Cupcake Drag Queens, Hula Hoops, and the Family You Choose

Zsa Zsa Lamour in all her fantastic glory.

It’s been hard to get the motivation to write here. It’s been hard to share what I have been feeling about life here in Antwerp. I have done some awesome things in the last month and half. I scored €3 tickets to the Vlaamse Opera’s dress rehearsal of Rossini’s Otello, started and finished my social orientation course as part of my requirement for immigrating here, visited the Red Star Line Museum,  and went to a karaoke bar with potential new fellow expat friends.

But these past few months have been a struggle. It started with missing my best friend’s wedding in December, and just it snowballed from there when I missed Christmas with my crazy Filipino family, to having a six-hour time difference between iMessages from friends on New Years. I just missed home with its midwest charm and the wonderful people who let me call them my friends, the 24 hour grocery stores, and I just couldn’t stop.

I forgot how hard is building a new chapter your life. And I seriously underestimated that undertaking I was committing myself to when I decided to move to Belgium. I thought this would be so much easier than it has turned out to be.

But something happened on Saturday evening when a towering drag queen in a cotton candy pink cupcake outfit complete with a frosting fascinator, put a hula hoop in my hand and pushed me onto the catwalk. As I looked out onto the crowd and saw my three sister-in-laws and four of my husband’s female cousins, I realized how lucky I am. Maybe it was the combination of glitter and the cava that I drank, but as I was hopelessly losing this hula hoop competition I had been dragged into, I suddenly I saw my life with new eyes.

Saturday evening was my “vrijgezellen avond” or bachelorette night here in Antwerp, since our Belgian wedding celebration is coming up in two weeks. My sister-in-law planned a surprise night out complete with dinner, drinks and the formidable Zsa Zsa Lamour calling me “darling” all night.

In a time when I have been struggling to make friends, struggling to commit to speaking a new language, and struggling to bake using centigrade, it really was the most touching gesture my new  family could have done for me. And I don’t think they know what a heart warming surprise and gift they gave me by being there. They say you don’t get to pick your family, but on rare occasions you do — I picked a really awesome family to marry into.

So while I will continue to struggle to have adult conversations in Dutch and navigate the pitfalls of a life outside of college, I am now resolved to focus on what’s right in front of me. Because I can’t keep wishing for the life I left across the ocean and this really is one of the most exciting times of my life.

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