The movers had just left, dividing my worldly goods into two parts–furniture destined for a storage facility, and the softer, smaller stuff destined for a cargo container, to be dropped off at my new place–in a new country.
I wanted to move to Brussels for the career change–it wasn’t about getting ahead, it was about doing something different in the 9-5 (actually, it was 1430-2230). And I wanted a change of scenery personally. To a certain extent, I felt like I had wrung out New York–if that’s possible. Dates, girlfriends, late nights, sunrise walks home, the noise, the traffic, the smell. A fresh start in an unknown place would be good. So why not Brussels–my company had offices there, and I knew a little French. I mean, very little…
It’s the middle of Friday afternoon, and my studio is empty, save a couple of suitcases–everything I will need for 30 days, or as soon as I can find the stores. I had spent the last month preparing for this journey–getting a visa, closing up shop in the U.S., scouting for apartments on the web, talking to friends who had lived there. None of that really prepared me for the loneliness I felt that Friday. Outside of a couple of trips to Montreal and London, I’d never lived overseas. Visiting a place is one thing; living in a different culture is a another matter. So the weight of the move didn’t come crashing in until that afternoon. What in the hell was I doing? Moving 3,700 miles from my family, my culture? By myself? Was I insane? And what if I hate it there? All those thoughts washed through my head as I stretched out on the floor, trying to catch some sleep before heading to JFK Airport.
Night comes, and the car to take me to the airport arrives in Jersey City. I don’t remember much about the drive, save me looking back over my shoulder and at the Manhattan skyline–a view that would change forever six months later. I think I was looking back at the close of one part of my life, and the beginning of another. Funny, how sometimes you don’t realize chapters of life close and open until years later. That night, I knew something would be different. Just what, would be anybody’s guess.
The flight left at 11:30 that night–the one and only flight I ever took on SABENA, Belgium’s national carrier. Again, not much to recall from that flight, other than one of the TVs in the ceiling looked like it was going to fall any second.
The plane landed at Brussels National at 1 in the afternoon. People warned me–Belgium is gray; if you hate rain, you’ll hate it there. Sure enough, rain was falling. I found a cab, got to my temporary digs, and immediately went looking for a place to buy a phone. Mom needed to know I was safe in my new home. Food shopping was next–luckily, the store was across the street from where I bought the phone. The phone, the strange foodstuffs and me trundled back. In the rain.
And so began, 10 years ago today, a new chapter in the life of chehaw. A chapter that continues to play out, 10 years later.
I don’t know if you can call my three years in Brussels a rebirth or an reawakening. I do know, I am not the same person when I left. There are those afraid to leave the safety of what they know for the unknown. The warm, soothing tentacles of cotton wool are seductive.