July 2013 - Oh, you sneaky little month, you! I had no idea how drastically our lives would change when you rolled around!
After a year in Belgium, Chris and I felt 'normal,' and settled, and maybe even a little bit 'local'. We had a great group of friends in Roeselare and in Bruges, we spoke enough Dutch to understand what was happening around us (and when people were talking about us), I had two jobs, and we were celebrating 4 blissful years of marriage by departing on a whirlwind tour through the Mediterranean. For the first time in a long time, I was ready to "be," (I know shocker, eh, Mom?!) and simply enjoy the life that we had worked so hard to establish.
Stay Still - Relax - Enjoy the Season - Rest - Dig Deeper - Invest More - Plant Roots . . .
Who am I kidding?! We signed up for an adventure, and we have gotten more than we could have ever anticipated! It's been a beautiful and terrifying journey that has stretched us and pushed us closer together as a couple. We have learned to rely on each other for just about everything (he is great with directions, and I am not afraid to make linguistic mistakes so I am the mouthpiece when we travel), and through the joy and the tears, we would never rewrite any part of our story. The journey has not been what we expected, but we have been blessed every step of the way.
Two and a half years ago, we moved to Subotica, Serbia and expected to stay rooted there for three years. We dug in, we made life-long friends, we experienced the beautiful Serbian culture, and we simply fell in love with the country. A year later, Chris' company moved us to Roeselare, Belgium, and while we were excited, we mourned leaving our beautiful Serbian family. Ghhhaa! Moving can be such a wild mix of emotions! Luckily, we loved our new city; I was almost immediately befriended by Niekie, the owner of a darling cafe called the MokkaBar, and Chris met the man of the town, PJ. Niekie and PJ invited us into their lives and introduced us to their friends. We can never express what a difference they made in our experience. I believe that it takes about a year to truly feel comfortable in a new culture. By July 2013, we had lived in Belgium for a year, so naturally, we had gone too long without a major change.
So, there we are (pictured above) - in Venice - surrounded by singing men on gondolas - seemingly without a care in the world. I guess that we've learned what sort of a smile covers us the anxiety and excitement that comes when life throws you a major curve-ball. Chris treated us to an amazing 14-day trip through Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Greece for our anniversary, but while soaking up the warmth of the Mediterranean, we had to make a life changing decision. My stud of a husband had been head-hunted by another company, a big company, an amazing company. A day before our trip, he was handed an offer. The truth is, we were not looking for another option, we were happy, but the offer was on the table. We were at one of those major crossroads in life.
A decision had to be made.
We weighed the pros and and the cons, we crunched numbers, and we tried to see our lives from every possible angle. In the end we decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown. He took the job, and we knew that the process of changing companies, ON TOP OF changing countries would be stressful, but we knew that we were up to the challenge. It was a risk, but we knew that if we stayed positive, we would be okay. The thing about risk is that no one knows how things will play out.
Maybe it's like this:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
Once Chris and I returned from our anniversary trip, we started tying up loose ends, ending our apartment lease, canceling our back account, breaking the news to his current company, and we also started the process of saying goodbye. Chris went to Regensburg, Germany, our new home, earlier then I did because he had to start the new job, and he also had to find a new home for his wifey and all of her furniture.
The night before I made my big move to Germany, I found myself sitting around a big table at Cafe Moustache with many of our dear Belgian friends. My eyes watered, but my heart warmed as I remembered first moving to the small Belgian town. I remember feeling completely alone as Chris was away at work. I watched families stroll the streets, stopping every so often to hug a friend at an outdoor cafe, or kiss a neighbor (once on each cheek) as they passed in the street. I remember wanting desperately to just be recognized by one person. Only one. I remember feeling so alone in those first few weeks.
As we wrapped up the Belgian chapter of our story, I realized that that silent wish has been granted about 30 times over. Chris and I were known, we were recognized, we were hugged at cafes, kissed on the street, invited to birthday parties and family BBQs, and we belonged. I left Roeselare with a heavy heart. I knew that I would fall in love with Regensburg, and I knew that there was a place for me in our new advenutre, but after two huge international moves, I knew that the process of change would be exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Goodbye Roeselare. And to our amazing friend, it's not really goodbye, but until we meet again. We plan to be seeing you all very soon! Don't forget about us. We will never forget you.