Friday, December 21, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

This morning we went to John's gym so he could shoot while I rebounded for him. As we walked outside there was a little surprise waiting for us in the park across the street...

The trees were lined with frost making a picturesque setting. The frost on the ground had already melted leaving the trees solely responsible for creating the white wonderland.

Suddenly it felt like Christmas time. We have already been to several Christmas markets. One in Brugge, one in Antwerp, and another one in Lille, France. And while all the markets helped get me in the Christmas mood, the frosted trees this morning took me to the next level.

Perhaps it is because I am used to having snow this time of the year or perhaps it is because we are leaving to head home in two days. Whatever the reason, I can now say that I am fully in the Christmas spirit!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thundering Rainstorms.

We don't seem to get thunder and lightening very often over here. Or, perhaps it is just that we get thunderstorms more frequently in the Midwest. Whatever way you look at it, I miss them over here as I love nothing more than to snuggle up and listen to the rain pound against the window and watch the lightening bolts consume the sky. I also love it when the house seems to shake because of the thunder.

Call me crazy, but I love it all. Which is why I was thrilled the other night when we experienced one of our first "big" storms over here! We turned off all the lights, opened the curtains, and even opened the window so the audio effects were more real. (Well, until it started raining so hard that water was pouring into the window!)

While family and friends back at home are getting snow storms, we are loving our thundering rainstorms! I can't wait for another one. (Provided I am able to remain indoors to experience it.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's beginning to look (a little) like Christmas!

Today I went shopping downtown and there were Christmas lights up on the trees! And, there were the usual lights hanging over the shopping streets.

People were buying gifts in the stores and having them wrapped in time for SinterClaus to arrive. (He is makes his appearance on December 5.)

One of the squares had little wooden huts set up, which probably means that the Christmas market will open soon! And, if it gets cold enough the ice skating rink should also be coming to town.

I love this time of the year! Now, if only I had a fireplace to cozy up next to....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! (A little late...)

To all my fellow Americans reading this post... Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate Thanksgiving we had John's American teammates over for a huge feast on Wednesday night. (The guys had the evening off practice, so we celebrated a day early to give us more time to enjoy the food!)

While we weren't able to track down a turkey, we had the normal stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie! I am drooling at the mouth just thinking of it all! Mashed potatoes, homemade mac and cheese, rice & gravy, cornbread, apple pie, the list continues!

For a few days in advance, I had all my "American" products needed to make different dishes laying out on our cupboard... just sitting there for me to admire and to get me in the "Thanksgiving" mood.

Thankfully I wasn't the only one cooking. A new American and his wife arrived about a month ago, so we were able to team up and cook different dishes.

Our actual Thanksgiving day was spent lounging around, eating leftovers, and talking to family. (And I, of course, was scouting out all the Black Friday ad specials wishing I could fly back for the day to shop!)

Although we made the most of the holiday, I will admit it is one of the only times of the year that I get a bit homesick. I miss being with family, watching football, and looking through all the ads figuring out which shops to hit first. But... if nothing else it will make us truly appreciate our time at home for Christmas!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A taste of home.

It is funny how shops can make you feel at home. I remember the first time I entered a Gap in European territory. It was in Paris, Fall 2005.

Today I went shopping for a small gift as we are going over to our friends' house for dinner this evening. As I walked into Simon Levelt... I felt at home!

You see, Simon Levelt was one of my favorite shops in the Netherlands. It is a cozy little tea and coffee shop filled with great gifts, candies, mugs, tea pots and coffee makers. I have decided there is certainly something for everyone. And, for those who enjoy tea and coffee, it may be their little slice of heaven here on earth. (Which, by the way, nearly every European I have met loves their tea and coffee!)

So, I am content. It feels nice to have a taste of "home", and to be able to share the shop with others. They even wrapped the gift in the same manner in which they wrapped all the gifts I purchased in the Netherlands. The only difference was the counter of pralines and truffles which was very tempting indeed. I must admit, I am quite fond of Belgium's love affair with chocolate!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Little prince."

Our friends had a baby a week ago and we were able to go to the hospital to visit! It is always interesting to observe the cultural differences and norms. This is how they do things to Belgium...

First, people here don't throw showers before the baby is born. Most people find out what they are having, but keep it a secret from the rest of the world. So, while they do have baby registries, they don't register for anything that might give the gender away!

Second, as soon as the baby is born they call up their graphic designer with the weight, height, time of birth, etc. The graphic designer inputs into the design the couple has already approved and it is sent off to the press and mailed immediately to an extensive list of family and friends who are waiting to hear the good news!

For those the parents are close to, they call or send text messages so that family and friends can come to the hospital to see the baby.

We were happy to receive a text message letting us know that a "little prince" was born and that mom was doing well. Fortunately, we were able to visit a couple of days later. (They stay in the hospital for five or six days here!)

Upon our arrival to the hospital we were greeted with a celebratory glass of champagne. We gave them their gift and spent the next couple of hours holding the little one and chatting with others who came to visit. Then, upon leaving we were given little gifts with the baby's name printed on ribbon with additional ribbon coordinating with the colors of the birth announcement.

It was truly a creative, welcoming, and thoughtful way to share in one of life's most important moments. It is special to witness first hand how other cultures celebrate a new birth!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rain, rain.... go away!

As I am sitting here looking out the window, I wonder when it will stop raining in this odd little country. It brings me back to the day when I nannied in Amsterdam and would sing to my little British buddy, "Rain rain, go away, come again another day.... little Tom Tom wants to play. Rain rain go away!"

John looked up the weather this morning and it basically said it would rain for the next week! It is at times like this that I wish that I could hop on a jet plane and head south. (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco... I'm not too picky!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Dentist.

Well, living abroad has many opportunities for "firsts." Today, we had our first encounter with a dentist here in Belgium.

Luckily for us, the dentist is literally less than a block away. John discovered him while we were walking to the car. He happened to see dental utensils through the top of the window. One more time that his height was put to good use!

The dentist is much like the doctor in the sense that it is basically a one man operation. He does his own scheduling and payments and in this case also cleans your teeth. In fact, dental hygienists don't exist in Belgium and assistants, though rare, are more like secretaries. Until now. Our dentist explained that just this year the government created a schooling program for dental hygienists.

But, we kind of liked this little system. He took his time with us and spent more than five minutes looking at our teeth! We didn't have to wait in that akward chair waiting for the dentist to come see us, because he was responsible for it all. Plus, the office was beautiful with floor-length windows overlooking the garden. In fact, our visit was quite serene and peaceful with the classical music playing in the background.

It is comforting to have found a nice doctor and a friendly dentist in our neighborhood.... just one more step to making a "foreign" place feel more like home!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Road Trip!

We're packing and getting ready to take a road trip to the Netherlands to see friends from last season.

I still remember the first time we took a road trip here in Europe. It was from Almere, Netherlands to Brussels, Belgium. I just couldn't get my mind around the fact that we drove two hours and were in another country!

Here we are now, two years later, having experienced so many things in such a short amount of time. It is amazing how two years of your life can bring so much change.

I am more than excited for our return to Groningen. My friend Mollie and I used to have weekly shopping dates, and now we will have the chance to reunite for girls day! I am sure we will do lunch at Bagels and Beans, get coffee in from a local cafe, and shop in all our favorite stores. In the meantime, John can head to the Albert Hein to stock up on our favorite Dutch treats!

Well, I am off.... I need to finish packing!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Waiting Rooms.

I recently introduced myself to the Belgian healthcare.

In an attempt to locate the nearest doctor, I decided to use my GPS system to scout out doctors in the area. To my surprise, my navigation system actually told me there were a couple on the street parallel to mine. So, I talked John into taking a walk with me in an attempt to make an appointment. Five minutes later and not able to locate a doctors office, I found myself walking into a pharmacy timidly asking if they knew of a doctor in the area. When the kind lady handed me a business card with a phone number, address, and office hours I was one step closer to making an appointment.

Upon my return home, I called the doctor, but apparently he was on house call and requested that I either come back later that evening or call later to make an appointment. Still not understanding the process and not attempting to ask further questions I decided to go in-person that evening.

Much to my surprise, there wasn't a secretary or even a sign-in sheet to keep track of the order in which patients arrive. Apparently it just goes on the honor system. The doctor comes into the waiting room and whomever is next in line gets up and follows.

I now understand the hours on the back of the card. Apparently "Op afspraak " means by appointment and "zonder afspraak" means no appointment needed. And, I will be sure to know exactly who is ahead of me in the waiting room next time I enter one!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Oh the joys of international living.

I frequently say here, "Oh the joys of international living." (Most of time being sarcastic of course.) Usually it is when trying to do paperwork for our stays here or trying to understand cultural differences.

Today was one of those days.

We spent at least an hour in the administrative center trying to sort through the necessary paperwork to complete the requirements to finalize our stay here.

Usually most of the dialouge is directed to the man responsible for coordinating between us and the government officials to ensure we are filing everything correctly. While he is a sweet old man he certainly isn't one you would expect to be helping us with such important paperwork. When we first met him, we decided the team sent him to help us because we certainly couldn't get mad at him. Who gets mad at an old man?

We walked around for ten minutes trying to find a door to ask of yet another document for our stay here. The problem was that John and I didn't really know what we were looking for, so we just followed him around like little puppy dogs following their owner. He walked around pulling at doors and looking into areas remarking, "Impossible."

We finally found builidng "B" which had a large entrance and was clearly marked, apparently we were just looking on the wrong side of the building.

At one point he made a joke in which he couldn't stop laughing about. At that point John asked him if he had anything to drink this morning. His response was, "No, just tea."

We finally met with the lady we were searching for. I still don't know exactly what was said because most of the conversation was in Flemish. But, I do know that now we must wait for someone to come inspect our apartment to deem it large enough for two of us to.

And that, my friends, is when I respond with "Oh the joys of international living."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Coffee & Pastries.

Oh how I love Europe. We just returned from a very satisfying morning "cafe verkeerd" at a local tea room. (Complete with a wonderful "slagroom" pastry, I might add.) And while the skies are grey and gloomy, I am quite content.

At first it seemed as we were the only ones roaming the city. We had the sidewalks to ourselves and the streets were quiet with the exception of a tram passing by from time to time. The cars that we did see didn't seem to be in a hurry. It was as though everyone realized that Sunday, indeed, is meant for relaxation and enjoyment.

As we sat in this little tea room my mouth watered at the selection of pastries teasing me from behind the glass. I instantly vowed to myself to return to this quaint little shop filled with locals reading their papers and talking so quietly that you wondered if they were talking at all.

This, my friends, is part of what I love about Europe. The beautiful little shops and cafes where people don't seem to have a care in the world. A place where relationships seem to be a priority instead of an afterthought. Sometimes it seems has though time just stops so that one can truly focus on "being" instead of "doing." Indeed, it is a way of life that I am loving more with each passing day.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cheese anyone?

Well, we just returned from a maddening dash to the local grocery store, the GB. Don't ask me what that stands for, because I certainly don't have a clue. Perhaps I could figure it out, but at this point I haven't attempted such a thing.

After darting our way through the traffic and into the store we quickly went up and down the aisles trying to get everything needed to prepare a dinner for guests this evening.

I am making chili and of course everyone needs cheese to go with chili. So, I stumble around looking for the closest thing to cheddar that I can find.

Then, I see it.... CHEDDAR cheese!

But, one look at the price tag quickly discourages me. I soon realized that is is 11 euros for 250 grams of cheese. So, I did my math for those of you not up to date with the current exchange rate.

Sixteen George Washingtons. That is right, $16 USD for a little block of cheese which can be found nearly anywhere in the States. Needless to say, we passed on the attractive offer.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I am ridiculous.

Dear family and friends,

Well, let it be known. I am ridiculous. I just spent at least an hour trying to come up with a clever name for our new blog, only to come up with the url: "" How original. I thought to myself, who is our audience? Well, probably just family and friends. What will they remember? Well, I suppose they will at least remember our last name. So, there is it. No more procrastination. I finally just did it. I entered the lame name for our blog and pressed "continue."

So, welcome. Welcome to our life. We haven't been great at updating you through e-mails, but hopefully we will do better at keeping up with you through this median. Sometimes life here seems to change daily. Other times it seems as though life here is just "normal," and it is easy to get caught up in day to day living without watching the world interact around us.

We (or rather I) will attempt to allow you to see this little slice of the world through our own eyes and experiences. Sometimes life here seems glamorous, other times it is intimidating, and yet in brief moments it seems overwhelming. For the most part though, we are truly enjoying the opportunity we have to adjust to new cultures while meeting people from all over the world. Indeed, we are blessed in our experiences.

Much love,
The Tureks ;)

P.S. My runner-up name was "lifeofabasketballwife". John thought it was lame. And, perhaps it was. Now that I think about it, it probably would have led readers to believe that I married a basketball.