Die Belg bezoek het vaderland. – This Belgian visits his land of birth.

I’ve struggled with writing this piece. My problem has been trying to put a positive spin on this story. This of course wouldn’t be truthful story then, would it? The truth is I don’t need to add spin to it because it’s my experience. This wasn’t helped much by various blogs and posts advertising how wonderful my land of birth is once I arrived back in Belgium. It only went to perpetuating the feeling that I was somehow wicked and wrong to feel that resentment. It takes a massive amount of motivation to make someone change their circumstances as my little family has. I turned down two offers of an increase and an offer of my dream position in the company before they accepted the reality that I was leaving. We sold our dream house. It took us approximately two years to find our home and we sold it because we were motivated enough (in a completely negative sense) to disassemble our lives, sell everything we could, give the rest away and flee. So there we go. I was forced, through circumstance, to return briefly to my land of birth. The circumstance being the happy union of my little brother and the girl he loves. Horrors – I had to leave Belgium and I wasn’t particularly happy about it. I wasn’t looking forward to this brief excursion for two reasons.

  1. My wife (due to some crazy Belgian red-tape) is not allowed to leave Belgian territory whilst applying for her residency.
  2.  I simply wasn’t looking forward to returning to a land I fled.

What I was looking forward to was seeing my friends and family! The flight was terrible because I was that passenger that you don’t want to sit next to. I was ill. Running nose, coughing, lightheaded and turning into a zombie sick. There was no other choice but to go though because I was flying in the cheap seats and couldn’t change or cancel the ticket without missing the wedding and losing all that money I’d paid! I deeply apologize for the zombie apocalypse I began as I’m quite sure everyone in that fast moving can-in-the-air caught what I had. In a way it was comforting to see that nothing had changed but that was also rather worrying. In Belgium I’ve seen my tax money at work. There are always refurbishments of services and alterations happening and plans underway.  I believe this is good.   My little brother and his (now) wife’s wedding was beautiful and exactly how I thought it’d be – tasteful and classy. I believe it matched their taste and wants perfectly and I feel honored that I was invited to attend their special day! The weather was much warmer than Belgium and visiting some of my friends and seeing my mom, dad and brothers was lovely. Beyond that, I have nothing further to say!

The Conclusion: It was good to visit because in no time at all (truth be told the moment I approached passport control) I realized that I had developed a greater allegiance and love for Belgium in the one year of my absence than I ever had for my country of birth. I have a king who was raised and bred for the express purpose. He has three masters’ degrees – no not honorary masters – he worked and studied for these and has military rank not because he’s entitled to it but because he earned it. If Belgium was attacked, it’s him I’d be aligned with. I cannot say the same for the leaders of the land of my birth. Belgium is home. Ciao for now.

 

This Belgian visits his land of birth. – Die Belg bezoek het vaderland.

Ik vond het moeilijk om dit stuk te schrijven. Mijn probleem was om een positief verhaal te schrijven. Dat zou dan een oneerlijk bericht zijn, niet waar? De waarheid is dat ik geen positief verhaal kan schrijven omdat dit mijn ervaring is. Deze toestand wordt niet geholpen door berichten en verhalen over hoe schitterend mijn vaderland is toen ik in belgie terug kwam. Ik heb het gevoel dat ik een slecht en verkeerd persoon ben omdat ik veel wrok voel. Dit vat enorm motivatie om mensen hun stand van zaken te laten veranderen zoals mijn familie heeft gedaan. Ik heb twee loonsverhoging en mij droom vacature geweigerd zodat de maatschappij aanvaardde dat ik emigreerde. Wij hebben ons droomhuis verkocht. Dit heeft ons twee jaar geduurd om onze huis te vinden en wij hebben het verkocht omdat wij gemotiveerd (in een slechte zin) genoeg zijn om onze leven te veranderen, alles te verkopen wat wij kunnen en de rest weggeven om te vluchten. Zo daar sta ik dan. Ik werd gedwongen door omstandigheden om voor een bezoekje terug naar mij vaderland te reizen. De omstandigheden was de trouw van mijn broer en zijn vriendin. Een verschrikking – ik moest België verlaten en ik was er niet blij om. Er zijn twee reden waarom ik geen zin had in de reis.

  1. Mijn vrouw (als gevolg van gekke Belgische wetgeving) mag niet Belgie verlaten (terwijl zij voor haar verblijf aanvraagd.)
  2. Ik heb geen zin om terug naar een land te gaan dat ik gevlucht had.

Wat ik wel naar uit keek, was om mijn vrienden en familie te zien! De vlucht was afschuwelijk omdat ik die passagier was die je niet naast jou wil. Ik was ziek. Lopende neus, hoesten, duizelig en ik word zoals een zombie. Er was geen andere keuze dan de vlucht te nemen omdat ik een goedkoop biljet had. Ik kon dit niet veranderen of annuleren om het trouwfeest te mislopen of mijn geld te verliezen! Het spijt mij dat ik de zombie Apocalyps begon want ik ben zeker dat allemaal in dat vliegtuig mijn ziekte overnam. Het was troostend dat niets in mijn vaderland veranderd was maar dit was ook tamelijk zorgwekkend. In België heb ik mijn taks geld zien werken. Er zijn altijd verbouwingen van diensten en plannen onderweg. Ik denk dat dit goed is. Het huwelijk van mijn jongste broer en zijn vrouw was fraai en precies hoe ik dit zou verwachtte – elegant en eersteklas. Volgens mij was hun huwelijk volgens zijn wensen en ik voel me gelukkig dat ik zijn speciale dag mocht bijwonen. Het weer was veel warmer als België en dit was erg leuk om mijn ouders, broers en vrienden te bezoeken. Verder heb ik niets te zeggen!

De Conclusie: Dit was goed dat ik mijn vaderland bezocht omdat ik dadelijk (het moment toen ik paspoortcontrole aankwam) besefte dat ik een grotere affiniteit en liefde voor België gedurende een jaar ontwikkelde dan ik ooit voor mijn vaderland had. Ik heb een koning wie voor die roeping werkt. Hij heeft voor zijn opvoeding en zijn militaire rang gewerkt en niet eenvoudig gekregen. Ik zou hem volg als België ooit aangevallen zou worden. Ik kan niet hetzelfde zeggen over de leiders van mijn vaderland. België is mijn thuis.

Groetjes.

Belgians are Organized – Belgen zijn Georganiseerd.

Belgen zijn georganiseerd – this means they’re organized and do not like chaos. In practice this means they cannot handle change in routine. Even a little disruption in the normal schedule and Belgians find themselves lost.

A few months ago the road was being worked on at the train station and the busses were being re-routed to other temporary stops around the station. The poor Belgians were so put out. Even though the road was closed off with really big and obvious red and white barriers with flashing orange lights on top, the Belgians would still congregate at these bus stops. They stood there and eyeballed the busses as they rode past the barriers of the road closure, some shrugging in disbelief and others grumbling to whoever would listen. Not one of them would look about to see if there was a notice or some sort of alternative or instruction.

There was instruction, by the way, in the form of posters stuck up at the disused bus stops giving detailed instructions on where to find the temporary bus stops so you could catch the bus you needed and exactly how long this situation would continue.

This shows exactly what I’m trying to illustrate on two separate levels:

The absolute disbelief that the routine of catching the bus has changed – the unacceptance of even the slightest chaos – to the point of ignoring massive barriers in the road and the expectance that the bus will magically hop over these barriers to pick them up.

The absolute organization of the bus company by placing notices up to inform it’s clients where the new temporary bus stops are so that they won’t be inconvenienced and the expected time period of the works – which were completed exactly, EXACTLY on time. No rubble left lying around, no sign that the road had been worked on except for a brand new road.

Now that’s organized.

This love of organization impacts directly on becoming a Belgian too.

If you move to Belgium, be prepared. You will have to take mandatory courses. Even if you are a Belgian citizen and you’ve been out of the country for more than five years, you have to do these courses. The Belgian Government says so and if you don’t do the courses you’re in for a heavy fine.

I have found this hard, good, frustrating, pleasing and highly recommended. The first of these courses is the Inburgerings course. These lessons inform you about your rights as a citizen, where to go for help on various topics and organizations in Belgium and how to use certain social services, such as schooling, and how they operate.

The second of these courses is Nederland lessons. Why? Because you cannot function in Belgium at an appropriate level with at least a basic understanding of the language which glues the Belgian people together – Belgian Nederlands. This course is also paid for by the Belgian government. The only thing I did have to pay for in these courses was one text book – the Nederland language course text book and that was ridiculously inexpensive.

The Application:

This one’s easy. I like routine and can frown and shrug at busses with the best of them.

When my day goes wrong in the early morning, when I forget to put sugar in my coffee or brush my hair before I’ve done my teeth, the day’s a write-off because that delicate routine I love and do every morning has been buggered up. Or at least that’s how I feel. To me that small misstep is utter chaos.

The organization thing I’ll have to work on. My sock & undie drawer is, well, not organized. The only organization in that drawer is that it contains mostly socks & underwear.

To be Belgian, I am going to have to organize that drawer – easy.

So here’s my sock drawer before:

Unorganized Sock Drawer

…and here it is post Belgian organization:

Organized Sock Drawer

You will notice the underwear is to the left, divided into winter and summer wear and closest to the bathroom door as this is the first to be donned. The colourful socks are at the back as required by conclusion by the previous post because colourful items are to be worn sparingly. The socks in the foreground are ordered by shade, lightest to darkest. The items in the utility drawer are items used daily and placed in pockets of the final outfit.

…and keeping  it organized – haha.

Ciao for now.

How to be Belgian – Introduction.

If you’ve ever moved to a foreign country, or plan to perhaps you can relate, or learn from what I’m doing and experiencing.
I’m a foreigner in Belgium. Well no, that’s not entirely true. Here, let me explain…
I’m technically half a Belgian (from my mother’s side) but this comes with it’s own set of problems. Being born in South Africa makes me a South African but being born of a Belgian mother makes me Belgian. My grandmother, Méme, used to say that if any of us returned to Belgium we would live out the rest of our lives as foreigners, never really fitting in or accepted by Belgian neighbours as Belgian.
There’s more. I don’t think my Méme realized that we, her family that were in South Africa, really fitted there either. It’s my aunt who finally told me the truth. A truth I at the time really didn’t believe because I didn’t want to.
In reality, we don’t really belong anywhere. We’re too African to be Belgian and too Belgian to be African.” Is what I think she said?
In fact, there’s some gypsy in our blood somewhere down the line which makes it even worse.”
All this came as a bit of a blow when I took cognizance of these thoughts and realized after moving to Belgium that becoming a Belgian was harder than I thought it’d be.

I naively thought it’d be a few months and the people, the government and the royal family would embrace me with open arms and loving smiles!
What I got was a comment from a Moroccan shopkeeper.
“You speak with an accent. Where are you from?”
My mind said “What accent?”
My mouth said rather sullenly “Zuid-Africa.”
So I realized with a rather sudden bump on the butt that I was nowhere near being a Belgian. A half-breed in a country and culture I love which feels so normal and exotic in one. What do I do? Lose my identity and conform? Not change at all and not fit in?
I decided this was it. I’d have to learn, study, be all socio-anthropological and come hell or high water I’d practice and adapt, act like I was up for an Oscar if needs be but I will be seen as Belgian!
Until next week then, here’s a picture from my lovely country – Belgium.

2013-01-05 12.39.30

Ciao for now.