I'm flying back to St. Louis tomorrow morning after more relaxation than I've had for months, maybe even years..... I have been getting 9 hours of sleep a night. My days consisted of lingering over breakfast, walking to the store for fresh breads, fruits and meats (vegies are plentiful from the gardens of family and neighbors), lots of coffee, pastries and chocolate throughout the day, going out for lunch or dinner, meeting up with friends and family, going for a walk, reading, cooking a little, remembering past adventures and dreaming of more ..... Quite the life really!!!
Being here also made me realize how different my life is to the life of most people I know here and how hard it would be to re-integrate into Belgian society.... I guess in a way it might be a 'symptom' of how 'americanized' I've become... although not in a consumer-crazy-superficial-throw-away-society-kind-of-way I HOPE.
Maybe it's more a reflection of my life path -which is definitely not mainstream- and less of the geographical / cultural differences between both countries. It's hard to figure out and define. I'm not sure if it really matters that much either. Either way, it would be different and challenging to re-adapt to living in any country after 17 years of living elsewhere.
Here are the things I like about Belgium:
1- Family and friends (that goes without saying really).
2- Lots of people walk or ride their bikes to the local stores -plenty of them still family owned and operated-. Stores still know and serve their clientele more personally than anything I've seen in the US. Distances are also more manageable.
Yesterday was the first day of school and I would say the majority of school kids commute by bike. No yellow school buses and no cars -unless driven by the parents- (kids aren't allowed to drive until age 18!!)
3- The quality of any goods in mainstream stores is much higher than in the US. That goes for food, clothing and any consumer product really. (Unfortunately, the price reflects the quality and with the weak dollar, I'm not getting doing very well here ;-)).
4- Food and everything related to it, including the quality of restaurants and coffee shops (high end as well as low end), the approach to meals (quality over quantity), the great pastries, breads, chocolate and cheeses, coffee drinks,....
Here are the things I like about the USA:
1- The open spaces, vastness, beauty and endless variety of nature. Big parts of the land is undeveloped and protected, the national monuments and parks are stunning (On a little side note, let's keep it that way, protect the environment and all vote accordingly in the coming national elections!!! GO-OBAMA-GO!!!). Population densities are low in so much of the country, there is so much space to truely enjoy nature, the mountains, the desert, the plains, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans........ This is the biggest draw sparking my move out west......
2- Friends (again, goes without saying)
3- General efficiency and convenience of life. Life generally is just easy. No, we don't need drive through banks and pharmacies and 24/7 grocery stores everywhere but it's easily missed when used to it.
4- There is no doubt the role of PT's in the overall health care system is much different in the US than in Belgium. I'm grateful for the professional life I've been able to lead; the hours, the patient population, the relative autonomy once established, the wages,..... I should stop complaining about job related perceived problems (well, at least for a while ;-) ....).
I could go on a rampage against either Europe or the US or I could probably attempt to write an elaborate personal essay about the US versus Europe/Belgium, about political differences, approach to religion, the old and the new world, frameworks of ideology, quality and priorities of life, consumer cultures, variety and acceptance of differences,....
I'm not going to, the reality is I very much enjoy both worlds but will continu to live in the US indefinitely for now. It's not an easy choice, it's a personal choice I have made and continue to make as I move through my life. We'll see what the next decade will bring...........