Believe it or not (I actually found it hard to believe myself), I did have a life in Louvain-la-Neuve.
The trip to Geneva last weekend had to be cancelled last minute. While it was slightly disappointing, the timing wasn’t too bad as I did end up needing the weekend to pack for my return to Bordeaux. And rest. Catching up on some sweet sweet sleep felt so guiltily amazing.
(I’m putting Geneva back on my travel list though. It didn’t work out this time, but next time it will. And it’s an easy destination from either Bordeaux or Brussels, so plenty of time to make it happen!)
As the “Louvain-la-Neuve” section of the blog has been feeling lonely due to my constant absence from the little city during weekends, I will dedicate this entry and perhaps the next to my home for the past three months. I had been hesitant to call LLN “home” at any time; when there is so much mobility and movement from place to place, your expectation of “home” changes from time to time. To blatantly admit that I really disliked a place – well, LLN is the first.
Or well, I supposed I disliked it at the beginning, when the contrast between LLN and Bordeaux was so strikingly clear. Though, after awhile of living in one place, no matter how lurid the place smelled or how aesthetically unpleasing it appeared, you always find something to miss when you leave. Most of the time, for me, it’s the people.
It’s no different this time around. I really did have a great time in Belgium, thanks to the wonderful colleagues that I met at the lab. One thing that sucks about moving around is that just as you’re starting to feel like you are fitting in at your workplace, it’s time to leave. It was the case every single time during co-op in university, since each work term was so short (4 months) that there was barely enough time to be truly integrated in one lab community. Here it’s the same, only difference being it’s a continuous cycle of heading back and forth. That, I am glad, because the next time I go to Belgium, I won’t feel like a newbie anymore, and I can dive directly back into the work environment that I so thoroughly enjoyed the first time around.
Well, if you were wondering what I had been doing and where I had been for the past three months aside from weekend trips all over the place, this might give you a general idea.
This is a chalkboard on the -1th floor of our building. First of all, yes I did say -1th, or -1st, if you prefer. The entrance to the building leads to the -1st floor, then you go up to the 0th floor, the 1st, and the 2nd floor where the lab is. Don’t ask me why the buildings here are laid out in such a manner; I had my own share of confusion already with 0th floors in France.
So, I found it amusing to see Chinese characters on the chalkboard, and funnier still is that some of the characters were written incorrectly. Let’s take a look at the two lines of orange writing. It says “I have a cat; I dislike cats” in bizarre grammar, and the character for “cat”, among some others, was wrongly written in both cases. I was told that this was a French colleague attempting to learn Chinese from a Chinese colleague. Chouette!
These little fellas here are known as the “poisson d’avril”, literally “fish of April”. Google that and you’ll find out that it’s the French term for April Fools’ Day. According to the colleague who drew this, people draw pictures of fish on a piece of paper and stick it on an unsuspecting person’s back as he or she walks around obliviously, kind of like the “kick me” notes. I dunno, would you rather have a prank played on you or walk around with a fish on your back all day?
Every time I see this screen I find it exceptionally funny. This is a computer program used during X-ray reflectivity analysis, and I’m not sure if it’s only designed for the Mac, but all we had was a very old Mac. At the end of every run, the measurement dialog would show the “KillWindows” button, which really means to close the window. But hey, if you didn’t tell me, I would have thought that Apple had something against Microsoft…just sayin’.
Stepping away from the lab, here is the lake of Louvain-la-Neuve, whose pictures I’ve posted awhile back when I first arrived. The first time I walked around the lake in early March, winter was still lingering and it was quite cold, as I could still see ice on the surface of the water. In May, however, the weather warmed up significantly and it was actually quite nice to take a stroll around the lake, watching these gorgeous swans going on a spring date.
And really, the place isn’t all that bad, after all. The lake is a calm place to go for relaxation after dinner, and walking once around the lake only takes approximately 20 minutes. One thing I really appreciated towards the end of my stay in Belgium was that at 10:30pm, the sky still doesn’t get completely dark. The sun begins setting at around 9pm or so, but night doesn’t truly fall until say, 11pm. This gave me the false impression that it was still early when in fact I should have been getting ready for bed.
This is OUR Grand Place, the hub of student life. I pass by this place every day to and from work and unless it is exam season (i.e. now), the place is packed with students during their off hours.
Voilà my office with the colleagues with whom I share it, minus two of them. The atmosphere in our office was very amiable, and we are composed of a rather diverse group of nationalities: Ethopian, Indian, Belgian (not really, but one that considers himself as a Belgian), French, and of course, Canadian. Very pleasant (and silly) bunch of people!
Two French colleagues and I at a super awesome pizza place as one of my unofficial “farewell dinners”. I didn’t feel the need to have farewell parties for myself, especially since there will be many if I were to come back and leave all over again, but these colleagues were very sweet and insisted having one for me. And I said “one of”, because on the day before I left, another unexpected one took place of which I need to acquire the photos. Anyhow, do not underestimate the power of the spicy oil! It does add an excellent touch to the pizza, but like the hot sauce you get at Vietnamese pho places, a little bit is already more spicy than you’d imagine! Then again, perhaps my tolerance for spicy food isn’t as high as many of you out there, so if you ever feel like adding spicy oil to your pizza, feel free to apply generously…=)
Louvain-la-Neuve. The first quest is over, with more to come. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I’ll be back for sure.