Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News round-up

There's a few different things that I've been meaning to blog about but which aren't really a whole post on their own, so here's the news in brief (as if I'm ever brief).

- During summer, the Royal Palace in Brussels is open for visits and it's FREE! (Not sure why I put that in excited capitals since it's closed again now, but hey, maybe next year.) We dropped in for a quick tour between going to the library and watching the F1 a couple of weeks ago, and while it's not the most impressive palace I've ever seen, it's quite elegant (and did I mention, free?) They had an exhibition on WWI on when we went, it being the centenary, which I thought kind of spoilt the look of the place. Some of the old photos and videos were interesting, but this being the royal palace, it was annoyingly hagiographical towards the royals - there was even a section on the Congo with seemingly not a whisper about the murderous personal rule of Belgian King Leopold II there shortly before this period. Oh, and there was an amazing ceiling made out of 1.4 million crushed beetles.

In the palace ballroom, kinda ruined by the exhibition

The beetle ceiling

That painting in the corner had serious creepy vibes

I think he's going to haunt my dreams

- Here's the bit where I complain about something. Remember how I called my internet company in France, Alice, and tried to tell them my new address so I could settle up my account, and they were really rude and basically refused to take a new address and said they'd just keep billing me till my contract was up? HUGE SURPRISE!!! They just continued to keep billing me with zero acknowledgement that I had cancelled the contract. Oh but, no problem, I told my bank before leaving France to stop payments on all my old direct debits. Except my useless bank didn't stop the payments.

I let the first month go because I thought I probably owed that legitimately, and then the second month I just wasn't really on top of things. The third month, I actually found where I could tell the bank online to stop the payments, so I did that and it actually worked, prompting some angry emails from Alice. The next month, the bank helpfully let the payment go through again, this time with a late fee. Thanks a fricking bunch. By this time, I actually did get on to re-sending them a letter re-cancelling the contract, by registered mail, which cost more than 7€ from Belgium. The first time round, I had sent it by registered mail, but without proof of delivery, since I knew I was just about to move to another country and I didn't forward my mail from France since it was ridiculously expensive. So I have no proof that I did actually mail them back in June (and I'm still actually waiting for the receipt this time around too). I really don't think odds are that both the letter and the actual box sending my modem back both got lost in the registered mail system. Honestly, I wouldn't put it past them to see that there was no delivery receipt and just shrug and go "she can't prove she cancelled it, so we'll keep charging her". The internet worked fine, but every interaction I ever had with them was so unpleasant that I find that entirely plausible. (This was also the company that made me cry when I was trying to install my modem when the girl repeatedly called me "Monsieur... pardon, Madame" and kept laughing with her colleagues at me in the background.) So... hopefully this time it will actually be cancelled.

- Talking of useless bank stuff, I paid my taxes online, which helpfully involved having to mail a printed authorisation for the transaction to my bank (sigh). I know the bank got the authorisation, because I sent a cheque in the same envelope and they cashed it, but the money hasn't come out. I don't know whether the government just hasn't tried to take it, or they tried before the authorisation arrived. Either way, my taxes are showing as paid, so I suppose I should be thanking my lucky stars, but I really do try to do everything properly and by the book and that's why it bothers me so much when things like this and the internet fiasco happen. Life's not fair, it's true, but it seems like you should be rewarded with smooth sailing when you try to make an honest effort to take care of all your responsibilities, but it seems to end up in as much as a mess as if you did nothing. Then dealing with these administrative issues on the phone with French "customer service" people is really really one of my least favourite things to do. So I'm left not able to close my bank account because I don't know what's happening on the tax front.

- On a lighter note, Jules and I signed up as Friends of the Museum, as previously mentioned. When filling out the form, I started putting my details, and then they asked for ID, which I didn't have, so Jules gave them his ID and I added his name on the form. So it was like Surname: Sandiego/Luxembourg, First name: Gwan/Jules. I was amused when the ID cards came addressed to M. and Mme. Luxembourg-Sandiego. Then I remembered that I had definitely filled out the form with the names the other way round, since I started filling it in with just my name. So WTF, Musée des Beaux-Arts, do you have some sort of policy that the man's name has to come first? Or you took it upon yourself to decide it sounded better that way round? Way to mangle our fake, ridiculously long (in real life too) hyphenated name.

- Some other fun things: I joined a choir (yay) and will start evening Russian classes soon (I tested out at level A2, i.e. one up from a complete beginner. Slightly embarrassing since I did study it for 4 semesters at university, but that was a long time ago and it's hard). Last weekend we went to Aachen, Germany, so stand by for a blog post about that, and this weekend we're participating in a (sort of) festival where you go along to a Michelin-starred restaurant and get a surprise 4-course lunch or 5-course dinner for a bit cheaper than usual. We're going for lunch since most of the participating Brussels restaurants were all booked out by the time I found out about this last week. We're going to Bruneau - I can be a bit fussy, so I hope I like it! (The surprise is part of the charm, I suppose, but I couldn't resist writing "please no mushrooms" on the reservation though!)

14 comments:

  1. That ballroom is GOLD. In case you didn’t notice.

    I hope your internet problem gets sorted out soon.

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    1. Thanks. I'm not generally a fan of gold, but a lot of the palace was done in the gold/white colour scheme and it did look elegant.

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  2. Luxembourg-Sandiego does sound better than Sandiego-Luxembourg.

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    1. Yes, in the real names I think so too (sorry Gwan). I think it's something to do with the end of your surname rolling easily into to the start of Gwan's surname.

      Wow! Customer service sounds a real nightmare. But don't let them make you cry! Ask for a manager next time you get get someone like that. If that fails, please ask your sister to phone for you, haha! xx

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    2. Don't mind me, I think they both sound terrible! Sandiego is long enough without tacking Luxembourg on.

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    3. Oh couldn't work out why I couldn't reply to Jules, it's cos you replied first mum. Anyway, granted, but that's not the museum's call!

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  3. Haha if you two hyphenated your real names you'd be letting yourselves in for an administrative nightmare!

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  4. I love royal palaces! I need to check the Belgian one off my list . . .
    Dealing with nasty customer service is one reason I've stayed with Orange the whole time I've lived here, even if others are cheaper. I don't even want to think about the headache of trying to keep my number when switching carriers! Though they were pretty nice when I moved last year; I got someone who lived near me and we talked about the neighborhood, lol.

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    1. Things seem to be getting a bit easier now you can do more online, but yeah, it's never fun! They have actually cancelled the service now, I don't think I'm seeing any of the three months I was overcharged again, but yeah.

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  5. Before long you'll be able to sing the 1812 chorus - can't wait.

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    1. Does it have words?

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    2. Huge chorus of russian stuff both at the beginning and and of the overture!

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  6. Wow! You're leading a super busy life, Gwan -- joining a choir and taking Russian lessons! Both of those would be daunting endeavors for me. There's no way that the creepy guy in the painting is going to haunt your dreams. You're having too much fun during the day to have nightmares. I'm really happy for you. Big hugs, Mary Kay

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