Tag Archives: usa

Thanksgiving 2017

Bit of a last minute arrangement this year, decided to go visited my Czech friend this year in the Bay Area (California) for Thanksgiving. Starting off with a typical American turkey, stuffing, bacon and beans, raspberries and gravy. Great cooking! The weather during the Thanksgiving weekend was lower 60ies to higher 70ies. Perfect for some hiking and sightseeing.

Friday we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, which was cool. Followed by Muir Woods National Monument, where they have the famous Redwood trees. Many Redwoods in this national park area are 900-1300 years old, and among the oldest living things on this planet. Where their cousins the Sequoia are growing wide, Redwoods grow tall. Very tall. The Cathedrals of trees.

Then Saturday we drove to Napa Valley. Visited the Sterling vineyard. Some of the best white wines I ever had there. Also took some pictures of the 10 year old historic castle.

10 year old historic castle

To conclude the Thanksgiving weekend, on Sunday we went whale watching in Monterrey. It was awesome. We saw hundreds of seals, all kinds of birds and 2 types of whales. In total we estimate there were between 12 and 16 whales. With a total of ~50 sightings, if not more. We saw several whales breaching, hunting for food. Saw magnificent tails in the water. A good 3 hour boat trip was not the most pleasant for everyone on board, but the trips was well worth it!


Eclipse 2017

August 21st 2017. The first total eclipse in a century moves from West to East over the USA. 2min34 seconds of darkness at 2:34pm EST. We drove towards Greenville, SC for this event. Leaving at 6:30 am from Atlanta for fear of traffic. It was my second total eclipse. My first experience was obstructed by the northern French clouds ~15 years ago, so expectations were high.

Unfortunately, a cloud blocked the sun for about 10 minutes, including the 2’34″ of totality. Another missed chance!

Moral in our road trip gang did not improve during the 6 hour commute back to Atlanta. 3x longer than the drive up to South Carolina.

It was fun, and exciting. The darkness, cold wind, and confused animals; are worth it. But next time seeing the corona during totality is preferable. Let’s make sure to go somewhere with a 0% chance of clouds.

The US gets another opportunity in 2024, who knows where I’ll be then…


“But What If We’re Wrong”

So I thought I’d do a book review for once… Those who don’t know me might not really have a lot of feelings about that statement, but those that do, probably just fell off their chair reading this.

I just finished “But What If We’re Wrong” by Chuck Klosterman. What is so remarkable about this event of me finishing a book? Well, first off, I have read exactly 2 books since I left college 8.5 years ago. The first was a Dutch book that I got from a friend when I moved to the USA. It was a description of a road trip the author made, replicating a historic road trip from an American author some decades before. It was interesting for me to see how the Dutch author had such a hugely different view on what the US is as a country and society, than I have. Interestingly enough, the America he described seems to have submerged and voted Donald J Trump into the White House. (Those that now think I am referring to racist, America filled with bigots and deplorables, you’ve got it wrong, you have no understanding of America whatsoever).

Anyhow. Not only was reading my latest book a fairly rare happening, it was also the very first book I ever voluntary bought. In fact, I took the time to find it in a book store (yes Chuck, I beat those odds), . I actually had to visit four stores before I saw it , almost by accident, in a shop on Bradley Airport. One might contribute the finding of this book to divine intervention of some sorts, since I was supposed to fly out of Boston, not Bradley, but as any traveler knows; things change. Additionally it was the very first English book ever, as far as I remember, I read. I hope Chuck (I may call you Chuck, right… I mean, after all you are my closest literally friend I have had in a long time!), appreciates the significance of this event. By the way, you may thank Trevor Noah for me buying the book. Get the daily show to host you, and them talk about us being wrong about gravity. That’s pretty much all you need to do to get me hooked and trick me into reading a book about (American) sports and music (kinda). I’m writing this on Delta flight 0074 going to Amsterdam, and just noticed they have the movie “Citizen Kaine” available. So now I am forced to watch that movie and actually get what you were referring to.

The subtitle of the book reads “thinking about the present as if it were the past”, which is kind of appropriate since I like to think about the future as if it were the present. When thinking about that present I unfortunately do need to bring two factual errors in the book to mind. The chapter on democracy and freedom fails to acknowledge that there in fact is already something called a functional dictatorship. It is called Singapore (to name the best example), and is doing quite well according to standards we value presently. The second is about your underestimated fear for a nuclear attack (or is it a fear for statistics that make reality too real to accept?). If considering that somehow terrorists did get their hands on a nuclear device, I do agree they will try to use it. But this will not be in the USA. We’re protected sufficiently to stop that from happening. Nothing would be lamer for a terrorist group to get their hands on a nuclear device to then be caught by the TSA at JFK airport. It will much rather be somewhere in the middle east, or Africa. My bets are on Africa, since that would be the most improbably thing to happen looking at it from the present past.

I have to mention, Chuck, that one of the most difficult parts of the book is the tile being up-side-down. You’re doing it wrong. It made me physically ill several times just looking at it, requiring me to turn the book around. It makes you wonder, does it not, why we would create a simulation where people get upset by book covers printed the “wrong” way. How would that help us gain knowledge about the universe? Who knows… perhaps we will find out in some distant future.

I do realize this blog posts will make absolutely no sense to anyone who has not read the book. But there is a simple solution to that. Read it! Or not, it really does not matter to me, since I’m probably wrong about everything I understood from the book anyhow. Although I do not think Chuck aimed for me to learn anything from the book, rather he probably wants me to think about stuff. Well, Chuck, just to let you know. If I ever meet you, I will buy you a beer and we will discuss the world of today as if it were the past. Maybe by that time, hedgehogs do live in Ohio thanks to global factors you refused to discuss (but could not stop yourself from mentioning). To your defense, I’m sure they are smart and love apples, so there really was no way you could know… Have you considered the possibility that you actually DID see a hedgehog, and everyone telling you otherwise is just wrong about this well documented fact? (After all, I read in a book somewhere that you saw a hedgehog, and we all know books are never wrong!). Anyhow, since I lack the possession of a book case, I am forced to give the book to my brother and his girlfriend. I’m interested to learn what they think about it, since it has some distinctive American flavors, that I am not sure how they translate into a normal non-US minded person. I will keep you posted, or not. We really do not know what the future brings.

“But What If We’re Wrong”
Chuck Klosterman
Blue Rider Press; 2016.

 Ps: I forgot to deliver the book to my brother.

Orlando, FL

A quick trip to Orlando Florida, just because I can. Decided to visit Orlando for 2 days, needed a quick trip for my miles (I know for those who are not traveling all the time, this sounds totally ridiculous, but trust me, this is going to save me hours in check-in and makes travel for work a lot more comfortable for 2017.

Perfect start in a plane packed with children, with an upgrade to 1st class. Always nice, even if only an hour long flight. I left Atlanta with ice on my car windows, I got off the plane in Orlando around 68F (18C). Ticking off another state from my travel map, and fairly certain I will be back. Decided to check out Sea World. Wanted to see the Killer Whales in action before they stop having shows, due to haters who dislike people enjoying experiences they could typically not have. Travel tip for  people visiting Sea World: During the last weeks of the year you can buy a “fun pass” at the same price of a normal ticket that allows you access to the park for the next year (this year even 18 months). So basically during the holidays you can visit every day, for the price of 1 day. Also good to know, is that literally everything is in the Christmas spirit. My mind can only handle so much Christmas songs a year, and I got well past that mark this year. The lines were not that bad, and I could visit every attraction I wished and see every show I wanted (actually saw the Killer Whales twice, once in a “normal show” and once in the “Christmas” show).

The second, and last, day I went to Universal Studio’s. Didn’t really know yet which park to visit (there are 2 parks, and they are building a 3rd one next to the others as we speak). From my friends I heard the 4D experiences are awesome, so I chose “Adventure Island” seeing Spider Man and Jurassic Park were in that park. It’s pretty expensive, but an amazing experience! Visiting the park alone, I was able to do all the rides I wanted to do, even with as many people in the park as there were. Even did Spider Man and the Tower of Doom twice! Without a doubt, “Kong” is the greatest attraction around. very much worth the wait. Talking about wait times. Universal has this very interesting concept of “single rider” lines. These are used to fill rides with just 1 seat left. In some cases (like with “Kong”) they take probably as much time as the “normal” lines, but certain times you win a LOT of time. Especially when waiting times are rather short (<30min), the single rider queue was very interesting reducing times to ~10-15 min. Not the same amount of fun when you are in  a group, but when you travel alone, a perfect alternative as fast as the (expensive) “preferred” lines.

I’ll be back to Orlando. It’s a crazy expensive, but Oh so much fun!

4th of July – Trip to Denver Colorado / Rocky Mountains

Ever since I moved to the USA, I have promised my friend and former colleague (now customer) Dexter (not real name) to visit him in Colorado. Living in Denver, I refer to him as “the mountain man”, which -so I learned- is not 100% correct.

Denver is an interesting city. Being at the altitude it is, it makes you breath differently. I thought I was just going to make a fool out of myself just asking the question, but turns out I was not going crazy; Denver does make you breath differently.

We visited the arts festival, lots of weird and/or creepy things. Was very nice, and makes me want to visit more of these things here in Atlanta area (my walls are still very blank). July 4th weekend, decided to go and search for “South Park” Colorado.


I’m a huge fan of the show, and discovered that South Park is not a real city, it is a region of plains within the mountains. Funny how we could see the snow on the mountains, even in summer, just like in the show.




IMG_0297We hiked the “Colorado trail” to a point higher than any mountain in Europe. (See picture above). And found several Colorado state flowers still in bloom (which apparently surprised my guides). Very pretty and a great way to celebrate the 4th of July.

We ended my short trip to Colorado with a visit to the Colorado history museum. Learned there is still one tribe of Indians, we learned that Colorado once closed its border from the other US states (exactly what happens in Europe now), we learned that the Americans once migrated and overtook the Mexicans, we learned about the deportation of Japanese Americans during World War II. We learned a lot about today, by reading about history of Colorado. At times, scaryly accurate to today. And, last but not least, we learned that Casa Bonita (from the South Park episode) is a real place.

Thank you for a great experience!


The story of a Belgian in America: Company Blog Post

We’ve published 4 blog posts about my expat experience the past weeks. Please follow the following links to read the 4 posts.

I’ve had generally very good feedback on these, and many LinkedIn requests. However, I’ve also had some remarks that I’m not very positive about the USA in my writing. I’m sorry to say, but the people who understood that from the blog post, completely missed the point. The blog was not meant as a glorification of America. It is about the experience, the transformation, of a person moving abroad and integrating/assimilating into the “foreign” society. It is not meant to be about America, it is meant to be about the expat, the person. Things you experience, things that are different, roadblocks, etc. Immigrants are a different breed. It is something people that never lived abroad for an extended period of time will never understand. I’m not asking for understanding or (dis)approval. My intention is to give people who are willing to take the jump, an idea what to expect. Do not give up while waiting for your visa, do not stop your life while waiting. Pay attention on remuneration, comparing is difficult, it is OK to miss things, but don’t get homesick. Understand you will change as a person in every way possible and understand the people around you will most likely not understand. Just like Steve Jobs was nervous every time he had to go on stage to show the latest Apple product, so does the expat feel nervous every time he/she ends up in a new situation. And just like Jobs, the expat will come out of the situation stronger and a step closer to perfection. But, and this is a big but, it is not for everyone. You need to be the type of person who wants to be nervous about things, who wants to be put out of your comfort zone. THAT is the point of this 4-series blog post.


1) How it all started
2) The paperwork struggle
3) Discover the people, discover yourself
4) Atlanta is Home


Independence Day

4th of July, America’s independence day.
Last week my client gave me a watermelon as a 4th of July present, and someone on Facebook suggested I’d turn it into a Vodka Water Melon, I looked it up on YouTube and other sources around the internet, and yes that seemed like a good idea and easy and fun to do. However…

To do this, first you need a watermelon (there is discussion on the internet weather this should or should not be a seedless melon, I have a seedless one), vodka, a knife and possibly a towel to clean up the mess you are going to make:
Then cut a hole in the watermelonthe size of the vodka bottle:
Put the vodka bottle upside-down into the melon and let it pour the vodka into the melon. You should see bubbles.
Now, if it does not go fast enough, you can add some ‘breathing holes’ into the melon top to make it go faster…

Problem: the above is theory and did not work with my melon. It is going sooooo slow.
I’m guessing that it was a bad idea to keep the melon refrigerated before putting the vodka in.
Anyhow, it is going a bit better after the melon being in my kitchen the whole night, but still not fast enough to actually see bubbles. I consider my experiment failed, but will sure try again at another opportunity. This baby is going to be eaten, and the vodka will be drunk from a glass.

Happy independence day America!!!

Racism and other sensitive things

Aah, racism. One of those great topics. It is one of the things everyone thinks about when thinking about the USA. I know my mom was kind of scared about me moving to the US, because I would be ‘seen and treated as a foreigner’ (a statement which says a lot about suburban Europe too, for that matter).

I have seen and heard really weird things in the past months, but (thankfully) not experienced racism myself (being white in Texas helps, or I’m simply immune of recognizing being discriminated :-) ). The topic has been kind of hot here the past weeks with Paula Deen being fired for admitting using the ‘N’ word at some not specified moment in time (for the Europeans reading this, the N-word is ‘Nigger’). I had a great chat with a Jewish girl at the bar last Sunday (bar is called ‘The Old Monk’, go visit is some time), and discussed it at the swimming pool earlier that day too with my neighbors.

The rules are not entirely clear to me, but apparently only very rich rappers, very poor black people, Chris Rock and southern state republican politicians can call people niggers. Other people are to shut up in public and only use the ‘N’-word in select liberal-free groups, using it with the same enjoyment a 20-year old uses his fake ID around here to get alcohol (look at me mommy, I’m doing something I’m not supposed to do!). The public life here is so focused on not using insulting words, and so focused not to insult groups, religions or whatever that it has become kind of ridiculous in some cases.

I’m giving some examples from the entertainment industry:

David Getta’s the 2009 summer hit ‘Sexy Bitch’ is called ‘Sexy Chick’ in the US. Ok, fine it kind of kills the ‘fun’ from the title, but even worse they simply delete the word ‘whore’ from the lyrics which kind of makes the lyrics be… uhm… dumb.

She’s nothing like a girl you’ve ever seen before
Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood
I’m try’n find the words to describe this girl
Without being disrespectful

Nothing you can compare to your ‘neighborhood’? What does that even mean?
For those who care: Sexy Chick – US Version
and this: Sexy Bitch – EU version. In my little mind there is nothing insulting about the lyrics in the EU version.

The same holds for the somewhat more recent F**king Problems. I did not hear or see it on radio or tv yet (it’d be acoustic if they had to sensor this stuff), but when you go out to cafe’s/clubs the crowd goes wild and sings along. (Hip-Hop is extremely popular here, to a point it almost drives me insane!).

Those who have seen the movie ‘Machete’ in Europe, know there is a certain scene in the beginning of the movie where a cellphone ‘appears’ on screen. That screen has been cut from the US version. Why? Artistic freedoms anyone? Now it looks like there is an error in the movie, while censorship actually cut the scene.

I’m looking forward to the day that the USA is going to realize you aren’t going to get rid of racism by censoring ‘insulting’ words from tv and radio. Just let go, give the people the freedom to say what they want. Everyone should have the right to be an ignorant racist and be called out for it in public. And fucking stop niggerin’ up music and movies in the same way only countries like China, Iran, North Korea and the like do. Does the greatest country on earth and exporter of freedom and democracy really want to be on that list?

There is a lot more to discuss on this topic, and I am sure I will in the next years. I notice a lot of hurt, huge gaps, and frustration.

PS: Some people have asked me about my nickname ‘Niggy’. I can assure everyone that this nickname is just a combination of my name enriched with a cute ‘y’, as used by one of my fellow students in high-school during one of our group projects. Has nothing to do with the N-word.