Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday from the Francophone Files | 26 May

Vendredi, 26 mai

Back in Brussels from a crazy week in Luxembourg (more on that below) -- just in time for a second installment of Friday from the Francophone Files!

Listening to ... Brussels Jazz Weekend

Whether it's running on a treadmill versus running through a park or sitting in a dark theater versus going to an outdoor film festival, I'm a firm believer that everything is better outside. While my level of appreciation for jazz leaves something to be desired (insert joke about La La Land here), I'm pretty sure that an outdoor music festival in the city center of Brussels will be right up my alley. Read more and plan your weekend on the Brussels Jazz Weekend website.

Eating ... Avocado Nests

One of my goals for 2017 was to be more aware of the things I was putting into my body, and to make a renewed effort to eat healthy -- but that's easier said than done in a country whose most famous foods are fries, waffles, beer, and chocolate! In an attempt to kick off my day the healthy way, I decided to give a new breakfast recipe a try last weekend. The recipe for avocado nests seemed simple enough: cut an avocado in half, pour an egg into the hollowed-out middle, season with salt and pepper, and bake.

Needless to say, it didn't quite work out that way. (It turns out that unripened avocados will not magically turn from rocks to deliciously ripe fruits in the oven, so DO NOT EVEN TRY.) Better luck next week.


Talking about ... Gauthier Destenay

Amidst all the media coverage of the president's first trip abroad, one story stuck out to me. When the wives of NATO leaders gathered for a day of tours and museum visits in Brussels. they were joined by Gauthier Destenay, the husband of Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the only openly gay head of government in the world. This isn't Destenay's first time on the world stage: the couple, who have been together for nearly a decade, recently made waves when they visited the Vatican together earlier this spring. But reporters went crazy with stories about the "First Gentleman" amidst the First Ladies of NATO ... and since it is always nice to have your favorite grand duchy go viral for something positive (looking at you, #LuxLeaks), I am all about it!

Reading ... Walkable City

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time was published in 2012, but since I often joke that Brussels lags about five years behind the United States in terms of trends, you could argue that my recent discovery is actually right on time. Written by architect and city planner Jeff Speck, Walkable City provides fascinating look at role of walkability in the revitalization of Americans cities. Over a couple hundred pages and dozens of compelling case studies, Speck argues that walkable cities are better cities, and lays out the steps necessary to make that happen. It's informative, accessible, and so interesting that you won't be able to stop yourself from spewing fun facts about walkability to everyone you know. Just ask anyone I've talked to in the past month!

Thinking about ... Luxembourg!

I spent the past couple of days in Luxembourg representing the Fulbright Commission at the fourth annual Transatlantic Dialogue: Creating Human Bonds through Cultural Diplomacy. The conference brought together higher education professionals and artists from the United States, Luxembourg, and neighboring European countries to discuss questions related to education, art, diversity, and more.

Of course, the best part of the conference was getting to spend time in my favorite little country.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday from the Francophone Files | 19 May

Vendredi, 19 mai.

TGIF, or as we say here, Dieu merci, c'est vendredi! I've just finished my first week back in the office after a two week holiday in the States and I don't think that I've ever been so relieved to make it to a weekend.

My recent trip back to the States gave me some time to think about my priorities and, in particular, about my plans for this website. I've had this blog for almost four years now and the quality and frequency of my posts has changed a lot during that period. As I figure out where I'll be taking the site in the future, my hip and social media savvy younger sister suggested that a short weekly post series might help to keep me on track. Friday from the Francophone Files will be just that: some of the things I'm reading, watching, listening to, and thinking about as an American gal in Francophone Europe. Let's get started!

Talking about ... POTUS Comes to Brussels

Donald Trump is coming to Brussels and I've got the inside scoop. (Just kidding!) The president will be in Brussels next Wednesday and Thursday for a NATO summit with leaders from the other member countries as well as meetings with EU and Belgian leaders. Given the president's previous criticism of NATO, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the city he described as a "hellhole" -- and to see how the rest of Brussels fares under the increased security of such a high-profile presidential visit.

In case you were wondering, there's no presidential meeting planned for me! I'll actually be out of town for work during the second half of next week, so unless Trump makes an unexpected detour to Luxembourg, I will be missing the entirety of the visit.

Listening to ... Pod Save the World

I listen to podcasts all day long, from basically the minute I wake up in the morning until the moment I fall asleep to Meditation Oasis. (Don't knock it till you try it: their 18-minute "Relax into Sleep" pod ends with five minutes of music, which I cannot confirm because I have never NOT fallen asleep before the end.)

One of my favorites is Pod Save the World, hosted by Tommy Vietor of Crooked Media. I've listened to every single episode and have learned things that I did not even know I didn't know about foreign policy, from the history of U.S. relations with China to the secret negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal. The podcast most recently featured an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman, the author of Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival. The episode that I've embedded below, however, is a throwback to April 2017 with an in-depth look at the political situation in France. Even though the election has passed, I highly recommend it for an introduction to the political situation in France and to the challenges facing the newly-elected president!

Thinking about ... New Election, Same Old Misogyny 

One of the most interesting side effects of the recent presidential election in France has been the misogynistic and just plain mean commentary surrounding new 'First Lady of France', Brigitte Macron. The wife of Emmanuel Macron has been attracting attention for her style and looks, as well as for her age: Mme Macron is 64, having met her husband -- 24 years her junior -- when he was a student in high school. Their story is romantic, unconventional (at least to us Americans, who prefer our presidential age differences in the opposite direction), and perfect fodder for mean-spirited critics, with inflammatory magazine Charlie Hebdo wading into the fray just this past week. Will Macron's bossy older wife exert too much influence in his presidency? Is marriage to an older woman the way that Macron is covering up for his homosexuality? And how much plastic surgery has she had anyway?

In short ... ugh.

Talking about ... Belgian Pride

This weekend is Belgian Pride 2017. Now in its 22nd year, the event is a colorful celebration of the LGBT community in Belgium and the European Union. The theme of this year's event is Crossing Borders, with a particular focus on the experiences of LGBT+ refugees, both in their country of origin and at their arrival in Belgium. I'm not sure if I will make it out to this weekend's events, but recommend that you check out the variety of parades and events going on in downtown Brussels on Saturday!

Thinking about ... Flowers, Flowers, Flowers!

It's easy to forget how much better flowers can make everything. I picked up these chrysanthemums on a grocery store run and for the price of a coffee, I now have a week's worth of enjoyment from these happy little flowers. Yippee!

And hold up a minute ... do y'all have suggestions for the blog? What aspects of the site do you enjoy? What do you wish you could see more of (or less)? And how do you feel about Friday from the Francophone Files? :)