As we near the end of our first week on Antwerp, I understand now why a week or two just isn’t long enough. It’s not that there’s too much to see or do – though there is plenty. It’s that it takes a few days to get your feet under you. To have whirlwind first and second visits with everyone. To remember which bakery is closed on Friday, which market is only on Saturday, which coffee shop is closest. To stay up too late drinking wine in the garden or listening to a band in a cafe while trying to explain American politics to incredulous relatives. To get into the flow.
And then, of course, the toddler adjustments: day and night turned upside down, unfamiliar faces so excited to see him, playgrounds with sand instead of wood chips, none of the normal foods, napping at odd times.
We’ve been here almost a week, with two more weeks to go, and our days have been spent almost completely with family: a trip to the wonderful zoo where N’s mom often eats her lunch among the wild animals, swimming in an exquisite naturally filtered pool where N’s dad does laps, walking on the left bank with N’s dad in exquisite weather (for us; too hot by Antwerp standards), exploring the children’s farm next to N’s old school, and lots of time in the park and relaxed hours in the garden with coffee or a meal and whoever is home.
I keep surprising N with my memory of places and directions. There have been many discussions of running routes (as I’m in the final weeks of marathon training), but they haven’t really been necessary – I’ve comfortably struck out on my own and as a result of doing so, have been able to show N things he didn’t know in the city of his birth. Yesterday I ran literally all around the city; next week I’ll do it again.
Before we left, I told a friend how grateful I felt for all the things that made this trip possible: a job that gives me the flexibility (and pays me enough!) that I can take three weeks off with no problem and can afford to travel like this, a free apartment of our own that allows us to be with family while also having our own space, friends who take good care of our cat and our home while we’re away, a toddler who has proved to be as patient and adaptable as is possible for a little boy of almost two.