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Black, Yellow and Red

As we entered the Royal Museum of Fine Art, it was on the right wall. Not quite a mural, but big enough to be one in a smaller building, it illustrated in vivid colour and motion a grave struggle. On the left side, a general rides up, amid the chaos of yelling soldiers, a barking dog, a drummer boy, and women trying to aid the wounded. Somewhat above this, a man holds out a paper that is being refused by those to whom it is offered. And at the very top can be seen the Belgian flag, which although it had been torn in battle, is still being held up by the young standard-bearers.

This painting apparently illustrates an important point in the 19th century Belgian war for independence—an event upon which I am sadly uninformed. But despite my ignorance, as I studied this huge work of art I was struck by the patriotism and emotion that it portrayed, and I became mindful of the sort of feeling that Belgians must have when they see the black, yellow and red tricolor on the wind. Being from Texas, for me red, white and blue are the patriotic colours, whether for the state or for the country. And being from such a large country, I think Americans may sometimes forget that citizens of other nations are just as patriotic towards their own homelands as we are towards ours—perhaps we are just a little ethnocentric.

Episode of the September Days 1830 on the Grand Place of Brussels


“Church of Our Lady”

Church of Our Lady

Cathedrals are majestic places, no doubt. The high ceilings, the many intricate statues, and the extravagant trimmings would strike awe into any heart. But despite these attributes, one thing about cathedrals continues to enchant me, and that is the tombs.

A place for the dead is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of a cathedral, but in every one we have visited so far, the “Church of Our Lady” not excepted, I have found inscriptions that tell of the ones whose bones are housed within the walls and floors of these splendid buildings. Words such as Hic jacet and Hic sepultus est stare at me from the worn stone which was carved so many centuries ago.

How splendid these people’s funerals must have been, and how lamented their loss! And yet, today hundreds of people walk heedlessly over and past these tombs and their cryptic Latin epitaphs, whilst gazing upon the greater glory of the architecture around them.

Though I can read only a little of what these tombs tell, I at least try to honor the dead with a thought, which perhaps is more than many who see them.

(Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium)

No English Allowed!

This past month I went down to “the valley” for a week–that is, the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and northern Mexico. Most people on the Texas side are bilingual, and I was soon exposed to that interesting phenomenon known to some as “Spanglish.” Start a sentence in Spanish, switch to English in the middle, switch back to Spanish a few phrases later. It changed my perspective a little, since before that time, I always felt a bit discouraged when Spanish speakers talked to me in English–I guess I assumed they thought I couldn’t speak Spanish very well. But hearing how they talk to each other showed me that the language switching is something they just do out of habit.

However, this change in perspective hasn’t been the most positive for my language learning. Read More