Sunday, June 14, 2009


I started using "google analytics" a few months ago just to track how often people read my blog. I soon learned that it also records where you guys are accessing my blog from so I wanted to share some of the statistics.

I've had visits from 14 countries: USA (obviously), Belgium (obviously), Portugal, Spain, Brazil, The UK, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Lithuania, Ireland and Denmark. There are about 35 countries that have accessed the site, but according to the records taken, these 14 countries actually logged a little bit of time reading the blog.

From Belgium: In theory about 53 different computers have accessed my blog from Belgium, most from Brussels. About 12 of those different computers could be me checking the blog from my office on whatever random computer I get that day. But otherwise, there are quite a few of you out there. Also on average you spend about 3 minutes per trip reading about my shenanigans. I've also got one reader from Northern Flanders. You should all let me know if I'm missing out on some magical Belgian thing.

From Copenhagen: Hi Guys... there are really only two of you... and I'm pretty sure I know who. I hope you're enjoying late days and Elderflower juice.

From Portugal: There aren't many individual readers here either, but the readers come from two different regions... Maybe Miguel went on holiday?

From Brazil: I have no idea who this reader could be, but it is pretty awesome that someone from South America spent time to read about an Americans awkward trip to Belgium. My sister wrote a blog during her short stay in Argentina, my Flemish blogger won't let me connect but it is also a good read.

From the US: There are a lot of you... for sure. There could be up to 65 different individuals reading from beginning to the end of the blog. When I look at the map, I've gotten real hits from over 15 states (16 to be exact... but one is listed as "not set"). I can recognize most of you from your cities, but from the looks of it there are a bunch of readers that I don't personally know. There are a few in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut, Washington, even some places in New York and New Jersey where I don't recognize the locations.

Thanks everyone for reading, if you're interested to hear about something specific... let me know! I've got some recent difficulties with posting via a busted laptop and shoddy *stolen* internet connections but the posts will continue. Up next is a slight retelling of a night involving American style barbecue, Belgian beer and tragedy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

American Food: Pics!

1. Cheese Balls2. Dunkin Donuts3. Salt Bagel4. Fried Chicken
5. Cubano6. Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak7. Burrito

Monday, June 8, 2009


I was talking to an old co-worker today and giving him my new address, he's planning a fall European tour and I suggested the usage of my (almost) couch as a stopping point. I suggested he stop by for a day or two on his way through Belgium as the big tourist spots are relatively close. The Grand Place, along with the Mannekin Pis, seem to be the biggest tourist spots in Brussels and I'm right around the corner. My friend asked if I spent a lot of time at the Grand Place, and I compared it to spending a lot of time in Times Square. I then realized that I live WAY too close to the major tourist attraction, but then started to make some more New York comparisons.
What other regions of Manhattan are within two blocks of me? I've got Chinatown... A little bit of SoHo and/or East Village too. Granted, each of these exist for only a few blocks... and its Brussels. Clearly there is no comparison, but the important distinction is the type of person within each zone is still pretty similar. Grand Place = tourists... St Gery (east village) = people way cooler than me... Chinatown... you get the picture. The major difference (besides both quality and quantity) is transition.
It seems like while roaming in Brussels, neighborhoods can change instantaneously. Near the finale of Season 1, I had to go to the Ministry of Work to start up my working permits so I can get paid. I also had to do this on the end of an all night marathon. No sleep = poor planning and decisions. I knew where I was meant to end up, and I knew where I was starting. None of the mass transit seemed to be any faster on paper than just walking so I decided to go on ahead. I didn't remember that I had to cross under the train tracks of the North Station... Its important to note that the Brussels Red Light District happens to be on the "wrong" side of the tracks. In this case the wrong side is the east side, or the side I was on. This place snuck up on me; 1. I had no sleep, and 2. I was supposed to be in the BUSINESS DISTRICT. Well... the point is that the "transition" between the main financial district of Brussels and the red light district is a train track. These sneaky neighborhoods continually weird me out, not that they're worrisome or scary places but the drastic change in environment is a bit harsh. Some of the neighborhoods end up being almost as varied as the change from Chinatown to Little Italy.
In other news, Waffles? Not ubiquitous in all neighborhoods. Frites? Everywhere.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back To Daily

I've been back in Brussels for over a week. I spent a few days scrambling to get an apartment and then went straight back to work. I haven't really been out of work for 5 weeks ever before and I was starting to go a bit crazy. I was put back on my old project that was conveniently put on hold during the time I was away. This time around I get to do some design/presentation drawings though. Its a bit tough to imagine, but up until now (after all the square meter shenanigans) there were no real explanation drawings created. The drawings are a momentary distraction as I will also be put on a second French social housing project soon enough. In a few months I should know the french social housing system like the back of my hand... except I won't be able to talk to anyone living in them.
Other than a pretty sweet birthday party with Starbucks Coffee as a gag gift for an Italian co-worker, the week was uneventful. My girlfriend and I decided to celebrate our first "real" weekend with another trip to IKEA! It was a bit more crowded this time, but we had our game plan: Buy something to sit on as well as something to put things on. To clarify, we've been living in our apartment for almost a full week with mattresses as our only furniture. It's been interesting coming home every night to see some new improvised luggage furniture. Neither of us could last with a desk formed out of two pieces of luggage and a "chair" of books with a few shirts stacked on top. Similar to the kitchen gear, our goal was to minimize expense and maximize utility. We got two tables (one for the kitchen, the other for the office), two chairs, two metal storage shelves and a wooden storage/clothing hanger thing. We also got the mattress of a futon, but they didn't have the frame so we'll go another time. Our plan was to pay for a taxi service (flat fee of 30 euros, up to a stupid amount of Kilos), this is why we got the futon mattress without the frame. Everything rang in under 180 Euros, extending the cost of our apartment by about 15 Euros a month unless we can sell it all at the end.
I think we made out pretty well, but the place is still a little empty feeling. The proportions are VERY different than our previous place. We used to have a two bedroom that rang in around 500 square feet. It was simple, four 10x10 rooms around a central hall / bathroom. This apartment is pretty close to 400 square feet with only two rooms, no hall and a tiny tiny bathroom. That means the kitchen is much larger than we're used to, and the bedroom is HUGE. It is meant to double as a living room, but we still don't know how to efficiently use the space just yet. We've got a year to figure it out, but I'm not sure how much more furniture we'll decide to carry up our ladder like stairs. The place also needs curtains, not necessarily for the light but for the sound. We can still move our beds to the back room, but then there are PIGEONS! Seriously, those little winged rats make so much damned noise in the morning. Today we were woken by a pigeon death match on the roof next to ours. I'm also under the assumption that 7 foot tall windows won't keep the place warm in the winter, so we're looking into insulated curtains for long term usage.
Anyway, now that I'm trying to get back into the groove of things I should try to get myself into a shape. I won't say "get myself in shape again" because I definitely have yet to succeed at forming a shape. I've lost weight for sure, but I want to try to get healthier in general. Back to push ups? Maybe a jog or two? Total, not weekly. I don't know, there's also the matter of Tourism, Architecture, Money (ugh), French (double ugh). I've got plenty to DO in the near future, I've just gotta keep up writing about my attempts.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

American food is delicious.

You only realize how delicious it is when you miss a few staple meals for an extended period of time. During my one month back in the states I had to "catch up" on all the foods I was missing out. I'm pretty sure I over did it, which is good cause it means I won't want anything in the categories for quite a while.

1. Cheese Balls: 1 enormous barrel, I don't really want to talk about it.

2. Dunkin Donuts: Cinnamon Coffee w/ Milk and Sugar does not taste like coffee in any way. It is also delicious and warm. Unless it's iced (also refreshing when my first day back in the US was 90 some degrees), in which case it is not warm.

3. Bagles: Ham & Cheese on a Salt Bagel. This is a classic combo that I've had for years, the Salt Bagel is a slightly new addition but the sandwich keeps hunger away for two full meal times.

4. Fried Chicken: Popeye's spicy blend & Biscuits. This is probably the grossest meal on the list as it consists of mostly fat and or fat. The grease is unimaginable... the biscuits are essentially layers of butter with salt in between.

5. Cubano: At the corner Cuban restaurant where the waiters barely speak English... a great roll with pork, ham, pickle and cheese. I'm not sure why I keep going back to this sandwich, though it does only cost 3 dollars. The best possible bite is right at the end, with a small amount of pork and ham, but a lot of pickle and cheese.

6. Buffalo Chicken Cheese Steak: From the famous Hoagie Haven in Princeton. A basic chicken cheese steak with a ton of Tabasco and blue cheese dressing.

7. Burrito: The last and probably biggest mess of all the cravings. My favorite combo includes spicy pork, rice, black beans, all kinds of salsa. Also... lots of cheese, guacamole and sour cream. I haven't attempted to eat one of these with my hands in years, fork and knife are key. I do enjoy a bit of Green Tobasco as well.

I will post up pics of these disgusting concoctions later as my stolen Internet isn't ideal for uploading photos.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Season Two

I'm back in Belgium.  I've written emails to my family and friends saying I'm back in the "+32."  That's my dumb slang utilizing the Belgian country code; I like to think that I'm clever sometimes.  Anyway, it turns out I was being a little optimistic suggesting I was all but done with my Visa.  Long story short:  I wasted a return flight and got a new flight for NO reason.  The result was my girlfriend leaving for Brussels by herself for five days.  I like to think it was better that she got to see parts of the city on her own so that she could discover things without my biases.  Then she may be able to show me things in the city that I lived in for three months prior.  She spent a little time looking for a long term apartment for us as well as being a tourist.
Once I arrived back in the city we did a bit of walking and more apartment searching.  We were both desperate and unknowing but ended upon this cool little one bedroom.  Its about 400 square feet with one front room (bedroom / living room / office) and one back room (kitchen and sometimes bedroom).  There were two caveats with this place: one we knew before we paid our security deposit, one after.  Before we moved in, and something that is pretty obvious from the photo:  No furniture.  Oh, we're also on the third floor of a walk-up.  Walk-ups don't usually phase me, but these stairs are so steep I actually feel like I'm climbing a ladder.  (Mom & Dad: we'll find you a nice hotel in the area cause I don't think it'll be easy for you guys to get up here.)  So, no furniture in our new apartment and where do we go?  IKEA!  Seriously, this is where you go when you want cheap stuff in Europe.  Its like a nice version of WalMart with no creepy people... well there's Eurotrash but I don't understand French still so they're still just "exotic."  We were able to stock our kitchen with cooking supplies, two sets of eating utensils and two bed rolls for under 100$.  That's Dollars, not Euros.  We've got to do another trip to get "furniture" so we aren't sleeping on the floor, and so we have chairs.  I'll go through a real breakdown of the "minimal kitchen" we've stocked in another episode for now I'll go onto the rest of the apartment.
The second caveat we learned about the first night we slept in our apartment.  We spent the majority of the day moving our stupid amount of luggage from our temporary spot to our "permanent" spot (including the stairs) so we were pretty spent.  Except when we got the apartment it was the middle of the day, and the three bars and restaurants that are immediately beneath us hadn't opened yet.  We're right near St. Gery, which is one of the major nightlife spots in Brussels.  Also, it just happens to be a big Jazz weekend... so there was plenty to keep us awake in our apartment all night.  This is the moment where our kitchen (in the back) became our bedroom for a short while.  Well, no matter what, we're pretty happy with the apartment because its pretty close to everything in the center of the city.  I'm also about five minutes from my office... and that's worth the cost of the apartment by itself.  Even with a trombone player standing right outside my apartment I will still get more sleep because of its office proximity.
I think Wednesday I will write what I promised and put down all the crap American food I ate while I was home.  *Spoiler alert* cheese puffs and fried chicken.  By the way, all you nay-sayers who thought the Waffles had calories:  I lost over 10 lbs while I was in Brussels.  Belgians don't lie:  Waffles are 0 Calories and 0 Fat.  Eat as many as you like when you come visit.