illogical thoughts on moving to Belgium

July 22, 2013 · 23 comments

in Belgium, ramblings

I have so many post drafts that are long (really long) ramblings about how frustrating it is that I don’t know what the next step in my life is, how I’ve been saying for the past year that I want to move out of Kyrgyzstan by August 2013 and how by mid-July we still had no solid plan for how we would do that. I felt stuck.

Then, suddenly, a job offer came through. We’re moving to Ghent, a city in the Flemish part of Belgium.

We have a plan! We have a plan!

And now comes the stress and anxiety of wrapping up the business, vaccinating and microchipping our Kyrgyz cat, packing up and shipping three years’ worth of stuff, and finding a house or apartment in Ghent, while also trying to squeeze in a mandatory (for us) two-week Grandparents Tour for Darwin in the US, and while Farrell possibly plans a music festival as a last hurrah. All of this made more difficult because (at the moment) we still don’t exactly know when all this will be happening. A few weeks? A few months? It makes a big difference.

So in the meantime, I have so many illogical, seemingly ridiculous thoughts on my mind about what our new life in Belgium will be like. Worries and concerns, but also hopes and excitement.

Can I get dry shampoo there? A lot of bloggers I read constantly write about dry shampoo, and it seems like a very trendy thing at the moment. (I feel like an out-of-the-loop older person, like I’m asking, “Do the kids still say ‘bling’ these days?”)

Will I become so skinny and healthy from biking everywhere? (Or will I just cancel out the calories from eating so many waffles and frites?)

Since this will not be my first expat experience, will I successfully avoid the anxiety that kept me inside my tiny apartment in Bishkek for several months? Will I be brave, always exploring, going outside, taking chances, getting to know my new home? Or will I at least recognize that the culture shock period is long and normal and I’ll get over it eventually and I shouldn’t beat myself up about not being a model Belgian citizen after three months?

Will I shop online too much, now that I’ll (possibly) be in an address that allows me to do so?

How will my blog change, will I blog about expat life in Belgium (which I’m sure many many fine folks are already doing) or expand to other topics?

I have this romantic idea that I’ll just jet off for weekend trips to Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, etc etc etc. Fabulous European holidays (because Europeans say “holiday” instead of “vacation”) all the time, right? That’s probably not feasible. That’s probably completely unrealistic. Two friends here (who I am DEVASTATED to leave) brought up some good points during a late night of binging on lentils, peach pie and deep thoughts. Europe is probably/definitely very expensive and I’m not sure we’ll be in a position to just jet off as we please. Although, I’d like to dream that we could.

Cheese! Oh my god, I can buy good cheese again. And chocolate. And french fries. And waffles.

ARE THERE AVOCADOS IN BELGIUM!?

What should I do with all of my stuff? Do we bring the little home items that we’ve had to accumulate over the years, the dishes and cookware and sheets, that we will obviously need in Belgium, or do we ditch it all and ship over the stuff from the US that my parents have been graciously storing for the past three years? It sounds like a dream to imagine having all of our stuff in one place. Really, I get starry-eyed at the prospect. Like a hermit crab, all of my things would be contained in one shelter. I think normal people call that a “home“.

I sometimes get this feeling of intense deprivation regarding the variety of food stuffs that are available in the US and not available here in Kyrgyzstan. That sounds a bit dramatic. It’s not negative, I swear, I’m just really aware of how much less varied the ingredients in the grocery stores are compared to, say, a giant Whole Foods in the US. Will Belgium fulfill all of my grocery store dreams? I’m sure there will still be things to adapt to not having, like chocolate-covered espresso beans from Trader Joe’s, but GOSH I just hope there’s kale. Please let there be kale.

Speculoos!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I used to live in a big house with a Belgian couple (they were pretty much our besties). They live in Ghent. I know, it’s such a wonderful alignment of the stars that we all get to live in the same city again, and the topic of getting a huge house in Ghent to continue our communal living tradition has already been discussed (umm, not too seriously… yet). It’s incredibly awesome that we are moving to a city where we already have an established (albeit small) network of friends and acquaintances. Our former housemates have already been so incredibly helpful, although I was devastated to learn that when asked how useful my French language skills would be, Carl said English is more widely spoken in Ghent than French.

Guys, I studied French for seven years, starting in middle school and going through university. Then I moved to Jordan, to Iraq, to Kyrgyzstan, and now the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Clearly, I was never meant to speak French, ever. C’est dommage!

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. There are still a lot of “If this, then that, but if that, then this” type of scenarios running through my head right now while we wait to figure out a definite schedule. Farrell is currently in Osh for work, so I feel like I’m a bit stuck in my head until he gets back. I’m revisiting my list of things I want to accomplish before actually leaving Kyrgyzstan for good now, while also attempting to wrap things up and prepare for the next step.

I visited Belgium once for a period of about four days when I was 17 years old. The photos in this post are some of the only ones I took in Belgium from that trip that haven’t been lost to harddrive crashes and computer transfers over the years.

Back when I assumed our next move would be to the US, I had an irrational fear of losing my uniqueness. I thought, I would no longer be Kirstin, the girl who lives in a weird, exotic country. That prospect freaked me out. I never realized how much of how I see myself is tied up in my location. I’ll admit that Belgium isn’t as exotic as Kyrgyzstan, but I’m happy to continue this tradition Farrell and I have set up of wandering around the world, and I’m excited to raise Darwin in a new country and culture (and hopefully have him learn another language).

Cheers to new chapters.

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