Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good bye Belgium

I returned to Kansas on July 4th in a fairly uneventful flight. Just a small detour due to a storm. I have spent the time since then enjoying my kids and working on house projects. I am looking very forward to this fall to starting my time at Tabor.

To close off this blog I leave you with a couple pictures of me in Gent, Belgium where I helped some colleagues do some bee collections for an experiment they were performing. It was my first experience in the bee suits, even though I have worked with bees many times in the past.

Thanks for reading this blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

There and Back Again

It was nice to be "home" for a while, but now I am back in Belgium. Where is home really right now? My three year old is desperately trying to figure that out as we have shuttled her from one place to another over the last few weeks. I think she is starting to get the idea, and I hope during my last 3 weeks here in Belgium she and the rest of the family can begin to make Hillsboro home as that is where they are for now. I left them in Champaign, IL at the train station yesterday morning at 9am. It seems like forever already without them! At last contact Mindy was in Columbia, MO stopping to visit some friends and let the girls get out and stretch their legs.

I arrived in Belgium at 8am (1am for the midwest) and promptly took a 3 hour nap before coming into work. Now it is the middle of the afternoon and I can hardly type. I think more work will get done tomorrow!

Not sure how many more posts there will be. These last 3 weeks here will be spent cleaning up and closing down this part of my life. Hope to be in Hillsboro permanently soon. Afterall, I am paying a mortgage there now! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The End is Near

One week from today and we hop in a plane bound for Chicago. It has been since June 27th, 2007 that we were on American soil. Since then we have added one human member to the family, Carmen, and one feline member, Spikkel. We are very much looking forward to our imminent return, but not so much to the travel schedule.

On Wednesday morning we will head for the airport quite early as we need to beat rush hour traffic to the train station. We will have about 7 suitcases, 2 carseats, 4 carry-ons, one cat, and a stroller in tow. HELP! We decided to use the train rather than have someone drive us because the train always takes 18 minutes, but driving can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

We are scheduled for take off at 11am here and arrival in Chi-town at 1:30 pm (a 2 hour flight . . . I wish!) Upon landing we have a rental van reserved to fit us all in. The reservation gives us 24 hours to get from O'hare airport to Wichita airport. In that time we will obviously need some sleep, 12 hours of driving, and dropping our stuff off at Mindy's parents. Did I mention sleep?

Upon arrival in the Galva/Hillsboro area, I will have about 2 days to relax, see the house I am buying, sign a bunch of papers for that, and then get on a train at 3am in Newton to take me to Colorado for a conference. (The conference is the real reason I'm in the US, I'm just taking that opportunity to also move my family back and close on a house.) Not to bore everyone with the rest of the details, so summary is I will return to Leuven June 16th by myself to finish the last things up over here.

See you all soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eppy Birds in Leuven

About a month ago there was a Guinness record broken in Leuven and I missed it. I found out that night while watching the news that over 1300 Diet Coke Mentos fountains went off in the Ladeuzeplein. How cool. Here is a news story about it with a video for those interested. Mentos fountains in Leuven

If you haven't you should also go watch the original movie at I dare you to try not to dance!

Do you think I could incorporate this into the Physics labs for next year somehow?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Kermis (Carnival)

Belgian towns all have the fair or carnival come to town at least once a year. Our little town of Kessel-lo outside Leuven even has one. I think there have been about 8 different cities we have run into some version of the carnival at. In Flemmish this is called the Kermis, because Carnival is reserved for the mardi gras type fesitivies.

In any case, each Kermis has snacks, rides, and games to suck your money away. Most are pretty ghetto and the idea of eating escargot from the back of a trailer is pretty disgusting to me. But then again, I love me a good ballpark frank out of a greasy street side vendor in Chicago, so what's the difference?

The Kermis (carnival) moved into the park right across the street from us, literally 50 feet from our door step. They moved in about 2:30 in the morning and took about 2 days to set-up. Mia insisted we go over every night and check the progress. On Friday night they opened and were there for 4 nights. We of course went every night to watch. Mia is not big on the rides, unless her friend William is there with her and rides with her. When she is by herself, she just loves to watch the people.

Mia and William on the Cars ride. I'm pretty sure there were no royalties being paid to Pixar for this ride.

Mia also discovered a love for bounce houses. It took her about 20 minutes to warm up to the idea and after that she loved it and did it everyday for about an hour. Although she never ventured in very far, she is pretty shy and apprehensive overall. (Like her dad)

So all in all the kermis was fun. Much nicer than the one in Leuven as this one is smaller and more spread out in the park. And they had Smoutebollen there, the Belgian equivalent of the American funnel cake. Only here, they are just fried balls of dough with loads of powdered sugar. Also known as oliebollen (oil balls).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spring has arrived

The weather here has made an amazing turn for the extraordinary. For nearly an entire week it has been 65 or higher and sunny. It does not seem anything like the Belgium I have lived in for the last 11 months.

Due to the weather, the imminent return to the States, and me trying to get as much lab work done as possible, my posting has been infrequent. I apologize. Here are some excerpts of things of late.

Mindy's parents dropped in for a week. Since they are trying to establish themselves in Italy for a 3 year stay, they figured they would get some high quality used furniture from us since we have no more use for it. Mindy's mom had not met Carmen yet, so they had lots of fun. She managed two grand-daughters very well.

To make their drive to Italy a little shorter, we booked a hotel in Hauenstein, Germany and all stayed there on Thursday night (May Day means no work in Europe). They left the next morning with a car packed of our Belgian belongings.

Mindy, me, and the kids stuck around for a second night and took the opportunity to play in the West of Germany. We found a zoo small zoo and a fair going on in Landau in der Pfalz. It was a great time. This was a very non-touristy region, so I got to use my German some!

That evening back near the hotel we went hiking in the hills/mountains of the area. Very beautiful and Mia even enjoyed the 4 km hike which she managed all on her own two feet.

On Saturday we drove back to Belgium, stopping in Trier, Germany, and St. Vith, Belgium on the way. Trier is known as the oldest city in Germany, and St. Vith is a city where the Battle of the Bulge took place. One of Mindy's uncles actually lived with a Belgian family for about 6 months during this part of the war and we found the house where he stayed and everything. The family didn't live there anymore though.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Catch Up

The last few weeks have been pretty busy. As my time here winds down I find myself spending more time at work. That is unfortunate as the weather here is finally turning around. We are having some really nice days lately. We also have borrowed a barbecue grill from some Belgian friends and have really been enjoying some much needed burgers and brats.

Last week a friend of mine from high school, yeah I know all the way back then, came to visit. I took three days off and we went to the Netherlands and saw the flower fields, Delft, the north sea, and Amsterdam. In Belgium we also managed to show him Leuven, Brussels, Gent, and Brugge. He really got a whirlwind tour with two kids in tow, it was crazy. Here are a couple photos of those adventures.

Keukenhof, the Disney of flowers in spring.

Windmills of Kinderdijk.

Flower fields, yeah, these are breathtaking. All of that beauty packed into field after field after field. Thank you Lord!

A couple weeks ago Mindy and the girls brought in some chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and rice krispy treats for the lab to thank them for the gift they gave us when Carmen was born. The lab raised a sizable amount of money with which we bought Carmen (and Mia) some Belgian counting books, blankets, stuffed animals, and a new much needed diaper bag. It was fun to see so many of them trying to figure out the rice krispy treats. They don't have marshmallows here, so we had to import those. Here is a picture of Luc holding Carmen with many other people from the lab in the background.

That's all for now. Enjoy Lente (spring).