Friday, September 30, 2005

Opening Party at Oude Markt

Oude Markt party. It was the opening party for all the students in town, possible up to 10 000 people on the square. Cool with so much people and music in the middle of the city.

Wen and her flatmates going out together.

"Normal Life" for Wen

Wen in class

Wen in her room

Monday, September 26, 2005

Opening Ceremony

The traditional Academic Procession from University hall to St Peter's Church.

The opening ceremony and mass at St Peter's Church.

Some Chinese students went up during the communion to receive the bread and wine, though they were clearly not catholics! I afterwards discussed with Wen wheater they were disrespectful and did it out fun and/or an act of ignorance. The priests asked them if they were baptised and gave them a blessing instead.

An amazing fact about the University and an insight to the tensions between the Flemish and French speaking groups in Belgium is the fact that the university was actually once split up!

Until 1968, there was only one University of Leuven, where both Dutch language and French language (although mostly French) were used. After repeated protests from Flemish organisations and student population, however, the University was split. The Dutch University of Leuven remained in the city of Leuven, while the French speaking Université Catholique de Louvain moved to the newly built campus of Louvain-la-Neuve, south of the linguistic border dividing Belgium. The main library, with all its old documents was split at that moment also. Documents and books with an odd registration number stayed in Leuven, the even-numbered ones moved to Louvain-la-Neuve.

A charicature of the Academic Procession reflecting the tensions before the split of the university. It was shown to us during the introduction speach for the exchange students.

Orientation days in Leuven

The welcome lecture for the newly arrived exchangers, kicking off a week of activities which of course I'm parasiting on. Nobody seems to mind.

Wen signing up for her French course

Party every night

Wen signing up for all activities and organizations.

"Singing" Waterloo in front of a couple of hundred traumatized exchangers during Karaoke night. Wen recorded the whole thing, adding additional pain to the headache the following morning.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Visit to Liège

This Sunday we went to visit Liège and Thomas colleague Helen. Liège is in Wallonia, and the atmosphere is rather different.

The flag of Wallonia

Eating sausages on a street market

Liège panorama

Helen and her friend Liu Liu sampling cocktails.

Dinner at Wang Palace - 王府饭庄, the restaurant of Helen's family. It was a great evening and I almost got a tear in my eye eating the fantastic food we got offered. It was also very interesting to hear Helen talking about how they change the food to fit westerner. When talking by the way, she is referring to the Belgians as 外国人 - foreigners!

Helen and Lanlan, her charming little sister

Saturday, September 24, 2005

School Trip to Bruges

On Saturday we went on a "school trip" to Bruges as a part of Wen's orientation program. It was about 200 exchange students who went.

7.30 Departure by bus
10.00 Arrival

10.30-12.00 Guided tour through Bruges

Bruges is famous for having a centrer in medieval style.

The city is possible the main tourist attraction in Belgium and attracts hordes of tourists. I must say that constantly bumping into other guided groups of tourists takes away some of the experience.

A couple of drops of Jesus blood is supposibly kept in a chapel here. The priest would let you come up and touch the container and perhaps say a little prayer.

2.00-4.00 Visit to the Memling Museum - St John's hospital

5.30 Back to bus... and then sit and wait for the South-Europeans to arrive ;)
6.15 Departure

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dumpling party

At KU Leuven there are several hundreds of Chinese students. I joined some of Wen's friends for a dinner celebrating the mid-Autumn festival.

Wen's a little special creations.

Me doing my best making skins for dumplings. I'm seriously getting a lot better at this stuff.

The whole party

ZhangJun had through some contacts managed to get a box of duck tongues. Yummy... haha

Monday, September 19, 2005

Car-Free-Day in Brussels

Sunday was the annually car-free-day in Brussels, with no cars allowed and almost all museums and public buildings open for tours.

We mounted three bikes on the car and went to the outskirts of Brussels and then spend the whole day riding through the city. Luckily for us and the thousands of other people biking, it was a sunny and beautiful day.

This day the 'Manneken Pis' statue was dressed up and was relieving himself with Kriek, the Belgian cherry beer that we had quite a few bottles of (wine bottle sized!) the evening before.

Again, biking requires eating a lot of fatty stuff! These are huge slices of bread packed with 'frites', burgers and sauce, called "machines-guns".

The city is separated in the lower and upper town, with the lower being the most interesting and lively and official and glass-and-steel jungle being on the higher part, including the EU-buildings.

One curiosity in Brussels and Belgium is that there are four (!!!) parliaments in the city. The parliament of the region Flanders, the parliament of the region Brussels, the Belgian federal parliament and then the European parliament. Crazy place this, and I guess that they don't want to be alone with this mess, so they are spreading it via the EU to the rest of us. Or is it we that want to share the pain with them?

"One of the amazing moments of Brussels" according to Thomas is when you come up at the John Kennedy Ln and see the Brussel version of Arc de Triumph in front of you with the Belgian flag seen through the arcs. "It's like being launched into the monument". Then you enter a new tunnel and come up again as seen in the picture above. Guess this is the only day of the year this can be experienced by bike.

This is where much of the European mess is cooked up, the commission.

And here is a lot of talking going on - European Parliament. That is when they are not in Strasbourg talking. One of EU's fantastically wasteful and inefficient compromises is that the parliament have to move between Brussels and Strasbourg every month. As usually I blame the French for all of it. ;-)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thomas' home in Halle

Thomas was a colleague of Wen at the Belgian embassy in Beijing. He lives in Leuven where Wen is studying and we are staying right now. He invited us to come over a weekend to his parents home in Halle, just south of Brussels.

On the way there we passed by Waterloo and stopped take a picture.

His parents live in a large house with a huge garden that is very well taken care of. In the garden they actually grow vegetables, berries, and fruits, and they even have ducks and chickens.

His mom cooks wonderful food and I really appreciated the coffee with chocolate. Despite all that biking a probably did gain some weight that weekend.

Thomas took us for a biking tour in the town.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Belgium and Leuven

Frites and waffles

We have arrived in Leuven where Wen is about to start her studies at Catholic's university of Leuven. A very famous university according to all Belgians I meet, unheard of for the rest of us (?). Seriously, it is a very old and famous university (I've learned). I'm not sure how long I will hang around. I have my re-exam in Gothenburg in the end of October.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bus to Brussels

Eurolines Paris-Brussels, 25 Euro.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Chinese and French speaking bunch

An evening out with Fredo and Catherine, friends from Peking University, and some other Chinese language students.

Catherine and her phone with animated pandas.


One evening we hooked up with Marine, a friend that I met when I was studying in Singapore a couple of centuries ago. Her boyfriend was watching football so we provided a good excuse for her to go out. We had a great evening with some amazing crêpes, cider, and wine!

She is from the Bretagne region and knows how crêpes should be done. After a drink we went to taste some together with a jar of cider. Wish we had that kind of grub back home!

Later on we got a crash course about French wine culture at her place!
Thanks for a great evening Marine!

Friday, September 09, 2005

China town in Paris

We checked out some of the "China towns" in Paris, among them at Belleville.

We saw this poster, apparently there is quite a lot of these in many places around the world. Possible some Faluñ D@fa member who wrote this using the same language that is usually used towards them.

中共邪教亡我中华 - Chinese Communist Party is an evil religion that kills my China
退党平安 - Quit the party membership! Have peace!

Meanwhile a whole bunch of wedding couples passed by, going in and out of a beauty saloon nearby to and from at least 4 huge limos that were choking the traffic on the street.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A week in Paris

We spend a very relaxed week in Paris without doing anything particular except having a good time. Seems like the city has improved its catering to tourist quite a bit since I was here last time.

Samuel's flat. Nice with lots of pretty funny China related stuff all over the place.

This Japanese magazine article was hanging in the toilet. The 'best points' for taking pictures in Paris! So... we tried our best...

With that good advice how could we fail. Best point for taking a picture in front of the Arc d'Triomphe! :)

Our mean of transportation, the Metro.

An afternoon we went to Versailles, but since we are pretty lazy people we didn't walk to far in the very large park.

Walking aimlessly and sitting in cafes...