Report Card: 6 months
When I first landed here, I had delusions of grandeur that I would write a monthly recap for my friends and family to keep them up to speed on our adventures and my adjustment to living overseas. To get a sense for my vision, think of the holiday letters that people who have their act together send out. Now, pump those letters up with some steroids and add a sprinkle or two of unicorn tears. Like I said, delusions…
I did manage to get exactly one newsletter out the door towards the end of July (i.e. while I was bored silly with no local friends and no ocean freight to put away yet). For the record, the copy was incredibly witty and the art design was top notch for being laid out in Powerpoint. But the “Tales from Post” press folded right after the first issue was published. Turns out adjusting to life in a new country is just a wee bit more time- and bandwidth-consuming than I had bargained for.
So here I am: 6 months — oops — almost 7 months after landing at Zaventem bright eyed and bushy tailed (i.e. completely jet lagged and a little hot messy) to start my #expatlife and #foreignservicelife adventure.
Seems about the perfect time for a progress report, doesn’t it?
Date: Feb 12, 2019
Time at post: 7 months (minus one day)
(E) Exceeds expectations
(M) Meets expectations
(D) Doesn’t meet expectations
(S) Are you sure you’re even in the right class?
Math - (M) Meets expectations
* Emily has really started to get the hang of correctly identifying EU change on the spot and quite often selects the right combination of coins to give to the shopkeeper when given enough time. We will continue to work on speed and accuracy, especially under the pressure of a full line at the grocery store ten minutes before the shop is closing on a Saturday night. (WHY CAN’T WE GROCERY SHOP ON SUNDAYS?!)
* Emily has become rather adept at calculating timezone differences forward and back without having to count on her fingers. She successfully manages to not wake people back in the States up by calling or texting entirely too early in the morning.
Language - (M/D) Meets expectations/doesn’t meet expectations
* Emily is taking a hard course load here in Belgium and learning three languages at once — French with formal study a couple times a week and two informally.
* French - (M). Despite being frustrated with her lack of progress, it’s rather amazing how much Emily seems to understand both written and verbally (as long as the speaker is going at a snail’s pace). She also studied diligently for her end of semester exam and placed 2nd in the class with a 94%. However, she could continue to work on her verbal confidence — she has a tendency to default to English when ordering a coffee because she’s afraid the teenage baristas will laugh at her.
* Dutch - (S). Emily can correctly identify about 10 words but can’t pronounce them. She often gets mistaken for being Flemish or Dutch (especially when flying through AMS on KLM) but confuses the heck out of people by not being able to eke out even the simplest of pleasantries.
* Foreign-Service-ease - (E). Emily has adapted quickly to the countless acronyms and jargon-y phrases that one encounters in this lifestyle. She has demonstrated her ability to use “Drexel” as an adverb, verb and noun.
Geography - (M) Meets expectations
* Emily can correctly identify where Belgium is on a map. She has a reasonable sense of where the line divides Flanders and Wallonia and knows better than to inadvertently engage in the language war by speaking the opposite language on either side of it.
* Emily is still learning to orient herself without sunlight. She is also working on not getting lost in cities that weren’t laid out on a grid.
Social Studies - (M) Meets expectations
* Emily had unreasonable expectations for how quickly she’d be able to build a social circle here at post. Given the size of the Tri-Mission and the spread out nature of housing assignments in Brussels, it’s been a bit harder for her to make friends than she anticipated. She was quite lonely for the first few months. Recently, she’s made great strides at making new connections.
* Emily took initiative by starting a Hiking Club in November and has received positive feedback from the community. Emily also worked with the Global Employment Advisor to get networking coffees up and running for other family members interested in professional development.
Character Development - (E) Exceeds Expectations
* Emily has learned that she can do hard things (like going to the grocery store alone for the first time or schedule doctors’ appointments) and her confidence continues to grow.
* Emily has also learned that life in Belgium is all about expectation management — she, like others she has spoken to, didn’t anticipate that Brussels can be a difficult post for the dumbest of reasons. Most days, she’s figured out how to temper her expectations for what’s reasonably doable in the day given burdensome bureaucracy, a less-than-stellar customer service culture, and the mental load of adjusting to life overseas.