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Effen Rona…

Mons Dou Dou week 2018

For those of you just clicking on my blog, I live in Mons, Belgium, which has loads of stories to share, but it’s all-time favorite celebration is the Ducasse, or as it’s commonly called: Dou Dou fest.

It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the mid 1300s. It began as a procession of carting the city’s patron saint Wadru (a woman, woo hoo) relics around the city to protect it from the plague. Legend has it that as long as the chariot with the relics makes it up the big hill, bad luck like the plague won’t happen. Throughout the years it evolved into a week-long fest that includes religious ceremonies, parties galore, parades, its own song (which is sung over and over again) and a dragon slaying. It is everything to the citizens of Mons, and it has only been cancelled during the French Revolution and both world wars — until Corona. It’s part Mardi Gras, part medieval lore, and all Montois. The irony of it being cancelled because of a pandemic must truly sting.

The streets of Mons today. This time last year there’s no way I could have gotten this close.
This is what it’s supposed to look like (pic taken from the Dou Dou Mons Facebook page)

In the overall scope of this year’s challenges, it’s not a big deal, I know. And it’s not completely forgotten.

The dou dou song is playing, people are flying the Dou Dou flags, and locals are doing their own thing. Hahaha like this family, who decided to parade their own dragon for slaying.

Police are patrolling on foot and horse to ensure social distancing is in place. The Belfry is now also playing the Dou Dou song. The Collegial (St. Wadru’s cathedral) is also ringing bells, so despite it all, Mons is still cheering on its tradition the best it can — without all the hoopla and people, but it will happen again.

Badger is smitten with the horse patrol

And life is slowly resuming back to normal. Tomorrow we enter another phase of post lockdown. Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen with strict guidelines. On June 15, our borders open to neighboring countries. We’re planning whatever safe summertime fun we can get in.

On the 18th we’re going to spend 5 nights at a lovely cabin in the Ardennes (with its own swimming pool!). A friend is retiring and moving back to the states, so she’ll spend the last week of June staying with us, which will include some last-minute day trips. We’re bringing her animals to Amsterdam to be shipped back, so that means another few nights in the Netherlands (checking out cottages to book now), and then we have a few nights booked at a campground in Luxembourg. We hope to do a little camping and touring in Germany and Poland, but none of that has been booked yet. It’s difficult because we have to follow local mandates, and they’re just working all that out.

Basically, we’re trying to book in some peace and serenity while the world shakes around us. We’re also still waiting on the arrival of our new car, so there’s new and old mixing in with all the different levels of uncertainty and upheaval.

Happy Sunday everyone! And Bon Ducasse to the people of Mons.

Week: what week is this?

Time to garden…

It’s the final day of my spring break, and now it feels like it went by as quickly as it always does.  We’re still on lockdown.  It’s been extended to May 3, our travel ban (from work) has been extended to June 30, with the statement that it could change for better or worse.  Some restrictions are lifting:  more stores are allowed to open, provided distancing measures are taken, and work is discussing post-lockdown strategies, but, of course, none of us knows how long any of this will last.  What we do know is it’s not ending tomorrow.

Belgium’s daily hospital admittance numbers are going down (whew!), but people are still dying.  As of noon today, our numbers are:  38,496 confirmed cases, 5,683 dead.  That’s a lot more than where we were just a month ago, but for the past few days more Coronavirus patients have left the hospital (healed) than have entered, so that’s a very good sign — one we all want to see continue.

I post those numbers for posterity’s sake — one day I’ll look back at this and either go whew! we did okay (relatively speaking; I’m sure those left mourning disagree), or shit that was just phase one.  Only time will tell.  It’s a waste for me to bitch about what frustrates me most about where things are today, but I do want to say to those people at home who are protesting stay-at-home measures or flocking to beaches — stay the eff away from my loved ones. I totally get your frustrations, and I type this knowing I’m lucky that financially I have not yet been bit by this bug (except for my retirement savings plans), but for God’s sake rallying in a crowd isn’t going to help anyone.  Oh I so badly want to vent about the politics of our pandemic, but that is where we are at this phase in our evolution and you guys don’t need me adding any more frustrated venting to it all.  May we all (idiots included) get through this.

Okay enough on what I cannot control. Let’s get back to Spring and pretty things.   This is my happy place, so poof away to the uglies.

I’ve been a productive little beaver and a total couch potato at the same time.  In the past two weeks, I’ve polished off two three credit literature courses.  I’ve read Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, Theodore Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise (an education reform book), Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Jenette Winterson’s Written on the Body, completed a massive amount of reading comprehension questions, written a few essays and completed a week’s worth of lessons for a book I will not teach this year (maybe next year).  I am done with being a student, and my students will be spared essays for the next week or two — but poor babies will get work.  Well, I’m not completely done because I’ve also joined an online class for teachers going online (see the different layers this corona world is taking us!).

I thought Easter would be a bit of a bummer, but it turned out to be a nice day. We baked a ham, roasted garlic potatoes, made cornbread and ate in the balcony room.  Afterwards we watched Andrea Bocelli’s Easter concert on Youtube, and to keep things classy we watched the Tiger King extra episode — no way near as touching as Bocelli’s music to the backdrop of empty cities around the world, but I’m glad to see the characters I liked seemed to all be doing well, but ahem so were the losers (well except for Mr. Fancy Pants whose still in jail).  To top it all off we got to video conference with all three of my kids, and I got to see Torin tearing up his parents living room.  I am so bummed I won’t get to chase that little monster around the pool this summer, but we’ll play again soon.

We’re also still doing things with friends, but differently.  One friend loves to bake and then bring us treats, another loves to barbecue and bring us brisket, others are cooking a Thai feast next weekend, so we walk our little portion of the hood, hang out our windows to yell small talk, and bring each other treats.  It’s our own version of Halloween and Hollywood Squares.

A perk to the pandemic is that we’re discovering Mons more.  Thanks to friends of ours we’ve found our way to pastoral hills and country walks.  A 15-minute walk takes you to a whole other side of the non-city portion, and it’s loaded with trails and trees. It’s been amazing walking and enjoying these trails.  We’ve also walked around the nearby lake and canals, which I’ll include in my next blog post.  But, for now, I’ll leave with you some pics of the beauty that surrounds the city.  Dinner is almost done, so time for me to go and feast.  Oh, Badger also had some words to share on his blog.  If you’re bored go to BadgerDoesBelgium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3

Rue du Onze Novembre applauding the essentials.  I don’t know why it’s sideways.

It’s Friday — woo hoo, so what.  Yesterday I completed my 10th day of online classes. The kids and I are making the best out of it, but of course it’s not the same. I did get to have a few educator friends join my classes for a fun guest day (so that was cool).  Today is a meeting/office day, meaning I catch up on meetings with colleagues and students who need extra help.  My front guest room AKA my closet (with a daybed for when I need all 4 bedrooms) is now my classroom.  It won’t be next week because it’s cramped and uncomfortable.  That was part of my plan, so I’d move around more in between virtual sessions.  But, I quickly grew to dread going in there as much as I used to dread waking up Monday mornings.

If the kids only knew what I looked like from the neck down

Oh wait … next week is Spring Break.  Normally, I’m so excited for my two-week escape from it all, but now I’m here, in my apartment (thank God it’s a lovely place).  We’d escape to the Ardennes or a Belgian beach, but that’s also not allowed (and they have the police and fines to back it up).  Technically, I should be writing this from my hotel room in Ireland since I should have landed there late last night.  Good news is no hangover for me today, which I’m almost certain would have been the case as well.

Again I’m very well aware that I am one of the lucky ones.  Belgium’s numbers are now 16,770 confirmed; 1,143 dead, including a 12-year old girl.  As you all know globally there have now been more than one million confirmed cases and more than 54,000 deaths.  The U.S. and Europe are racking up some numbers, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Joe and I, our loved ones and our friends are all still healthy — a bit more pudgy with less muscle tone, but healthy nonetheless — and we have plenty of food, water, toilet paper and internet to keep us going.  I’m also finally working on two online classes I signed up for last school year.  I’ll finish one of them this weekend, and then I’ll dive into the other.  There’s another course I’ve also signed up for, so I’ll be busy building those last few credits I need for a bit of a bump in my salary.  Oh and that’s another thing I’m super grateful for:  I’m still getting paid.

My big plans for this weekend are to take more silly pics of Badger, so that I can finally post something new on his blog. A friend is loaning us her car (ours is so lonely at the mechanic’s), so that Joe can go to the commissary to buy more American comfort food.  We’re also planning on a long walk around the lake near Mons on Sunday.  We’re hoping Badger can do this — he has his good and bad days, so we’ll see. Since we’re not allowed to use park benches anymore (the parks and benches were sealed off with police tape last weekend) there will be no more sit and rest breaks for the poor boy.  The weather has been beautiful.  This past week was cold, below freezing at night, but oh my goodness the sun has been out every damned day. She just waves at us while we drool on our windows.  Our local memes remind us that as soon as the lockdown is over we’ll go back to rainy days.

While it’s awesome that we’re allowed to go for walks and runs, it’s, sadly, not as enjoyable as you would think.  It’s good to get out, don’t get me wrong.  But, every time we leave the house the threat of coming into contact with the virus is very real.  Sometimes strangers just come up too close to you — it’s rare, but it happens.  Sometimes we touch things and forget to wash our hands before touching our face.  Sometimes we bring the groceries into the house and remember oh shit we should have washed off the packaging before putting food away.

I’d also give anything for a case of lysol disinfectant spray, so that I could de-germinize my couches.  Hell, Badger is one big swifty mop every time he goes for a walk.  How much is attaching itself to him? He coughed the other day and we were all oh no, did we give him the virus?  Turns out the hoover choked on his own hair and doggy biscuits.  These are the things we stress over now (again no where near the truly horrible things others must stress over).

On the bright side there are the 8 pm applauses on the street, my teddy lamb is in the window for any kids who might look up to the third floor, happy hour video chats are happening, and I’m reading/philosophizing the fuck out of my reading corner.  So all is well, even if one day is beginning to blend into the other — technically that’s always been the case; I was just always too busy to notice before.

And, since I’m eternally optimistic, I do look forward to the fun things I get to do.  Speaking of which it’s about time for me to make a refreshing gin and tonic to get ready for our zoom Friday happy hour.

Bon Weekend!

 

 

Week Two…

The Mons monkey masked up and ready to take on our germs

Well I’m in my second week of self isolation.  Last week began our first week of teaching online.  The goal was for us to teach from school while the kids stayed home.  That changed last Wednesday when Belgium went into lockdown at noon.  By last Thursday we were teaching our first online classes from our living rooms.  By 3 p.m. that Friday our borders closed.  I am now living at a time where the police will pull you over if you have more than one person in a car, and you better have a good reason for being on the road. Fines are steep for those who get caught tempting fate.  Not a problem for us since my car died last week, and, well, it’s now in auto isolation at the mechanic’s until the lockdown phase passes.

It’s all good, we’ve got nowhere to go anyway.  Luckily the grocery store is within walking distance as are the parks, but don’t make the mistake of loitering in the park either.  The police will find and fine you.  People are dying, and Belgium is finally taking this seriously (we were all resistant to doing so at first because hello?  cafe sipping is Life — until it no longer is).

We are allowed to go for a walk or run, and Badger still gets his walks, but we can only go with a person we live with (or alone), and we need to keep our distance from others.  Wouldn’t you know the weather has been sunny — in Belgium where it always rains, so it’s a bit of a bright middle finger from Mother Nature.

Spring says F you Corona!

I’m not complaining.  We’re up to more than 6,200 confirmed cases (in the past 24 hours almost 1,300 people tested positive) and 220 dead, which the news and officials clearly stress is an understatement since they only test the severely ill and medical professionals.  We’re obviously not alone since the whole damned world is shutting down to protect ourselves from this virus.  I worry that too many aren’t taking this seriously enough, and I pray (I’m not even the praying sort of soul) that this whole exponential growth thing doesn’t, you know, grow exponentially.  I’m not a math whiz or scientist, so I can still hold on to my hopes and dreams.

The beginning of last week I was a little excited about the teaching online thing because I mistakenly thought I’d get a lot of work done while in my classroom.  Then I got excited about the idea of teaching from home — look Ma no pants!  But, when we were told to pack up as much as we could because there’s no telling when we’ll be back, the reality of this all set in.  I might be homebound for a lot of weeks (can’t bring myself to type the possibility of months).  The probability of people I care about getting sick is quite high.  I’ve already learned about a few deaths of people who knew people I know — luckily so far no one I’m close to has been confirmed of having it. Yet.

I worry about my children.  I’m too far away from them, and I can’t tell them to come stay with me while we feast on my home cooked meals, watch movies and take dips in the pool (those days and that house are long gone).  I can’t Vics vaporize them if they get ill.  I can’t protect them from any crazy that might ensue, and I cannot pay all of them their missed salaries.  My sons work in the restaurant industry, my daughter has her own small business, and her husband is out in the public risking his health, so that his family can continue to eat.

A few nights ago Joe had a coughing fit; occasionally my head hurts a little bit. We both have runny noses.  Normally neither of these would be a concern.  It’s allergy season.  Joe could have inhaled a bug in his sleep because he hasn’t coughed since.  I’m on the computer too many hours, so hello? of course my head hurts.  I’ll be blind when this is all over with.  But yeah the what if? lingers and embeds itself as tightly as the pestilence that waits for us on door knobs and handrails.

This is what happens when teachers are forced to talk via computer screen

It doesn’t matter that most of us who get sick will recover — if any of us gets sick we will still stress.  Sure most of us will be able to nurse ourselves at home, but what if we’re of that percentage that needs intensive care?  None of us wants to drown in our own mucus, or cry home alone while our loved ones suffer. Joe and I (and many of our friends) have the added perk of not knowing much French, so communicating our ailments won’t be easy.  So yeah it’s a scary time for all, even if we crack jokes and minimalize any potential symptoms we might get.  Plainly put: this sucks.

But, it’s not all bad either.  I do so enjoy my morning commute, and I’m adapting.  My students and I still have our own learning vibe going (I do so miss working face-to-face with them, but their personalities still shine through).  I’m keeping track of the kids that don’t talk so much via our virtual sessions, so that I can check in on them one on one later.  We’re all coming up with ways to make this more fun.  And, we’re remembering to remind people we care and that they matter — and they us.

 

We’re learning how to reevaluate our time, our presence, our what we have.  My favorite memes are the ones that remind us that the only thing we have to do to save the world is to stay home — while still having food, all the joys of the Internet and our creativity (OMG keep it up you silly fools with all your stay-at-home antics.  Have you guys seen the one where a couple does their own thing to a Horse with No Name?).

And Badger is learning Shakespeare!

LOL I’m planning a photo shoot for Badger this weekend, so he can have fun being humiliated on his blog.  A girl has gotta take a break from HBO, video and email chats, and online learning or teaching.

So, all of this will eventually pass, and we will all learn something from it — hopefully more good than bad.  For those of us who will not get through this unscathed, know that we are all rooting for you (and ourselves) and blasting you with healthy, cheery, love-filled vibes.  It’s all we have to offer — along with keeping our fat asses at home on the couch.

Stay safe everyone, and do your best to keep your home filled with positive, cheerful things.  Our grocery store still sells fresh cut flowers, so our dining room table is blooming with life and color.  If I could, I’d buy you all a little of the same.  Hang in there, Humans.  We’ve got this (even if it feels like we don’t).

Day two…

 

Well that’s pretty much what my life will be like the next two months (minus the friends on couch — with social distancing we’ll sit farther apart next time we meet).  Pray my upcoming days won’t include people I know getting ill.  My colleagues, our families and I are on a 60-day travel ban (this comes from our work, not Belgium).  We are not allowed to leave Belgium, and our relatives are not allowed to come in to visit. I’m not complaining.  We all have to do what we all have to do to keep this thing under control.  But, that does mean our spring break trip has been cancelled.  We can’t even drive the 20 minutes it takes to get into France.

We are not in a forced lockdown yet, but precautions are put into place.  Beginning this weekend all bars and restaurants are closed (unless they offer takeaway only), all events cancelled and only grocery stores, street food markets and pharmacies can sell their wares (on weekends; during the week all stores can open). Fritteries, fry shops, remain open (lol you can’t stop the frites!)  All schools are closed Monday, including mine.

We teachers still have to go to work to set up our online materials and teach online from our classrooms unless it gets to a point where we’re told to stay home.  Confirmed cases in Belgium have jumped up to almost 900 — beginning of last week I think we had less than 100 (can’t remember:  a week ago feels so long ago).

I, nor most of my American or Belgium counterparts, am not panicking.  I do have a stash of paper towel and toilet paper, but we always have about that amount saved — my husband has this now-timely fear of running out of paper products. Who knew this would become one of our life-saving moments?

Yes on Friday (when closures were announced) our store aisles were bare, but most of them filled back up yesterday morning, so I think the mass buying will fizzle out here quicker than in the states

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our street is never this empty on a Sunday afternoon, but hey plenty of parking if anyone nearby wants to visit.

I’ve been preparing myself and my students for online learning, so I feel like the transition into that will be easier for us than those who found themselves having to make this shift overnight.

We’ve also got plenty of beer, wine and food stocked, so I plan on making us some great meals.  I also plan on using this time to organize and clean my house and finally focus on two online classes I signed up for almost a year ago.  I have to finish them by May, so giddy up it’s time to read and write the b.s. I’ve been avoiding.  Provided I don’t get ill, I’ve been given precious time to do all those things I keep putting off because I don’t have enough time.

I’m of two halves on this thing.  On the one hand I’m not worried that I’ll get sick, and I know I’m good at keeping my own morale up (not so sure I’m good at doing that with my husband, but whatevs shit will get done in this apartment).  As long as we can, we’ll still meet up with friends in small settings because none of us likes being alone for too long (although this extravert is embracing the notion of some down time).

The other part of me is very aware of the dangers of this damned disease.  Overall, I’m a healthy chunky monkey, so if I were to come down with this I’m pretty sure I’d beat it.  Joe doesn’t fare so well with respiratory stuff (he gets sick way more than I do with those kind of ailments), and he’s a few years older, but while he might bitch and moan about how miserable he is, I sense he too would recover.  BUT, there’s always that small chance that either of us won’t, so yeah that sucks — a shitty reality for all of us right now.

Belgium might become the next Italy or Spain.  Right now we’re good, but it could go to super scary over night, and of course I pray and hope and throw out tons of positive vibes that it won’t.  Universe I hope you’re taking in all that positivity!  But, yeah, we’re all fully aware of the reverse of my good wishes, so we just won’t dwell on that unless we have to, and then we’ll take that one step at a time like every other obstacle that comes our way.

I do not think it’s stupid for all of these closures and cancellations.  I don’t think it’s over reaction.  I do wish our governments would have done it sooner to really wipe this thing out, but only time will tell if their timing wasn’t too late.  I also do get why the waiting happened; closing everything down comes at a very large cost — hopefully, we all remember that it’s a worthwhile one, but again we’re an odd species, so we’ll see where it all goes.

I also worry about my sons who work in the restaurant industry back home.  They’re young and healthy and currently still working, which is great for them financially, but how long will that last?  It’s also affected my daughter’s business.

I worry about the long-term financial impact this will have on us all (and whether it will cause other tensions that lead to nastiness), but again now is not the time for me to focus on the negative, but it is a time to be alert and aware.

There is so much good also coming out of this.  We’re learning how resourceful we can be, and I truly believe more of us are pitching in to do good than to take advantage of the situation (although of course those assholes are out there).  I hope that when we’re collectively wiping our brows and exhaling because we survived this last bout of crisis, we will reflect and realize we can quickly make massive change for the better.

So it seems 2020 is the year of Wash Your Hands, and what a wonderful metaphor that could be for getting rid of all kinds of figurative bacteria that’s been making us ill for too long of a time. If we can close everything (for the betterment of all) and we can quickly realign the way we work and learn, hell’s yeah we could change those things we say are too embedded to change. Let’s remember that when life goes back to normal.

 

And thanks to Tracy for the best hand-washing gel a botanical sipper like me could ever scrub her fingers with.

Happy New Year!

It was so good having two of my kids here for the holidays. I sooooo miss living close to them. We had a wonderful Christmas, mostly through the eyes of Torin.

He’s one of us — already begging for beer.

I soooo miss that little wiggle worm! I have to wait at least 6 months before I can see him again.

Day after Christmas we packed up a rental van and drove to Normandy, where we stayed in a renovated farm house and Kelly got to pay homage to all (including his grandfather) who did not get to experience Normandy with the love and warmth we did.

Loved this swing (and playing with my little Mama) in the barn.  This would be the perfect place to spend the summer.

They used airplane toggles for light switches.  How clever!

This bathtub was perfect for Torin (sorry i didn’t get a good shot, but my daughter got a few).  LOL I took a bath in it, and had to do yoga to get back out (I’ve never done yoga before — um a wet, naked me was not a good way to begin).

Joe’s and my bed in the attic room.  I want the world to know that even under the influence of fermented French grapes, my fat ass and weak ankle can still climb the ladder to this comfy bed.  Our first night I fell asleep to the wind howling because it could not budge those stone walls or the tightly fastened roof (Amen to that!).

Thanks to it being unseasonably warm, we ended up stripping down to tank tops just so we could enjoy our last night with a fire and Saving Private Ryan — a must see after visiting all the sites, just to remind us of how awful it all was. May we one day learn to resolve our conflicts without destroying our precious young and land.

Watching the sun rise from my bed in the attic room.  How cool is that?!

Who doesn’t want to um, read in this room?  Another perk:  the floors are heated!  OMG my tootsies love a warm bathroom floor.

And, here are some shots of the fam touring the shores and churches of Normandy.

We lit a candle for peace — oh may it shine brightly.

My little photographer taking all sorts of close ups.  Torin is not amused.

My baby of the group — looks like he belongs here!

I love Torin’s facial expressions, especially in his carrier.  He seems to love the mist on his face, but he’s always “so whatcha up to?”

Kelly with his mom.

Then we came back to Mons and brought in the New Year with fireworks on the Grand Place.  This was the first year they threw a party on New Years, and it was fantastic.  I do so love where I live.  It just seems to get better and better, except for the fact that my kids aren’t here permanently.

It’s all good because my trick to not suffering Empty Nest Syndrome is travel, so on Jan 2 when my kids flew home, Joe and I boarded a plane to Venice, where we spent a lovely long weekend with his sister (since he’s retired, Joe got to spend a few days longer; I’m still jealous).

This is my favorite shot I took during that trip, and I took it from the balcony of Joe’s sister’s apartment.

These two shots are from the windows of our apartment.

It was so cool to sip coffee with that view (fingers crossed I didn’t blind any gondoliers with my no-bra jammies).  We stayed in the San Paulo area, which is where Joe’s sister has been visiting for years (15 I think).  It was so nice to have her as our guide because we got to feast and sip with the friends she’s made there over the years, and we now love it as much as she does.  Thank you Linda for giving us another place to call home!

This shop was our guide to turn onto our street. And just in case you need more pics of Venice, here you go…

I could have sat and sipped here alllllllllllll day long.

Joe and Linda catching up our first night there.  We now know the best time to visit St Marco square is at night, after Christmas.  STILL magical!

But, can you ever get enough gondola shots?

These two dogs waited patiently outside while their owner bought bread.  Going by the amount of people taking pics, I bet they’re international social media stars by now. Badger would love it here since dogs seem to be welcome and adored everywhere.

Gotta post a selfie of us standing on the dock right by our bedroom window.

We had such a wonderful time that we decided to join Linda for Christmas there next year.  I’ll be sure to bring a big suitcase so that I can load up with more glasses and bowls and oh my the shopping!  So many pretty things, but the best — besides the scenery — were the people (food and wine almost tie with them).

As for the new year:  I no longer make resolutions.  However, this year I made one, and that is to upload my photos to this blog as trips are happening.  It takes a ridiculous amount of time to sort through them all and do it on a lazy Sunday (when I also have the pressure of having real work to do — ugh).  It’s quicker uploading via my phone anyway.  So, there you go:  fingers crossed I’ll keep to it.

Before I say chow, here are a few links that might interest you (and no:  I don’t get paid to share other people’s stuff.  lol I don’t get paid for this blog at all).

First one is Badger’s take on my return (poor boy is getting old, which means less trips in 2020 without him):  Badger Does Belgium

Second is a link to our cottage in Normandy.  Know that it’s an hour from most sites, but it has a lovely beach nearby:  Glatigny Farmhouse

Third is a Venetian walking food tour (by American guides) we haven’t taken yet, but we totally plan on bringing friends to Venice to do this (we’ve met the couple who do this and can’t imagine this being anything but fun):  Venice Bites

And that’s it for now.  I’m back in my real world and have a busy few weeks coming up.  Are they ever anything but busy?

Rain & Rainbows

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It’s been way too long since I’ve posted, and, of course, a lot has happened since August.  Work is super busy, and whenever I try to upload photos to this blog it seems to take me forever no matter what I do.  In big part it’s because of my shitty wifi.  I love where I live, but it has its issues.

Since I’ve last posted, I’ve had a visit from my Al Ain neighbor Haneefa (back in August), and we had fun on a weekend trip discovering Rotterdam.

Cubed houses and interesting street art just to name a few things to find in that city.

And, we’ve gotten plenty of play time right here in Belgium.  Mons had its annual Tanks in Town event, which is always a good time.

Plus, we’ve gone to plenty of fun dinners, concerts, fests on base (including Octoberfest!) and God only knows what other local shenanigans.  There’s always something going on; I just wish I took the time to post about them while they were happening.

The weather has been literally rainbows and rain, but the temps are still lovely.  Today it’s in the 70s (fahrenheit).  It makes for a good metaphor for my life as well.  Nothing bad has happened, but it’s that time of year when I’m just so slammed with work stuff.  It never seems to end, but it’s all good.  Kids are learning, and I’m still energized by them.IMG_E1327

Although sometimes it’s a little too much zap because I’m also exhausted!

I do so love this time of year though because you can feel the shift in season.  The chill is making its way in, and the days are darker longer.  I’m also getting ready for a bunch of visitors and festivities.  My sister and part of her family arrive Oct 23, then we’re off to Germany for a bit, then Shannan arrives for a good visit, and whallah we’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas time upon us.  Aaron arrives Dec 16, and Kaylene and her crew arrive Dec 23, sooooo I’m all a jingle with holiday planning.

All of which gave me an excuse to visit Champagne country again.  Oh, how I love Epernay and Reims as well.

When there’s so much champagne to sip, water comes in warning bottles.

I’m totally in love with my new champagne bucket/table from the ‘widow.’ Veuve Clicquot champagne is famous thanks to a woman who made the best out of her husband’s passing, so, you know, I’m totally a fan (not that I want to off my husband).

AND for all my visitors, I’m all stocked up on most excellent champagne and wine.

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Oh and there’s goodies in my fridge and cave (basement storage room) too.  Bring on the good cheer!

Badger is hanging in there, but old age is kicking his hind quarters a bit, so we’ve ordered a doggie sling for him to help when he has to use our stairs.  That’s right folks, I’m buying handles, so I can carry my dog like a suitcase.  I’ll update his blog in a bit too since we want to get as many shots of him loving life while he is.  If the doctor keeps giving him morphine, I imagine he’ll hang in for quite a bit longer.  That dog totally digs being stoned.

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He’s also a lush because he keeps wanting to go to the bar across the street from Park du Poo.

Well, I’m sorry I’ve not shared too many details this time around on our travels or expat life.  Like normal life, sometimes we’ve just gotta hunker down and focus on what pays for all that fun.

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It’s all good though when the path we’re on is loaded with colors and cobblestone — and cafe sipping.  Good God do I love cafe sipping, even in the rain.

Fingers crossed I’ll post again soon.  Cheers to all of you!

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Bottoms up…

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Shame on me for not posting most of February and all of March.  Work and life have been busy (I know you’re tired of hearing that excuse, but it’s true).  We’ve whooped it up around Belgium and Paris with friends who were visiting, we’ve gone to a few wine tastings and lots of dinners and local outings.

Same old, same old … but never dull!  Even a trip to the flower market could turn into bubbly on the curb — especially when the sun is out!

The Grand Place is all decked out for Easter, including a big ferris wheel, which I’d like to post pics of, but I’m sure it’ll be down before I get to it.  We’re leaving on Saturday for our big trip to Asia.  I’m really excited about it.  We begin in Beijing where we’ll see the Great Wall and Forbidden City, then we’re off to South Korea where we’ll whoop it up with Jordan and Wilbur and watch a Korean baseball game, imbibe at a Korean BBQ, do a DMZ tour and check out Seoul, then it’s off to Shanghai and then Hong Kong.  Every stop except Beijing includes fun time with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since moving away from the UAE.  So, a busy, good time will be had.

Another thing I’m excited about is it’s Spring!  Days are blessedly longer and work is winding down (I’m already planning away for next year).  When we return from Spring Break, we have Game of Thrones parties, more friends visiting, weekend trips, Dou Dou fest (before that the Beer Fest!), more dinners and plenty of Grand Place adventures to look forward to.  And then it’s time to fly back to the states for the summer where I’ll get to swim with the grand baby, my kids and friends.  Let the warm days of fun begin!

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And while I like this picture: Adieu to the long dark days of winter.  LOL Winter is NOT coming here  — until November.

Let there be snow!

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Guess who got her first snow day?  Whoop whoop!  Badger and I joined friends for breakfast, then we walked the park and had fun watching the kids pummel each other with snowballs, came home, cleaned, sipped tea with Chris, and totally just enjoyed being alive and home on a cold, wet winter day.

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It’s so beautiful, especially early morning.  Now, that the day is almost over it’s slush and dirt snow.

Lol, that said, the dog isn’t a fan of the cold.  To get his perspective click on his pic below. img_7746.jpg

As usual, I’ve been busy with work and fun.  Before Kyle and Kendra flew back to Arizona we got to see the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit at the museum across the street from me and the weirdest performance (think fantasy characters on acid) at the Collegial.  Both were a lovely way to end our time together, and I was melancholic when they left.  I so miss spending regular time with my babies.  I love this life of mine, but, well, you know, I want both worlds together.

Last weekend I spent in Amsterdam playing with friends.  I finally got to visit the Moco museum, which I’ve been wanting to tour forever.  I highly recommend.

Sorry, turns out I didn’t snap too many pics, but here are few Amstie goodies for you. Never a dull time there!

We also had our own Yellow Jacket protest here in Mons.  Laura and I were walking Cupcake and Badger and ran right into their parade.  We brought our dogs home to avoid the noise, and the protesters ended up walking right under my window.  No violence, just noise.

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It’s an interesting time to be aging.  So much anger and disappointment among many.  There’s a lot to be angry about.  I hope/pray/dance/beg/whatever it takes for my species to figure its shit out.  We have oh so much to be thankful for and in love with; may we remember that before we destroy it all.  {this is what happens when I have a day off to also sip tea and reflect]

My man is in the states, returning here March 1.  I’m not going to lie:  I LOVE having time alone (don’t worry I also miss him and love our time together too).  He’s catching up with friends and family while getting some of his stuff taken care of.  He finally got to meet Kaylene’s baby, and never has he looked sexier to me than in this pic right here…

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Torin says, “Badger you’ve got competition.  I’ve got him wrapped too!”

Next week I’ll be at The Hague all week watching some of our students play out their roles in Model United Nations.  It ought to be a great thing to witness — if teenagers only knew how much hope they feed me.  Keep it up, kids.

Well, it’s getting dark and drafty in my apartment.  Time to up the heat, light the candles, pour a hot bath and settle back into work-night mode.  Before I know it, it’ll be time for summer vacation again, and I’ll be back to cackling with my kids and friends.

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Here’s to our crazy pool time together, which will be here in a few blinks!

um, p.s., Snow Gods:  I’m totally good if you want to give us another Snow Day.  The pool can wait for that.

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve bubbly on Brussel’s Grand Place

This time next week Kyle and Kendra will be back in Arizona, Joe will be on a plane headed to Arizona (for a two month visit), and I will be busy at work.  BUT, that’s next week.  This week I’m still on holiday getting all snuggly with part of my family.

We’ve been busy living it up.  We’ve done weekends in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and Brussels, along with showing off Mons and Brugge — including lots of good cheer with friends.

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We’ve imbibed in a lot of goodness!  And, the obligatory tourist shots!

We also got to witness a little bit of the Yellow Jacket ruckus in Paris.  Our tour guide was more a fan of the protests than telling us interesting bits about the city, but it’s all good since it’s now part of our story.

The city was way less crowded than normal, and we saw the remnants of the violence that erupted prior to our visit, but we were lucky that no projectiles or fires took off where we were — just people chanting and parading for their something better.

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We also got to celebrate Lorayne’s birthday sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower, so our story is always more full of happiness than its antonym.

On New Year’s Eve we joined the party at the Atomium, which was fun until, well, it wasn’t, but that too turned out okay.

The aerial dancers, music and fireworks show was amazing — and free to enter!  But, the trip home was insane.  I love Belgium, and I get it has its kinks, but promising free public transportation after midnight (in Brussels) and then not planning on crowd control eeze a problame!  

We got to the Tram station only to find a swarm of people like us trying to figure out where the damn line to get into the station was — instead it was just a mosh pit of hats and scarves pushing our way forward only to learn that the corner of the crowd we were in was ‘closed.’  Wtf did that even mean?  Long story short we have no idea what was going on inside the tram station, only that our asses weren’t getting in.  So, Kyle took over  the GPS and we began the alleged 1.5 hour walk to our hotel.  The goal was to hail a cab or jump on a bus or try out another metro station along the way.  LOL, but every bus that passed us was so packed with people their faces were literally squished against the windows.  They would have flipped us the bird — since we laughed at the insanity of it — but they were too packed in to be able to lift their hands.  I wasn’t handling the whole thing very well and was really pissed, but then it started raining, and I just gave in to it because what can you do?  Walk in, hopefully, the right direction, while packed taxis and busses pass you by — until Kyle managed to hail us our miracle cab.  

So, we brought in 2019 with amazing fireworks, a bit of a “wtf do we do now” panic, then relief thanks to a stranger, and then, finally, oh thank God we’re home.  That pretty much sums up our years, doesn’t it?

It’s all good because our story will always move forward, and that’s a great thing.  Cheers to all of you and all that the new year will bring us!

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And Auf Wiedersehen to the holiday season — we’ll catch you again in 11 months!

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