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Garden Panorama

Garden

We got a new place.  It has a garden.  Well, a place to put a garden.

Lots of room to grow 🙂

Moves

Three months, five moves, and three buildings later, our new home.

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that we’ve recently moved into a new apartment.  Unfortunately, I was almost completely “off the grid” for the summer months—writing my thesis—so that was news to many of you.  I say that’s especially because it might lead many readers to believe that we, like normal people might, simply decided to “move” (i.e. pack all of our stuff into boxes and then bring those boxes from one place to another place).

Suffice it to say, we’re not all that normal.  As stressful and time-consuming as moving is, that sort of thing would be too easy.  Have you ever lived with a Trevor?  Trevors make things complicated.  Like, excruciatingly complicated.  It’s a built-in feature of the model.

For starters, we decided that before we moved—before we even had a new apartment to move into—we needed to get the hell out of our crappity-crap-crap old one.  Which was crap.

Actually, it was a stroke of fortune that we were able to do so, and to do so in some serious style, despite the complications that came along with the process.  We were really blessed to be found by a couple who needed someone to house sit for the summer, and after a brief interview and tour of the place, they gave us the keys to what would become our wayside-rest of a home.

Now, when I say that we house sat for the summer, I cannot emphasize enough the scope or importance of the word “house.”  This was not some dinky, hyper-efficient, euro-house (though I shouldn’t know those, either, as we have both fallen in love with a couple of in our time here as well); this was a house house.  A people house.  A three and a half story, used to be occupied by seven college students but has since been beautifully renovated, and now functions as a “home” to a beautiful family, house.

Also, there was a backyard with chickens in it.  I shit you not.

So we began the summer with our first move.  We started out as stewards of our new people house by living out of suitcases.  At first, it wasn’t a problem, since Linds was in a state of limbo at various points between Belgium, New York, and Minneapolis, and had become used to living out of suitcases.  (Personally, I’m adept at this minimal style of living, since in high school I used to pack as little clothing as possible for week-long FCCLA trips in order to better accommodate my X-Box, which also came along.)  But as we passed the week mark, my better half started to get antsy.  So we completed another small move from the apartment to the new house.

Then things got interesting.

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One year in Leuven

This week, we marked the one year anniversary of our arrival in Leuven.

Has it been that long?  It hardly seems possible, but when I think back on all that’s happened these many months, I can’t imagine how we’ve (all) fit so much living into such a small span.

I remember arriving with Lindsey in our cab from Brussels and seeing our soon-to-be home city for the first time.  The previous 72 hours had been no picnic.  We’d each packed up our respective lives to varying degrees of completion, Linds had made a manic round of goodbyes in Boston, I’d pulled a last minute, all-night run to New York to pick up my visa, and we’d both traversed the Atlantic separately—though for some unfathomable reason, I’d chosen to stop halfway across for 10 hours, leaving Linds to wait for me in Belgium.

We only sort of had a place to live—I’d put a security deposit on a 28m2 apartment without ever having seen it.  Our first night, we stayed in a small hotel within the city limits—Hotel New Damshire—and began, with the help of a surprisingly open and informative desk clerk, to get our bearings.  After a few hours of exploring, we came back to our room for the first good night’s sleep either of us had really had in days.  We would need it too.  The next day we moved into our bedless “funished” apartment, and that night we slept on a mattress made of sweaters.

And now—somehow—here we are: we’ve just said goodbye to Jim and Leslie (our first visitors in months), we’re settling in to our new apartment, and awaiting the start of work and the new school year.  How much things change and how much they stay the same.

At least this year there’s a mattress.

Thanks to all of you who have kept checking back even though we’ve been on blog hiatus for the almost half a year.  We’re making an effort to get back to regular posting.

Long time no see

So wow. It’s been a while. Quite a while, in fact, since we last posted on this adventure blog. The lack of posts however has very little to do with our lack of adventures. Or maybe it does. See, we’ve had quite a few adventures this summer after I got back to Belgium, visa in hand. In fact, it has been rather adventure-dense. We’ve house sat, been nannying, gardening, writing theses, catching up on Belgian TV, applying for Belgian residency, apartment hunting, moving, entertaining visiting parents, and finally traveling to the Ardennes and Paris with visiting parents only to be sitting here at the computer writing this post wondering where our summer went.

So yeah. It’s been busy, which led to lack of posting, which led to general laziness mixed with more business. So that explains it somewhat. However, it’s not a good excuse. We really loved posting on the blog, and it’s a shame that we’ve slacked off. But we will try to get back at it in a real way. There are many hilarious stories that have yet to be told. So please, dear friends and family, have patience with us. We’re doing the best we can. 🙂

Vis a Vis Visas

Our fans are pretty upset with us these days. We haven’t updated the blog in months, and there may seem to be no real reason for that. This is somewhat true. The reason mostly being that we are busy/lazy/suffering from intermittant bouts of frustration and rage.

But let me start from roughly where we left off last time.

In April, I was offered a nanny position with a family in a town called Haasrode about 5 miles south of Leuven. I nanny for two darling children ages 1 year and almost 4 years old. They are the cutest kids in the universe. I love them; it’s going great. The parents are nice. The house is great, (and I get to eat their food!). I work 4 days a week for now, Monday thru Thursday with occassional Fridays. I will work full time starting in October. I will write more detail about them later.

In the 3 months that I was in Belgium, Trevor and I were working hard getting all our documents together for my visa. We applied for a cohabitation visa. Basically, I get a visa for living with a Belgian resident (Trevor) on a permanent basis. It’s complicated.

It really doesn’t sound like it would be that hard. But it was. Because it’s Belgium.

If you recall, last fall I was working on getting a job, then getting a work permit, and obtaining a visa that way. Well…that didn’t really pan out. Let’s just say that my internship went less than swimmingly. They more or less refused to fill out the paperwork needed for the work permit, and I decided that I didn’t want to keep trying to work, for no money, and no real prospect of being paid, for an “organization” that didn’t really want me.

So this time around, we chose a different route. Almost equally complicated and difficult. We had to acquire document after document, all with correct apostille*, dated less than 6 months ago, translated into Dutch, etc, etc,etc. It was long and arduous. There was lots of emailing back and forth with the Consulate in NYC, the Leuven townhall, and my parents. There was much money spent in the process…we’ve estimated it at around $2000. All for a sticker in my passport that says I can stay here legally with multiple re-entries into the country.

So now comes the chapter where I go to New York. Brace yourself, you are in for a bumpy ride.

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And we’re off

As you’re well aware, this is an adventure blog. So we thought, let’s use the Easter holiday to do some adventuring.

Paris, here we come. We’ll be back Sunday night for Skyping, posting, and generally being awesome.

So yesterday’s portable outdoor urinals?  Those were nothing.  I submit for your appraisal, the following.

Nothing?  Not doing anything for you?  Just a normal manhole cover?  Guess again.

At nighttime, that innocent looking manhole automatically descends from its place in the pavement and becomes the top of this.

Apparently having to go is a huge problem here.

How did we not know about these earlier?  Well, there aren’t a great many of them.  I also assume that they’re strategically placed at “hot spots” around the city.

How the statistics for where an outdoor urinal would be needed were gathered, or more importantly who got the honorous task of gathering them, is a mystery to me.  Maybe he had to go undercover by drinking a bunch with college kids and then walking around till he had to pee.  Or maybe he had to test the ground water for … trace elements … and by “trace elements” I mean “pee.”

Proper indeed.

There have been a great many things I’ve not quite understood since relocating to our Belgian locale.  There are advertisements that go over my head, festivals I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind, and a host of cultural faux pas which I likely still don’t know I have committed.  There have also been moments which seemed so natural and non-foreign that I could swear this is Leuven, Ohio–not Leuven, Belgium.

Then there’s one last class of cultural interaction, and it’s perhaps the most confusing.  These interactions are characterized by intense confusion, because they seem to be simultaneously native, common sense, and foreign in the extreme.

Case in point.

While we were out the other day, we happened upon a bank of these puppies.  If you haven’t surmised it’s purpose yet (the background of the photo should help), here’s another clue.

That’s right.  Outdoor urinal.

Being that it’s festival season, there’s an obvious need for extended sanitation options, and whether we’ve yet to discover this one in the States or whether we knew about it and flat out could not accept its existence, I’m not sure.

I mean, I was under the impression that the specific group of people expressly indicated as the primary market for these devices by their (above) markings had, you know, been using outdoor urinals for a while–lamp posts, alley ways, and the like.

But I guess if that sort of thing becomes a problem, you’ve got to be proactive.  Here, I guess that means centralizing and containing the messy business.  I’m just not sure that I’d ever be able to use one.  I mean, I could use one in theory, but practice is another thing.  What if nearby women-folk would be offended?

Oh, wait.

That’s my girl.

Partycipation

It’s springtime here, and as is the case in most countries with cold or oppressively dreary winters, that means two things:

1) Girls in sundresses.
Linds even went out and bought one, much to my delight.  It’s as if she knew intrinsically that my ability to be grumpy or even to think thoughts becomes decimated when I absorb sunshine while simultaneously beholding cute floral dresses.

2) Festivals in Belgium.
It appears that unlike Minnesotans—who enter spring with trepidation, as if the mere hope of lasting sunshine might itself bring snow—Belgians embrace the months of March and April with a vigor deserving of festival.  Maybe that’s why there are so bloody many festivals here right now.  Honestly, every time I turn around I feel as though I’ve inadvertently walked into another festival.  We could learn a thing or two about ringing in the spring back home in the great white north.

In the last month alone, we’ve seen a Flemish Wine Festival, the Deronde von Vlaanderen (think Tour de France, but on a tiny scale), three separate single-day concert festivals, several faculty celebrations, a film/media festival in Ghent, and an African film festival a couple blocks away.  How are we supposed to keep up?  More importantly, how am I supposed to resist eating fries at almost every one of these things I pass?

It’s festival season in Leuven, and that means mobile fry shops.  Mmmmm.

Here’s a little taste of one particular festival we accidentally found, called Partycipation.  What was the occasion?  Who knows?  Who cares?  There are mobile fry shops people–trailers of which the only function is the preparation and distribution of fries.


Sorry for the low quality video. It was shot on my Sony Cybershot from 2004.

One night I walked by a large town square that had been effectively cordoned off by a large temporary fence covered with black canvas.  Inside what I assumed could only be a quarantine zone for some sort of contagious brain disease were about 500 students singing mish-mash Flem-lish versions of Christian hymns and nursery rhymes; what I’d actually stumbled onto was a Cantus.

Cantuses … Canti? … whatever … are basically semi-exclusive parties for each faculty’s student groups, which basically serve as the Belgian equivalent for fraternities/sororities.  The article I’ve linked above will try to tell you that the main activity at a Cantus is singing, but don’t be fooled.  This quaint historical practice may have become popular during its advent in the 19th century because of the general feeling of camaraderie cultivated by singing silly songs together, but it stuck around because that merriment is primarily facilitated by beer.  Lots and lots of beer.

My guess is that the practice makes a lot more sense the next day, when very few of the actual rituals surrounding Cantus can be remembered due to the effects of mild alcohol poisoning.  If no one can remember it, did it even really happen?  Maybe only if a wayward American wanders by and blogs about it later.

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Job Update

So recently, I’ve been looking for jobs that actually pay money (go figure). But being that I still don’t have a work permit (visa in the works), I thought I might be able to try a different avenue of employment. I’ve shifted my focus temporarily towards being a nanny. I have recently secured a position as such from a very nice family that live nearby, and I start next Monday. Hurray!

So yeah, this will be a short, sweet post detailing very little about this family. I’m sure they wouldn’t want me talking about them on the blog anyway. If you’d like specifics, please email me or something. I just thought I’d let our fans know that I have, at least for now, found something that pays.