Monthly Archives: February 2021

Rainbows and Unicorns

We had fun relaxing for two days in a rustic cabin near the town of Wachtebeke. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a small village in the Flemish region of Belgium, but like all the other small Flemish towns it’s adorable and loaded with bread and produce (and oh hell yes!) chocolate vending machines, farms, canals, countryside. It’s always a good place to kick back, stoke a fire in the fireplace, explore and sip and stare. The rainbow pretty much landed in our back yard.

We also checked out Dendermonde, a small city on a river that has a cute Grand Place (or Grote Markt), a university, two UNESO sites and horse statues all over the place. Like Mons it has an ancient festival that stars a massive horse versus a dragon. Unlike Mons, this festival only happens once every decade. Its black steed was supposed to parade its way about town in 2020, but, well, you know what happened. It’s scheduled to come out and play again May 2021, so we’ve marked it in our calendars. Fingers crossed we’ll get to visit the big event. To learn more about this interesting town, not too far from Gent, check out this website.

Of course everything is locked down, so the streets were empty, but we enjoyed checking it out. Not being able to sip and stare at a cafe, though, is getting old. I’m glad we’re safe and all, but you know. Tomorrow, I go back to work, and then it’s 5 weeks until my two-week spring break. We’ll rent more cabins in small Belgian towns if we can’t cross borders. The hikes are always better than sitting in our apartment.

As you can see we make a lot of new friends along the way. So, we’re still finding a little magic in this Covid world. And some of us can still make maskless contact. Well, it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, so time for me to take a walk around Mons before getting myself back into work mode. Happy Sunday everyone!

Banal realities of bill paying

Click and send not my reality…

I’m on break this week, but there’s still not much we can do. We do have a friend coming over for dinner tomorrow, and on Thursday we are going on a two-day road trip, which includes a cabin with a fireplace. So, we will do something, but this is my 5th vacation in a row where I did not set foot in an airport. This has not been my reality since I moved overseas seven years ago. One of the biggest perks of living abroad is all the travel we get to do, but, well, you know Covid messed that up.

With no flights, no bars, no restaurants to explore, I’m left doing the same as everyone else: cooking, cleaning, watching TV, paying bills. Today, I finally checked my mailbox and discovered I was two months late on my electric bill. I got the email on it too, but, um, didn’t pay attention. You see I paid a bill in January, so surely it was a mistake.

Paying bills here just isn’t as simple as you’d think. Sure, if I could ever figure out how to set up my online accounts with cable and electricity it might be easier, but I have to use google translate because I can’t seem to find the English versions. My normal routine is I just do a wire transfer from my local bank account (which requires I use a card reader to get codes and whatnot) and I wire money to my utility companies. Easy peasy (well sort of).

In America, when I pay a bill it will automatically subtract my oldest debt up to my newest. Not the case here. I did pay something in January, but that was apparently my December bill. For whatever reason, I skipped November and January. Soo, now I don’t get threatened with a “we’re going to cut you off” letter. Instead, it’s a “we’re going to put a prepaid meter on your ass” letter, which is actually kind of cool that they don’t cut off your electricity, but I soo don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to work that thing too. Long story is I got it taken care of. I managed to find my way to an English-speaking rep who told me how to prevent the meter from making its way into my home.

But, something that would take less than 5 minutes to sort through at home, took me much longer than I care to admit, and it included having to use a card reader, Google translate and several letters in Dutch and French to sort through — oh and an email to company with my proof of pay pdf. BUT, bill is paid and meter won’t be installed.

In the UAE we didn’t have mail, everything happened via text. Seriously we did not have any mail boxes. There were regional post offices, but I only used mine once — to mail a ballot. Because there are more expats than locals living there, finding an English rep was never a problem. LOL, but trust me there were other issues to be had. Inshallah is in itself a lovely phrase, but when you’re on the wrong end of local timing and the lord’s will, it sometimes feels like an illegal middle finger.

So paying bills or taking care of your adopted-country responsibilities is not a perk of expat life. Each country has its own way of doing things, and what may be logical to us is most definitely not the same in other areas of the world. Bureaucracy is a bitch no matter where you are, but being the idiot who can’t speak the language adds a whole other level. So, please remember that when you’re dealing with a foreigner who is taking too much time with a rep trying to figure out what in the hell to do, they’re clueless for a reason. They are, however, trying to fulfill their responsibilities.

And that’s my exciting vacation tale for you. You see if I was off traveling and whatnot, I’d still have this issue (and, well, I’d have gotten a stupid meter installed because I would have missed the letter), BUT it wouldn’t annoy me as much because, you know, I’d be distracted by the next beach, hotel, excursion I had planned.

Come on Covid — you’ve gotta retreat and cut us some slack. For the first time in my life, I find myself missing the way I did the bullshit stuff back home. When I do move back, the utility reps will be so excited to have me on the phone because I will tell them how much I love them.

Hope you’re all safe and healthy. Here’s to whenever we can do real vacationy things again!

Snow Day!

Someone is regretting her choice not to wear layers

What a nice surprise to wake up for my 3 a.m. pee and see that there was snow on the ground. A few hours later I got the “two hour delay” call, a few minutes after that the “our bad…school is cancelled” call: even better! Several hours later the clinic called to let me know that my afternoon doctor’s appointment was also cancelled. So win! I get to go braless all day long. whoop whoop!

I’m teaching three different novels, so it feels like the perfect way to catch up on some reading and lounging. I wasted much of yesterday lesson planning. Today it’s read, write, eat, sip, walk, repeat. I’m so okay with that. On Friday teachers at my school got our first dose of the Moderna vaccine, which is a relief. Hopefully, by this time in March dose two will be doing its thing. I had a sore arm for two days, slept super deep on Friday and had strange dreams. On Saturday I was a little woozy, but um I also had a celebratory bottle of wine the night before — so vaccine or vino? We’ll blame it on the shot. The flu shot affected me more. Fingers crossed it’ll be the same for number two. We don’t know when Joe will get his, but we’re on the upswing.

Hair dressers can begin taking clients (with strict protocols) again next week. Bars and restaurants are still closed. I’m off next week and still cannot travel, but it’s all good. I’ll cook, clean, read, etc. I’m alive and healthy and, well, also an adept binge watcher. We got a memo that said don’t plan to travel during our spring break in April, but I’m still holding on to hope that there will be something we can do then. Maybe restaurants will be open? Takeaway is nice and all, but not the same. That said we’re really lucky to have wonderful friends nearby. Some friends of ours made an amazing curry dinner Saturday night, and all we had to do was walk over to pick it up. Another friend smokes meat in his green egg while yet another friend bakes. Talking on the street for a few minutes while we exchange goodies is better than nothing at all, but if my spring break only included friend sippy time at the Grand Place, I’ll take it! And, I’ll love every minute of it. I also enjoy putting a dent in my couch (seriously one cushion fits Joe’s butt perfectly, the other fits mine — we now have personalized butt imprints), but this extravert needs some face-to-face people time (outside of teaching). Plus, I’m sure Joe would like seeing me groom again.

lol I’m almost as furry as Badger now!
And Joe is tired of having Badger’s poo time be his only excuse to get out of the house. He’s dying to be the asshole at the bar (which he never is) versus the asshole watcher.

So yeah we’re celebrating bad weather and hoping for the best. Hope you’re all healthy and well. Just a few months and the sun will shine again (please)!

And I’ll have more than BP mailboxes to show you. It still looks happier than our local nip fairy (to be fair she’s sad all year long).
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