Apparently the past week has been ‘Haiku week‘ here in Ghent, with the waterways of rivers lined with haikus in French, Dutch, English and German.
This morning I took my car in to get serviced, and despite my four years of trying to learn the ins and outs of Flemish couldn’t for the life of me understand what my dear mechanic was trying to say. To be fair I don’t really understand mechanics in my own language, so it may not be entirely fair to blame the man for his refusal to speak Standard Dutch*.
So, to commemorate Haiku Week and my babling mechanic, I present my first, and quite likely last, Ghent haiku:
The man from Ghent speaks,
Though I understand nothing.
Four years of Dutch, why?
Emotional. Epic. Haiku.
And now here it is in Dutch! Print it on your bubblejet and stick it on a shirt!
Het Gentenaar spreekt,
Maar ik heb niet begrepen.
Vier jaar les, waarom?
After three years of weekly lessons, I still regularly confuse the Dutch words for ‘whore’, ‘rent’ and ‘listen’.
Incidentally, my favourite sentence in Dutch is ‘Listen, rent a whore here!’
Try it out for yourself:
‘Hoor, huur een hoer hier!’
In related news, my new Dutch school is in the same street as Gent’s red light district.
It’s been four years of Belgium and likely four thousand beers of Belgium, but after all this time and hops, I still come back to Rochefort 10 as the post dinner beer of choice.
This stuff pours itself. The glasses are sexy, the bottles are firm. The crates they are delivered in are deliciously weighty, and their prices are deceivingly low (they give 10 euro return for your bottles! Cop that, tax man!). The beer is meaty, without leaving bits in your teeth. There’s a trace of caramel, or at least something sweet, however it’s not too much to chase away thoughts of dessert.
There is a downside to this dear dear brew though, in that the idea of a second Rochefort after your first always makes sense up until the next morning – these beers have an uncanny way to usher in the most demobilizing hangovers I’ve ever had. Some might suggest the 11.3% alcohol content is sign enough, however I think there’s something a little darker going on amidst this holy Trappist beer. The monks have put a little bit of their ‘magic’ in each bottle, just enough to cause trouble!
I have made the near impossible decision to stop drinking after just one bottle this evening, however the fridge is full for another week and a bit.
Oh blessed be thy Belgian beer supermarket!
My dear Fleming is currently reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. She assures me that it’s a very famous book, and that my mother and sister will have most certainly read it, and that my father will equally as certainly not.
During my evening of emailing whos-its and reading blogs about whats-its, my dear lady has been on the couch beside me chuckling her way through Lawrence’s crafy 19th century sexual references. During one of her non-chuckling moments, she turned to ask me what ‘Bolshevism‘ meant, knowing full well that it was a very simple word and that of course I knew it, and that even she knew it, however it was unfortunately stuck on the tip of one of her many linguistic tongues. I, as a good proper Australian, have never heard of a word containing more than two syllabols, so insisted it was a typo and should read ‘Ballism’, which means one who is judgmental to all things balls.
I do not wish to ask Google for help , as I fear they will side with Annelies against my rallying cry for Ballism.
In any case, her favourite line is currently line 27, page 41:
Me? Oh. Intellectually I believe in having a good heart, a chirpy penis, a lively intelligence, and the courage to say ‘ shit!’ in front of a lady.
Ahhh 19th Century, the things we can learn from you still!
In between sojourns around Europe programming who knows what for who knows why, I sit in a class of folk from Turkey learning Dutch.
One of the best things about this fantasically rare language, is just how many words are ‘borrowed’ from the languages geographically positioned around the Dutch-speaking countries (Belgium/Netherlands) – in particular English, which just so happens to be a language I tend to use a lot.
This weeks word is a particular blessing. Every dinner jacket, suit top, or just plan fancy looking vest, is referred to by Belgian Grandmothers as ‘Smoking’. “What a nice Smoking you have, dear”, one such Flemish grandmother might pose. “Are you going to wear your Smoking?”, they’ll say. Of course! Smoking all day long.