the beginning of brussels: a whirlwind

As you can tell from the latest Snapshot Sundays, we made it to Brussels! Home Leave was fabulous, if much too short. We finished up our month in the States with a few days of consultations in DC, where we stayed near the Oakwood in which we lived for Serbo-Croatian language training. Scarlett definitely recognized the neighborhood and always wanted to go into Oakwood whenever we walked by.

despite being in Brussels, Scarlett was still worried about being left behind
despite being in Brussels, Scarlett was still worried about being left behind

After our last nightmare flying out of Dulles with Scarlett when we were PCSing to Belgrade, I was really nervous about this one. Thankfully, Grant was able give me a big “I told you so” because everything went smoothly: check-in was five minutes (not nearly two hours with nasty United people hiding their name tags so we wouldn’t know their names to complain) and the line at security was no problem so we got to the terminal with hours to spare… Scarlett behaved beautifully on the flight and spent nearly all of it sound asleep, which I really appreciated.

Once we got to Brussels we discovered that there’s no such thing as an expeditor for new arrivals — guess that’s how you know you’ve arrived at a cushier post — so we piled our suitcases on a cart and navigated our way out to meet Grant’s office sponsor, who greeted us both with giant hugs and provided a running commentary on the trip from the airport to our apartment.

We walked in to our apartment and found someone in the process of installing our internet (yay!), so we let him finish his work and Grant’s work sponsor walked us in the light rain to one of our nearest grocery stores (there are at least three, which is great), so we’d be able to pick up supplies for that day and the next, which was a holiday. Later during the day, Grant also navigated public transportation to go pick up the box for our television before we both crashed pretty early.

Following many hours of sleep, we got up and decided to explore our surroundings by taking Scarlett on a walk. Because it was Belgian National Day, there was a lot going on: officials were setting up for a parade, the city park was full of food and games, and everyone seemed to be out walking. We had a great time exploring and getting a sense for the city — plus I had my first Liege waffle (yes, it was delicious).

first beers in Belgium
first beers in Belgium

After dropping Scarlett off at home, we walked to meet up with our social sponsors and explore the area around Brussels’ central square, the Grand Place, where they treated us to beers as we watched aircraft flying overhead in celebration of National Day. We had heard that the social sponsor program here was not very good (and we weren’t expecting much because we only received sponsors days before our arrival); I must say, we were pleasantly surprised by how friendly and accommodating our sponsors are. Not only did they show us some of the downtown sites and their apartment but they also made us a great welcome gift basket full of things like beer, wine, soft drinks, snacks, and even metro cards! Plus they showed us how the metro works, lent us reusable bags for going to the grocery store, and did other incredibly helpful things like escort me around the embassy when I needed to go to do some paperwork and take me to one of the large grocery stores on the metro.

Our first week went by in a blur (or should I say our first month, since we’ve nearly been here that long!) with lots of house- and admin-related appointments for me and busy days at work for Grant. Tomorrow we are supposed to have some of our furniture exchanged and I am so excited about it! Despite writing on all our housing surveys and documents that I do some work from home, our apartment was set up with just bedrooms and no office, so I am looking forward to having a surface to work on that isn’t the same one we use to eat on every day. Plus having some bookshelves will be nice so we can move our stacks of books to a more permanent home! We will be much more settled when we can put out our rugs and get things hung on the wall, though we did receive all of our things (including our car) fairly quickly, which did help.

side view of the Grand Place
side view of the Grand Place

At the end of that first week, we took the bus out to the airport to pick up our first visitor, my youngest sister, Laura. We hadn’t yet received our stuff or our car so she really got to experience what moving is like in the Foreign Service (and the joys of cooking with the Welcome Kit items — I was counting down the days until I could use our knives!).

Laura was a huge help for me, not just giving someone to explore our new city with but also with all the deliveries, unpacking, and workmen, she helped me get a lot more done at once (and made it so much more fun, too). She was stuck doing a lot of shopping for home goods and waiting around for workmen, so we didn’t get out as much as we would have liked, but her company the first few weeks here made my life a million times better. Sadly, Laura is back in the US now, but our next visitor is only days away, so not much downtime here!

More on what else we’ve been up to (and it’s a lot) soon!


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