We attended a variety of social gatherings in the month prior to our move from Ithaca, New York to Ghent, Belgium and this was the question we were asked 99.9% of the time. The exception being my Uncle Harry who just said, “you will be close to Greece, come visit my island!”
On the surface it is a very benign question, stated in a way that encourages a very positive response. Not: are you nervous? Are you afraid of terrorists? Are you going to survive without Kashi Autumn Wheat? No, “are you excited?” was the one. My responses usually went something like this- “Well, yes of course we are excited! There is chocolate, and beer and waffles!” But up until this point, there had been little room for excitement- there was the interview, the offer, the huge decision to be made. And then, there was the paperwork, the packing, the discarding of a chunk of items representing our lives in the U.S., so much to do before even getting on the plane and passing through the gates.
First of all- there is the actual moving- your stuff gets boxed up in a container and is sent across the ocean- you are told not to pack anything irreplaceable and are required to get insurance which makes you wonder if it will arrive intact or if it will arrive at all. Will its arrival even coincide with your search for a place to live? And what do you take- do you really need those ice skates or that Guinness poster? How many balls does your son need to take with him? Can we bring our spice collection- it has taken so long to accumulate all the ones we need! And how much can we actually cram in for the allotted budget?
Then, there is the paperwork- I had heard that Belgium was highly bureaucratic but I thought, oh we have lots of forms for things in the U.S., it can’t be that bad. Boy, was I mistaken. For example, in order to get our visas, we needed medical exams. This required first, the appointment for the checkup. Then the doctor’s signature had to be notarized on the exam form- meaning you had to find a notary to bring with you to the doctor’s office unless by some miracle your dr had a notary! If you manage to get that form signed and notarized you then had to take it to the county clerks’ office so they could verify that the notary is actually a notary in that county, then you had to send the verified, notarized, signed form to the state who will then attach an apostille to your document verifying that all of this is real and the Belgian authorities should not think you forged the entire thing. This process was time consuming, costly and of course it had to be done for all your documents- birth certificates, marriage certificates, FBI background checks, etc. Do you still want to move to Europe?
So yes, very excited but haven’t had time to think about the amorphous exciting parts- like traveling easily through Europe, romantically riding a bike with a flower filled basket through the streets, eating all the cheese and chocolate croissants I can imbibe, ah yes, excited.