Belgium is a wormhole.
I started to notice that space-time is a bit wrinkly here shortly after I arrived in Brussels. I’d find myself losing time — looking at the clock in the morning and then discovering it was almost 3pm and I had gotten nothing useful done for the day. At first I thought it was just jetlag but the lapses continued well after the 2ish weeks it was supposed to take for my internal chronometer to reset after being flung across 9 timezones.
I grew even more suspicious that something was up when an American friend recently confessed that she too had experienced moments of lost time here. We discussed it for a bit and guessed that maybe it was just a consequence of short, grey winter days. I thought I was satisfied with that answer until I realized the problem had been plaguing me since July.
They say you shouldn’t go looking for zebras when you hear hoofbeats so I started to look for logical explanations. I came up with a few:
Things actually do just take longer here.
Maybe it’s the fact that I speak French at a 3 year old’s level and Dutch even less than that — translating labels in the grocery store or deciphering websites to book a doctor’s appointment certainly does make everyday life-ing just a bit more tedious than it would be back in the States. Or, maybe it’s the terribly inefficient systems that seem to be the norm in this country — where else would one need to go to two different governmental offices on three different visits to secure a work permit? (I’m lucky. If our house was about 150m further east, I would have had to visit two offices situated 30 minutes’ drive or over an hour’s bus ride apart from each other.)
It seemed plausible enough that my lack of productivity was neither entirely in my head nor entirely my fault, but I still couldn’t account for the hours that just seemed to disappear sometime between my morning coffee and lunchtime. No, there were still anomalies that couldn’t be explained away that easily.
It WAS all in my head.
I probably spend too much time consulting the staff at the Google Clinic but I was delighted to pay them a visit the other day and discover that there’s a name for the condition of having an altered perception of time. Tachypsychia describes the feeling of time speeding up or slowing down. It’s often linked to drug use, hypnosis, stress and trauma.
I don’t suppose I have to tell you that drugs are bad, m’kay? And it’s been a while since I’ve been hypnotized (however I would highly recommend it as a post-operative pain management adjunct).
Stress and trauma though? Well, there might be something there…
I did a lot of reading before I came over here on ways to build my resiliency and mitigate the effects of expatriate stress, but I don’t think any amount of research can prepare you for the first time you’ve found yourself completely lost and unable to ask for help as you search for the chicken stock that it turns out doesn’t actually exist in the grocery stores here. (And just wait until you try to find the peanut butter…)
Trauma… yes, there’s probably some of that too. Mostly of the little t variety but sometimes the big T kind. I wasn’t at all surprised when the clocks played tricks on me in the days after I received news that my best friend died. But those lost or altered moments made sense… the others? Not so much.
There was only one reasonable explanation left.
Belgium is a wormhole.
I’ll agree. It is, perhaps, a tad bit unlikely that all 30,528 km² of Belgium is actually an Einstein-Rosen bridge. But in a country where they sell zebra meat in the grocery store, it’s not so wild to think that maybe those hoofbeats…