Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 19, 2011 -- Brussels, Belgium

I had a pretty stressful day yesterday, as you can see in the following picture.

This one of my favorite traveling pastimes.

Well, to tell the truth, that picture was taken in the afternoon after I decided that I had probably been walking more than I should on my bum leg. So, I purchased a can of beer (the small shops here have dozens of brands of Belgium beer, and every shop has a different selection, so  I plan to try a different brand of beer every afternoon) and sat down in a pleasant park to sip the beer and read one of the books I have going on my Kindle.

There were a lot tourist buses parked near the park, and I found this one that apparently belongs to an illiterate. You would think that if there is one word in the English language that people knew how to spell, this would be that word.

Why can't people learn to spell simple words?

Yesterday started out cloudy and chilly, and some very light rain even fell in the morning. The afternoon was very warm, motivating more people than just be to find a spot in the shade in one of the city's parks. In the evening, when I was safely indoors, there were heavy thunderstorms, despite the fact that the forecast had been for partially sunny skies with no mention of rain. It was of course during the heavy downpour that the cyclists staying at the hostel arrived, soaking wet. Two women, who I think work at the hostel, pedaled in, each with a child seat and a small child on the back of the bike. The kids thought it was great fun to be drenched from head to foot.

However, on a sadder note, I read this morning on the Website of the French newspaper Le Monde that the storm killed two attendees at a rock concert elsewhere here in Northern Belgium.

As I wrote yesterday, Belgium has a language war going between the Dutch and French speakers. The Dutch would just as soon divide the country in half and declare independence, but no one can figure out to do with Brussels, which as I also wrote, is a largely French-speaking island in Dutch-speaking territory. A lot of businesses and other organizations are solving the problem by ignoring both Dutch and French and putting up signs exclusively in English. Here, for example, is an information booth that I ran across today. In France, the sign on the side of the booth would definitely be in French.

English is taking over in Brussels
Among other sections of the city, I visited "Little Africa" yesterday, a section of the city where most of the residents are immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The little grocery stores in the neighborhood had some pretty wicked-looking peppers on display among the other fruits and vegetables out front, but the main business in the neighborhood was women's hair-dressing salons. I have read that many of the African women spend hours sitting in one of the chairs in a saloon getting one of those complex hairdos that so many of them sport.

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