Category Archives: Belgium Year three
The close out mash up
Oh how we loathe the chaos of closing out residency. The UAE was stressful, and Belgium is no better. In many ways I feel like those two countries are in cahoots with how they manage things, except one has way more money than the other, but the other has way more years of governing (it’s a term that has multiple definitions depending on where you live).
So, I got back in one piece late Thursday night (flying this summer truly is also hell, but I’m desperately hoping our next big travel day will be a good one, so I don’t want to jinx myself bitching about it), and got up bright and early Friday, ready to take on the close-out day.
Called my local bank, got an English-speaking rep on the third try, and voila I had an appointment at the branch that day. Got to bank, rep didn’t speak English, but between my bad French, her bad English, and our most excellent Google Translating abilities, we got my rental deposit release letter in order, set things up to cancel my accounts and she hooked me up with an English-speaking rep to close out car insurance.
Yay me (and her)! Win that day. But, there’s a catch, car insurance won’t cancel without me turning in license plate and registration, the base I work on also wants those things (I’ll figure it out).
Cleaner comes to my apartment and does an excellent job. Joe and I take out the last of our things, and I think we’re good to go for our 11 a.m. apartment inspection Monday morning.
It looks so big and lonely without my stuff, and see how clean she is…
Happily I trot on over to apartment. Landlord immediately demands to know where her curtains are. In a previous conversation I pointed out that I replaced the dusty, sun-bleached curtains with my modern ones (and stored hers in the basement). Then she flicked switches on and off and pointed out the lightbulbs that were out. I apologize.
Then she looks under the stove vent — the cleaner, Joe and I completely forgot about the vent filter. “Sticky!” she barks, and I apologize.
She uses google translate to tell me “all this must be fixed.” I google back, can we just take out of deposit? Because, you see, at this point all of our furniture and ladder are gone, so we can’t reach high enough to do lightbulbs. She makes some typical Belgian annoyed sounds and gives me a ‘whoosh.”
So, she’s already in a bad mood. Mind you we have always had a good relationship. I have always paid rent on time. I even enthusiastically showed the apartment to potential renters. I also referred her to a co-worker who rented one of her apartments. She always immediately fixed anything I reported broken.
Other than the vent (an honest oversight) and the stupid lightbulbs the place is immaculate.
But then we get to our garage, and this is where Joe and I are screwed. A few months into our first year the remote for garage door fell apart, we taped it together, but it kept breaking. The inconsiderate fools that we are we didn’t call for help. We simply unplugged the garage door opener and used it manually. It was quicker and easier as well since we had one remote; two drivers with two sets of keys. Anyway, long story short, Joe reactivated the opener day of inspection. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, there was a small dent in frame, so when door closed, it popped back open a little on the bottom.
Definite unhappy sounds come from landlord. The tone she uses with me is one you use when speaking to an idiot, she angrily types on phone. Basically, she tells me I should have reported this, and it would have been an easy fix. I try to explain I didn’t know and didn’t think not using the garage door opener was a problem. I also wonder to myself why it can’t be an easy fix now.
“You must use repairman to fix this,” google tells me.
And, as you all know, I know very little French, just enough to piss people off when I’m trying to be cordial. But, there’s this guy we foreigners use to help us get things done. He’s like super fix it agent guy.
So I send him a message, but, he doesn’t respond quickly enough, so she calls her guy, who will fix, and we will pay. I go to bed that night wondering if I’ll not only lose my 1,350 deposit, but will I now owe on top of that. And while I was angry at Joe and me for not getting those things done, I was also totally demoralized by the situation. It wasn’t that we had to pay; we’ll gladly own up to our responsibilities, it’s the way I was spoken to. It all could have been lost in translation, blah, blah, blah, but let’s be real: I’m an outsider, and boy oh boy did I feel it that day. No matter how much you love living somewhere, and how much you think you try to learn a culture, there’s always someone ready to remind you you’re an idiot for not knowing it. So, please remember this the next time you’re annoyed by someone who doesn’t speak your language or get your ways. We are all on this planet just trying to get by the best way we can, which doesn’t always work out to be the best way.
Anyway, back to the apartment: the signing of close-out papers was rescheduled to Friday, which delays closing this part out at work and delays closing out my bank accounts, but whatevs I’m still here, so it’ll get done.
I did manage a small win shortly after the inspection failure. Proximus, the cable company we have battled with since we got here, was super friendly and super easy. Fingers crossed our accounts are truly closed as promised. The emails they sent seem to confirm that.
And, I had what I felt like was a win on Tuesday. Landlord emailed damages. Long story short only 375 euro will be deducted from my deposit, and that includes the water and property management fees I would have had to pay anyway. I email info to English-speaking bank rep, who emails me documents I don’t fully understand, but whatevs, I forward to landlord. Fingers crossed, we sign, and move on. I meet with bank rep next week to hopefully close out car insurance and my bank account, withdrawing whatever is left in there. Trust me folk the fingers need to be crossed because I’m pretty sure something will go wrong. Closing an account isn’t as easy as it would be to do at home.
My car leaves us for its big trip on Monday.
We’re living the hotel/suitcase life. Tour de France is going through the Wallonie region of Belgium, so all of Mons hotel rooms are booked, so we had to check out of our room at the Lido (the same exact one I lived in for 5 weeks when I first arrived!) and checked into a surprisingly lovely B&B in the countryside. We weren’t sure of what to expect, but the owner is wonderful, and we enjoyed chatting with her in her garden, while she shared an amazing block of aged French cheese. The universe reminding me that there are also always warm, wonderful souls to help pick you up when you’re overwhelmed and stressed.
Then we’re off to a weekend trip somewhere (I need to hike through some woods), and then back to Mons to close out our final bits (we haven’t even begun to close out at the base yet) before we’re off to Brussels for our last few nights. And, yes, there are folk we need to hug goodbye in between the close outs.
I got our flight info today, and it’ll be a voyage, but I’m happy to finally have dates. We fly from Brussels to Chicago to Los Angeles to Honolulu, where we will stay for 4 nights (we’ll need the break!) and then hop on our final plane to Guam. So, unless the travel gods have something else in store for us: we will finally be on the island of Guam on July 22. New job begins Aug 1, so I’ll have a few days to sleep and get my bearings straight, and look at potential homes.
And then the in-processing dance begins, but let’s finish this out stuff first.
But before I close this post out, here are some pics of our walk through the local zoo (this girl still needs her steps and nature. Belgium is truly beautiful.
Time with my babies…
I’ve a long journey ahead of me — on my way back to Brussels. Flying this summer is ill advised, but a girl has gotta do what a girl has gotta do. I’d take advantage of the flight vouchers Delta is giving away if only I didn’t have to get my buttocks home to close out my move. Meanwhile, Joe has oversaw the packing up of our stuff; tomorrow he’ll witness it go on truck. I get to sit in airport after airport. My flight to Phoenix was frustrating — lots of delays and rude folk. My flight back doesn’t promise to be much better. My original route has been cancelled, and now I’m headed to Salt Lake City for a 5-hour layover, which will hopefully get me on time to my Amsterdam flight, which will hopefully easily get me on my Brussels flight, but I’ve read Amsterdam is a mess, so we shall see. I’ll eventually be back in Mons.
My week and a half home with the kids was worth every minute of flying hell. We went camping, did some shopping (woo hoo Oma worked out the credit card and even bought herself some new shoes and cool clothes), lots of eating, some swimming, and lots of family chill time. It’s always good getting to spend time with my loved ones, and I needed this little break from the stress of once again moving.
If I get home tomorrow night, I’m sure I’ll pass out, but will have to wake up early to begin the close-out process. We’ll have a few weeks before the big flight fiasco to Guam, but I’ll worry about that then. And then it’ll be time to begin the whole home hunting, new job acclimating, new life adjustment thing, which I should be a pro at by now, but it’s always different.
A few days before I flew home, Shannan flew in from Columbia for a few days. It was great to see her, and she got to witness Dou Dou at its finest. We even got caught in the crowd that surrounds the dragon slaying. I had a few “am I gonna die this way” moments, but we lived to tell about it. AND no Covid. I swear after all these crowds I’ve been in, I consider myself pretty damn lucky.
Here’s a link to video that shows the sacred chariot being ‘pushed’ up the big hill. Yes thousands of people help push it up the hill; some fall and get bones broken. Chariot link
Check out these fools going for horse (er, I mean dragon hair). Dragon slaying
Well it’s after 7 p.m., and I was told KLM reps would be at desk by then, so it’s time for me to finish my wine, and waltz on over to beg for a comfy seat. Fingers crossed I’ll be back in the Belgique by tomorrow!
Viva la weekends!
It’s been forever since I knew I got the new job, but now that I’m just a few days away from closing out my old one it feels like my time here is going by too quickly. We’ve been packing in our weekends with all sorts of fun. Our original plan was to try to visit as many places we have not yet been to as much as possible, but we quickly discovered that’s insane. What we really need to do is enjoy our time here with our friends, who have become like family.
I type this as music from the Grand Place blasts in the background. Dou Dou, the great Mons festival, is finally back, and the town is giddy as all get out. LOL there are so many bands and DJs it’s like one big mashup of songs, and it’s only Thursday. The real party begins tomorrow, which in the past pulled in thousands. I’m guessing even more will come, but I’ll write about this weekend probably when I’m on a layover for my flight home to visit the kids (next Friday).
Two weekends ago we flew into Nice with some friends and stayed in a lovely nearby village (cannot remember its name, but it begins with a V). Our friend rented a car, so we also drove to Monaco — again we didn’t look at events when we booked. So, we strolled the busy streets of Monte Carlo while Formula One roared nearby. Had we known we would’ve booked tickets, but it’s all good we saw enough fancy cars and heard plenty an engine rev, then we escaped before the crowds got too crazy and had a seafood feast on a Nice beach. It was such a great, relaxing, amazing weekend. Wish I took the time to write about it when we were experiencing it! But, here are some pics.
Last weekend we had fun in Brussels. We finally got to go to a Red Devils game where they lost badly (it’s all good two days ago they won 6-1). I love Belgium, but oh my goodness sometimes it also has the weirdest way of doing things. We are living as if Covid is not. A Red Devils match is a big deal, but the way you enter the stadium is you find your zone, enter the mob pit and slowly millimeter your way toward the ONE turnstile that lets you in one by one. Apparently creating line queues is not possible. But, whatevs, we eventually got in, and we had a great time. Our pre-game tailgating was in front of an Arabic bakery and sandwich shop where we ate the best savory pastries (the curry chicken one oh yum yum) and drank Jupiler (lol the party beer for sports and festivals). Lots of cheering, singing and loving life.
The next day we did touristy things like visit an automobile museum (Torin Oma bought you some gifts), sip at lots of places, including the Beer Project, and lol strolled through a sewer museum, which I’ll have you know is by reservation only, and ate a tasty meal. Another perfect day.
Basically, we’re doing what we do best imbibing and inhaling the good that life has to offer. Next week is my last week of teaching, and then we’ll be doing the close-out tango, which rarely is fun.
Until then it’s Doudou madness!
Sleep well, little ones
“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, Son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you.” Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Many moons ago, a few weeks after my move to Phoenix, September 11th happened. My then-young children and I joined our new neighbors in a candlelight vigil. It gave us a chance to get to know and grieve with them. After awhile one of my kids asked if it was time to blow out the candles. I said they could but only after they sent out a wish to those affected by the violence.
My son in the second grade said “I hope they catch the bad guys who did this.”
My daughter in the seventh grade said “I hope there will be no war over this.”
My youngest, a kindergartner, thought about this for a bit and said “I wish that the mommies and daddies who died can come back for one more night to tuck in their kids and kiss them Good Night.” And then blew out his candle, spreading his profound request into the universe.
Decades later, and I am still moved by those words because, at the end of the day, that’s all any of us want is to be loved and protected and tucked safely into our sleep.
While I am so incredibly proud of my adult children, and I am grateful that they are continuing to find love and awe in this world, I am also fully aware that there’s an edge of cynicism and fatalism to them. Maybe it’s simply in our DNA and the way mankind has always had to be, but, in part, I think it’s because we have failed them. There is what we teach our young: play nice, do the right thing, be honest, be kind, respect others, resolve your issues. And then there’s what we model: point fingers, play dirty to win, resort to violence, refuse to compromise, fuck ‘their’ feelings or ideals or rights, etc. etc.
We cannot expect our children to grow into the problem solvers we need them to be if we do not practice what we preach.
I woke to the news that yet another mass school shooting took the lives of too many. I dread the thread of debates and platitudes that will once again ensue — more arguing, more finger pointing, more blaming.
While acts of violence and hate happen all over the word, the shooting up of children (by children) at school has become as American as our red stripes. How did we get to this point? Why are we at this point? Why can’t we get beyond this point?
This will again become political when our issues are not politics. Politics are theories of governance that influence our decision making connected to what rules us. We need to take a long, hard look at what we’ve let rule us because it aint working. Oh, I have so much more to say, but I need to focus on doing the teacherly thing at work, which sadly is also political, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Tonight, when I go home, I will once again light a candle and make my youngest son’s wish — in reverse. And, while I know we cannot bring the dead back to life, nor change the horror of the last minutes of those young souls, I do hope the positive of what we have to offer will one day blow out the flame of this nasty reality in our communities.
Well, I’ve made it another year among the living, and Joe stepped up our game when it comes to birthday gifts. He planned a surprise weekend trip to Rotterdam, where we spent our nights sleeping on the SS Rotterdam, a retired cruise ship that now serves as a hotel and meeting/celebration venue.
We loved it. The ship was a stunner in its day, and an affordable way for us to experience what high living would have been like in the 1960s (fittingly enough, the decade I was born). It also seems to be a hit among the Dutch because we didn’t run into any other native English speakers like we usually do when vacationing. That’s A-ok by me because in my next life I’d like to be born in the Netherlands. I just love everything about it. And the Dutch speak better English than most of us do.
Since the ship isn’t in the city center, it’s easy to drive to on a Friday night (and it has plenty of parking next to it). Best part is it has a water taxi stop, so still super easy (and fun) to tour the rest of Rotterdam, which is always a fun city to visit. In typical Netherlands style, it owns its vibe — a combination of old, modern, and a whole lot of quirky “let’s try it this way.”
We mostly strolled, sipped and checked out touristy things (which are worth it) like Markthal, the cube houses, city streets and the little red ship that’s a bar restaurant (shame on me; it has a name, but I can’t remember it).
As you can see I posted several pics of the little red ship because I just liked it so much. Joe dropped the ball on NOT reserving the floating hot tub for us because hello? that so is my style. We got a kick out of the floating bus, which we also passed while it was driving on the street.
So, yep another fun weekend was had. Next up is Nice. We’re packing in our trips while packing up our pad. I don’t yet have my orders, but our next move is official. I imagine I’ll receive my orders sometime this week, which means I can schedule our furniture pickup, car shipment, etc. Our goal is to have it all done by early July, and then find ourselves in our new location sometime before my start date of August 1. I’m finally at peace with saying goodbye to all that here has to offer, and I’m totally excited to begin our new adventure. Which will be in…
Guam! Can you believe?
Oh, and I finally broke down and bought a new phone that can actually take pics, sooooooo cannot wait to see the photos Guam will bless me with. But, before then, I’ll be sure to snap plenty more of the gifts Europe continues to share with us.
So we’re filling our days appreciating nature-made and man-made art. We spent a night at a quaint seaside town in the Netherlands just so we could finally visit Keukenhof, an amusement park for flowers, mostly tulips.
The one-night trip was exactly what we needed, and the park did not disappoint (although after awhile you’re exhausted from all that color). I nabbed Joe’s phone and snapped way too many photos.
Get ready to feast your eyes on some flower power
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” Frida Kahlo
Sadly all those blooms will be gone soon, and visitors will have to wait until Spring 2023 to see their offspring. But, that’s okay because there’s always plenty else to see. This past weekend we hopped on a train after work and spent the weekend in Paris, just so I could finally visit Musee d’ Orsay.
I didn’t snap too many pictures because I was getting lost in all the art. Of course I love the Impressionist wing, but it was also packed with rude folk. I totally get that people want their selfies in front of a famous piece of work, and I have no beef with that. But, there are also people who are there to actually look at those paintings. I try my best to not obstruct someone’s view; I wait my turn, and then I like to get lost in whatever I’m looking at. I’m cool with others standing next to me to do the same. Other folk actually know about the paint strokes and the craft, and they too like to look at it. And, then we’re bumped or pushed out of the way so people can do their Insta thing. It happens at all the big museums that allow photography, so there’s my rant for the day. Take your pics, but for the love of art take a moment to appreciate it too (and allow others to do the same). There are also plenty of rooms the crowds don’t flock to, and I treasured those. Plus, I bought a book loaded with pics of the museum’s collection — way better photos than I would have been able to take.
If you do get to go, don’t miss out on the top floor cafe/bar before entering the Impressionist wing. It is beautiful and totally worth the extra euros you’ll pay for your sip of wine or beer.
We were also lucky that the weather was great, so we did lots of strolling and sipping (and nibbling), which is the absolute best way to enjoy Paris (or any place for that matter).
Basically I’m winding down this school year taking in all that is near me. I’m also stressed because we’re in the beginning phase of getting things ready for our big move. I try to balance it out with planning more trips, so the next two months are going to be a see saw of “why is this so difficult” and “why is that so amazing.”
As always it will all work out in the end. Today I’m grateful that it’s Friday. There’s a beer festival and ‘street party’ going on at the Grand Place this weekend, so I’m sure we’ll find some other versions of art to enjoy in just a few hours. Bonne Weekend!
Oh Macarena and Jesus too
I’m going to preface this all with a. I’m not Spanish, b. I’m not Catholic, and c. I’m not always in tune with Christianity. I’m so bad at the Christianity thing that I didn’t even think about Easter during my vacation planning; I especially didn’t consider the implications of touring Seville on Palm Sunday. Holy cone heads, chafed nether regions and blistered calluses it’s a big deal. Swarms of people dressed in their Sunday best ( by puritanical standards there were some outfits that would have melted a few holy wafers) descend upon the city to parade with repenters adorned in medieval hoods, and to applaud gilded floats carrying village statues of Macarena (the virgin Mary) and Jesus. I don’t know which was more shocking to us —- the medieval garb (which was apparently mimicked by the KKK) or the amount of women in pantyhose, shorts (or short, tight skirts) and heels high and sharp enough to ward off evil spirits. The devotion is real because when the Macarena or Jesus make their appearance all hush (and rude tourists who don’t know any better are immediately shushed). The faith is real because apparently the Covid aint got a chance during this crusade (please let that be so!). I haven’t been this close to this many people in a very long time.
The parades go on all day and much of the night, and while we were totally overwhelmed by the crowds, we are incredibly grateful to have been able to witness this treasured bit of Spanish culture.
I will also now forever think of Spain when I smell incense and orange blossoms (with maybe a tinge of lilac — oh and lets not forget grilled meat, yum). It’s everywhere and heavenly.
I wrote above early last week, and then got busy with my vacation in Spain, which began in Barcelona and ended in Madrid. Sevilla was our second stop on our train rides throughout the country. I highly recommend using Renfe, their high-speed line. Fast, efficient and comfortable, plus you get to whiz through more of the country and see cattle and sheep grazing amongst old villages and steep hills.
Today is Easter, and we’re back home. It’s sunny, and I’ll be busy cooking and visiting family (online of course), so sadly I’m going to rush through the rest of this blog with quick snapshots of our fantastic trip.
We stayed in the Montjuïc area of the city, which is lovely. Our hotel was steps from a metro station (so easy and cheap to use!) and an easy walk to the ‘magic fountains,’ which was perfect for our first night there. We walked up to a platform where a lovely woman made us Sangria. The absolute best way to begin our vacation, sipping while surrounded by amazing architecture, water fountains and flowers — and great people watching to boot.
We loved Barcelona. The people, sights and food were wonderful. We didn’t go to the beach, but we did stroll through park Gruel, Sagrada Familia, the Gothic area and the boardwalk near the Christopher Columbus statue. We ate and sipped our way through so much. Our hotel also had a lovely rooftop terrace where we could sip our wine and watch the city lights.
Above is just a quick flash of some of the amazing things we got to see. I had issues uploading photos (and I’m still using my broken phone, so many are taken from Joe’s phone.).
Barcelona has everything, including all we fascinated tourists, Seville has seduction. She is breath taking with her river walks, churches, parks and palaces. There’s also flamenco dancing, sunshine and so many flowers. With a friend, we rented a lovely Airbnb that had TWO rooftop terraces. One with lots of space to sit and a hot tub, and another higher up with a view of the river and city. It was amazing. On top of witnessing all the Palm Sunday processions, we also took a hop on hop off tour, which gave us glimpses of city highlights, and we toured the bull fighting museum and Alcazar. All of it was incredibly beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Joe and I spent the night in Cordoba just so I could walk the halls of its Mosque-Cathedral, which dates back to the 6th century and has served God under the Catholic and Islamic realm and shows off the beauty of Spain’s many layers of history. Cordoba itself was a bigger city than we expected, but of course nowhere near as large as Barcelona or Seville, but we only stayed in the historic area. The weather wasn’t on our side, but it didn’t matter because we had amazing tapas and drinks everywhere we went. As with everywhere else in Spain, people were friendly and accommodating. What more could a girl ask for?
We didn’t do Madrid justice because we were wore out by the time we arrived, and while we had a lovely time in Cordoba, our hotel room was awful (imagine how much sleep we got in a moldy room with a window-front view of a busy, graffiti-scarred alleyway). So, we were exhausted, and very happy that we booked our last two nights at the Hard Rock hotel in Madrid because it was just a few minutes walk from the train station, it was clean and vibrant, and it had everything we needed. This room had a view of the hotel atrium, but lol nothing closed curtains didn’t fix, and we liked any music we heard so all was well.
The only things we toured in Madrid were the nearby botanical gardens (lovely) and the Prada museum. The Sofia was just across the street from us, but we just didn’t have it in us. That said I thoroughly enjoyed what we did see, and we took our time — no rush, no stress, just art, flowers and rest.
Several of Prada’s paintings or sculptures pulled me into their stories. There was a room dedicated to Charles II, which caused me to google him later because he was such an odd-looking king. Turns out he’s the final Habsburg ruler of Spain, and his death brought on a 12-year war since he had no heir. Long story short poor guy is the poster child for why inbreeding is not a good idea. There was also a statue of a mother who had killed her son and then stabbed herself in the heart because she didn’t want them to be ravaged by the Corinthians. It pulled me in and wrecked me, and then there was the painting near it of men awaiting execution for some rebellion or other, and the portraits of the young girls in the process of being betrothed — they were so young. There were also lovely portraits of fruit, wine and cheese that said eat me! And plenty more of the Virgin Mary and all her stages of wonder and grief.
So, for a haphazard Christian, I was blessed with the sights and sounds of the many ways of who we are during the holiest of weeks for Spain.
And that is my way-too-quick rundown on our trip. It was so much better than my words convey, but I’m in a rush (ugh).
Regardless of your faith (and whether you’re good at practicing it or not) I hope you have a lovely holiday and imbibe in as much sun, flavor and zest for life as we were lucky to do this past week.
Spring Breaaakkkkkk! April is awesome.
Above slide show is an assortment of pics from places I’ve visited in April. It’s by no means all of the places I’ve been to during spring break. But, it has some goodies. I’m on spring break, and this year’s trip doesn’t begin until tomorrow. We’re headed to Spain where it is, hopefully, warmer and sunnier. Just this past Friday we had snow — our first snowfall this winter, but not our first cold or gray day.
My overseas life has blessed me with so many adventures and discoveries. A facebook memory from my spring break trip to Sri Lanka (sadly none of those pics are in the slide show, apparently my blog library deletes images after a certain amount of time — bummer) prompted me to check out all of my April posts. Had someone told me in 2013 that 2014 would be the beginning of so much new, I would’ve laughed. Don’t get me wrong, my life then was amazing too. I’ve always been blessed with the most wonderful people in my life who’d find adventure with me anywhere in the world, lol including our own backyards. And, I so miss that time as well. Alas, there is a gypsy in me who is always hungry to find more magic. Despite the fact that I have loved every place I called home.
I’ve been trying to work my way back to the states, so that I could be closer to my children and grandson, but another opportunity came up, and to be honest, the gypsy isn’t finished feeding yet. This might be her last hurrah though — then again who knows?
Anyway, once again I’m at that limbo phase in the overseas life. Our new jobs never happen over night. They always include a lot of paperwork and steps to go through before one can begin the new. This is my third time going through this, and it never gets easier. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be where I am now, and I am inhaling every moment of it. I am melancholic because once again I realize that home will soon be a memory, and the job that I love will also become a memory. That said one of my personal mantras is to always move on before a job becomes just a job, and while that is not the case today; it will be tomorrow if I don’t move toward something else. So, I am. And oh my goodness I’m excited about it. Nervous? yep. Apprehensive because what if it’s not what I thought? yep. Torn? Most definitely. A risk worth taking? Absolutely (although is it really a risk?). So was the UAE eight years ago (although that job was certainly my most challenging). I’m having all the same feels as I did way back then, except the fear of the unknown. That’s something expats adapt to thrive on. We don’t fear the unknown, we embrace it (sometimes with a grimace). So that’s cool and all, but yeah I’m back to the bipolar part of being incredibly excited and incredibly sad at the same time. Perhaps those of us who live this kind of life are also just a little bit broken, but it’s who I am, so I’m cool with it.
Once again, I can’t share the details until all that paperwork is wrapped up, but I can say holy hell this time next year I have no idea what my home will look, feel, smell like — but I do know it’ll have its own adventures. And, my kids are looking forward to a new place to visit. My daughter helped me come to grips with this when she said it’s only a few years, and that when I retire, I’ll be 100 percent full-time Oma and mom. And, she’s right. LOL my retirement dream includes a compound of the coolest folk filled with wine, cheese, an amazing firepit and hot tub with a view, and lots and lots of story telling and laughs.
Until then I take in the new. Happy Spring Break everyone. This time tomorrow I see sangria and sunshine!
Missing my baby’s baby (and my babies)
Pairi Daiza, is an amazing zoo not too far from where I live, so Joe and I bought season passes to it. Once a week I walk it after work with friends. Of course we brought Torin to it when he and his mom visited us a few weeks ago. Today, I decided to give it a stroll and soooooo missed my little buddy. Oh my goodness he loved it here. He pretty much loved everywhere we brought him: a train museum in Brussels, a day in the Ardennes and an old abby, a transportation museum in Germany, several cities and villages in Germany’s Black Forest (including a hike that included snow, which, of course he loved!), and a castle tour in Luxembourg.
The first week they were here, I was still working, but oh my goodness I loved coming home to his “Oma, you’re home!’ And then we’d play a bit, he’d help me cook dinner, and then tv/bed time. I so hope he remembers these visits and how much he is adored by his mother’s parents. My neighbors downstairs, however, must be glad to no longer hear the pounding of his feet as he runs from one end of the apartment to the other. Who knew tiny feet could hit the ground so hard.
I loved showing off some of Germany, Luxembourg, the Alsace region in France and Belgium to him and Kaylene. I loved our family time at night and in the mornings even more.
It is my hope this child grows to be in continuous awe of this world, and that he goes forth and discovers so much more — with, of course, a lot more memorable family trips in the near future.
The absolute most difficult part about living overseas is being so darn far from my children and their growing families. But, my kids assure me that they too dig the places I live, especially when they get to visit, and that it’s only a few more years of this life, and then I’ll be back to spoiling the next generation of my clan while embracing the adults my children have become.
Until then I have a few more adventures and discoveries of my own to make. I’m still growing and learning too, so it’s time for me to make some tea and inhale my time here while it lasts.
And break down and buy a new phone, so that I can take my own pictures versus depending on shots from everyone else. The few photos on this post taken by me were via Whatsapp camera. The rest are pics from either Kaylene or Joe.
Cheers to those who bring light into our world
Most of us are living a surreal but sort-of normal reality (or is it?). Life is going on as usual, Covid restrictions are shedding away, and, despite the cold, Spring is coming. That said we are all fully aware of what is going on in Ukraine.
Imagine hearing your ministry of defense urge residents to make firebombs to help protect their home. I repeat: people, like you and me, are being asked to defend their city. Perhaps the people of Ukraine have prepared for this, but if you were to ask Joe and me to defend Mons, we’d fight with Jupiler cans, wine bottles and hours-old baguettes. That sounds like an insensitive joke, but I’m being serious. We, like our Ukrainian brethren, do not know the first thing about military might.
And yet the people of Kyiv are using whatever they can find (including weapons supplied by their government) to hold their city. When needed they retreat to basements and subway tunnels for refuge. I said a little cheer for them this morning when I saw in the headlines that despite Russia’s enormous military advantage, Ukrainians still have their capital city.
On Thursday, the first email at work that I opened was one that told me a former Ukrainian student and her family were safe. Everyone who’s had the pleasure of working with her let out a sigh of relief because she is one of the students you remember long past retirement – the child (now young adult) who pushed her elders to teach more because we wanted to feed her insatiable hunger for knowledge. She’s a hardworking, incredibly bright, proud soul who lit up when given the chance to share her country’s culture. Through her I learned that Ukrainian heritage goes back eons, and their passion for democracy is as strong as it was with America, way back when we wanted the same. Her love of learning and her desire to promote all that is good with humanity motivated me to push harder, to do better to prepare tomorrow’s leaders.
I work at an international school on a NATO base. Many of my students come from countries that border Ukraine, because borders are man made, many have relatives and history well into territory at war now. We’ve also had students from countries that ally with Russia, students I also adored, and it is their faces I see too (and I do not want to see harm come to their families either). All of my students have a parent who in one way or another is associated with NATO.
The stress among these kids now is palpable. Throughout our time together they’ve shared bits and pieces of their homes, their passions, their fears. Their stories stick with me, and like the stories from students before them, they remind me of the many different layers that make up our species. Some of our kids will be going back to their countries, so that their parents can do what it is they’re expected to do. Other kids will join us, so that their family members can do what they need to do. War is work.
I want to hug them all and tell them that everything is going to be okay, but they deserve more than a lie and something that will make me feel better. They deserve a world where we don’t destroy one another for someone else’s version of power, but we just haven’t gotten to that point yet.
Teaching and learning is also work. We have the next week off, but when we come back, despite whatever the next few days brings us, we will get back to work. We will escape into the words of those who saw the world before us and see what we can glean from them. We will make our connections, and we will find what light we can. They will take all of this and use it to become the adults they are growing into. Some of them will grow into public figures who will make the decisions that none of us feel we have any control over. If the teenagers they are today reflect the leaders they will become then I still have faith. But, we still have a lot of work to do. We adults have to model critical and objective thinking (and decision making), we have to model a desire to compromise, we have to model progress despite our setbacks and, yes, idiocracy. We have to want to build for all versus destroying to gain for a few. We have to get over ourselves and face our damned fears and bouts of superiority. We are all woven from the same thread, which takes off into our unique styles and patterns.
Of course a world without war seems impossible. Winning independence against an empire was impossible. Flying was impossible. Being able to breathe underwater? Impossible. Shutting down entire economies to fight a virus was, at one time, impossible. Why should figuring out a way not to war be unreachable? If my hormonal, moody, and sometimes lazy teenagers can continue to do the work despite all the horrors that are happening too close for comfort, then so can we adults.
Peace, or maybe that’s too lofty, how about cohesion is work.