Thursday, January 31, 2008

Por Vous, Monsieur

Given that Dan and I returned with a little over 100 pounds of luggage EACH, we arranged, through the car service Dan uses for work, for a van to pick us up at the airport. We found the driver under the "Relay" sign at the arrival hall with no problem. Having been in the States for so long, I automatically started chatting the driver up in English, totally forgetting that I was back in a country where the native tongue is French or Flemish. Our driver spoke French, so the conversation pretty much ended there.

As we were sitting in traffic (bienevue a Bruxelles), the driver's cell phone rang. The driver answered the phone and then he got a really, really funny look on his face. He turned around and looked at Dan and said, "Por vous, monsieur." Dan looked at me and said, "What?", as if I had some sort of divine understanding why someone would call a complete stranger on their cellphone in a foreign country and ask to speak to Dan. Given that no such insight was readily forthcoming, I simply said, "it's for you."

Dan takes the guy's bluetooth headphone set and answers the line. Turns out that the call really was for Dan. It seems that the car service was expecting someone else from Dan's office to arrive on the same flight as us and this guy never made it. The car service was just checking to see if Dan saw the guy on the flight.

Still, it is pretty surreal to be in the country for only 30 minutes and someone is tracking you down on a stranger's cell phone!

Back to Brussels

After 3 lovely months in the Southern California sunshine, I have ventured back to Brussels. During my time in the States, I kept a running list of things I wanted to take back to Belgium. You know, those things that we can't find in Europe (electric blanket), those things we refuse to pay obscene prices for (sweaters and sweatshirts), and those things that I can't live without (spanxx and foot petals).

As Dan and I were having lunch in Atlanta, right before our flight took off, I was priding myself on my amazing packing job. I had managed to fit almost everything on my list (the Godiva and Creme de Cacao didn't make the weight cut in San Diego) into two pieces of luggage and two carry-ons. Seriously, I was just about to tell Dan how Eddie Bauer should hire me to teach classes on how to pack duffle bags as part of some sort of public service campaign, when I realized that there was one, tiny, weenie, itsy, bitsy thing that I forgot -- my residency card. You have NO idea how hard it is to tell Dan, after bragging about remembering crushed red pepper packets, that I had forgotten the one thing that allows me back into Belgium! For those interested, he didn't take it so well.

So, my return to Belgium went pretty much like my previous re-entries -- me standing in the passport control line, wondering if a pack of smokes and some big lady named Colette were going to figure predominately in my future. I was desperately trying to figure out the best approach to take with the customs guy (truth vs. lie, lie vs. truth) when he called me forward. Dan stepped forward with me, which turned out to be my saving grace.

Dan had his residency card out and ready for the inspection. [I would insert something here about Dan being a smug little bastard, but, under the circumstances, I think I'll just let it pass.] The customs guy sees Dan's residency card and says, "Oh, so you live here. What part of town?" When Dan told him where we lived, the customs guy was dumbfounded. His exact words, "But Americans don't live in that area." I took that as a euphenism for "WTF! You live WHERE? On purpose?" He quickly followed it up with, "Most Americans live in Waterloo, Tervuren or St. Gilles." To which Dan replied, "I know, but she (personally, I think he put way too much emphasis on the word "she" and we could have done without the accompanying eye roll) wanted to live in the city center." While I don't like to think of it as a "mercy" stamp, I'm pretty sure that is what I got!

Anyway, I'm back. I'm blogging. And, I'm waiting on FedEx!