Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shout Out......

to Jennie Bledsoe, one of my very best friends, has just booked her trip over to see me!!!!!!! I am soooo excited! She arrives on August 19th and is set to see Europe for 2 whole weeks! Oh we are going to have so much fun! Our plans are to see Paris, Brussels (of course), London, Scotland, and hopefully, Ireland! We are SO excited! I think our goal is to see how many countries we can tip-toe in over the course of 14 days!!

YAY Jennie....we are going to have so much fun!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 I come!

My trip to India has been confirmed. I leave Brussels on June 3rd (my mom's birthday) and get into Mumbai on June 4th. I am flying through London then direct into Mumbai (formally known as Bombay).

We will be working in Mumbai the first week and then heading to Delhi over the weekend and also to Agra...home of the Taj Mahal. I cannot go to India and not see the Taj Mahal. I will have my own pictures when I return but had to attach this one in the meantime!

I am extremely nervous and quite honestly, scared to death about going to India. Everyone who has been is telling me that it is definitely worth seeing and there is beauty to be found in this country! I am hoping for the best!

I went to the travel clinic on Friday and got caught up on my vaccinations. I received 4 shots...Hepatitis A&B, a Polio booster, Tetanus, and Typhoid Fever. I also received Malaria pills and an antibiotic if things get really bad. None of these were required for travel into India, just recommended.

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers....I am sure it will be another adventure to write home about!!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Whit Monday

Today is the 3rd holiday in the month of May (have I mentioned that I love the holidays in Europe!!??). It is Whit Monday! I was not sure what that meant exactly, so I looked it up. Here ya go...

Whit Monday (also known as Hi Monday) is the holiday celebrated the day after Pentecost, a movable feast in the Christian calendar. It is movable because it depends upon the date of Easter.

Until recently, Whit Monday was a public holiday in Ireland, and was a bank holiday in the United Kingdom until 1967, when it was formally replaced by a fixed 'spring holiday' on the last Monday in May in 1971. It was also a public holiday in various former British colonies, especially in the Pacific. It is still a public holiday in some of the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Whit Monday gets its English name for following "Whitsun", the day that became one of the three baptismal seasons. The name "Whitsunday" is now generally attributed to the white garments formerly worn by the candidates for baptism on this feast. The Monday is also a holiday in France (though since 2005, the government wants it to be a "solidarity" day where people still go to work), Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Greece, Hungary, Belgium, The Netherlands, and several Scandinavian countries, there going under the name "PentecĂ´te" (fr), "Pentecoste" (it), "Pinse" (no, da), "Pingst" (sv), "Pfingsten" (de), "Pengschten" (lux) and "Pinksteren" (nl). Indeed, the official Danish name for the holiday is anden pinsedag (English: Second day of Pentecost). Denmark uses this tradition also around Easter and Christmas, celebrating both the Second day of Easter on the Monday after Easter, and the Second day of Christmas on December 26.

Whit Monday coincides Memorial Day in the US!

Happy Whit Monday and Happy Memorial Day! God bless the soldiers who fight so hard for our freedoms.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cultural Differences (Part Deux)

I have found it is the little things which are the most challenging to figure out! These are things I took for granted at home and are now daily frustrations! I will explain below:

My apartment was not furnished with a washer or dryer. I was extremely fortunate to find a guy from FedEx who was moving to Memphis and selling his washer/dryer combo. Getting the machine was the easy part...learning how to use it has been the challenging part! Not necessarily learning how to use the machine, but what all I need to use with it to make it work effectively, not ruin my clothes, and not cause some disastrous flood. Brussels has unusually hard water so I called upon Lindsay to assist on what to buy. Check out what all I need to do one load of laundry...

Low-phosphate detergent (not sure if mine is!!); anti-calcium agent; and fabric softener.

In addition to the items shown above, when there is a load of whites you have to use Blan to help keep the white clothes from turning gray!

And when there is a load of blacks you need a product especially for blacks to help keep it from fading!

Actually using the machine has been easy so far. I have never owned a combination washer/dryer unit, but I kinda like it. The wife of the guy I bought the machine from gave me a demonstration on how to use it (considering all the instructions on the unit are in French...see below). It is really put in the load of clothes, set it to the cycle you want it to wash, and if you want it to dry the clothes, set the timer and walk away! When it is done, it is transferring wet clothes to the dryer once they are washed! Not a bad deal!

I was living in my apartment for about 4 weeks before I was able to figure out how to operate the dishwasher. My apartment was completely renovated prior to me moving in so all appliances are new including the refrigerator, oven, stove, microwave, and dishwasher.

It did not take me too long to get the stove and microwave working. However, I was scared of the oven (mainly because it was in Celsius). I finally took my chances one day and figured the oven out. I was left with the dishwasher and needed some help after I had exhausted all resources of me reading the book and trying to get it to work. I called over the husband of a friend who checked it out and told me.....the water was not turned on to the dishwasher...MINOR DETAIL!! HA! Who knew!!?? I suppose since it was all new, and no one has used it before, the water was never turned on! Anyway, now it works and, of course, requires any things to keep it operating effectively.

First, there is the standard detergent; then a salt-based product which prevents a hard-water film from forming on dishes and glasses; then a liquid drying or anti-spotting agent (kind of like Jet Dry in the US). Once every few months you are suppose to use another product to remove mineral deposits from inside the machine. I hope I do not forget about this one!! See the products below that I have to use every time I start the dishwasher!

I will never take for granted the great water we have in Memphis again!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Feeling Like a Local

It hit me as I was walking out of my apartment this morning that I am feeling more and more like a local. Not a local in the sense that I have grown accustom to the culture and language (that is certainly not the case) but a local in the sense that I feel comfortable in my new surroundings, apartment, neighborhood, know my way to work without getting lost, know where to grocery shop, etc, and just more at home, in general.

My mood may have something to do with the weather. When I arrived on April 11th, Brussels was experiencing abnormal weather. It was absolutely beautiful with sunny sky's and 70+ degrees. They went 36 days without rain...a record in Belgium history! After about 4 weeks of being here and enjoying the great weather, the rain came and came and came. I think it rained for 2 weeks straight (maybe not 2 whole weeks) but a lot and it was cold and just plain gross. Supposedly, that is normal weather around here so I better get use to it.

Anyway, today when I left my apartment it was sunny and extremely pleasant! I jumped in my car and made it to work in under 30 minutes. I am able to get home most days in under 20 minutes! Nice!! Yes, I am going in and leaving early to avoid the major traffic...but I am happy with my commute and route to work thus far!

So, I guess I am feeling more at home....which is a very good thing!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mumbai, India

I found out last week I would be traveling to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India within the next week or so. I was not expecting to travel this soon (and certainly not to India) so needless to say I was not very happy to find out about this little trip!

Of course my first thought was what in the world am I going to do with Maxie. I have not been really upset since I got here...I have been adjusting well and getting to know my way around Brussels and meeting some nice people when I could. However, when I found out about this sudden trip I completely lost it!!!! I think it all had been bottled up inside me and needed to come out.

Anyway, since I was not expecting to travel so soon I had not been completely focused on finding someone to watch Maxie when I do travel. However, I met a new friend yesterday who has a Maltese as well named Zsa Zsa and is going to be perfect to watch My Maxie when I travel! I met them yesterday and just adored them both! Maxie and Zsa Zsa were so cute together and even cuddled on the couch after a day of shopping, lunching, and walking around. They were just adorable!

The travel details of my trip to Mumbai have not been finalized but should know more this week. I will keep you all posted on the details and would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as I get prepared for this trip! I hear India is appalling and beautiful at the same time. I know this will be a wonderful experience and another adventure to write home about!!

More later!

Bruges, Belgium

After being in Brussels for 5 weeks now, I was ready to get out and see something so Maxie and I headed to Bruges on Friday to see what this little town was all about. The drive was only about an hour so it makes for a great day trip! I took advantage of the holiday on Thursday and took off Friday and had a 4 day weekend! (Have I mentioned how much I love the holidays in Belgium??!!)

I really did not do any research on Bruges before I left mainly because all I really wanted to do was walk around and just explore this town that I have heard so many wonderful things about. I will be bringing my parents back in a month to really "see" the city.

As soon as we walked into the main square I knew I was going to love Bruges. It is a wonderful little medieval town with lots of very quaint shops and restaurants. The architecture is wonderful (as in most European cities) and the little shops are just adorable.

People call Bruges the "Venice of the North" as there is a canal which runs through the city. You can take boat rides through the canal and get a bit more history of this town. I cannot wait to go back and do that!

I am attaching a few pictures of my first visit to Bruges. As I said, I did not do any research so I have no idea what these building are!!! I will find out and let you know when I go back!!

Belgium is famous for its lace...and there were lace shops everywhere with absolutely beautiful handmade items. Even if you are not a lace person (which I am not) I was impressed with the items they had!

Belgium is also famous for its chocolate. I loved this chocolate shop with the 'unique' items they made out of chocolate!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Ascension Day"

Tomorrow marks another holiday here in Europe, "Ascension Day". Some of you may be wondering, “What on earth is that?” After looking into it, I realized exactly what it was...and started wondering why we do not celebrate this important day in the US?

Ascension Day marks the day when Jesus Christ ascended up into Heaven. It was 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, which was on Easter Sunday. If you begin with Easter Sunday (April 8, 2007) and count 40 days, you end up on Thursday, May 17.

The Biblical account of the Ascension appears in the book of Acts, chapter one:

After his suffering, He (Jesus) showed himself to these men (the Apostles) and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when they met together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After He said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into Heaven.”

Acts 1:3–11, NIV

Happy Ascension Day!

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Maxie

Since it has always been just me and Maxie...I have spoiled her a bit....ok, a lot! That is what we have then for, right? She has been the greatest comfort and the best company since I have been in Brussels!

Anyway, the other night I was throwing Maxie's favorite toy for her to go fetch and she was acting exceptionally I took some pictures. I have always said she poses for pictures so here are a few of her recent poses!


"Check out my hot body!!"

"Just throw the toy and stop taking pictures!"

"I know I am cute...anyone wanna come visit me??!!"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day Mom!!!!!!!!!! I love you and miss you!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ahhhh...English TV, European Style!!

I have been in Brussels for 4 weeks now (can you believe it??). Since I moved into my apartment I have been watching DVDs that I brought from home and Slingbox. It really has not been that bad but I am tired of watching the same things over and over. So, as of today I am the proud subscriber of Sky TV (satellite TV based out of the UK) so I now have over 800 channels which are all in English! I am so excited. Since Sky is based out of the UK, there are mostly British type programming, but there are American shows that come on as well. I just watched a couple of Friends episodes, Scrubs, ER, etc. I have not figured it all out yet and not sure when things come on or on what channel...but at least I have something new to play around with! I do not usually sit around and watch TV all night, but I just need something on in the background...and something I can understand!

I will keep you posted on the shows I find! YAY! I am so excited!

The other big thing happening in my world this week is that I will be getting my washer and dryer this weekend! Talk about excited! It is the little things that bring me joy right now! I was fortunate enough to find someone who is about to be move to Memphis and selling his washer/dryer! They are bringing it over on Sunday! YAY, I get to do some much needed laundry...once I figure out how to use it!

My next blog entry will be about the differences in the use of appliances here! That is going to be a good get ready!

Happy Thursday!

Monday, May 7, 2007

This Would Only Happen to Me....

I am prone to doing stupid things and having many blonde is true and I can admit it! I was having trouble with my local Belgium phone so today I met the Belgacom repairman at my apartment. The repairman arrived around 1PM and was able to fix my phone in less than 1 minute! Seriously, 1 minute! Anyway, as he was leaving I saw there was mail outside my door. I walked out of my apartment door into the lobby area right outside my door to gather the mail. As I did, my apartment door shut right behind me....and NO, I did not have my keys....nor did I have a cell phone or list of phone numbers with me. I ran over to it and no luck, it was locked!! Luckily, Maxie is always right under my feet, so she was not locked in by herself.

I decided it was time to meet my neighbors in hope they had the number to the owner of the apartment building. I walked up the stairs and knocked on their door. A man answered and I began explaining what happened and what I needed. He looked at me like I was crazy...I quickly realized he spoke VERY LITTLE English. I took a deep breath (otherwise I was about to lose it and burst out in tears) and did my very best to explain what I needed in my non-existent French and using the universal language of gestures! Imagine me trying to speak French and gesturing being locked out of my apartment!!! Yeah, go ahead and was quite a sight!

I think he finally understood what was wrong and told me he did not have the number of the owner. But he did have the number of a friend of a friend who has a friend who is friends with my owner! HA! Seriously, he said that! He called this person and did not get an answer. The owner of my building lives in Holland, but her parents live in Brussels and handle local issues with the building. Anyway, the guy starts looking through the phonebook for a locksmith. Nothing worked. My neighbor's apartment is right above mine so they can look out onto my garden. I asked the guy if there was anyway we could get to my garden from his apartment because my back door was open. He looked out the window and down to my yard was like..."I am too old for that"!!! I laughed and said, "Me too"!! It was a long way down!!!!!!

Then the guy looks at me and asks if I had any friends or family who could come help me. I about lost it when he asked me that. Anyway, I looked at him and said, "no"...which sounded really sad. But I had no one's phone number and no one has a key to my even if I did have friends here (which I do have a couple)...they could not have helped me anyway.

I was trying to think of anything I could that would help me. I finally remembered I could call my relocation company who would contact my relocation agent who would have the number of my owner's parents. The phonebook was no help and they did not have a I finally remembered the US mobile number of my boss. I called my boss on my neighbor's cell phone (he is going to die when he gets that bill)....and was able to get in contact with my relocation agent. After Christian (my relocation agent) laughed at me, he gave me the number. I called the parents of my owner and she came to my rescue immediately.

Another adventure to write home incredibly stupid was that!!??? This would only happen to me! The funniest part about this story...this weekend Lindsay and I went shopping in Leuven (a little town about 20 minutes outside Brussels). We passed a key store and I said I needed to go in and get some extra keys made because I knew I would end up locking myself out one day. I wanted to give Lindsay a set of keys to my apartment in the event I did lock myself out! The key store was not able to help me because of the 'security' keys I cannot get duplicates made of this type of key! Nice! Then, today while at the office, I was talking to my boss about my desire to get extra keys made to give to friends here....then not an hour later this happened to me! AHHHHH!

I asked the owner's parents about getting an extra set of keys made...and she is getting one for me! Maybe this will not happen to me again!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Run for the Roses - A Kentucky Derby Party

Last night I went to a great Derby party held at the American Women's Club. I was a little nervous about going to a cocktail party where I would not know anyone, but it turned out to be a great evening! The ladies I met made me feel at home instantly and I did not feel like an outsider at all. Here is a picture of a few of the ladies I met last night!

Since the Kentucky Derby was held in conjunction with the party, Derby mania was the theme! There was interactive horse racing where you could bet on the jockey of your choice, Mint Juleps were flowing as well as a hat contest, a silent auction, and a great jazz band. I got in on the fun of the interactive horse racing! Check out the fun! No, I did not win! I think I came in 5th!

I wish I have taken the time and searched for a hat. Hats are all the rage at the Kentucky Derby and in many parts of Europe! So many ladies wore the cutest hats! I need to go shopping!

Thanks for a great night ladies!!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bon Voyage!!

Moving to another country and away from home has made me realize just how much I miss my family and friends! It is hard to step into a world where you know no one and nothing about your surroundings. I have had to rely on someone for just about every decision I needed to make here and hope that they are trustworthy and pointing in the right direction! I have been so blessed with the kind people I have met so far! Everyone has been WONDERFUL to me and for that, I am very thankful! However, no matter who I meet here, they will never be as special as you from home!

I wanted to share some pictures of my special people from home! I know this is a little late (I did move to another country, you know!). Teresa threw me the best going away party anyone could ask for...and if you missed it you should be very sad!! There are many more pictures but I am not able to post them all here. If you would like to see them all, please email me and I will send them your way!

Thanks Teresa!!!!!

I miss you all!!! I am so looking forward to having some visitors!! Who will be the first???

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Week 3

I am well into my 3rd week in Brussels! Time has passed so seems like I just got here!! I managed to survive the parking garage saga on Friday night...and was finally able to get groceries on Saturday morning.

The weekend was very productive and it was a 4 day holiday weekend for me! I love Europe and all of their holidays! We have 3 holidays in the month of May...May 1 (Labor Day), May 17 (Ascension Day), and May 28 (Whit Monday). As each holiday approaches I will try to give you the reason it is a holiday! I need to learn this too! I think that Labor Day is pretty self-explanatory!

I made my first trip to Ikea on Saturday. I needed 3 closets, a TV stand, and a desk. I was hopeful I could get all items in 1 trip and spend the rest of the weekend assembling! Ikea is a huge warehouse building (actually larger than Sam's or Costco!). It is set up as a showroom on the top floor where you walk around and pick out the items you want, write down the number on the tag, and then go downstairs and do as best you can to lift the heavy boxes onto your cart and make your way through the check-out. No one will help one!!! I suspect they have hidden cameras somewhere and the staff is watching you trying to lift something double your weight onto a cart with wheels and no brakes!

I went through the showroom and found everything I needed. Then I went downstairs and attempted to find my items. I found the closets I picked out, but when I tried to lift the box I became keenly aware this was not going to be pretty. I am not sure how much the box weighed, but it was HEAVY. I lifted with all my strength and somehow got it on my cart (more like just let it fall onto the cart). There was NO WAY I was getting 3 of these closets in 1 trip. I then tried to get the TV stand.....and there was no way I could even try to lift the I gave up entirely and left with only 1 closet. I will leave out the part where I about killed myself and my car getting the closet into the back of this tiny Mercedes! HA! I am not sure that car will ever be the same.

Long story short....I got the closet home and assembled. Clothes are now hanging so nicely!! YAY!

Sunday I had dinner with a very sweet lady, who is a FedEx expat as well, and her family. It was a very nice experience to get to know someone who is in the same situation as you are, exchange adventures, and also to hear some good ole English!! I was also able to practice my Belgian etiquette. In Belgium when invited to dinner it is customary to being along flowers and something chocolate. I shopped Sunday morning for flowers at my out door market and bought Beth a beautiful bouquet of roses and picked up a chocolate dessert on Saturday!

Here is a picture of the bouquet I bought for Beth and one I bought for myself!

Monday I ran some errands and also joined the American Women's Club of Brussels. I am so excited about being apart of this group. It consists of American women who are living in Brussels. Most of these women do not work (as they are with their husbands who do work) and volunteer their time at the club. The club hosts many many events throughout the year ranging from traveling tours, wine tastings, girls night out, french lessons, a holiday bazaar, etc. It is amazing the activities this group participates in. As a single girl living over here alone, this club will be my lifeline to making friends, traveling, learning, and socializing! As a matter of fact, this weekend the club is hosting a "Run for the Roses" (a Kentucky Derby party). There will be entertainment, food, drinks, and even a hat contest! HA! Nope, I am not participating in the hat contest so don't even ask! It should be a fun event...and it is cocktail I am a bit nervous about that as I really did not bring anything 'cocktail'ish' with me! I will not know anyone at this party so this is my chance to totally put myself out there and meet some people. The girls I met last week should be I may know a couple of people!

Here is a picture of the American Women's Club Clubhouse!

Tuesday (Labor Day), I did some much needed laundry at Lindsay's. I also borrowed her lawn mower and cut my jungle of a yard. The grass was so high it was literally higher than Maxie...and she would eat her way through the 'garden'. I found out today it is illegal to mow your yard on a holiday...or on Sundays! HA! At least I did not get arrested or fined!!! Check out my freshly mowed yard and roses in bloom!