Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Philosophy students and blood donations at work

The Red Cross came to work today and employees were invited to donate blood. I've never donated blood before but decided to do it. After having filled out a number of forms, answered several questions and undergone a quick medical check, I was asked to sit down in a reclining chair, whereupon a male nurse tried to find a good vain with a disturbingly large needle. After 5 painful stabs he finally managed to locate one, and my blood started draining into a, in my eyes, really large plastic bag. 10 minutes later a different nurse concluded that I had donated my 400ml quota, removed the needle and put a bandage around my arm. She asked me if I felt all right, gave me a soda, and said "Thank you for your donation."

As I stepped into the elevator a familiar face, although not familiar enough for me to recall a name, smiled at me and a young man said "Excuse me; are you the Husband's wife?" I confirmed his suspicion, and he proceeded to tell me that he had taken one of the Husband's classes a couple of years ago, and the he started working here yesterday. He told me his name and I vaguely remembered a deliberation a few years ago. Before we could converse any further, he had reached his destination and all I had time to say before he got out of the elevator was "Welcome aboard!"

It's such a small world.

By Lovain

Friday, May 25, 2007

A cold and a robbery; a busy week

My inspiration to write has been somewhat lacking lately and as easy as it is to blame it on my busy life, as busy as it has been, I’ve always been able to write a piece here and there with ease in the past. Once in a while I think of a line or a topic to write on, but over the past couple of weeks in particular, I’ve rarely got to actually typing it out. Thought here I am, finally, with a cup of tea, a croissant (actually it’s more like a plethora of pastries – I had trouble choosing just one at the bakery), and a quiet morning to myself. The boys are in school and the Husband is recovering from a whole night of writing.

I’ve been home with a cold this week; a process commencing with a sore throat and fever on Sunday, and culminating today in an immense amount of snot that makes its own appearance about every 30 seconds. The Husband bought me Kleenex.

On Tuesday, as I was leaving the house to take the boys to school and go to the doctor, I couldn’t find my wallet. After the doctor’s visit I went by the grocery store thinking perhaps that, although highly unlikely, I might have left it by the cash register the previous day. I had been in a bit of a haze due to my cold. I’m very meticulous about putting my wallet in my purse however, and the lady at the grocery store told me that she thought I had done just that, and my wallet wasn’t in the grocery store. When I came home, the Husband had figured out what had happened: while we were asleep somebody had broken in to our home through the back door, walked through the house and taken my wallet out of my purse. The Husband had namely found my wallet and my bank cards (that I had blocked by now) strewn out on the lawn at the bottom of our garden; 50€ and several meal vouchers (worth 6,15€ a piece) missing! He had also noticed the fences were damaged, indicating a possible escape route. I called the police, who immediately came by, had a quick look, took our statements and told us to keep our doors locked at all times. Honestly, the Husband & I were a bit disappointed with the whole thing; no dusting for fingerprints, no DNA testing, no picking up miniscule pieces of fabric with tweezers, nothing; just a look and a statement. Where was Grissom? How are they ever going to catch the “eeaves” as the youngest one calls them, without a proper crime scene investigation? We’ll never know.

“Did the eeaves take our Pokemon cards?” the youngest one immediately inquired, when I told the boys about the burglary. “No, they only took mama’s money” I said, whereupon the youngest one turned to the oldest one and said with a relieved tone of voice “they didn’t see our Pokemon cards!” No; if they had seen them, we all know they would have taken them.

“The complete works of Moses Mendelssohn is laying right here, open!” the Husband exclaimed, pointing to his desk close to the back door “This book is worth $300! They could have taken it, but they didn’t” he added with a relieved sigh. No; as likely as it is that a couple of 16-year-old petty thief kids would know to appreciate the value of the complete works of Moses Mendelssohn, they only took my money.

It's pretty obvious it was kids; they didn't take anything but money because a thing might lead their parents to know they had been stealing. I'm happy they didn't take our computer with the Husband's thesis in it, or our DVD player or television (and yes, we're lucky they didn't notice our Pokemon cards and the complete works of Moses Mendelssohn).

By Lovain

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

French poem recitation

When I picked up the boys from school on Friday they had Mother’s Day presents in their hands, and on Sunday morning they gave me the presents. The oldest one had made soap and bath salt, and the teacher had included a card in Dutch. The youngest one helped me open the present from him; it was a banner saying “Leve Mama” (Long Live Mother) and a card with a short text. The youngest one took the card, held it in front of him as if he was going to read it (the youngest one doesn’t know how to read yet) and said a poem in the most perfect French I have ever heard.

Ma Maman

Connaissez-Vous Maman?
Elle est si belle
toute gentille
Je l'aime tant!!!

By Lovain

Monday, May 14, 2007

I love chocolate!

If I was in New York, this is where I would be heading right now: the Max Brenner restaurant.

By Lovain

Friday, May 11, 2007

Most invasive surgery: c-section or a tooth implant?

On Wednesday evening I went to see a periodontologist (or is it a periodontist?), who explained the tooth implant procedure to me. He was a tall, fit, studious nerd –obviously not a parent, possibly gay - seemingly very skilled and as far as I could conclude from a quick Google search, academically very active. He told me I would have a sheet over my face, and that although not being able to feel any pain, I would feel what was being done to me; the drilling into my jaw bone, the pulling and the tugging, something that could be disturbing to some people. "So like my c-section?" I suggested, remembering the feeling when Dr. Schroyens pulled - for all he was worth - my stomach muscles apart to expose my uterus, and then, with a midwife pushing down as hard as she could at the top of my belly to squeeze the baby out, proceeded to pull out an 11Lb baby through a 4 inch incision. It didn't hurt (at the time) but I was fully awake and could certainly feel my body literally being ripped open, all the while worrying about the baby.

"Oh no!" he exclaimed "this procedure is far more invasive!"

By Lovain

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Unfortunate dental problems in Belgium; all our savings in one tooth

Yesterday was an unfortunate day.

Last weekend my most recently filled tooth (the only tooth ever fixed here in Belgium) broke, or actually cracked, and the outside part and the filling came loose. The next day I called around for a dentist and found, after dialing quite a few numbers, one who was willing to see me this week, yesterday. In the meantime the cracked tooth got infected, and my doctor prescribed me antibiotics which I have been taking. Yesterday when I finally could actually consult a dentist, the tooth was still wiggly but no longer hurting. The dentist, a seemingly nice lady in her late 30’s, administered a light anesthetic, and proceeded to break off the tooth entirely, then pulled of the loose filling, and x-rayed the entire side. She showed me the picture and said that the tooth had broken in such a way that fixing a crown to it would be complicated and not very durable, and suggested an implant instead. She said it would be more expensive but that it really was the only alternative and that it would last for the rest of my life. She illustrated the two possible procedures on a small white board, and wrote out the amounts; next to the picture of the (in reality not possible) crown she wrote 700, and next to the implant she wrote 700 by the fake root, and then a 1, a 2, by the fake tooth, and I had time to think “Only an extra 120€? I can live with that!” but, oh horror, she added two 0’s instead of one! The entire procedure, which is not covered by our insurance, would cost approximately 2000€ altogether. God help us. She then set up an appointment for me with her associated dental surgeon who would be placing the fake root – a screw – in my gum, charged me 50€ and said “See you on Friday!”

Our Belgian health insurance is in my opinion generally quite impressive. We pay around 50€ a year and most things are covered. A doctor’s visit costs 23€ and we get around 19€ back from the insurance. If I’m sick, I don’t loose any salary income. Dental, as it turns out however, is almost entirely left out. According to my dentist, a regular filling is covered, but dentures or in my case an implant are not.

The Husband did not take the news lightly. 2000€ is our entire buffer. In pain although numbed, I called work and said I would not be able to make it to work that afternoon, and the Husband and I recalculated our budget. We will manage, indeed, but only barely, and we will not have anything extra with us when we arrive in Cairo.

After a couple of tormenting discussions, the Husband went to pick up the boys from school, but took longer than usual to get back. Apparently as he had entered the school yard, he had seen the youngest one crying on a bench, and must have lost the key to the bike in the process of comforting. Not being able to recover it, he had detached the bike cart from the bike which was left by the school, and walked home.

The youngest one had got his pinky jammed in a door and it was red and swollen. I checked it for fractures, and it was obviously very painful.

As we sat down to dinner, we felt disheartened. “I think we should all just go to bed right now” the Husband said, “before anything else bad happens to us”.

By Lovain

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Drink bottle gymnastics

Today we bought a new drink container for the youngest one to take to school. When I opened it up for the first time to rinse it out, I found the detailed instructions for how to clean it thoroughly, and decided to take a look at them before throwing them away (who keeps cleaning instructions for a bottle?!). Step by step I, a mother of two with a masters degree, read through the instructions, ignorantly thinking it was one of those things you could read once and then throw away, and then determinately handed them to the Husband. “Here!” I said, “Read these; how to clean this drink container might seem obvious, but when faced with it, I think having read these instructions will seem like a good idea”. The Husband, a (almost) professor of philosophy with a BA in physics, studied the instructions meticulously, and concluded seriously after a while “here, I think we had better keep these”!

By Lovain

Friday, May 04, 2007

Finding out about living in Cairo, Egypt

As part of my research for our upcoming relocation to Cairo, I bought a couple of travel guides, but however well they describe the city from a visiting point of view, they don't give you much of an idea of what it would be like to live there. I found this blog however, written by an Australian diplomat wife, that beautifully, with a humorous twist, paints a picture of her life in Egypt.

By Lovain