Train ticket to London: Booked, paid for, & printed.

So it turns out all I had to do was go to the Belgian train website and book a ticket on the Eurostar from there and not from Eurostar’s actual website in order to use my debit card. All is well. Now I just have to wait a month and a bit…

One thing I’ve been inspired to do is visit an old bookshop and buy an old-looking book :D. I love old-looking books. The inspiration comes from a blog post I read by the blog One Book on the Shelf. The writer lives in London and wants to visit all the bookshops she can find and write a post on each of them. She’s already recommended a couple of places for me to check out!

This morning I finally got around to continuing my viewing of Band of Brothers. I’m almost half way through having watched 4 episodes. I then booked my ticket to London. I ended up chatting on Facebook with another friend from university who is studying is Salzburg (Austria) right now and is actually spending this weekend in London. She thought I was going to be there this weekend as well and said we should try to get together. That would have been so cool. She says I should come visit her in Salzburg (I wish!), but that’s a little harder to swing. There are no direct ways to get there. I would have to take a train to Munich and then from Munich have a bunch of different options (based on speed or scenery) and the possibility of multiple trains before reaching my destination. If I flew I would have to also take the train. It’s all so complicated for me. And it would take a really long time. I could probably actually drive there faster than flying or on the train. 8 hours. That’s like driving to Elliot Lake from New Dundee. I have never driven that far myself, but I’ve been in car rides longer than that since I was a kid. But there’s the issue of time as well here: I could leave early Friday, spend Friday evening, all day Saturday there, and leave again Sunday morning. It’s not really worth it. Also, I don’t actually know, but I get the feeling Austria gets more snow then Belgium…so you run into weather problems as well. And mountains…I don’t think I should drive in mountains. If we had discovered we were both over here a few months ago maybe we could have worked something out, but I don’t think it will work now. I’d love to go (my Mom would be so jealous!), but I’m just not sure it’s feasible at this point. Plus…I would totally get lost in all that train/plane switching around :P.

On another note, I think my ticket for home is booked. My Dad emailed me a few times today to let me in on prices; how come a one-way ticket is so much more expensive than a round trip? If I understand correctly, he ended up booking a round trip ticket on British Airways – I flew here on Jet Airways, which was a non-stop flight (the only one from Toronto to Brussels) – so I probably have a layover in London. I guess someone’s going to be missing their flight back ;). I don’t have all the details yet, but I think it’s December 29. I think I’m leaving here December 29…because Ontario is 6 hours behind, I would get there when it’s still December 29, right? Ha ha, I’m useless! It’s a good thing my residence permit is good until January 31, 2012!

This time last year I was also in über-organizing mode: I had to get everything organized to come here – criminal record check, contract signed, passport updated, international driver’s license (actually, that was Dec.), so many horrible pictures taken for permits and the like, high school transcript acquisition for proof of previous French experience, doctor’s check, my one mid-term for my last university course that I forgot about and therefore couldn’t graduate June 2010 as planned…is that it? I can’t even remember, it feels so long ago. At this point last year actually getting here seemed so far away. Now the time is speeding away from me at an alarming rate! I’ve tried to take my aunt’s advice (thanks Aunt Wendy ^_^) and enjoy my time here as much as possible instead of missing home. When my cousin Katie was in France for 8 months she missed home and wish she could be there; then when she got home she wanted to come back. Unfortunately you can’t have both and so I have to do my best to enjoy what I have when I have it! I am so very blessed to have been basically handed this opportunity and I’m trying to live up to that by making the most of it. I could have done a much better job of that, but I think I’ve done okay.

I also look at it this way: if I never would have done this, I most likely never would have started a blog.  Therefore I would never have made friends with all the wonderful bloggers I’ve been so fortunate to have connected with!

                                                                                                                    

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Do those white lines mean nothing to you?

This morning I went to Louvain-la-Neuve to pick up a few things. I managed to get a parking spot where I was on the end so I could back in instead of try to parallel park (which I am worse at now then when I got my license) and I was right at the line so the person behind me would be able to get out and someone else would have room to get in. What do I find when I get back to my car? Someone is parked in front of me! In fact, they were blocking part of a drive-way. And in doing so they were so close to me that I could barely get out. I actually (very lightly) bumped into the person behind me and I still just skimmed past the car in front. I was not impressed. Not at all.

So my weather prediction based on sun and sky colour last night was totally off. It was grey and drizzly all day today, but not too cold, even with the wind. When my family was here we bought a piggy bank for Bastien – one that was white that you paint and we decorated it for him. I went today to get one for Sylvain (whose going to be a year old in just over a month!) and they didn’t have them. They had other stuff, but I didn’t pick anything up. I have to talk to my family and see what they think. I’ll go back, or go to another location and check it out again. Here’s hoping.

I went into this book store and came out with more than intended. I bought a map of Belgium – I want to be able to see all the country at once and mark where I’ve been. I think that will be a cool souvenir. I bought a short novel, under 8 Euros and not that long. I also bought a book called It’s raining cats and dogs: et autres expressions idiomatiques anglais. It’s a short little phrase book meant for French speaker learning English, but I figured it was just as good the other way around. It just lists phrases (French then English) and their translations. These are phrases that can’t be translated word for word. Actually, some are very similar and some are so very different. Did you know that when we say we ‘I have a frog in my throat’ in French they say ‘I have a cat in my throat’? I think it’s a cat. On the back cover it mentions Britain, Australia, and the US and when a phrase is specific to a country it will be marked GB or US…I don’t think they mark the Australian one’s, but sometimes you can tell. Some of the phrases that are in the book are as foreign to me as to a French speaker! I think some are outdated….or they’re just not marked and are from GB or US. I don’t know. With it came a free game book for learning English. I checked out a few pages and is it bad that on one of the pages I actually didn’t know what to fill in (the English)? It gives you little _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ to fill in the missing words, but the number of ticks and what I thought the answer was didn’t match up. I was confused. I was also just glancing at it. It’s kind of interesting to look at things from the other direction.

I spent a while this afternoon going over (again) rules for declaring stuff and how much stuff I can bring back tax-free. If you’re out of the country for 7 days you can bring back $750 CAN worth of stuff. If you’re gone for longer than 7 days (say, for example, a year) you can bring back tax-free…you guessed it! $750 CAN. I think that’s ridiculous. When you’re gone for a year you’re bound to buy things. Some of the stuff I just bought here because I had the money to buy it! So tomorrow I have to go through all my stuff and receipts and see what my situation is. If you’re sending gifts to people those are tax free. If you bring gifts with you for other people that’s included in the $750. So are gifts from other people to you. If I ship stuff home before me, or it arrives after me, I still have to declare it. I can bring whatever I want back (as long as it’s not restricted), or whatever amount I want back, just if it equals over $750 I have to pay tax on the extra. I’m just in the freak out stage because I don’t want to mess anything up and I’m sure that if they decide to search someone’s luggage it’s going to be me and they’ll find something I forgot to declare and I’ll get carted off and ah! I know I’ll have to pay the tax, but if they’re not in a good mood…. Can you tell I’ve never done this before?

Greg and I finally got around to continuing our viewing of The Pacific. Now we only have 3 more episodes to go!

                                                                                                                      

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The Importance of Being Oscar Wilde.

So I have this bookshelf app. (or something like that) for my iPod. I think it’s meant more for the iPad because, while not impossible, it’s a little impractical to try to read on such a small screen as has the iPod touch. All the same, it works. There are a lot of free books available, most being classics. One book that I downloaded today was The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I first came across this play when I saw the movie by the same name. Colin Firth and Rupert Everett play the main two men (Jack and Algernon) who at one point or another both claim to be called Ernest. There are two women (Gwendolen – Frances O’Conner and Cecily – Reese Witherspoon) who are obsessed with the name Ernest and swear they can only love someone with that name. Eventually they find out the men really aren’t called Ernest and have to decide if they can still marry them. Of course they are all connected – Jack and Algy are friends, Gwendolen is Algy’s cousin, and Cecily is Jack’s ward – and in the hub-bub Gwendolen and Cecily think they are both engaged to the same man. If you’ve never heard of the play, seen the movie, or seen the play (I’ve been fortunate enough to have done all 3) I enthusiastically suggest you check it out. It’s not that long of a read and the movie (2002) is very well done (in my humble opinion). I think Rupert Everett and Colin Firth play off each other very well and are able to capture the essence of the characters they portray. Hilarity ensues! And the wonderful Judi Dench is not to be left out. She plays Lady Bracknell (Gwendolen’s mother). So please, if you value humour at all, consider checking out the movie, you won’t be disappointed! Well, you might be if you don’t like British humour, British accents, or Oscar Wilde, but I’m confident that most people will be able to find something funny about it.

Now I want to go watch it. I honestly found it funnier after reading the play because of course I missed some of the nuances in the dialogue while watching the movie. That happens sometimes even when there’s no ‘foreign accent’ to contend with.

Some updates with the kiddies; Sylvain has learned how to clap. It’s so cute watching him wave and applaud. He does so at the most random times and that’s what makes it so special. Also, at some point today Bastien commented to Adeline that he has 3 parents; Maman, Papa, and Holly. She had to correct him of course, but can you blame him? I know I haven’t always been here, but I’ve been here for a while, especially to a 3-year-old. Although I doubt he’s going to be overly broken heart-ed when I leave – he might not even understand completely that I won’t be coming back.

After I’ve finished re-reading The Importance of Being Earnest I’m going to check out another of Oscar Wilde’s books: An Ideal Husband. Mostly I’m curious. I have a copy of one of his other books at home and I started reading it, but I didn’t get very far before something got in the way and I put it away with all of my other books. I’m pretty sure I was enjoying it so far. I figure if I liked one thing of his I’m bound to enjoy more!

Really. If you have a chance. Go check out the movie! I will now leave you with an excerpt from the play:

Act 1: Just after Jack enters the scene:

Algernon: How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?

Jack: Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy! (He’s eating all the cucumber sandwiches that were made for his aunt.)

A: I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?

J: In the country.

A: What on earth do you do there?

J: When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.

A: And who are the people who amuse?

J: Oh, neighbours, neighbours.

A: Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?

J: Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.

*I cut out a few lines here*

A: Oh! Merely Aunt August and Gwendolen. (on who is coming to visit)

J: How perfectly delightful! 

A: Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here. 

J: May I ask why?

A: My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.

J: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

A: I thought you had come up for pleasure?… I call that business.

J: How utterly unromantic you are! 

A: I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact. 

J: I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specifically invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted. 

A: Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven. Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. [takes one and eats it]

J: Well, you have been eating them all the time.

A: That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter. 

Of course I’d love to just include the whole play, but that is entirely out of the question. And I’m always going to think of something I’d like to include, but one liners won’t always make sense without a bit of surrounding dialogue and we’d be here forever. This gives you a little taste of what it’s like though.

                                                                                                                      

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My new identity…..card

Today I read through some more Narnia. I even laughed out loud at one part…but I can’t remember which. The understanding came partly from already knowing the story, and partly from knowing the French. Go me. Today when we went to pick up Bastien, I stopped in at the Commune (City Hall) to pick up my new Identity Card. It’s a card that everyone has (I believe once you’re 12 you need one) and you must have it on you at all times. So now that I have that I don’t need to have my passport on my when I go do every day things (like class, a walk, kid pick-up). On the way back we stopped in at the little grocery store and picked up a couple of books Adeline had ordered. One was a book for cooking with kids, for kids, with lots of colourful pictures. The other was Cooking for Dummies for me. I’m excited about it. We’ll see how well it works and if I’ll be a decent cook by the time I get home. Mom, I’ll try to make you proud. I do plan on making a Thanksgiving dinner…or trying to. Mainly, it’s for the stuffing. Even though they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, I thought it would be neat to at least try it. Pie and everything. I have it on excellent authority that I will be great at making pie crust. Thank you Grandma Doris.

Oliver? No, everyone-ver!

Ok. So I know my title will only make sense to Greg, Adeline, and me so I will explain it. A couple days ago Adeline went grocery shopping and picked up 3 DVDs for 5 euros each. One was The Breakfast Club, Oliver, and a French film that I can’t remember the name of. So when she was telling Greg at supper about these movies Bastien heard Oliver and thought she said Holly-ver. So he started saying Mama-ver, Papa-ver, Sylvain-ver, Bastien-ver…It was one of the cutest things he’s done so far. We laughed quite a bit. Of course there’s also the issue of my name and ‘au lit’ (which means ‘to/in bed’). One night they spent the time helping him differentiate vowels between my name and to bed. Sometimes I still get confused because I think I hear my name, but no, they’re just saying it’s time to go to bed.

Today Adeline and Greg went to the theatre so I was with the boys for the afternoon and for bed. Mind you, they left during nap time so there were no teary goodbyes from Bastien. He knew they were going though, so it wasn’t a surprise when he woke up. It was easier than the last time. I assume that with practice and with Bastien getting more comfortable with me it will be easier. Or at least I’ll have a rhythm down better the more I do it!

Tonight when I was changing Bastien into his pajamas, he found something extremely funny and had this great laugh/giggle going on. Oh! I remember what it was. I was putting his pants on and said something like ‘left foot, ok now right foot’ and he goes ‘no left!’. As if both were left. And I said ‘no, it’s not possible!’ This went on for a while, he was laughing his head off. Also, when we were watching a movie Sylvain was talking and he did this little giggle and Bastien thought it was funny and started laughing. He’s been really great and gentle with Sylvain the last couple of days. He’s wanted to hold Sylvain more than when I first got here and he’ll give him kisses with lots of care. It’s adorable.

For his stories tonight we read two Diego books. He loves Diego. He even said ‘thank you’ in English (after prompting from me). Because of course here Diego is in French teaching English (instead of in English teaching Spanish). The first one was about sea creatures and erupting volcanoes…I made a big deal out of (very dramatic like, you know how I am) and he got right into it. It was great, lots of fun. He wanted more stories, but I knew that if I let him we’d be reading stories all night. Of course he didn’t want to go to bed (but this time there were no tears :D) so I said I was going to sleep in his bed. Then he followed me in his room because that wasn’t right! He went to bed easily after that. I had put Sylvain in his bed so that I could read with Bastien without distraction and when I was done with Bastien, Sylvain was asleep. Woohoo!

So, good day today all in all. Hope everyone else had a great weekend!

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