illogical thoughts on moving to Belgium

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.


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.


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.

23 replies on “illogical thoughts on moving to Belgium”

    1. Her posts were really valuable, thank you for sharing them! I definitely had a mini freak-out over some of the stuff she wrote about, but I think(/hope) it’s good preparation.

    1. Thanks! I was in that stage for what felt like a really long time, and then suddenly, one day, the offer came through and the plan was set. It’s really taking a while for that to sink in, like, oh okay, I AM getting out of here! I hope you get your plans figured out soon, and I look forward to reading about them!

    1. DO IT! I’m already so so so excited by how accessible Ghent is to places where people actually visit, compared to Kyrgyzstan.

  1. To help you out a little bit: yes there are avocado’s and dry shampoo. You will not be skinny because those waffles are too frickin’ delicious and yes you will probably shop too much online.
    I hope you’ll have an amazing time moving and settling in to your new house 🙂

    1. haha thanks! I will definitely have to learn to exercise some self-control with the waffles.

  2. mmm? dry shampoo… pobably/possibly/ wouldn’t know.
    If you do cycle everywhere it will balance the enormous amount of good food and (especially) the great variety in good beers.
    No need to ‘jet’ off to other countries. Only a few hours to Paris by car, not much more to Cologne or Bonn in Germany . Just an hour to The Netherlands, say two hours to Amsterdam. If you drive to Calais
    you can take a ferry 1 1/2 hour to England. ..or go straight from Oostende (close by but it takes 4 hours on the boat).
    In other words you’ll be pretty much in the centre of N.Europe and, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, Belgium is a fun and friendly place to be.
    Though………… you will miss exotic/eccentric Kyrgyzstan!!!!!

    1. I’m sure I’ll definitely miss things about Kyrgyzstan, I’m already compiling a post of things I know I’ll miss when I’m in Belgium and possibly out of this region for good. But change is good! And I’m really excited for this move!

  3. Congratulations, it sounds like a great opportunity! I lived in Belgium (Brussels) for a couple of years and found Ghent one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Also, I can relate to a lot of your thoughts about home, moving, uniqueness, etc. – I just moved back to Germany after 7 years of living abroad and while I still get to travel, it’s definitely a very different experience to live in my home country (where everyone expects you to fit in). Good luck with the move and everything!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I had an interesting conversation about that last night, about how if we had decided to move back to the US instead, that would probably be the end of our lives as expats. I think it really has become part of my identity to be an expat, maybe it’s something I’ll expand into another post in the future.

  4. Cheers to new adventures! How exciting!
    I had the same thoughts/fears when I left the Arctic and moved to Australia. Somehow living in Australia didn’t seem as exciting to me as living 200km north of the Arctic Circle (and actually, life is fairly mundane, my blog has seriously suffered!).
    I hope you keep writing, I really enjoy reading about the expat experience 🙂

    1. I’m not sure there’s much that could measure up to living in the Arctic! I definitely intend to keep blogging, even if my experiences strolling along cobblestone streets, eating fries and waffles, aren’t as exciting, I’ll at least post cute pictures of Darwin as a back-up plan.

  5. Just found the blog and I am currently at Manas and enjoying parts of Kyrgyzstan! Talk about a beautiful place. I love the photography, impressive work. Good luck with the move

  6. Have been a regular reader of your blog for a while since I revisited Kyrgyzstan last summer (lived in Bishkek for a few months in 2007) and always enjoyed your posts on everything from Kyrgyz music to your everyday life in Bishkek. Also really amazing pictures you are posting.

    After some detours I also ended up in the Flemish part of Belgium after Bishkek (mostly because of my Dutch boyfriend, now husband) and I am sure that you will like it. There may not be so many fascinating unexpected things happening here as in Kyrgyzstan and the Ardennes are in no way comparable to the Kyrgyz mountains, but the Belgians do have fantastic food, great architecture, it is really in the heart of Europe and Ghent is for sure one of the nicest cities in Belgium.

    Good luck with your new adventure – I will miss your posts about Kyrgyzstan!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! What you wrote about not so many fascinating unexpected things happening in Belgium, I thought a lot (probably too much) about that. Living in Bishkek, I’ve experienced so many things that I doubt I ever would have living in the States or Europe, and while there are things I’ll definitely miss that are unique to Kyrgyzstan (like *some* foods, being able to buy cheap kitschy things, being able to experience such an awesome landscape and trips to Issyk Kul at a moment’s notice and on a small budget), there are definitely a lot of things that maybe were fascinating at first but have lost their luster. The bureaucracy, the traffic, the language barriers, some of the customs that I never quite figured out, sleeping in a yurt (I was never a fan!). There’s part of me that is a little sad about losing a quirky, unique part of my life, but an even bigger part of me is really looking forward to a life that’s a bit more normal.

      Although, I say that now and I bet Ghent will totally have it’s own quirks that drive me absolutely crazy.

  7. You are leaving Kyrgystan? Nooo – this will be the end of kyrgyz music friday that has brought so much interesting music into my life (I have become a big fan of Eholami and I also like Kanykei and Non-Stop).

    1. It will unfortunately be the end of Kyrgyz Music Friday, but I’m so so glad to hear that you liked it! Those posts don’t usually get much feedback, and I only have Farrell telling me that he never watches the videos 😛 I should do a round-up post and link to some facebook pages and youtube channels and maybe you can keep up with the Kyrgyz music scene yourself. I’m so glad to hear that you like Eholami! They are awesome!

  8. I collect music from all over the world and my favourite bands are russian (Nochnye snajpery, Splin etc.). I didn’t know much about music from Central Asia before (except Sogdiana from Usbekistan), so your blog has been very important to me.; )
    (I am from Germany and don’t understand much russian even if I have a russian name.)

  9. Welcome to Belgium!
    It’s so nice to read the musings of someone moving here – it reminds me of my own worrying + dreaming. I hope you have a great time here and keep posting 🙂
    How’s life in Gent? (we are actually searching for an apartment and might move there in January).

  10. the irish pub is good if your lookin for folks who speak English, the black hole has terrific food. the weather here sucks. gosh I can’t get home to North Carolina to soon, Take vitamin D sulkements. I recommend Caltrate 600mg twice a day. Before you get cranky.

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