Monthly Archives: July 2022
So, dinner time tonight Joe and I will have been on the lovely island of Guam for one week. It was a trek getting here: Brussels to Chicago to Los Angelas to Honolulu all in one day. We, our six suitcases (two carryons) and two backpacks made it safe and sound (albeit a bit bruised and a lot tired). But who is going to complain when you have a 4-day stopover in Hawaii?
That said dealing with all the timezones and travel is still wreaking a little havoc on our sleep patterns. When we were in Hawaii, our kids in Arizona were three hours ahead of us; Brussels was 8 hours behind; Guam was 20 hours ahead (what?!). Guam is also a little over a 7 hour flight from Hawaii (again, what?!).
Now that we’re in Guam the kids are 17 hours behind us, which works out easier to chat because my day is their night. I have no idea what timezone my body thinks it’s in because by 7 p.m. I’m fighting to keep my eyes open and by 2 or three I’m struggling to keep them closed. That said I managed to stay up until closer to 9 last night and slept (on and off) until after 6 this morning, so I’m getting closer to being normal again.
And that is way more than any of you want to read about jet lag. My co-workers here are all so welcoming and friendly, which seems to be the norm for the island. We have yet to meet anyone grumpy (other than each other when tired). We’re staying in a hotel apartment until we move into our new home, wherever on the island that will be. It’s perfect with a kitchen, washer/dryer, two bathrooms and a balcony that overlooks the busiest street in Guam and the bay. We are so happy to have a little home versus hotel/suitcase living.
We put an offer on an apartment that we were really excited about, but it fell through (so now we’re really bummed about it), but hopefully that means an even better one is waiting for us. It is a diverse island in that there are gorgeous ocean views, and then there are gorgeous mountain views, and also gorgeous backyards with lots of tropical plants and fruit trees. There are also lots of moldy concrete views, which is the only view we’re not going for.
It’s been raining a lot (it is rainy season), but tomorrow promises good weather, so we bought some beach towels, chairs and an umbrella. Fingers crossed tomorrow will be our first beach day on the island. We have more homes to check out on Sunday, and then it’s off to my first day of the new job on Monday. Until then, we explore and keep pinching ourselves because (despite the apartment setback) we live here.
And while we will miss our old home and being so close to our friends there, we’re excited to face all of our new!
Oh how we loathe the chaos of closing out residency. The UAE was stressful, and Belgium is no better. In many ways I feel like those two countries are in cahoots with how they manage things, except one has way more money than the other, but the other has way more years of governing (it’s a term that has multiple definitions depending on where you live).
So, I got back in one piece late Thursday night (flying this summer truly is also hell, but I’m desperately hoping our next big travel day will be a good one, so I don’t want to jinx myself bitching about it), and got up bright and early Friday, ready to take on the close-out day.
Called my local bank, got an English-speaking rep on the third try, and voila I had an appointment at the branch that day. Got to bank, rep didn’t speak English, but between my bad French, her bad English, and our most excellent Google Translating abilities, we got my rental deposit release letter in order, set things up to cancel my accounts and she hooked me up with an English-speaking rep to close out car insurance.
Yay me (and her)! Win that day. But, there’s a catch, car insurance won’t cancel without me turning in license plate and registration, the base I work on also wants those things (I’ll figure it out).
Cleaner comes to my apartment and does an excellent job. Joe and I take out the last of our things, and I think we’re good to go for our 11 a.m. apartment inspection Monday morning.
It looks so big and lonely without my stuff, and see how clean she is…
Happily I trot on over to apartment. Landlord immediately demands to know where her curtains are. In a previous conversation I pointed out that I replaced the dusty, sun-bleached curtains with my modern ones (and stored hers in the basement). Then she flicked switches on and off and pointed out the lightbulbs that were out. I apologize.
Then she looks under the stove vent — the cleaner, Joe and I completely forgot about the vent filter. “Sticky!” she barks, and I apologize.
She uses google translate to tell me “all this must be fixed.” I google back, can we just take out of deposit? Because, you see, at this point all of our furniture and ladder are gone, so we can’t reach high enough to do lightbulbs. She makes some typical Belgian annoyed sounds and gives me a ‘whoosh.”
So, she’s already in a bad mood. Mind you we have always had a good relationship. I have always paid rent on time. I even enthusiastically showed the apartment to potential renters. I also referred her to a co-worker who rented one of her apartments. She always immediately fixed anything I reported broken.
Other than the vent (an honest oversight) and the stupid lightbulbs the place is immaculate.
But then we get to our garage, and this is where Joe and I are screwed. A few months into our first year the remote for garage door fell apart, we taped it together, but it kept breaking. The inconsiderate fools that we are we didn’t call for help. We simply unplugged the garage door opener and used it manually. It was quicker and easier as well since we had one remote; two drivers with two sets of keys. Anyway, long story short, Joe reactivated the opener day of inspection. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, there was a small dent in frame, so when door closed, it popped back open a little on the bottom.
Definite unhappy sounds come from landlord. The tone she uses with me is one you use when speaking to an idiot, she angrily types on phone. Basically, she tells me I should have reported this, and it would have been an easy fix. I try to explain I didn’t know and didn’t think not using the garage door opener was a problem. I also wonder to myself why it can’t be an easy fix now.
“You must use repairman to fix this,” google tells me.
And, as you all know, I know very little French, just enough to piss people off when I’m trying to be cordial. But, there’s this guy we foreigners use to help us get things done. He’s like super fix it agent guy.
So I send him a message, but, he doesn’t respond quickly enough, so she calls her guy, who will fix, and we will pay. I go to bed that night wondering if I’ll not only lose my 1,350 deposit, but will I now owe on top of that. And while I was angry at Joe and me for not getting those things done, I was also totally demoralized by the situation. It wasn’t that we had to pay; we’ll gladly own up to our responsibilities, it’s the way I was spoken to. It all could have been lost in translation, blah, blah, blah, but let’s be real: I’m an outsider, and boy oh boy did I feel it that day. No matter how much you love living somewhere, and how much you think you try to learn a culture, there’s always someone ready to remind you you’re an idiot for not knowing it. So, please remember this the next time you’re annoyed by someone who doesn’t speak your language or get your ways. We are all on this planet just trying to get by the best way we can, which doesn’t always work out to be the best way.
Anyway, back to the apartment: the signing of close-out papers was rescheduled to Friday, which delays closing this part out at work and delays closing out my bank accounts, but whatevs I’m still here, so it’ll get done.
I did manage a small win shortly after the inspection failure. Proximus, the cable company we have battled with since we got here, was super friendly and super easy. Fingers crossed our accounts are truly closed as promised. The emails they sent seem to confirm that.
And, I had what I felt like was a win on Tuesday. Landlord emailed damages. Long story short only 375 euro will be deducted from my deposit, and that includes the water and property management fees I would have had to pay anyway. I email info to English-speaking bank rep, who emails me documents I don’t fully understand, but whatevs, I forward to landlord. Fingers crossed, we sign, and move on. I meet with bank rep next week to hopefully close out car insurance and my bank account, withdrawing whatever is left in there. Trust me folk the fingers need to be crossed because I’m pretty sure something will go wrong. Closing an account isn’t as easy as it would be to do at home.
My car leaves us for its big trip on Monday.
We’re living the hotel/suitcase life. Tour de France is going through the Wallonie region of Belgium, so all of Mons hotel rooms are booked, so we had to check out of our room at the Lido (the same exact one I lived in for 5 weeks when I first arrived!) and checked into a surprisingly lovely B&B in the countryside. We weren’t sure of what to expect, but the owner is wonderful, and we enjoyed chatting with her in her garden, while she shared an amazing block of aged French cheese. The universe reminding me that there are also always warm, wonderful souls to help pick you up when you’re overwhelmed and stressed.
Then we’re off to a weekend trip somewhere (I need to hike through some woods), and then back to Mons to close out our final bits (we haven’t even begun to close out at the base yet) before we’re off to Brussels for our last few nights. And, yes, there are folk we need to hug goodbye in between the close outs.
I got our flight info today, and it’ll be a voyage, but I’m happy to finally have dates. We fly from Brussels to Chicago to Los Angeles to Honolulu, where we will stay for 4 nights (we’ll need the break!) and then hop on our final plane to Guam. So, unless the travel gods have something else in store for us: we will finally be on the island of Guam on July 22. New job begins Aug 1, so I’ll have a few days to sleep and get my bearings straight, and look at potential homes.
And then the in-processing dance begins, but let’s finish this out stuff first.
But before I close this post out, here are some pics of our walk through the local zoo (this girl still needs her steps and nature. Belgium is truly beautiful.