This is my second blog entry since arriving in Belgium, and I am still enjoying myself. It has been incredibly busy since the minute I landed, and I am still adjusting to a variety of differences, however this family suits me well. They are very active, and love to swim, ride bikes, and play futbol (soccer) in the park.
The first week I was here, I was taking care of John, the youngest of the children, who is 3 years old. He is charming, and adorable, but very energetic and will try to climb/throw/run 24 hours a day. We just moved into a new house in a new township (similar to a different city) and that has been a huge change. The house is lovely, it is on an estate, and is part of a castle. I have a huge room; it is painted yellow (my favorite color), and a lovely view. The girls started school on Wednesday, and John starts school this upcoming Monday. Finally, I will be on a schedule and routine, which will be very nice.
I am going into Brussels again this weekend (I cant believe this is only my second weekend here!) to meet up with a new friend I made from Morocco. He wants to learn better English, and I want to learn French, so we are going to help each other. Last Saturday I went into Brussels and had just a fantastic time!!! I took lots of pictures and ate LOTS of waffles and fresh chocolate with pralines, raspberries, and mint. It was nice to go exploring and take photos. If you are reading this and planning to visit, I promise it will be worth your while!!!! It is a fantastic city and a great place to try new things!!
Beginning a new school year for Joy, Kate and John will mean lots of activities, and I am totally going to be the ‘soccer mom’ for the next year. The girls are involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, such as disco dance, and ballet. The girls are just adorable and I love them. They ask me to braid their hair before school, and I put cute pink little clips to hold the braids in. I help them with their homework (honestly my favorite part of the day) and cook the 3 kids dinner. I am basically in a life course of Housewife 101 (but I don’t have to clean the house or iron, they have separate people who do that – yay)!
However, I have been here less than 2 weeks and already realized one thing about myself: I miss learning and going to school and working at interesting jobs (i.e. SCCWRP doing virus and bacteria testing, or working in Dr. Wright’s Lab studying invertebrate marine biology). This is a nice break for me and I think it was the right decision after 4 challenging years in college, but I know for sure that I want to go to graduate school, and get my doctorate or become a veterinarian. I have already gotten through 230 pages of math GRE questions, and I enjoy doing that at night. I get so bored if I am not intellectually stimulated, and I want to take more classes here.
The one class I am currently enrolled in can be considered ”Epic Fail”. My family here signed me up for French; however, they don’t teach French in English, they teach French in Dutch. Soooooo… moral of the story, I don’t understand one single word while I am sitting in class. At night, I try to read French books, listen to French on tape, and ‘immerse’ myself as best as I can. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the brain to easily ‘pick up’ languages. I am trying, but find it incredibly challenging.
Now onto the differences I have already discovered since living in Belgium: besides the huge language barrier, the driving is also really different here. The streets are very narrow and you have to pull over to the side (behind parked cars randomly on the street) to let other cars pass. They also have the ‘right hand rule’ here where cars coming from the right have priority. This is really scary!
The grocery stores here are much different as well, and they don’t weigh your fruits and vegetables at the cash register. I didn’t know this the first time I went shopping, and held up the line because I had to run back and weigh everything. Another thing: I can’t read any labels in the grocery store, so I just guess what I am buying. It’s a new adventure! Also, you get charged 2 Euro to rent a shopping cart, and it costs 1 Euro per grocery bag (to encourage to bring your own)! Again, it is super environmentally friendly here, they charge per garbage bag here, and there is a compost pile for all remaining food, so it can be used in the garden and not put into a dump somewhere.
Also, lets talk about the weather. When I packed for Europe, I brought all my warmest clothes, however coming from California/Arizona, ‘warm’ does not have the same meaning here as it does there. I am standing in the rain with my coat and NorthFace fleece on, while the kids are running around the yard, in literally just underwear and shoes, saying how nice it is! It rains here every day, and I starting singing ‘rain rain go away, come again another day’, and Kate, the middle child, says ‘Chrissy, don’t sing that to the rain, because it just makes the rain sad and want to cry – and then it will rain more’. Moral of the story, the weather is nothing like I have ever experienced. We are now approaching fall, when all the leaves are changing colors and falling to the ground. It is just beautiful, but extremely cold already.
Now to the sappy part (which will be in every single blog), I miss my family and friends a lot already. It finally sank in that this is my new place of residence and an actual job, and not just a vacation, and that has been hard for me. I have made a few friends here, but nothing can compare to the friends back in the US. I know I need to give it time, but it is just hard being here and not having anyone to share in all the excitement of traveling and exploring. I have not had Internet access since we moved into the new house, so I have been missing my Skype dates and daily e-mails from my family. Again, with time, this will get easier, but for now, it is my biggest challenge.
Now for my last little paragraph, I realized I am here for 9 full months: September to June. I am going to challenge myself to visit one new country each month. I will keep you posted on each destination, and am putting it in writing so I stick to it. For my first month, it will be Belgium. I have already gone to Brussels, and will be exploring Bruges and Ghent. Many more pictures to come……
Much love, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you have a blog/e-mail updates about your life, please please please send it to me!!! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org Much love Always.