Category Archives: MOVING

Why Belgium?

Brussels watercolor via MontgomeryFest

Nine months into this jig seems as good a time as any to add a why to this adventure. Leeeeeet’s start from the beginning:

At about the time of our fourth date, we got into the life goals and aspirations chat as two people do and discovered that we both craved seeing the world. A little insight :: I’m from little ole South Louisiana where I’m the youngest of five and the only one to leave the city, much less the country. So, this handsome boy who talked about music festivals (another weakness of mine) and a wanderlust that matched my own was getting a fifth date, fer sher. Fast forward to the next year when we were surrounded by wedding talk and what to do, what to do..

And since you must know, the plan, simply put, was to see the world. Soooo, how do we do this thing? Well, since we’ve yet to become independently wealthy and can’t just drop everything and buy a hut in Bora Bora, we’ll have to go the career route. J’s firm offers (and by offers, i mean if you beg and pester and do HR’s job for them, they eventually give in – I used to work there…one of the reasons I don’t anymore) “tours” to another office, sort of like an in-house job offer to another location within the firm. So, after we got that set into motion and poked and prodded it along, all while planning a wedding, we decided to regain J’s citizenship to Belgium just in case we find an opening anywhere in the European Union…this way, I can bypass the whole tourist visa deal….so now i get to volunteer for super cool organizations like Buddy Werking. The Belgium thing was a total coincidence – crazy, right? And, if you’re counting, that’s three big life adjustments going on for us at once.

And then, there was an opening in Brussels. Hmmm..okay, what do you think about Brussels? Don’t know anything about Brussels. Isn’t it supposed to be boring? Let’s pro-con this thing:

PRO
– it’s small enough so that the travel is light and he’s home every night (biggest pro – the offices are based by country… in the US, he would be gone for 3 weeks in BS and the smell of his unwashed shirts and gchat videos could only do so much)
– we’d get to experience Europe as locals (well, that’d be anywhere we moved)
– doesn’t Europe have WAY better work/life balance (this one is key)

CON
uuuuh, didn’t you say it was boring?

AND THEN, we were all – All right. Let’s do this thing.

After what seemed like fooooorevvvver getting ‘maybes’ and ‘we’ll sees,’ we finally got a ‘probably.’ We didn’t technically get the 90% until 2 weeks before which was convenient (and actually not very convenient at all) because over in America there’s this two week thing that i had to give my job…that I loved. We booked our one-way flights the week before we moved. Livin’ on the edge people.

So, without having any pre-notion of Belgium, we boarded ship. Well, technically we boarded flight and our stuff boarded ship. And, y’all! As we quickly came to realize, this place is anything but boring. I mean, you remember this right? We’ve been having the funnest time discovering this little-big country with a random trip here and a random trip there, here a trip, there a trip, every where…you get the idea. Besides being the capital of Europe and all of the EU institution liveliness, it’s also the center of Europe (was that planned?) so, we have our choice of destinations.

I think I counted 6 tangents in this post, maybe a new personal best, but probably not. 

Anyway. The travel thing. Business travel is fun…for like 4.8 trips and then, it’s lame. Sorry. ’tis true. Which is what makes tiny, little, travel-from-coast-to-coast-in-a-day Belgium puuurfect for the inseparable couple. (yeah, yeah codependent embrace it) As fun as Australia would be, neither of us wanna be doing these adventures on our own while one of us is traveling to clients and the other is lady lunching by the sea!

SO! This + this + this is actually how MontgomeryFest came to be!

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Six Months

Frit FlageyFrit Flagey

Yesterday, we crossed the six month mark since we landed in Brussels. Remember that? Two suitcases and a camera in tow, waiting another month for our stuff. It’s like yesterday, but thankfully it’s not (figuring out stuff was hard!). I guess that also means this blog gets a half birthday too, Congrats you sassy thing you.

We tried to spend the day at the Stella brewery to celebrate, but we misunderstood Brussels when the internet told us we don’t need a reservation and then once we got there, found out we DO need a reservation (word to those thinking about taking the tour)….but, really, we’ve been here for six months, we should have known this city wasn’t going to have someone on staff just because, when there’s perfectly good arbitrary closing hours to instill. In lieu, we headed over to Flagey for some frites avec sauce Andalouse and later toasted with vin rouge and some favorites.

On top of the Brussels tan lines (ha!) and the time we pretended to know the city enough to give a tour, we’re fitting in smashingly well. J can get to most places in the city withOUT the cocky, British GPS, who can’t pronounce the French/Dutch/English/Spanish(??!) directions. And I can name areas of town by the tram/metro numbers when we’re thirsty. It’s been really fun getting another perspective on the world, writing probably the coolest chapter in our book thus far, and hearing who loves, hates, and are paranoid as all get out about America, that’s fun. 

Overall: We’ll give this one a ‘frosty, yet suitably settled in’ rating and extra points for eating better. And progress report out –

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Red tape… Sticky, red tape.

So, we knew about the Belgian bureaucracy before we got over here, and we thought we had braced ourselves for it. Most of what we learned came from this little video. There are a bunch of small things like strange little card readers that you need to have to access your bank account online, visits from the police department at your home after you move to make sure that you really live where you tell them you live. Ok, its a new country, there are going to be a few things that are different, but J being an EU national we were thinking that we would breeze through certain things that other ex-pats had warned us about. No. Not at all. There is no hiding from it, there is no avoiding it, there are no shortcuts, and there is apparently, no end to it. We’re into our third month here in Brussels and haven’t even finished registering (ie, telling them we’re here). Here’s a little synopsis of how all this goes down:

Brussels Commune Office

1 – AWESOME! We landed! We pass through customs and, as expected, the customs agent tells A she has 10 days to notify the commune that she’s here. We got this.

2 – We open a bank account. Hand them our passports, give them our address, easy. What are all these other ex-pats complaining about? Right next door at the mutuelle (sort of like health insurance provider) we sign up J with his employer’s info, and they say A needs to be registered at the commune before she can be registered. Ok, no big deal, we’re only at number 2, and registration, you will soon find, is only down at number 4. Almost there!

3 – Rent an apartment. And we found the one we loved on our second visit! We’re pretty much experts at this ex-pat thing.

4 – Now that we’ve got our Belgian address, time to go register at the commune. We wake up early to make sure that we’re one of the first ones there and head over to register J first; J’s a Belgian, it’ll be easy. Here’s J’s Belgian passport, a letter from the Belgian Consulate in the US, our rental agreement to show where we live, even J’s employment contract to show that we’ve got a way to pay for things. Then, the questions: “Why do you have a Belgian passport but no national ID number? Why haven’t you ever lived here?” Oh man. So then it turns out we need his birth certificate for some reason (which, J needed a birth certificate to get the passport in the first place). Aaaand it needs to be legalized. In California. Oh, and translated by an official translator. Ugh.

5 – Well, we’re already at the commune, might as well start the process with A. So we go to the next office for foreigners, show them each of our passports, and we’re done. WAIT WHAT! That’s it? A’s not even a citizen how can it possibly be that easy? The woman tells us that a police officer will stop by our home in a few weeks to make sure that we actually live where we told them we do (sounds strange, yes, but we were warned about this process pretty early on).

6 – The policeman comes. Nice guy, and leaves us a piece of paper with an appointment time to finish A’s registration at the commune with a list of things to bring… Some of the normal, expected things, passport, pics, proof of income… A registered rental agreement? What does that even mean? Proof of insurance? Ummm, you mean the insurance that we were informed earlier that we couldn’t get until A was registered? How does that even make any sense?!

7 – The gathering stage. We’ve got our new list of things that we need to get. Mail J’s birth certificate off to California for the Secretary of State to legalize it, get some stuff translated (luckily, there’s a translation office at J’s work), and then head down to some other government office to register our rental agreement. Get a ticket to wait in line and head up to the desk once they call us… Oh, the landlord normally registers the lease, but fret not, just head upstairs and that office can look it up for you! Well that wasn’t so hard. Until you get upstairs and the guy tells you that they can’t look up leases that are less than a year old, you need to go back downstairs, they’ve got them there. Ugh. Ok, back downstairs, get a ticket, wait in line. Oh, you didn’t tell me it was less than a year old, well, in that case call your landlord, he can give it to you. So, we call the landlord to find out that he sent it to be registered, and it will take at least 5-6 weeks. No, that’s ridiculous. So we go back to the desk (it’s been at least an hour and a half since we’ve been here), explain that it was sent, and then: VICTORY! The woman at the counter either feels sorry for us or starts to think that we’re not going anywhere until she stamps our lease. So we get our stamp. We’re official.

8 – The debit card mysteriously stops working. Everywhere. Not at ATMs (ATMs 1, 2, 3 and 4 don’t work for us, so something’s up), not at stores. So we stop in at the bank. Oh, as an American you need to be registered at the commune to have an account. WHAT. You have to be kidding. This is one of those things that you should maybe tell people when they first come to set up their account. We load up on cash since there’s no telling when we’re actually going to be able to use our account like normal.

9 – The future. Futures are bright, right? They hold promise… Let’s hope. Our confidence at this point is gone and we admit defeat to the Belgian bureaucracy (please consider this our apology for thinking that we could match you). We have the things that we think we’re required to have with us to register, and we’ll try again. Wish us luck everyone.

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Announcing…

There’s something about getting mail. Not junk mail. Mail with your name on it, preferably handwritten and with a sweet return address stamp. 2012 was The Year of Mail for us. We had Save the Dates and wedding invitations, now moving announcements and next – Christmas cards (which are already ordered, yay for planning ahead)!

Here’s a peek at the bookmark moving announcements that we sent out. We sighed a deep sigh when we heard they made it through the post successfully!
Moving AnnouncementMoving AnnouncementMoving AnnouncementMoving Announcements05 - announcing...Moving Announcement07 - announcing...

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Stuff It

Our stuff is here! Our stuff is here! I could scream it from a mountain top if there was one nearby.

Stuff including our festival posters and record collection and THE most comfortable bed on the planet. We’ve been sleeping on the fold-out couch for two weeks and my aging back can’t take it anymore. (Please note that it was a fun camp-out for the first few days, but two weeks is too long. So, guests, plan accordingly.)

Oh, and we get real food again! Our kitchen stuff is here now so we’re no longer limited to home cooked meals that have to: 1 – be cooked in the oven; 2 – come in their own oven-safe package or don’t require any; and 3 – can be eaten without a bowl/plate and with plastic utencils. So we were pretty much left eating pizza, lasagna and other finger-foods. The experience did point us to MexiGo, a pretty decent Mexican take-home (not really take out, you have to cook it yourself) that CheeseWeb (thanks!) informed us about. Yum, prooobably going to be one of our favorites over here.

We had heard from lots of other expats that when your delivery comes in, the movers have this crane that they can lift your things through your window. We were super excited to see our boxes come in this way. But no such luck. The movers climbed the stairs the old fashioned way…bummer.

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Bienvenue

20121011-161628.jpg
As one of our wedding favors, we gave out guest bags to those traveling from out of state (which was the majority). We wanted to tie in both of our French heritages throughout the wedding – welcome sign, thank you cards.. So, we had stamps made that said ‘Bienvenue’ and our date for the guest bags.

Most of the extra bags ended up in the wedding box, which is sadly stored back in the D (it will be the first thing I want to see when we go back!). But one made its way to Brussels and I looove that we can use it so often! (They hardly ever give out bags here) In the states, we would CONstantly leave our grocery bag at home or in the trunk…because we had to drive there. But now! I take my biasedly adorable tote walking down the street. So fun. So city. It’s my favorite thing about grocery shopping, except, of course, when they give me wine..

Cheers!
A

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Noah’s Ark

I’m normally pretty opposed to posting pictures of the flowers that J brings home, because it implies that it’s a special event..or rather, a rare event. And he deserves muuch more credit than that. However, this week’s bunch is a little different. We’ve had an adventurous few days to say the least. I wish I could say adventurously hiking mountains or swimming with the fish, but instead we’re just swimming…in water leaking from our ceiling. Yes, again. I had a similar, but uber worse, issue back in Dallas. We’ve moved countries and I’m still attracting the water – sorry J!

We started to move into our new place last weekend, but have been staying in the apart-hotel since we couldn’t figure out how the heaters work (just add it to the list). Also, we’re having a hard time finding blankets in this city – so strange. Monday night, we woke up to the sound of dripping – grrr. The emergency fix-it guy came out and determined the guy two floors above us detached the drain in his shower and the floor right above us is vacant, so it flooded into ours. He gave us a key to another unit for the night. We thought we were in the clear, but Tuesday night…same sound, without the generous fix-it guy on duty. So, 1am, we drove across town to our new place…very thankful that we have the luxury of this option! Actually, it all ended up working out fine for Wednesday night, since they switched us to a much higher unit and I get this view while I describe our week to you:

Schaerbeek, Brussels

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Week One – Check!

Schmoly cow. We live in Europe. Quite often we find ourselves realizing this..although rarely at the same moment, so the convo usually sounds a bit like:

     J: OMG! We like totes live in Europe!!
     A: Uhhh, duh.

     ..2.5 minutes later..

     A: OMG!  We freaking live in Europe!

     Disclaimer – J might not actually say things like ‘OMG! We like totes..’

In any case, here’s our little week ..

Sunday-Monday: 15 hours of traveling. Complete daze. Still exhausted.
Monday night: I met some of J’s Belgium fam. As we don’t speak the same language, there’s a large generational gap, and I feel the need to act things out when they don’t understand me, our communications are quite humorous. Lots of staring. Back at ‘home’ (our one month corporate apt), we took off exploring our temporary neighborhood. Discoveries: it’s hard to find eateries that are open before 8pm and they have Tobasco here.
Tuesday: We flawlessly navigated the bus route to PwC, only to find that the last bus stop is half a mile down the road…with no side-walk (note: just don’t ever wear suede shoes here, ever). After ‘take your wife to work day,’ we decided to take a walk. Seven hours later..
Schaerbeek, Belgium

Someone asked us where the prince lives. We’re oooobviously doing something right.

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We’re Here!

It’s been a long week.  Slowly our things left us.. Tuesday, the first set of movers came to take a portion to storage – for the things we’ll need in a few years.  Friday, the second set of movers came to pack and ship a portion to Brussels – for the things we’ll need in a month.  

A approves.

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Officially Official!

Welcome, welcome! J and A here. We’ve just gotten word that we’re moving to Brussels, Belgium…next weekend! That little red dot down there, that’s where we’re going to be for the next two to three years..

So, the next week will include organizing and packing and storing and shipping and eventually getting on a one-way flight to Europe!

Oh, and buying a camera so we can post pictures on our travel blog.

Happy festing!

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