The last few days have been busy.
Driving in Belgium isn’t awful; I generally know what I’m doing. I’ve gotten used to all the roundabouts, and they’re actually starting to grow on me. The speeds are in kph instead on mph, but cars give you a kph reading so it isn’t hard to adjust. There is absolutely NOT right turn on red. Try that move here and you’ll get into piles of trouble. The trickiest part of being an American driving in Belgium is the concept of priority on the right. Now in the US, we give the right away to right at stop signs and some other intersections, but the Belgians take this to another level. There are almost no stop signs anywhere, and at all unmarked intersections, you just have to expect to give anyone approaching from the right the right of way. This is true even for intersections where that seems unlikely, where the road on the right doesn’t intuitively seem like it should have priority over yours based on the relative size or traffic of each road. I still find some intersections confusing, but my method is to just not hit anyone and I suppose I’ll be okay.
My daily drive begins by jogging through small streets in the city trying to get to the outer ring of highways that loop around Brussels. The Ring then takes me around Brussels to where I work in the south. I could switch back to the train commute, but right now I’m comfortable driving, how very American of me. I hope to exchange large car soon for a smaller one. Pulling into my garage is nerve wracking because of the tight squeeze.
The strangest sight on my drive is what looks like a large nuclear reactor steam vent. It’s one the really traditionally shaped ones, like you see on the Simpsons. Belgium has taken the initiative of spicing up the tower a bit. When I drive by, the vent is lit up with a colorful and lively display. It looks like a work of art. I am unable to stop and take a photo while driving at 120 kph on the ring. I’d really like to get a photo, but I’ll have to wait until I have a driving companion to get one. Today the tower’s light show was pink and white hearts (it’s an active show not just passive lights). I suppose the nuclear power plant wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day just like the rest of us.
Another trial I should mention is the saga of trying to retrieve my Declaration of Arrive at Brussels town hall. The premise is, I have to go to the town hall within eight days of me arrival in Belgium to retrieve paperwork that verifies that I am living in Belgium at the address I gave when I entered. Apparently this regulation is new, and the local authorities have not staffed or organized appropriately for the major influx of new residents that need these declarations. I tried to stop in on Monday, and it turned out that even though it was 3 hours before close, they were not accepting additional people into the queue. Given that I am at the end of my grace period, I attempted to go in again today. After an excruciatingly long ~3 hour wait, I finally made it to the counter. After a rough franglais conversation with the attendant, I learned that that was just the line to MAKE AN APPOINTMENT to get my declaration of arrival. I have to go back again next Monday (three business days from now). Given that this is a time sensitive document, I hope that the authorities are flexible given how difficult this documentation is to obtain. Anywhoo, I’ll be back for a third time on Monday, I hope it’s my last visit.
One very nice thing about these trips to town hall is that walking there brought me through a new part of Brussels. The street it is located on actually has a supermarket, not just a convenience store. I passed a gorgeous museum with pillars and stone lions. The signage claims that they are currently housing some of the Chinese terracotta army. I need to investigate when a good time to visit would be. I also found a Mobistar (one of Belgium’s three major cell carriers). I FINALLY have a cellular plan that I am happy with. I will get 2GB, 1000 texts and some 100 odd minutes a month for 15 euro ($20). I’m not sure what it costs to send text messages to Belgium, but friends you’d be better off using my Google voice number which I’ve set up on my phone. Message me if you want this number.
Beer: La Trappist Tripel – This beer is absolutely delicious and has all the delightful flavors one should expect from a tripel. This is a particular favorite!