This blog should have been done on the 24th of August but honestly I didn’t know what to place on virtual paper. I was completely unsure of what it was I wanted to say about my first year in Belgium. Sure it’s an important milestone but I also felt kind of casual about it. Do I draw attention to the anniversary? Do I simply continue strolling down the road and casually ignore the elephant following me?
No. Turn around and say “hi” to the elephant.
Moving to Belgium has been rewarding in some ways and horrible in others.
My daughter is happy. I can tell because unhappy toddlers don’t spontaneously combust into song and giggle in their sleep. I don’t worry about my family making it home safely anymore and hope they’re all okay. I have far more faith that they are.
The things I’ve learnt during a year in Belgium:
- Wandelen (walking) is a fine and honorable mode of public transport however trams, busses and bicycles are better. Trains are awesome for any distance over 10km.
- Belgium has the biggest, smartest and fastest mosquitoes I’ve ever come across.
- Following the red tape road to be a good Belgian is like climbing a Christmas tree. Spikey, uncomfortable and near impossible but there are some really lovely baubles along the way.
- The language is difficult, intricate and quite unique. Due to lack of use, I lost my ability to speak it. Regaining that ability is proving far more difficult than I ever imagined and of utmost importance. My lovely, adorable, beautiful wife is having a far harder time of it as she’s never been exposed to it. Bless her, she’s trying so hard and improving far beyond what I think she realizes.
- There is no smell on earth that is so comforting as when stepping off the train on a cold, grey and rainy day and the mixed aroma of hot waffles, coffee and fritten (French fries) fills your nostrils and warms the soul.
- Every underground I’ve been on has it’s own special smell. Antwerp’s underground smells of rich, damp, peaty soil with a hint of celery and leeks.
- Your time is not your own when you arrive in Belgium to stay. Even if you’re a citizen, if you’ve been out of the country for more than five years you’re required by law to take an Inburgerging (integration) course for social orientation and in my case language lessons too. Count on about six months where your weekends aren’t yours for the Inburgerings course. My evenings are still not mine as the language lessons are on-going and where they’ll stop nobody knows.
- How to tactfully avoid expounding my true feelings and opinions about my land of birth. This prevents any unwanted “country bashing” sessions. I hate talking about my land of birth (that’s why I call it thus and not by name here) because the old adage of “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything” applies here. Even now I’m full of resentment and holding my tongue.
- I don’t think we can be considered wealthy – in fact I think we’re probably considered to be poor – but I feel far wealthier and luckier here than I ever have.
The Conclusions Are?
After a year and even after the few “bad” or “tough” points above, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Yes it’s tough here but not the same kind of tough that we fled. It’s more a tough love thing. This kind of tough gives back, the kind of tough we left gets you dead.
I’m looking forward to Christmas and all the pretty (and pretty cold) that goes with it this year. I can enjoy all of this with my little family here in Belgium.
So here we go for another year!
Ciao for now.