Today I celebrate my six-week anniversary in Belgium. I have spent much of these weeks experiencing the various joys and challenges that international students conducting research in foreign countries must face: establishing residency, finding an apartment, setting up a bank account, puzzling over the mysteries of European collegiate libraries. I have fretted a great deal about small things, many of them associated with the harsh realities of living day-to-day with a significant language barrier. In these six weeks I have often wondered if I am cut out for all this
But I celebrate my anniversary not in the thank-God-I've-survived-so-far-without-giving-myself-an-ulcer way. I haven't seen these six weeks as six weeks closer to the day I can leave. Because in six weeks I've already done many of things I set out to do: I've enrolled in a Dutch class, I've joined a wonderful choir, I've focused my research, I've made many friends from a variety of countries. It's only been six weeks . . . and I'm starting to feel at home here in Belgium.
Now, I know that this will never truly be "home" as long as so much of my life is back on the other side of the Atlantic. There are days when I often think of my kitchen, my bed, my bathtub. I daydream about the maple leaves that are blazing with color in New England, the golden fields of corn and the acres of apple orchards in Ohio and Iowa, the clouds hanging low over the ferries drifting lazily across Puget Sound. Sometimes I long for a (large!) cup of brewed coffee. I ache to see my dear husband who I miss very much.
But part of the wonders of modern-day living is the ability to stay in touch with the people you love. Skype, on-line photos, and, now, blogging. I figure if I can't personally share my experiences here with my family and friends, I can do the next best thing: invite them to read about them here in my blog.
So, six weeks in, here we go. Enjoy!