Swing Low…

By - May 9, 2008 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

Almost as if to prove that expat life can swing from one extreme to the other in merely a day, Andrew had the afternoon from hell yesterday. He picked me up in the afternoon do go sign some papers at the penthouse. As we neared our street we saw that the street we needed to drive down was blocked off for a market. I made a mental note that Thursdays were the day to check out the market and we detoured around. As we stopped at a red light, a scooter pulled alongside and said something in French. I didn’t hear him and Andrew took it to mean our car had been hit. Andrew racked his brain to figure out where someone could have run into our car without us noticing. As he pulled away from the light, the real meaning was clear. We had a flat.

We managed to pull into a small city gas station… I can’t even describe how these are not like gas stations in Canada… basically one tiny slot with 2 pumps and Andrew tried to get the spare on. It took some finagling (and a girl to check the instructions) but he got it changed and we were on our way (an hour late and slowly because it wasn’t a full-sized spare).

At the apartment things looked good. They are almost finished and I feel a bit better about the size of things, especially the terrace. Keys in hand and papers signed we went back to the car. The back small window was smashed. In 20 minutes someone had broken into the car. In our frustration over the tire, we hadn’t totally hidden the box that was in the back. Luckily the only thing taken was a next to useless old laptop. I panicked at first because I thought Andrew’s work laptop would be in there but luckily he left it at the office.

So on a tiny tire and with a smashed window we hobbled home. Andrew called the lease company who said he had to file a police report. Andrew called the police and was told to go to the station in Kortenberg only to find that you are only allowed to report a crime between 9 and 3. Note to criminals… after 3 you’re in the clear apparently. Belgium… you are not my friend today.

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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+
- 2 days ago


  1. Comment by BeeBop

    BeeBop May 9, 2008 at 14:42

    I know the type of gas station you mean and that doesn’t sound fun! What terrible luck you had that day – well, the Belgian weather lately must cheer you up – no rain! Good luck painting!

  2. Comment by Mom & Pop

    Mom & Pop May 10, 2008 at 02:58

    Yikes! That sounds incredibly frustrating. And while the apt sounds good, what kind of neighbourhood is this? Perhaps you need to rethink the parking thing. Sounds like Halifax, for heavens’ sake. glad you are both ok, and hopefully the old laptop won’t bring you more grief. TTFN

  3. Comment by Arvi

    Arvi May 13, 2008 at 17:33

    Ugh.. yeah, this is the flip side of living in the heart of the city. Most establishments are smaller, space is at a premium everywhere, and crime rates are higher. I suspect it will take you a couple of months to settle in further, but you will enjoy it once you are familiar with the neighborhoods better.
    Andrew left his work laptop at the office? 🙂 Since when has that started to happen? 🙂

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