August 8th, 2008


Gent Oddities

Weird things in my office:

The elevator. You go to summon it, and it has a number pad. You type in your number, it a letter and an arrow blink, telling you which elevator will be for you. You board the designated elevator, and there are no number buttons. You just have to trust that the elevator will remember what you asked it to do. (So far it always has.)

The coffee machine. It's the size of a pepsi vending machine, with many buttons, all labeled in Dutch. You have to select your addetives, then the type of coffee you want. (I always push suiker, melk, then koffie sterk.) It drops a cheap little plastic cup the size of a dixie cup, made of plastic just as thin as dixies are. It conducts heat well too, causing you to see people walking around the office, their fingers delicately touching just the rims of the tiny little white plastic cups.

The bathrooms. The bathroom sign is a classic man/lady diagram. However the elevator sign has those same images, but with up and down arrows above the figures. This is supposed to indicate the elevator will move the man and woman up and down, but it just makes me think of a bathroom preparing for takeoff. My first couple days, I had trouble finding the elevator because all of the signs look like bathrooms to me.

Weird things in my hotel room:

The key card. The electricity only works if you put your card in a little slot directly to the right of the entrance. It is marked "hotel card", and I thought to myself "what a handy little place to store my card so I don't forget it! No worrying about it now though, I must turn on the light and use the bathroom." Until I couldn't turn on the light, and got puzzled. I gradually discovered that NONE of my electrical appliances were working! Finally I decided to go try that little card slot, and low and behold everything turned on.

The mini-bar. They provided a bunch of sodas and snacks with price labels. But on the other side of the room there is also a small bottle of wine sitting on my mantle (yes, I have a mantel, don't you?) and some glasses, that I think is free. (Discussing the minibar made me decide to try some Belgian chocolate. I hope it wasn't expensive.) I wonder if the wine really is free?

...and yes, I went biking in Gent! Got the bike yesterday, and rode home from the office with a colleague. He and I then went pedaling about town, him showing me nice areas he'd found on earlier rides. It was a lovely evening ride.

I was awoken this morning to the sound of thunder, and I am torn between feeling grateful that it had woken me up (as my alarm hadn't), and angry because it was in the process of raining on my parade. Um, that is, bike ride.

Sadly I put my stuff together, pulled a plastic bag over my computer and my bike saddle, and pedaled my way to work. Not quite as nice as last night! But it had to be done, because today was the only day I could return the bike. The front of my pants were soaked, and my hair, but the rest of me was only damp, not terribly wet. I dried off by the end of lunchtime.