Friday, August 29, 2008

Our time in the Eastern Hemisphere was running short. There was so much left to do and see, and we had squandered our days doing mundane things like visiting the police station and going to the movies. The weather was just starting to get nice, so we alternated between states of denial and panic as we tried to simultaneously take advantage of our remaining time and get done all the things we needed to do before we left.

We definitely needed to test more chocolates. I went out to Uccle and picked up a brand that we hadn't tried before called Galler. The shopkeeper was very nice and even gave me an extra free piece (for a total of two) after we bonded over the fact that we both weren't keen on lapsang souchong (which was one of their flavors). It was very good stuff. My other motivation for going there was to get a photo of a sign we had seen that amused us greatly what with our juvenile senses of humor. It being on the door to a school I felt a bit strange trying to get a shot of the "Retards" ("late ones") sign, but no one seemed to notice or care.

We needed to visit more of the parks encircling the city. This one had a pond, benches and grassy areas, really hairy cows, and an area cut up into tiny plots for either a garden or livestock. We took the long way back, dipping into the Flemish region for a few blocks, checking out a couple of cemeteries (one with a free bathroom, almost unheard of in this country), an old church of Roman origin, and some sheep grazing in an otherwise empty city block surrounded by buildings on all sides.

And of course we needed to eat at all the restaurants we had seen in the neighborhood and said "we should go there sometime" and then never did. This was complicated by the fact that people were also wanting to feed us as a goodbye gesture AND we were trying to use up what food we could in the time remaining. We did manage to do some good eating, though. I was happy with both Notos, a high-end modern Greek restaurant that we visited with friends, and Chumadia, a Slavic place.

Since we had tried to get into on a weekend one time in the past and it was full, we went to Chumadia on a weekday this time but they were still unable to seat us right away, so we got cocktails and retired to the back garden/storage space and hung out with the resident cat. Once we finally got in, though, we figured out what all the hubbub was about: massive portions of grilled meats for rock-bottom prices. If I recall correctly I made the mistake of getting an appetizer as well, having never seen platters of that size served in Belgium. It was all very tasty, and I was sad to see some chevapchichi left on my plate when I could finally eat no more. Jack tried to order the horse, but without success. Although it's on the standing menu, they apparently only get it in occasionally.

We had a party to get rid of food items and to guilt our guests into taking pantry and household items home with them, which was sadly only marginally successful, forcing us to force bags filled with half-used sacks of salt and lentils and so on on people when they were in no position to refuse. At the last minute, Jack's new Australian coworker was able to come to an arrangement with our landlord where she would rent the apartment and be able to keep all of our furniture in spite of the fact that he wanted to put down parquet flooring between tenants. I'm not sure how that all worked out, but it was a relief to not have to worry about it anymore.

I was having some issues with my caga tio, who seemed to be harboring a pest that was making ticking sounds that I could only hear when the house was totally silent. Not wanting to be the person who brought an insect to the US that decimated the oak population, I researched methods of eliminating it. (I initially decided that it was a death watch beetle, but after a while I realized that the light in my eyes wasn't slowly dimming, so I researched other insects.) The standard means is to heat the wood to a certain temperature for a certain time. I didn't want to damage the little guy, though, so I removed his cheery hat and smile before baking him. He looked so naked and pathetic in there, like he couldn't understand why he was being subjected to this torture. This stopped the ticking long enough for it to be shipped to the US without customs destroying it, and then it started back up again. I then went for the irradiating power of the microwave, which proved to be a more permanent solution after the second attempt.

We moved into a B&B for three nights after we gave our bed away. It was a single room in a house-behind-a-house one block over from our place. The woman renting it was a doctor of some sort who would put on her leather bomber jacket and drive off on her scooter in the mornings. She would set out breads and cheeses and fruit and yogurt and juice for us in the morning and we'd consume it at the dining table in the front house as the tenants made their way off to work on the other side of the frosted glass doors. After seeing innumerable Nespresso commercials at the movie theaters featuring George Clooney as an idiot who assumes these hot women are talking about him but really they're discussing their beverage, we had an opportunity to try it at the B&B. I guess it's okay for pod coffee, but it creates an annoying amount of waste.

We went to the commune to de-register. Surprisingly, we learned that the de-registration is done in a different building a half a mile from the registration place. As chaotic as that place always was, the new one seemed worse because the windows handled a bizarre array of issues and everyone seemed to be in a great hurry. Since there was once again no line or numbers, you had to keep an eye on everyone else to keep them honest. We paid them something like €20 each to legally leave the country, and then went to the post office and forked over a similar amount of cash to have our mail forwarded to Jack's office (entirely a waste of money since it seemed to be ineffective).

Finally, at long last, came moving day. I called my contact at the moving company in the US on Thursday and Friday to find out what time we could expect the movers on Monday, but heard nothing back. So we arrived at the house on Monday morning not knowing what to expect and discovered the painters were trying to get in, but no movers. We called the local firm and they had no record of a move scheduled for us. Panic set in at this point, yet we couldn't really do anything until the workday started in the US at 2 p.m. Brussels time. It was a very frustrating few hours. Fortunately, the local company was willing to tentatively schedule a move for the next day pending confirmation of our contract with the US company. So in the end we ended up needing that extra day of cushion that we had built in, but it all worked out. I was even able to rustle up some takeout coffee for the first time ever for the movers when they showed up on Tuesday, although carrying it over the bumpy cobblestones was no easy task.

Since we had accomplished all our administrative tasks, we had Tuesday afternoon free. We went on a tour of the Hotel de Ville in Brussels, something we had always wanted to do but the English tour was usually full up on weekends. We managed to get advance tickets due to the fact that I had to go to the bathroom, so they allowed us to purchase the tickets in advance which gained me admission to the facilities. We went over to Martyr's Square and sat in the brilliant sunshine and had our last beer and croque monsieurs at a cafe there.

Looked around for the last time, a bit wistfully, and then went home.

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