Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Here's to wishing you a wonderful Halloween! Watch out for those ghosts and goblins tonight and try not to be too stingy on giving out the candy!! I hear Halloween in Brussels is very small in the more urban neighborhoods but growing in the more rural parts of town where a lot of families with kids live! I am not prepared to give out I am hoping I do not have to turn away any little trick-or-treaters!!!

P.S. - I am working on my Disneyland Paris posting and hope to get it out soon!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

AuditFest 2007

I survived AuditFest 2007!!!

I am not kidding when I say I survived AuditFest 2007! What an adventure it was! For those who do not know, AuditFest is an annual departmental event held in Memphis. All auditors from across the world and the US (160 total) come to Memphis for this week long event!

AuditFest includes a day of speakers where FedEx executives come and share their vision for the company and how important of a role we as Internal Audit play into that vision. It sounds very boring, but it truly is not. Last year the one and only Fred Smith (FedEx President and Chairman of the Board) came to talk to us! This year we had our CFO, Alan Graf, and others come to talk to us. It is not everyday you get to spend the day with the top leaders of this $30+ billion company!

Day 2 consisted of team building activities. The theme for AuditFest 2007 was "Making the Band". We were all put into teams and each team was assigned a team name. My team was "Silver Swing". The team building event was held at the Whispering Woods Conference Center and Hotel in Olive Branch, MS. We were assigned the task of designing our own album cover and taking team pictures. In the middle of taking the album cover pictures the hotel experienced an electrical fire. All 160 auditors were evacuated out of the hotel and into the surrounding grounds while the fire department was dispatched to check out the situation. It was hilarious to see the faces on the firemen as they approached the hotel and saw 160 auditors dressed up in disco, swing, jazz, dance, etc. costumes. They had no idea what they were coming up on! The electrical fire was put out and the events went on as planned. We were interrupted in the middle of the day with heavy thunderstorms but we moved inside with no problem.

Later that night we had a banquet which honored outstanding auditors for a job well-done. I actually received one of the "All-Star Team" awards so I was very happy and honored (and a bit surprised)! The picture below is me with Gene Bastedo (Senior VP of Internal Audit and Alan Graf, FedEx Corporation CFO).

Gene and I at the Awards Banquet!

Once the banquet was over and the DJ was starting the music for the dancing to begin...the lights went out! It was pitch-black dark in the hotel. Come to find out lightening hit a transformer outside and blew up! No lights, no emergency lights, and people were stuck in the elevator! It was quite a site. There was even a tornado spotted in the area (not near us!)! The fire department was called out again (same firemen) to address this problem! I think they were pleasantly surprised to see how nice we all clean-up! Anyway, the lights came back on about an hour and a half later and the people stuck in the elevators were rescued!

Our final day was spent bowling as a team, golfing, and a charity event! It was another fun AuditFest!!!

Check out pics from the exciting and memorable event!

FedEx Internal Audit!!! WOW, we really are professionals!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy Birthday!

I was fortunate to celebrate my birthday in Memphis and Brussels this year (how weird is that??!!)! I spent time with some of my best friends on Friday night and with my family on Saturday night before I left.

Friday night we went to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Memphis...Cozymel's! I love that place! It was so good to see and catch up with my girls most of which I had not seen since I left Memphis!

Here are some pics from the celebration!

Top Left: Jennie Bledsoe
Top Right: Adrienne Foster
Bottom Left: Valerie Lipe
Bottom Right: Amanda McElroy

Ginnie Geater

Emily Mathews

Amanda, Valerie, Adrienne, Jennie (Yes, I know, you have seen these girls before, but I thought this picture was cute!)

Teresa Ray & Mackenzie Ray (she was being a little shy!!)

Kim and Michael Shepherd

The Rays (Sean, Teresa, and Mackenzie)

Now Mackenzie was ready to pose with her play-dough and her name 'forked' into it!!

Back in Brussels, I went to dinner with some of my European friends last night! We ate at La Fin de Siecle, a fabulous Italian restaurant, which is really close to my house (that could be dangerous!!!).

Starting from the left: JR Garcia (I work with him), Julie Gabler (my friend from California who is a lawyer and the girl that is going to Disneyland Paris with me this weekend), ME!, Pam Rokjer (my dear friend and Zsa Zsa's mom), and Carrie Garcia (JR's wife).

The restaurant fixed a fabulous birthday dessert!!!

Thanks to everyone that called, emailed, and sang to me on my special day! I am so blessed to have family and friends who love and care about me so much! Your love made being away from home manageable and enjoyable!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Day!!

Everyone has their day....and today is mine! I love celebrating birthdays! I believe it is the one day a year you can celebrate being you...and that is not a bad thing at all!!!

I turn 33 at 9:04PM (US Central Time) this evening! It is hard to believe I am 33! I am so excited about going to dinner tonight with some of my Brussels friends. Also, this weekend Julie and I are going to Disneyland Paris to celebrate with the one and only...Mickey Mouse! How fun and a great way to celebrate "my day"!

Here's to turning 33.....Cie la vie!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My First Trip Home

I am in a little better here is a little recap of my trip home!

Maxie and I arrived in Memphis on October 5th! The trip over the ‘pond’ was uneventful (although an hour late into Memphis) and Maxie did great! She is required to stay in her travel bag while in the air, but I was allowed to keep the bag in my lap which made for a happy Maxie!

We had a few hours layover in Maxie got out of her bag and played for a little while! I was amazed at the attention she got from the airport staff and fellow passengers!

Here she is before we landed in Memphis...I think she was ready to get there (me too)!!!

It was so good to be home although it was very surreal to be ‘visiting’ Memphis. I have lived there all my life and have never been there to just ‘visit’. It was the weirdest feeling I have ever felt! Daddy had his famous ribs ready for me when I arrived! Oh they were soooo good!

The 2 weeks went by so fast! I got to see my family and friends and I do not think I slept the entire 2 weeks! We had something going on almost every night. I now have a new respect for people who live away from their family and only have a limited time to catch up when they are in town….whew, it is tiring!

I spent most of my time eating foods that I cannot get in Brussels. Man, the things we miss! I have craved Mexican the most…so I went to On the Border at least 4 times (I prefer fake Mexican)! There was also Huey’s (for their famous burgers), Chick-Fil-A (for nuggets and sweet tea), Cozymel’s (more Mexican), Papa Johns pizza (with Ginnie), BBQ ribs (my daddy’s), Memphis Pizza CafĂ© (YUM), Melting Pot (fondue), Ruth’s Chris (best steak ever)…and many many more! It was all great and I need to go on a major diet! Whew!

I also got to do some shopping while at home! Shopping in Europe is VERY expensive and the clothes are very different. I think I bought my fall/winter wardrobe while I was home….hence the 3 HUGE suitcases I brought back with me....which arrived last night, by the way!

The main reason I was home was to attend "AuditFest", an annual work event. I know, it sounds crazy...but it never disappoints...and this year was no different!!!! (More about it later!)

I knew leaving Memphis was going to be very sad...and it was! I did not bring Maxie back with me since I will be back home in 9 weeks and I wanted to do a lot of traveling over the next couple of months. It is amazing how quiet the apartment is without her. I miss her so much! Mom and Dad are taking good care of her and I will be back in no time!

My birthday is tomorrow and I have a trip planned to Disneyland Paris this weekend to celebrate and spend some quality time with Mickey! My friend Julie suggested we go and I was so excited! I have always wanted to go...and thought this would cheer me up! We will see!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I hate Belgium....

I made it back to Brussels...finally. My flight should have left Memphis at 7:15PM Sunday night...was then rescheduled for 10PM. We then sat on the runway until 12AM. We made it into Amsterdam at I missed my 2 scheduled connections. I then stood in line for 2 hours to get rebooked. I finally left Amsterdam at 5:30PM and arrived Brussels at 6:30PM with NO LUGGAGE...NO MAXIE...and it is COLD.

Please keep me in your prayers, I need all I can get right now!

P.S. I will post details about my wonderful trip home when I am in a better mood!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Home Sweet Home!!!

Maxie and I leave at 8:30AM Brussels time tomorrow heading west toward Memphis! We are both so excited I am not sure we are going to be able to sleep! It is going to be a very long day and I am hoping Maxie sleeps the majority of the time!

Time is limited while I am home, but I definitely will make time for some dinners/drinks. I will be checking email and also still have my US cell phone so give me a call! I will be home from October 5-21...returning only 4 days before my we will have to have a little celebration too!

See you soon!!!

6 months down....18 to go!

I am about to hit the grand 6 month mark of living here in Brussels! I cannot believe it! Prior to coming over here everyone said...oh, your attitude changes so much after 6 months. I really hope they are right!

Can you believe it has been 6 months since I packed up and left Memphis? I still cannot believe it; although, some days it feels like 6 years! I have come so far since I arrived and finally feel settled.

In the past 6 months, I…

* Visited 6 countries (Belgium, India, France, Hungary, England, Scotland);
Brussels, Belgium
Brugge, Belgium
Leuven, Belgium
Mumbai, India
New Delhi, India
Agra, India
Paris, France (3 times)
Budapest, Hungary
London, England
Edinburgh, Scotland
Giverny, France
Normandy Region of France (Utah Beach, Gold Beach, Omaha Beach)
Sainte Mere-Eglise, France
Bayeux, France
Deauville, France
Honfleur, France

* Had 5 visitors (Mom, Kristen, Jennie, Gail, and Ginnie);

* Locked myself in a parking garage;

* Locked myself out of my apartment;

* Survived Maxie having surgery on her paw;

* Met some wonderful new friends;

* Had my first experience returning something in Europe (not as easy as it may sound);

* Found Diet Pepper in less than 2 months of arriving;

* Have been to 1 chocolate tasting…and cannot wait to go to another one (21 different types of chocolate…wow!);

* Survived my first summer in Brussels where the weather barely got above 80 degrees for only a couple of days;

* Am getting use to the dreary, rainy, gross weather here in Brussels;

* Have gone through 4 different cars and finally received my permanent car last week;

* Can get to work without my GPS now (I do take it everywhere else though);

* Finally received office furniture this week after 5 months;

* Have gone to see my first movie (did this just a couple of weeks ago!!);

* And much much more!

Wonder where the next 6 months will take me?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I just wanna go home....

I am down to 2 days and counting before Maxie and I board a plane en route to Memphis on Friday! I cannot wait! The most random things have happened to me over the past week or so that has made the timing for the trip home more important! Here is a run-down:

* I told you all about the water far nothing else has happened. Yahoo!

* I got home last night and had NO POWER! All I could do was shake my head and leave. I had some errands to run anyway, so I did and by the time I got back home, the power was back on! Jeeezzzzz....

* Then, I received a certified letter that I had to pick up at the post office. Let me remind you I have not had any reason to go to the post office since I have been this was a whole new experience. I was secretly excited about going and picking up what I thought was a nice happy someone from home had sent (because I was expecting a package)...but I was disappointed when the postman gave me an envelope from the tax authorities. Obviously, not too exciting! When I opened it I found it was in French (imagine that) so I took it to the office and gave it to the person who handles our relocation and expat matters. She proceeded to call the tax authorities and found out that the owner has not paid income taxes on my apartment for 2 years and they are about to seize the rent that I pay! now I may have to start paying rent to the tax authorities!!

A friend mentioned earlier in the week that I must have a good Belgian experience before I leave...otherwise she will worry that I won't return. Well, I'm afraid she'd better start worrying!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lazy Saturday...

This past Saturday was a day to stay in, cuddle up, and stay warm! It was one of those days where it was gray and rainy all day and very cold! I had to go to my French class early so afterwards I came home and got back into my pj's and enjoyed cuddling up with Maxie and Zsa Zsa, who is staying with us for a few days!

It was a good day to do just about that is exactly what I did!

You can sort of see how the day looked from the front of my apartment...
And in the back yard...
So I made some hot tea....

And cuddled up with my babies!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Water problems in Brussels...

Just when I thought all things were good in Brussels, I got slapped back into reality! I have had every water problem you could think of over the past couple of weeks!

First: A week after Jennie left, I started noticing water coming from the wall in my guest bathroom. Yes, I said the WALL. I knew this could not be good so I called the owner of my building. Come to find out there was something stuck in a pipe causing water to back up and come out of the wall. I have learned not to question too much in Brussels...but water coming out of a wall does not seem to be normal no matter what is stuck in a pipe. Anyway, it is now fixed and all was well....for a few days anyway!

Then: The weather has turned quite chilly in Brussels...almost to a point where turning on the heat is becoming necessary. I have radiator heat in my apartment. I have never had radiator heat before in my life so I have no idea how this is suppose to work. Anyway, I turned the radiator on to see what would happen for when the weather does require heat. Well, nothing happened and heat never came out of the radiator. So, the next morning when I got up to take a shower I did not have any hot water...NONE and the water was ICE cold. Not a good way to start the morning. I took a very quick sponge bath and once again, called my owner. Nothing happened that day, so the next day and after another ICE COLD sponge bath the owner's son-in-law came over and fixed the boiler in my apartment where something was going on with the pressure which caused the hot water not to work!

Today: I got up to take a shower and NO WATER at all! NONE, only drip, drip, drip and nothing more than that. (Side note: I have not paid a water bill in 4 months...only because I have not received one....and I have NEVER received an electricity bill...ever (that is another story)! So I was a little nervous that my water had been turned off for lack of payment!). Anyway, come to find out that was not the cause for no water. I ran into my neighbor who lives on the 3rd floor and she told me what happened! it appears something happened to the boiler on the roof of my building at 3AM this morning and woke up the guy who lives on the 2nd floor and then proceeded to wake up the girl on the 3rd floor. They decided not to wake me up but called the fire department instead. The fire department came out to turn off the water in the building. Someone came this morning to fix the boiler but did not know how to turn the water back on in the building (that is scary to me). Anyway, I had called the water company and they sent someone out here to turn the water back on!

Who knew it was so hard to shower in Brussels...??

I just wanna go home....4 days and counting!!!!