Friday, June 20, 2008

Sleeping success!

After a lovely dinner in Linkeroever (the left bank of the river Schelde) last night, we got home, put the girls to bed at 9, John fell asleep at 10:30, and after three hours of tossing and turning and listening to that infernal clock, I finally got up, stood on a chair, took the clock down and laid it in the linen closet on top of some towels. MeiMei wanted company at 2am, so I slept between the two girls in their dark, quiet room until morning. And so did everyone. So perhaps we are back to a normal sleep pattern (please?).

JieJie and MeiMei are at their old school today, so we've had a chance to do some heavy duty walking, and also went to the museum of contemporary art here in Antwerp. How was it? Meh. Would you rather see some in-your-face, humorless painting of a naked woman with a grotesque male appendage, or spectacular rooms full of the old Flemish masters? I know my answer...wish we'd gone back to the Museum voor Schone Kunsten to see the classics again. Ah well, the walk along the river was nice.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Stop-Start Day

Bad night's sleep and a herky-jerky day...

Somewhere around midnight, 3 of us woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. MeiMei slept through the whole thing, true to form. I'd forgotten about the "donut hole" aspect of jet lag, the being awake from 1-3am and sleeping in til mid-morning. In the apartment we have a wall clock that ticks especially loudly between 1 and 3 am...I laid awake coming up with literary descriptions for the cacophony...

...a homicidal toy robot stalking my pinky toe artificial heart left behind on my bedside table
...marionettes reenacting the French revolution with tiny guillotines
...a mouse weaving Kente cloth

Finally, we switched beds so that JieJie and John were on the pullout and MeiMei and I were in the back bedroom. I fell back to sleep and JieJie talked to John for about 3 hours.

We woke up at almost 11:00am. You're not supposed to do that when you're trying to whip your body into adjusting to the new time. Oh well.

We sat around, dazed, for a while, then decided to walk to the girls' old school and say hi, hoping they would be more ready to spend the day there tomorrow. It's a good thing we did - at first, both girls literally hid behind my skirts in terror. Of course, having all these children come crowding around excitedly calling their names and staring doesn't help! The best moment was when JieJie found Sarah, her buddy from last year. You should've seen Sarah's face! She recognized JieJie immediately and the sweetest, richest smile spread across her face. By the time we said goodbye after a short visit, JieJie and Sarah hugged. We hope they will enjoy staying tomorrow but are prepared for whatever happens.

It was raining when we left, so we trammed it to the Groenplaats and stopped in a croissant shop for a mid-afternoon snack before walking back to the apartment for a little hanging out. Mr. K is coming at 5:30 to join us for dinner by the playground across the river. If the weather holds, the girls can play there, get good and tired, and (please God) sleep through the night.

We were hoping to play with the little girls who are in our old apartment, but the older one has a sore throat that might be strep, so they're a bit quarantined at the moment.

Cross your fingers that we sleep well and the girls can have a day full of playing and laughter tomorrow at their old school. Weather here is so nice and cool...nice respite from the awful heat wave in Virginia!

Still, our friend I said last night, "WHY would you want to spend your vacation in Europe??!!!" It's all a matter of perspective.

Sorry for the lack of photos - I haven't taken pictures yet and then will have to have them backed up to a CD at a photo shop...forgot the cable AGAIN!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Medicines to China update

I just heard that the two duffel bags full of medical supplies made it safely to Beijing, hooray! Now a representative from Half the Sky Foundation will pick them up from my friend P and take them to Sichuan. I'll let you know when I hear more. LG

So Far So Good

Our bodies have arrived in Antwerp! We're working on the brains.

Thunderstorms delayed our departure from Dulles by two hours. It turned out fine, because instead of arriving at 7:30am, we got here at 9:30 yesterday. Mr. K picked us up and was so glad to see the girls, who each got U. of Antwerpen bears with little mortar board hats. Then he said "welcome to Antwerp and happy anniversary (our 13th)" and presented us with a huge assortment of Leonidas chocolates, enough to last us the whole trip here! (Last night John had a dark chocolate filled one and I had a pink heart-shaped marzipan).

He asked whether we wanted to do any shopping for essentials while we had access to his truck, and we decided to go to the Super GB on the Groenplaats. So odd to be there again, and so great! The girls got a mix of little cereal boxes in the Carrefour sweet cereal line (Crocc Chocc is their favorite) and we got some sandwich spreads, salad makings, things like that.

JieJie had to use the bathroom as we drove back to the apartment, and we were stuck in a bit of traffic, so we hopped out and cut through the neighborhood by the Carrolus Borromeuskerk and used the facilities at a little cafe where the girls and I had had a great quiche last year. All of the street construction they were doing on St. Katelijnevest is done and the corner by our old tram stop looks spiffy-new.

So many familiar things already! Dinner at 't Injaske as I had expected, and John had Artisaanal Trappistenijs--BEER ICE CREAM! Only in Belgium. I tried it, and actually it was really good...I would order it myself. I had coupe verse aardbeien (a dish of strawberries), also good, and the girls had dame blanche for dessert (vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce). On the way back to the apartment the proprietress of 't Keizerke came out to say hi, and said she recognized us right away & welcome back.

I couldn't decide for much of yesterday whether I was re-experiencing a memory or whether we were actually here. Then I pinched myself, and it actually hurt, so I believe we are back.

We are now ensconced in our apartment and I'm listening to the bells of St. Jacobskerk as the girls watch kids' shows on CBeebies (BBC clever). The girls want to go to school more than just Friday so we will have to see if that's ok, but if it works out, that gives me and John three whole school days to do the museums etc knowing the girls are having an equally good time...bonus! school goes through the end of June here.

More later - gotta get out there and see some sights!

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