My Two Roads In A Yellow Wood

Maybe it’s because this is the longest I have lived outside the United States (124 days) or maybe it’s because I am sitting among the chaos of moving boxes, but I can’t help but wonder — how the hell did I end up here? I never expected to become an expat. I never expected to move to Antwerp. It’s stunning to me how quickly your life can change with one decision.

And for some unknown reason, I keep coming back to two lines from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.”

Life gave me the chance to come back. I could have Continue reading

Advertisements

A New Belgian Find: BRNS

My first introduction to BRNS was a couple of days ago through this post from In Between The Tracks. (Sidenote: Some really quality stuff at In Between the Tracks. It’s definitely worth checking out. ) I saw that BRNS is a Belgian band from Wallonië and decided to check them out. I like supporting locals, and while they’re not Antwerpenaars, Belgium is local for me now.

Upon first listen to their track “Our Lights,” I was instantly intrigued by BRNS. I’ll admit am not sure I understand the music video and still find it a bit weird after 6 viewings, but I really like their sound. There is an element to “Our Lights” that reminds me of Jimmy Eat World’s “Goodbye Sky Harbor.” The sounds of the two bands are completely different, but the repetition and layering of the sounds in “Our Lights” immediately brought to mind end of “Goodbye Sky Harbor.” Continue reading

Why Learning a Language Makes You Feel Like a Toddler

Learning a new language as an adult is what I imagine it’s like to be a toddler. You can understand most everything that is going on around you, but you personally don’t have the language capabilities to communicate everything you want or think. Suddenly you understand part of the reason that they throw tantrums all the time.

And then you decide to learn Dutch, Continue reading

The Never Ending Hunting Season – Apartment Season

“Well it’s Europe,” I tell myself as I look around the Kitchath, a combination Kitchen-Bathroom. I had prepared myself for the fact that everything is smaller in Europe. During the summer of 2012, I lived in the University Quarter in a Student Kot, so I felt like I knew what to expect when my husband and I started looking for apartments.

But I was not prepared for this: along  the right wall is a sink, a stove, and a place for a washing machine, the back wall has a stand alone shower with a half sink next to it, in the corner sits a small niche for the toilet, that is only covered by a dangling fabric strip partition, and to the left of the toilet is the refrigerator. Apparently the owner thought when he converted this building into an apartment building that it wasn’t worth it to create a separate room for the personal hygiene essentials. And naturally, since there was already plumbing in the kitchen this was the only logical place to put these essential household items.

And so here I stand, in the middle of this quirky little room, trying to imagine making my first home with my husband here in this place. Continue reading

How the Government Shutdown May Have Forced Me to Accept Immigrant Status

 

Is life better here in Belgium or is it better in America?

Miners Castle, Munising, MI - July 2011

The beauty I left behind when I became an expat.

It’s a common question I hear when people discover I am from the United States. Human nature seems to demand a hierarchy and people use comparisons such as this to put perspective on their life. I detest this question because I never know quite how to answer it. When people ask me this particular question, I would hesitate and dodge making general statements about either country. I always frame the answer within the context “For my husband and I, Belgium was a better choice.”  I ramble off the items on the pro side of my pro-con list, but they are mostly subjects of personal importance. It was a highly personal choice.

I don’t know how to answer the question because my gut response felt like a betrayal. Continue reading

Cyclic Observations in Antwerp

My awesome second hand bike, with it’s awesome “Girl Power” sticker

One thing I did not expect when moving to Antwerp was the nightmare that comes with driving around this city.  In fact, the INRIX Traffic Scorecard ranked Antwerp as the second most traffic congested city in the world — second only to Brussels. That’s right, my city is more nightmarish to drive around LA, NYC, Boston, Beijing, or Manila.

Luckily there is a decent public transport system Continue reading

If a hug could be a word

Gezellig [ɣəˈzɛləɣ] (adj): 1) A warm sense of familiarity and connection one gets when sharing a moment with close friends and family. 2) A warm feeling that one feels around objects and atmospheres that inspire a sense of coziness and familiarity.

Defining “Gezellig”

Gezellig is one of those beautiful words that doesn’t translate to English well. Continue reading

American Awareness: Thoughts on Global Citizenship

I am never more aware of being American than when I am abroad. I don’t quite know how to explain this particular feeling of American awareness. It’s not pride or arrogance, or even shame, but finding the words to accurately describe this feeling is proving elusive. At home there is a truly bizarre fascination with your heritage, but I almost guarantee that every time the 1/8 Polish, 1/8 Korean, 1/4 Brazilian and 1/4 Kenyan American is abroad, they only indicate their American heritage when asked “Where do you come from?”

Lindy Hop lesson before the live music starts

Last friday I was transported back in time to September 4, 1944 – the day that British troops liberated Antwerp from German forces. To commemorate the event, the city of Antwerp put on a small festival in Groenplaats called Brevrijd! where people could come out and listen to live big band music  and practice their Lindy Hop steps. And it was here that I was at once hit by the strangeness of being an American abroad. Continue reading

Why you shouldn’t travel with me

The view from our house in L’Escala

I might have to accept the fact that for the rest of our lives, my husband and I cannot go on trips together. Unpleasant things start to happen when we go on trips, and typically I am the cause of these things.

  • The first time we went on a vacation together I nearly killed us both of heat stroke on a 16 mile hike in Northern Michigan. For some embarrassingly silly reason, Continue reading

(Not) Lost in Translation

Learning a new language is always a challenge. You struggle a lot with new grammar rules and remembering all the words for different things, so you have to make it fun and find the humor in things. I find humor in some of the literal translations of Dutch words and I thought I’d share a couple of those with you today.

1. Handtekening

  Continue reading