Third Day in Brussels

By: | Post date: June 18, 2008 | Comments: No Comments
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This is written the following day, so it will be telescoped.

Work today, at the workshop I was signed up to attend. Didn’t say much during the workshop, and Nigel (who was speaking) had to prod words out of me in public at the end. I am shy and retiring when I’m in an unfamiliar environment (no, really!); and the Translatatron 2000 room I was in at the Charlemagne Building, European Parliament, was plenty unfamiliar:

I was far from the only person freaked out. Blogged most of the talks on the work blog. As Nigel rightly pointed out, the point of a work blog is to reflect on the meetings, not to transcribe the Powerpoints; I forced myself to do a little “summarise this talk in 50 words or less, or else”, but not enough.

The meeting started at 9, with registration at 8:30; we went looking for breakfast outside the hotel, as I’d misparsed the situation and concluded there was no breakfast inside the hotel. Just as well I was wrong: there was nothing open for at least a kilometre radius. Even the Greek Café which offered breakfast didn’t open until 8 (which at least makes it civilised). Coffee weak and sweet; three in a row did not do much to wake me. Brought my passport along, out of much fire and brimstone warnings from the workshop organisers; needn’t have bothered.

The talks improved as the day got on, and it was nice to see some validation from the Nijmegen folks: they’d come up with similar conclusions to our project more than once.

Workshop finished at 5, and because Nigel was a speaker, he got treated to lunch by the workshop organiser; I got to tag along (so long as I paid my own way). [EDIT: I meant dinner. With nightfall at 10 pm, it’s hard to distinguish them this far north.] The workshop organiser took a wrong turn at Albequerque, so we had a late start to dinner (6 instead of 5:30). Very pleasant outdoor piazza setup, reminded me of Athens. Italian restaurant, so no mussels and frites on offer; I got frites anyway, with my escallope à morsala. The waitress saw through my Grenoble gambit, and started answering me in English; the following initial exchange might possibly have had something to do with it:

WAITRESS: [EN] Whatte woulde yue like to drinque, sir?

ME: [FR-BROQUEN] Could I have a Gueuze?

WAITRESS: [FR] I’m sorry sir, we only have on offer the drinks listed in the menu: we have Jupiter Weißbier, Stella Artois, and Heineken.

ME: [FR-BROQUEN] … I can has Kriek?

WAITRESS: [FR] I’m sorry sir, Jupiter, Stella, Heineken.

ME: [FR-BROQUEN] *blink* … … euh … White?

WAITRESS: [FR] Thank you sir. [to self] Right, he’s not fooling me: he’s not from Grenoble at all.

ME: [EN] [Two minutes later] … Oh! So <foreign lang="fr">Blanche<foreign> is <foreign lang="de">Weißbier<foreign>! Cool!

(And no, I don’t think my French actually sounds like Lolcat. Then again, I haven’t had the courage to ask a Bruxelloise. Particularly after they see through my Grenoble gambit.)

Nigel had the good grace to introduce me as a linguist to the Nijmegen chap (himself a programmer at a linguistics institute). After that exchange, I felt compelled to make it clear that my subject matter was not in fact French linguistics.

Geekery and all-round merriment ensued for the next three hours; then to the hotel and a quick chat in the foyer with Nigel, and then I crashed without blogging (for fear of Agricultural Vehicles of Doom: see following day’s entry). Which is why the day got telescoped as it has been. Which is probably a good thing.

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