Jun Dishes

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Linda Catchup: Where Are They (The Boys) Now?

Puerto Plata

I feel like a bad bad person for not working more on finishing up the Linda Catchup series. But there’s only one of me and I can’t be a good person all the time. Nobody can.

So in an effort to ease my way back into writing more “Linda Catchup”, I’ve decided to start with a small update blog as a way to say hey remember the dudes of Linda Catchup? So here goes.

Before (how they were described in the first chapter) and Now.

Before: “Wally was single and reckless, living at home with his parents at almost 30. He suffered from a very short fuse, literally and figuratively, but was fun to have fun with. His chip sat on his shaved shoulders. He shaved his whole body twice a week, for nobody in particular, and for anybody he could get naked with. He was always read to party.”

Now: Wally went through major growing pains after returning from that Puerto Plata trip, and it was not pretty for a good while, but as of the date of this blog I can tell you that he’s no longer living in his parents’ home! He’s even advanced at work on the docks and is soon to become a first-time daddy!

Before: “Then there was Ludo, undeniably a ginger but his very closely shaved head looked fuzzy blonde most of the time. He was married and restless in middle age, and he was the oldest of the four dockers on the trip. Back in Belgium he lived with his wife of 2 years and 7 children. They were children he’d neither fathered nor raised, but he was their faithful dad for years. This was the first real vacation Ludo had ever taken in his life, and he already dreaded going back home to Belgium before the trip even started.”

Now: Ludo is still employed as a dockworker, and remains skinny as hell, but he is divorced now. That’s all I’m going to say about that. There was major drama following the trip, and shit got ugly fast and sporadically, but I am happy for him that he is doing his thing now and that he’s moved on with his life.

Before: “Then there was Koen. Koen had striking dark eyes and hair, and a square jaw that ran in his family line of men. He was always thinking, either thinking about or thinking through something. I noticed this about him right away. He was also the most reserved and the only single one too, in the group. He would share a room with Davy on the trip.”

Now: Koen is godfather to my son, my son with Davy. Koen and his girlfriend Xandra opened a fitness focused eatery in Ghent, and they are thriving. And yes, Koen continues to think a lot, all the time. He’s always thinking. I love this about him. And Davy and I always enjoy seeing Koen. As does our little Noah. Our friendship is a special one.

NoahPepe

Noah and Pepe Koen this past NYE…

~

Before: “Last, but not least there was Davy. He and Koen both had a mop of hair, Davy’s blonde and Koen’s black, compared to the shaved heads of Wally and Ludo. Davy was also one of those guys who always had a girlfriend, but always smelled single anyway. Single has a scent.”

Now: Davy doesn’t smell single anymore. Some may actually say he smells like a DILF. And the chip on his shoulder is significantly smaller than it was in 2010 in Puerto Plata, but it’s still there.

They never go away.

They resurface.

Linda Catchup will hopefully rise again sooner than later.

Always dishing,

Jun

This Is My Sanity Blog

NoahShopMoney

This is my sanity blog.

Last year, which actually feels like it was five years ago, I was blogging every day while staying at home with Noah.

This year, I’m blogging as often as I get my period. Basically.

I have less time to blog, or write for that matter, since single-handedly running a food business is taking up so much of it. During the rest of my free time I’m reliving my childhood as mommy to Noah, and holding down the sole title of wife to Davy, and making sure my bloody monthly mess arrives at the end of the cycle so I know I’m not pregnant (no offense to those trying to get pregnant).

So this is my sanity blog.

I need an hour to myself to just dump my brain and hopefully entertain you. I need this hour. All my hours are already accounted for, including activities like these…

NoahShopThat’s Noah enthusiastically charging me make-believe prices for a croissant painted along the wall of ‘t winkeltje, “the little shop.” Winkel means shop in Dutch, and if you add a je or a tje to any word, accordingly, then you magically make it little. And so this is the little shop Noah loves to play in when we’re sitting at the HEMA in the middle of Ghent. HEMA’s like a smaller and nicer Kmart, and there’s a little cafeteria-style restaurant upstairs.

I try to take Noah into the city a few times a month. Having been raised in New York myself, it’s important to me that he knows the difference between living out in the fields and pastures of Evergem, versus the energy and crowds of people and traffic in the middle of Ghent. Ghent is no New York, but…

Noah’s conquering of the streets of New York City still remains to be seen…

So last Tuesday, I met with my girlfriend Rosella to have lunch in celebration of her belated birthday. We sat eating while Noah played, very enthusiastically in ‘t winkeltje. I’d even thrown in some small change into the register for him, and handed over some ID card with a horrid photo of myself on it just so Noah could use it to slide it in the play credit card reader.

NoahShopMoney

“Here’s your money mama!”

 

“Hello! Come to Rice House!” Noah shouted to anyone who passed by on their way out of the restaurant.

Interestingly enough, only one person stopped to play shop with Noah, in the entire two hours we were there…

I was just about done catching up with Rosella, and our meals, when I heard Noah scream.

“Mama, she took the money!”

I looked up just in time to see a five-year-old-ish little girl swipe the last of the pennies out of the play register. She turned to look at me, and in that moment I froze. I knew the little bandit probably wasn’t a bad kid, but clearly she knew what money was, by her age.

I let her run off to her parents, whose backs had been turned walking out of the restaurant, and I wanted to see what the little girl would do. I told Noah that it was okay, and that it was only money and maybe the little girl needed it. I knew it sounded ridiculous but I just wanted to see what would happen.

Well, the little girl ran up to her parents and showed them the 14 cents or so in the palm of her hand. She didn’t stuff it in her pockets and hide it from them like I thought she might. But her parents nodded their heads nonchalantly as a reply to her cries of newfound money, and that was that and they were gone. Noah said to me again that “she took the money!”  I’d thought… it if it was me, and Noah had appeared out of nowhere with a bunch of change, I’d have asked him where he got it and marched him right back to where he’d taken them from. I’d definitely become my momz. Momz did that kind of thing to me all the time when I was growing up.

So I told Noah that the little girl didn’t know that it was his money, and she thought she could just take it. It’s probably the closest thing to the truth anyway. Noah’s eyes got all beady and then got wide again. He was over it. He went back to tending his little shop.

I don’t even know if I did the right thing in letting the little girl run off with the change. Obviously it wasn’t about the loss of 14 cents. It just felt like it was up to the girl’s parents to do something at that point and when they didn’t, I just let it go. I could have stopped that little family and had some sort of teaching or learning moment, but in that moment I didn’t want Noah distraught over some dirty pieces of money. At least not yet. He’s only two-and-a-half!

There’s plenty of time for that later…

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Just Stay With Me Holmes and Rahe: Staying Married in Belgium and Anal Sex and Alcoholism, Etc.

Polos

Just stay with me…

Because I’m dramatic and an admitted hypochondriac, I used to refer back to that list on the internet where they list stressful life events, just for fun. I Googled it now and it turns out it’s called the Holmes and Rahe stress scale.

Fancy.

I used to tally up my points, but not to feel sorry for myself. I always did it to give myself a break, to literally cut myself some slack by just stepping back to see just how much was going on in my life. To reassess what is important. It helps me cope and deal with stress and figure out next steps. I don’t recommend this for everyone because it might not work for everyone. In fact, it may depress some of you.

I hope not.

Holmes-Rahe-Stress-Inventory

Mine adds up into the 560s in the last four years of my life.

Why four years?

Because in January, I’ll be living in Belgium four years. I’ll be married for just as long too, considering there’s only a two-week gap between marrying my husband Davy and moving here to Belgium. Hypothetically speaking, this is where my blogs, about being an American expat in Belgium, will go from woohoo-happy-levels down to what the fuck have I gotten myself into-depths and back up again.

Thankfully, I chose to live here. Nobody made me and I didn’t have to, and so this isn’t a boohoo blog, it’s just not a woohoo one. I’m sure there are veteran expats and people married longer than me who are chuckling reading this now. The thing is…

Getting married and staying married, is like comparing oral sex to anal sex. Obviously one’s nothing compared to the other. But in both cases there has to be enough love and lust to happen. I’m not saying you have to have anal sex to stay married. Maybe you do. Maybe I do. Maybe we all do have anal sex when we’re married, if not in practice then surely in mind-fucking. Staying married will ass-fuck you in the mind all the time, which is the ultimate kind of mind-fucking. If you don’t work at your marriage and for your marriage, then it’s not a marriage.

Add to all this a very random and sobering unknown fact about Belgium…

ALCOHOLISM IS RAMPANT.

And particularly in small towns like I’m living in where nobody ever leaves, or goes anywhere for good for that matter, alcoholics are alcoholics until they die, in Belgium. Basically. It doesn’t matter if said alcoholic is a raging one or a functional one, or what age they are.

And then there are the enablers that will always be around and stay around, and cover for the alcoholics and pick up the pieces for them until there’s nobody left and the alcoholic finally dies. I’ll probably be public enemy number one to everyone I offend with this blog, but since I live a life in the 560s on the stress scale, being number one in anything often enough becomes okay.

If I cared about gossip then I wouldn’t have time to care for my marriage and my son. My food business is a whole other baby. If I cared about gossip then I wouldn’t be where I am today, and willingly at that. Talking about alcoholism in 2014 shouldn’t be taboo, here or anywhere…

I tried “way back” in 2011 to seek resources, online and otherwise, and I discovered that AA and Al-Anon are not readily “available” in Belgium like in America. Nothing in Ghent as far as Al-Anon. Shocking and not shocking, but disheartening. Books and forums don’t compare to real conversation.

And it was almost like I was the only one who saw and acknowledged the damage of alcoholism all around, in a country I newly call home. Families breaking up left and right and generations rotting their livers away. Really, the proverbial elephant in the room was a welcomed guest compared to the drunk one who hurt people at every party. I really thought I was the crazy one for a while until I started meeting more people like me, whether expat and born-and-bred Belgian, who acknowledged that yes, the culture here ignores the “problem of alcohol” yet still, gossip about it is like cocaine in the form of the Dutch language. Small-town stereotypes come to life, every day in Belgium.

So this small environmentally-sound and so far fiscally-solid country in the middle of Europe, has some of the best beer and basically-free healthcare…and a shit-load of alcoholics.

Everybody’s living in their proverbial glass houses and most pretend they don’t look into yours when really they watch it obsessively because they hate being in their own house. The chances of people here, particularly women, standing their ground to an alcoholic man, are lower than that of said woman giving up her ass for you to fuck anally. I’d bet my rice that more women in Belgium have anal sex than they do stand up to an alcoholic. And those that do are met with indifference and sometimes ostracized by the very people who should be protecting them.

That is some fucked up shit and I’m sick of seeing it.

Too many people die every day because, you just never know. Alcoholism kills. It kills people but their souls die first, and there’s almost always collateral damage.

I’m a realist, and as a realist, I knew coming into this marriage in a country foreign to me, that I’d be the outsider, and for a very long time. That was fine with me, because I was here forever I do’d to Davy and having a baby was one of our early goals. We achieved this goal and our son Noah shines bright.

You have to have goals. Without goals you’re just living in a broken glass house bleeding imaginary blood. So every now and again when I refer back to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, I’m reminded of what and who is important in my life, to help me cut out people and things that aren’t. Only then can I focus on Davy and Noah, and other goals in my life.

I said in a recent interview for OneChicklette.com:

Interview

I know now what I want my next big goal to be.

I’ve taken steps to start an Al-Anon program here in my town of Evergem, out of my own pocket if I have to. Size doesn’t matter when all you need is conversation. And most likely I will be using Rice House as a venue for meetings. So I don’t write this to hurt anyone, but merely to inform and hopefully relate, and provide a forum where people feel safe to start that conversation, publicly or privately.

Why? Mostly because I love Davy and Noah, who mean everything to me, and the life we have created here. But there’s alcoholism all around us. I don’t want to ignore it or sweep it under the rug anymore…

Whether you live in Belgium or not, please share this blog. You never know…someone you know who knows someone somewhere may know someone in the Ghent area.

Please also feel free to share your story about life, marriage, expat-living, alcoholism, anal sex, rice, whatever…in the comments section below. As a thank you and welcome back, and gesture of good faith in the world, I’ll be giving away Rice House polos (one women’s and one men’s) to two subscribers. Winners to be chosen in one month’s time.

Polos

So please be sure to subscribe to the site for your chance to win.

And this is basically what my absence here, and recent stresses have manifested in, a big weird “just stay with me blog”…

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Rice House: Updates

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I picked out paint colors yesterday for Rice House. Let the painting begin!

Ahhhhhhh~

They will be the colors found in the Rice House logo. Bold orange and bold blue, and colors found in the Korean flag:

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPGI’ve never done this before, opened a food business, my own shop. I don’t know all the lingo but I base all my decisions on my own foundations, and with my husband Davy together on big decisions. All major ones have been made and now it’s just a waiting game and working and growing pains until Rice House opens its doors on May 1st.

I’ll be attempting to display something like this on May 1st, for show:

KoreanFlag - Sydney

It was presented at the Sydney International Food Festival last year and I’m excited to try and recreate it for the Grand Opening! Here’s a cheat-sheet on what each part of the Korean flag means:

KoreanFlag

Rice House in its entirety is about 600 square feet counting both floors (or 60 sq m), with a bathroom and ample storage on the top floor. The actual shop space is about 250 square feet (or 25 sq m). My conversions aren’t exact but they’re close enough because it’s easy enough to remember.

This is what I have envisioned for the ground floor space and shop:

GroundFloorPlan

Work continues at Rice House, and we’ve already removed one small wall:

Wall

Also, all the stickers and branding from the former sandwich shop are now gone!

I can now start from scratch with my own branding!

BeforeAfterOutside

But work also continues at home as Noah approaches his second birthday. It’s almost two years now since I live-tweeted my early labor and delivery of Noah (tweets all here). Time has flown but Noah’s grown, and he’s already practicing playing shopkeeper…

NoahShopkeeper

Noah’s been to Rice House a couple of times now, and he’s comfortable there as if he knows already that it’s “ours.”

Ours.

It’s why I’m putting a “Kiddie Corner” into the space, because I want Noah and other children to feel safe and special while they’re at Rice House. It sounds super corny but I mean it. Rice House is a business but it’s very much still real life. As such, the plan is to keep everything as simple as possible. This is easier to do in Evergem than in Manhattan.

I’d say one of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make as a business woman, is to slow down. Nobody answers work emails at night and nobody breaks their neck to get anything done around these old parts of Europe. It’s refreshing yet frustrating at the same time, balancing my New York City killer instinct with diplomacy in patience.

So, simple it is.

The menu will consists of (sushi) rolls and (rice) bowls, and soups. There will always be a stand-by menu and specials-of-the-week. Here’s an example of a Rice House Shrimp Bowl:

ShrimpBowl

I’m so glad all those food photos I took are paying off, in what is now the Rice House Menu. Vendors have been chosen and bids are in, and my husband Davy and I have trust and understanding in each other’s different strengths. We are doing most everything ourselves and calling in professionals for what professionals do…

But Davy drew a map on which Rice House stands, and I created it simply in Power Point:

 

RiceHouseMap

 

It’s the cutest map I’ve ever personally made, and it’s good enough to give to the printer for now so he can do his magic. Flyers and stickers and posters are being printed very soon! Rice House will get a make-over before May 1st. Opening Hours coming soon!

My mother will be coming in May to help with everything and to spend warm days in the sun with Noah. I need momz here for this. I’m glad she’ll be here.

I’d like to thank everyone for your support. Stay tuned!

Always dishing,

Jun

 

A Photo Blog About a Castle and Facebook

BoatRide

There are more castles than Koreans in Belgium, yet I’ve yet to blog about a one.

tweet

I’ve been to a few castles in Belgium now living here some years, but there is one that stands out:

– It’s right in the middle of my city of Ghent.

– It holds fond memories for me.

– It’s the first castle I laid eyes upon my first day visiting Ghent.

On July 3, 2010, I reunited with Davy for the first time since leaving the Dominican Republic. It was my first of many long-distance relationship trips to come, but on my first day I remember seeing Het Gravensteen…

All photos happened before I ever joined Twitter so they may be new to many of you…

BoatRide

There once was a castle called Gravensteen, or Castle of the Count if you will. I saw it for the first time by boat and took this photo, on a boat ride with Davy down the River Leie. Canals and a river and a castle, right in my city. I was in. I could totally picture myself living here.

 

Kisses

You can tell we were dripping in honeymoon phase love because we took this photo and uploaded it to Facebook, tagged and captioned all mushy and everything. Davy was always down for a photo op and I take photos obsessively, so it was a match made in Facebook heaven.

 

StepsJuly6th

Then the next day we actually returned to Gravensteen and took the obligatory tour. Davy hadn’t done it since grade school and as a Belgian citizen he didn’t have to pay the entrance fee, which I did. I don’t have to pay anymore so that’s some consolation. Also, my legs look really good so I love this photo.

 

eightjudicialswordssymbolizingthepowerinthe16th-18thcenturies

We saw cool things like these “judicial swords that once represented power in the 16th-18th centuries” and I made notes of these things while I was touring the castle, so I could caption them accurately later on Facebook, but none of my Facebook friends cared. Nobody commented. Ugh.

 

guillotine

The castle last served as a jail, and there was a guillotine I was disappointed I wasn’t allowed to get closer to. I wasn’t allowed to touch it either, which I wanted to so for some reason.

 

OnTopOfTheCastle

When Davy and I got to the top of the castle, I managed to climb the steps all the way up for this photo AND not bust my ass on the way down. Big feat for me.

 

ViewBelow

We looked down and saw where we’d passed by just the day before, by boat.

 

wishingwell

We made our way back down below surface and found this “wishing well” that tourists, who came before me, threw coins down into. But I imagine it could have been a toilet way back when for all I know. I threw a one-euro piece down the well and wished, “I wish to marry Davy.” 

Corny but true.

 

~

PosingInFront

The following month, in August, I returned to Ghent with my mother. I introduced her to her future son-in-law Davy, and then I introduced her to the castle.

 

MeAndMomzWindow

The next day, Davy had to work and so my momz and I took the tour of the castle alone. We both paid the entrance fee. I had no problems handing my camera over to tourists to get these photos. My momz and I look so happy! She loved that Davy went to work. She said he was a hard-working man with his priorities straight. So sweet!

 

MeAndMomzRoof

We got to the top of the castle and saw most of Ghent before our eyes. My mother asked me if I could really see myself living here. I answered yes.

 

MomzActionShot

While we were making our way out of the castle, my mother thought she saw something in the cross window. I love this photo of momz. Action shot!

 

ColumnI hugged a column in the basement of the castle. My mother begrudgingly took the photo. Plus, I love the flats I’m wearing!

~

And that’s my photo blog about a castle and Facebook.

Always dishing,

Jun

What Rice House Means to Me

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

Not many people outside my immediate family know this, but…

When I won Big Brother in 2003 and returned to New York, I told my parents that I wanted to invest my winnings in opening a Korean takeout place on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. It’s where I was living at the time and I thought there was a hole in the market. My parents freaked out completely. Freaking out was my momz thing and never my dad’s, so it shocked me. He’d become fearful.

My dad was still in the Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Hospital at the time, and he almost cried, saying he didn’t want me to open a business. He said it was too risky and that I should invest in real estate instead. But I knew what he really meant.

My dad was dying and we all knew it. His kidneys were barely functioning and dialysis was making his sicker. He just wanted to see me stable and back to my old life, before Big Brother ever happened, before he died. My dad wanted me to go back to work at Citigroup or any group comprised of bankers, and have a “steady job” again so he could die in peace.

Except he never said it like that, at least not to me.

I felt like a monster that day for making him worry, when all he should have been doing was resting and recuperating and staying alive. So I didn’t invest in the takeout place. But I didn’t go back to work right away either. I spent as much time as I could with my dad and my family, and months later I did end up buying real estate with my Big Brother winnings and I returned to work in finance too (more on this).

My dad passed away shortly thereafter, in 2004, knowing I could take care of myself but probably never considering I’d do anything as crazy as illegal (more on this). I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. I’m a different person but I’m the same person.

And now I’m finally opening a Korean takeout place – in my little Belgian town in Ghent called Evergem (Everville), no less! Rice House is happening and my dad’s not around to see it. But I can picture him laughing from heaven because I’m getting everything I wanted in the end.

I am his daughter after all.

This is what I’m starting with:

TakeABreakOutside

 

Where now stands Take A Break is where Rice House will open its doors on May 1st!

~

Every time I embark on a new adventure I try not to dwell on bad shit that’s happened in my life, but I do acknowledge that it made me who I was and who I am today. You cannot forget where you came from because nobody else knows but you, in the end. You owe it to yourself to never lose who you are, and to not listen to people’s advice to sell sandwiches AND rice. Um, no.

And for me and my husband Davy, Noah priority #1, and Rice House #2. At some point Noah will be “helping” me at Rice House and things will fall into place. I can’t wait for that day.

I’m lucky to have a man in my life after my dad, who believes in me wholeheartedly.  I couldn’t do this without Davy.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Rice House: For the Love of Rice

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I’ve been blog-silent for a week mostly because my Noah was plagued with a bad cold and pink eye. Life handed me a fevery toddler with conjunctivitis so I went into full mommy combat mode. Today on the other side of the week I’ve emerged triumphant with a healthy child, and I also happen to be the brand-spank-me-new owner of a Korean takeout joint!

What?

It all started a week ago, on Wednesday afternoon. Davy and I found out that a tiny sandwich shop called “Take A Break”, in our town square of Evergem, was looking for new owners. I never imagined I’d ever live in a “town” let alone blog about a town square, but for the love of rice anything can happen!

The monthly rent sounded too low and too good to be true. Plus, Davy attained all the necessary study and licensing for a start-up business way back when, “just in case,” before he ever even knew what Korean food was. By marriage I can also use the licenses.

The current owners of Take a Break are opening a bigger eatery next month in the city, Ghent-proper, hence their selling the smaller business. So Davy made some more calls and left some more voicemails so we could gather as much information as possible. My OCD took over.

Then that evening I was featured on a Flemish television program called Fans of Flanders and Noah made his television debut:

Noah ate through half the filming that day Fans of Flanders was here in my home including the Korean food I’d cooked in the segment.

~

Before the segment ever aired last Wednesday, I’d had a craving for Chinese food. I can make Chinese dishes just like I can make most dishes not necessarily Korean. But sometimes I just don’t want to cook! It happens to all of us.

So last Wednesday night I wanted Chinese takeout!

Here’s the thing…there is NOT ONE decent Chinese (or otherwise Asian) place we know close by (meaning 15 minute drive), but on top of it all most of them are closed on Wednesdays. But Davy and I drove on, with Noah in his car seat behind us, and searched for an open Chinese or otherwise Asian food establishment. Nothing.

We were about to head home when we got a call. If we were around, we could take a minute to take a tour of Take of Break! So we did. Davy and I saw potential. The owners told us that they’d leave behind most of the commercial appliances and display cases behind for pennies to their euros spent, because their new restaurant in the city was all stocked and furnished. With take-over and start-up costs so minimal I wanted it, but there were two other business-minded couples ahead of us, and both wanted to open sandwich shops. There are HUNDREDS of tiny sandwich shops in all of Ghent, but not one Korean food establishment. But we were third in line for the place.

I ended up making my own stir-fry and rice that night, and cursing the fact that I had to. Davy and I were convinced that one of the other couples would take the shop.

On Saturday we got the call that the first couple bailed, and the second couple seemed too hesitant, so if Davy and I wanted to open our Korean takeout…we could! Davy and I scrambled together, getting paperwork and accounting and finances in order, and as of today…

RiceHouseLogoFinalJPG

I am the proud new owner of a Rice House in Evergem!

It sounds insane but what about my life isn’t, really?

~

Rice House, a Korean takeout restaurant, will be open on May 1st, 2014.

It’s on “Library Street” (Bibliotheekstraat 6, Evergem) and just three bus stops away, or a walk, from my home. There is indeed the town’s library down the street. But there’s also the pre-school that Noah will be attending, in November, right across the street! I blogged about our first tour of Noah’s school last May…the one with the napping room:

NappingRoom

The idea of dropping Noah off at school and picking him up from across the street at Rice House makes my heart race it’s so cute.

Thanks to socialism and all its wonders, it’s easier to open a one-woman business in Belgium than it is in the States. How else would I have a (legal) business in my name in less than a week? This would never happen in Manhattan. But this is Ghent. This is a country based on the honor system and entrepreneurship in good ways and bad, and this last week proved very good for me. All signs seem to point to rice in Evergem!

If I can maneuver through Wall Street, be Head of Household in the Big Brother house, and mamasan in a whorehouse, then I’m up for the challenge of being Rice Queen in Evergem!

Always dishing,

Jun

Manhattan Rent

Apt

This morning I came across a Craigslist apartment listing in Manhattan.

I haven’t lived in Manhattan since 2011, when I moved here to Belgium, and so it’s not like I’m in search of 1-bedroom apartment in the sky. No, I saw the link pop on my Facebook timeline. A friend for a friend was sharing the link for the rental…

 

Ad

 

This Craigslist ad will die and expire into cyberspace eventually and so I took a screenshot of the ad as well.

$3,050.00 is the monthly rent for 700 square feet (that’s about 65 square meters for the rest of you).

Here’s the floor plan to the space, which I faithfully downloaded as if I’d do if I was actually interested in the place.

Apt

 

I know this is a Manhattan rental because I lived in New York for 30 years of my life. Granted I lived paying rent myself for only 10 of those years before buying a condo with my Big Brother winnings and even then you pay for costs and maintenance to the common areas of your building. Who knows they probably charge you a few cents every year for breathing the air in the building. I kid. This isn’t a rant blog.

I believe $3,050.00 is a fair price for said apartment. I’ve lived in expensive Manhattan 1 bedrooms the size of decent McDonalds’ bathrooms. I’m not going to play real estate agent, but I’d say that Craigslist Upper West Side listing isn’t ridiculous by any means…to New Yorkers. Whether or not one gets approved through the application process for rental is another story.

It’s money you’ll never see again because it’s rent and not an investment, but all’s fair in the context of living in Manhattan. Whether you’re trying to keep up with a Sex & the City lifestyle or you’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly bonuses on the job it doesn’t matter because you’re living in Manhattan. It’s not glamorous for everyone but if you have a Manhattan address then you’re a statistic many people all over the world would trade places with, given the opportunity. Let’s be real…

Admittedly, I was sheltered growing up. My parents and brother and I lived in an apartment complex in Lower Manhattan. My parents had snagged our low-income housing apartment in 1976, when they first moved to New York without me. I joined them in 1979 and my neighbors were immigrants of every color and flavor. When I moved out on my own, in dramatic fashion, I didn’t move into Manhattan. I didn’t even know to open a ConEd account for electricity! My parents had always done everything for me and I sucked at reality. It was either moving into a basement apartment in Queens or going back home, and so basement it was. I had two more apartments in Queens before moving into Manhattan in 1999.

Making enough money to pay your rent and the rest of your bills in Manhattan, and not starve, is not easy. Some years I did better than others working in banking, and other things, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because there’s nothing like it in the world. If you can do it, then all the more power to you. Not everyone can. Is it possible for honest hard-working people to live in Manhattan? Sure. A lot of things are possible including getting help from family or working little jobs on the side that you don’t report as income…

Now nearly 3 years and so many thousands of miles away from Manhattan I’m sitting here married and a mommy in a small farming town called Evergem, in Ghent. In contrast to the UWS apartment rental on Craigslist above…

My rent now is 25% of the price and 400% the value in square footage and outdoor space and amenities. Salaries here are limp leaves lettuce compared to the steak salads at Smith & Wollensky’s that I miss in Manhattan, but transitioning to life here has been an extraordinarily grounding experience for me. I can sit here and see links my friends share on Facebook, for 700 square feet living for thousands of dollars a month, and think yeah that sounds about right. Manhattan rent.

I don’t miss “it” but I miss parts of it. I get asked all the time if I’ll “ever” move back to New York. My answer is always maybe.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Back to School: Children in Belgium

SennaHannaFM

If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the world where there’s such a thing as Back to School, then you know it’s happening now. We all live different lives but share the same excitement for certain things, like Back to School. It’s a special and terrifying, and big milestone. For whom? The student, no matter what age, but also the parent especially of little ones.

Having lived in Belgium since January 2011, I’ve gained new friends and family and with their blessing I write this blog. They are extensions of my life through my husband Davy, whose Belgian Back to School memories are just like my American ones despite our thousands of miles apart in our childhood. Nobody thought Davy would ever marry or become a father and here we are in 2013, married and parents to Noah.

NoahYearAndAHalf

 

Noah’s been loving his first summer as a toddler, and climbing on top of everything in his barefoot path.

I share with you today what Back to School looks like in Ghent, Belgium this week. Our closest friends and neighbors have shared with me their Back to School pride and joys, their girls and boys.

Sharing our Noah’s present and future here in Belgium are these masterpieces:

 

JamesJames, age 7. He’s gone from pre-schooler to too cool for school with his golden mop of hair. Sir James is as clever as they come, and I can’t believe how much he’s grown. His curiosity grows in so many ways, and he’ll be a force to deal with in a very good way in the future. Veel succes James!

 

ReibeDouwe

Riebe, age 11, left. Douwe, age 8, right. Brothers! These two young men are the most well-behaved young men I’ve come across in a very long time, and most importantly Noah trusts them both. Riebe and Douwe are always around to lend a helping hand and watchful eye over those younger than they are. It’s rare, and I love that about these two. Jullie zijn de beste!

 

BacktoSchoolElla

Ella, age 5. She’s an incredibly charming and bright ray of sunshine and lover of balloons on the first day back at school. Ella’s eyes light up like firecrackers when she laughs, bigger in mischief but their spark is unforgettable like all good things in the world. Ella is going places!

 

SennaHanna

Senna, age 7, left. Hanna, age 4, right. Sisters! These little ladies are sweet and sassy for a reason, and that’s because they live in a home of creative and open minds. A house full of love. I adore their mom’s PIET moodshop in the city, I confess, because it’s some very cool stuff I now own. I still wish I’d looked as cool as Senna and Hanna for Back to School when I was their age. Zo zo mooi en in de mode!

 

QuintenJelleQuinten, age 3, left. Jelle, age 5, right. Brothers! They’re inseparable and adorable together, and apart, and were among the first to share Noah’s toys together with. Boys will be boys, and these two are so lucky to have each other, squealing and laughing themselves to sleep and waking up together in the morning. Jelle and Quinten are all about affection, and it’s sweet to watch. Zo schattig!

~

Cherish this school season wherever you may be. I have so much respect for parents everywhere. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Always dishing,

Jun

MissWizz and Peequality

Peepeeme

I’m picking up where I left off in Belgium Has, where I cry out for PEE EQUALITY. Peequality…

There are these free pee stands for men all over the city of Ghent, which is great for guys but what about the ladies?

guyspeestand

More often than not you have to pay to use a bathroom in Belgium, and large parts of Europe. It’s about 50 cents so it’s not a lot but as an American expat I’m always shaking my head here while paying to use the bathroom at a department store I’m shopping in, or at the movie theater I’ve paid for a ticket to get into. This would never happen in the states because Walmart shoppers would tear the building down if they had to pay to use the Walmart bathroom.

During festivals, like the Festival of Ghent going on right now here, there are portable pee stands for men strewn all over the city. This is me, standing in one, back in 2010:

PeepeemeThese portable pee stands were new to me then and nothing like port-o-potties back in the states, but I was so frustrated there was no free peeing for women! Fast forward to 2013, I returned to the Festival of Ghent this past weekend to find there was finally a pee stand for me!

MissWizzAndMe

 

So after posing for a picture, I enter MissWizz. There are 11 of these in the city of Ghent, and petitions to install more. I couldn’t wait to join the movement and actually pee in a MissWizz. The movement was started by one “Ellen Lejeune” as a MSc graduation project, and she fights still for peequality. I shook her hand before I peed and thanked her for this blogging opportunity, and then I stepped inside MissWizz with my own tissue paper ready to squat.

 

PeeStraddle

I was met with this pink contraption reminiscent of some dungeon contraption I’d seen in an S&M room once or last week, and my expectations of pretty pink walls and feathers were crushed at first sight. I was a little scared I’d end up cutting my leg or something equally and usually clumsy, and it felt a little awkward straddling a chunk of pink metal. But I did my business and discarded my tissue in a garbage pail provided, and I popped my MissWizz cherry.

Was it everything I expected it to be? No.

Was it smelly? No.

Would I do it again? Sure.

Always dishing,

Jun