as “pretty” as these modern ones, but they are super scary-looking.
Some of them even have DOUBLE stands, for areas of the city where there’s more foot traffic…or prostrate traffic I suppose. Example on the right. I waited and waited to see if I could get a picture of TWO men using it, but it didn’t happen and DAMNIT I had to pee and couldn’t stand there all day long. And for that matter, I couldn’t PEE at the stand either.
Which brings me to my point…where is the PEE EQUALITY here?!?! Why can’t WOMEN have pee stands too?! I say “Rise Up! Rise Up Ye women of Belgium! Pee with me in one of these stands and let’s make change happen!”
I mean really, what WOULD happen if women just chose a pee stand to walk up to, unzip/pullup, squat, pee, dab with a tissue, zip/pulldown, and walk away from?