The Morning After

By - June 26, 2005 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

This is my first morning in the new house and, even though I can’t post right now, I want to record how I’m feeling about everything. I’m sitting on the floor in the living room. The only stick of furniture is a small side table we had purchased for the condo. My orchids and palm are in the window and my yoga mat is on the floor. I just had a nice little yoga routine, which my back desperately needed after two days of driving and lifting. Andrew is still asleep upstairs, we were both exhausted from the move and the heat is getting to him especially. Thank God it is supposed to be a bit cooler this week.

This room is actually perfect for yoga in the morning. When I’m on the floor facing the window all I can see are the trees blowing in the breeze. Because I can’t see the yards, I can almost imagine I’m in a field somewhere. There is a fair bit of traffic noise here but so far it hasn’t been a bother, we’ll see though what it’s like on the week days. The air is full of bird song. Drew and I sat on the patio last night in our deck chairs facing the forest and listened to the birds. It was a nice rest. We realized we have no idea what kind of birds are here and we will have to re-learn everything. Drew says it’s like being in elementary school again, having to learn the birds and the trees and the flowers… I know what he means. There are a lot of things that make me feel young and small and inexperienced here. We have to learn the basics all over again but with time, and lots of mistakes and trial and error, it will happen.

Back on the yoga mat, I contemplate the trees. There is something about them; something calming yet ominous at the same time. Drew and I talked about this last night also. He said he feels like they are the edge of something… like just beyond them there is an ending; the end of the earth, or the end of the forest, he’s not sure. It reminds him of a jungle and is slightly threatening.

For me, they are ominous in a slightly different way. The word ‘looming’ seems to fit. You could look at them one moment and then look away and when you look back again, they are slightly closer; creeping in. But they are also calming. The slight sway in the wind is hypnotic and soothing compared to the city that we just came from. There are no hard edges. It will be interesting to see how the forest changes with the seasons.

The move itself was as all moves: tiring, long, frustrating. It could have been much worse though. Between the rental truck Friday, and the car today, we managed to get everything here. We will have to go back to the condo next week to clean and do the exit inspection. We also need to return the rental car and get Andrew’s passport back. It seems that the little frustrations that keep us from feeling settled never end. There will still be to trips to the commune to register and God knows what else. Then there is finding a lease car and all that that entails. Doctors, dentists, hair dressers, vets… will all have to be tried out. Then there are the explorations that are a bit more fun: finding the new favorite restaurant, pub, shops, walking trails, mystery drives.

Making the house ours is also exciting. In a way, I’m sad that it’s a rental because you never feel you can do as much with a rental when it’s not really yours. On the other hand, I think there is much more flexibility here as the rental contracts are for 9 years. I’m quite sure that our landlords will be ok as long as we don’t do anything major without their consent. I actually like the colour they have chosen for the living room. It matches what I have in mind for furniture. I’m currently fixated with orange and red. I love the warmth and coziness they give. While I would love to buy and orange couch I’m trying to be practical. I know I could be sick of orange in 6 months so we’re going neutral and accenting with bright colours.

That is, when we have furniture at all. We’re trying to buy things without using credit. This is definitely a first for us. I know that budgets are a good thing in theory but they are so much work. Andrew has tried being in charge of finances and that was a disaster. Now it’s supposedly my turn and I’m failing miserably too. The whole no credit thing was Drew’s idea. We’ve talked about it before and ‘tried’ to do it, but it only ever lasted a few days. We are from an instant gratification generation. I know we are better off at planning for the future than others our age and when I think of the situations of some of our acquaintances, I don’t feel as bad about us. At least we have lots of insurance and RRSPs. But I agree that we need a change if we are ever going to get where we really want to be financially; to save for the trips that we really want to take; and the house we would like to build someday.

In a way, credit is safer here. We now have a Belgian credit card but you aren’t allowed to carry a balance on it. At the end of the month, the money is taken out of your bank account, whether it’s there or not. I think this will be a good lesson for us. The Canadian card will come out of the wallets and be used only for Drew’s work expenses and emergencies. (Unfortunately for me, Drew doesn’t think shoe sales qualify. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think the beer temple qualifies.)

So our big house is empty. Actually our first mission was under budget. We gave ourselves 1000 euro for the first installment. It will be half this from now on. We knew we needed a bed, but we deliberated over the second most important item: a sofa or a table. Drew came up with a brilliant compromise… a patio set. It has a table and chairs and can be used inside or our (with the weather the way it has been, I think it will be mostly out.) It took us a long time to decide on a bed. The Ikea beds here are very different from anything we were used to. We settled on one and hopefully we will like it. If not, it will be demoted to the spare room when we can afford another. We found a patio set with two chairs, a bench and a table. We also got two really comfy lounge chairs and a hammock. We also needed kitchen supplies and a small charcoal BBQ, and of course, a power screw driver for assembling everything. We did all of this and came in almost 200 euros under budget. Go Team!

So now, more unpacking awaits me; more lifting, moving, hauling, sorting, assembling but hopefully also some sitting and enjoying the bird song and maybe some strolling around our new home.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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