Saturday, June 28, 2008

Waterloo and Watery-Poo

Last weekend was beautiful. The sun was shining. The weather was a delicious 75 degrees. No rain was forecast. So a fellow intern and I decided to head down to Waterloo to check out the sites. In a fit of strange excitement and utter foolishness, I decided to bring Truman with us. First we had to take a tram, then a train, then two buses to get there. Dogs allowed on trams, trains, and buses? Of course! This is Europe, after all! It's necessary, and indeed would be uncivilized, to allow dogs anywhere in Europe. But you'll have to pay to go to the restroom...

We ran into a slight hitch on the train. It was supposed to be a 15 minute train ride, but it turned into 1 hour 45 minute train sitting because of a problem with the tracks. Poor Truman found the train so uncomfortable that he promptly started shedding. And shedding. And shedding. By the time we finally left, my seat was covered with a thin layer of dog hair. Oh well.

When we finally got to the city of Waterloo, Truman found himself with another small problem: diarrhea. I'm not sure what he ate, but the poor guy got his whole system cleaned out fairly quickly after arrival. It wasn't pretty.

Then we got to the Waterloo monument and found, to our surprise, the only place in French-speaking Europe that one can't bring a dog along to. Yes, an outside monument with my pocket full of poo-bags, and we weren't allowed in because other guests might have "allergies". If you're paying attention, you will note the irony in being able to take a dog into closed trams, buses, and spend almost 2 hours in a hot train with only 2 windows just barely big enough to fit a human head through (not to mention bringing Truman into the train/bus stations, restaurants, and clothes shops in Brussels and Waterloo earlier). And yet we couldn't take the little guy up the (outdoor) hill to see a stone lion. Whatever. Welcome to Belgium, land of idiocy.

So instead we went to the reenactors' camp a few kilometers away. I had actually planned to go here and stay for the battles after my fellow intern had to leave, but now we all got to go. The camp was very similar to Civil War reenactments I've witnessed before, only with slight differences. Practically everyone had an earring. Apparently the French used earrings to signify rank. There were tons of men running around with no shirt (a big no-no in Protestant America at the time). Lots of gypsies.

We also had the good fortune of stopping to talk to some soldiers in the French camp. I asked, very politely, "Pardon messieurs, combien de soldats est qu'il y a ici aujourd'hui?" (excuse me sirs, how many soldiers are here to do?), to which they responded "parlez-vous English?" (do you speak English?"). I laughed and said that I did. It turns out these two gentlemen were British but enjoyed playing the "losers". They play the British during American Revolution reenactments. And they were excited that my brothers played Confederates for the Civil War. They just liked being the losers for some reason.

There's more to be said, but this post is already plenty long. And now some pictures!

Book Update #1

As some of you will remember, I published a rather intense and ambitious list of books I intended to read this summer. Unfortunately, things are not quite going as I would like, and I haven't gotten as far as I should have liked. I have finished three books, and am well into another four. Here's a brief run-down and a brief statement about each:

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom - I've already written about this one a few posts back.

Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Excellent short intro to the Psalms, placing them into a setting I had never before thought of. In short, Bonhoeffer suggests that the Psalms should be viewed as Christ's prayers, and our (or the original Psalmist's) prayers through Christ. This book is very short. I used it as my tram reading for about 1 week and was finished. I highly suggest it though.

For Men Only - An interesting glimpse into the minds of women. While I found it educational and helpful, it's probably better suited for men who are already married or in a committed relationship. This was my second "tram reading" book.

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - I started this one (again) right after arriving, but have to put it down after every few pages because of one of two reasons: 1) It's so deep that I have to think about what has been said, or 2) It's so convicting I have to repent and rethink normal approach to Christian community. Again, an excellent book.

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - I'm almost 3/4 done with this book, and it's proven to be the deepest and hardest. One has to remember Bonhoeffer's setting, or one will be tempted to think he has crossed the line multiple times into heresy. But the book is still rich with deep meaning.

The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis - This book has easily become my favorite Lewis book (no easy task). I'm always amazed how a non-theologian English professor could have such insight into theology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc. Convicting but excellent. A perfect companion to Bonhoeffer's Life Together.

The Politics of Repentance
, by Andre Trocme - I've only read the introduction, but already I'm fascinated by some aspects and concerned by others. Trocme was a French pacifist. However, unlike most pacifists, I think he has earned the right to be heard because of his amazing ability to live a pacifistic life during WWII while still resisting the Nazis' rule. Indeed, perhaps he did more for the Resistance (or at least the Jews) than most French (or Dutch, or Belgian, or Danish, or Norwegian, or Polish, or....) militants.