Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Rodents and Tax-Free Cigs - odds and ends from the Kingdom of the Belgians

All Belgium appears to be infested with moles, and not just any moles. These things dig up whole fields and yards, making mounds that look like prairie dog villages. They must be either big or industrious to do the kind of damage we see. The French word for mole is taupe, whence we get the word for the color of moleskin. The guy who specializes in exterminating them is called a taupier. I guess we'd call him a molist. It must be a lucrative profession here. Perhaps the moles and the molists are in cahoots, like the not-so-secret alliance between the Baptists and the moonshiners. Our landlord told us that the first time he had the taupier come out, the molist apparently wanted the landlord to know he was doing his job, so he hung a bag full of dead moles on the front door knob. The landlord was mortified because he didn't want his tenants coming home and thinking the house was some kind of cat mafia target.

Since we work in an international setting, the bathrooms in our spaces have the little man and woman silhouettes on the doors instead of "boys" and "girls." Only since it's Europe, the silhouettes are not our utilitarian stick figures but are elegant. The lady is tall and slender and has her hip cocked and her head turned at a stylish angle. I think they modeled her on Jackie Kennedy. The man is poised in a similar, albeit more manly, fashion. I swear he is holding a pipe. I'm thinking Sean Connery as James Bond.

We get ration cards. We're entitled to 200 gallons of gas or diesel a month tax-free and limited amounts of untaxed alcohol and tobacco. Specifically, we get four alcohol purchases a month. Doesn't make any difference how much: one bottle of wine or one case of beer is the same. We can of course buy as much taxed stuff as we want. The RIS (rationed items store) at SHAPE has a better selection than the PXtra at Chièvres. Rita insists on calling the RIS by its name, but I like to refer to it as the packaged goods store.

One of our majors got promoted recently. Turns out he has his doctorate in philosophy and cognitive development. He's taught at the Air Force Academy for several years. Plus he just might be the nicest guy I've ever met. In the other room, where Rita and I sit, is a Navy lieutenant commander who happens to be an amateur theologian. Then there's the reservist who also has a political consulting firm with his brothers. Seems like everybody we run into has some surprising back story. In short, the people defending you are a pretty interesting bunch.

Bayern Munich scored the fastest goal in Champions' League history a few minutes ago and now leads Real Madrid 1-0. That's roughly equivalent to scoring six runs in the bottom of the first.


Ada said...

Oh yes, and you should be getting hedgehogs as well, which always confounded the dogs when they rolled up into little defensive prickly balls!
Sounds like you are getting very comfortable with your work and home surroundings. It will really feel like home when your car and furniture arrive!

John said...
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Anonymous said...

Hmm.....maybe the "I still get $250,000,000 from the Americans even if my knee is blown out" midfielder would have mattered.

Mr. Heyler

Pop - Born 30 years too soon. said...

My, how things change. Now they promote guys with PHD's in Philosphy from major to Light Colonel (I assume). When I was in Korea, my jeep driver had a PhD in Philosophy and was a Private First Class hoping to get promoted to Corporal.

Wm. Glen Lauber said...

Of course, to eradicate the moles you could always get a mohel.