When I grew up in Belgium, New Year’s Day was more important than Christmas. Yes, we had a live Christmas tree with colorful balls and twinkling lights in the living room, but the presents underneath would be distributed on the first day of the new year. On Christmas Eve, my brother and I would have a quiet dinner at home with my parents. Sometimes, my dear oma would join us. My dad retrieved the “gourmet set” from the cellar and my mom picked up trays of bite-sized, raw meat and vegetables (and not to forget, pancake dough) at the butcher. For hours, we would each cook our own dinner in tiny pans and on top of the “communal” electric grill plate in the middle of the table. This food experience was called “gourmetten”. We all loved it and finished the meal off with mini-crepes. Then, we would play board games until bedtime. Continue reading
“Hi, I’m Mark and these two are Kali, the white one, and Darwin, the gray one.” I looked up from petting the wagging fur balls that had run up to me on my way out to the camper. It is so funny how Americans always introduce themselves immediately, as if names are the most important thing during a conversation. Europeans could talk for hours before exchanging names, as I had realized more than once during my backpacking years. My eyes met those of a tall and skinny short-haired man in the doorway. “Hello. I’m Liesbet. My boyfriend Karl and I are staying with Nick for a week to visit San Francisco. Our camper is parked in front of the house.” “Camper? Why are you living in a camper?” I told him exactly why and shared my lifetime travel goals with the excitement I always feel when elaborating on my passion. Before I realized it, an hour had passed. I excused myself, ran towards our home on wheels, grabbed the CD of my favorite Belgian band dEUS and rushed back to Nick’s place. “Where have you been?” Karl asked. “Talking to a neighbor, the one with the fluffy dogs,” I answered, handing the disc over to Nick, who is an amateur disc jockey, interested in all kinds of music.
The weeks had flown by and my relationship with Mark intensified. He would leave the door to his apartment open while at work, so Karl and I could walk his dogs, together with our dog Caesar. And, I could snuggle with Kali and Darwin as much as I wanted. Today, I am not leaving, however. I am here to stay, to move in. To cuddle Kali and Darwin forever. What will Mark say about all this?
This is an excerpt of the memoir I am working on. Mark and I met in an area of Oakland called Rockridge, in November 2004. He loved living there and I enjoyed it as much, when I tossed my existing life with Karl and Caesar through the camper windows and decided to stay – unbeknownst to Mark. Continue reading