Category Archives: Belgium Year One

A Nightmare with a happy ending


If Badger had fingers, this might have been his gesture…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, which is a shame because Joe and I have done some cool stuff since he landed.  I’ve been overwhelmed with life, work and things that just go wrong.

I’ll get back to all of the good stuff — luckily my life overfloweth with good shit — but this post is going to be all about Badger’s wild ride.  United has been in the press for two doggie mishaps this week, so I’ll share what happened on our end.  Before I tell you all that went wrong it’s only fair I point out that United took full responsibility and reimbursed and refunded costs.  I truly, truly hope they take all this bad press and put it to good use.  Better training and communication would go a long way in improving pet travel.  For the folks who think we’re crazy to spend all this money flying our animals, when you adopt a dog you adopt it for life.  While it’s certainly not a human child, it is a living being that deserves to be loved and protected.  When you move long distances, you have to fly your dog.  I get that putting them in the passenger area isn’t a good idea (although we’d be totally willing to buy a seat for our dog!), but the cargo area reserved for them should be as safe and well regulated as the passenger cabins — and the people moving them should be as well trained.

Getting Badger ready for the big flight

Before flying your dog overseas there are all sorts of things that need to take place prior to takeoff — each country has its own set of rules/papers/etc.  United’s Petsafe program sent us links and attachments of what we needed to do.  As with anything else it’s also up to us to make sure we do our research, so I spent hours making sure I had everything we needed to get Badger on his first flight.  Joe spent hours combing through the links and paperwork and getting Badger to all of his appointments.  Badger is a medium-sized dog, but we bought the large traveling crate (somewhere between $100 and $200) months in advance to get him used to it.  We made sure he could stand without his ears or head touching the ceiling, could turn in circles without touching the sides, etc. etc.  It took Joe a few weeks to get the dog to go into the crate on his own — lol, um, he used a piece of laundry I accidentally left in hamper.   Imagine my son-in-law’s horror months later when he discovered an old pair of my panties in the kennel (my husband’s training methods are not recommended).

Joe even got Badger used to riding in the crate, so that he wouldn’t be afraid come flight day.

Long story longer:  Joe got Badger chipped with the right chip, inoculated, trained for travel, got all the paperwork to vet to be filled out and sent to FDA to certify (vet cost:  $270 plus another $200 for the paperwork visit; $35 for FDA certification; $90 for UPS overnight).

The paperwork part is stressful.  For Europe the dog has to fly within 5 days of owner, and the paperwork needs to be certified within 10 days of dog flight, and it needs to be faxed to airline 3 business days before flight.  No problem since Badger was supposed to be on same flight as Joe, but we were stressing out on whether or not we’d meet all the deadlines.  We did.

 Badger’s first flight attempt

Joe was so happy and proud of Badger.  His friend Mike brought them to cargo 4 a.m. and the dog acted like he’s been flying all his life.  The airport and cargo didn’t phase him.  He was calm, happy and ready to go.  Cargo check-in lady goes over paperwork; it’s perfect.  Checks Badger, he’s good to go, and then decides that because there wasn’t a 3 inch clearance between the tip of Badger’s ears (the mutt has big-ass ears) and the kennel ceiling it wasn’t good enough for him, so he couldn’t go.  Joe begged, pointed out that he met the qualifications on paperwork, etc. etc.  Bitch wouldn’t budge (and I know she was just trying to do her job, but hello? This is something we needed to know beforehand, and if it was in paperwork somewhere we missed it, so it needs to be emphasized), so Mike took Badger home with him.  Joe, my big old grumpy bear, cried on his flight.

Badger’s second flight attempt

While Joe is en route, Kaylene, Kelly and I bust butt to get Badger on another flight.  Kaylene and Kelly run around town to get him an extra-large crate (around $375), which is huge (but they tie it in and drive with back open to bring to Mike’s house for assembly), and the stickers needed, etc. etc.  Mike, Joe’s friend, keeps Badger (since he has a truck) and agrees to meet them 4 a.m. at Cargo two days later.  Our paperwork is still valid.  I call customer service and ask if the scanned paperwork they have is still ok.  The answer is yes.  What I didn’t know then and I do know now is that the original paperwork is actually attached to the dog crate.  Common sense would tell you the owner should have the original paperwork to pick up the dog, which my husband had, but no: Europe regulation states it needs to be on crate — no copies.  So Badger is rejected again.  Mind you my daughter is cranky on a good day, she’s now also pregnant, so  4 a.m. isn’t exactly prime time for her.  Apparently, she saw a pregnant goat get accepted on its flight to Hawaii, which she joked was probably being sent off for slaughter.  Yep, stress has caused my girl to get all petty over a goat.  Joe’s friend was also inconvenienced  by this, but he took Badger home again, and brought Badger back to Kaylene and Kelly’s house over the weekend.

Oh, and I need to point out that since he’s now in an extra-large crate it’s too big for most flights out of Phoenix, so we can only book him on certain flights.

Badger’s third flight, he gets accepted, but more hell to come…

Our paperwork is no longer valid, so we have to go by the new deadline:  dog must fly within 48 hours of certification; certification must be overnighted to New Mexico and back.  More vet, overnight and certification costs.  We are stressed AF at this point, but we’re all doing our part.    We had to work around work schedules and a holiday, so basically Badger didn’t get to fly until 3 weeks after Joe, so his stress level is also up.  He’s an old dog, but Bingo!  He gets accepted this time.  Honest to God other dog owners with larger dogs laugh at how huge Badger’s kennel is. Ironically enough their dogs are in his former-sized kennel and they all get approved.  My daughter pays the $1,200 (of course I sent her the money) ticket, which includes an extra fee to walk, clean if necessary, feed and water him during his layover in Newark.  Oh and $50 for a Uhaul trailer to lug the kennel since neither Kaylene nor Kelly’s car could fit the new kennel in their car.

We’re told to monitor the tracking system to check on our dog’s flight progress.

Badger makes it to Newark the day before the Nor’easter hits

We’re high fiving, cheering, so damned happy our dog is finally on his way.  Tracking system reflects he’s in Newark.  I wake up Friday morning (he was supposed to land 8 a.m.) check the tracking system to see nothing has been updated.  Not worrying about it but deciding it’s best to check I call Petsafe.  I’m told my dog wasn’t put on his connecting flight because there wasn’t enough room for him in cargo — apparently $1,200 doesn’t reserve a spot?  He would be spending the night in Newark’s kennel and arriving in Brussels Saturday morning.  At this point it’s too late to cancel the van driver we hired to bring Joe to pick up Badger (our car isn’t big enough to handle his kennel), so we tip him 40 euros just for showing up and promising to come back next morning.

I go to work freaking out over my dog.  By the way, none of this is including the HOURS I’ve spent on the phone going back and forth booking Badger’s flights, etc. etc.  Luckily I have an international phone plan.

Badger is in Brussels

I’m stressed over the Nor’easter and worried that Badger’s flight will be cancelled.  I call Friday night, my time, it’s still afternoon in Newark to make sure he will indeed be put on the flight.  I’m then told he’s in Brussels.  Imagine my reaction.  I end up being on the phone for almost three hours trying to find out where in Brussels my dog is.  He’s apparently been there all day long.  Around 9 p.m. I’m told we’re just going to have to call in the morning because no one can verify exactly where my dog is.  Cargo in Brussels is telling us they don’t have the dog.  So, yeah we’re beyond belief at this time.

Saturday morning

After calls and hold time, we’re told to go to airport and begin our search for the dog at SwissAir baggage claim.  Brussels airport is packed thanks to weather flight cancellations and delays, so it’s chaotic.  Baggage claim won’t let us in without boarding passes.  The driver acts as our translator as we frantically go from one person to the next before we find a wonderful United employee who went out of her way to find Badger.  It’s almost comical the series of phone calls she went through to find him.  “Yes,” she says to us, “Customs remembers seeing your dog last night.”  Pause, and then, “but oh they don’t know where he is.”

We eventually learn he’s at “the zoo,” an all-animal kennel.  You guys are getting tired reading about all of this, but know it doesn’t end there.  We get to cargo, go into several areas before getting to the right one, and then literally spend an entire day going back and forth like idiotic pinballs going from one place to the next to dole out euros and get papers stamped.  Our driver had to leave, but his company promised to send another one when we were finished.  We arrived 8 a.m., left 4 p.m.

You see because Joe was here more than 5 days and because Badger spent the night in Brussels, Customs went all out on us.  Vet check, data put into some tracking system, etc. etc. cost another 640 euros.  I do have to put in a nice word for the folks at the kennel because they were really kind to us and Badger, and a few of them teared up in the end when we finally got to hug our “little lion,” their nickname for him.

The cost for all the time the driver had to spend with us was also 210 euros.

Badger was so stressed with a scraped nose, but OMG he was happy; we were happy.  He’s doing well.  He totally loves the apartment and city life.  That dog prances the streets of Mons like he’s been doing it all his life.  Separation anxiety is an issue, but we’re hoping it’ll get better.   He no longer freaks out when one of us leaves the room to use the bathroom.  But, we’re looking for doggie sitters so we can do things without him – until we can leave him alone without his howling.

We’re lucky our dog is okay, and we’re getting back the money we spent, but so much of this could have been avoided had the people in baggage, cargo and customer service communicated to each other better.

My opinion is with all the cost cutting, technology mainstreaming companies/governments do they forget the simple act of making sure their different departments/vendors freaking connect with each other.  The reason Petsafe couldn’t verify where Badger was because baggage took him versus cargo, and then he got sent off to kennel, but no one logged it.  No one thought to call the Belgian number listed on the papers on his crate.  Why?  The reason Petsafe didn’t know Badger was put on his original connecting flight was because the plane returned for a technical issue and someone put him on that plane, but no one thought to log it.   Why?

So, maybe this whole pet transportation crisis is a symptom of something much bigger in our society.  In our rush to mainstream we’re forgetting some of the basics.  Or, maybe it’s all just plain effed up.  Who knows?  All I know is Badger is officially now a Belgium hound!


Our dog hitting the parks and pubs like a pro!


Joe is here; Badger not yet.

Woo hoo Joe made it on Monday.  I would’ve typed up something sooner, but it’s a mixed welcome.  I’ll write more about the downside of this all after Badger gets here, but long story short the airline refused to let him on the flight because there wasn’t a full three inch clearance from the tip of his ears to top of crate, despite the fact that he could easily stand, turn around, etc. in the crate like their website said needed to be the case.

Devastated, Joe rushed to catch his plane.  What he didn’t know is that while he was flying here, I (with Kaylene and Kelly’s help) already bought a bigger kennel and rebooked Badger to leave Wednesday morning.  What I didn’t know (nor did I know it was an issue) was that Joe had Badger’s original papers on him, which prevented Badger from being allowed onto second flight.  Now we need to redo paperwork because it’s no longer valid.  So inshallah the dog makes his big flight next week.  Trust me I have some venting to do, so more will be written in here and to the company.


Joe waiting on his dog!

As for Joe being here it’s surreal.  He retired a week ago, and it still hasn’t sunk in that he’s not here on vacation, visiting his wife.  We’ve taken lots of walks, inhaled quite a bit of beer, visited Brussels, got him in-processed at base, and lol netflixed and chilled.  I’m very happy to have my man home.   Monday I go back to work, so the ‘normal’ life will begin.


Badger at Joe’s friend Mike’s house waiting to join us.  Thank God for good friends and family!  Between Joe’s friend and Kaylene and Kelly running around all over Phoenix for us at ungodly hours, Badger will finally, eventually, hopefully make it here.

And here’s a few random Belgium shots (Brussels, Gent and Mons) to keep the vacation vibe going

Happy Whatevs…


Just checking in to let the folks back home know everything is peachy over here.  I had started to write something on Sunday, but I was too busy sipping kir royals and dancing around my place while cooking up a stew (in my purple Le Creuset that I bought at the factory in France — hahaha other girls can have their Channel and Dior, I’m all about cookware you could pull a muscle lifting), catching up with friends and doing mundane Sunday-type things — and perfectly happy doing so!

I also made some new friends and had a last-minute happy hour at my place, which was a lot of fun.  I’ve been humiliating myself at Zumba, and I’ve been pushing my students with literary theory, WW1 research and, oh my goodness, even attempting a little literary analysis, with the lower level ESL kids, which is cruel of me, but we all seem to be enjoying (notice how I convince myself they’re liking it too) multi-level thinking and discussions.  I love this shit.  So all is right in my world.

I won’t be watching tonight’s State of the Union because, well, I’ll be sleeping when it takes place, and I want to stay on the ‘expanding our minds’ track, plus the odds are it’ll just pull me out of my happy place — but I could be wrong.  Here’s to hoping I am!

And onto even bigger news: Joe and Badger arrive in LESS than two weeks.  This living in Belgium thing is happening for them soon too!  Since it’s pre-work hours, I’ll have to raise my coffee (and save the champagne glass for much, much later) to celebrating whatever it is that makes us all happy.  Here’s to the normal-day things that make life peachy!


Oh Bachus and his magic with produce…


Guess which lucky girl got to go to Epernay (self proclaimed Champagne capital), France this weekend?


And guess who got to sample a few glasses?

I know there are all sorts of scary, bad things going on in our lil shithole world, but I am not going to let any of that dampen my time in the land of glorious food, wine, beer (another Bachus miracle) and champagne.  It is 2018, and I’m no longer moving in or settling in to my new school, I’m in the thick of it and finally getting the chance to breathe and appreciate all of it — including the rare moments of actual sunlight (she’s danced quite a bit with us this weekend).   In less than 30 days (can you believe?!!) Joe and Badger join me, and then a little after that spring kicks in, and, well, there’s just so much for us to enjoy.  Thank you to all the powers that be for the gift of now and where I get to live, work and play.

Epernay is less than a 3 hour drive from Mons.  It’s an easy route (especially when you’re not the one driving), and great to do in the winter because it’s not crowded.  Since I’m blessed to get to meet and befriend wonderful people, I had a great time with my bubbly-sipping crew.  We laughed, sipped, ate, shopped and learned a lot.  I appreciate champagne more now that I know more about its process.  Perhaps during the summer Joe and I can visit the actual orchards too.

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And look at all of those glorious bottles just sucking up dust and time waiting for their champagne to be born…


As for other news my house is officially sold.  On January 4 a new family’s name went on its title.  I was surprised at how sad I was that day.  Had a good cry and mourned the passing of the place where I raised my children, but let’s be fair I raised my children in several places, that one was just where we lived the longest.  And our bond doesn’t end just because the house most of us haven’t lived in for a while is gone.  The next day I perked up when I saw the money in my account and realised, for now (you know it won’t last), I’m debt free.  The stresses in my life are no longer connected to bills, and I so hope to keep it that way!

Oh, and I also got my new spiffy iPhone for Christmas (Thanks Santa Joe), so enjoying having a phone that works quickly.  I’m learning to play with its camera too, but I still prefer an actual camera to the phone thing.  That said a phone is more convenient for tours and stuff.  When Joe gets here we’ll go on hiking trips where I can play with my Nikon and whatnot (sadly my Sony died), so life is transitioning back to normal again.

Of course there’s so much more going on — I’ve had some great meals, great times with friends, great experiences with students and the not-so great stuff like jet lag and wearing the wrong footwear on a cold rainy day.

Tried this tasty French appetiser Oeufs en Meurette.  It’s a poached egg in a red wine sauce (beans, meat and mushroom stew).  I’m on a mission to visit Le Creuset (yeah I know Staub was this restaurant’s choice) in France to buy my own dutch oven and little cute stew serving dishes, so that I can start making some of these dishes on my own.

To counter all my imbibing I’m also joining a Zumba class and attempting to use the gym on base.  God help me it’s all about the balance.

As for all of you who plan on visiting, Mama has goodies waiting for you…


It’s the most wonderful time of the year!


Photo by Leslie Shinaver — if Santa gives me a new iPhone for Christmas I could start snapping away again!  Shhh he doesn’t need to know I’m too lazy to whip out the Nikon.
More photos by Leslie.  Xmas market in Mons —- and yes I look like a gremlin while she’s rocking the eskimo look.

First off … IT’S SNOWING REAL SNOW!!!!  This might not be big news to most of you, but to me it’s Miracle On November 11 street!  I’ve lived in a desert for the past 17 years.  I almost killed myself jumping out of bed to run out to my balcony to catch flakes.  I hope it keeps snowing and snowing and snowing, but, um not enough to mess me up driving to work tomorrow — unless, of course, it brings my first-ever snow day.  I’ve been told not to hold my breath on that one, but a girl can dream.  Whoop whoop it’s snowing and it’s Christmasy, and I have lots of food and wine, and, and lol I’m a happy girl.  Okay on to  updating le life in Belgium.

My apartment is looking fashionably cozy, but I haven’t had much time to snuggle up amongst the candles and faux fur blankies.  I’ve been busy, busy, busy having fun.  The past two weekends I spent with friends in Waterloo — feasting, sipping, brocante (flea market) shopping, brewery touring, Christmas marketing.

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Some apartment shots for you to show that yes, my life is real here … it’s all coming together!

I also joined friends for a day in the Flanders region, sipping/buying Trappist beer and then touring a lovely Flanders winery (bought some of that too!).  LOL I’ve turned my dishwasher into a wine cabinet.  Easy access until Joe arrives, and then it’ll revert to its original purpose.  Guess I just need to find me a nifty wine cabinet in one of the many brocantes I plan on visiting.


Baby wine hibernating in Flanders…

As for Joe arriving, we have a date.  LOL Badger’s ticket got booked first — with ‘kennel club’ access — and then Joe (with squished economy seat club access).  My buddha bellied, snoring, luv muffins arrive 9 a.m. February 12.  That is just nine weeks away!

This time next week my buddha bellied self will be in Phoenix with all of my luv muffins. So, again I’ve got lots to be happy about.  This year is winding down quickly.

OOOHhhhh and I totally forgot to mention that — drum roll please …..  I’m finally posting all of this on my own, personal wifi.  Fourth time is a charm!  I have internet, cable and a land line phone (which I can use to call home in the evenings).  Whoop!  whoop.  I’ve also been driving my own car for two weeks.  I’m all legit now and in two months I’ll no longer be doing it solo.

I’ve got friends coming over later, so I probably should stop goofing off on my comfy chair and, you know, clean and cook for company.  Happy Sunday everyone!

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More Belgian sites and holiday cheer.  I swear one day I’ll get better at organising pics for you …


Plenty to be thankful for…

This is my fourth year away from family on Thanksgiving, and while it is hard there is still so much that I am grateful for.

  • There are always people willing to take you in and share their food, wine and laughter with.  I’ve been invited to all kinds of fun activities tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday — there is no time to get lonely, pining for family time (but oh what I would give to be with Joe and the kids today).
  • I’m surrounded by giving, good people.  My neighbors upstairs are moving back to the states, and you would not believe how much great stuff they have given me.  You know how I’ve been stressing over getting a bed delivered;  no need.  They gave me a fantastic king-sized one, a dining room table, fans, lights, small appliances, the list goes on.  I cannot believe how lucky I am.  All they asked is I give back to someone else, and they’re fans of Grandma’s Closet (or is it attic?), so a donation in their honour will be made.  I hope it’ll help pull someone else through a tough transition like their gifts have helped lift my spirits!

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Just a taste of what I’ve been lucky to receive!

  • I’m driving my car!  I got my tags earlier this week, and it’s so much more fun to drive than the Twingo.
  • I think I’m getting Internet/cable service next week — my hope is that typing this will make it so.
  • I have my health; Joe and the kids have their health; every one is doing well.
  • Life is good.

I’m also on the continent of Christmas markets, which are budding all over the place.  I went with some friends to the one in Lille, France (only an hour drive away!), going to the one in Brussels next weekend, and the weekend after that the one in Mons is opening, so mulled wine, gingerbread and all sorts of goodies galore!

In a few weeks I head home to see the family for Christmas, and then the countdown for Joe and Badger’s move begins.   It’s finally all coming together as it always does, and that might just be the best thanksgiving of all.


Badger finally cool with his kennel.  LOL don’t know how cool he’ll be with it on that long flight, but we’ll cross that bridge in February.

I hope you’re all enjoying time with your loved ones, and I promise to post more soon — just a little busy with work, finishing up the move-here process and play.

When a rainy day gives you closures, you make belly-pleasing adventures

Yesterday Belgium celebrated the name of my street — okay, not the street or its name (Onze Novembre), but the date since it commemorates the day WW1 ended on paper.

Most stores are closed on Sunday, so a friend and I planned a shopping day for Saturday. We had it all planned out, meet for breakfast, hit Ikea (yes I AM a glutton for punishment), the mall, other household stores, etc., etc.  It was going to be our apartment decorating day.  What we found was locked doors and Ferme signs all over the big-chain establishments.

Belgium takes its memorials serious, so employers take heed.  Who wants to shop on a day off anyway?  I wasn’t happy about this at first, but we strolled on down to a cafe I assumed would be open since it caters to English-speaking folk (although of course they’ve got the French down pat too).  Hahaha a coffee house named after Texas and run by a southern man, who I’m assuming is from Texas.  I love going to local places, and, for the most part, I’m all about imbibing in the local flavour and saving my Americanisms for when I’m home, but this weekend I needed to have my first cup of coffee where I didn’t need to point and pantomime, and it was awesomeness.

Turns out a lot of privately owned places were open.  The Belgium bakery two or three doors up from the Texas place was also open, and I’ve been told that place is wonderful too (so it’s on my list).  When we finished eating, we stopped into what we thought was a wine shop to learn it sells only beers.  The owner is a lovely woman who works hard to find the right beer for you.  We ended up spending quite a bit of time there and got some Christmas shopping done.  If you’re ever in Mons, stop by Cave a Biere on Rue d’ Havre (a street that juts off the Grand Place, Infotel hotel is on it — everything else I mentioned is there too).  Something tells me I’ll be a regular at this little speciality shop/bar.

The Fromagerie was also open, so heck yeah Mama bought some specialty cheeses.  I love that I live in a place that has stores dedicated solely to cheese — with bakeries to boot.  My two biggest weaknesses (well besides wine) have their own stores!

The Grand Place was loaded up with carnival rides and games for kids, so despite the rain everything smelled like roasting sugary goodness, which makes you hungry no matter how much you already have in your belly, so we ate again at a little place off some other road. That one wasn’t as great as our other stops, but we still had a good time.

We even got lost and ended up at the park near the Belfry, which has beautiful views of the city.  I purposefully have not gone to any of Mons’ main attractions, The Belfry being one of them, because I’m saving touring those with Joe when he arrives.  But woo hoo there are so many hidden gems in this city that I get to discover.

Soooo, my rainy Saturday didn’t earn the cube shelves I want for my living room, but it turned out way, way, way better.  Later on today, I go to another friend’s house for curry pumpkin soup and more goodies — yeah, I know my buddha belly is never going away.

As for all the other stuff going on:  my furniture did arrive last week (woo hoo), my cable/Internet did not (boo hoo), my car still looks great parked waiting for its tags, it’s getting chilly and I’m loving winter fashion, work is still great, my apartment is coming along (will post pics when I’m finished decorating), oh and I got to visit my relatives in Germany last week.  I LOVE that all I have to do to travel is walk to train station, get to airport, land and then hop on a train again — it’s so, so easy.  LOL although, lugging a suitcase up the cobblestone hill that leads to my place is a bit of a cardio workout.

So all is well, and my weekends are booking up with all sorts of holiday festivities, and then before you know it I’ll be home baking cookies and sipping bevies with my kids, Joe and Arizona friends.  This year is flying by!

p.s. my crappy old phone (it’s a 3 in its series) has been annoying me forever.  It’s insane, I know, but I’m wasting my hard-earned euros and buying the iPhone X soon —— soooooooooooo, better pics will be posting in the near future.





Escargot progress…

rain drops

Raindrops keep blocking the view of my basil plant in kitchen window — now try singing that to raindrops keep falling on my head; twas difficult typing it to that tune.  Yep, I’m even off key when I type sing.

It’s a lovely cool, rainy Sunday morning.  The perfect day for me to assemble another Ikea puzzle after I sip coffee, read and write a bit.  I’m all snuggled up on my comfy, corner yellow chair and embracing the fact that I have the next week off.  Normally, I’d book a weeklong adventure, but my big shipment from America is coming tomorrow, the plumber is coming tomorrow, and allegedly the Internet guy.  May it all pan out the way I hope it should!  I am going to visit my family in Germany later in the week though, and I’m sooooo looking forward to that.

So, I bought a car on Friday.  A cute little 2009 VW Golf diesel from a really nice Frenchman who also works on the base.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in buying a used car.  He did everything he was supposed to; I got it insured and did everything I was supposed to, and we met at the admin building to register the car in my name (something the previous owner did not have to stay for, but he did to help me out).  I feel great about buying this car.  Are you sensing a hiccup?  Yep.  Two numbers were wrong on the VIN number on my insurance card, “Sorry Madame, you must come back Monday with correct number on card.”  Monday is a busy day!  My car rental is the equivalent of $600 a month, and I just paid a few thousand for this ‘new’ car, so you can imagine I’m not liking the evaporating euros.  That said I wouldn’t be able to drive the car this weekend anyway because it has to sit in the parking lot until my tags arrive 5 to 15 days from when it’s registered.  Temporary tags do not exist here.  So, what’s an extra weekend?  I was never meant to save money anyway.  C’est la vie

     Before:  And Twingo is its Nameoh! Le rental.              After:  my poor baby waiting for me to rev her.

In September I went to a salon to get my hair done, which turned out to be worse than letting the roots grow out on their own, so my hair has been part witch, part “can you spare a coin?”  It’s a good thing I smile a lot because people would have run from me otherwise.  Anyway a coworker and new friend suggested I try her place out, which is in some god-knows-where village.  I met my friend 7:30 yesterday morning to follow her through the woods, the deathtrap construction, even alongside a canal, to the lil shop on the side of some curvy road.  Who in the hell does hair that early on a Saturday?  Turns out she needs to begin that early because this little shop gets busy, busy, busy, and for good reason.

Not only is the stylist known for her talent, but also the place is just what stressed out women need on a Saturday morning.  Her adorable attendants pamper you, while she works her magic (although Jill, my stylist in Arizona, and Gina, my stylist in Al Ain, if you girls are reading, you’re still my faves).  One guy takes my coat and serves me a Starbucks-worthy cappuccino, the other makes two sisters giggle and pretend orgasm (maybe it was real) while he massages their scalps.  Speaking of which, those two sisters didn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much French, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time together — and I dare say they were two sexy mamas when they left the place.

There are two tables.  One where we women sit together while our colors are painted on; the other divided by a mirror where the stylist cuts and styles our hair — it’s sort of like a beauty salon whack a mole; she finishes one of us and another pops into a chair.  Meanwhile women cackle and tsk, tsk over the stories of their lives.  It’s the perfect set up, and my GPS better serve me well because if I can find the place,  I’ll go back again.  One day I might even know enough French to offer more than one or two word responses.

See, bathroom selfies are not just for online dating!  Thank God you can’t see the heap of clothes on the floor.

So, things are moving along, and I’m nestling into my version of normal.  Ohhh, I even bumped into a friend and chatted for a bit while lugging my old-lady shopping cart on a cobblestone street to get me some wine and goodies, so I’m turning into a local foreigner.

I’m relaxed and content, and that is exactly how things should be — anywhere in the world — on a weekend morning.  May you all be snuggly and well in your corners of the world.



Foie gras and Paris!

It’s been a great, much-needed weekend of food, wine, laughs, new friends and new experiences.  Just up the street (a 5 minute walk if I’m wearing shoes I need to carefully navigate on cobblestone) from my place is this adorable little place called Osmose.  It seats only 12 people at a time.  Your waiter is the chef and owner. Two of my new friends, now neighbours, made reservations for Friday night and were kind enough to invite me to join — and thanks to them this will be a go-to place every time I have guests in from out of town.

They suggested I just go with what the owner says to try, which meant me eating things I never really saw myself liking.  The entree (appetiser) of the night was foie gras, but he also had an alternative scallops dish for those of us who aren’t fans of the foie.  I got those, but Beth Ann said to heck with it and gave the goose liver pate a try, so I tasted a smudge and it really was delicious.  The main dish was duck — again not a fave of mine, unless it’s the crispy Asian kind — but I went with it.  OMG I didn’t know poultry could be served medium rare, and I didn’t know a bird could taste like steak.  It was an amazing meal with little surprises here and there, fantastic wine, and fun times getting to know the owner, chef a little bit.  Our reservations began at 6:30; I didn’t roll down the hill back to my place until midnight.

Way too early Saturday morning I had to drag my carcass out of bed to rush to work.  For 25 euros all of the staff at the international schools on base had an opportunity to hop on a day-trip bus to Paris.  In a little over three hours, I could spend the day eating, drinking, etc. in PARIS.  I crawled into that bus with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do, or whom I was going to do it with — other than I was getting out of town for a day and walking the streets of Paris.

A group of new friends lured me into their day by saying they were starting off with champagne at a cafe — win!  It’s amazing how quickly a wine hangover and not enough sleep disappears when you’re sipping bubbly on the street.


Then we had lunch at Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris.  It’s where the male (thinking women not yet welcome at that time) revolutionaries, philosophers, artists, writers, etc.  met and some of its guests included Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson — just to name a few.  Love that I’m teaching American History and some of the historical figures I’ve made my kids remember sipped and burped right at the same place as I did in Paris.  I wonder if they too marvelled at the creme brûlée,


Ignore the wine stains on table (we had a few) and inhale the goodness of this giant brûlée.  I should’ve known it was going to be huge when they gave me a soup spoon to eat it with.
Anyone else think of Beauty and the Beast here?  I know I’m a terrible teacher since I should be pointing out all the historical amazingness of this place, and I did take it all in, but you aint got time for my geeky side.  Just know I loved being here touching the banister so many great minds have leaned on — while wondering what their women counterparts were doing elsewhere.

After lunch it was walk, walk, walk on over to Notre Dame and then the Picasso museum.

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It’s funny how the Picasso experience haunts me.  While in the museum I was mostly just hot and tired and thinking to myself “dude, why so much dick in your work?”  A funny side note:  one of the middle school teachers asked us if we saw the penis on the face of his famous painting The Dream.  We all did, and she was amazed because for years she’s been having her 8th graders do a replica of this and never noticed the phallus until someone pointed it out to her today.  Oh Picasso see what you’ve made good women do!

Unknown-1 It’s all I see, plus the naughtiness I think she’s up to.

I honestly don’t get a lot of his work, and as a woman I find the portraits of the women he loved disturbing, BUT some of his paintings pulled me in and stuck with me.  His sculptures not so much. The black and white sketches made me want to understand this world of his, but then again I’m thinking the whole point is I’m not supposed to understand.  I can’t tell you why his paintings keep coming back to me because … lol like his art I don’t exactly understand it … but his work haunts me.  Some of it I found funny and some of it scared me.  So, I’m glad I went because now I’ve taken an interest in getting to know what the Internets have to say about him, and for whatever reason it makes me think.

On this trip I did not get to go to all the other museums I want to visit, but that’s okay because it’s just a short train trip away, and some of my new friends said they’d totally do an art weekend with me.  I’m a very happy girl!

I’m also procrastinating because instead of walking to the market like I had planned today, I’ve told myself I’m putting together another Ikea thing — my version of Picasso hell minus any sexual play — and I’m here typing to all of you looking at that damn box waiting for me to open.

Okay, gotta go do this thing.  Hope you all have had as lovely a weekend as I have.  It feels good to have gotten away from the stress of moving and working!


My series of misfortunate events

Okay, so on Friday I came really close to exploding.  I almost threw a temper tantrum in the middle of traffic on my little street.  Instead I counted to 10 while realising “Eeets not Posseeble” is the Belgium English version of Inshallah, although there’s no hopefully or maybe attached to it.

Flashback to Thursday:  I go to Ikea asking if I could add a bed and mattress to my delivery expected to arrive the next day.  I paid 100 euros for a truck with a lift, so that all my shit could go up through my windows versus the elevator.  The receptionist at work called the police to reserve a front spot for me, so I was nice and ready to move much-needed stuff into my place.  Anyway, I figured adding a bed to that order would just make my life easier since I need  bed.  After some phone calls and whatnot “whalla”  it’s done.  My bed was scheduled to arrive with another delivery; they couldn’t get it on the same truck, but a note was written to lift driver to wait.

Oh and then I ask if the bed will be assembled with the rest of my furniture.  Pause, “Madame, there is no assembly in your order.”  What?  I asked when I bought it if assembly was included, or did I need to pay extra (which I would have!), and I was told it’s all included.  I even repeated this to make sure it was.  Yes, Madame.

Well, the reality was No Madame it is not.  Okay, whatever I will figure this out, just bring my shit:  which, by the way, is three chairs, a sleep sofa, a day bed, four armoires, a high table for my kitchen, and three dressers, oh and now that queen sized bed and mattress.

Thursday night I get home and see two spots out front reserved.  One under my window and one near the garage entrance.  I assume the one under window is mine.

8 a.m Friday, big ass truck and small ass lift truck are there.  Parking spot under my window has an SUV in it, so guess what?  that one’s not MY spot.  Lift guy says he can’t reach my window from the other spot.  I point out ways he can manoeuvre his vehicle to do it:  “Eeets not posseeble.”

Furniture truck guys say it’s better for me if they unload my furniture, and I call another lift when a spot opens up.  “But, I paid 100 euros for this one!”  Oh, and we’re still waiting for the bed and mattress too.  I show lift guy the note that says he needs to wait.  He looks at me like I’m bat shit crazy if I think he’s actually going to abide by it.  So, we agree that the furniture guys will unload my boxes, and we’ll pull into lobby, and hopefully a spot closer to my window will open up.

The furniture guys feel sorry for me and manage to lug boxes up the stairs and put some stuff in the tiny elevator, which we’re not supposed to do, but at this point I’m desperate, so I’m literally praying it’ll all work out.

It’s going great until an elderly couple cuss us out because of all the boxes and because they caught the guys putting some stuff in the elevator.  They are not happy at all, and we keep trying to explain what had happened, and they yell at me in French that I should’ve called police to reserve a spot.  I point to the one I did that with, and blah, blah, blah.  I just know at this point I’m getting a call from my landlord (whew! so far that’s a no).  Anyway, they leave all pissed off (yay me on making new friends).  Another little old lady comes down, and bless her soul offers to move her vehicle in the front.  This is when I learn the lift guy left!!!!!!!!!  It’s okay, I’m told, that spot wouldn’t be close enough anyway.  I’m still like, but I paid 100 euros for that guy.  All I want is my shit upstairs without pissing off my neighbours!

Here’s just some of it.  The wine table is perfect for my kitchen.  Love, Love, Love it! And, the black sleep sofa is my bed right now and is quite comfy.  Thanks, Doug!   Leslie and I laboured away on a big closet, which has one more thing that needs to be done, and she also got a tricky little drawer thingy together for me.  There are lovely chairs to sit on as well, so it’s coming along.

Anyway, long story longer the furniture guys did manage to get everything upstairs, and I do appreciate them working so hard to help me.  I think they felt sorry for me when they saw I was lugging up smaller boxes myself, and the bed and mattress never showed up!  Until 8 a.m. Saturday, when I get a call saying the bed is on its way.  Oh hell no it’s not!  At this point I’m so frustrated I cancel the bed and demand a refund.  I’m told I’ll get it.  I’m sure that’s a process too, but I’ll deal with it this week.  There was just no way that early on a Saturday morning I was going to risk pissing off the neighbours again trying to lug stuff up those stairs and that elevator.

Now, on to the good stuff!  There are always heroes in a bad tale.

Thursday night I message Leslie and Doug, a couple I’ve become friends with.  They’re new here too and Doug hasn’t started his new job yet.  I offer to pay Doug to help me assemble furniture.  Friday morning I send out an SOS if he could come sooner (this was when I realised I might just explode but thankfully didn’t).

Doug gets here to help out while Leslie finishes work and arrives later.  Both of them stayed here until almost midnight helping me put furniture together.  Of course we sipped wine and nibbled on cheese, but we were so busy working that we never even left for dinner.  I cannot believe they gave up their Friday evening AND dinner to help me.  In return all they ask is for me to pay it forward.  Don’t worry,  we’re all headed to Paris for a day trip next weekend, so I’ll be sure to treat us to some good wine and food.

We didn’t get everything assembled, but that’s okay because they brought me back to reality and made me realise it’s okay, Efff that lift guy driver because anything EEES Posseeble, and when there’s chaos, there’s also always someone to the rescue.

Another treat was there’s a leak under my kitchen sink.  The plumber came on Friday too, since I was home, and I almost cried tears of joy when he told me the landlord said I spoke some German, did I understand him now (after my now common “I have no clue what you’re saying” look to French).  I was soo happy to be able to clearly communicate!  The poor guy, I just rambled off about how his day was and how grateful I was for him, and blah, blah, blah.  He’s coming back on Monday to replace my kitchen hot water heater, and I think he’s bringing a buddy to divert some of my rambling.  And, I really appreciate my landlord sending a German-speaking plumber since she didn’t have an English-speaking one.  It’s the little things that matter oh so much!

Another good thing I got to do was chaperone the Homecoming Dance.  It was so nice to see teenagers from around the world decked out and having fun.  I got to see some adorable moments when parents hovered in the lobby to take pictures of their kids, or when boys waited, corsage boxes in hand, for their dates to arrive and then nervously slip them onto the girls wrists.  I know there’s a lot of effed-up mess in our world, and much of it is government (from all countries) botch ups, but I’m going to put all that aside and point out one of the things done right: and that is the effort that is put into making these kids lives as normal as possible.  They didn’t choose to live on this base, but they’re still having sports and school-sponsored parties — and by the looks and sounds of them on the dance floor, they’re having fun.  I am very blessed to be a part of that effort.  Despite all the nonsense of moving in, I am right where I want to be.  Come on Joe and Badger, I can’t wait to have you be part of all of this with me!

And on that note, it’s time for me to brush my teeth, get dressed and go to a bizarre on the base.  I hear there’s a furniture store selling stuff — maybe the bed that is really meant for me is there waiting.  I’ll just have it delivered the same day as my stuff from America (which is arriving Oct 30th — woo hoo!).

p.s. same day later on:  No bed; but I discovered that you can fit a 55 inch t.v. into the back of a Twingo — click here if you’ve never seen one —if you drive with your face squished against the windshield (okay I’m exaggerating but not by much).  Joe will be so happy.  For the first time in my life I bought a t.v. that big — ewwww and it’s curved too.



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