Saturday, March 16, 2013

Belgium: The First 36 Hours

If anyone tells you traveling is easy, I would like you to point them to this post. Even though it is not the hell of all experiences, it was a typical excursion I think and that just makes it clear that getting from Point A to Point B does not always go smoothly.

Because my host dad is in Antwerp for work and Munchkin has two weeks off school, we headed off on a trip Friday afternoon with two adults and three little girls. My morning started off pretty easy. We needed to do a few last minute things so I got sent to the store for milk and to the post office to mail my German train card back. When my list was cleared off, I headed home with a sleeping baby. That made my schedule so much easier. Instead of organizing my suitcase in the half hour in between getting off work and going to pick up lunch, I spent my morning shift folding and packing and organizing.

(Sorry for the crappy quality. I snapped it with my iPod.)

I finished packing and then got to do my Bible study before I headed to pick up lunch. Around 1, I went to McDonald's, ate lunch, and hung around in limbo for a bit until we left. Munchkin had fallen asleep so we got to deal with her tiredness. (When she's tired and there's the slightest cause for worry, she gets whiny and teary and though I do sympathize, it doesn't help anything get fixed faster. Unfortunately, as you continue to read this post, you will see this behavior had several reasons to come up.)

When we headed out, we got to the first train station and... our train had a five minute delay. (Setback #1) Luckily we would still have ten minutes to catch our train from the main station to Amsterdam.

That train then had a ten minute delay which increased to fifteen and then to twenty. (Setback #2) Unfortunately, our next transition time was only twenty minutes so there goes that connection.

We got on the train anyway, hoping it would make up time or we could catch a different connection, etc. But, Kathrin's train card had somehow been left behind. (Setback #3) This was actually discovered while waiting for train #1 and was the cause for Noemi's first tired whine. (Please understand I don't mean to complain about this and I don't mean it as negatively as the word "whine" sounds. It's simply a very high pitched complaint including tears that shows just how sensitive she can be. She pays attention to what's going on around her and if she thinks there's a possibility that something won't go as planned and/or as she wants it to, then this comes out. It's nothing above and beyond what other kids do; it's just so out of character compared to most of her behavior.)

Luckily, this train card issue was quickly dealt with and we were on our way. We settled in and everything went smoothly for a while. At least as far as I was concerned. Noemi and I colored in pictures and I listened to some music. The train guys told us the best course of action to take was X, then came back a few minutes later and said it was Y. Well Y meant that we had to get off at the next stop. And the baby was asleep (setback #4). We got everything together post haste and got ready to get off. All along the way, any time we had to get on or off there were nice people helping us with babies and kids and luggage. We were very blessed in that respect.

Sadly, the connection between our next two trains was quick. It was supposed to be three minutes. (Setback #5). They held the train an extra ten minutes though and we made it on with time to spare. And at this point we were in a first class car.

Let me repeat that. We were in first class.

We got settled, they gave us food, and we relaxed for a few minutes before getting to Antwerp. The one problem happened when Goose said she needed to go to the bathroom but wanted Mama to take her. Well Mama was in between Sweet Pea and Munchkin and was helping them with food. So I picked up a screaming three year old and carried her to the bathroom through the otherwise quiet first class car. Oops. Better that than pee on the seats, right? I hope they appreciated it.

The train finally arrived in Antwerp and we got off (but not without admiring the rear end on the porter who helped us disembark...) (Setback #6 was...) Our ride, Grandmama, wasn't there yet so we had to wait on the platform. When she did get there, she told us we were going back to her apartment. Which was, in my opinion, setback #7. Grandpapa got there after the rehearsal got over but Daniel wasn't with him (setback #8). When he finally did get there, he ate then took me to my apartment before going to get Kathrin and the girls to theirs.

(My apartment, viewed from the door)

(Plus bathroom...)

(And kitchenette)

So what's happened since then? I woke up today around noon and lounged in bed for a few hours. When you don't have work, a need to pee, animals, kids, or hunger, there's no good reason to jump out of bed. When I finally got up, I took a shower and drank some instant coffee. My plan was to run to a supermarket that's supposed to be about 600 meters away, grab some groceries, drop them off, then head to a cafe with a book and my journal. But then I got lost.

And when I say lost, I mean LOST. I was in the middle of a Middle Eastern neighborhood and I'd taken just enough twists and turns that I couldn't have backtracked either. Normally, I might not know how to get to where I'm going but I know how to get back to where I started. Which made today different. Of course, here in Belgium they speak French and Dutch mostly. A good chunk of people do speak English but I hate asking for directions/help. Especially when I can't even ask "Do you speak English?" in the main language of the country.

Eventually, I found the main train station so I could get home again. I stopped by a bakery and ordered the first clearly vegetarian thing on the menu (panini mozzerella). Luckily, the guy spoke English and told me where the nearest grocery store was. The store was too small though and I ended up finding another. By the time I got back, I was tired. I chatted with my mom and have been texting with friends while watching Netflix ever since. (I also ordered and ate a pizza and tiramisu but the cola I drank is hurting my throat. I'm not used to all the acidity anymore I guess.)

Now that the day is over, I'm going to knit and watch Supernatural.

Good night from Antwerp!


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