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. Continue reading

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Gelukkige Verjaardag vs Happy Birthday

This past weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday party. It was a lovely affair with lots of cava, good conversation, and delicious hapjes and cake. It was quite gezellig. I was actually really quite proud of myself because I enjoyed most of the evening conversing with Mr. Isinvar’s grandmother completely in Dutch.

My mother-in-law got a visit from Mickey and Minnie on her birthday!

We had a lot of laughs even though my Dutch is far from perfect and her particular accent was a little difficult for me to understand. However, the evening did prove that my Dutch lessons have been paying off and I can now spend entire evening comfortably conversing with native speakers, which is really exciting for me!

Anyway, in light of the party, I wanted to take a little time to talk about the differences between Belgian birthday traditions and American Birthday traditions. Continue reading

Today I Hate Living In Belgium

One of my best friends is getting married tomorrow and I can’t be there. We’ve been friends for 10 years, and have supported each other through every big and small occasion of note since high school. Despite the fact that we went to different universities, we always stayed in contact. He drove an hour to see my solo recitals and I made special trips downstate to celebrate his birthday. When I moved my wedding from August 2014 to June 2013, all he said was “I’ll be there.” Tomorrow he’s marrying a woman who is incredibly smart (graduated top of her class from the top university education program in the United states), who is dedicated to her profession, and is one of the most people beautiful people (both inside and out) I know.  It pains me more than words in any language can express that I can’t be there. 

I can’t be there because I am still waiting for my residency visa and I am not allowed leave Belgium until that’s processed. I knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to leave in time 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

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

How the Month of August Conspired Against Me

I have to be grateful for small victories

While Antwerp is not a large city and public transport is far superior to anything I experienced growing up, it’s been suggested to me on several occasions to get a bike. The city isn’t huge, but bikes can make getting to hidden pockets of the city much more easily accessible and you’re not beholden to the bus or tram schedule.

It’s for this reason that I set out one sunny Thursday afternoon to go bike shopping. I found a second hand bike shop located in the Antwerpen Zuid district, an area full of lots of little interesting shops and pubs. My plan is to go look at bikes and explore the area a bit, maybe get a coffee and sit a terrace and read. It really is a lovely day. Continue reading