Tomorrow I go back to work officially. Days of staying up late and lounging on the balcony, on the Grand Place, on the couch, on the wherever/whenever I want are over (well, except for weekends!).
I’m glad we returned to Belgium two weeks before going back to work because we’ve had a lot of fun touring here — despite the heatwave — and showing off our hood to new friends (and old).
Bought chocolate in Brugge, beer at Orval Abbey, beer at Villers Abbey, sipped wine at The Abbey where friends live, and ate food all over the place. It’s been good.
Some Orval shots for you…
FYI Dog lovers: dogs cannot enter this abby, but they can hang with you in the nearby restaurant.
My favorite Orval pic: Lord knows I’m going to need someone to hold me up the next few weeks!
I really enjoyed Viller’s Abbey, which is less than an hour’s drive from Mons (less than that from Brussels). Josh and Roger, friends of ours, suggested it since we could bring Badger on the grounds, and we’re so glad they did.
The whole area is worth it. Tourists reading this, I highly recommend you give it a whirl. It’s a maze of ruins and gardens, which you can get at just about all of the Abbys, but it’s a short drive and not as well known, so way less people. It also has stage set ups and events planned throughout the year. Mid-September there will be some sort of ghost walk and the end of September includes a fire symphony, which we’re totally going to.
Outside the Abby grounds are more walking trails, cafes and goodies to explore — including a “Dog Bar” for Badger.
Some Villers Abby shots for you. LOL, yes there’s a disco ball in them ruins.
We also enjoyed cooking out where Mini and Leah, more friends, live. Their apartments are on old abby grounds. I’ve been there quite a few times, and this is the first time I walked the grounds. It’s beautiful, and Lo and behold we discovered there’s actually a No Frog zone.
Frogs say pooh on that because we saw all kinds of baby ones hopping about.
Life never gets boring here, which is a good thing because my next vacation isn’t until November when I’ll finally get to meet my first grandchild (he or she is due August 28, come on lil one! The world awaits your chaos).
And, I haven’t totally let go of Brazil yet. LOL a piece of it is on my dining room table.
Beach wraps make great table cloths!
Well, it’s noon and I’m starving, so time to get out on the Grand Place and nibble on something like this…
I’m never getting thin again…
So, we’ve been having fun with World Cup fever. We watched Belgium’s first two games at the Grand Place in Mons, and yeah it was fun. Last night’s game we watched in Germany. We also got to hang our heads during Germany’s last game. I always root for Germany because hello? my relatives would never forgive me if I didn’t. A girl does not tempt her fate amongst blood members of her tribe. So, I was really excited to get to watch Germany IN Germany, but, well, you guys know how all that went. Perhaps I am not my mother’s land good luck charm.
On the bright side of things I no longer have to stress over who I’d root for in a Germany vs Belgium game, and the colors are the same, so it’s all good (leave it to this blonde to not concern herself with their order). We head back to Belgium Sunday, so we’ll be back at the Grand Place to watch Belgium, hopefully, win again.
Bringing sexy to the colors!
I’d post more pics, but my phone charger died, so no uploading photos today. It’s all good I’ll post more on our visit to Mini’s other part of the world before we take off again next week.
Until then we’re doing a lot of this…
regardless of who is playing, or if even there’s a game going on.
And, this is what the Grand Place looks and sounds like after a big event is over.
Badger is still digging it all too, although he can’t seem to find a girlfriend. Check out his woes here.
Summer break: Day one!
Another year logged and graded! Can you believe? This year flew by. I mean really fast. It still feels like I just got here. This time last year I was going through close-out hell in UAE and new-hire paperwork hell for this job.
Some of my good UAE friends are going through that now. I don’t envy them (although I know their next adventure will be as exciting as mine), but I am thrilled that I’ll get to see them in a few weeks. We’re flying to Dominican Republic to cheer on Jordan & Wilbur’s wedding — whoop whoop! I cannot wait to pool drink, beach nap and OMG go to a spa with them again! Mama needs some pampering with her girls.
Joe and I have got it good. Because we’re finally living in an area that isn’t as hot as the sun, we’re not rushing to get out of here. So, we’re piddling around Belgium next week, then driving to a friend’s house in Bavaria (I might even get a chance to go to Poland to shop for pottery — ewwww yeah!), then flying to Dublin (Slainteing it up with Derrick), then DR, and then off to Brazil for 10 days, and then Jordan & Wilbur will fly back to Brussels with us. Sooooo woo hoo — lots and lots of catching up with friends and fun times. Then in August I get to go back to work to a job I really enjoy, and welcome year two of my life here — which we hope will continue for quite a few years!
One of the many perks to being a teacher is the annual end-of-year reflection. It’s nice to have that time to sip coffee and think about all that went well and all that went south way too quickly — some years it’s more crap than good, but mostly it’s more positive. And while we’re oh sooooo happy to be getting our break, we do think fondly of our kids and all that they taught us — yeah even you “Johnny” who may or may not have given me a twitch from refraining a cuss word or two.
For me, this year, the bad was mostly outside my little bubble. I don’t like where things are in the world right now, but the optimist in me clings (desperately at times) to the notion that change for the better will happen. I’m not naive; there’s more chaos to come before some sort of calm, but working with teenagers always gives me hope. Of course they’re still hormone-riddled, angst-obsessed, volatile beings, but they’re on the cusp of the adults they will become, and I always see way more hope and good than helplessness. So, yeah, I still believe the young will fix some of what we broke — while knowing they’ll also break some things of their own.
I’m not going to bore you with my thoughts on all the different movements and walkouts taking place in my home country, but I will say I’m glad people (especially the young) are waking up and getting their voices heard. It’s my hope all those voices will join to lead us to progress and smother out much of our senseless harm. So, that’s my first-day of summer break reflection for you. Time to refill my cup of coffee and get on with my deadline-free days.
While Badger gets to go to Germany with us, he’s ticked we’re not taking him on our other adventures. LOL he thinks giving me the sad puppy eyes will change my mind, but nope he’s going off to doggy summer camp!
After spending 16 years living in a desert, I am so so so so flipping ecstatic to be going through a real spring again! I loved Phoenix and the UAE, but I was born into 4 seasons (a late spring baby at that!), and it is my intention to die in a 4-season area (but not anytime soon). Don’t get me wrong, the desert has its spring too, and it is lovely, but it’s just not as amazing when the temperatures were already warm to begin with — AND when it’s your reminder that in too short of a time it will be in the 100s again.
Today is a gray, rainy day, but it’s all good because we’ve had almost two weeks of sunshine and temps that went above 80. Sooo, pretty much every free moment we have had has been spent outdoors. I’ve also gone into overdrive buying flowers for our place. So much color and fragrance! Here’s just a few, but my place and balconies are full of them.
I even have my birth flower. I love Lilly of the Valley, which grew wild in the Catskills, so a great childhood memory is picking them for myself (when we’d get out of the city to our ‘country house’) because, you know, they were MY flower. I haven’t seen these lil tinker bells in so long, I did a little dance when I saw them at the market. And can I say I freaking love, love, love that A. we have a Sunday Market; B. there are so many flower shops everywhere; and C. I always have fresh flowers in the house now. Ohhhh, and I also have a honeysuckle vine on my bedroom balcony, which makes my bedroom smell divine (why do I have to leave its bed?). I don’t care if temps drop back to the 40s, lol that window is staying open.
I’ve also bought a whole slew of edible stuff for my kitchen window.
I’ve got thyme, basil and rosemary too. Okay, I’ll stop with all the blooming pics. Oh wait, there’s one more. The backyard tree that mesmerizes me every day.
This pic doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea. So, yeah there’s a lot of balcony time sipping and staring. Yum, yum.
There’s also been a lot of time on the Grand Place, doing the same, while running into friends.
And, we’ve done some touring too. Last weekend we spent all Saturday at an abby
I wish I uploaded more to show you because it’s in a beautiful area, and we plan on going back again. My wifi is sketchy, so this time around, I’m too lazy to fight it and upload more. The beer is quite tasty too.
Last Sunday, we went to Dunkirk.
And next weekend, we’re headed to Amsterdam. We haven’t gotten around to visiting the famous bluebell forest near Brussels or the tulip farms in the Netherlands, but we’re trying to fit that in the next two weekends (if it’s not too late). There’s also been a lot more touring around our area and finding little gems along the way, so needless to say we’re really enjoying ourselves. I cannot believe that in seven weeks the school year will be over (and oh my goodness do we have some fun summer plans). How did it all fly by so quickly?
Oh, and I bought my future grandchild his or her first bike bell. I’m already planting the seed for another without-borders soul. Cannot wait to meet him or her in November (although the lil one is expected to be born late August)!
And, of course, Badger has his take on the spring, so if you’re curious to see what he’s up to, go to https://badgerdoesbelgium.wordpress.com
Raindrops keep blocking the view of my basil plant in kitchen window — now try singing that to raindrops keep falling on my head; twas difficult typing it to that tune. Yep, I’m even off key when I type sing.
It’s a lovely cool, rainy Sunday morning. The perfect day for me to assemble another Ikea puzzle after I sip coffee, read and write a bit. I’m all snuggled up on my comfy, corner yellow chair and embracing the fact that I have the next week off. Normally, I’d book a weeklong adventure, but my big shipment from America is coming tomorrow, the plumber is coming tomorrow, and allegedly the Internet guy. May it all pan out the way I hope it should! I am going to visit my family in Germany later in the week though, and I’m sooooo looking forward to that.
So, I bought a car on Friday. A cute little 2009 VW Golf diesel from a really nice Frenchman who also works on the base. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in buying a used car. He did everything he was supposed to; I got it insured and did everything I was supposed to, and we met at the admin building to register the car in my name (something the previous owner did not have to stay for, but he did to help me out). I feel great about buying this car. Are you sensing a hiccup? Yep. Two numbers were wrong on the VIN number on my insurance card, “Sorry Madame, you must come back Monday with correct number on card.” Monday is a busy day! My car rental is the equivalent of $600 a month, and I just paid a few thousand for this ‘new’ car, so you can imagine I’m not liking the evaporating euros. That said I wouldn’t be able to drive the car this weekend anyway because it has to sit in the parking lot until my tags arrive 5 to 15 days from when it’s registered. Temporary tags do not exist here. So, what’s an extra weekend? I was never meant to save money anyway. C’est la vie
Before: And Twingo is its Nameoh! Le rental. After: my poor baby waiting for me to rev her.
In September I went to a salon to get my hair done, which turned out to be worse than letting the roots grow out on their own, so my hair has been part witch, part “can you spare a coin?” It’s a good thing I smile a lot because people would have run from me otherwise. Anyway a coworker and new friend suggested I try her place out, which is in some god-knows-where village. I met my friend 7:30 yesterday morning to follow her through the woods, the deathtrap construction, even alongside a canal, to the lil shop on the side of some curvy road. Who in the hell does hair that early on a Saturday? Turns out she needs to begin that early because this little shop gets busy, busy, busy, and for good reason.
Not only is the stylist known for her talent, but also the place is just what stressed out women need on a Saturday morning. Her adorable attendants pamper you, while she works her magic (although Jill, my stylist in Arizona, and Gina, my stylist in Al Ain, if you girls are reading, you’re still my faves). One guy takes my coat and serves me a Starbucks-worthy cappuccino, the other makes two sisters giggle and pretend orgasm (maybe it was real) while he massages their scalps. Speaking of which, those two sisters didn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much French, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time together — and I dare say they were two sexy mamas when they left the place.
There are two tables. One where we women sit together while our colors are painted on; the other divided by a mirror where the stylist cuts and styles our hair — it’s sort of like a beauty salon whack a mole; she finishes one of us and another pops into a chair. Meanwhile women cackle and tsk, tsk over the stories of their lives. It’s the perfect set up, and my GPS better serve me well because if I can find the place, I’ll go back again. One day I might even know enough French to offer more than one or two word responses.
See, bathroom selfies are not just for online dating! Thank God you can’t see the heap of clothes on the floor.
So, things are moving along, and I’m nestling into my version of normal. Ohhh, I even bumped into a friend and chatted for a bit while lugging my old-lady shopping cart on a cobblestone street to get me some wine and goodies, so I’m turning into a local foreigner.
I’m relaxed and content, and that is exactly how things should be — anywhere in the world — on a weekend morning. May you all be snuggly and well in your corners of the world.
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.
Grabbed these from google images and didn’t write down the links. I know shame on m, but here’s a glimpse of Mons.
I’ve been busy hacking up a lung and packing up the house and catching up with my man and dog. No sooner did I land in the U.S. and I got a sore throat and then a full-blown cold (which I haven’t had in forever). I have Joe and Kyle to thank for that one, but it’s all good I’m home.
I got my EOS payment last Thursday and my travel orders this past Monday. Yesterday I got my flight itinerary and today we solidified my shipping dates. Sooooooo, it’s official: I move to Belgium on August 6. My furniture and household goods begin their journey on August 15. Joe and Badger join me in February.
It’s all coming together. Pretty soon you’ll be getting bombarded with Belgium posts and all the new I get to experience. I’m exhausted from all that we’re doing to get to that point, but I’m also very excited.
And on that note, I’ve got errands to run. Woo Hoo this new job thing is happening!
I’m down to my final nights. I’ve essentially been homeless since the first week of June, but let’s be real I haven’t really been homeless. I’ve had my own bedroom and bathroom at Shannan’s, and then I spent a little over a week at Michelle’s in Virginia, and now I’m in my hotel room at the Danat in Al Ain. Plus, I still own my house in Arizona (although that’s finally going on market before the end of this month!). So, the correct thing to say is I’m living out of my suitcases.
While checking in I ran into a family I moved here with — shout out to the Dafoes! We were in the same hotel when we first moved here, and looks like we’re in the same on our way out. Now, that I’m at the end of my journey here it feels like it just started while at the same time feeling like a lifetime ago. Spending my final days at the Danat will be fun though. I have friends here (and friends who will visit), a pool, several bars, a balcony and a comfy bed — minus all that stress of jet lag while being a new hire. OMG it’s such a relief to be finished with all of the paperwork. All I’m waiting on here is my EOS. Time to breathe before I begin the new hire stress in Belgium.
I’ll be suitcase surfing for a while now.
Thursday I’m off to Germany for a week (woo hoo! can’t wait to see my family.), then Amsterdam, then a stopover night in Iceland, then Virginia, then Phoenix for two or three weeks (depending on my travel orders) and then it’s back to hotel living for however long it’ll take for me to find my next home. When I finally get a lazy weekend in my new home it’ll be epic — perhaps a blog post about how happy I am to be home alone in my own bed, wherever the hell that home is. Mons? suburb of Brussels? somewhere in between? or to the right or left of the base? who knows? All I know is it’ll be near all this green…
Image taken from http://transcultures.be/en/2013/05/02/open-call-park-in-progress-mons-belgium-in-the-international-city-sonic-sound-art-festival/
Cooler temps, bicycle paths, canals and lakes, old pubs …. woo hoo!
But until then it’s back to enjoying room service, valet parking, pool and spa time!