A few final Begium storie

You’ve been patient enough with me and my Belgium pictures and pontifications.   Here’s a few final stories and we’ll call it quits.

Our hosts in Belgium were Mel and Cel.   As you might have guessed, in true Belgium fashion, the pair is friendly and courteous to a fault, and we were terribly lucky to have them as our guides over our month’s stay.   Mel is a rather accomplished artist who specializes in paintings of beautiful pastor scenes and sculptures of disembodied heads.   Cel once ran a restaurant-supply business, but nowadays drives across Belgium transferring frozen pig sperm.   Really.

After our initial introductions at the Brussels airport, we piled into a van and drove to their home in Wuustwezel.   When we arrived, Cel opened the door to their home, whereupon we were suddenly greeted by Mel and Cel’s dog, a wiry little thing that immediately went into full yipping and bouncing mode the minute it saw the Ladybug, scaring her terribly.   I tried to calm her down without success (the dog, not the Ladybug), after which the Queen B met similar failure in her attempts to quiet the incessant yapping of the little dog.

Finally, Mel looked at it and said “Quiet, little flucker!” effectively silencing the dog.

At first I thought she was swearing at it in (heavily accented) English for our benefit, but eventually I found out that the dog’s name was Flucker.*   It occurred to me that that was a rather unfortunate name for a dog, but then I remembered that movie The Jerk (in which Steve Martin’s dog goes by the name Shithead) and realized it probably could’ve been a whole lot worse.

* In point of fact, the dog’s name is actually Florka, a Flemish variant of Florence.   However, at first blush its Flemish pronunciation does an awful lot like Flucker.

One of the quirks of Mel’s home was that it had no toilet in it; rather, it had a “water closet” just outside the back door.   Effectively, this was an indoor outhouse: a small 3-foot-by-3-foot box of a room containing a single European-style toilet and a small sink affixed to the outermost edge of the house proper.

Now, a European style toilet is slightly different than its American counterpart.   Instead of a single pull-level for flushing, it has a pair of buttons. Both buttons flush the toilet, but the small one simply “evacuates” the water quickly and quietly, while the larger button unleashes a white-water torrent before emptying.

I asked our hostess Mel about this, and her response (displaying a typical Belgian sense of decorum) was “One button is for when you pee, and the other button is for when you make… er… something bigger.”

I only bring this up to not that this has to be my new favorite euphemism for defecation. No more “Number 2” for me… I need to make something bigger.

One day the Ladybug and I decided to take a hike through Wuustwezel and the surrounding countryside.   When we arrived at the village center, I noticed a beautiful churchyard behind the chapel, and went to investigate.

We walked up and down the rows of headstones, some hundreds of years old, and eventually the Ladybug asked what they were for.   I told her that they were placed there by the families of people who had died so that they could remember them after they had passed on.   Having recently lost her Papa B (and her Papa K the year before that), the Ladybug was interested in pursuing this further, and for a while we talked about dying and what it meant.

Eventually the Ladybug asked why all these people (indicating the rows of headstones) had died.

“Most of these people were very old or very sick,” I tried to explain.

She stared at the graves for a while more, and then turned around. “Are you going to die too, Daddy?”

I smiled and tried to comfort her. “Not for a long, long time.”

“Oh,” said the Ladybug, unconvinced.   “But Daddy,” she added, “You’re already old.”

On the day that we drove through Germany, I noticed that the freeway signage typically consisted of a arrowhead indicating an upcoming off-ramp, together with a list of upcoming villages and cities that could be reached via that off-ramp.   After a half hour of reading these signs, I noticed that the last city listed on every single one of them was the humorous sounding Ausfarht.

I pointed this out to Mel.   “This Ausfahrt place sounds like the Rome of Germany.   All roads seem to lead there.”

Mel stared at me blankly.

It occurred to me that that expression might have been too colloquially English to be well comprehended, so I tried to explain myself again.   “I just noticed that every one of these signs has Ausfahrt on them.   It sounds like a pretty popular place.”

Mel stared at me again, this time with a smile.   “In Germany,” she said, “Ausfahrt means Exit.”

While walking through the village of Clarveaux in Luxembourg, a quaint little village littered with tanks leftover from World War II, I spied a Chinese restaurant.   As is typical for many Chinese buildings, on either side of the stone steps leading into the restaurant stood a pair of Chinese lions.

“One of the things I learned in China,” I mentioned Mel and Cel, “is that whenever you see a pair of lions like this, one of them is always male and one of them is always female.   Do you know how to tell the difference?”

“Er… no,” said Mel.

I explained. “You’ll note that each lion has something in its paw.   One of these things is a lion cub — that’s the female lion protecting her cub.   The other lion holds an ornate ball — that’s the male lion protecting the dwelling.   That’s how you can tell who’s the female and who’s the male.”

Cel listened intently and then stared at the two lions thoughtfully.   Then he pointed at one of the lions and added, “Also, the male lion is the one with the penis.”

Speaking of…

One of the things (actually, two of the things, since we ended up doing it twice) we did specifically for the Ladybug was visit Zilvermeer, a massive recreational area in the Belgian city of Mol.   Zilvermeer is sort of like every possible play area you’ve ever seen rolled into one.   There’s a park for little kids with rides made out of soft, technicolor plastic; there’s your typical grade-school metal-and-wood monkey-bars and slide play area; there’s a climbable geodesic dome; there’s a set of monkey-bars and slides suspended from a geodesic dome; there’s a military-grade obstacle course; there’s a water park; there’s a paddle-boat lake… the list goes on and on.*

* In fact, Zilvermeer has the damned coolest slide I’ve ever seen — an eight-story tall rocket ship with a winding tube slide attached to its seventh story.   I watched a kid climb to the top and fling himself into the tube.   Moments later, he literally fired out of the base of the slide like a bullet from a rifle, burying himself up to his waist in the soft sand beyond.   Freaking… awesome….

The first time we visited Zilvermeer, we stopped by a cafeteria that served a special kid’s meal consisting of french fries, a chicken nugget, a meatball, and two hot doggies arranged in the basic form of a person:

We ordered this for the Ladybug, who giggled when she was brought her little edible voodoo doll.   It turns out that the whole effigy is held together with a wooden skewer that runs through it like a spinal cord.   However, the chef who had prepared the Ladybug’s meal had pushed the skewer in a bit too far, so that the pointy end of it dangled comically out from in-between the meat-man’s legs like a wooden boner.   (Is that redundant?)   The sight of the anatomically correct happy meal was met with snickers from the adults at the table, but with confusion from the Ladybug.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing at the skewer.

“It’s a stick,” I said.

“What’s it for?” she asked.

“It shows you that he’s a boy,” I replied, a comment that was met with (1) a round of uproarious laughter by the Ladybug and (2) a swift slap to the back of my head from the Queen B.

Fortunately for me, the Ladybug quickly disassembled the little figure and ate up its various pieces so that she could continue to play, and that was that.

However, about a week later we returned to Zilvermeer, and at the request of the Ladybug went to the same cafeteria.   She again ordered her kid’s meal, and when it was brought out to her, she quickly looked between its legs.   A moment later she spoke: “This time I got a girl.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because she doesn’t have any dick,” responded the Ladybug matter-of-factly.

I didn’t say anything, mostly because I was too busy having beer spurt out of my nose.   The Queen B, on the other hand, did.

“What did you say?” she snapped.

“She doesn’t have any dick,” repeated the Ladybug.

What?” I managed to sputter.

The Ladybug rolled her eyes.   “I said,” she enunciated slowly and distinctly, “Because… she… dooz… not… have… any….   ssssssssssssdick.”

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