Clueless Expat Hiccups

No matter how long I live in Belgium, it always seems like I'm a foreigner. I'm sure some of this has to do with a job that takes me out of the country so frequently and the fact most of my friends are other expats. I'm never truly here and I don't have a normal office/social life to teach me the intricacies.

Trash seems to be a funny topic of contention for expats and frequent travelers. I've heard other people have similar, amusing battles with what to do with trash. Last night, I dutifully put out all my trash. Today was slated to be a trash, recycling and organic waste day. We only get paper and glass once a month. Seeing we travel A LOT, that means it can be three months before we happen to be home on a glass or paper day. If you ever come over, I promise we aren't alcoholics or newspaper hoarders; we simply can't get rid of it.

Each time you think you've got a good grasp on things, something always pops up to remind you that you'll never be native. As I was making my coffee, I glanced out the window to see if the trash had been picked up. It hadn't. In hindsight, I should have known something was wrong last night when I put my trash out around 11 pm, and no one else's trash was out. At the time, I chalked it up to people enjoying Gentse Feesten a bit too much.

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Still, it didn't click. Maybe the trash guys were running late? I headed over to my computer and the Google icon was a Belgian flag. Only then did it was a holiday. And not just any holiday. Today is Belgian's Independence Day. It's a big deal with all the fixings of any national day, including outdoor concerts, grilling and fireworks. Being the clueless Belgian, I had absolutely no idea. This would be exactly like not realizing it was July 4th until around noon...after all the morning parades had gone by. It seems impossible but apparently totally doable.

That little hiccup sounds cute but where the real headache lies are both in the trash conundrum and my lack of groceries. I leave on Tuesday, before the next trash day. My apartment will be empty again for 3.5 weeks. I can't leave eggshells, leftovers and lots of old milk cartons here. (We have missed recycling day for about seven weeks.) Yet, Belgium is really strict about illegal trashing. You can't just take it to a public trash can or a dumpster without the risk of a hefty fine. I'm going to have to get creative. So if you see me in running around in the dark of night, dressed like a cat burglar, hauling around a bunch of Hefty bags; I'm not trying to dispose of a body, just trash.

And the groceries....all the stores are closed here on holidays. This even includes most restaurants. I just got home on Tuesday evening and haven't done a real grocery trip because I'm leaving again so soon. It just didn't seem worth stocking up; I simply planned to play it by ear. My current options are eggs or heading out to one of the food trucks set up at the festival.

Belgium: +1. Fitzalan: 0.