Thursday, August 28, 2008

We love electricity... but, how do you get it!?

Yes we do, but how to get the provider, that was another story...
Before we left to the States, we were with a provider called ESSENT.
So we checked their prices online and decided to sign another contract with them. Well, at least that is what we intended to do!
When our tenants left, we provided ESSENT with all the paperwork to end the contract with them and to start a new contract with us.
Actually, it was not that easy, because we had to restart the procedure like 2 or 3 times!
We were glad to have it all done and did not think about it anymore till we received a letter in our mailbox this Monday saying that we had to choose (urgently) a provider or the electricity and gas would be cut off. NICE!!!!
So, they got the information that the tenant moved out, but never got the information that we also started a contract with ESSENT. Very efficient administration, no?
Alain tried to get to customer service and got different scenarios:
1) we do not have the meter readings anymore, could you provide them again?
2) sorry, I hardly speak any Dutch so I do not get what you are trying to ask me (well, actually she did not say it, but that is what my hubbie experienced)
3) oh, but sir we have a 0800 line (you call for free on these), so why do you not call our customer service at that extension (was she already suspecting that it would take like forever?)
4) the 0800 line was crap! Alain got cut off I do not know how many times but finally gave up
5) tried again the next day and had to start over again giving all the numbers and name, address and so on...
this unefficient customer service story kind of made us decide to not go on with them...
Can you imagine all the bad things that can happen once you have signed your 1year contract?

So we wisely decided to check other electricity providers and YES WE DID IT... we have a contract with another provider and will not have to spend entire evenings at our neighbors because we do not have light in our house (joke)!

So we can only warn other Belgian customers: "STAY AWAY FROM ESSENT".... we never ever experienced such difficulties trying to sign a contract!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today is a special day, since it is the birthday of a very dear friend: Marleen.
We have almost 45 years of history together. Both born in 1963, she in August, I in July... we kind of grew up together. Marleen is the youngest of a very big family, actually the funny thing is that my mom and her sisters were friends with her older sisters!
We went to kindergarten together, afterwards to elementary school and later to junior high and high school. As little kids we played together and I spend a lot of time on the farm where she lived. Later on, we started going out together, sharing secrets about boyfriends and today we still have that deep friendship going after all these years.
Even though we do not see eachother a lot, we feel "at home" when we come together and we feel as if we've just talked the other day. We know that we will always be there for eachother and that our friendship is real.
Since this good friend of mine is having some health problems right now, I wanted to share with the world how I feel about her, how great I think she is and how much I want her to get better soon so that we can celebrate her birthday together.

Love you Leen and wish you a good recovery but most of all for today "Happy Birthday"!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SIS cards and "LA Blues"

Yep... they arrived: our SIS cards.
These little cards (sized like debit cards) are very valuable in Belgium, since they are needed when you are hospitalized, when you go to the pharmacy to get prescription drugs and so on...
It was a big deal to get them, since we do not have our Belgian identity card and sometimes the health insurance gives you a hard time... Sometimes they refuse to hand you the SIS cards if you have no identity card. Since we are waiting for our identity cards, we did not think that our health insurance would hand us the SIS cards, but (lucky for us) they did!
Now prescription drugs will be cheaper again and we do not have to worry about having to go to the emergency room... Hopefully never, but you never know!

Other than this, nothing special happened this week, with the exception that both Alain and myself are having the "LA BLUES"... BIG TIME!
It's not only the beautiful weather and the nice location: IT'S ALL OF YOU GUYS... You can not even start to imagine how much we miss you all, how much we miss our gatherings at the poolside (with of course some wine or Nancy's margaritas and home made guacamole and tacos!). Yes, we seriously have had a rough day today! Since we could not say what was going on, we decided to call it the "LA BLUES"...

OK, better stop writing now… soon my keyboard will be covered in tears…
Love you all and can’t wait to hear from you… we’ll try to call this weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Trip to Durbuy

Yesterday Alain took a day off and we went shopping for a new shower cabin. We found a nice one and soon our shower troubles will be over (we had a few leaks, which he fixed, but it is a better idea to replace the whole thing).
Also today Alain did not have to work, since August 15 is an official holiday in Belgium (Assumption of Mary into heaven). We planned to go and visit Gaby in Germany, but something came up and so we had to change our plans.
Rosette proposed to go for a hike in the South of Belgium (the Ardennes). Destination was Durbuy.
We stopped in Barvaux in a nice little hotel for lunch and from there we walked 7 kilometers to Durbuy.
It was a nice relaxing walk, since we were walking along the river “The Ourthe”.
If you want to read more about this smallest city in the world, click on this link.

The sun was shining, the company was good, the kids were not complaining… could we wish for something else?

Yes… a nice cold beer upon arrival in Durbuy… and we managed to get that.

On the way back home, we stopped in a restaurant along the way and were disappointed with the service we got. They could never get away with such lousy service in the States! The waiter had to bring some cheese for the pasta, but decided to first chat for at least 5 full minutes with his colleague, the order did not come correctly out of the kitchen (wrong snacks)… and we had to wait like forever before we finally got some food on the table. Unfortunately we do not have a “tip” system here, he would definitely not have gotten a tip in the US!

Here are some pictures of the trip… next time we’ll make reservations to rent boats… that seems like a lot of fun for the kids!

And so we end a very nice and warm day… tomorrow we go out with Jurgen and Tiny (remember them from Halloween last year?).

This little bridge over the "Ourthe" river was the start of our 7 kilometers long walk.
The whole gang (except for Axelle and me, we are taking the pictures)...
Enjoy the beautiful nature
One of the many small streets in Durbuy

Monday, August 11, 2008


What did we do this weekend?
On Saturday we did some more painting, Alain went to the hairdresser and afterwards we went to have our pictures taken for our new identity cards.
Since the weather was so beautiful, we decided to go and have a drink on the old marketplace of Mechelen. Mechelen is the city closest to the village where we live. Also a lot of nice historical buildings to see.
At the spur of the moment we decided to have a bbq at our house. So we called Veerle and Koen (the parents of Axelle's friend Loren) and since they had nothing to do, they came a few hours later to eat with us. We also invited Rosette and Monty (our neighbors), since they also know Veerle and Koen.
We were very "lucky" with the weather because it kind of stayed dry till after dinner. How fast the weather can change!
Saturday evening was also our phone chat with Puska and Snjezana...
Hope you feel better soon Antonia! (they told us their daughter had a little accident)
On Sunday we went shopping... only a few shops are open on Sundays here in Belgium. Good thing for us is that some of them are very close to where we live. Axelle did not want to come with us and she went for a 7km walk with her friend Dieter and his parents.
When we came back from our shopping trip, the weather was nice again (it had been raining all morning) and so we decided to go for a bike ride with Rosette, Monty, Mira and Eddie. All that biking made us very thirsty and so we stopped in " 't Volle buikje" (translated "the full belly"), a new place in our village where you can have snacks and drinks.
Rosette told me the sangria (with a lot of fresh fruit in it) was very good and so I decided to have one too. This was serious stuff! I think if I would have had two, I would have been drunk! And so we ended our weekend a little bit “lightheaded”…

Today another week starts. Axelle has a playdate this afternoon and I’m going shopping with my mom in Mechelen. Tomorrow I’ll try to finish the painting in Axelle’s bedroom. Only one more wall to finish. The house is finally getting organized.
Next time I’ll try to take pictures when we do things… I forgot the camera this time!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pictures weekend with our European-American visitors

Finally took the time to post some pictures from the weekend Gaby, Snjezana and Puska were here with the kids.
Saturday July 19 we went to Antwerp.
Hereunder a picture of a statue next to the Cathedral. One of the people in it is not part of it. He surprised our kids by changing position.
My tradition, lighting a candle for my uncle Dirk...

A view of the Market Place in Antwerp... look at those beautiful old houses. This is something I missed in America.

Hereunder "the 3 girls" at Het Steen, and old fortress next to the river "De Schelde".

Hereunder some pictures of the party our friends Kris and Nadine had for our coming back to Belgium. They did everything in "old Flemish style". We had a choice of very old and forgotten games. Especially our European-American friends loved those. For food we had: witte/zwarte pens (white and black sausages), kriekjes met ballekes (cherries in sauce with meatballs), plattekaasboterham met radijs (bread with sour cream and radishes) and for desert rice cream and a very big cake.

Kris was our man on the bbq.

Our friends also surprised us with a powerpoint presentation about our stay in US and our coming back to Europe. Later I translated for our American friends, because it was all in Dutch of course. We got big towels around our neck, because my Belgian friends know how sensitive I am. Lucky it was not something that made me cry... but laugh.

Grietje was serving us the cocktails they made us... all the way through the presentation. And best of all, we got to keep the bottles. YES...

They all pitched in for a gift certificate for a day at the sauna. Rosette and Monty, our neighbours, had a special surprise: a big box stuffed with things you need on a daily basis (like soap, coffee, toilet paper... and so on.

Time for cake...

And when everybody was gone, we started the afterparty after the cleaning up.

It even got Sabrina and Gaby dancing...

Since it was not a day with a warm evening, the Big Bear sweater came in very handy Tamzen and Jeff.

One last pictures of the girls before we said goodbye to Gaby and kids

Goodbye Gaby, see you in Germany.

In the afternoon we went to the Atomium in Brussels with Snjezana and Puska. This is what it looks like outside and inside.

The two ladies could not resist a Brussels Waffle (nothing like the fake ones you find in the States)... Yummie...
This visit made it possible to have a look at Brussels. The weather was so bad that day that we did not feel like going for a walk there.
Tuesday it was very hard to say goodbye to our Croatian friends... but we'll see eachother again (no doubt about that).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sunday evenin dinner at an American diner and arrival of our container

First things first.
Saturday we spent the day painting... and in the evening Alain went out for drinks with Karl, a friend he had not seen for 2 years. I went to the doctor in the morning because again I was feeling low on energy (yes, in need of a B-12 shot again) and had my blood tested. In the meantime got the results and indeed everything was OK except for the B12 that is kind of low (even after the shots).
Sunday we did some more painting, although I had promised myself not to touch a paintbrush the entire weekend.
Rosette proposed to have dinner at an American Diner here in our little village of Elewijt. Of course we agreed, since it was their gift for my birthday (instead of going to the sauna for which we still not have picked a date). And so we went, if I have to be honest not with high expectations, because how in the name can a Belgian diner be an American diner.
I have to say that 'The Snax" was better than expected. I had a 100% American Bacon Burger. It was pretty good and very close to what you get for example at Ruby's in Redondo Beach-CA.
After our dinner we went to an ice cream bar where I had a very nice strawberry vanilla ice cream (yummie)... Thanks Rosette and Monty for this nice treat.
Monday the movers were supposed to come. Because Putters International Moving had not confirmed the exact hour of arrival, we were in doubt if they would or would not be there. Around 7 am Alain woke me up and said he could hear the truck in front of the house. A quick glimpse through the window confirmed our container had arrived. YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH
Quickly got dressed and went downstairs. It was pouring rain outside and we were thinking about how our wooden floor (newly polished) was about to get ruined, but lucky for us it stopped when the movers opened the container doors.
Soon the garage and the kitchen floor were full of boxes and furniture, all to be unpacked of course. I had called in some help and around 9am my mom and dad arrived to give us a hand.
By 12.30 the movers left and we were left with unopened boxes that had to go in the kitchen, bedroom and so on.
By 7pm I decided I had to give myself a break and so I stopped unpacking. Anyway, nothing would run away (unfortunately).
Today I started again and by now the living room looks more like a living room and less like a storage space.
Axelle also had to do some work in her room and she did it without complaining, although there is still some work left and right now sleepovers are impossible because the visitor bed is full of stuff.
But... the good news is that almost everything was OK when it arrived. We have only 1 frame (the one that had the pictures of our family in it) that was damaged (glass broken) and 1 piece missing of a table lamp. So overall I think you can say this has been a smooth overseas move.
Thanks to NorthAmerican Lines and Putters International Moving...
What's on the program for the next days: more cleaning up of the house, some shopping and maybe a little bit of rest... who knows.
Hopefully we'll have time this weekend to give you a call in Marina del Rey, because this weekend we were not at home in the evening (your morning). Sorry for that.
Oh yes... almost forgot to say to Tamzen and Jeff: How was Albuquerque? And also: You made me cry darlings. Why? I unpacked the gift you made us put in the container without opening in Marina del Rey. Well... it brought back a lot of memories and made me very emotional (and that in front of the movers because I could not wait until they were gone to have a look at what you gave us). THANK YOU SO MUCH... it will get a very special place in our living room, just like the frame with Axelle and Maia that has already found a little place.
Remember the glass cabinet? This one is sitting also in my living room here, but here I did not put glasses in it but all our gifts from our American friends. I'll take a picture of it soon and post it, so you can see how close you are to our hearts.
THANKS THANKS THANKS for all your love and your friendship to all of you. We feel very blessed to have you in our hearts.
And now some pictures

No, this is not somewhere in The States, but this is in my own little village Elewijt... Surprised?
My neighbor Monty with the history of this American diner in Elewijt.... Their diner is based on the history of Route 66 in The States.

This is the yummie food we were about to eat...
And finally... our container... This was like Santa Claus had arrived at our door.

As you can see, a lot of stuff (and this was just the start of it)...

And a little bit later they also had filled the garage. Outside of the garage, if you can see through the wrapping, our bbq.
And so all ended well... we got our stuff at home.