I have been postponing this trip a very long time, but I now I did not have a choice… my visit to Belgium was a mandatory one. I could either go to New York, get myself registered with the Belgian consulate (which is located in NY for Texas), or I could go to Belgium and renew my passport with the Province, or so I thought… I made it into a family trip, covering my passport renewal and two family reunions. Just because I can.
I did not visit Belgium for over a year. It was interesting to see the differences: new roads, windmills, buildings,.. people driving much slower than I remembered. It was kind of interesting to see all the new faces in our office. Many of which had never seen me before, and could not figure out how this weirdo that comes in at 11 am (I had appointments in the morning) , seems to know so many of their colleagues. Funny. We had good food, visited most of my friends (not all unfortunately, sorry guys!), drove over 1,000 miles in 2 weeks crossing the country. My company gave me a company car for 2 weeks (thank you Delaware Consulting!) and I must admit this is probably what I miss most here in America: a shift-stick car. Driving manual feels so much better than driving automatic, and driving an Audi -just like the one I drove before I moved- is just an unbeatable feeling. Relaxed driving over the highways at ~120 KM/H, keeping right. Waiting at the red light, just feeling awesome in my car.
My main priority was to renew my passport. So first Monday I drive to Brugge to find the Provincial service who is supposed to do this for me. I’m there, and it turns out that they changed the law a few months before, and now I must be registered in the consulate in the land I am living, to be able to get my passport renewed in Belgium. That kind of sucked, since the whole point for me was to renew this, without needing to register in NY. I do not care about registering as such, it;s just that with a move planned to Georgia within 2 months, I does not make a lot of sense for me to register in NY and then move all that stuff to Atlanta. Anyhow, after the civil servant told me that “You do not pay taxes here, so I do not need to help you”, and made it clear that he was not going to do anything without the NY embassy giving me permission to get my passport in Belgium, I felt a bit depressed. He said that without permission he had no idea where I lived (which is false, since he had my US address displayed on the computer screen and I gave him my US drivers license showing the same address). So, I drove to Kortrijk, to the office to meet with some colleagues. Then called the NY embassy during their opening hours to get everything resolved. They were very helpful and all went very smooth. 3 days later, the provincial services had confirmation that I could go renew my passport. Conclusion: Belgian abroad: you must register with the Belgian government in order to renew your passport.
Lots of other things going on during my visit, just life. But one little anecdote I do want to share with you: In Antwerp, I was visiting a friend. I arrived around noon, and did not have lunch yet, so I figured I should order some food with my beer… ask the waiter/bartender/owner (still not sure) if the kitchen is still open (it was after 1:30 pm after all, and this is Belgium…). His answer: “Maybe”. At this point, I think he is just joking, so I figure to just play along and ask him: “Ok, when do you think you will know for sure?”. “In 20 minutes”, he answers. I’m not sure how I looked at that point, but I’m pretty sure there is no emoticon to capture the sight. 30 minutes later, I ask the waiter again and he answers that he will check. At this point, I do not feel like fooling around, so I just order a pasta. He looks at me, and asks “are you sure?”, and I confirm. At this point, the guy turns around, and instead of walking into the kitchen disappears outside of the bar, onto the street. I’m not sure at this point what to think, but since nobody else seems to actually work in the bar, I decide to just stay and drink my beer, see what happens. About 15 minutes later, the waiter returns with a bunch of pasta boxes under this arms. French food, indeed…