Tag Archives: belgium

mi casa es su casa

so… yeah. i think i found a place to live in belgium.

i spent most of my wednesday in antwerp getting shown around different areas by housing agencies. i decided  that (after dealing with that crazy lady) using an agency probably was:

a) easier and
b) more processed and organized.

both good since getting a place in such a short time, working with people overseas, etc. will require a lot of extra work and i want someone with experience.

the first agency showed me places in berchem. i grew really attached to one place almost immediately. first of all, it was HUGE. it had three bedrooms. it looked well kept. no parking, but parking at a grocery store which was fairly close by. it was close to the train station and a tram line ran almost right outside. i had three other places to look at in that area, but i was almost sold on that one.

almost. until the taxi ride home where the taxi driver asked me why a young, single, beautiful (yeah, i didn’t have to throw the last one in there, but it made me feel good) woman would want to live in berchem? he said that the youngest man at the bar next to me would be a 70 year old. in talking with people from the area i found that berchem was really a sleepy, nice, suburb of antwerp. but if i wanted to go out… if i wanted to meet peopleif i wanted to live my belgian life to the fullest… i needed to live in the south of antwerp.

so when i got back to my hotel i scheduled two more visits with a different agency. one of the places was in the city center area and one was in the south. i hopped in a taxi and made my way to the first.

first off, the agency lady was awesome. she was young, maybe late 20s or early 30s and i knew we would hit it off right away because she had a nose ring and she was wearing chucks. she didn’t have a car so we took public transportation to get to the places. she gave me some good tips and pros and cons of the areas as well.

the city center apartments were pretty awesome. the one i was looking at was very modern, very chic. very expensive. over $1500 for a 840 sq ft apartment (733 euro rent + 99 euro common costs + 70 euro provision for water, heating, electricity + 110 euro for the parking). and you definitely need a parking spot if you are living in the city center. the bedrooms were kind of small, but the bathroom was nice because it had a small standing shower and also a bathtub (which I didn’t need, but whatever). the kitchen kind of blended to the living room, and didn’t have a microwave. it had a dishwasher, but it was basically there by accident and if it broke it wouldn’t be replaced. but it had a nice view, it was in a good area of town, and it was connected directly to the train station and a lot of businesses, shopping places, etc.

but ultimately, i wanted to see the place in the south. admittedly, i wanted to see it because everyone had talked up the area so much… but also because it scared me not to because EVERYONE talked it up so much. and not just the “hip and trendy” people who lived in the south– the taxi drivers, my co-workers, random belgians i met *cough*tindered*cough* all agreed that the south was the best place to live, if you had the choice.

so eveline (the agency lady) and i took the tram, then we walked in the rain, then we cut across parking lots, and finally we arrived to a cute little street on the south side near a sort-of dead end road (apparently ideal for guest parking), across from a well-known “brown pub.” (by the way, i wasn’t sure what those were but everyone said it… apparently they are not dressy pubs. maybe a bit like a dive? i will have to test and see.)

before we went in to the actual apartment, she showed me the garage that i could rent for 100euro. i mean… it was literally a full garage. it already housed 3 other cars, and each had ample amount of room. driving/parking/getting around antwerp is a bit crazy, so i liked the idea of having a covered, enclosed space for my car. that was a big plus.

then we went into the 970 sq ft apartment. i will include photos (most photos taken from the Quares listing).

so you walk in and you can either go straight, into the living room area, or take a left to the bedrooms/bathrooms. let’s go straight.

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view upon entering living room

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view of living room, from the other side

okay, yeah i hate the floor paneling too. anyway…

from the living room you can get to the kitchen. also, if you look in the last photo above, you can see a combination microwave/oven? i’ve never heard of it, but apparently they are pretty common.

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here’s the kitchen. it has a small (as in, ridiculously small, probably will get another) fridge, a small dishwasher, and an old kitchen sink and stove top. again, it’s not the most awesome kitchen in the world… but let’s be real. i’m not the most awesome cook either.

okay, so that part of the adventure book ends. let’s go back to page 1 where we enter the apartment. only this time, we are going to take a left.

first off, in that little hallway there are a few closets with a nice amount of storage space. there is also a toilet that is separate from the bathroom, one thing that i cannot seem to get used to, although it is very common over here.

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after the closets there is the actual bathroom, which has a sink and a bathtub with a shower head and some weird partition thing. i actually would rather have a shower curtain and eveline thought that would be an easy fix for the owner since they usually cost less than the partition anyway.

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then the two bedrooms. the smaller (guest) bedroom/my office is on the left hand side. then the bigger bedroom, with the door to small balcony, is on the right.

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the smaller bedroom/office

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IMG_6710my bedroom

from the bedroom there is just a really, REALLY small balcony. probably just enough to fit two chairs or so. but ideal for spying on people. 😉

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so… yeah. that’s the grand ol’ tour! stop on by anytime. afterall, i have a guest bed for you.

“Birth.”

as some of you may know, i am moving to belgium next year for work. for those of you that don’t know, don’t feel bad. i mean, how could you have know? i haven’t updated this thing for nearly a year. but yes! it’s happening. living and loving abroad for at least two years starting january 2014.

the move is a little bittersweet for me. don’t get me wrong, i’m beyond excited for a new adventure. and as far as countries go, you really don’t get much better than belgium. for instance, most of the belgians i know can understand and flip sarcasm just as well as an american. and they do it in a secondary language (i’m sure they can do it in dutch too, but i wouldn’t understand). but that’s a huge thing. they speak english. they are known for chocolates, waffles, beers, bicycles… you know. the finer things in life.

and i’m attempting to learn dutch. i already drink a(n un)healthy amount of beer. i’m not too terribly worried about making friends. having said that and expressed my excitement, i must admit there is a bit of sadness as well.

you see, there is a part of me that will always love and have a loyalty to iowa. sure, our four seasons are brutal. we get mocked for having so much corn growing across this fine and flat state. outsiders don’t know the difference between iowa or idaho or ohio… but the people in iowa are wonderful. we have that “midwestern work ethic” which means we don’t stop until we get the job done and we get it done right. but we not only WORK hard, we play hard too. we are loyal. we’re nice. we’re a little backwards, not on the peak of fashion or the finest, but we are good people. and i will miss that.

so to bring a little bit of home with me overseas, i’m commissioning art off of some of the greatest artists/designers/inspirations i know… my friends. that way i have a constant reminder of people back home and i also get to display some damn good art while i’m at it.

the first piece of art i collected is a piece by my good friend Jon- the title of the piece is called ‘birth.’

i absolutely love it. i originally requested a painting from him about two years ago and jon gladly accepted the challenge. i told him i didn’t care what he painted, i just wanted something unique. i also told him there was no hurry or deadline on the piece, which i think he took to heart. the painting traveled with him for 2 years between three different apartments, and a multitude of people had the opportunity to see it in its different phases. it started out much like a skeleton head, then slowly turned into outlines of fish. then we watched in amazement as the fish became more detailed, and beautifully so. also, the piece is huge, like 27×39″, so i plan to have it be the center piece of my “iowa-inspired” wall in belgium.

birth by jon pearson

birth by jon pearson

fishy fishy2

i’ve known jon for about as long as i have been in des moines. one of my favorite things about this silly guy is that he just does not understand sarcasm. with me being one of the most sarcastic and flippant people i know, i’m not sure how our friendship budded the way it did, but i am so glad for it. he’s one of the most genuine people i know- he is always thinking, questioning, and pushing himself to be better. and throughout the years i think his art has really reflected this.

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if you want to check out any of Jon’s other work, you can go to any of the following. he also does commission work (although if it’s anything like mine, it may take awhile). 😉

thanks again, jon! it will be the highlight of my des moines wall.

waffles and chocolate and beer, oh my!

oh man. besides saying that i wouldn’t mind living there for the rest of my life, what is there to say about belgium? it’s beautiful. it’s clean. it’s biker friendly. its… its… it’s 1/5 the size of iowa and yet so rich with culture and history.

evan and i took off for belgium on friday, april 27. i was being sent there to help direct and edit our company’s first town hall meeting of the year, and evan was going because he’s always dreamed of going to belgium. since the first part of may was a holiday for europe, we decided it would be a convenient time to go and have a mini-vacation before my actual work week started.

we had to take separate flights because we booked at different times, but we arrived in the brussels airport roughly about an hour apart. while i was waiting i caught up with our hostess with the mostess, adrianna, a colleague who used to work in the united states but was transferred to our europe office a year and some ago.

once we got our bearings (and our luggage), adriana took us back to her apartment in antwerp where we promptly took a nap. i know they say you’re never supposed to nap when you get somewhere because you won’t adjust to the time zone, but eff that. i’m always tired and when i’m tired, i will take a nap. don’t even try to stop me.

that night, after waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed from our slumber, evan and i went exploring around antwerp- he had a meeting he wanted to attend and i had a friend i wanted to see. while evan was at his meeting i went to the something-plaats (it’s been awhile, the name escapes me) — DAGERAADPLAATS! (i remembered 15 minutes later and came back to update, but had to leave what i had before to show how proud i was that it came back to me) …

…ahem. i went to the dageraadplaats and had dinner with jeroen, a sarcastic former-coworker who loves antwerp with his whole heart and loves to bad mouth/trash talk my love for des moines, iowa even more. we shot the shit and drank beer for a good hour before evan showed back up, and then we went to a different restaurant (the one we were at was closing) so ev could have a meal. he ordered a steak tartare, which is basically raw meat mixed with some onions, capers, and some seasonings. what a daring man. i mean, i wouldn’t order it, but i did try it and it really wasn’t too bad. it kind of tasted like meat loaf.

after we left jeroen, which was around 11:30 pm, we realized the buses had already stopped for the night. the city bike rental places also had shut down– all of which probably would’ve been a problem for most people. i mean, sure it was quite the distance back to adriana’s apartment. and sure, we could’ve gotten some internet or phone access to get ahold of her to come pick us up. but like any good ol’ iowa farm couple… we walked. and we got lost. and we read some maps. and we got caught in the rain. and evan got to babysit a slightly tipsy amanda. and we walked some more.

we finally arrived back at adriana’s apartment at around 2:00 in the morning. we were tired and wet from the rain, but still extremely happy. antwerp was such a great city to walk around and get familiar with. we loved the idea of the “red lane” in the middle of the sidewalk which was reserved strictly for bikers and motorbikes. we loved how the city felt safe and everyone was friendly. we got home and immediately crashed into bed. the plan was to meet my co-worker drew and his wife chelsea in bruges the next day and figured it’d be good to at least get a little bit of sleep.

let me just stop to say, i do not have an international plan on my phone. i think it costs a ridiculous amount of money for the purpose it serves, and as long as i am somewhere with wireless t i can contact other iphones and use the internet. it may not have served me so well in italy (uggggh that day), but i think it served me fine in belgium. i will admit, however, it would’ve been easier if drew and i had phones to contact each other, because getting the hook up for bruges was a mess. we finally got connected and agreed to meet at the train station a little before noon. evan and i had adriana’s car and drew and chelsea were taking a short train from brussels (where they were staying).

by the time we had met up with d&c, we were all starving. i was on the verge of getting hangry (a mixture of hungry and angry) so we walked around the small city of bruges and scoped out what restaurants struck our fancy. it was starting to rain, so chelsea picked a nice little place and we ducked in for some heat and for some food.

the place was a bit expensive- not only pricewise, but because of the exchange rate from the euro to the dollar. but we weren’t going to let that hinder our good time- we got ourselves a feast. drew and i sampled a few different types of belgian beers and he and evan also tried mussels (i’ve had those before, highly enjoyable). our menu was set- we got to pick from an appetizer menu, then a main course, and a small dessert. it was all really good, and from the restaurant we had a nice view of the lake and watched people do boat tours.

side note: have you ever seen the movie “in bruges?” if you haven’t, first off, you need to. it’s absolutely hilarious; subtle humor mixed with over the top, ridiculous situations, beautiful scenery….

and it has the best quotes. “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me… but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

so many things to see and do in bruges. we explored some abandoned streets, had our first belgian waffles, took a boat tour, saw a carnival area, and just soaked in the belgian life. okay, sure, bruges is probably the most touristy part of belgium, but i can’t really blame people for that. i mean… it’s like a fairytale town.


“It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s f*cking thing?” 

the next day we all agreed to meet in brussels for the day. again, this is where having a phone would’ve come in handy. it took longer than evan and i anticipated to get from the bus to the train station, and by the time we got to the train station, we found our train was delayed. so while we were already a half an hour late to brussels, we ended up being closer to 50 minutes later than the time we told drew and chelsea we would meet them.


evan sleeping on the train

determined to not let it ruin our day (as we assumed drew and chelsea had given up on us), we did some touristy things and explored brussels by ourselves. as fate would have it, i found a small coffee shop with internet access and drew happened to be on skype at the hotel at the same time. they met back up with us and we continued on our merry way, onto one of the merriest places of all: a place with beer. lots and lots of beer.

we also got a little reckless, in our own harmless way. we went to a casino and blew a bit of money and smoked a few cigarellos we picked up in a shop (evan had bought some cigars for my dad and the cigarellos were nice and cheap.) you know… when in rome. we also had our fill of belgian waffles, chocolates, and well, beer, of course.

the next day was probably the most low key day of our vacation. adriana brought us out to this little town called balen (which jeroen says translates to “it sucks” and advised us not to go) because koen had convinced evan that he should go orienteering while in belgium. since evan had never done that type of race before, the boys did a little bit of practice orienteering for the afternoon.  i sat on a terrace, drank, and watched gliders go up.

afterwards we had dinner with koen and his wife hendrika, and then they took us to the b&b where we were staying at, an adorable little place located on a sheep farm.

the rest of the trip was rather boring overall, so i will spare you all the details. basically i got to go to work and evan got to rent a bike and ride around belgium. sounds like he got the better end of the deal.

these were the highlights of the rest of the trip:

  • being able to network and meet new coworkers– i love the people/company i work for. it’s always good to get to know them better.
  • helping (successfully) organize the first town hall meeting of the year.
  • koen gave me a ride to work every day. (i love koen.)
  • i ate horse. don’t judge me.
  • recapping with evan at night about what we each did during the day.
  • going out to dinner with a fun group at the Kathedral restaurant.
  • airport hang out time with penny (i love penny… but in a different more work appropriate way)
  • actually getting to sit next to ev on the plane ride home

^Ja, ik zal.

call me, may(be)?

ooh work. you take away all my free time and yet i love you so.

i haven’t been able to “blog” very much lately, but my month of may was a good one. the weather in iowa is absolutely beautiful and a lot of the month was spent hanging out with good family and friends. here are some good things.

  • i spent the first few days of the month of may in belgium with the most handsome man i know. oh, and evan was there with me as well. 😉
  • the avengers came out. let’s see… iron man, thor, and hulk… yum.
  • ^ and then i saw it again the next day.
  • went to the farmer’s market and got my first papusa of the year. also yum.
  • a group of us went out to north carolina for our good friend erin and sam’s wedding. it was southern, beautiful, and besides being alcohol-free, absolutely perfect. 😉

  • sand volleyball began. and we have continued our streak from last year….our losing streak, that is.
  • it was my daddio’s birthday.

april showers

and a sneak attack by the month of april!

this year is FLYING by. just when i thought i had my head and hands wrapped around this so-called life, i look up and realize that april has already passed me by. no joke, i’ve felt so busy in the past month that i’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone blog.

but april, though busier than fuck (a friend of mine says iowans say “as fuck” or “than fuck” more than any people he’s met so i am trying to live up to the hype), has treated me rather kindly. here are a few highlights for the month.

  • it was around 90 degrees the first day of april. it was so warm that we had a pool party. that is unheard of in iowa.
  • krista and i took a mini-road trip to madison wisconsin to see Fun. and it was. (fun. it was fun.)
  • celebrated easter with evan’s family. it is great because the kids are all getting to an age where they recognize me every time they see me. last time we were back brookelynne called me “aunt amanda.” and i think i’m okay with it.
  • game night. it had been so long since i had a game night. we were over having a grill out at katie and tony’s. it started raining, we went inside to play fireball island and it from the pit. best games i had never played.

    (we have to go back, kate! WE HAVE TO GO BACK!)
  • april marks the beginning of the horse racing season at prairie meadows. i only went once, but i came home $20 dollars richer.
  • i’ve kind of gotten into running. i know, it surprised me too.
  • vacation. i went to belgium for work and evan got time off to come with. it was an awesome time, not only being in belgium, but just being with each other. evan thinks we could live in belgium. i think i agree.
  • on vacation i also got to see a person i used to work with who i hadn’t seen in around two years. it was good to catch up and even better to make new memories. also got to see some other employees/friends and make some new ones as well.
  • secretary of agriculture, tom vilsack, toured kemin and also did a press conference at our facility, encouraging young farmers to stay in the industry. i hung out with his six body guards.
  • my parents celebrated their 37 year anniversary. that is nuts to me. sure, they’ve had their ups and downs, just like any couple. but in the end they decided to that they were to be together for the rest of their lives. and there’s something incredibly normal yet romantic about that.