Escapees and maladies; what is with these chickens?

Wow. This hasn’t happened to me in a while. I have to leave or I’m going to break something.

*****10 minutes later*****

I apologize. I had half of this post written and now it’s gone. Usually it always automatically saves it as a draft, but when I went to put it in the full screen mode to better see what I had written it all just disappeared and that’s the latest draft it saved. I get so, so, so, so frustrated when this happens. The words just come and I can’t remember them if they run away! Grrrr…..

To explain the title. It was relevant, well, a while ago now. Greg and Adeline were out tonight and when I was making supper for Bastien and me I saw the chickens were loose! I thought the gate to their enclosure had come open and they escaped. Apparently not. No, Adeline had let them out so they could eat the grubs and such and forgot to tell me. I put them all away – chicken catching isn’t very hard or they just weren’t trying that hard to get away! I guess they would have gone in on their own. Now I know.

Bastien was supposed to start school tomorrow and I was going to be with Sylvain because the babysitter is on holidays for a while. Looks like it’s going to be both boys for the time being because Bastien has the chicken pocks! I’m so glad I had those when I was little, shingles would be NO fun right now. This morning Bastien only had one scab just under his lower lip. When he got home today they were all over! Sylvain has a few I think, but it’s a little hard to tell because he already has skin problems. The pocks are different from his rashes though, so I’m pretty confident he has at least 4 or 5. Chicken pocks and his first tooth, all in one week. Poor boy. It’s funny how Bastien got his the day before the first day of school and I got mine the last day of school (grade 1…I was 5 I think). I’m not sure if I was still contagious or not, but my Mom sent me to school anyway with the idea that it’s better for all the kids to get it while they’re young and get it over and done with. Well, the teachers called her to come pick me up. Before we left – I didn’t want to go, we were doing fun stuff – I gave every single kid in my class a big hug, tears streaming down my face. What was the point in sending me home again? Oh yeah, well, too late to worry now!

Today I didn’t watch a movie. Today I didn’t even go online until later this afternoon. After the morning ritual I went to take a shower. Before I went up there I mentioned to Adeline that I was thinking of going to the House of Giants in Ath. So she showed me a video on the Ducasse de Ath, a Giant processional and festivities. Unfortunately I missed it as it was last weekend, but being there would have been absolutely crazy! The tradition dates back 500 years and started out as a religious procession. In the Middle Ages when your average Joe – or whatever the common name was then – couldn’t read or write so apart from paintings and other visual aids the clergy would put on these grand processionals to teach the masses. Somehow (I’m not really clear on this part) giants became a part of these religious processionals. It started out with your main biblical gigantic type characters (Goliath, Samson) and more were added as time went on. Also as time wore on, the giants became more known for merrymaking than religion. That’s what they – the giants – say anyway…

In the house it’s mostly audio/visual presentations with the information being told like a story with many players (giants). There was a short film which highlighted a town in France (Cassel) known for the Giants, as well as Ath, mention of Austria, and somewhere else. I know later in the tour you ‘meet’ giants from Portugal. The giants themselves tell you that they just like having a good time. Eventually someone decided to create a wife for Goliath – which softened him up a bit – and in Ath they have Goliath’s wedding every year. This is just one facet of the festivities. The giants dance – which you’ll see in the video – it’s quite amazing how the bearer can take the weight! 130+kilos! That’s upwards of 290lbs. And you have to twirl and dance inside there? The job of being a bearer is a coveted one and traditionally has been passed down from father to son, generation after generation. In one of the videos I saw at the House they mentioned that as people are having fewer children they have gone outside of that tradition a little. You still have to be from Ath and you still have to know ‘someone on the inside’. The bearers take this very seriously. It’s an honour and something they love being a part of! I guess there’s this special dance they do 3 or 4 times? They have the opportunity to perform it once more during the festival if David defeats Goliath. To do this ‘David’ has to land his sling-shot in the hole where the bearer’s face is (where he looks out). I guess if he misses they can’t do the dance again.

There was something I found really neat. I guess they have a tradition (just in Ath, in Belgium, in Europe?) of the ‘burning of the pants’ or something of the sort. As far as I can tell it’s like the bachelor party in North America, where only your closest friends are invited. Well, in Ath, everyone is close friends with Goliath so the entire town is there for the burning of his – very large – pants. Let’s see. What else can I tell you about the Giant’s House? It’s a very cheerful place, although the explanations and story telling goes by quite fast and I know I missed a lot. The Ducasse in Ath is part of UNESCO (world heritage organization) and has gained more popularity because of that. More popularity with the rest of the world that is. Like I said before, this has been going on for 500 years and everyone who lives in Ath loves it and has been going to see the giants since they were little. It’s in their blood. It would be a sight to behold that’s for sure!

I’m going to leave you know with another video. This one goes back to my day in Dinant. I realize I don’t actually mention the Couque du Dinant (pronounced like ‘cook’, but more like…when you say someone’s crazy, but I don’t know how to spell it like that and does anybody actually use that word anymore? Bah, just watch the video, it’s funny!), but this video explains about them. I might just have to go back there one day and buy one…


Carnaval de Binche (the long version)

Where to start? I guess a little bit of history would be good. The figures you see above (and in 2 of the pictures yesterday) are Gilles. Adeline said that to become a Gille you must 1) be male, 2) either live or be born in the city of Binche, and 3) it’s passed down from father to son. Adeline emailed me a couple of links that I looked at for more info, and she said this “It is actually declared “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity “by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). on the 2003/11/07”. That’s what I was trying to describe yesterday, but was having difficulty with it.

There are actually 3 days to the Carnaval; it goes from Sunday-Tuesday, with the most popular day being Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday). The Gilles start marching in the streets around 3-3:30, always accompanied by drums and musicians. They throw blood oranges at the crowds of people who gather to see them. Protective screens are put on all windows/doors/signs of houses and business to protect them from the oranges. If someone climbs on a ledge or something to get higher, the Gilles throw the oranges VERY hard at them because it makes them angry that people try to cheat at getting oranges. Those things can hurt when thrown hard. There was one point in our walk where some people in an apartment were giving the Gilles the finger, so the Gilles were launching oranges at them, trying to get them above the screen and at the people. This resulted in raining oranges (and subsequently orange juice). Luckily Bastien wasn’t hit on the head by falling oranges (Adeline and I were a few times, but it’s all part of the experience) and we both got juice in our hair. An orange did fall into the stroller I was pushing (with Bastien in it), but he was leaning forward so it just kind of hit the stroller instead of him. It was the closest thing I had to catching an orange. Well, not exactly. I almost caught one earlier, but at least the stroller orange we got to keep.

The outfits of the Gilles are very intense. The torso and ankles are stuffed with straw and there are little bells around the wast and on the feet. Thank goodness for pictures because I would not do them justice. One thing I don’t have a picture of is this certain yellow flower that was very prominent on people’s hats and things; it’s called the mimosa. We weren’t sure of the significance of them, but according to this website Adeline showed me the flowers are given by men to their wives, daughters, and friends. Many people were dressed up in costumes. It was really cool. It’s not like Halloween at home where just the kids usually dress up (unless it’s a special Halloween party), but a lot of people really get into it! Maybe I’m wrong, maybe more people than I think dress up, but I just don’t notice…*shrug*.

I apologize because this post is all over the place! I’m trying to make sure I get all the important information, I just hope in the end it makes some sort of sense!

Ok, so the Gilles throw the oranges into the crowds. Another thing they do is hand them to little children. We collected 11 and the majority of those were because of Bastien! At one point Adeline took Sylvain out of his stroller and put him

in this carrier on her chest. It was SO LOUD with all the music and the drumming and the people…but he was just smiling and looking around. Eventually he did start to cry, but I think that was just because he was hungry.

Another thing I tried was two different types of Binche beer. I know, I know, I mention beer a lot. It’s not that I actually drink that much, it’s just that there are OVER 400 TYPES OF BELGIAN BEER!!! Doesn’t seem so bad now, eh? Anyway, one of them was a raspberry flavoured beer. It was really good. Only about 3% or 4%. So not very strong. At this point the largest part of the crowd (with the Gilles) had passed us, so we had much more space to maneuver the strollers. Even so, it’s hard with a plastic cup in your hand! I couple times I put it between my teeth so both hands were on the stroller and one of those times the stroller hit an uneven patch. Of course this caused the cup to move and spill beer up my nose and on my hair….beer in the nose, SO not pleasant. Even if it was raspberry flavoured!

Oh! The hats. Those big feathered hats. They weigh about 5 kilos (11 pounds) and cost about 3,000 euros (takes about 80 hours

to make one hat….250-350 small feathers to make the 12 large feathers of the hat. Last night Greg was asking why some had colour and some didn’t. If I remember correctly, Adeline said that the white hats were new. Each year you died a bit of the feathers. So some have one colour, some have many. We were lucky because yesterday was absolutely gorgeous! Sunny and about 15. If it’s sunny they wear the hats, if it rains they don’t (for obvious reasons). You’ll see both men and boys, all sizes of Gilles, but remember…no women!

I do have a couple of videos I took. I’m going to try and edit them a bit (because sometimes it’s just the crowd you see). I was pushing a stroller, walking through a tight crowd, and trying to take a video all at the same time. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I kind of just moved my camera around and hoped for the best!

It’s definitely hard trying to get through the press of people with two strollers, and there were a few times I almost lost Adeline, but it was definitely worth it, and maybe someday I’ll get to go back!

There was also confetti. A lot of it. Apparently Bastien doesn’t like confetti on him or his stroller. While Adeline was getting the beer he stood up and tried to brush all the confetti off the seat before he’d sit down again.  It was funny. Also, after the Gilles and crowds had passed, it looked like some sort of stampede had gone through. Which, I guess in a way, it was!

When we got home, Adeline made me juice with one of the oranges. Blood oranges are red inside. The one I picked look like it was half and half. The taste is bittersweet, like grapefruit, but different. I don’t really like grapefruit juice, but I didn’t mind this.

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