Just over three weeks ago we touched down at Dulles airport in Washington DC. It was dark and late and we were all pretty shattered. After a very long wait at immigration our shiny new visas got the once over and as Non Resident Aliens – gotta love that label- we  took our first steps towards our new life. Richard’s steps were actually more of a sprint as he had to get to the rental car company before it closed it’s doors. Let’s just say it was one of those made it by the skin of his teeth situations. We all piled into the behemoth vehicle that was to be our car for the next wee while – I was already having nightmares at the thought of having to drive something so enormous, let alone on the wrong side of the road. We hit the road to Winchester and by midnight were browsing the frozen food aisles at Martin’s (our new supermarket) in search of pizza. And so our first meal in our new home was eaten out of a cardboard box whilst we were surrounded by cardboard boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Three weeks later there are still unopened boxes but we are slowly starting to make our new house feel like home. And we have been very warmly welcomed wherever we’ve gone. Towards the end of our first day we met our neighbors who as luck would have it, have a seven year old daughter who had heard all about the two girls coming to live next door and was very excited to meet them. Olive started school at John Kerr Elementary on our second day. She was so excited that she was prepared to get on the school bus by herself but I of course was having none of that. We took her to the bus stop – metres from our house – so she could meet the driver and see what happened, then we drove her up to school. There she received a rapturous welcome from the principal and all the office staff, “Oh Miss Olive, we’ve been waiting and waiting for you to come. How y’all doing?” You need to imagine the southern accent that accompanied this – it’s very warm and inviting. I accompanied Olive to her class and met her teacher, she was swamped by all the children – only 15 of them – and she barely batted an eyelid when I said I was leaving. She rode the yellow bus home that day, absolutely thrilled by everything that had happened. Edie started Apple Valley Montessori the following week. (Cultural note – apples are very important to Winchester and lots of things have apple in the title.) We were also very warmly welcomed there. So much so that they rang a few days before Edie started and asked if she could please come down and be included in the class photo that was being taken – “she’s part of our class and we must have her in the photo”.

I’ve also been very warmly welcomed to the neighborhood. Our neighbor, whose daughter is now BFF’s with Olive and Edie, had me over for coffee and yesterday took me out for coffee with two other women from our street. Two other women from the street around the corner knocked at the front door one afternoon with wine from Australia and chocolates from Belgium. The real estate agent who helped us find our home hosted a party to welcome several new families to the neighborhood and we got to meet new and longtime residents of Winchester. And we have been Boo’d – read on – the boo story gives a good insight into the spirit of our new neighborhood.

Around eight o’clock one night the doorbell rang. Surprised to hear it ring in the evening, I opened the door to find nobody there. Looking down I saw…

Mmmmmm – this looks very interesting.

I got the girls out of bed and together we investigated the contents of the mysterious pumpkin bag.

First we found this letter explaining everything we needed to know about being boo’d. Basically under the cover of darkness you need to leave a treat for one of your neighbors on their doorstep – the goal being to get everyone in the neighborhood boo’d by Halloween.

The most important part of the task was putting the phantom in our window so subsequent booers would know that we’d already had a visit.

Ok everybody. We’ve been boo’d!

The it was time to explore the contents of the pumpkin bag.

Check out our loot. Halloween decorations, Martha Stewart Halloween crafts, stickers and of course candy!

The next day after school the girls and I roamed the aisles at Target collecting goodies to pass on to one of our neighbors. Fortunately their BFF next door hadn’t been hit by the phantom so it was an easy choice as to which house to pick.

I could write pages about the preparations for Halloween that we are observing. the displays and decorations in some of the front yards are amazing. I’m hoping to get out with my camera to capture them before Halloween is over – the definite down side of being in a car as opposed to being on my bike – less photo opportunities!

I’m going to stop there as I’ve been very aware that it’s taken me so long to start writing about our experiences here and I wanted to get something up tonight. So much has happened in three weeks that I could go on writing all night. Just know that we are all doing okay – the girls in fact are thriving. Richard is super busy – he’s in Belgium this week – but very much enjoying his work. As for me I find myself often humming or singing the lines from that wonderful song by Mr Gordon Sumner or as we all know and love him, Sting. “I’m an alien. I’m a legal alien. I’m an Englishman in New York”. Okay so I’m not an Englishman and I’m not, unfortunately (!) in New York but I do relate to the sentiment. I do feel very alien and it’s tempting to try and make myself try and be like everyone else. Then I remember the other lines in the song “be yourself no matter what they say”. And that is where I will leave you…doing my very best to be myself!

Love hugs and kisses to you all. Especially to my new nephew Alfie. We miss you all terribly xxx

10 Replies to “Welcome”

  1. How nice of the school to include Edie in the school picture! Give her a big hug from me and all the best for y’all 😉

  2. Great to see this blog underway honey – And for all who are reading – I’m incredibly proud of how everyone in our wee family has handled this significant upheaval.

  3. Dear Christina,

    How happy did I feel when I saw the e-mail saying that you had posted here. I have been thinking so much about you guys and hoping that things had finally settled. I am glad to read that has happened and that you have finally been able to start your new adventure in the U.S.A. I am not surprised on how well Olive started her new school year. I miss her so much! Oh, boy… our students become somehow like our own children. My eyes are watery, so proud of her. Please let her know and tell her that I look forward to hear of her experience there. I am also very happy that Edie was invited to be present in her class photo. I can imagine her wonderful smile in it 😀 Wow… you have been truly blessed with such a nice welcoming atmosphere in your neighbourhood. It seems the “Halloween Phantom” knows how much you love to do Arts & Crafts ,-) Wait and see Thanksgiving and Christmas. 🙂

    Well, my greetings to the girls and all the best for the four of you. By the way, it is nice to hear that Richard is around in Belgium. I hope that, if he has the chance, he can pass by school. Oh, tomorrow is our last day before the autumn half-term break, so I think that might be a bit difficult for him. Okay… tot ziens!!!

    1. Hi Mrs Olga. So nice to hear from you and very glad that you are following our adventures. Olive says a big hello 🙂 We miss Da Vinci a lot but I’m able to keep in touch by reading the newsletters on the website! This time of the year is certainly a good one for art and craft work. The Christmas displays in many of the stores are something else – I know we will be under lots of pressure from two little girls to have our front garden decked out in all manner of lights and Christmas characters!

  4. You are indeed on the cRoad again Chirs. What a marvellous welcome to the South where manners and hospitality certainly come to the fore. Really enjoyed this blog and reminder again sometime in the future these blogs would make a great book.
    Love Mum

  5. Hi C’roadies I must say I am very happy to see this blog up and running. We at Da Vinci have been looking forward to hearing from the girls. What a wonderful start it has been for you all. Hope you enjoy life there as much as you have enjoyed your life in Antwerp. Sounds like the neighbourhood are giving you a great start already. What a great idea that ‘BOO’ your neighbours stuff. Maybe something to introduce in my neighbourhood too. Give a hug to the girls and no matter what just be who you are and stay who you are, because that’s who we love and miss here in Belgium! Big kiss from Miss Cynthia.

  6. Hi Christina,

    Thinking a lot of you guys with hurricane Sandy. I hope you don’t get affected. Sandy’s eye is expected to pass just over where my brother lives in New Jersey tonight at about 8pm EST = 1am in Belgium. Keep safe!

    Mrs Olga

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