Monthly Archives: August 2010

Dr. Piet

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It began before Piet and I even met, but it was, in fact, one of the determining factors for my immigration.

A long process of data gathering, analysis, statistical design, first drafts, second, third and fourth drafts, proofreading, submissions, resubmissions, sleepless nights.

And then there were the power struggles and university politics, which you’d think would be below people who consider themselves such high end members of academia, but no, just like so many other things, the research and writing had to be combined with dancing around bureaucracy.

Months after the ink has dried on the finally final submission, books were printed, venues and dates chosen, invitations sent and tonight Piet successfully defended his doctoral thesis in front of the jury of evaluators, his promoter, colleagues, friends and family.

In all honesty, I’m not sure if Piet is the kind to contemplate the amount of change and turmoil his life has been through while this one thing has remained throughout or how it has affected his life and the life of at least one (hi there) person around him. I don’t know if, in his idle moments, he’s sat back and contemplated what lies behind him.
Only he knows, I suppose, and chances are I’ll forget to ask him tonight.

Because now it’s time to celebrate and look forward.

Congratulations Dr. Piet.

Dikke proficiat, liefste. Ik ben ongelooflijk trots op jou.

Du Pain, du Vin, du Boursin

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If you don’t know where the title comes from, just click ici (see, I do know some French).

Anyway, Piet and I got back from Paris yesterday and we had a very nice time. We stayed in the La Maison Montparnasse, which was small, but clean and comfortable for the price. It was kind of a whirlwind trip as we tried to see as much as we could in two days, but in the end we still managed to relax in the Jardin du Luxembourg with our pain, vin and boursin (bread, wine and boursin cheese) before heading back to Belgium.

Over the two days we saw:

The Eiffel Tower, which I really would’ve been fine just looking at but Piet felt since it might be the only time we were there that it’d be better if we were actually on it. I will not elaborate beyond the fact that I still would’ve been fine just looking at it.

Notre Dame Cathedral, which was what I really wanted to see and was thrilled with. It was beautiful, we saw it in the daytime and also at sunset and I just want a huge canvass photo of it on the wall.

Rodin Museum, this one Piet really wanted to see, although I ended up really liking it as well. The pieces were all very interesting and the garden on the museum ground was beautiful.

The Pantheon, home not only to Foucault’s Pendulum, but also to the remains of renowned French citizens. It’s a massive, beautiful building and we were able to view the final resting places of Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, amongst many others.

The Jardin du Luxembourg, St. Germain Des-Prés, and the Museum of Jewish Art and History were other stops we made along the way.

All in all, it was a lovely little trip and I can finally say that I’ve been to Paris.

If you want to see the whole album, you can click on over to my Picasa.

Nous Partons Aujourd’hui

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I’m actually writing what I consider to be a potentially controversial post. Controversial enough that I’ve been rewriting it for 3 days trying to communicate myself correctly.

But in the meantime, life goes on and this week life is taking us to Paris for the next two days. Almost 3 years in Belgium and I’m finally going to France (okay we went to Lille once, but trust me, that really doesn’t count).

The batteries are charging for the camera and I’m about to go finish some laundry. À la prochain!

Must Passion Equal Crazy?

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I’m honestly not sure how I ended up on a news clip documenting a deadly K2 ascent that occurred in August of 2008, but watching the story of how 29 climbers began climbing and only 18 still live to tell the tale somehow piqued my curiosity. I googled and wiki’d and followed hyper links through pages of material on K2, Sir Edmund Hillary, David Sharp, bottled oxygen and anything else related to “eight-thousander” fatalities.*

And afterwards I felt…humbled, subdued, even a tad bit queasy. See, K2 has a 25% mortality rate. For every 3 people that ascend and descend successfully, 1 person dies. And not a pleasant, or even a quick death. Thrombosis, edema, exposure, all lead to a larger percent of the death toll. Really, if you’re going to die on K2, falling hundreds of feet is actually the most humane way to go. And so I have to wonder: why?

Why do people willingly attempt this climb? sometimes 2 or even 3 times. What could possibly make taking such a risk worthwhile? I mean, when does passion end and self destruction begin?

It’s not that I can’t or don’t respect these people for the time, energy and enthusiasm they put into what they do, I just simply can’t comprehend whatever element it is that makes a premature and excruciating death an acceptable option.
I personally have almost nothing that I care enough about that I’d make self-preservation a secondary consideration. I suppose I’d willingly put myself in harm’s way to protect a loved one, but that’s the extent of my willingness for self sacrifice. I mean, a great passion of mine has always been marine biology and I think I’d swoon with joy if I ever got the opportunity to cage dive with great whites.

But would I jump into the water unprotected in order to take my passion to the next level?

Hell no.

I appreciate my presence on this planet enough to place preservation over a rush of adrenaline or a particular feeling of accomplishment. Because really, what good is accomplishing something when you’re too dead to enjoy it?

There are reasons that humans don’t have wings or gills or specialized body parts for climbing. there are some things on this world, in this lifetime, that human beings are meant to enjoy and appreciate from afar.
I’m really not sure if defying our physical limitations in the name of passion isn’t simply a manner with which we legitimize insanity.

*And advantage of being a Gemini? I am now a middling expert on the recent expeditions on K2, the ethics of bottled oxygen use in climbing and the David Sharp controversy
A disadvantage of being a Gemini? Next week I will most likely no longer be interested in any of it.

When Work Is Done

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I make myself a cup of tea, usually Earl Grey or peppermint in the evenings, but wild berry in the afternoon, like today.

I shove my bright green ear buds into my ears, dimming the sounds of the train announcer and milling crowd with One Republic or Coldplay as I walk across the rails and wait patiently on platform 18. The old, greasy smell of the bright blue bratwurst truck that caters to those in a hurry and scurrying for something warm to eat assails my nostrils, making my stomach churn with a mix of nausea and hunger.

When the tram arrives I board, quickly grabbing a forward facing seat that isn’t filled with sunflower seed shells, and I slump into one of the narrow, gray and yellow upholstered seats, lifting my tired feet while I surreptitiously sip my tea. I stare out the window, watching the different people at the stops, noting the changes in demographics as we follow the tracks through different areas of the city.

At my stop I step down and decide to hold on to my tea cup, as the garbage can is overflowing with the offal of the neighborhood. The one lone can can’t really keep up with the amount of low-income immigrants who can’t or won’t buy the bright yellow IVAGO grabage bags that residents have to use in order to have their trash picked up every week.

I cross the highway, and then the bridge, crossing the street to avoid the shady Algerian bar that is full of greasy-haired younger men who seem to do nothing but smoke cigarettes, drink Jupiler and strut all day and night. At the corner I finally find a garbage can that I can jam my tea cup into before I take the shortcut through the small renovated park behind our house. The daily group of shoeless children is playing in the back alley while their parents smoke and play cards in the picnic area of the park. None of them responds when one of the smaller children starts crying.
I simply turn the volume up on my iPod.

Once through the park I emerge into our street, barely avoiding a smeared pile of dog droppings that no one bothered to pick up from the sidewalk. One of the neighborhood independent taxi drivers pulls up and parks. I peek inside his window and see the customary can of Red Bull, a taxi driver’s best friend, from what I can tell with my glimpses in to the taxis that line our street.

I wonder, vaguely, how many cans of Red Bull a taxi driver drinks on average per day as I pull my keychain from my pocket and fiddle with our front door lock.

There are days when I truly enjoy the extra exercise and fresh air that comes with walking from the tram stop or biking to and from work.
But days like today I really miss my car.

Knowing Me

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Not very many people know me.

As in, really, truly, know me, know me. Inside and out, my goods, bads and uglies. It’s not that I’m particularly secretive about myself, but I guess I’m not a gushing spout of information either. My parents both know me pretty well, although I think my mother is still under the impression that I like peas, corn and carrots – a myth that lasted throughout my entire childhood and led to a lot of irritation at the dinner table (as well as many instances of sautéed mushrooms when it was my father’s night to cook… thanks Daddy!!).

My friends don’t even tend to know much about my personal tastes, save for a a few elements. I think several of my sorority sisters might know my favorite colors and alcoholic beverages and at least one of them is pretty in tune with what I like to read. Only one boyfriend ever gave me a gift that was what I’d consider perfect for me, although Piet did come very very close once with buying me Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. If it’d been an autographed edition I think I might’ve fainted and/or gone into seizures of joy, but that’s a lot to expect of anyone, so it’s not even on my wishlist at present.

Anyway, I digress, as usual.

My point was supposed to be that Piet, well, Piet has been blowing me away recently with how well he knows me. And I don’t just mean knowing what I like to eat or what scents I like at the soap store. I mean, recently he deduced something about my behavior that I really thought I was covering up well.

See, there are some things in general that I’ve been angry, frustrated and dissapointed by. But I don’t see any real solution for any of them in the immediate future so rather than continuously complaining and being bitchy (I tried that for a while and it led to a lot of fighting and general tension for half of June and much of July), I’ve resolved to put on my happy face and let things go as best I can.

And dammit if the other day Piet didn’t look at me for a while and then say something along the lines of, “I’m wondering if my girl is actually happy or if she’s smiling more, but covering up what’s underneath.”
Yes, he tends to refer to me in third person while talking directly to me. It can be endearing. Most of the time.

And I just looked at him and kept smiling.

Because he knows me so well and can apparently see through to the heart of things, regardless of how I behave, so there was really no point in denying that he was totally right.

I’m not exactly sure what he’ll do with this newly (or not so newly?) deduced information, but I do know that sometimes I wish he’d stick to knowing my favorite sandwich instead of the innermost workings of my heartstrings.