May 26, 2013

Se Perdre

We were warned about the difficulty of locating the greatest beer in the world before we went on our quest, and yet we didn’t fully realize the legitimacy of such claims.

It wasn’t until after we crossed the Belgian border (granted that only took about twenty minutes) that we realized we had forgotten to look up the actual address of the monastery.

No matter, we thought, we knew which city it was in. We put “Westvelteren” into the GPS, and found a street with the same name of the Abbey, “St. Sixtus.”

The GPS lead us to a residential street. Knowing that the abbey is located in the middle of fields, we decided to follow a sign indicating “Westvelteren” as well as fields.

We quickly found ourselves driving along a dirt pathway in the middle of nowhere, with no street signs, and no abbey in sight, very lost.

Luckily, a friend was supposed to meet us at the monestary. We gave him a call to ask him for the address, but as a regular he didn't know. Deciding to wait for him to look it up, we drove to the nearest town, Poperinge, which ended up being very charming with Flandres style architecture.

Poperinge, Belgium town center.

Originally we had planned on having a late-ish lunch comprised of the bread and cheese also made by the monks, but as it was fast approaching 15h and not knowing if we'd ever make it to the beer holy land, we decided to find a snack.

What better to tide us over than some fresh Belgian fries? Unfortunately, all the restaurants and fry stands were closed except one, however they only spoke flamand(Belgian Dutch). After asking them if they served fries, they replied in a broken English that nobody served fries at this hour.

It wasn't a complete waste of time, however. Thanks to a display, we learned that 80% of Belgian hops are grown in Poperinge. An appropriate stop indeed.

Not to worry, we ended up getting the address, tasting delicious cheese, and enjoying the best beer in the world. And yes, it lived up to it’s name.

Westvleteren Bruin 12 and abbey-made cheese.

But if you ever visit it, make sure to have the address.

Check it out:
"In de Vrede"
Donkerstraat 13
Tel. 057/40.03.77

May 9, 2013

La Bise à la Fac

In my old French life, I had the ever so mysterious bise (the traditional French greeting, a.k.a. cheek kissing) down pat.

With my boyfriends family? Yes! When meeting up with friends? Yes! When leaving friends? Yes!

Source: this great video about how to faire la bise, which I already translated.

I have discovered that school is a whole other ball game.

There are 7 of us in my masters program, and we see each other pretty much everyday. Even among our small, close-knit group, things can get a bit complicated.

Do we faire la bise every morning upon first seeing one another? No. But enough of the time to make it complicated? Yes.

For example, if we get to class early enough, we usually faire la bise, but if someone comes into class ten minutes late and is addressed after the class, a bise suddenly becomes optional. Sometimes for no apparent reason that I can tell the bise becomes optional.

Some of my classmates seem to be more pro-bise than others. While this doesn’t cause a problem per se as I now know who will and who wont demand a bise, I find it interesting that some of them are more adamant about it than others.

Source: the video.

Where it starts to get really complicated, however, is the casual crossing of paths. Sometimes, it is acceptable to simply wave. Other times, one is expected to stop and make time for a quick bise and a "ça va?”(how's it going?) before continuing on to one's destination.

To make matters worse, in my experience before la fac (university), a bise was always done upon first interaction, and never again afterwards. Here, even if I've already seen someone and said a casual "salut" (hello), a bise is still on the table for future greetings.

But again, the bise may or may not happen. It depends. On what? I couldn't tell you.

I'm winging it pretty much all the time.
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