Welcome to Brussels!

I know Tracy gave a little bit of her perspective upon arrival here, but I thought I should inject a few of my thoughts and provide a little bit of an update.

DSC00799All told I think we’ve done pretty well since arriving. Jet lag has hit a little (ok, a lot) harder than usual, but I think we have some added stress that hasn’t exactly helped with the adjustment. Believe it or not, moving to a foreign country is kind of tough. But only kind of!

Some things I’ve learned so far,

  • “Je ne parle pas Francais” (I don’t speak French) is perhaps the most useless French phrase I could have learned. If people haven’t figured out I don’t speak French on approach, the second I open my mouth they know I don’t speak French. If I tell them that in French, then they have no idea what language I do speak!
  • Nobody else knows what’s going on either. Belgians are notorious for kind of doing things however they feel like it. Which is great if you have interest in living in an art nouveau house and want to start drinking beer at 9 in the morning. It’s a little less great if you’re trying to rent an apartment or set up a bank account or pay your bill at a restaurant. What this really means is that we fit in perfectly because we have no idea what’s going on around us, but none of those helpful folks nearby are all that helpful because they have no idea what’s going on either!
  • As it relates to housing, a 9 year lease is customary in Belgium, especially if you intend to stay in an apartment for only 2 or 3 years. A one year lease is un-heard of, but can be done, although it can only be renewed once unless you renew it more than once. The agreed-to rent doesn’t include fees, but the fees are paid monthly with the rent. Once you sign a lease you must register with the Commune and the police will come to confirm that you do in fact live where you say you live. They “confirm” this by verifying that you stuck a label with your name on it above the mailbox and buzzer. Who’s confused?DSC00777
  • Steak American is a very misleading menu offering. I will start by saying I did try it, and I did very much enjoy it, but it’s not exactly anything you would find in America very readily. It’s basically a steak tartar comprised of very, very, very lean raw ground beef mixed with pickled onions and an emulsion and then any number of things to include hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pickles, and more onions. Like I said, it was very good and I will probably order it again, but it probably deserves a new name.
  • I like Tracy’s new job already, primarily because they treated us to a tour of Brussels followed by a beer tasting. While the tour was at times a little quirky (see the point about nobody else quite knowing what’s going on) DSC00781Belgian beer is, as advertised, fantastic!

Some things we’ve done so far,

  • We went apartment hunting Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and after some confusion and a lot of places that were almost right, I think we landed in a really excellent place in the heart of downtown and surrounded by some very intriguing shops. We quickly noticed the butcher and baker, and I think with a little looking we will find the candlestick maker also. We move in on Monday, so pictures to follow soon.
  • Tracy started orientation at ISB on Wednesday, I will let her tell you all about it at another time, but I will say that from my perspective she seems excited and energized by what she’s seen so far. I know she has some nerves about getting underway, but all signs at the outset are good.
  • We traipsed around our new city and got a feel for the transportation system, although I ensured we got in a healthy dose of walking in our first week to the tune of 68.9 kilometers (42.8 miles). In the process we ate everything from pizza to Indian food to Trappist Monk cheese and beer. Life is good and so are we!

Thanks to all of you who have expressed so much interest and support in our adventure. We’ll keep updating as much as we can.