I’ve been waiting for T. D. Arkenberg’s book, Trials and Truffles: Expats in Brussels, to be released. When it was, I buzzed through it. My husband and I have vacationed in Belgium. We had a great time sampling the food and visiting history. I also remember the tight spots to park. And the rain. I remember rain—and chocolate.
Arkenberg captures the history and beauty of an important city and country. The historical buildings are majestic, the meals luscious. He took my memory back to places Al and I visited. I checked our album and recalled standing at some of the same historic spots. Arkenberg writes beautiful description and layers in important history.
But Todd and Jim weren’t on a vacation, they were there to live and work. He also describes the nuts-and-bolts moments of day-to-day living in Brussels, such as finding a veterinarian for Sadie their golden retriever, learning to negotiate a parking place, finding a dentist, worrying about medical expenses, finding friends tolerant of celebrating holidays American style.
Guests from home were a treasure, concerns from home about terrorist attacks in Paris—not so much. Language issues became funny. Working through European bureaucracy, again not so much. And then there were worries about winter snows and their home in Arlington Heights.
For me, the heart-in-mouth moments came with the safety and health of Sadie. First the anxiety of Sadie being delivered after the ordeal of being shipped, and then her lethargy in a new home. I recalled my own experience when an airline misplaced my mother’s dog and had no record of her. The experience made worse because we had no way to explain it to the dog.
From my one-week mindset, I envy Todd and Jim’s rich experiences of being able to live in Europe, but their living extended over two years and meant they had to live in Brussels. Transition. Adapt. Plan for the unexpected when not on familiar ground.
I appreciate Todd’s mix of the romantic with the practical. I learned I’m not so brave.