Category Archives: Belgium Year One

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.

 

 

Ups and Downs

Unknown

Image taken from http://www.laprovince.be/425439/article/regions/mons/actualite/2012-05-30/mons-fin-des-travaux-a-la-rue-de-nimy-ce-mercredi

Oh this moving thing is always a bumpy ride.  Add moving to a second floor apartment on a street like above, and you run into some extra issues.  You see the stairwell and elevator are too small to lug up furniture, so delivery trucks need to use an “outdoor lift” to haul it in through my front windows.  But, in order to do that, a large spot in front of building needs to be off limits to others for parking, which I thought my landlord was reserving for me.  I was mistaken.  I need to learn French STAT!  The department you call to do this needs 5 days advance notice.  Luckily, I discovered this on Friday, unfortunately an Ikea delivery was scheduled for Monday.  Lol back to sort of luckily, I called Ikea to reschedule and they were just about to call me to let me know that they couldn’t come Monday anyway, so now that delivery is scheduled two weeks away! Um, I will be without a bed longer than I like now.

przeprowadzka2

Image taken from http://www.glugo.pl/jak-zabezpieczyc-transport-mebli/

I’m still taking Monday off because I have two other deliveries being made on Monday that don’t require the lift thingie but do require me being home.  Guess whose buying herself an air mattress this weekend?

That said I’m still excited to be moving into my place TODAY.  Woo hoo! And, despite the setbacks, I’ve been getting a lot accomplished these past two weeks:  got my Belgian ID in the works so that I could set up my local bank accounts, so that I could pay my deposit and first month’s rent. I set up an Internet and mobile plan, rented a car and I’m in the process of checking out cars to buy, while my driver’s license class/test is on Tuesday.

I don’t know when my furniture shipment from America will arrive, but the Ikea shipment includes a sleep sofa for the guest room and some other things that will tie me over until the rest of my furniture arrives (if I’m lucky maybe at the same time?).  Basically, my place will be bare bones for a bit, but it’s all good I’m getting that much closer to leading a ‘normal’ life.  FYI I could borrow a bed for free from the base’s loaner program, but I’ve decided it’s just easier to do it the air mattress way because I don’t want to have to worry about being home for the bed’s return pickup within its 90 days return policy.  I did, however, take advantage of being able to borrow a washer and dryer for the life of my lease —- how cool is that?!

But, enough on my move (I’ll post pics next post), on the work front there’s plenty good to share.  I work a block schedule, so I don’t have the same kids every day, that said some of my students are in all three of my classes, some are in two, a few are just in my seminar (study hall/tutoring) class.  Each class I teach a day is different because I have history, English and ESL, so it’s never the same lesson period to period.  I see my ESL kids every day, and while it’s a small class I have two different sessions going on because two of my kids are in the early phase of learning English, while the others are a year or two ahead of them.   Long story short:  I’m busy, busy, busy, but never stale or bored, and I’m really enjoying what I teach.  I wish I could tell you more about the kids because their personalities and cultural nuances keep it fun and interesting, but I don’t want them to ever feel like I’m blabbering their stories all over the internet — just know that I’m glad to once again get the privilege to work with cool kids.  My school is one of a variety of countries’ schools on campus, and last week the entire campus celebrated 50 years of the International School being open.  All the schools took part in a parade and group panoramic while kids waved flags from all the different countries.  It was so cute seeing the elementary kids from the U.K. school in their little uniforms proudly waving their flags.   Some of our Polish students became Captain Poland by wrapping their flags around them.   For me it was pretty darn awesome to see children from all these nationalities together just having fun and being kids — if only it could always be this easy.

On Thursday the entire campus celebrated International Teacher’s Day.  The kids were given a day off, so that we could use the morning to catch up on some mandatory trainings and then eat lunch with all of the other teachers.  I got to meet some German English teachers who’ve been here the same amount of time as me, and who also live just a few blocks from me.  New friends in the making?  I hope so.

I’m sometimes frustrated with all that still needs to be done and the things that pop up that I didn’t know I needed to know, but I no longer feel overwhelmed.  I know that by the time this semester ends I will be settled and ready to begin the next one, hopefully, rested and organised.  Oh, and on that note I bought my ticket home for Christmas, so woo hoo the countdown to see my family again is back on.

And, if I want to meet my landlord at 10 a.m. to pick up my keys, I better finish packing up this hotel room and begin the big move.  Can’t wait to show you my new home pics — hahaha bare bones and all.

More on my life in Mons…

patio pic My hotel patio

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sipping my coffee while listening to the maids clean the rooms near me.  I’ll be getting the knock soon, which is annoying because I’ll have to answer the door with my bed head and sloppy sweats and repeat what I say every weekend, “non.  I’m okay.  Merci!”

This time in two weeks, I’ll be in my apartment, scrubbing away, getting it ready for my furniture delivery.  My little hotel studio is the perfect place for me to temporarily live.  It has a little patio and friends two doors down, but hotel life is hotel life even when you have your own lil yard, fridge, stove top and microwave.  Besides, I’ve heard enough of my revolving neighbours’ noises — from snores, to off key singing, to their kids banging on my back sliding glass door, to their phone alarms. Thank God I haven’t had overzealous couples or loud bathroom goers!  There’s also the crappy Internet, but it will all soon be another memory to add to the pile.  Hopefully, the Internet at my place will not ping out so much, and I’m told since the bedrooms face the backyard my mornings and nights will be quiet.

archway

That archway leads to a shortcut to my apartment.

Anyway, I’m soooooooo looking forward to moving into my new home.  That said when I move, I will miss coming home from work to a freshly made bed, fresh towels and a shiny bathroom, with a tub that says, “Come on in Darling.  I’ve been waiting for you.”  My apartment tub will be there for me, but my fat ass will have to clean it because I love my bubbles, and they love leaving a ring.

Some shots of my currently empty apartment.  That room in the middle is the entryway. The living/dining room is also huge.  I’ll show more when I move in.  And, I have two square toilets!

I finally feel like I’m somewhat settling into everything.  Oh, I still have a boatload to do, and I tense up when I think about it, but I’m more than halfway up the hill.  I’ve got this.  I used this weekend to relax, grade and plan a lesson (the plan was to plan more, but oh well I got one two-day unit covered).  I’ll finally rent a car and start driving next week, which will help me feel more like a resident than working tourist.

I’m getting to know Mons a little better as well.  The Grand Place (pronounced more like Plahss) is a cobblestone mecca of festivals, food and alcoholic goodness.  There’s almost always something going on.  Weddings with their honking horns (which I enjoy — makes you wanna get in on the fun) on Saturdays, parades, festivals and tourist events throughout the weekends.  A few weeks ago, I literally watched World War 2 jeeps and tanks parade about, while a band played favourites from that era. This weekend it’s street performers, outdoor concerts and fireworks celebrating Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium (which is where I am).

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Tanks in Town, the WW2 event, is such a big deal they’re already planning the next two years activities.  Click here to learn more.  As is this weekend’s  Les Fêtes de Wallonie – Wallonia Festival

The city is as Shannan puts it is a big wheel with The Plas (ewww what we locals call it) as it’s centre (although not quite the center), and streets and alleyways as spokes going out to the inner and outer rings, main roads that circle around the city.  The train station is on the outer ring.

The spoke my apartment is on runs parallel to The Plas, so I guess it’s more like a spider’s web (but I like the wheel analogy; it helps me when I get lost), and it’s a 5 minute stroll to all the good stuff.   My landlord said I’ll be in the perfect location for the Doudou, (sounds like do do) now, now it’s not a dog-park cleaning nightmare.  It’s a major event that dates back to the Middle Ages, and it involves pulling the hair off of a dragon’s tail.  So, Daenyrs ain’t the only blonde getting to touch a dragon.  This Mother of Heathens is gonna get her chance.  I’m fascinated by its story and look forward to visiting the Doudou museum, which just happens to be on my street.

There are so many alleyways and off streets to explore as well.  I love walking to get lost and then finding my way back to the way that leads to the hotel.  I now know enough food words in French to somewhat figure out menus.  I know that Filet Americain is a raw hamburger (the Belgium version of steak tartare) and that poisson won’t kill me since it’s fish.  Entre’ is an appetiser and chaud is hot.  The salads are almost always big and not low cal, and frites pretty much go with everything.  I usually order jambon (ham), fromage (cheese) scampis, boeuf or poulette.  I bet you can figure the last three out no problem.   LOL so eating is not a problem!  Nor is drinking — order the house wine; it’s usually good.  I even like the beer, so all is well in my quest to destroy my liver.

The job is still great, and I’m adjusting to wearing close-toed shoes.  It’s been in the 60s, which was a bit of a shocker for me since I’m not used to temps dropping that low until February.  I’m not complaining though — love experiencing Fall again!

And, last, but not least, some random shots of Mons (although the doggy sign pic was taken at another village; I’m sure Mons has one too).  My phone isn’t the greatest, so I promise to bring my camera the next time I walk to take some better pics.

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Bon Jour!

yard

A view of the backyard for my new apartment complex.  Flowers, stone walls and green … lots and lots of green!

Hello from Belgium!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  I would’ve posted something sooner, but, well, I’ve been busy.  The few times where I had a moment to write, I was torn about sharing my good stuff while shit was happening elsewhere.  August has been a whirlwind of “wtf.”  But, in between the “is this really happening again?” and the chaos of devastation, there’ve been moments of people putting themselves at risk to help strangers.  As always there’s this mix of good and bad — I want to type balance, but let’s face it shit aint balanced right now.

I am so incredibly fortunate to be living my life, and nothing terrible has happened to me, but the wrongdoings in the world are very visible, especially in Brussels.  I now go to outdoor concerts with military men and their weapons walking around for protection (and I am grateful for it).  I’ve been asked to leave a park while security did a sweep.  It’s surreal to get off your train to see fatigues and big-ass guns casually strolling by.  That said life is certainly not taking a back seat.  Parades, festivals, restaurants and pubs are still belting out their fun, and the necessary added watch manages to blend in.  It is what it is.  In the villages and smaller cities you don’t see this, but the police are there doing their thing, and I imagine everyone is more vigilant than any of us were what feels like a long time ago.

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I wish I could say I’ve been going to a lot of the fun stuff, but right now I’ve only managed to fit in a few outings — thanks to a visit from Shannan and Ian and the new friends I’m meeting here.

Half the time I feel like I’m running a marathon backwards because there’s so much to do for the new job, the new bits and pieces of immigration, etc., etc.  The other half I’m in awe by where I am.  I cannot wait until Joe and Badger join me and we explore together (plus by February things should be way calmer for me).  There is so much to see and do — and eat and sip!

Until then I’m settling into my new job, country and all that goes with it.  It’s overwhelming, it’s stressful, and it’s full of lovely surprises.  Again, people who were complete strangers to me a month ago have stepped in to save the day more times than I can count.  I feel like I’m making another batch of life-long friends.

When I want to quit, throw a temper tantrum and scream “I can’t do this!”  Someone pops in to help me figure whatever out.  It’s going to be a very good life here.

I love my school — yeah, yeah I know I always love my school when it first starts, but this one is different.  I love the international aspect.  Students and staff have lived around the world and the mix of accents and languages in the hallway is music to me.  As a newbie I’m intimidated, but everyone assures me I’ve got this.  So, I trick myself into believing I do, and whalla! my classes have been going well.  And then the day ends, and I realise “oh shit, I’ve got a lot to get ready for tomorrow.”  InshAllah (will eventually learn its French equivalent) it’ll all be worked out by second semester, and I’ll be ahead of the game a bit.

class

A pic of my room before school started.  I have my own classroom again!  WITH lots of shelves and storage and moving whiteboards and my own teacher laptop and printer and books and woo hoo!  My teacherly self feels whole again.

I’ve been lucky that I’m staying at the same hotel as another couple (who remind me a little of Joe and me — I’m thinking we have lots of fun times ahead of us), and I’ve been riding to work with them, so I haven’t had to worry about getting a car yet.  We’re in our hotel studio apartments until Oct 1 when they move into their new apartment, and I move into mine.  Sometime before then I’ll get my local drivers licence and buy a used car and deal with another country’s version of DMV (another thing on my life to-do list that I didn’t know I needed to do).

I’m excited about my new place.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted it because it doesn’t have the exposed beams or brick walls I’ve seen in adverts for other places, it doesn’t have a private backyard, and, well, it’s not what I was envisioning at first.  BUT, it’s actually a pretty darn awesome place.  First off it’s huge with three bedrooms and an office room (which I plan on turning into a closet), it has two balconies that overlook a lovely garden, it has a storage cellar and a garage, it has marble floors and huge windows, and there’s an elevator that can bring us up to it — whew! for those days when I just don’t want to lug groceries up the stairs like I did in Al Ain.  And, it’s smack dab in the middle of Mons.  I can roll down the hill into the Grand Plaz, which is this place:

Unknown-1Unknown Internet pics again.  I haven’t had time to take good pics.

This is the street in front of my apartment (those second story windows that jut out I think are mine):

street

So, yeah, I’m excited about it.  And just to show off my balcony view again, here’s another pic of all that green

balcon

I’m meeting with the landlord next week to inspect the apartment before we do the lease signing, so I’ll take more interior pics and post when I get a chance.  There is also a park for Badger right down the road.  Badger is also going to like hanging out at the cafe bars with us.  I’m telling you we’re buying that dog a beret and wellies for his paws.  Pics will ensue.

Meanwhile back in Arizona, Joe is training Badger to get used to his kennel for his long flight, and  finishing up last-minute stuff on the house, so it can finally go on the market.  It’s been a long time coming, and we’ll both be happier when it and the last of our debt is gone.  At the same time it’s sad saying goodbye to the house I raised my children in, but I’ll just drown it out on the balcony.

wine glass

Oui, oui!

Of course there’s tons more to share, but I’m hungry and a coffee cafe is wooing me, so time to get dressed, explore my new town a bit, eat and then come back to do lesson planning.  I’m going to get ahead one way or the other!

Au Revoir!  I promise to post more pics soon.

 

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