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We Made It! by Mickey Brent

Oui, oui… It’s still raining over here.”

We made it! After painful months of scheduling, packing, selling, donating, and stressing about last-minute travel complications, my partner and I and our kitty finally relocated back to Brussels last month. After ten days in strict quarantine, we ventured outside at last. So cold and rainy! What a radical change from our warm, California weather… But we’re so glad to be back in Belgium amongst our family and friends, even though we can’t physically see them right now due to the current health restrictions over here.

After an unexpected snowstorm that smothered houses, roads, trees, and flowers with inches of pristine snow for two days, it’s been raining most of this week. Every once in a while, though, we spot tiny cracks in the clouds, letting in faded rays of sunlight.

During my brisk morning walk yesterday, I followed the end of a rainbow while on a grassy path in a nearby field. I took it as a good omen. As soon as I reached the end of the path, the rainbow disappeared. Too bad I didn’t bring my camera.

I feel much closer to nature here than in California, farther from noisy freeways and throngs of tourists. But it could be because nearly everything is shut down over here.

Our kitty, who was born in Belgium, couldn’t be more excited to be back in her verdant homeland. She keeps begging to go into the garden and lick everything. I guess rainwater tastes better than faucet water. Haven’t tried it myself, have you? She’s quite convincing, anyway. So, we let her out four times a day at least, but we have to watch over her because she doesn’t seem to realize how cold and wet she’s getting under the rainclouds. Those eight years living in California must have mollified her mind. Hope they didn’t do it to mine, too!

At least I’ve been sleeping much better here than I did in the States, which is nice. Even though Brussels is the capital of Europe, compared to the busy neighborhood we just escaped from, everything seems refreshingly quiet. Our friends and family over here have done so much to help us settle into our new place without our stuff (at a safe distance, outside, with masks, as required by law). That’s because we’re still camping out. Our container with our household goods only shipped last week from California. It was delayed four times due to severe congestion resulting from the pandemic. If all goes well, we’ll get our clothes, pots and pans, books, etc., in one or two months. I can’t wait to get my books, pens, and notebooks! Who needs pots, pans, cutlery, or nice clothes, anyway?

I hope you’re all faring well and staying healthy. Here, the Coronavirus cases are up again and there hasn’t been much improvement on distributing the vaccines, unfortunately… Everything is still closed, except for the essentials. It’s hard to be in Belgium, at last, when all the restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, shops, and most hotels are closed. Especially when you’re a foodie, like me! There’s not even any outdoor dining yet. But we’re crossing our fingers that all this will change soon.

Despite the dampness in weather and bleak prospects for cultural outings and gatherings, we’re still in good spirits. I’m thrilled to be working on my next novel, which is based in San Francisco. It’s a love story between two fascinating lesbians, of course. One is a professional dancer. Actually, I pulled a gluteus muscle (butt muscle) doing meticulous research for the book. It’s not always glamourous doing research. I couldn’t walk straight for over a week… That’s all I’ll say about it now, since I want the story to be a surprise for you once it comes out, hopefully next year.

We’re finally able to connect to the Internet over here, but slowly. In our neighborhood, the speed is ten times slower than in California, since apparently, optic fiber cables haven’t been installed here yet. The positive side is that I’m rarely tempted to surf the Web, or social media. Instead, I just keep sipping tea and plugging away on my manuscript, with good old Word!

We bought a used car yesterday, but it will take ten days to get it, even though it was sitting in the dealership, right under our noses, ready to drive home. I’d forgotten about all the hoops to jump through in Belgium before you can get a car, or many other things. It’s so different from in the States, where everything is instantaneous. 

I should stop comparing cultures, shouldn’t I? After just a few weeks, we’re technically in our honeymoon phase of transnational relocation. I’m pretty sure the reverse culture shock will set in soon. Or maybe it won’t, since we’re still in our comfy little bubble, closed off from the outside world.

I’m working on getting a friend’s rusty old bike repaired so I can bike through the grassy fields. I love whizzing by flocks of chickens, sheep, cows, and horses. Since our overseas shipment was delayed, which contained our bicycles, I’ve been itching to get in the saddle again (that is, a bike saddle, not a horse’s!). I’m quite the klutz; I’ve had way too many dire accidents falling from those beautiful, four-legged creatures, no matter how friendly they seem.

I was told it takes months, and even up to a year for some models, to order a new bike in Belgium because of the pandemic. Everyone and their grandmother seem to be on two wheels here. Unfortunately, I can’t get all of the parts yet (I still need the tube that holds the seat, for example, which proves necessary for cycling, right?). I hope to get that tube soon, so I can race through the wet cobblestone streets and muddy pastures like everyone else. At least I ordered a helmet and sturdy bike lock, in anticipation. And judging from the buckets of rain pouring from the heavens right now, I’ll attempt to jump start the Internet so I can order one more essential item: a bright yellow raincoat.

My next blog post will be less dreary, I promise. No more boring chatter about the rainy weather, Internet failures, or frustrating delays. I’ll write about something we all love—food! The fresh produce is glorious over here, but I’ll save that story for next time.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday, June 6th for our annual BSB UK Festival—online again this year. We’ll have a full day of exciting panels, readings, and fun together!

Until then, stay safe, healthy, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! 😉

Mickey

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