Author Archives: bettinabennett2014

Have AWD, will travel

LOL Badger and me having our romantic couple’s shot while cooling off in the Ardennes

We had our first 100 degree day last Friday, and it looks like we’ll have our second today. We have been so lucky this summer because, for the most part, our temps have been great. So, we can’t complain about the current heatwave, but we’re human, so we will. It’s supposed to stay in the 90s until around Thursday next week, which sucks when you’re in a country that doesn’t consider A/C important — until we hit these days and folks flock to the hardware stores desperately searching for portable units.

Luckily, Lorayne sold us her unit (looks like R2D2), which we use in the spare bedroom to cool off. Our apartment has a great cross breeze between the front and back windows, so it’s not as bad as you would think, BUT it does get warm and stuffy.

The best, however, is our new vehicle because it can take us anywhere, so last week we did our first off-road adventure and loved getting lost in the forest.

One of the coolest and saddest things about Belgium is that you run into war memorials all over the country. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and we came across this celebration of an American soldier’s bravery. Joe googled him, and it turns out he stopped the German’s Panzer division by blowing up their lead tank with a bazooka, which also took him out and earned him this tribute that reminds we hikers to thank those who fought for the lives we have today.

We’ve also spent the week touring towns and breweries. I’d show you pictures, but the camera on my phone isn’t working, so I take snaps with Joe’s, but lol it’s a pain to send to me to upload, etc. etc. Just know we’ve had lots of lovely trips checking out all the good Belgium has to offer. Yesterday we escaped to Maredsou Abbey with friends.

Badger appreciates the shaded walks

Today, we’re staying in Mons, but we’ll find shaded cafes to sip and dine with friends, so all is good. Mons also is doing its best to keep our spirits up despite this damned pandemic, which just won’t go away.

There are new murals and 31 elephants placed around the city, so it’s fun to walk and find these treasures. The musicians are out playing, and we’ve discovered that Badger loves the violin. Last week, there was a parade of puppet animals. They looked so real. I wonder what fun things we’ll witness this weekend.

Badger has also been totally loving our new car and our trips. He has some cute pics on his blog. Click here to see him all woodsy and what not.

On Monday I go back to work. I’m not as excited this year as I normally am. I do still love my job, and I do so look forward to seeing students again, but, well, you know, the pandemic. There are just too many unknowns right now, and we’re all feeling it. We all want to do the best that we can do, but we all also do not want to get sick, so there’s lots of uncertainty. But, we will get past this as well. The kids and I will figure out how to make it work, and fingers crossed we will all continue to stay healthy. That said I’m not looking forward to training and classroom prep with no a/c next week — tis a good thing the kids don’t arrive until the following week because I’m going to be pretty stinky and sweaty. I’m amazed the ring around my mouth hasn’t broken out from all the mask sweat.

There’s not much more for me to share other than stay safe, and that I hope you’re all enjoying your little bits of joy as much as I am. Please keep masking up despite the discomfort. I want to be able to fly home next summer and see this cutie pie (who turns two this month! And a responsible toddler).

Smile … it’s summer!

The weather in our corner of Europe has been so lovely. Mostly sunshine, cool breezes and temps that don’t make us fantasize about air conditioning. So, we’ve been enjoying a lot of outdoor time.

Yesterday, while sipping some Maredsous at our favorite cafe pub, just loving life the way we do, nature bitch slapped us a little reminder. A flock of pigeons played chicken with our allegedly slow-moving traffic since it’s right near where diners and sippers sit. One got its neck snapped by an overzealous driver (Joe says his wife was arguing with him — I’m ignoring that hint). Another driver, got out, gingerly picked up the bird and scooped her to the side where she sadly twitched until she died. It was awful, but around 10 minutes later another pigeon flew to her side. He squawked and pecked to make her move.

“Aw look it’s her mate,” I cooed. “How sad, he’s trying to wake her.”

Then the bird jumps up and down on the carcass, feathers flying, but still no movement, so I shit you not: he humps his dead mate. What in the effity eff is that? Joe is dying; Badger is fascinated; I’m again mortified. Satisfied, Mr. Peckity Pecker flies off, a few minutes later another bird lands and does the same exact thing. This happens until another human kindly picks up the de-fowled carcass and throws it away.

This, my friends, is when I learn that a. pigeons are as messed up and cruel as we are (who knew necrophilia was a cross-species thing?), and b. that dead bird pretty much sums up 2020. Just when you think it’s bad; it gets more freaky.

Belgium, along with much of Europe, is battling the beginnings of our second wave. We now have to wear a mask pretty much everywhere (which I’m okay with) and keep our social circle to no more than 5 for the next 4 weeks. They are trying to avoid a complete lockdown, but our numbers are quickly rising. Within this timeframe, I’m going back to work — allegedly in the classroom with students, but I guess we shall see what the great pigeons in the sky have to say about that.

My sexy beasts a few minutes prior to settling down with the pigeons

Despite this being probably the worst year in a long time, Joe, Badger and I have managed to tune out the nasties going on in our world and mostly enjoy our summer. Our first stop was in wine country, Germany where we hiked grape-laced hills and sipped along romantic riverbanks.

We were off to a great start, until the Polezei pulled us over. Turns out our temporary tags on the new car expired (guess we should have looked!). Long story short: I talked my way out of getting our car impounded, and promised we’d manage a way back to Belgium to get our permanent tags. In the middle of the night, we ran like the bandits that we are and drove praying like mad that we’d make it to the Belgium border without another encounter with the law: whew! we did. But, we had to cancel our Black Forest and Austrian alps portion of our trip. It’s all good since the lady who owns the alps cabin said we could come during my next vacation instead, so no money lost there.

Once our tags came in, we got back on the road and visited friends in Bavaria, where we hiked and sipped some more.

Click here to see Badger’s pics and thoughts on our hikes.

After having fun with our friends there, we took off to spend a few nights in Poland (with friends) where we supported local artists by buying pottery (so much so, on my end, that lol I had to buy a cart to store some of it) and hiked some more. Our adorable rental also had an inflatable jacuzzi out back, so we got to sip outside and soothe our sore muscles at the same time. Perfection! Our hostess also suggested we take a dip in the “little lake” (a rock quarry) just a few minutes away. It’s mineral water, she said, so it would take 10 years off our age, so heck yeah despite the slippery climb down and the cold water, we dove in. Um, on our way out we saw the No Swimming sign — too late, party of 30 and 40 somethings (ahem) on their way to the jacuzzi.

We loved touring Grodziec Castle, it’s like a jungle gym for adults. Lots of towers and tunnels to climb through and plenty of fairy tale trails to get lost in, plus the museum end of it where you can pretend you’re a knight or princess. Next summer we’d like to tour more of Poland. The people are great, food is hearty and comforting, beer is good, and it’s surrounded by so much beauty. So, yeah Poland we heart you.

Of course we also love Germany; I’m still hoping I one day get a post there. But all is also well in Belgium.

The virus may be doing its damage, but Mons is still doing its best to spruce the place up for summer. No festivals or big parties, but they did decorate the Grand Place to make it beachy.

Temps are supposed to be in the nineties on Friday, so we’re contemplating another Ardennes trip since it’ll be cooler there, and we love it there too. What’s not to love about castles, woodsy hikes and beer. We wanted to go back to the Netherlands for a bit before I go back to work, but we’re afraid to cross borders right now. No sense in tempting fate in case they do close again, plus, to be honest, we’re just better off hunkering down in Mons. There’s plenty here to keep us amused.

And that’s about it on our end. Hopefully, the next time I pop in I can tell you all about how we managed to dodge a second wave.

Old and new

The wind tickles the willow and oak that surround me. The trees, while hearty and tall (like the Dutch who tend them), have not been here very long (from Mother Earth’s perspective). 900 years ago they would not have been allowed to take root. The mill I’ve been sleeping in needed to feed on all the wind, so that she could pump the waters nearby.

A horny bull locked up in a barn calls out to any heifer who’d have him while a herd of cows gather in the meadow outside. They roll their eyes and look at each other mooing “which one of us will have to bear this fool’s child?”

Meanwhile a pack of mother hens and their one proud rooster bitch at Badger and me for sitting in ‘their’ spot by the dyke. A wounded peacock sings to no one in the distance and ducks glide across lily pads teasing Badger because they know I will not allow him to chase them.

The chickens love this lil corner

I am, once again, blessed to have the time and means to inhale the good our world has to offer us, and I am surrounded by so much old and new. We’re in a remote village in South Holland flanked by dairy and sheep farms. The old windmill we’ve been sleeping in no longer has its blades, nor is she expected to do anything more than charm and warm the tourists who visit her. And that she does.

Since this is the summer of Covid, we’re not planning any flights or major city outings. We’re just going from countryside to countryside, and we couldn’t be happier. Last week we were in the Ardennes hiking its woods and checking out the ruins of man, from megaliths to cemeteries and castles.

This week it’s the Netherlands, in two days it’ll be Luxembourg. We are also happy to announce that our new vehicle has arrived, which is why we’re able to once again go from countryside to countryside. Badger is quite happy to have all of the extra room in the back. It’s a bit bigger than our VW Golf, and I’m happy to report I can park it in our tiny garage.

Sadly our time at the windmill is nearing its end. We have to check out in less than an hour, but it’s all good we will be back. Next up: we’re meeting Jordy and Wilber (who just flew in from Seoul) for lunch at Gouda, yum yum!

Since I’m running out of quiet time (have to clean and pack up), here’s a photo dump on our lovely little home away from home. Since this is a little over a two hour drive from Mons, we will most certainly be back.

I highly, highly recommend staying here if you can. Click on the website link below — don’t worry there’s an English option as well. https://www.deouwemeulen.nl

Finally — a sore booty from movement, not too much sitting

Our neighbors for the week (okay there are humans here too, but these guys sound cooler)

School is out for summer! Europe is opening up again, and we are enjoying its gifts. We’re still carless, so we’re still in Belgium. Thanks to some friends we were able to get to our adorable gite (vacation rental) in the Ardennes.

Aaaannnnidddd it has a pool! Such a treat!
And fire pit!

We’re around 10 km from the town of Durbuy, which is great for lounging, shopping, eating and sipping. Yesterday we finally got to sit in its famous Pirate bar, Tortuga something or other. The drinks were a disappointment, but we got to sit amongst these cheery critters.

We’ve also gotten to do some wonderful hiking and bicycling, which included climbing up a steep, rocky embankment to find a little cave and strolls along both sides of the river. Our muscles are a little sore, but it’s worth every bit of it. I told Joe I expect us to do some form of exercise every day I’m on summer break. It’s not hard to do when you’ve got all of this…

Today we’re chilling and grilling in the backyard, but I imagine we’ll explore some more in the woods as well. It’s not all healthy living though. LOL, we’re sipping too. The day school ended we did a virtual Port tasting at a friend’s house.

I learned a lot and have discovered I’m a tawny port fan. One day we’ll get to Portugal to stroll its wineries and feast there.

And we’ve sipped with friends at the Grand Place in Mons. I cannot tell you (or maybe I can) how good it felt to be out and about among people again.

Sipping my fave (Monkey 47) at a bar in Durbuy. Yum yum.

We’re here until Tuesday, and then it’s back to Mons to, hopefully, pick up our new car. We’ll be helping a friend close out living here, so she can retire in the states with her family, and then we’re on the road again. I’m bummed I can’t see my kids this summer, but I’m looking forward to touring the countryside in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and maybe Poland. Heck, we might even throw in France for fun. Our goal is to avoid big cities and just enjoy the nature side of things for awhile.

Not hard to do when even your dining room table gets to shine with flowers.

Happy Summer Everyone!

Effen Rona…

Mons Dou Dou week 2018

For those of you just clicking on my blog, I live in Mons, Belgium, which has loads of stories to share, but it’s all-time favorite celebration is the Ducasse, or as it’s commonly called: Dou Dou fest.

It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the mid 1300s. It began as a procession of carting the city’s patron saint Wadru (a woman, woo hoo) relics around the city to protect it from the plague. Legend has it that as long as the chariot with the relics makes it up the big hill, bad luck like the plague won’t happen. Throughout the years it evolved into a week-long fest that includes religious ceremonies, parties galore, parades, its own song (which is sung over and over again) and a dragon slaying. It is everything to the citizens of Mons, and it has only been cancelled during the French Revolution and both world wars — until Corona. It’s part Mardi Gras, part medieval lore, and all Montois. The irony of it being cancelled because of a pandemic must truly sting.

The streets of Mons today. This time last year there’s no way I could have gotten this close.
This is what it’s supposed to look like (pic taken from the Dou Dou Mons Facebook page)

In the overall scope of this year’s challenges, it’s not a big deal, I know. And it’s not completely forgotten.

The dou dou song is playing, people are flying the Dou Dou flags, and locals are doing their own thing. Hahaha like this family, who decided to parade their own dragon for slaying.

Police are patrolling on foot and horse to ensure social distancing is in place. The Belfry is now also playing the Dou Dou song. The Collegial (St. Wadru’s cathedral) is also ringing bells, so despite it all, Mons is still cheering on its tradition the best it can — without all the hoopla and people, but it will happen again.

Badger is smitten with the horse patrol

And life is slowly resuming back to normal. Tomorrow we enter another phase of post lockdown. Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen with strict guidelines. On June 15, our borders open to neighboring countries. We’re planning whatever safe summertime fun we can get in.

On the 18th we’re going to spend 5 nights at a lovely cabin in the Ardennes (with its own swimming pool!). A friend is retiring and moving back to the states, so she’ll spend the last week of June staying with us, which will include some last-minute day trips. We’re bringing her animals to Amsterdam to be shipped back, so that means another few nights in the Netherlands (checking out cottages to book now), and then we have a few nights booked at a campground in Luxembourg. We hope to do a little camping and touring in Germany and Poland, but none of that has been booked yet. It’s difficult because we have to follow local mandates, and they’re just working all that out.

Basically, we’re trying to book in some peace and serenity while the world shakes around us. We’re also still waiting on the arrival of our new car, so there’s new and old mixing in with all the different levels of uncertainty and upheaval.

Happy Sunday everyone! And Bon Ducasse to the people of Mons.

we scare me…

We’re pretty sure one of those murder hornets flew into our living room last night. It was big and loud with a stinger that weighed it down, so it flew with its weapon dragging. It was slow and bulky, but it still scared the bejesus out of us — even Badger backed the eff up and decided to scootch his ass to the way back of the room, lol looking at Joe like “go get him boy.” Luckily it was at the top of our window area behind our sheer curtains, so we (aka Joe) were able to move it down to the open part of the window and swoosh it out. It’s someone else’s nightmare now.

Literary me considers that my sign, my symbol, my metaphor, my whatever you want to call it for where we are today. Threats are real, and they have the potential to sting us all. But, they can also be pushed away (I guess we could have killed it, but we have this thing against killing bugs, UNLESS they’re mosquitoes, ants, cockroaches or fruit flies, then it’s game on — and yeah I recognize the flaw in our logic). That said murder hornets are real in a world where bees are dying.

I read headlines from several news organizations daily. I do this for balance and to help me understand what’s fueling mankind’s divide. Many times I have to tell inner me to shut the eff up when blatant bias attacks my point of view (I don’t get so angry when it belittles the other side: human nature). I remind myself that I have to see all sides to understand the big picture, but why must there still be more than one side when it comes to race? We are all mankind, and there’s plenty of insanity for us to kill each other over, why in the hell are we still destroying us over the color of our blossoms? Why are we imposing our fear and anger toward a particular type of person? Personification was not created for this.

Yesterday, news outlets around the world reported on the protests taking place. Many focused on the riots and looting, some focused on the cause, some posted about those creating mayhem simply because they want the mayhem and couldn’t give two shits about the cause (well probably because, in part, they are the cause), some focused on the good that can happen when sides come together and protest a common enemy (bigotry is the bastard that harms us all), and then there were those who lived to fuel the political divide.

I’ve lost the story, but one outlet’s lead story yesterday was headlined something like this: Big-city dems allow riots during pandemic.

What in the fuckity fuck? Thousands are banning together — during a pandemic — because they are beyond being pissed and betrayed. They’re either naive about the virus, or they’ve decided the risk was worth being heard, or a combo of both. This has absolutely nothing to do with your political leanings. You are certainly not a racist if you are Republican, but you could be a racist and a Republican (or Democrat for that matter). No one ‘allowed’ the protests to happen; that, for better or worse, is an American freedom. Just ask the folk who protested lockdown and having to wear masks to protect others.

Police brutality is real. Does that mean all or most police officers are racist pigs who don’t give a shit about what their badge is supposed to represent? Of course not. In my heart of hearts, I believe the opposite. I believe the angry idiots who lose their shit are the minority (and I do not like associating that word with any race — it means the least amount). By admitting we have a problem, is that saying that violent black criminals have the right to maim and terrorize because of their black card (whatever the fuck that is — as if being black actually gave you more advantages)? Of course not. Angry, violent people are angry, violent people who need to be dealt with. And, sadly, it appears we deal with angry, violent people differently based on ethnicity. Sure we could say it’s just more visible because of cameras, and yes they too can portray bias, but whatever the reason: we’ve got a lot of pissed off people who don’t mind harming others. Some feel they are allowed to get away with it simply because of the color of their foliage.

And that is where we are today: angry, violent people. Mostly though we’re just rightfully angry. Most of us are not violent. We prefer to avoid harming ourselves or others. We don’t want all of this hatred. We really don’t, but we are afraid. And we should be, our species is as evil as it is good.

Our story includes the hate, the inequality, the greed of mankind. It is part of who we are — let’s acknowledge that without making up excuses and figure out how to grow past it, so that we can work on our other mutual threats (let’s not forget that Mother Nature is also rightfully disappointed and angry with all of us). Our story also includes amazing moments of love, acceptance and the fight for humanity — let’s embrace that because it’s the only reason we are real and still exist.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this except that I’m reflecting and sharing because, well, I don’t know why. Do my words matter in the overall scope of things? Probably not, but I guess I hope that we’re all going beyond the superficial statements that bring us back to finger pointing and blame, which brings us back to fear and anger, which brings us back to fighting each other. I say this while knowing full and well that people’s fatigue and anger over being disenfranchised are also very, very real and rightfully so (please don’t rebut with but ‘they’ don’t have the right to ruin property…. I don’t condone violence against anyone in any shape or form, so I’m not saying that’s okay; I’m saying people are allowed to be angry; we’ve treated each other badly for too long of a time). Typing this is my conversation with myself while also including others because I guess that’s how we move forward. Okay, so I know it’s more than that. It’s being heard and understood, which requires work from all of us.

I’m finally beginning to understand the ending of Fahrenheit 451 where Montag realizes that an eternity of time staring into a mirror is as important as remembering our words. Knowledge without reflection and growth is worthless. What have we learned throughout our history? What will we do with it?

Meanwhile that murder hornet we pushed back outside is still lurking about out there with his weapon dragging.

Happy Birthday to me…whoops meant to finish this yesterday

Time to add another ring to my circles.  Originally I said I’d want to do something big for my 55th since I didn’t do anything major on my 50th (although it was celebrated at a Syrian chicken place in the Middle East, so not necessarily a normal birthday for an American — and I bet it’s archived somewhere in here), but well Corona took care of that.  We had 4 friends come over on Saturday and had a wonderful time with them (you cannot have more than 4 people over, and it has to be the same 4 people who allow you into their homes — basically pick a circle of 4 to hang with), and three of my friends will sit out back with us tonight — with our lawn chairs safely spread apart. (since this a day later:  they did come over and we enjoyed a lovely bottle of champagne with lots of sunshine and a lovely Spring breeze).

So, while not a big celebration year (and yet still perfect), this is my first year on the planet celebrating a birthday during a pandemic, so there’s that.  And I’m pretty damned happy that neither I nor any of my loved ones have gotten it.  Although my sister, a nurse in Virginia, did get really ill; she tested negative twice, and she’s on the mend.

Some of the things I see on my daily walks. LOL the bicycle seems to be a victim of the Rona.

I haven’t been writing much because, well, there’s not a whole lot to report.  We’ve taken a lot of walks, and I’m now on a routine of taking an hour walk during my lunch breaks. We’ve shared a lot of treats with friends within walking distance — lol mainly my friends baking and sharing with us, but I’ve cooked a few meals or side dishes.

One of several video meals with friends.

And, we’re currently car shopping since the mechanic went back to work last week and, sadly, told us our car was finished. We’ve watched a lot of t.v. — a LOT — lol and will continue watching more.   I’ve finished up two courses and am close to finishing up another, so finally I’ll be able to read books for fun — woo hoo.  School will be out in a few weeks, and it feels surreal.  There’s no end-of-year excitement for me.  I think the kids and I just want it to end, so that, hopefully, we can look forward to brick-and-mortar learning again (one day!).

Since we’re hopeful that Belgium will allow residents to travel more within its borders, we booked a cabin in the Ardennes for mid-June (after school officially finishes).  Fingers crossed we can actually go to it.  LOL cars are currently cruising our street blasting techno music — guess the kids gotta get their summer music festival feel however they can.  And, Mons is doing what it can to keep people’s spirits up — including providing homes with free face masks.

The Belfroi celebrated transexuals, bisexuals,

any sexuals not harassing others by bathing itself in lovely colors.

Spring is flourishing, so our balcony is a lovely place to sit, sip and stare and rumor has it borders will open June 15, so perhaps there’s hope that Joe, Badger and I can go camping or rent a cabin in the Alps or something like that — using our new vehicle.

I officially signed the loan papers for a brand new pretty blue Toyota Rav 4.  I’m a little nervous about its size since our streets and garage are small, but it’ll fit.  LOL a compact SUV is gigantic over here, so pray I don’t scrape up its sides like I did on our ‘normal’ sized VW Golf.  I have no idea when we’ll actually get the car — sometime in June perhaps.  It’s not like in the states where you get your new car the day you buy it.  But, I’ll be sure to post a pic when she arrives.

Overall life is going along well despite the nastiness around us.  I have my grumpy days where I’m just super annoyed at everything, but then again I also get to work every day braless and in my jammies —- shhh don’t tell the kids.  When/if things ever go back to normal I’m going to be grumpy that I have to groom and drive that pretty vehicle in traffic.  I do treasure my walks, time on balcony and video chats with family and friends.  And, I never forget how lucky I am to have all of this.  Well it’s time for me to get back to work and by 4 p.m. I’ll be back on my balcony sipping nature’s nectar.  Cheers and Happy We’re Still Healthy and Alive Day to you all!

p.s. I forgot to post Belgium virus numbers — gotta keep the tally posting until this thing ends:    55, 559 confirmed cases; 9080 dead BUT only 147 new cases and 28 deaths reported for May 17th. Yeah I know it still sucks that people are dying, but as of today in Belgium it’s at a much lower rate.  Fingers crossed with relaxing measures it stays that way.  While I’ll always say yes to a second wave of wine, it’s hell no to any more virus waves.

Week: what week is this?

Time to garden…

It’s the final day of my spring break, and now it feels like it went by as quickly as it always does.  We’re still on lockdown.  It’s been extended to May 3, our travel ban (from work) has been extended to June 30, with the statement that it could change for better or worse.  Some restrictions are lifting:  more stores are allowed to open, provided distancing measures are taken, and work is discussing post-lockdown strategies, but, of course, none of us knows how long any of this will last.  What we do know is it’s not ending tomorrow.

Belgium’s daily hospital admittance numbers are going down (whew!), but people are still dying.  As of noon today, our numbers are:  38,496 confirmed cases, 5,683 dead.  That’s a lot more than where we were just a month ago, but for the past few days more Coronavirus patients have left the hospital (healed) than have entered, so that’s a very good sign — one we all want to see continue.

I post those numbers for posterity’s sake — one day I’ll look back at this and either go whew! we did okay (relatively speaking; I’m sure those left mourning disagree), or shit that was just phase one.  Only time will tell.  It’s a waste for me to bitch about what frustrates me most about where things are today, but I do want to say to those people at home who are protesting stay-at-home measures or flocking to beaches — stay the eff away from my loved ones. I totally get your frustrations, and I type this knowing I’m lucky that financially I have not yet been bit by this bug (except for my retirement savings plans), but for God’s sake rallying in a crowd isn’t going to help anyone.  Oh I so badly want to vent about the politics of our pandemic, but that is where we are at this phase in our evolution and you guys don’t need me adding any more frustrated venting to it all.  May we all (idiots included) get through this.

Okay enough on what I cannot control. Let’s get back to Spring and pretty things.   This is my happy place, so poof away to the uglies.

I’ve been a productive little beaver and a total couch potato at the same time.  In the past two weeks, I’ve polished off two three credit literature courses.  I’ve read Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, Theodore Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise (an education reform book), Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Jenette Winterson’s Written on the Body, completed a massive amount of reading comprehension questions, written a few essays and completed a week’s worth of lessons for a book I will not teach this year (maybe next year).  I am done with being a student, and my students will be spared essays for the next week or two — but poor babies will get work.  Well, I’m not completely done because I’ve also joined an online class for teachers going online (see the different layers this corona world is taking us!).

I thought Easter would be a bit of a bummer, but it turned out to be a nice day. We baked a ham, roasted garlic potatoes, made cornbread and ate in the balcony room.  Afterwards we watched Andrea Bocelli’s Easter concert on Youtube, and to keep things classy we watched the Tiger King extra episode — no way near as touching as Bocelli’s music to the backdrop of empty cities around the world, but I’m glad to see the characters I liked seemed to all be doing well, but ahem so were the losers (well except for Mr. Fancy Pants whose still in jail).  To top it all off we got to video conference with all three of my kids, and I got to see Torin tearing up his parents living room.  I am so bummed I won’t get to chase that little monster around the pool this summer, but we’ll play again soon.

We’re also still doing things with friends, but differently.  One friend loves to bake and then bring us treats, another loves to barbecue and bring us brisket, others are cooking a Thai feast next weekend, so we walk our little portion of the hood, hang out our windows to yell small talk, and bring each other treats.  It’s our own version of Halloween and Hollywood Squares.

A perk to the pandemic is that we’re discovering Mons more.  Thanks to friends of ours we’ve found our way to pastoral hills and country walks.  A 15-minute walk takes you to a whole other side of the non-city portion, and it’s loaded with trails and trees. It’s been amazing walking and enjoying these trails.  We’ve also walked around the nearby lake and canals, which I’ll include in my next blog post.  But, for now, I’ll leave with you some pics of the beauty that surrounds the city.  Dinner is almost done, so time for me to go and feast.  Oh, Badger also had some words to share on his blog.  If you’re bored go to BadgerDoesBelgium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3

Rue du Onze Novembre applauding the essentials.  I don’t know why it’s sideways.

It’s Friday — woo hoo, so what.  Yesterday I completed my 10th day of online classes. The kids and I are making the best out of it, but of course it’s not the same. I did get to have a few educator friends join my classes for a fun guest day (so that was cool).  Today is a meeting/office day, meaning I catch up on meetings with colleagues and students who need extra help.  My front guest room AKA my closet (with a daybed for when I need all 4 bedrooms) is now my classroom.  It won’t be next week because it’s cramped and uncomfortable.  That was part of my plan, so I’d move around more in between virtual sessions.  But, I quickly grew to dread going in there as much as I used to dread waking up Monday mornings.

If the kids only knew what I looked like from the neck down

Oh wait … next week is Spring Break.  Normally, I’m so excited for my two-week escape from it all, but now I’m here, in my apartment (thank God it’s a lovely place).  We’d escape to the Ardennes or a Belgian beach, but that’s also not allowed (and they have the police and fines to back it up).  Technically, I should be writing this from my hotel room in Ireland since I should have landed there late last night.  Good news is no hangover for me today, which I’m almost certain would have been the case as well.

Again I’m very well aware that I am one of the lucky ones.  Belgium’s numbers are now 16,770 confirmed; 1,143 dead, including a 12-year old girl.  As you all know globally there have now been more than one million confirmed cases and more than 54,000 deaths.  The U.S. and Europe are racking up some numbers, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Joe and I, our loved ones and our friends are all still healthy — a bit more pudgy with less muscle tone, but healthy nonetheless — and we have plenty of food, water, toilet paper and internet to keep us going.  I’m also finally working on two online classes I signed up for last school year.  I’ll finish one of them this weekend, and then I’ll dive into the other.  There’s another course I’ve also signed up for, so I’ll be busy building those last few credits I need for a bit of a bump in my salary.  Oh and that’s another thing I’m super grateful for:  I’m still getting paid.

My big plans for this weekend are to take more silly pics of Badger, so that I can finally post something new on his blog. A friend is loaning us her car (ours is so lonely at the mechanic’s), so that Joe can go to the commissary to buy more American comfort food.  We’re also planning on a long walk around the lake near Mons on Sunday.  We’re hoping Badger can do this — he has his good and bad days, so we’ll see. Since we’re not allowed to use park benches anymore (the parks and benches were sealed off with police tape last weekend) there will be no more sit and rest breaks for the poor boy.  The weather has been beautiful.  This past week was cold, below freezing at night, but oh my goodness the sun has been out every damned day. She just waves at us while we drool on our windows.  Our local memes remind us that as soon as the lockdown is over we’ll go back to rainy days.

While it’s awesome that we’re allowed to go for walks and runs, it’s, sadly, not as enjoyable as you would think.  It’s good to get out, don’t get me wrong.  But, every time we leave the house the threat of coming into contact with the virus is very real.  Sometimes strangers just come up too close to you — it’s rare, but it happens.  Sometimes we touch things and forget to wash our hands before touching our face.  Sometimes we bring the groceries into the house and remember oh shit we should have washed off the packaging before putting food away.

I’d also give anything for a case of lysol disinfectant spray, so that I could de-germinize my couches.  Hell, Badger is one big swifty mop every time he goes for a walk.  How much is attaching itself to him? He coughed the other day and we were all oh no, did we give him the virus?  Turns out the hoover choked on his own hair and doggy biscuits.  These are the things we stress over now (again no where near the truly horrible things others must stress over).

On the bright side there are the 8 pm applauses on the street, my teddy lamb is in the window for any kids who might look up to the third floor, happy hour video chats are happening, and I’m reading/philosophizing the fuck out of my reading corner.  So all is well, even if one day is beginning to blend into the other — technically that’s always been the case; I was just always too busy to notice before.

And, since I’m eternally optimistic, I do look forward to the fun things I get to do.  Speaking of which it’s about time for me to make a refreshing gin and tonic to get ready for our zoom Friday happy hour.

Bon Weekend!

 

 

Week Two…

The Mons monkey masked up and ready to take on our germs

Well I’m in my second week of self isolation.  Last week began our first week of teaching online.  The goal was for us to teach from school while the kids stayed home.  That changed last Wednesday when Belgium went into lockdown at noon.  By last Thursday we were teaching our first online classes from our living rooms.  By 3 p.m. that Friday our borders closed.  I am now living at a time where the police will pull you over if you have more than one person in a car, and you better have a good reason for being on the road. Fines are steep for those who get caught tempting fate.  Not a problem for us since my car died last week, and, well, it’s now in auto isolation at the mechanic’s until the lockdown phase passes.

It’s all good, we’ve got nowhere to go anyway.  Luckily the grocery store is within walking distance as are the parks, but don’t make the mistake of loitering in the park either.  The police will find and fine you.  People are dying, and Belgium is finally taking this seriously (we were all resistant to doing so at first because hello?  cafe sipping is Life — until it no longer is).

We are allowed to go for a walk or run, and Badger still gets his walks, but we can only go with a person we live with (or alone), and we need to keep our distance from others.  Wouldn’t you know the weather has been sunny — in Belgium where it always rains, so it’s a bit of a bright middle finger from Mother Nature.

Spring says F you Corona!

I’m not complaining.  We’re up to more than 6,200 confirmed cases (in the past 24 hours almost 1,300 people tested positive) and 220 dead, which the news and officials clearly stress is an understatement since they only test the severely ill and medical professionals.  We’re obviously not alone since the whole damned world is shutting down to protect ourselves from this virus.  I worry that too many aren’t taking this seriously enough, and I pray (I’m not even the praying sort of soul) that this whole exponential growth thing doesn’t, you know, grow exponentially.  I’m not a math whiz or scientist, so I can still hold on to my hopes and dreams.

The beginning of last week I was a little excited about the teaching online thing because I mistakenly thought I’d get a lot of work done while in my classroom.  Then I got excited about the idea of teaching from home — look Ma no pants!  But, when we were told to pack up as much as we could because there’s no telling when we’ll be back, the reality of this all set in.  I might be homebound for a lot of weeks (can’t bring myself to type the possibility of months).  The probability of people I care about getting sick is quite high.  I’ve already learned about a few deaths of people who knew people I know — luckily so far no one I’m close to has been confirmed of having it. Yet.

I worry about my children.  I’m too far away from them, and I can’t tell them to come stay with me while we feast on my home cooked meals, watch movies and take dips in the pool (those days and that house are long gone).  I can’t Vics vaporize them if they get ill.  I can’t protect them from any crazy that might ensue, and I cannot pay all of them their missed salaries.  My sons work in the restaurant industry, my daughter has her own small business, and her husband is out in the public risking his health, so that his family can continue to eat.

A few nights ago Joe had a coughing fit; occasionally my head hurts a little bit. We both have runny noses.  Normally neither of these would be a concern.  It’s allergy season.  Joe could have inhaled a bug in his sleep because he hasn’t coughed since.  I’m on the computer too many hours, so hello? of course my head hurts.  I’ll be blind when this is all over with.  But yeah the what if? lingers and embeds itself as tightly as the pestilence that waits for us on door knobs and handrails.

This is what happens when teachers are forced to talk via computer screen

It doesn’t matter that most of us who get sick will recover — if any of us gets sick we will still stress.  Sure most of us will be able to nurse ourselves at home, but what if we’re of that percentage that needs intensive care?  None of us wants to drown in our own mucus, or cry home alone while our loved ones suffer. Joe and I (and many of our friends) have the added perk of not knowing much French, so communicating our ailments won’t be easy.  So yeah it’s a scary time for all, even if we crack jokes and minimalize any potential symptoms we might get.  Plainly put: this sucks.

But, it’s not all bad either.  I do so enjoy my morning commute, and I’m adapting.  My students and I still have our own learning vibe going (I do so miss working face-to-face with them, but their personalities still shine through).  I’m keeping track of the kids that don’t talk so much via our virtual sessions, so that I can check in on them one on one later.  We’re all coming up with ways to make this more fun.  And, we’re remembering to remind people we care and that they matter — and they us.

 

We’re learning how to reevaluate our time, our presence, our what we have.  My favorite memes are the ones that remind us that the only thing we have to do to save the world is to stay home — while still having food, all the joys of the Internet and our creativity (OMG keep it up you silly fools with all your stay-at-home antics.  Have you guys seen the one where a couple does their own thing to a Horse with No Name?).

And Badger is learning Shakespeare!

LOL I’m planning a photo shoot for Badger this weekend, so he can have fun being humiliated on his blog.  A girl has gotta take a break from HBO, video and email chats, and online learning or teaching.

So, all of this will eventually pass, and we will all learn something from it — hopefully more good than bad.  For those of us who will not get through this unscathed, know that we are all rooting for you (and ourselves) and blasting you with healthy, cheery, love-filled vibes.  It’s all we have to offer — along with keeping our fat asses at home on the couch.

Stay safe everyone, and do your best to keep your home filled with positive, cheerful things.  Our grocery store still sells fresh cut flowers, so our dining room table is blooming with life and color.  If I could, I’d buy you all a little of the same.  Hang in there, Humans.  We’ve got this (even if it feels like we don’t).

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