Mornings had gotten increasingly contentious. By the time we left the apartment, always about 10 minutes after we should have, we'd all be cross and cranky, and stomp our way down to the tram stop. About a block from the tram stop, we'd see a couple of trams go by that we should've been on in order to get to school on time. A couple of days in a row, the girls' classroom doors were already closed when we arrived. That's just no way to start a day!
Thursday morning, we tried getting up a half-hour earlier to see if that would help, and it really did, so from now on it's 6:30am on school days. What a difference a half hour can make - we skipped happily down to the corner, had our choice of trams, and arrived at school with enough time to get settled and have a chat with the teachers and other parents.
With the whole day ahead of us (since the girls stay til 3:30 on Thursdays), we decided to see a movie. We were hoping to see "Borat" but it wasn't playing any longer at the 18-screen UGC Cinema downtown. We chose "The Illusionist" instead, with Edward Norton. Our friends J and G had seen it and recommended it highly - music by Philip Glass, too, whose work I very much like. What a great movie! We both loved it. The 11am matinee was only 5 Euro apiece and we had the whole theatre to ourselves, too. We noticed that for 14.90 Euro we can buy a movie pass that gets us into unlimited movies for a month. Tempting!
We parted ways after the movie, John to his office hour and me to lunch (at the U. of Antwerp cafeteria, not bad for 3 Euro) and errands.
After lunch, I decided to go to Sun Wah Supermarket for Chinese New Year decorations. I found some beautiful paper decorations depicting orange trees (round foods are often served for the New Year, like citrus fruits and dumplings) and a Fu(2) for the door (the 2 means as you say it, your voice goes from a low to high pitch, like asking a question--this is to differentiate it from other meanings of the syllable "fu" which would be written with different characters). I also got the girls red envelopes for their lucky money, a triplet for the door (three red and gold placards with New Year sayings on them) and some red tassels. The big find: silk qipao dresses in hot pink and red. Sun Wah Supermarket is on Van Wesenbekestraat, in the heart of Antwerp's Chinatown.
Next stopped at UNIF school uniform store on Quellinstraat to get MeiMei an extra shirt, since she only has one. We've lucked out so far with spills, but I want a backup! The saleslady there was so nice, very helpful, and even offered to try and fix the red knit sash we have that is fraying. I may take her up on it this week while the girls are out of school.
Raced to get the girls, and showed up at their school just as they were starting to excuse the students, phew! On the way to the school I noticed the BBC WORLD English language book store, so we'll have to get back there one of these days.
We took the tram(s) home and I have to say, the girls are getting quite sophisticated about the whole process. They now do things without really thinking about it, like making sure they have a handhold as soon as we get on (learned that the hard way!) and they stick close by me. They know how to get ready to get off and wait for the last little back-lurch when the tram finishes stopping. They love the trams, so we are not really using The Stroller for school right now. When the weather's nicer, perhaps we will again.
On the way home, the cellphone rang and it was John, calling from right behind us on the block! He and Mr. H, the dorm counselor for the program, were coming back to the apartment to have a glass of wine and chat. We all came up together and enjoyed some late aftenoon tv & snacks.
Thursday night was a dinner with some of the students--THIS time we had a sitter! We made dinner for the girls and the sitter, then headed back to that rib place I wrote about in January. The students loved the all-you-can-eat delicious ribs and the fun atmosphere. It was a great evening and we truly enjoyed the students. Many of them had just been to Stockholm last weekend. It was fun to hear about their adventures, though they did say it was really cold, and the airport offering the low fare was 1.5 hours outside of Stockholm by bus.
The students had gotten lost on the way to that restaurant - John and I decided that we need to start scheduling these student dinners a bit farther afield to force the students to see a bit more of Antwerp than the university neighborhood where they're spending most of their time.