I know that I haven’t updated for about 3 weeks now, but I have a good reason for once. I just got back from a super-fun, 10-day trip to Belgium! Once upon a time, I was an exchange student to the good country of Belgium, where I had an amazing year and met a lot of wonderful people. I’ve gone back to Belgium several times to visit them and it had been a couple of years since I’d last been back, so I decided it was time for another trip.
So, after work on Friday, I went over to El Paso and stayed at a hotel near the airport since I had a super early flight and didn’t want to risk missing it or having any issues on my way from Juarez to El Paso. Last time I had an early flight, I did not stay over in El Paso and met some lovely federal police officers at a checkpoint on a deserted street in the dark then finally made it to the border only to find no one at the booth and to have to wait awhile before someone realized I was there and finally came over. Since I didn’t think I could handle so much fun again, it just made sense to stay in a hotel.
Saturday morning, I got up on time, checked out of the hotel, made my way to the airport and got checked in and through security with no problems. I had a 5-hour layover on the way over, then got on the airplane, we started to taxi to takeoff only to find that one of the planes behind us saw that our plane had a flat tire! Of course, this had to be checked out, two tires had to be changed, and 3 hours later, we were finally on our way.
Other than the delay, the flight to Brussels was fine and I finally arrived, exhausted but thrilled to be back in Belgium! One of my host families met me at the airport and we proceeded to drive back to their home. After spending two years in the desert, and not getting out of the area in four months, I was dazzled by how absolutely green everything was! Even though it was still winter and not everything had its leaves/flowers/etc, it was so much greener than life here in Ciudad Juarez that it was dazzling.
While I was there, I saw my other set of host parents, all of my host siblings and their children, members of the organization that facilitated my exchange, and generally had a great time catching up with people, seeing people I hadn’t seen for awhile, and trying to remember my Dutch.
I also went shopping several times and enjoyed just being able to walk around in (mostly) nice weather without worrying about my safety, shopping in a pedestrian-friendly area, and so on. The first time I took the bus back to my host family’s house from shopping, I accidentally got off the bus too early and I decided to enjoy just sitting outside in nice weather and waiting an hour for the next bus rather than trying to walk back or find another way to their house.
It was also really nice to have a nice break from work and not worry about anything work-related or even have to talk about work that much. In hardship postings, the line between work and personal life gets really blurry since you end up spending a lot of your free time with coworkers and while my coworkers are pretty awesome, it’s nice to have a break from them, socialize with other people, and not spend the whole time talking about work.
The trip back went really smoothly. I didn’t have any delays on the way back, made it through customs in plenty of time to make my connecting flight, and had a smooth trip back to my house in Mexico. So, overall it was an amazing trip and I’m really glad that I got to go back to Belgium, see wonderful people that I’ve missed a lot, and really relax.
I now only have a little over a month left in Mexico. My packout is in a couple of weeks and then I’ll need to do some final cleaning, wrap up a few work projects, and then I’ll be on my way to home leave! Hard to believe it, but the end is almost in sight. 🙂