Ronnie McCollum’s news

Trick or Treat

Yesterday was Halloween and growing up in America you are used to a different Halloween than over here.  We had two ghosts coming by for candy and they tried to scare me by going boooooo.  That was it.  Two ghosts, I was expecting batman, witches, spiderman, cowboys, Indians, something … My sister-in-law got creative and turned the front door into a real Halloween attraction, and it still didn’t work.  I guess next year we have to promote it better, we have to send out flyers or something, lol.  I know it is not that big over here but the stores were getting into it so I hoped for more kids.  Last year I think we got 5.  But I think some kids dressed up as something different and came back, because my mom sent American candy last year and they were loving it.  Now I’m stuck with all that candy…

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November 1, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

MY GRANDFATHER

My grandfather turned 91 yesterday. I called him and i had to scream because at 91 his hearing is not as good as it used to be but i asked him how old are you and he said 15 so he still has a sharpmind. He still drives to church and to town which makes my grandmother go crazy because she says he drives wayyyyyy too fast. I love listening to his stories about his life. You have to remember things in America have not always been like it is now. My grandfather was born in 1917 and his grandparents were slaves and still in 1917 blacks were not considered equal or “real citizens”. My grandfather tells stories about how growing up there were 2 different water fountains, bath rooms, and schools for blacks and for whites. Even in restaurants blacks hadto go to the back to pick up food because they were not allowed in the restaurant. My grandfather tells me about how he was the first black in my hometown to own his own company, a home remodeling company. Where his competitors would threat to kill him if he got too much work or worked in another city or how after he finished his clients would not pay him and then call the police and say he was trespassing. He bought his first house in the early 50’s and he paid the mortgage with his retirement money from the army which was a whopping 7 dollars…. He was the first black person in my hometown to have house insurance and as he is telling me this story he laughs and says we have come a long way in this country. In his lifetime he has lived through the great depression, World War II, Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, The Iraq Wars and the worst president of all-time George W. Bush.  He should know, he has seen a lot of them. Now in his 90’s he has 3 loves God/Church, family, and baseball….

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

RETURN/TERUG

My wife and I returned to Belgium on Sunday after two months in the beautiful SWEET HOME ALABAMA.  We go from 98 degrees (37Celsius) weather to 78 degrees (25Celsius) so you can image the shock we have. My wife loves the states but i know there is no place like home and she is happy to be back.

People always ask me what’s the differences between the States and Belgium: In the States you can go to the grocery store 24 hours a day, restaurants are open till 11 and fast food places are open till 2 in the morning(which is not a good thing if you have seen the size of some people in the states). In restaurants nobody sits after they eat and drink coffee or tea and just talk. When you order an appetizer the waiter comes two minutes later to take your order you will have the appetizer and the meal at the same time, and before you finish eating the waiter will bring the check and sit it on the table but you get free refills on all non-alcoholic drinks.

In the States we have TV with satellite that has over 500 channels and basic cable we have 70 channels. The specialty channels we have like: HGTV (home and garden) where they show how to make improvements and housing ideas for every room in your house.  The FoodNetwork (my favorite) has cooking shows ranging from how to make meals for single people, families, grilling, fancy meals, southern cooking and soul food. There are news stations. We have the Soap Opera network, 5 sports only stations, the Home shopping network where you can sit in your house and order anything and many more.

The shopping (my wife’s favorite) is great because the euro is stronger than the dollar (yes keep it that way) so basically everything you buy is already on sale but there are sales all the time. There is a new year’s sale, valentine, 4th of July, back to school (the first week of august) end of summer, the biggest one of the year is the thanksgiving sale, the 3rd Friday of November it’s called Black Friday and then the pre and post Christmas sales. The malls/stores are open Monday through Saturday 9-9 some places 10 and from 11-7 on Sunday every week. In Birmingham, Alabama’s biggest city, there are 6 malls with at least 60 stores each and all have as much free parking as you want.

Even though both places play some of the same music there is a difference in type of radio stations. There are always at least 2 competing radio stations that are basically the same but it just which one you like more just like Q Music, Studio Brussels, Donna.  There are a lot of choices in radio stations : hip-hop, r&b, country, blues, pop top 40, rock and roll, classic rock, 80’s hits, 90 hits, classical, news radio, sports talk radio, church (sermons only), gospel (church music only), entertainment, political, and every school and sports team has its on radio station.

And lastly church, In Belgium not many people go to church every Sunday like in America. We have 2 church only tv stations and there some churches in America that have 30,000 people there every Sunday, that’s right 30,000 people. In Belgium there is one church per town and 95% is catholic. In my home town (4,000 people)  alone there is a baptist, Methodist, Church of God, church of Christ and catholic church on the same street and there 3 streets in my town that are like that with many other churches just outside the city. In the States the church decides how much the preacher/pastor/reverend/priest gets paid.  In some churches the pastor has a full time job and gets a salary from the church, some churches have full time pastors and mega churches have sometimes 5 or more full time pastors. And salaries range from $12,000-20,000 for small churches less than 400 members. Middle size churches from 400-1,000 members the pastors salary is from $20,000-75,000. Big churches 1,000-5,000 members the pastor’s salary is anywhere between $75,000-300,000. The mega churches with 5,000 to 30,000 + members you only image what the salary is. Mega churches like that also have a school, a gym, a financial advisor, at least 50 people who are working full time for the church. Before you ask where the money comes from,  it comes from the members who are asked to pay 10% off there gross salaries as it says it in the bible. Church time in the States ranges, at my church we have sunday school from 9:45-10:50 and church is from 11:00-1:00.

These are some of the differences between Belgium and the US, I’m sure in one of my next blogs I can talk about some more.

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

FAMILY REUNION

Every year on the second weekend of July we have our family reunion. This year marked the 33rd annual reunion and we rotate cities every summer. This year’s reunion was held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which is in the Appalachian mountains. The weekend starts on Friday with a meet and greet and barbeque and Saturday is a free day so the women can shop and the men can play cards and the kids go swimming and to the amusement park. Saturday is the true highlight of the reunion with a banquet at 7pm, it’s like other banquets we dress up, recognize the accomplishments of family members from the past year and give awards for things such as the oldest family member,  the youngest one, the one who traveled the longest distance (which we will win every year) and we also have drawings for prizes. When the meal is finished we have a talent and fashion show and then it’s party time!!!! On Sunday morning there is a church service and we all say bye to each other and say we will see you next year. I really love the reunion i get to see family members that i would normally never see because the family is spread out from Chicago to Detroit to Florida to New York to Arizona. This way we all can see each other without having to travel to 6 different places, we all travel to one place and see everybody. Next year the reunion will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio and how the location of the next reunion happens is sort of like the Olympics : someone makes a bid and the family votes. Voting is based on things like travel accessibility , hotels, and the last time the city hosted the reunion. I can’t wait till next year.

July 14, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

Back HOME

Last night, my wife and I came back home to Alabama for the Summer break. Some people say we are on vacation, but I say when you are going home it is not a vacation, it’s just going home.  After spending 10 months in Belgium, I forgot how hot it is here. When we landed the pilot told us it was 95 Degrees (35 Celsius) and to top it off they turned the air off on our flight from Washington DC to Birmingham so we were melting into our seats.  Today, not used to the time difference just yet, we got up at 8 a.m. , for me that never happens. We went to the local grocery store which stays open 24hours, we were in the store for 20 minutes and 18 minutes of that we were talking to people.  That shows you how small of a town this is, feels great. The summer break is not a break for everything though, it means working out by myself to improve for next season.  During the season it’s a two-hour a day practice and in the summer it becomes a 4-hour a day workout with weights, running, shooting and playing.  I will take some breaks to take my wife shopping and spend time with my family, mostly playing cards.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

the Belgian Coast

This weekend we played in Oostende, which is a two-hour drive from Bree.  Oostende is a port city on the North Sea, and the biggest vacation spot for Belgians.  It was a battle between the first and second place teams.  We controlled the game from the start, going up as many as 22 in the first half.  Oostende made a run in the second half to cut the game to 3 points but we pulled it off at the end.  After most games you shower and get back on the bus, but this game was different because we were at the Belgian Coast.  So my wife and I stayed at a hotel in De Haan, called Carpe Diem (this means cease the day in Latin).  It’s such a hot spot that my father-in-law and sister-in-law made the trip too.  What I find funny about going to the beach in Belgium is that you drive NORTH to get there and we all know you think you go north to the mountains and south to the Beach but it’s the opposite in Belgium.  That’s probably why it was so cold.  No, not really because you can cross Belgium in 2.5 hours and the temperature is bad everywhere right now.  De Haan, the city right outside of Oostende where we stayed is a beautiful small town with picturesque houses, streets and squares, where my in-laws spent every summer on vacation.  Almost all buildings there date back from the Belle Epoque period. Each building has a tale of its own: from the first luxury hotel with mains water to the hiding place of Albert Einstein shortly before World War II.  Imagine a city that hasn’t been touched in years and there are all locally owned shops, tourist stores, restaurants.  My sister-in-law used to babysit the hotel’s owner’s kids and we spent a little time with them on Sunday. They have two children, the daughter Astrid is 9 and a son Edouard 6. They were curious about me because I am probably the only American they met and I had to show them where I lived on the map.  So now they think all Americans are cool just like me (that’s what happens when you jump with them on the trampoline)  They both speak Flemish (dutch) and French and Astrid speaks a little English.  The most impressive thing I have ever seen, I am 29 and I barely speak two languages and she is 9 and speaks 3. I have a lot of ground to catch up!

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment