30 October 2005


While searching for the Ben & Jerry's in Antwerpen (which is unfortunately being relocated), I found the high-class shopping district--including a mouth-watering art, architecture, and fashion bookstore (not that I gave a farthing about the fashion section). I discovered a new item for my wishlist, in both English and German (depending on the angle from which you look at the cover): Luft / Air. One of my favorite photography subjects. But the best thing about it is the line from the publisher's website: Das erste Buch mit Airbag! Ein Buch-Objekt. Everything is more serious, more stern, and simultaneously more hilarious in German.

Can't wait to take my bike to Antwerpen and explore the entire damn city.

Another funny MS Word phenomenon: grammar check corrects "Midwestern" to "midwestern," which spell check corrects to "Midwestern."

28 October 2005

not in kansas anymore

Sigh. Carillons, pizzas, museums. How to say more than can be said? Damnit. I live a good life. Why can't I ever stop wanting more?

Again, "returning" to a familiar place (we visited Lier for an evening during EuroTour 2005) was preposterously heartwarming. I made the trek ostensibly to hear Iris' sister's jazz trio perform in a bar on the Grote Markt. Iris dished out the following scoop that knocked me flat. You know that middle-aged, mild-mannered, soft-spoken organ teacher of mine? He remarried just this year--with a 26-year-old former student, the lucky one out of several that he dated!

"It's possible," she responded to my amazement, as she often does, half seriously and half ironically and half (this half being in a higher spatial dimension) because her English vocab doesn't encompass a more specific phrase. And I suppose it isn't all that unusual in Europe. Eddy's girlfriend is a good twenty-something younger than him and a former student at the school. You're right, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore... although the coastal American's joke would be that such things only happen in states like KS or AL. Hell, the oldest guy I dated was European... and somebody else's teacher at Yale. One could certainly argue that a pattern is emerging. All the same, I'll be struggling to keep a straight face at my next organ lesson.

The last train to Mechelen never came, and the station workers directed us to Antwerpen Berchem, where none of the posted or electronic schedules showed any Brussels-bound trains. But my newfound Mechelen-bound friend Wem and I went to Antwerpen-Centraal and, to our great relief, found the 0:23 train waiting there. The best part was that it stopped in Berchem. Usually track 9, one of the workers told us. We spent the next half hour discussing cultural differences between the US and Belgium. It was nice to converse with someone new, since the young folks in Lier seemed to prefer chatting in Dutch.

The cock-and-balls-shaped sour gummies we bought and over which we cracked up endlessly during EuroTour must have been from the nachtwinkel near the station in Lier, because the store matched the one in my memory exactly, although I'd had the impression it was in another city. I went in to see if they still carried that particular line of gummies, but left disappointed. Did not get to eat cock on the way home.

27 October 2005

roadblock or social progress?

I love the "street reclaiming throne." Socially conscious prankstering! Funny that the ideal world Engwicht describes sounds almost exactly... like Flanders.

25 October 2005

relatively late

incidentally, i ended up practicing a total of seven to eight hours today, a record for me at the carillon and in fact at any single instrument. tom AND the chinese viola dude and his wife were all at the school... at like, 10 pm...

Incidentally, I have finally found the Dutch version of Sesame Street, Sesamstraat. Now alas, how to watch it?

relatively early

3 pm, in a practice room at school:

Tom: You're here early.
Me: Unprecedentedly early. You're here late.
Tom: I woke up at 3.
Me: Damn!
Tom: Well, I went to bed at 3.
Me: Damn! ... I went to bed after you.
Tom: That's because you need less sleep. I need twelve hours a night.
Me: It takes me three days to get that much sleep.
Tom: See?

24 October 2005


The Belgian news never fails to astound me. Amongst today's headlines:

Nos banques de sperme dévalisées par les lesbiennes françaises
Bill Clinton contre l'obésité
La Poste partenaire d'eBay
Privé de lumière, Rattenberg [a village in Tyrol in the shadow of a mountain] veut détourner le soleil (with giant mirrors)
Du poisson contre l'agressivité [planned study into whether eating fish can control criminal impulses]

23 October 2005


upon miracle seems to follow in this fantastical land, or at least in the strangely lucid plane my inner life has become. Last night I was brainstorming answers for an essay prompt that I assumed would just draw forth a precious few eloquently BSed ideas from me. Instead, I had another revelation about my life that had never really struck me as an issue of concern. There is an answer to why I am an impossible mix of highbrow and lowbrow, why I always have groups of friends who are otherwise mutually exclusive... I may write more later, but the essay needs to be written first, and even before that, I must keep sane with another bike ride, because I've just practiced for four hours in OLV o/d Dijle without remembering that I hadn't eaten lunch, because that organ is so addictive to play, time hardly seems to pass... and anyway, I suppose none of this is terribly interesting or relevant to anyone except me.

19 October 2005

curriculum vitae

And now for the so-called 'cv' I've been working on nonstop for the past two days... may it prove worth the effort and sleep deprivation.

Pianissimo high notes sparkled over deep lingering overtones as I played the forty-nine-bell carillon of Sint-Romboutskathedraal. Rich minor harmonies piled upon each other, and a chance rush of wind bore the swelling lines away through the streets of Mechelen, where they echoed until they seemed to come from every direction. As I toured Belgium with the Yale Guild in 2003, that moment completed the enchantment that began when I was a freshman, captivated by the power of the Yale Memorial Carillon to communicate the unspeakable across campus. Having pursued the instrument to its origin in the Low Countries, I have realized that I am drawn to it by my desire to contribute my particular strengths to a field that needs them and demands innovation.

Living and learning in a foreign country was worth every hardship for my father, who left his family and five siblings in Hong Kong to pay his way through the University of Rochester as a busboy. Now I am coming to understand what drove him. Struggling to leave behind a personally trying year, I arrived in Belgium with three suitcases and a tenuous academic network. Within six weeks, I had found a new lease on life, immersing myself in an unknown culture, meeting people and ideas unlike any I had met before, and building a new existence around my studies. Considering my father’s hardships, I am immensely grateful to focus on the pursuit that gives my life meaning. And even simple joys, from discovering a museum in a tiny alley to biking with friends along canals at twilight, still overwhelm me. When my efforts go completely awry, my frustration becomes exciting proof that I am living the life I worked fervently to reach. My need for discovery is met every day now, and that need inspired my passion for the carillon while at Yale

More than in any other field, I can make significant contributions to carillon education throughout my career. Performance and bellfounding reached an apex in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century, but were nearly lost until American William Rice and Belgian carillonneur Jef Denyn established the KBJD in 1922. Although six schools exist in Europe, the dearth of qualified teachers in the US and wealth of progress to be made in this young field have fired my involvement. Co-chairing the Yale Guild, I spent up to seventeen hours per week on organizational improvement, the restoration of the instrument and tower, and involving the Guild in the greater carillon world. When I discovered thrilling possibilities for education and international collaboration in planning the 2006 GCNA Congress, I knew there was no cause I wanted to pour my efforts into more.

I cannot resist exploring promising possibilities, and the carillon field abounds with them. America’s mostly older adult carillon community needs fresh ideas and impetus, such as the technology, translation, and youth outreach skills I am contributing to the GCNA. While many university carillonneurs struggle to attract students, the Yale Guild turns away so many that I am writing a guide to using active student involvement to perpetuate the carillon tradition. But demand for instruction exists beyond the walls of academia. As a summer teacher in 2003, I relished introducing New Haven middle school students to new subjects from web design and programming to carillon. But I had to send would-be bell players away as lessons are open only to Yale students. At the CIN and NB, I expect to build the leadership and charisma needed to create broadly accessible learning opportunities and to inspire enthusiasm in new generations of carillonneurs.

In a monumental tower, seemingly isolated from the world, I have the privilege of making a magnificent instrument ring out across the land, conveying deep emotions across boundaries of cities, languages, and cultures to the listening public. In return for that great gift, I seek in my career to make this privileged opportunity accessible to all.

18 October 2005

more scheming

Too busy to record all the craziness of today... just have to note for later that I visited Marc today in Leuven and he's a crazy genius... my first draft of one of the English pages of the Beiaardschool site is up... and taking the opportunity to chat with Jo for an extended period of time proved far more productive than I ever imagined possible. He knows Dr. Boulpaep, he knew Susan Woodson (quite well!!!), and he thinks it's possible to start up a master's degree program in carillon in conjunction with the Antwerpen Conservatorium. Say what?! If I could stay in Belgium another year earning my master's degree from there, perhaps living on a pittance from the Ministry of the Flemish Community, but just as long as I have enough to get by...why, I would sign my firstborn away for the opportunity. Yes, yes, yes, I'm always talking about how I left my heart in San Fran (Berkeley, really) and how I am determined to return... but frankly, it's going to be years before I can return (since living anywhere near my parents even now would drive me insane), and there is no place in the world of all the places I've travelled to that I'd love to stay in more right now than this crazy country in which you never know what's going on or what's possible until you search every corner for it... and then it turns out to be more than you could have ever hoped for. Maybe Jo's idea won't work out and something else will... but I have found everything I needed here, and it was nothing--precisely that, nothing--an empty space in which to build a new life in a different land and to reinvent myself. As I waited for my plane to start boarding in JFK last month, I was realizing that I had become exactly the person I had wanted to be at this stage in my life. Paradoxically, part of being that person is being ready to reinvent myself (without compromising myself). And although I had no clue how much I needed to do that, I know now because I'm doing it...

I'm so inarticulate and overwhelmed with fears and hopes and joy and sheer incredulity at the life I'm living. Sometimes I laugh at myself for being so like an infant here, in awe of everything and overwhelmed by every sight, sound, touch, taste... so innocently carefree and grateful for every moment... but now I wonder if it isn't because in a way I've been reborn.

17 October 2005

fulbright statement

I am perfectly aware that this is all crazy talk. But applying for the Fulbright already demonstrates that I'm a loon, doesn't it?

Advanced Carillon Study

“I’ve struggled every night with this etude for hours!” cried Denise, striking a dissonant chord on the practice carillon. “Sometimes I couldn’t see the keys for the tears in my eyes. But I’m not giving up this chance. Help me.” Having taken nine weeks of lessons from and auditioned for the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs as a starry-eyed freshman, I too had fallen in love with the bells and feared I might never play them again after intense basic training. So I met Denise for extra lessons during my weekly recitals, coaching her on the real instrument. For five hours of Guild deliberations, I championed her for her impassioned dedication. But with about sixty candidates competing for six spaces per year, the Guild chose not to admit her. She was waiting for me when I bore the heartbreaking news to her at midnight. And when she asked about joining other carillon programs, I had to answer that carillon schools exist only in Europe.

Leading the largest student carillon program in the country as 2004-2005 co-chair, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to music. I relished the responsibilities of a university carillonneur—teaching, pushing a capital renovation project of the tower and carillon through two years of red tape, organizing a two-week concert and master class tour of Europe, and leading planning for the 2006 Congress of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA) to be held at Yale. However, these opportunities for leadership and study are not available to students elsewhere. My goal is to put them within reach of aspiring carillonneurs like Denise. By establishing a summer program and ultimately a degree program, I aim to offer basic instruction to part-time and volunteer carillonneurs and advanced study to students without the means or time to study abroad.

But first I must achieve a high level of musicianship, academic research, teaching experience, and development leadership. At the Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” (KBJD), I am rapidly improving in performance and campanology research and concurrently earning a joint Master of Music degree in Carillon with a concentration in pedagogy from Missouri State University (MSU), which I plan to complement with a doctorate in organ performance. Yet with teaching programs mostly underdeveloped in the US, I must also rally public support and gain experience in institutional leadership and international collaboration. The Netherlands Carillon Institute (CIN) and National Carillon Museum (NB) are the best places in the world to pursue these goals.

Nearly two hundred carillons have been built in the US, but only one dedicated program has existed since 2004 to train American carillonneurs. Most potential candidates have jobs and families and thus cannot relocate to MSU, and many are excluded by its bachelor of music prerequisite. To address the limited range of learning options, I am organizing a panel on education at the 2006 GCNA Congress and an accompanying pilot coaching program. The GCNA offers only a professional certificate, leaving many carillonneurs feeling excluded and without realistic advancement goals. Coaching sessions with volunteer professionals may attract them to the Congress and active GCNA involvement. I hope to turn this project into an annual event through fundraising efforts for the new Ronald Barnes Memorial Scholarship for domestic carillon study. Likewise, aspiring beginners have few or no learning opportunities because many carillonneurs do not feel qualified or have time to teach. For them, I hope to offer an intensive beginners program in a different region of the country each summer.

Upon graduation from Yale, I could have taught carillon part-time without credentials at a nearby college because teachers are so rare—even I was self-taught until I found the priceless opportunity to study abroad. By contrast, carillon schools in the Low Countries have achieved nearly universal musical proficiency even amongst amateurs. The US needs a degree program enhanced by visiting international teachers to develop North American carillon technique and prepare carillonneurs to teach. All too often, carillons are built without provision to train players and fall into disrepair. As new instruments are built around the US, carillonneurs must be ready to teach local students.

Considering these needs, my plans in the Netherlands are threefold: to study performance at the CIN, to understand promotion, development, and administration as assistant to CIN founder Boudewijn Zwart, and to work in public education as an unpaid intern at the NB. My current teacher is one of the best in Europe, and a year under his demanding instruction should be followed by a year under Zwart’s brilliant guidance at the heaviest carillon in Europe, one similar to North American instruments. While I developed keen networking and publicity skills at Yale, Zwart is the most successful proponent of the construction of new carillons today and can guide me in inspiring public enthusiasm and cutting through the kind of bureaucratic opposition I fought in the restoration of the Yale carillon. Moreover, by ascertaining why the CIN flourishes even as nearby carillon programs flounder, I can avoid repeating our colleagues' mistakes.

I intend to raise my curatorial and public education skills to a professional level at the NB. Having secured funds for and curated bell exhibitions at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments and Yale Library, I am now redesigning the KBJD Carillon Museum and publishing an exhibition catalog, online museum, and much-needed comparative survey of carillon museums with guidelines for improvement. At the NB, I will broaden my skills by leading tours and assisting with exhibits and the maintenance of its vast library so I am prepared to build or expand such a library. And after taking intensive Dutch courses this year, I will improve at the NB in public speaking and academic Dutch, the main language of campanology. These experiences in museology will uniquely prepare me educate the American public and recruit new students.

My personal goals include contributing to communication between the GCNA and Europe (currently I am translating the GCNA website into Dutch and French and the KBJD website into English) and to the unifying goals of the World Carillon Federation (WCF). While international initiatives thrive at the CIN and KBJD, politics and cutthroat rivalry are threatening to dissolve a Dutch carillon school. I hope to assist the WCF in preventing such losses to carillon education. Finally, having written two senior theses in feminist musicology, I intend to investigate why few women hold carillon posts in the Netherlands and promote gender equality in new generations of carillonneurs.

I plan to move to the Netherlands in September for one academic year, after which I will complete my master’s degree and pursue a doctorate in the US while gaining teaching experience. It is my hope that a career in carillon and organ education will eventually enable me to build an accessible undergraduate or graduate carillon degree program in collaboration with both American and European institutions.

The Yale Guild offered me the chance of a lifetime, but I was one of the lucky few. Through the GCNA and my career, I will seek to promote young carillonneurs and help them make the kinds of contributions to the carillon world that inspired me to devote myself to teaching. While Denise pursues her second and last chance to audition for the Guild, I am pursuing the Fulbright Grant to make the instrument accessible to musicians who, like her, possess the fire and dedication to advance the carillon in North America.

16 October 2005

good things keep coming my way

Besides the fact that this post was lost after half an hour of typing, good things really do keep coming my way. The Brabant Gothic church of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw over de Dijle stands two blocks away from my house in grey, grimy under-renovation glory. This morning I met Wannes Vanderhoeven, who replaced Geert as choir(!) and harmony teacher at the Beiaardschool while the latter was at UC Berkeley, to work out my practice schedule on the organ. Wannes was surprisingly young, sociable, fluent in English, and astonishingly helpful. I'm free to practice during the church's opening hours whenever he and his students aren't there, and he offered to personally let me in outside of opening hours and to try to get me access to the new organ that will soon be arriving at the Mechelen Conservatorium. Like hello, can I do something for you in return...make your coffee every day, I dunno??? American churches often require us starving students to pay for our practice time, even when we know the organists...and I'm getting to practice this glorious centuries-old instrument even though I have nothing to do with the church, or Belgium, or anything really.

I thought that everything went my way at Yale with hard work because the university was designed for smart, motivated kids to make things happen (not to mention because it's funded by $40,000 per year per student). But now I show up in a foreign country, having left my pride behind and steeled myself against endless bureacracy, and doors just keep falling open. Oh, you want to study with a carillonneur who's too badass too bother teaching anymore? No problemo. Wanna record your carillon playing? Get recorded on the heaviest carillon in Europe, and the audio engineer will send you the mastered recording ASAP. You also wanna study with one of the most well-known organists in the country, and you've played a shit audition? You're in! So you have the keys for several organs in Antwerpen, but you'd rather not commute? You can practice in your glorious neighborhood cathedral, which just happens to house a couple of Peter Paul Rubens paintings, several times per week. Even: Oh, you want to miss two months of rent having not even paid your deposit in full? No worries; your landlords wave off your apologies before you can even start them. Luck follows me around, or I manufacture it in constant supply.

So I arrived at 11u00 intending to practice two hours, and left at 15u30 not remembering that I hadn't eaten lunch to barely make it to a Vlaams Radio Koor concert of vocal music by Poulenc and Milhaud. I didn't even know they had composed vocal music; in fact, I've never heard works by either performed live before. And now this wonderful choir shows up in my little town with an hour's worth of the stuff. The Bordleys were there, and they suggested some Dames,...Naakt En Gekleed destinations, which I visited before biking south along the canals to Zemst. My discoveries included the mysterious Planckendael Dierenpark and the way into the back parking lot of the train station! Never will I be without a space again. Biking home to the strains of Moby's "Love Should," I got teary-eyed in the twilight.

I didn't get much done that I was "supposed" to do, but even a day like this feels incredibly productive, just because so many incredible things happen.

14 October 2005

de grootste beiaard in europa

hangs in the Grote Kerk of Dordrecht, the Netherlands. And playing it is eerily like getting high--rather like the Dutch fellow who passed Richard and me in his car smoking a joint, only better and more addictive. By 13u00 I was utterly drunk on the sound of those bells. I can't quite call Dordrecht 'carillon heaven' anymore, because the church and city looked more beautiful at night in March than they did on this overcast October day. But it's still damn close. In December, Boudewijn will have a carillon installed in the tower of the city hall a few blocks away that can be enclosed and played all day at will. Count his travelling carillon, and you probably get more carillons per square kilometer than any other place in the world. Not only that, but without telling me in advance, he had a recording technician do the setup, recording, and mastering for me. Did someone say bad ass? I really, really hope I find a way to study in Dordrecht next year.

My old gripe about Holland remains true... it's too much like the US. But now that I'm living in a country quite different from my homeland, it's nice to be able to hop across the border and feel as if I'm in America. Rotterdam even has frozen coffee. And Chinese takeout. I had to exercise mad chopstick skillz on my dish, because Europeans don't automatically give you plastic silverware (weird word) or chopsticks. And surreptitiously swiped wooden coffee stirrers are surprisingly floppy when you start trying to pick up vegetables with them.

It was surprisingly heart-warming to revisit the places we'd seen during EuroTour 2005. Ironically, those vaguely familiar sights made me feel at home. My standards of familiarity have clearly plummeted (also in terms of social familiarity). I think this could be a good change.

13 October 2005

chanson du jour

The bike ride to Willebroek today confirmed it. I am transformed. Free of him. This is a day I never thought I would see. Particularly not this soon... I was prepared to grieve for a decade or two before my memory of him would grow too dim for me to know what I had seen in him. Now I can regret him--without believing that my life will never be what it was meant to be without him. Thank you, Atlantic Ocean. Thank you, BAEF. Thank you, Giant. Thank you, fate. Oh, fuck you too, fate. If you play any more games with my mind like you did this August, I'll have none of it. Absolutely none of it.

So my selection today is Radiohead's Lurgee. A crytic, simple statement of the facts. I was never particularly straightforward anyway. Ignore the title.

And also, because it's effective for everything, I now cite Hart Crane's final poem, The Broken Tower (1932). Sometime I'll post my essay on it. You know I'd find a way to write my final essay for Harold Bloom on carillons.

Image No. 2 is now memorized, albeit shakily. Practicing tonight, I had insights into problems I've had with 'Reflection' and 'Preludio V' since they entered my repertoire. It's hard to believe that I never thought of these solutions before... also hard to believe that I'd finally come up with them at 2 am while totally sleep deprived and antsy. Thank you, Belgium. And in a couple more hours, hello Holland.

stunning memories

Yesterday evening, a conversation with Geert on a drive to Antwerpen that ended all too soon reminded me to dig up the fictionalized account I wrote during my junior year of a couple of EuroTour 2003 mishaps, of which there were many. Each time I bike past Sint-Romboutstoren and find my breath stolen by the sight of it rising through the midnight mist, I am reminded of this excerpt:

14:32. The minivan screeched to a halt by the statue anchoring a cobblestone roundabout and Serena leaped out, struggling to extract her camera from her backpack as George asked why she had demanded that he stop in the middle of the road. She simply pointed her lens at the Brabantine Gothic belfry and began to shoot madly.

From amidst the two- to three-story Rococo buildings of Mechelen's Grote Markt rose the magnificent white stone mass of St.-Romboutstoren for over thirty meters--a hundred feet. The monolith gleamed in the warmth of the afternoon sun, layer upon layer of heavy stone articulated by elaborate stringcourses. Powerful piers pushed their way into the sky, dissolving into elaborate Gothic carving in the upper third of the tower in answer to the piers that branched into glazed clerestories in the cathedral. Forty-nine carillon bells hung within the upper third of the tower.

“She’s having a towergasm!” quipped Tanya as Serena marveled at Sint-Romboutstoren, stern, immovable, and timeless as a mountain. With nothing else tall on the horizon, the tower seemed to soar to impossible heights.

The bourdon, the heaviest bell of the carillon, began to toll the half-hour like a summons to perform. She hurried into the minivan, and the group took off at full speed for one of the most glorious instruments they would ever play.


high-strung and exhausted and intense as ever.

11 October 2005

bike prankstering

SUV Drivers in Paris Get Wind Knocked Out of Them: A clandestine group lets air out of tires as a form of protest. The vehicles' owners are not amused.

A sign that there is hope in the world. A shame SoCal has to sully our state's tree-hugging name. Then again, even my landlord has a giant American car. As Koen explained, Europeans get them to protect themselves in accidents too. Although considering how infuriatingly obedient pedestrians are of traffic signals, I can't imagine the drivers are half as hostile as they are considered here. Nobody holds a candle to Boston and New York.

my bike changed my life

Yesterday I went on an elating bike ride and made incredible discoveries to be elaborated upon later. Today I took off again because I desperately needed a break from typing at my computer all day. The ensuing 16-kilometer bike tour changed my life.

I moved to Belgium thoroughly warned by various people and sources to expect depression and a difficult and lonely transition, and even to be quite dissatisfied with Mechelen. The past few weeks haven't been easy. But I've spent the past year broken-hearted and (spiritually) dead, wondering if I would ever find the will to live again, or in fact a compelling reason to live. Coming alone to a different continent with only a few heavy suitcases and a gossamer-thin support network, I didn't expect my situation to help. And yet I am beginning to suspect that living in Belgium is finally healing my shattered heart and broken spirit. I feel alive again. Completely and utterly alive.

On the way back from Battel (the very outskirts of Mechelen and filled with wonders I'll just have to describe later), I experienced a small revelation, took another step on the path towards understanding myself and the man I still foolishly and fundamentally love. Part of what made me feel alive and elated when I was in Berkeley and/or with him was constant discovery, even of feelings I never knew existed. And it's constant discovery that has brought me to love Yale, New Haven, urban spelunking, and other unrelated and often unlikely places and activities. Now I'm in an environment where daily revelations are unavoidable for me. They're waiting for me outside my front door as well as at the end of 90-minute unintentionally profound twilight bike rides.

So discovery is part of what drives me. Perhaps it's even a fundamental need...a reason for living. Who have I been in love with? JR or the experience of discovering life with him? Having spent the past few days in intense reflection, I still don't know if this driving force is something I can or should try to explain as I struggle to define myself in my latest application essay. But it's far more important that I now understand it myself. Because discovery has always been important to me, and the need for it was essential to finding a way here. But who would have known it would be the one thing in the world that would finally make me rise from the ashes of this yearlong darkness?

09 October 2005

the sky is falling down

How many natural disasters can happen within the space of a few months?

It's seemed senseless to donate money to causes when it has already been, in a sense, donated to support my cause. But I've been doing essay orders now, so counting that as my own income, I managed (after much searching) to find a trustworthy charity to donate it to: Islamic Relief. Be forewarned, it may be strange to receive the receipt and thank you message partially in Arabic. But do consider supporting the survivors who must live on after 20,000 others have died... a number beyond human comprehension.

It was surreally difficult to track down any English-speaking charity actively soliciting donations for earthquake efforts on its website. None of the news reports had links for potential donors, and visits to the Red Cross, Oxfam, and other major websites didn't turn up a single mention of the quakes. Have organizations not been updating their websites on the weekend, or have I stumbled across some cultural charity rift? It was easy enough to donate even to Indonesian tsunamai relief efforts.

The difficulty of finding information on Google made me realize that finding breaking news and information on search engines is unfortunately not particularly effective. I wonder how long it will take before crawlers pick up on this particular relief effort.

08 October 2005

march on!

An overcast morning doesn't prevent the Flemish from enjoying the day on cafe terraces, and after an hour the weather had turned quite fine, as it tends to do despite chilling mornings. To my amazed delight, I heard German spoken for the first time in Belgium and understood it well, at least in comparison to my everyday comprehension of people here. As part of the Salzburger Bauernherbst, an Austrian men's brass band called Trachtenmusikkapelle Filzmoos was performing on the Grote Markt during the weekly outdoor market--speaking/broadcasting German over a loudspeaker (typisch) to a giant crowd of Flemish people and playing American band music for/at them. Imagine: Jetzt spielen wir Sousa! This country never exhausts its store of bizarre new sights. I tried an eclair and found it disappointing. Maybe there's something special about the ones people recommended to me in Brussels.

So sad to miss mountain biking with Jeffrey... why does it have to rain tomorrow??? I know I have to work my ass off for the rest of this month if I'm going to make this Fulbright thing happen... but, alack! Anyway, I need someone to take my mind off my increasing obsessions, which I think are growing from my frequent internal dialogues (in lieu of having other human beings to talk with). I'm perfectly sane, I swear.

07 October 2005


Final proof that Europeans are unabashed about any type of imagery, regardless of its purpose. To quote Tom: "Sweet mother of all that is holy and/or good."

06 October 2005


I arrived home at almost 3 am and found, to my great dismay, a mosquito perched on the wall by my door. As usual, it escaped my makeshift fly swatter (which consists of a Hogeschool Antwerpen info booklet construction-taped to a Swiffer duster handle), so I turned on the pesticide vaporizer. A while later, the mosquito reappeared, writhing across the far wall and occasionally falling off. I observed warily for a while until it disappeared again. Hopefully this time it's dead--for good. VAPORIZORED!

I honestly do have more interesting stories to recount, but I suppose this blog does double duty as my outlet for stressful situations at home. It's definitely either the vaporizer or 30% DEET that makes me lightheaded and sends my heart racing, because half an hour after activating them, I'm starting to feel precisely those symptoms. I suppose, in a way, that I know how the mosquito feels. However, this knowledge inspires no sympathy in me whatsoever.

Tom and I tried a Spanish restaurant across from the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw over de Dijle church, on which renovations are now complete (as an outside observer, I can only comment that no work was done on the exterior, which looks as worn and ancient and grimy as ever). We were planning to celebrate the arrival of his October fellowship 'allowance' at Vivaldi's, but of course, Vivaldi's is open every night until 1 am, except when it's closed on Thursdays.

04 October 2005

from the other side of the fence

I'm now a Yale admissions interviewer, although it remains to be seen whether anyone in Belgium actually applies to Yale. Consider the front-page headline I picked up in Brussel-Centraal on Sunday: "VERGEET HARVARD" (i.e. "FORGET HARVARD"). The article cited how incredibly expensive private universities are in the US (students here think that 7000 EUR per year is a burden), how competitive they are, etc.

To my surprise, I enjoyed reading the orientation material, which stressed again and again that we should talk only about Yale. A literal quote: "NO HARVARD BASHING!"

02 October 2005

disrupted sleep

After some late-night carillonning, tonight will be the first night I'll have slept in my own bed (in fact, in any bed at all) in three days. I danced the entire Friday night away at an kickass annual party in Leuven, silenced, which featured more women djs than I had ever seen in total in my life. I spent the next day showing one of the djs, Tropik, a bit of Mechelen (namely, the carillon). Another evening in Leuven was followed by running into Tom at the train station and realizing that we had missed the last train home... so we returned to our new friends, wandered to another bar, and then back to the apartment of the fascinating and very hospitable organizer of silenced, Wouter, who let us crash for the night. I was supposed to meet up with a girl who'd messaged me on MySpace at Brussel-Centraal, but she apparently wasn't able to make it. Nevertheless, I made more friends this weekend than I have perhaps in the entire month since I've moved to Belgium. If going 50 hours on 3 hours of sleep is the price of making friends, I can only imagine how sleep deprived and well-socialized I'll soon be.