Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goodbye Belgium


It had to happen eventually.  You all are aware by now that we are departing Belgium tomorrow and ironically this is also my first post to the blog.  As we pack our belongings and I work diligently to finish off the French wine collection that was so carefully assembled over the last 2.5 years, I thought it was necessary to reflect a bit on the adventure.

To a committed type-A control freak, Belgium remains a bit of a wonderful conundrum even after two-plus years.  I have learned to accept a few degrees additional randomness in my life whether it is the ever changing weather, sudden closing of a store due to "holidays", my total ignorance of local events or the mysterious police ticket that requires countless visits to the local (and exceedingly friendly) precinct to resolve.  I have no doubt that I will quickly re-acclimate to life in America but also know that I will soon find the occasion to reminisce how it was "done in Belgium".  It is a given that the first time a bubbly American server comes to my restaurant table and introduces themselves as "hi my name is xxxxx and I'll be your server" I will long for a surly Belgian "professional" who demands that I order the absolutely delicious specialty of the night, serves the correct wine for my meal without asking and perfectly times the main course so that it does not arrive on top of the appetizer - all with no expectation for a tip.

It would not be appropriate to leave Belgium without some kind of list.  For those of you who have spent any time here you will recognize the following.  You know when you've been in Belgium too long when ... 
-You always stop your car for traffic from even the tiniest little road from the right.
-You consider breaking the speed limit normal, and honk and flash at people who don't.
-You catch yourself ordering a "Supplement Frites" with every single dish you have in any kind of restaurant.
-You give other foreigners lectures on the difference between fake and real monastery- produced beer.
-You don't drink the last two centilitres of a Westmalle trippel.
-You never wear any colour brighter than dark green. You automatically assume anyone who does is either:
a. Dutch
b. Scandinavian
c. American or
d. Extremely rude
-Just one day without rain even in July and August can make you happy.
-You consider it normal that even the train to and from the airport has announcements in both Dutch and French, but not in English. You don't react when all the foreigners storm out of the train at the announcement of Brussels North when coming from the airport.
-You think it looks nice when the type of pavement tiles in front of each house are different, and you don't mind falling over lopsided tiles occasionally.
-You take dog-shit on the pavement as just another challenge on you daily walks.
-You keep three colours of bin-bags for different kinds of waste, and remember which days to put out which kind of bag on the pavement in front of your house.
-You have given up on any sensible political discussion on the language divide in general and the Brussels Capital Region and the future of Belgium in particular.
-You consider it perfectly normal when the names of towns on road signs change from French to Dutch and vice versa every 5 or 10 kilometres of motorway.
-You have understood that the hassle of monthly visits to the municipality to obtain papers or residence permits is reserved for recently arrived foreigners who move every 6 months, and you therefore don't complain over your own annual visit where you wait in line for an hour or two.

You know what I am talking about!

I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked and lived in Belgium - for the opportunity to experience a new country, a new culture and a new way of looking at life.  I can honestly say that my eyes have been opened a bit wider and that I am better for the opportunity.  That said, I am most thankful for how wonderful Belgium was for Jill.  I will miss the reports of who was met on the daily dog walks (we miss you Max), what European vacation is in the queue, what treasures were acquired on the shopping expedition and what "local" she engaged in another round of CHARADES.

Thank you Belgium and thank you Jill for another wonderful chapter in our life.


Anonymous said...

Very well said Joe! We also will miss Brussels. Thank you for the opportunity your move there gave us.We cherish the trips we had with you. Now onto a new venture. We wish you the best. Love, Mom and Dad K.

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