don’t poke the bear!

lonely treeI am a bear. As soon as winter arrives, I crawl in my cave and hibernate, leaving the safety of my room only when I really have to be somewhere else. In my mind, winter associates with silence, cold, emptiness, loneliness and illness. All the worst months of my life have been during wintertime. So it’s no wonder I fell into that pattern even during my year abroad. Snow arrived and suddenly I didn’t want to leave my room or talk to people or blog or do pretty much anything that didn’t involve being curled up in a blanket, drinking tea and watching endless episodes of my current favourite series. Don’t disturb the bear during the hibernating period.

Brussels

As I was cooped up in my attic room, I began to realise that I had reached the breaking point in my au pair life. Every new job seems brilliant in the beginning, you’re eager to go in and tackle everything. At some point you realise that your amazing new job has plenty of flaws you didn’t see at first. I reached that point this year, taking care of Minnie who was ill pretty much all the time and as a result didn’t sleep well. An unslept Minnie meant my workdays changed from minor challenges and going to the playground to a constant battle with a child who was too exhausted to pay any attention to what I was saying or to even care that I was trying to talk to her. Complete mayhem and lots of screaming from a kid protesting against everything. And woah, can that girl scream! Brussels Falling face first onto my bed after an especially bad workday I began wondering how can some people do this for years. I don’t mean the parents, though I have utmost respect for people who raise their kids with patience and care. I mean the au pairs – they are living in the middle of someone else’s family, they are a part of everything that goes on, be it the kids’ illnesses or relationship trouble or family trips or… you get my drift. They are not a part of the family, but they take part. How can some people do it for years? Do they not get a longing for a family of their own, something where they are all-in instead of being with one foot inside a strange family and with the other foot in some weird mixture of their new  personal life in a strange country and the life still waiting in their home country?

dried plants

I’m very grateful for this opportunity and being able to experience a completely new way of life in a new country. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t regret my decision to be an au pair. I just feel that this job has a due date and I’m rapidly moving towards it. I have learned a lot here and had loads of fun. Nevertheless, I can’t shrug this nagging feeling that this is not my family, I’m an outsider and my family is waiting elsewhere. No matter how welcoming the host parents are or how much the kids love you, these are not your people.

garden path

My au pair experience has taught me that I definitely don’t want kids in at least the next four years; I’m not willing to give up such a big chunk of my own personal life for the kids. But it has also made me realise that I really need my own family life now. I don’t mean moving back to my parents’ place, I’m now way past that point. I mean starting a new family. Just me and Matthijs. The kids can follow at some later point when we are both ready for that. I’m not. Not yet. I just want my own tiny family with the man I love and our own private home where we don’t depend on the whims of others.

snowdrops

So now I wait. I still have a bit more than three months left in Brussels and I plan to enjoy that time the best I can. After that it’s time to move back to Estonia, prepare for the university exams (I have decided to start with a master’s degree this autumn) and then get ready for moving once more. I’ll temporarily get back to my parents’ place for another month and a half until Matthijs gets to Tallinn with his belongings and we can start working on the apartment that will be our home for the next few years. I will finally have my own home. I will finally be able to live with Matthijs! By that point we’ll have had 2.5 years of being in a long-distance relationship. About time to put an end to that and start living in the same country. And the same town. And the same apartment. In our own home! I’m so excited!

snowdrops(The photos in this post were taken at the beginning of February. I really thought winter was going to end then – the snow was gone, the snowdrops were showing their beautiful white blooms… but no. There were two more periods of snow after that and we’re facing another one this weekend. Whoever told me Belgium was a warm country with a short winter was lying! Still not as bad as Estonia, but I don’t care. I was promised 15-20°C for March!)

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the band, the crew and the hobbit

Antwerpen

Continuing with my very late blog posts in order to catch up with all the photos I wanted to share here. In December, I had a lovely day in Antwerp with Matthijs. We wanted to see Ewert and the Two Dragons in the evening and also check out the lovely Belgian city, so we went there in the morning to walk around and enjoy the sights. It was close to Christmas, so light time was limited. As we wanted to take photos, the first place we visited was Sint Annatunnel, a pedestrian tunnel to get to the other side of the river Schelde.

The escalators in Sint-AnnatunnelThe entrance to the tunnel was via old wooden escalators. They looked amazing and as I read now, they are from the 1930s. So much better than those chunks of metal everywhere else, these had the elegance of older eras. After taking the long escalator ride down, we had to walk more than half a kilometre under the river to get to the other side and ride similar old escalators back up to the daylight again.

Sint-Annatunnel

Sint-Annatunnel

The view from the other side was magnificent. Our timing was perfect as well, it was just before sundown and the colours on the river and the centre of Antwerpen were beautiful. We took photos of the town (and a few of each other – what else would two people with cameras do than torture each other with them?) and tried not to fall down from the high riverside structures we were climbing on. Considering that the temperatures were slightly below zero and everything was icy and slippery, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to slip and fall.

Matthijs in AntwerpenWhen the sun had begun to set, we walked back through the tunnel to explore the city centre a bit. That didn’t work out too well though, because it was already getting dark and we didn’t have time to see everything we wanted. So instead we only took a look at a few selected places and then headed for dinner. I wanted to meet up with my friend Karl who happens to be the tour manager of Ewert and the Two Dragons, but obviously he was a bit busy with the upcoming gig because of his work duties.

christmas market in Antwerpen

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to put some things away and check how to get to Trix, where the concert was held. Eventually we figured out what trams we had to take and where to walk, or at least we thought we did. When we stepped off the tram, we of course realised we have no idea what direction we should take. Thanks to some good guessing, we finally found our way in the dark and got to the venue. I have no photos from there, because I didn’t want to carry my camera around and left it in the hotel. Matthijs is focusing on gig photography anyway, so I left the concert cameraman duties to him.

Antwerpen and ScheldeThe gig was awesome. I managed to see Ewert and the Two Dragons four time that month, partly because I love the music and mostly because it was a good opportunity to see Karl, who is travelling around with the band and almost impossible to see in Estonia. Especially when living abroad, it’s very nice to meet up with your friends like that. The highlights of the concerts were not the relaxed atmosphere and awesome music, but the moments spent with Karl and his relative Siim (who was the merch guy for the European leg of the tour). I had missed my friends so much.

Antwerpen and ScheldeWe met up with them the next evening as well in Leuven. As usual, I have no photos of that because I’m too short anyway to see over the crowd, but Matthijs took some photos of the band during the concert and even some group photos for them after that. I managed to get my “fangirl picture” as well, after seeing them live for five times already. As Karl was already kneeling on the ground from previous group photos, I just claimed his leg as my seat for the photo. This caused some joking among the guys, with Matthijs saying he is allowing that and Karl winking and laughing that he should see the next pose then. Thanks to the guys goofing around, I have a laughing derpy-face on that photo. But I don’t care because I’m with my friends and my favourite Estonian band.

Ewert and the Two Dragons and crewSo there. The band, the crew and the hobbit, as promised in the title of this post. I’m out of photos to share for now, so next posts will appear when I’m finally not ill anymore (spent five days with a high fever and I’m slowly getting better now) and have had a chance to go out with my camera. I’m pretty sure there will be no posts this weekend, unless I decide to spend my train journey back from Nijmegen writing about long-distance relationships. Why? I’m going to Nijmegen to celebrate our second anniversary with Matthijs. Two years together and not once have we lived in the same country. Life is strange.

of christmas trees and snow

Head uut aastat! Happy new year! Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! Bonne Année!

fireworksI’m back in Estonia for my christmas break. New year has arrived, tons of fireworks photos have been taken. But last year’s posts have not appeared here yet, so I’ll first introduce you to the monstrosity that posed as Brussels’ official christmas tree. Some may start thinking about pharmacies when seeing that. You’ll see why:

Brussels' christmas tree

Apparently this is the first year Brussels has been experimenting like that with the official christmas tree. After the reception from the general public, I’m not sure they will want to pull stunts like that again. It really does look horrid, but it did provide me with some entertainment: just stand at the edge of the square and chuckle at the reactions from random tourists who have just noticed the giant apothecary sign pretending to be a tree. Hilarious, I can tell you. In comparison, I can show you my family’s lovely christmas tree in my Tallinn home:

christmas treeNow this is a christmas tree! And yes, there are tiny elves and not-so-tiny mice on the tree. All handmade by my awesome mum (who, my the way, decided to knit me a cardigan before I have to return to Brussels. I’ll link her blog once she finishes it and gets the photos up). I have been enjoying my time with the family and I celebrated returning to my home kitchen by making this festive pumpkin cake:

pumpkin cakeIt’s wonderful to be back home, but there is one thing I definitely did not miss in Brussels: snow. I have never been a big fan of winter. It shouldn’t really be surprising – it’s a miracle if you can still enjoy it after spending your entire life in Estonia and having to dive into knee-deep snow every day for five (sometimes even six) months every year to fight your way to the bus and then finding that the next bus has been cancelled and you are forced to wait for 20 minutes in -20 degrees. Yeah, I’m not that fond of winter.

christmas tree

Nearly two years ago, when I had a trip to England in January, I kept exclaiming “It’s so GREEN!”, amusing Matthijs with it. He didn’t see anything special in finding green grass in January. I didn’t even know it was possible for grass to stay green throughout winter! In Estonia it gets brown and yellow and ugly near the end of autumn and then disappears under the snow, so seeing the first green patch of grass when spring arrives is always a very happy day for me. Having lived in Brussels for a bit now, I can see why it was so amusing to Matthijs. Even if there is snow on the ground for a little bit, the grass stays green! What is that sorcery!? I miss colours during wintertime. Jumping back to the topic of that England trip… this is what greeted me the day I got back to Estonia:

January in Estonia

Yes, it can be pretty. But for now I’ll just enjoy knowing that after my lovely vacation in Tallinn, I’ll return to Brussels where temperatures should still be at +10 degrees and the grass is green. I love Estonia, but I can’t stand winter.