Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy 2008!

Before I go to bed, I just want to write down who was here tonight to ring in the New Year. Who knows where we will all be next year at this time? But at 11:59:50, standing in an arc around our little tv with Carson Daly's New Year's Rockin' Eve and the brand new Times Square LED energy saving high tech 100th anniversary ball were:

Tom & Kay
Me & John
Duane & Susan
Barkley & Marina

And then John heard what he thought were footsteps coming down the stairs. JieJie and MeiMei had made us promise to wake them for the First Night fireworks, which we can see from our front porch, but it was the fireworks themselves that John heard. He went upstairs and came down with a sleepy MeiMei, who oohed and aahed at the pretty fireworks, and then we thought JieJie would be mad if we let her sleep, so he went back up and got her too (sans pants! Scandal!) and she watched sleepily. At 6pm, we told them it was time to listen to the Belgians ring in the new year on Radio2, and sure enough at radio2.be we heard "vijf...vier...drie...twee...een...en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar, allemaal!" and then a dance mix that somehow managed to merge Funkytown with Justin Timberlake with Prince with Kylie Minogue with goodness-knows-what...

So here's to you, 2007: one of the best years of my life, bar none. Traveling all over Europe with my husband, my girls....seeing London and Paris for the first time with them and Mr. K making the Eippel Tower light up...having our best friends and my parents come visit us in our home-away-from-home...realizing how much we can do, how much traveling we can do, how much fun we can have together, that we don't have to wait til they're older--and neither do you, if you're reading this blog for inspiration, just DO IT, just pack those bags and take those kids on the road! I will never forget, my friend M. from The Netherlands saying that Europeans learn as children how to travel, how to experience new places, new cultures (cause it's like going from Minnesota to Wisconsin, going from Belgium to Germany), so by the time they are adults they are far more gracious travelers, more gracious guests. I have to say I think this is true, and am truly grateful to our university for its studies abroad program. The benefits to the faculty and students are impossible to quantify. And yes, I'm feeling sentimental after too much champagne, but hey. It's New Year's night.

And being in Belgium changed the way we lived our lives when we got home. We spent months trying to figure out how to get back there, and now it's sort of like a low-grade fever. I've started my own business, and if all goes well, who knows? It's a portable kind of work that would allow us to live anywhere I had an internet connection, but it could take years to build up the kind of client base that provides a modicum of security. By then, the timing with the girls' school could be all wrong. Until then, I read blogs on www.expatica.com to live vicariously through other temporary Belgians.

So at this point we're trying to figure out how we can do some traveling in summer 2008, and today John hit upon a possible idea (which I doubt we will actually pursue): remember the quest for a second vehicle? Well, there are several car companies that will fly you over to their European plant and you can get a fairly deep discount on a new car (Volvo, BMW, some other companies offer this) by taking delivery there and having your car shipped to the U.S.--and Volvo practically has a travel agency associated with this overseas delivery program. You can get free plane tickets, hotel nights, all kinds of stuff, just for buying a car you might be buying anyway.

Who knows? We may go to Gothenburg...and my great-great-grandfather Frykman is supposedly an inspirational figure for Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA, so who knows? We could do the Royal Tour of Sweden thanks to two of its great cultural icons!

Trust me, we're not really going to Sweden. It's the champagne. Right?

Happy New Year. I'm going to bed.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Family Homebody Journal

I continue to marvel at our inertia. It's as though we used up years of traveling mojo last January-May and it will take who knows how long to undertake another trip further than the grocery store (okay, I know, we went to NYC).

This holiday season we've walked to most of the places we've gone, or we've walked about as far as the fridge in our pj's. I've told the girls, who are surprised at sleeping in til 8am and finding that mom and dad aren't too far ahead of them, groggy downstairs with coffee and Washington Post, that this is the one week of the year you are allowed to be a lazy butt!

We were going to head up to DC and see the Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery's east wing, but the weather people were calling for rain and we just didn't feel like it. We've done lots of small get-togethers with friends and neighbors, and it feels right.

We've also traveled via the wonder of technology. Mom and Dad in Arizona got a webcam and loaded up Skype, and so did we. Today was our first video phone call. I kept thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles...it's just so crazy to think that all these George Jetson gadgets are now a reality. JieJie and MeiMei still thought it was pretty cool - they climbed into my lap and just kept saying "Gramma and Grampa! Gramma and Grampa!" like they couldn't believe their eyes.

So, looking ahead to 2008...I wish I could tell you where we're going, but I either a) don't know or b) can't tell you before we go for reasons which I will explain later. For now, "Gelukkig Nieuwjaar" (Happy New Year) and thanks for reading.

You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...