Friday, April 27, 2012

Doro Wat and Pig Feet

The Chinese guy on my floor made pig feet awhile back. A good choice, as they are only 20 cents apiece (...not exactly a staple of Belgian cuisine). Cartilage is certainly a strange texture. But hey, its the same stuff they use in women's facial moisturizer. Also some shots of an Ethiopian meal Hanok made for us. Doro wat (doro=chicken in amharic). This is the quintessential Ethiopian dish.
A steaming pile of pig feet.

Doro Wat

Ethiopian clarified and spiced butter. This stuff is like magic!

Chef Hanok.

Friday, April 20, 2012

WWI Trenches

 These are some of the last remaining trenches from WWI in Belgium, just outside a town called Diksmuide. The trench was nicknamed 'Trench of Death' even during the war by the soldiers themselves. Here the Belgian army tried for several years, starting in 1915, to stop the Germans as they advanced toward France. The Belgians were surrounded on three sides, and had the idea to dig a trench northwards, excavating about 6 meters per day. The Germans actually thought the same, and dug southwards, until the two armies were only several meters apart. Rifles, cannons, grenades, knives, and mustard gas were used.
The trenches are located on the left bank of the river.

The fighting trench is on the right. The evacuation on the left.

Pistol, and excavating shovel.

I will make a wager that they weren't so cheery at that time.

This was the supply trench and evacuation trench. Nice and straight.
They used to be sand bags/mud etc, but now they are bags filled with cement.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


One of the reasons I enjoy living in the student residence here is that there are people from all over the world, and it seems like everyone is always sharing something new from where they are from. Case in point: Jose recently brought back chapulines (grasshoppers) from Mexico. Now, I had them once before earlier this semester, when Eduardo brought some back (along with some fried worms). But those were tiny ones... you take a pinch and have 20 or 30 at once. These were large ones. They fry them and season them before serving. I'd compare them to peanuts, salty and crunchy. Jose came back from Mexico with one of those wonderful anonymous plastic baggies, full of them. Not bad at all I must say.
A juicy one

Jose opens the bag of chapulines...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


...According to the Ethiopian calendar, year 2004, came this past Sunday. So my neighbor Hanok (from the south of Ethiopia), and one of his buddies (from the city Mek'ele, in the north, near Eritrea) came by to chat for a bit. His buddy, most definitely proud of where he comes from and his culture, as he should be, was wearing his coffee ceremony shirt. An Easter possibly a bit difficult for them, being so far away from their wives and family. But really nice guys.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Operation Gent

My buddy Lautaro visited this past weekend with his girlfriend Eva, in what we call Operation Payback-Payback. Meaning, first I crashed at his placed several times in Buenos Aires. Then, he initiated Operation Payback by crashing on my couch in Edinburgh. Then, I paid that back by staying at their place in Vienna. Then we had a neutral meeting in Cologne. Now he paid back my pay back by crashing on my floor in Gent. I will pay back the payback-payback next week in Luxemburg. Complicated and nerdy, all while perfecting our traveling bum skills at the same time. Don't mind if I do.
Stupid pose in Gent city center.

Lau, their Chinese friend, and Evi at the castle in Gent.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Flanders is full of tiny, quaint towns. This one is in East Flanders, a bit south-west of Gent. Thriving  population of 30,000. The town hall, built in the early 1520s, is very impressive if not excessive in detail and gothic-ness. The town's last golden age was in the 1500s, when apparently it was 'world' renowned for tapestry production.

They have cool mailboxes like Gent! Woo hoo! With Monika & Koen

Town Hall
Check out that detail

If I was an architect, I'd bring back this window style with a vengeance.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

St. Pattys Day Dublin

You might think that given the reputation and grandeur of St. Patricks day celebrations that take place in the US, that clearly the same should go for where the Irish people actually are. I'm gonna have to report that there is only partial truth to that notion.

The parades and glamor in the US for this holiday far surpass most of the celebrations in Ireland. Chicago actually dyes the river green. I told that to a few Irish people I met, they were pretty surprised that they go that far.

The thing is, there actually is a pretty big celebration in Dublin. There is a big parade on Saturday. A poorly attended public ceilidh dance on Friday, a music festival, and some other official events throughout the weekend. But as one Irish girl on the bus told me, the holiday is not only more of a revelation outside Ireland, but even in Dublin it is built and fueled by tourists. I have to say,  I haven't been surrounded by so many Americans since I was home last, and this place was mobbed. And mostly the annoying kind and in large groups: frat guys, sorority girls, (lincoln park/wrigleyville/snob hill types) and old groups of old guy college football retiree's looking to get sloshed and claim their sliver of Irish-ness from like 8 generations ago. You know, the type that think sitting in a secure 5-star resort compound drinking a margarita in Cancun qualifies as being in Mexico.

So after quickly resigning to the fact that I was a contributor to the foreign invasion of Dublin for this great holiday, I was able to begin to fully enjoy it's loveliness. Dublin is a great city. This was my second time around. The live music constantly playing in all the pubs is one of my favorite things about it, and it makes for a great way to pass the time while the drizzly days persist. The Guinness here also has a taste unto it's own, from the recipe to the way they pour it and set up the pipes that deliver the beer.

I went with Mark & Dennis and we stayed at their friends place, Laura and Natalie. They study at Trinity College and the neighborhood they live in is about a 10 minute bus ride from the center. They live with a really nice Irish lady in her 40s. She was definitely a key factor later in the trip.

Saturday is the big celebration day, so we went out to the parade in the morning. Initially we  grabbed a nice spot near Christ Church right at the front, at least an hour before the parade. However, I went off to meet Luiz, who I met a bunch of times in Rio de Janeiro as he is Brian's best friend, so I lost my spot. Hence, during the parade I only saw the tips of a few costumes :) It was a great atmosphere though, with many families and kids dressed up. I especially understood this perspective as described Luiz, as he is used to parades in Rio where everyone is drunk and overly-festive, which doesn't lend to well to bringing a baby out in a stroller.

After the parade, Laura and Natalie took us to Dublin's oldest pub, the Brazen Head, to meet some of their classmates. Dennis and I met a group of Australians so we spent some hours talking to them. After traveling so much lately, I've realized Aussies, like the British, are plagues around the world. You can find them in the smallest of the world's armpits. They go everywhere, and compared to the 30% of Americans which have passports, at least 80 or 90 percent of them do. Luckily, in my experience, Aussies tend to have great senses of humor (low-brow, if you know what I mean), so I get along grand with them.

Later we checked out the temple bar area, Dublin's old quarter, which is filled with narrow streets, shops, and pubs. It was mobbed. We went to some club which was nothing to write home about (except when some 7 foot body building Hulk Hogan like Irish girl whose heavy Irish accent was ridiculously incomprehensible tried to hug me and thus nearly crushed me, that was funny), then we had some late-night Iranian food, which was perfect as they had special food for the Iranian New Years. Dennis made friends with the bouncer, who actually asked him if he was Iranian, as he remembered a few key Farsi phrases Setareh taught him.

Before leaving on Sunday, it was another new experience. One of the girls had an epileptic seizure during breakfast, buckling at the knees and knocking her head on the counter and door on the way down. Luckily we were all there to help, and the landlord called the ambulance quickly. She couldn't even remember where she was 30 minutes after the seizure, it was quite scary. Fortunately, she was fully recovered by the next day. On the bright side, I certainly have a better idea of what to do in the future if I see someone have an epileptic seizure.

(photos taken by friends)

Temple Bar Area

Luiz & his cousin Fernanda. That fake beard is something else.

That's dennis for you.

Strolling around in our three stooge hats. (The Canadian has the Irish mountie hat, of course, hehe)

The parade.
Checking out Trinity College, and drizzling.