Category Archives: Belgium Year three

Backyard Bliss

this is what I’ll get to see every morning for the next few days

I was going to begin this blog describing the scents and sounds of spring in the Ardennes, but then my dog got all antsy and kept running to the door. He apparently knew what I didn’t — that snow was on its way — and he is apparently a big ole wuss because it’s beautiful out there, but he’d rather huddle inside. So, if it snows while the sun is shining do we get rainbows? I’ll be sure to stop writing and snap a pic if we do.

Here you go — sometimes a video is better than a pic

We’re in Somme-Leuze, a village not too far from Durbuy. Today is my day to stay home with Badger, our senior, sometimes senile pooch. He can no longer handle real hikes, so we take turns playing puppy sitter. I’m stocked with books, my camera and laptop, and with a backyard like this I am A Ok spending quality time with my grumpy old fur ball (lol not to be confused with my husband).

He enjoyed sniffing buds before the snow/rain made it too wet for his paws.

So, we saw in the news that England is opening its pubs today. That is not yet our reality. Originally we thought they’d be back open by May 1, but rumor has it probably not until mid May. Lockdown sucks, but we are so grateful we are still allowed to escape to the Ardennes. And, um trust me, it’s not like we’re not imbibing…

That last pic is of an abandoned bar on a hiking trail we walked yesterday. Pre covid days you’d hike, bike the woods and stop here to hydrate. Oh Belgium how I heart thee — watering holes and friteries everywhere.

While I loathe Covid with all my being, I am grateful to have had this time to discover so much of Belgium. Its countryside and stone villages will forever hold a special place in my memories.

Yesterday, Scott (our cabin buddy) and I checked out a fromagerie on the Route du Fromage. We were two very happy cheeseheads in a stinky pod. Tomorrow I’d like to stroll through the streets of Durbuy. Badger can handle that. I think it’s my favorite ‘city’ in the Ardennes, but I do love them all. I don’t know how much fun it’ll be with appointment-only shops (although I bet if no one’s there I can be a drop in) and no sit-down restaurants, but like always we’ll make the best of it. We brought the bikes too, so maybe we can just ride around the river trails.

The sun is shining, and I don’t have much else to share with you. There are only so many ways a body can wax poetic about the brisk, clean air, the lush green hills and all the gifts of the countryside. It does a body and soul good each and every time. I’m happy to have the time off to enjoy it, and just as happy to also be healthy enough to enjoy it. So, despite the nasties in the world, life is still very much a good thing.

And, apparently, there are no rainbows during a sun snow shower, but that’s okay the birds are still singing and the sheep are lounging in the fields, so I still get to see a little magic. In a few days, I’ll be back in Mons getting ready for my back-to-work life.

Which also has its magic

Down my own rabbit hole..

Sadly I had to nab this pic from Internet because my Ghana pics are on an old hard drive (will need to fix that).
Pic taken from http://www.onetreeplanted.org

I’m officially six minutes into my spring break — woo hoo! Since we’re working virtually this week, I’m at home. Luckily, I finished my reports and whatnot before going online to piddle around with a poetry unit for one of my classes. Then I got an idea and googled it, which led me to another idea, which led me to thinking about someone I lost touch with, so then I googled that person, which led me to wonder what people see when they google me. Surprisingly, there are a lot of Bettina Bennetts. We all seem to be doing cool things.

Then I googled Bettina Tison Bennett to see what comes up since that’s the name I use when I’m serious about my writing. I haven’t been serious about my writing in a very long time, probably because I’m quite serious about teaching writing to others. That search led to my first blog (surprisingly not my ‘real’ published work). The one I wrote while being a very lucky soul on a Fulbright Hayes trip to Ghana. I cringe at the sometimes insensitive tone my voice had at the beginning of the trip, but it is who I was at that moment in time. Some of the writing is sloppy or cliche because I was on a busy journey with sporadic Internet (lol including dial-up Internet cafes), so time to polish wasn’t really an option (I am still guilty of sloppy or cliche and I do have time to edit but don’t —lazy is also very much part of who I am past, present and future).

There is depth in there too, and it brought back so much I hadn’t thought about in a long, long while. Ghana changed me. Wait, that’s not true. It revived the girl I once was — the dreamer who wanted to see the world and share its stories. What it did change was my lens. It helped me see things from perspectives I did not know existed. Well, maybe I did, but I could never know what they truly were had I not opened myself to them (nor them to me).

When I left Ghana 11 years ago, I knew I would find a way to teach overseas. It was no longer “oh wouldn’t that be nice.” It was as real in my being as the air I breathe (like writing once was, or maybe still is in a way). Teaching the young from all walks of life has taught me so much about the magic of living. Even now when my body hurts and my younger years are certainly a thing of the past, the work (and all those kids) keeps me connected to what is good about us. If any of my former Arizona students are reading, that also includes you. Some of my favorite teaching was done there, but I needed to also see more of the world (and learn from its young).

I truly had no idea how I would embark on this overseas life, or the path it would take me on. I thought I’d probably end up teaching in Ghana, but to be honest, I also really like to wine and dine with the good stuff, so a Ghanaian salary was never going to be the right option for me. I also had my own children to look after. Four years later my youngest graduated high school, and I was off to the United Arab Emirates for a whole new batch of different ways to look at the world, which of course led to more journeys than I can remember to count. Ghana was my first trip to Africa, but thanks to my overseas life I have now also been to Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar (which is technically part of Tanzania, but it is also an island with its own story). I interviewed for this job while in Kenya and accepted the offer while in Egypt. Africa has been so incredibly kind to me and blessed me with more gifts than I could ever give back to her — other than my soul-felt appreciation, respect and admiration.

I’m rambling because, you know, I’m caught in my own rabbit hole. When I was young I used to talk to older me. I’d sit on a hill or under a tree or by a brook and just prattle away to ‘old’ me. LOL I’d ask about my pulitzer and my beach house and the school I created for misunderstood children (because I was that child and would literally draw up plans for this ‘school for the cool’). Oddly enough I never really thought I’d be a teacher. I think my plan would have me rich and famous as a National Geographic reporter (in my world they were celebrities), visiting the school as the adored guest speaker/founder. Then a butterfly would taunt me, and I’d be off running into the woods.

And, that my friends, was more than you probably care to learn about where my mind escapes to. I have no new travel tales to share, but that’s okay there will be more. Who knows where the journey will take me next. I’m just so grateful to the little girl in me who keeps the light going and all the amazing folk I meet along the way who also keep the light burning. Tis a good life!

And, if you’re in the mood to stroll through my clunky old blog, Ghana is so worth the visit — even virtually. If you do get to go, please do get to know its people, whether it’s the workers in your hotel or the vendors you buy things from. While there is absolutely no Ghanaian blood in me, we do share the gift of gab and love of story.

The Ghana Blog link.

The sounds of silence (sort of)

Ewww walking through the Grand Place a few minutes past curfew — we’re such rebels. That said we high stepped it to get back inside before the horse police had their chance to spot us.

Badger and I sipped (okay he sniffed) on the balcony this morning. Birds busily tweeted their morning chores, a lonely school bell pinged its shrill on centuries-old stone and brick, construction vehicles groaned, growled, gnashed their way through steel and earth. With all that action, you know what wasn’t included in this morning’s orchestra? School children squealing their last bits before the bell, impatient drivers using their horns to hammer out their frustrations, and pedestrians staggering on cobblestone to get to work.

We’re on an “Easter pause.” We’ve been mandated to retreat back into our living rooms — our year-long game of hide and seek with those spiky corona particles. Belgian schools have closed a week early (basically getting a 3-week spring break) while employers have been warned there better be a darned good reason for any of their employees to be coming to work versus working from home. This apparently doesn’t apply to construction workers. We also didn’t hear the scrape of train moving on rail, but that’s because they’re on strike (again). That’s one way to get an extra break (and good timing since it won’t affect a lot of folk).

Shops also can no longer be visited without an appointment, and you can forget about getting your hair, face or nails done. They’re closed for a month. The sun, of course, is out. It’s become a local joke that if we go into stricter lockdowns, the sun comes out. I’m okay with it because I can take long walks during my breaks. My school has gone virtual for the week. Since it’s the end of our grading quarter, we have more planning/grading time built in, so I’m happy about having this extra time to do the things I need to do. I’m not happy about having to delete some difficult stuff because I just don’t have the time I need with the kids. They, on the other hand, are pretty darn excited about having easier work. Fingers crossed they don’t get too enthralled in their video games and forget to do the easy stuff, which then means me pestering them and their parents with “oh child” emails.

I do, however, LOVE getting to sip my morning coffee on the balcony. Sure I can do it on normal work days too, but it’s rushed because I’ve gotta get dressed and factor in my commute time.

Spring is most certainly here with all of her glory. Since I’ve had both my shots, I didn’t mind visiting our Sunday market yesterday where I bought some adorable seasonal plants to spruce up my home.

Well the gin was from a local store, and it’s quite nice with Italian citrus soda — my now after-work balcony beverage.

So yeah, here we go again. We’re getting good at this work from home, celebrate via take away, don’t leave Belgium thing.

And I would have missed out on seeing men hover outside my window installing some sort of cable. We wish we knew what it was for, but I guess we’ll eventually find out. It is good to see that the city is working on its improvements, so that maybe she’ll be ready for full-fledged fun when we can finally partake in it again.

So, there you have it folk. I have a week of lovely weather and the chance to walk in it to look forward to. I also have a week of accomplishing more planning than I normally would get the chance to, and then I have two weeks off to look forward to (I plan on reading, walking and sipping my little heart out). So, while I’m bummed that our hospital numbers are again rising too rapidly for anyone’s comfort, over all I’m thankful for the time to enjoy my time at home (while plotting and planning for when I can also travel again).

Anniversary of sorts

Bring on the wine, flowers and cherubs! It’s finally Spring again.

Well we’ve hit a few milestones. Last week was the one year anniversary of lockdown. This week was the one year anniversary of teaching virtual (although we haven’t done that in a long while). On Friday we finally had the accreditation visit we were supposed to have last year — virtually, so class visits won’t happen until next school year. Etc. etc. And we’re still in blahsville. Numbers are going up again, bars and restaurants still closed, uncertainty still very much apart of it all. Planning vacations is a bitch because, well, you don’t know if you can go anywhere. That said, I have two vacation homes booked this summer. Regardless of what the world holds for us, I am going to see my kids and grandson this summer. My poor grandson is going to be so disappointed when he sees me face to face. On video calls, his first words are always “Filters!” Then he sticks his tongue out waiting for butterflies or rainbows to pop out. It’s going to be a mindfuck when he realizes Oma in real life does not come with photo filters.

Life is rolling along as it always does with not a whole lot of new to report, but I guess here are the newish things that I can remember happened since the last time I wrote:

*My dog is on more meds than a nursing home patient, including a new monthly shot to help with pain. LOL he’s all excited and puppy like for a bit, and then sleeps for hours to make up for that extra burst of energy. That said he’s still wagging his entire body and greeting me at the door at the end of my workday, and he’s still tripping me up while I’m cooking in the kitchen, hoping I’ll drop something good. He’s so old he even gets excited over dropped carrots.

*It’s been two weeks since my second Moderna shot, so I’m good to go. Joe is still waiting on his appointment for his first shot. Europe is discussing a vaccine passport deal, which works for me but not him so far. Fingers crossed he’ll be on his way to being all dosed up too.

*Thanks to stress, hormones, and age, I experienced an influx of heart palpitations and vision migraines, which motivated me to get checked. The hospitals with known English speakers had longer wait times, so I went with another clinic where I got to experience health care Belgium style. Luckily, work also provides medical liaisons who will translate over the phone when needed (pantomiming, Google Translate and my choppy French worked just fine).

While there were issues with my not fully understanding instructions, all went well. Everyone was kind and as helpful as they could be. I had a series of tests, including having to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours, which also included no douche (that’s a shower, people). I did discover that aint no one got time for modesty. The nurse tells you to take off your shirt, whalla you do it right there in front of her, sit your fat ass on the table and let her hook you up while doctors, nurses, whomever of all genders walk in and out. I joked about it being obvious I eat too much croissants, the nurse (who was thankfully bigger than me) joked about it being about beer (I love that they share my passion for alcohol).

The day I got to meet the cardiologist, the same nurse told me “Doctor speak Englaise.” I yelped Magnifique and we were both pretty damn pleased with our obviously bilingual selves.

The cardiologist, however, while a nice enough man, wasn’t much for talking. “Who sent you here?” I explained what was happening and that the clinic at work sent me because of my symptoms. “Your report shows palpations, but for you (via facial and body language says — you know chunky, premenopausal) normal. Everything is very good.”

Then he looks down, and I’m waiting for him to say something else, he looks up “anything else I can do for you?” And that was it. I’m healthy — a fat, hormonal wreck, but healthy. He then returns my paperwork and says “for reimbursement.” You see since my insurance is American, I have to pay costs up front and then my insurance will reimburse me. I broke the bank at 33 euros.

Good news is most of the stuff that was causing me stress is now officially in the past, and I’m back to normal. I’m also walking more and attempting to eat healthier — hence the carrot and broccoli droppings in my kitchen versus chips and sausage.

*Folks are getting restless, especially the young. Our local police prevented a vandalism outbreak yesterday, but yeah we’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired. I get it, but I don’t get breaking shit because you’re bored. It is super hard to face another spring break with no where to go and no bars or restaurants to gather and no legal parties to whoop it up at. Don’t get me wrong my neighbors are certainly whooping it up, but it’s in smaller groups. We even broke the rules by going over to a friend’s place to eat a traditional dish from their home country (yum!) and sip some bevies, BUT we were home by curfew.

It’s even harder when we see people being able to frolic mask free in other parts of the world. As a friend of mine would say, “Come on man, it’s a mask. What’s so hard about wearing a mask?” Agreed. And not going to a bar is a lot easier than it is for those who can’t work and earn at that bar, so while I hate lockdown, I also know that again I am one of the lucky ones. Joe and I are also fully aware that if we didn’t have our local restrictions, we’d be out there mingling until the mingling did us in, and with our unhealthy lifestyle I doubt it would have been just a really bad cold or mild flu.

This time last year I would never in a million years have expected to still be here not going anywhere, but the key is I AM still here. It’ll be interesting to see where we are this time next year. Please tell me on a beach with sand in my ass and chilled rum in my hand.

As for work, I’m on the downhill. While there is no debating the extra stress this year has caused all of us, I am glad I got to work face to face with my kids. Was it the healthiest or smartest thing? I honestly don’t know, but my time with them has been as good for me as I believe it was for them. So, I’ll take that positive and cherish it. My job, as frustrating and unfair as it can sometimes be, is truly a gift, and I am so very grateful it is where my path has taken me.

On that note, the sun is fighting its way through our haze, so I should probably go take a walk — lol and then reward myself with a mimosa (it has vitamin C).

Rainbows and Unicorns

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

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

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

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

Banal realities of bill paying

Click and send not my reality…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow Day!

Someone is regretting her choice not to wear layers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding light in the dark and fog…

I wish I had some fun and exciting news to post, but it’s all pretty much the same in my corner of the world. Yes, we’re still in lockdown. Yes, I’m still working face to face. Yes, it’s still dark and cold (with sadly so little snow when I could really use more of its magic right now). And no to knowing when any of it will change. There are the rumors, the flickers of hope and then there are the headlines, which are also muddled with rumors and hope or despair (depending on the day). So, yeah, we’re all just getting by the best we can.

I’m guessing that I’ll hear about when I’m scheduled to get my first virus shot soon (I think we have a meeting on it this upcoming Friday). It sounds like maybe within the next few weeks or so. At this point I’ve decided that I must be a mutant by now since I’m still healthy. Or am I? Who knows these days?

For my own sanity I’ve decided to begin avoiding social media feeds. I’m tired of seeing posts of folks not on lockdown, traveling or reveling freely (and I don’t begrudge them at all. I’d be doing it too if I could!). I just don’t understand why some of us are on lockdown and others are not when the virus is among us all. I’m tired of seeing my teacher friend posts. I’m not tired of them nor their complaints/concerns. I’m just done with the constant jerking back and forth and inconsistency of it all. Basically, I am done with the politics of plaguing. I don’t know why some of us are teaching all day long while others are virtual. I don’t know which is better. I don’t know why in many cases those who are virtual are able to get the vaccine before those of us who are not working virtually. I don’t know if any of that even matters. Oh there are memos after memos telling us what a great job we are doing and that folks are doing their best to get us what we need — and I do believe that there are many, many folks doing just that. But, you see, in a Covid world it doesn’t matter what your intent might be because for whatever reason there are other layers upon layers of bullshit that get in the way.

There’s also the whirlwind of blended living now. In education we’re using more online programs to work with our face to face (and, to be honest, lots of good stuff is happening from that, but it’s also LOTS of stuff and our own circuit boards are overloading). In our real worlds it’s zoom this or Google Meet that, make an appointment here and maybe I’ll meet you there. I don’t know about you guys, but I am frazzled as fuck (sorry no PG-rated way to say it). And, I’m tired of video meetings. I’m tired of covering my face whenever I meet someone or apologizing for having my icon represent my face because my laptop is in a docking station and I’m too busy to pull it out. I’m tired of jumping through all the hoops to find myself on pause because the people (or technology) on the other end are glitching. Or, more accurately, because I tripped over one of the hoops and didn’t get to connect in the first place. Hell, I can’t even manage to book a vacation house for my children and me this summer. I’ve booked two, but one canceled so it could be rebooked at a higher rate and the other didn’t meet some deadline, or whatever. I have literally booked houses around the world, and now because of Covid the rules of the booking game have changed. As is very typical in my current state of living, I don’t know why.

BUT, there is also good. As much as I bitch about being frazzled, I have picked up some new teacherly tricks. My students have also picked up some new skills. We ARE adapting. We ARE finding happy connections at a time when mingling is muzzled. My time with my own children this summer (Covid will not stop me from flying home again) will be more priceless (lol who knew it was possible to make something even more priceless?). Changes for the better are happening (at least that is what I tell myself), so of course there is hope and there will be progress.

We will get through this. BUT, the fog truly does suck, and sadly we cannot blame Mother Nature for it — the worst of it is all of our own doing. And it is us and I, not them and you. I just wish I knew how I could turn this mess into a collective we, so that we’d get our act straight and solve without all those damned layers. And yeah that is a wish that will not be fulfilled in any of our lifetimes, but a girl can dream.

So, onto some bright bits to end on a positive note. We did get snow two weeks ago. It didn’t last long, but it was beautiful.

And I have been enjoying so much home time by reading and reflecting more — always a good thing. And, there have been good times with friends and family (at a distance). Joe and I have made some yummy meals and watched lots of good television and movies — lol and some not so good, but entertaining nonetheless. And because of social media I have been able to see my grandson turn into the terror he is via lots of video. So, all is still very well in my world. I am loved, I am fed, I am safe, and I am still so very grateful to be alive.

And so is our old dog Badger. A plus to this crazy is that I am spending so much time with him during his final days, although at this rate he might just outlive me.

Don’t let that face fool you, he’s just full from eating too much of whatever bits we’ve shared with him. You can see more of my old buddy by checking out his blog

Happy Sunday my Lovelies, and I cannot wait until I can hug and laugh and cry and sip with you all!

Adieu 2020 et Bienvenue…

Just a few more days and this year will finally be in our past. I think we’re all ready for the new to hurry up and get here.

We’ve made the best out of it as much as we could, but not being able to leave Belgium has made me very homesick. That said, if I’m going to be stuck in a country not my own, I’m still happy to be in this one. We’ve done a few cottage trips, which is always awesome, and we’ve explored hiking trails and towns we’ve never heard of before — all beautiful and each with its own distinct personality. Belgium is totally underrated as a travel destination, which I think pre Covid Belgians were totally okay with that. Now, I bet tourism dollars would be most welcome.

A glimpse of some of our new friends we’ve made along the way, lol including the babies of Zeebrugge a port town not too far from Brugge. Sadly my iPhone camera is still shot, so it’s just not as much fun snapping photos with Joe’s phone or my Whatsapp.

Luckily the shops opened a few weeks before Christmas, but bars, restaurants and places like salons are all still closed, and are rumored to remain that way until February or later. Oh how I miss eating cheese with celery salt and sipping beers at a cafe’ or in an old woodsy pub. I miss looking human as well — lol cannot tell you when the last time I had my eye brows done. My hair is a whole other story as well.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Mons has done its best to keep things controlled but festive. The Grand Place is magical.

The Belfry is no longer lit up, but it was beautiful alternating between rainbow colors and a pink glow. It went dark a night or two before Christmas. I don’t know why. We figured it was to prevent crowds from coming here, but then why keep the Grand Place lit? Who knows? We still have a 10 p.m. curfew, and no parties are allowed — steep fines for anyone caught doing so. We’re allowed only one friend over, but again we’ve made the best of it — video chats help, but after awhile they’re also just a reminder of all the socializing we all miss so so much.

We also did our part to keep our home magical and Christmassy, which I could keep doing all year long. I don’t know who began the trend of Christmas lights and decorations, but God Bless them! A girl can’t remain down with all this color and warmth around her.

I’ve also taken advantage of the gloomy weather and snuggled in our back balcony room with a good book. Some tea (or wine), a blankie, and the balcony view makes reading all the more pleasurable.

I’ll never tire of this view, and I will one day miss it terribly.

So, as usual, I really can’t complain. The kids, Joe and I are all still sane and healthy. I’m well fed, well paid, well housed and well loved, so while I am a little blue, I am also so grateful to yet again be one of the lucky ones.

We did have to say good bye to our neighbor and close friend, Belgium family member, Chris. A true negative to the expat life is that none of us is meant to stay overseas forever. We build a family here, but we all leave eventually. Of course on the bright side of things, we have that many more people to visit around the world. So, chances are we’ll get to see Chris this summer when we fly home to visit the rest of our family (born into and chosen!). OMG and how I cannot wait to hug all my loved ones back home.

And it’ll be warmer!

A time to heal…

Celebrating all souls in a church in Turnout

Well it’s my last day of a one-week break. We’re in the midst of our second lockdown, so we couldn’t leave the country. That said we did explore more of Belgium. Luckily this lockdown allows us to travel within our own borders, just as long as we mask up and social distance. So, for a few days, we booked a cabin within walking distance of a town called Beerse and ventured off onto all sorts of nature walks. We explored forest trails, Beerse and Turnout. We wanted to drive into the town that has the Belgium/Netherlands border going through it, but we would have had to drive across the border to do so. We’ll save that for another time.

On the one hand it’s nice to stroll through cities without crowds of people, on the other it’s not the same without hydrating at local cafes. We made tasty meals in our cabin and feasted in front of a fireplace — all very cool — but sometimes you do want to just eat and drink out. That said there were all sorts of vending machines out and about where you could get anything from fresh-baked bread to I-kid-you-not Tiramisu.

I’ve basically spent the week eating, sipping, exploring, reading, watching movies, shows, and, of course, hello? the election. A sigh of relief it is done (and that my vote was counted). May we heed the new president’s words and heal together. Please let these last weeks of this shitty year end peacefully.

As for Covid, it still sucks, but our numbers seem to be stabilizing in Belgium. I go back to school tomorrow, but the kids will see me virtually. The latest news we received has them learning online all of next week. We’re expected to go back to face-to-face teaching on Nov 16.

It’s all good, I have some interesting literature selections geared up for them. Hopefully, the kids, I, you will all get the chance to reflect and grow forward with our spiritual, emotional and physical selves.

Our holiday season is getting ready to kick off without any Christmas markets, large (or small for that matter) gatherings, festivals, restaurants, pubs, face-to-face Christmas shopping, or trips. But, that’s okay. We’ll make the best out of what we do have, and on the days when it feels too much to handle we’ll do stuff like take walks, inhale and remember life is bigger than what we think we need.

And its treasures are always just right there for us to enjoy. This one is in one of Mons parks.

So, the only travel I’m doing is imaginary, but I am also so blessed to live where there is always something magical to bump into. I’m also so damned happy that I love to read and write as well — and that I have the time and means to do so comfortably.

So, come on holiday season. Covid isn’t going to rob us of good tidings and cheer — we’ll just adjust and learn to do it differently for now.

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