Settling in

atomium brussels

I know it’s been a while since I wrote anything, but I hope you can all understand that the demands of an intercontinental move took precedence! But now that we’re here in Belgium and I’ve started my new job (today!) I can take a moment to reflect on everything that has happened since mid-January.

It was definitely a wrench leaving the team at Uniting. We’d been through so much together and achieved such a lot. And of course the Omicron wave meant that we weren’t able to say goodbye in person. The C&ER division’s wonderful send-off included an Antonia trivia quiz, in which the first question was “how seriously does Antonia take her trivia?”. Answer – very, with a lot of enjoyment!

We then had about 2 weeks to pack up what we were taking with us, sell off what we were leaving and give away everything else. More went into landfill than I was happy about, but much less than might have if we hadn’t been able to tap into some great networks to make sure what we couldn’t take with us got used. A special shout-out to The Nourish Project, the West Welcome Wagon and of course, Uniting.

Because of the unsettling atmosphere at home, and our need to get a lot done in a short space of time, the dogs went to stay with our amazing dog-sitter, Casey. We managed to find someone to look after Mungo as well, and I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to know that it was love at first sight for everyone involved and Mungo will be staying a Melbourne cat, moving to the more trendy Inner North where he will live out his dotage as top cat, rather than having to deal with those pesky canines.

So then it came down to moving out of the house and into a hotel and the horrible tension of our COVID tests prior to travel. I was a bag of nerves – you can plan down to the last inch, but there are things that aren’t in your control and that was one. Luckily all the precautions we had taken, including not really saying proper goodbyes to so many people we would have liked to have seen before we left, meant that we got the all-clear to travel.

Arriving in Toulouse and seeing my parents again after almost 4 years was almost surreal. I hope never to be separated from them again for such a long time. The digital revolution has made distance so much less than it was when I was younger. But it isn’t the same, especially with the huge difference in timezones.

Our plans to relax a bit and do quite a bit of organising of all my belongings at my parents’ house went a bit awry when we were told that the dogs were arriving in Paris on the Friday, but wouldn’t be on a flight to Toulouse until the following Tuesday. Rather than add 4 unnecessary days to their ordeal, we decided to do a mercy mission. So we hired a car and drove up to Paris, (towards Storm Eunice!) collected them at the airport and drove back again. We got a glimpse of a different approach to animals in this part of the world, when the dogs were welcome in the hotel restaurant that night. And very well-behaved they were too, I’m glad to say. They were quite jet-lagged though, the poor things, which resulted in me walking around the outskirts of Limoges at 3 o’clock in the morning, in my pyjamas with Jeremy’s coat on, while 2 dogs tried to work out why it was dark in the middle of the day.

We had originally planned that I would come up to Brussels to house-hunt and get settled, but as we managed to find a flat online (and many thanks to Rachel for checking it out for us) and signed a lease a few days before I needed to leave, we decided it made more sense for us all to come up together. We left my parents’ house on Saturday and stopped overnight at a wonderful hotel in Burgundy. Sawdays delivers again. Then the last leg of the trip to Brussels, arriving here on Sunday afternoon.

We’re staying with friends at the moment, but moving into an Airbnb for 6 weeks, until the new apartment is available. It’s funny being back in a city I knew so well. A bit like seeing an old friend 15 years on – it’s them, but with subtle and not-so-subtle changes. It’ll be good to be living in a part of town that I haven’t lived in before, so Jeremy and I can discover it together. And of course, being here as a married women with 2 dogs will be very different to my life here last time.

Let’s see how the reintegration process goes from here!

Published by Antonia

I'm a British citizen and European Union offical, who lives in Brussels again after 6 years in London and 8 in Melbourne. I went to the London School of Economics and University of Melbourne. In 2008 I took part in the Eisenhower Fellowship Multination Programme, the subject of 3 of my blogs. You can find me on Twitter as @antoniamochan or @antoniam

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