Sunday, June 22, 2014

One week

Hello! I've been officially resident in Belgium for over a week now. Most of the time, it feels much the same as being in France - until someone asks me for my GSM (mobile phone number) and I have to remember to say 'septante' instead of 'soixante-dix' when I give it to them. That's a change I can definitely get on board with though, go Belgium!

The move went smoothly - it's definitely a #firstworldproblem when your biggest issue is that you're awkwardly perched on a chair in the middle of the room eating a pain au chocolat while other people work around you, cringing that they'll be judging your shabby IKEA furniture. Actually, the worst part was when I was unpacking my clothes on the other end and I discovered a pair of the dirtiest, mouldiest jeans you've ever seen. I've complained at length, I'm sure, about how damp the old apartment was, and since I wear jeans super rarely, they'd evidently just been sitting in my bottom dresser drawer gathering mould for the last nine months. I was horrified at the thought that the movers not only SAW these mouldbominations, they FOLDED them and PACKED them, obviously thinking that I was the kind of person who must, at all cost, have this pair of living dead jeans brought with her to a new country. I know, I know, they see all sorts of things and they're not supposed to judge. They definitely do judge though - the proof being that one of them remarked twice on how my new apartment was bigger than the old one and had a real kitchen. I suppose that kind of remark is just about kosher as long as you're coming up in the world, not moving *into* a hole. In that case though, you almost certainly can't afford professional movers - thank goodness my new work was picking up the tab, because it ain't cheap, let me tell you.

My second moment of shame last week was also related to mouldy, old stuff. I came downstairs one day and realised that my old laptop bag, also shamefully covered with mould, was sitting on the pavement outside my apartment. Odd... On further investigation, an old pair of my pyjamas (not mouldy, but well-worn to the point of threadbareness) and a shoe, missing its mate, were also on the pavement. Very odd. If you can believe it, apparently the rubbish collectors opened my rubbish bag, removed the items they thought unfit for disposal, and left them on the pavement!!! Can you believe it? This was NOT a recycling bag, just a normal bag for household waste (and don't get me started on the elaborate fortnightly schedule for throwing out different kinds of rubbish). I was mortified that my old clothes and mouldy bag were sitting on the footpath for all to see. Thank god the jeans were in a different bag and escaped the beady eyes of the garbage men, I couldn't take it if the zombie jeans rose again. What you're supposed to do with old clothes which are unfit for human consumption, I have no idea. I scooped them into a opaque black sack, put that into the official clear rubbish bag, and covered the whole lot with used kitty litter. Rifle through that if you please!

Anyway, that's a lot about garments of shame. The rest of the week was mostly taken up with long, exhausting trip to the supermarket, IKEA, etc., trying to fix up the apartment and get some ideas for future bigger furniture purposes. With the addition of a throw here, a couple of cushions there, my furniture doesn't look as bad as it did when the movers first deposited it, but most of it could definitely do with a refresh. Plus, I have more space to fill! Not the worst problem ever. There was also various DIY-type things to deal with: there were no curtains, and it was a bit of a hassle getting them (turns out getting curtains made costs hundreds of euros: the IKEA ready-mades are too long, resulting in some cat-related mischief, but they'll have to do for now until I can have them hemmed). We also hung up a clothesline on the back balcony - yay for being able to dry clothes without it taking a whole week and having clothes horses permanently cluttering up the place, and fixed a hook on the wall to hold the shower up. I've heard the explanation for why the French (and, apparently, Belgians) don't have hooks for their showers is because they prefer to take them sitting down, but after a week of sitting down to shower, I have to say the theory doesn't hold much water (heh heh). Even sitting down, it's incredibly awkward having to hold the shower head the whole time, you get cold because unless you hold it right above your head, your back or your front won't be under the water, and it's impossible to wash your hair properly. Even after hanging the shower head up, I still had to sit down since not only are there no curtains, there's not even anywhere to hang curtains - crazy! Eagerly awaiting the arrival of stick-on window transfers from Germany so I can shower like a real person.

Minor issues aside though, the new place is great. It's such a luxury to sit in the sunshine on my own balcony, with a book and a glass of wine.

Jules getting Bobby used to the balcony


And it's so great having a real kitchen with cupboard and counter space (still getting used to gas burners though)! Oh and a bath, so relaxing!

There's still work to be done - mostly boxes that need unpacking and sorting still in the short-term, and then longer-term new furniture purchases. But I have this week before I start work to make the place more habitable, and then I think it will be great! Jules stayed the whole week with me, which was a massive help, and it was nice to start getting our bearings and exploring Brussels a little bit. I'm definitely pleased with my choice of neighbourhood - thanks to the World Cup and evenings without internet at home, we already have a 'local' pub and have eaten at a few of the neighbourhood restaurants. Seems like a nice area! And of course, being a capital city - and, if the crowds watching the World Cup are anything to go by, a multicultural, multilingual type of place - I'm sure there's heaps more I can discover in the next few months.

13 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good move (despite the zombie jeans)! Sounds like you've already got a lot accomplished!

    I hate having to hold the shower head. So so annoying! We definitely need to put a hook up, but haven't gotten around to it. Plus the walls are concrete there behind the plaster making it difficult. The only way I'm able to wash my hair is if I turn off the water while lathering up.

    -Shannon

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    1. Had to power through while the handyman/chauffeur was there :) Arrgh, hats off to you if you've been managing for ages with it, I'm over it already!

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  2. Your jeans story made me laugh. I would have freaked out when I saw them. One time I went away for a month, and when I came back, there were little bugs on my bed. AAH!

    I’m with you on the shower. Showering sitting down seems so inconvenient. I’ve met at least one French person who does it; I haven’t really asked the others. Will have to make it the next topic of conversation…

    Glad you like your new place and your new ‘hood!


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    1. I was mortified, but at least it wasn't little bugs, eek!

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  3. Oh bimbobbap! You had movers... That folded your clothes for you? That's intense. I've had sit down showers before they are terrible... I guess if you haven't grown up with them you'll never get used to it? Glad it all went well! x

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    1. Bimbobbap? Yeah, they specifically said I had to pack my own underwear, but they do they rest haha. The stuff on hangers came in a special box, still hanging up. Luxury.

      It even just looks better/is better for taking a bath with the head hung up out of the way. I normally worry about making holes in the wall, but on this occasion I was like "they should thank me"!

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  4. Sorry, but I laughed out loud at the zombie jeans saga. (Heartless mother.)
    :)

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    1. Lucky they were just about finished, cos I couldn't look them in the eyes after. Words can't describe how abysmal these jeans were!

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  5. I have a suspicion that the jeans may have been related to ther several rubbish bags of used clothes that you left at home!

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  6. This is bringing back memories.... and not very fond ones. ;)

    But the worst parts are over. The decorating is much more fun.

    I read somewhere that back in the day people used to lather up and turn the water off, which is why they don't worry about shower curtains or trying to wash their hair with one hand while holding the shower nozzle with the other.

    But, your moments of shame are hilarious! And I love the cat on the balcony. Hope your cat will like it as much as mine.

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    1. That sounds like a great way to freeze to death! The transfers are now up though, I can shower again! The cat is still somewhat resistant to balcony time, but he actually stood up to try and see out the window the other day, which I took as a good sign (normally scared of everything).

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  7. Didn't the curtains come with iron-on hemming tape? If not, see if you can find some, that's how I managed to get all my Ikea curtains the right length! Even with a sewing machine, it seemed easier to iron than sew them.

    The first time I came to France in high school I got water all over the bathroom floor in the hotel; the no shower curtain thing was so confusing! I've been pretty lucky in my apartments since then, or rather, I make curtains/hooks non-negotiable in my search, so I've managed to keep the floors dry for the most part, lol.

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    1. No, I didn't think of that, but that's a great idea, thanks! Yeah, I had to add a shower curtain too, but that was easy since the rail was already there thankfully.

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