It has officially been a year since I landed in Brussels with only two suit cases andready to take on the world. My biggest confession from this past year? I had no idea what I was doing when I picked and moved to a whole new country. What’s even worse is that I had —no idea— I didn’t know what I was doing when I moved to 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
“So how did you end up in Belgium?” I ask, just trying to make small talk as we wait for our friends to get their sandwich orders. Mohammad and I have only just met during the lunch break for our intensive Dutch Language course. The only thing I know about him is his name and that he is from Pakistan.
“I’m seeking asylum,” he informs me, his tone flippant. Mohammad gave the statement the weight of a snowflake and it lands on me as an avalanche. I don’t know for certain, but I have pretty good idea that the reason he’s seeking asylum is largely influenced my country’s military presence in Pakistan. To say I feel uncomfortable doesn’t quite capture the nuance of emotions running through me. No previous experience has given me a reference on how to proceed after such a response. Continue reading
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
Is life better here in Belgium or is it better in America?
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