Thursday, April 23, 2009

3 weeks of baby steps and little earthquakes

Recent news:

Boyfriend and I went to Doel last Sunday, a city in the Flemish half of the country which we'd heard about thanks to the blog of a fellow Canuck I stumbled across while looking at expat stuff.  The residents of Doel have been given until September of this year to leave, as the government plans to expand their harbour.

At present, Doel is an almost-ghost town, with some holdouts still resident but with more than half of the population gone.  What is left behind is an interesting landscape of abandoned space and abandoned objects.  Of course, this is Belgium and so the bars are still open to the end for any thirsty residents or any 'exodus tourists' like ourselves who happen to stop by.  We spent the afternoon holding our breath trying to inhale as little dust and mold as possible while snapping a few hundred pictures, and then went for a beer when we ran out of steam.

We thought it must be a very strange thing to live in Doel now, with people coming by to try and peer into and photograph all the empty spaces; people who are fascinated by the demise of your community as you knew it, not to mention those people who show up to 'liberate' the vilux skylights, bathtubs, and various other fixtures left behind in the empty buildings.  If I had to judge by the presence of large dogs people keep around barking behind their front doors or from behind backyard fences, it doesn't always feel safe to live there now.

I wonder why some have decided to continue trimming the hedges and keeping manicured lawns despite the bulldozers and backhoes tearing everything down.  Some of these people have children (who occasionally peer out from behind curtained windows to glimpse what is going on outside their bubble of security,) and really, this place isn't healthy.  Many of the empty structures contain cultures of black molds, there are dead cats (we saw at least 2), and you can only imagine what is taken into the lungs every day as the machines do their work of turning complete houses into rubble.  Creepy.


In other news:  MTV here is pretty bad.  Essentially there are 10 songs that get heavy rotation, and that's it.  If I had a silencer, I'd go and muzzle the artist known as Florida.  The 'real' MTV, of course, doesn't even really play music, but has horrible reality tv shows where boob-jobbed girls try to lie to frat boys to win money to pay for their aforementioned boob-jobs, (omg!  I'm going to be on MTV you guys!) and so on.  yech.

After my little falling apart the other day, courage has come back in little bits, but it's a wavering thing, and so I'm trying to take advantage of my braver moments while not pressuring myself too much in my weaker ones.  It's funny how one moment though you feel like you can do it, and then it turns to 'maybe' and then you are again thinking you'd rather not leave the house. : /  Every day is definitely mentally tiring, filled with a mixture of job-research and language learning, and though I'm 'tired' when I go to bed, I'm still not sleeping really well most nights.

What did help to bring me somewhat back on track though was a sort of re-recognition I had of the realities of the situation here.  Although there is a definite economic crisis right now in Belgium with hundreds more hitting the unemployment line daily, and although my situation is limited in some ways by language, cultural difference, and transportation, I do have a unique set of skills that not every schmuck on the unemployment line can offer, and hopefully I can parlay these things into sources of income...

First: The skill I'm hoping to push along here: chocolate and confectionary.  I have found a few places that are actively looking for artisinal chocolatiers, and so we're going to check out at least one of them this weekend in Brussels.  It would be a bit of a bitch to commute there every day, but you know what?  I'd totally do it to be able to continue working in chocolate and candy.  The other choco-job prospect is even further afield, just on the Belgian side of the border to France, in the area of Lille (and a *complete* misery to get to by transit,)  so short of moving it's very much an improbability, but still I'm curious so I'm going to try and trip out there in the next couple of weeks to check it out.

Second skill: I speak English!  This is nothing special in Canada, but being a native speaker, when marketed correctly here could be a good thing.  I've decided to go for a TEFL certification, and whether that comes in handy here or elsewhere, the probability is that it will come in handy at some point in my life and travels, so why not do it?  There is a language school here with a location in Liège that is looking for native English speakers who are TEFL certified and/or experienced.  I stumbled across them while looking at possible resources that could help me in picking up a little Flemish (Dutch,) and it was a happy surprise to see they were looking for English speakers.  Sooo... we'll see what happens with the whole linguistic thing, but either way it seems I'll be learning a lot while I'm here.

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