How Antwerp Gave the World the world “White Christmas”

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“Jullie zijn de derrrrrrrrde passagiers,” our museum guide Inez says enthusiastically rolling her “r’s” for emphasis. Today for our last day of our social orientation class we are taking a field trip to Antwerp’s newest museum The Red Star Line museum.

To say that this two-story museum is about the company that over two million people used to sail from Europe to America isn’t quite accurate. You do learn about what the ships were like and the different travel booking stations owned by the company all around Europe. But what this museum really focuses on are the people who passed through these halls and their experiences with the Red Star Line.   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

At Least I Don’t Hear Bombs

“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

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