Thursday, August 16, 2012

A country with a sense of humor

Sitting at lunch in the tiny Flemish resort town of Donk, we had a funny exchange with our server—a bubbly young woman born in Belgium, raised in Spain, and back in Belgium to study graphic design. “The schools in Belgium are much better than the ones in Spain,” she explained. 

Then she asked us whether we liked Belgium. We, of course, told her, “Yes, very much.”  “How?” she replied. “It rains every day, and the sun doesn’t often shine.”  To prove her point, it was indeed drizzling pretty hard outside the restaurant, where we were indulging in far too many mussels and Belgian fries that she had served us.

Our waitress was telling us a truth, but she was not really putting down her country. She seemed to have a twinkle in her eye when she talked about the rain. After all, she had chosen to leave sunny Spain to come back “home” -- rain and all. That playful pride became even clearer when I went into a Brussels tee-shirt shop a few days later. There, in a wide range of colors were shirts bearing the message: “Belgium: Where rain is typical.” I have one of those shirts now—in blue—and I’m enjoying showing it off.

It takes a big country (even if it is small in area) to laugh at itself. So I’m touting Belgium as a great place to visit and bike, sometimes under a rainbow. Plus there are the mussels, the fries, the waffles, the chocolates, and more than 300 different beers. What a country!

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