My name is Christina Croad. I’m wife to Richard and mum to Olive and Edie.
In June 2010 we were living in Wellington, New Zealand. After four years at home full-time with my daughters I’d just started to reenter the workforce doing relief teaching for a group of private preschools, and Richard had his own consulting business. One evening Richard took a phone call which led to him uttering the now infamous words, “this will never happen in a million years, but how would you feel about moving to Belgium?” I have to admit that my knowledge of Belgium was somewhat on the sketchy side. I knew about the chocolate and, thanks to spending most of the year I turned fifteen reading the works of Agatha Christie, I knew about the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. So, naturellement, I thought the official language of Belgium was French. With five years of high school French under my belt, moving to a French-speaking country seemed rather attractive so I think my reply to Richard was something along the lines of “why not?”
I soon discovered that Belgium has three distinct regions, each with its own official language and, unfortunately, our destination was not the French-speaking part. Our new home was Vlaanderen or Flanders, the part of Belgium where Flemish is spoken. In early November 2010 we arrived in Antwerp. It was cold. It was grey. It was wet. And I was miserable.
I have always enjoyed writing and from a young age was encouraged by my mother – a great writer – to keep a diary. The subjects I loved at school were those centred around words – writing them, reading them and speaking them. English, Drama, History, Classical Studies, French, even singing in the choir – I guess you could call me a wordsmith.
When people asked me what on earth I was going to do in Belgium I answered with, “I’m going to write a blog!”.
Secretly I harboured fantasies of creating a blog that would become an internet sensation, leading to book and movie deals a la Julie Powell. Realistically I knew it would be a great way to chronicle our experiences as expats in Belgium for all our family and friends back in New Zealand. What I wasn’t prepared for was how therapeutic it would become for me whilst dealing with culture shock and homesickness. Firstly it gave me a sense of purpose. On those awful mornings when I’d left one or both of the girls in tears at the school gate, going home and writing was a great distraction for me. Plus I knew that my “audience” back home was eagerly awaiting news – I had to deliver! In the midst of all the struggles and challenges that engulf you when you move overseas, blogging helped me to focus on all the great experiences we were having alongside all the hard stuff.
Wikipedia tells me that we can attribute that wonderful saying “time heals all wounds” to Chaucer, and I have to say Chaucer had it right. With every passing blog entry, things did start to get easier and we were able to create a great life for our family in Antwerp. (You can read all about our Belgian exploits here.)
After Antwerp we moved to Winchester, a small American town nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It’s here that I began writing onthecRoadagain, as well as volunteering at two elementary schools, writing the Youth Services blog for Handley Regional Library and doing some part-time work at a local preschool. I also began studying for my Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature through Penn State University.
After two and a half years in Winchester we hit the road again. Like many pioneers before us, we took the road out west. Our first stop was the stunning town of Bend in Oregon where we dabbled in homeschooling, hiked, biked, kayaked, paddle boarded, swam…generally played in the outdoors as much as possible.
After five months in Bend it was time to make a decision about a more permanent home. Fortunately Richard’s employers were happy for him to work from home, so we settled on the wonderful green city of Portland, OR.
In Portland I finished my Graduate Diploma in Children’s Literature and returned to the world of full-time work, with a wonderful and unique position as toddler teacher at the White Shield Center. I continued to study, taking online classes in Early Childhood Education through Portland State University. Working, studying and family life unfortunately took their toll on onthecRoadagain and it has lain, neglected, until now. As we prepare to make the move back to New Zealand I want to be sure to capture all of our last adventures here. Once school is out for the summer we are embarking on a six-week road trip and I want to record and share as much of that as I can. I’m also hoping this blog will take on it’s therapeutic role again. I have read numerous accounts of just how difficult the return home can be, so I’m hoping getting back into writing will help me deal with all the emotions that will no doubt come up. Full disclosure – we all have very mixed feelings about coming home. So the cRoad ahead may be a bit bumpy!
I hope you enjoy following along with our final expat experiences…New Zealand…here we come…