If It’s Tuesday…The Saga Continues

BrusselsI’ve been writing periodic posts cataloguing my previous three-year secondment to Brussels. Check out the series here. It’s been a while since I’ve posted but the saga of jumping through hoops to work in Europe continues.

At this point, I had been running around town fulfilling the fantasies of bureaucrats.  Over a few days I had:

1) Gotten a medical exam from the only doctor in Washington DC approved by the Belgian government for “official” exams (there are only 7 in the entire US). The odd thing was the doctor seemed like he was old enough to be in medical school around the turn of the century – the LAST century (1900).  I literally was reviewing CPR procedures in my head while he was examining me in case he were to suddenly keel over. It was a close call but both of us escaped from the room upright.

2) Gotten a chest X-ray at a separate medical office to prove I didn’t have anything I was going to spread to the Belgians. A blood sample went to a third lab for analysis. Apparently they don’t want my deadly germs spreading to “the old countries.” Perhaps they remember Columbus.

3) Returned two days later to the doctor to pick up my signed and stamped medical certificate, which I then had to run up to the Belgian Embassy (one of the benefits of working in DC is that just about everything needed is right here). Given that the Embassy was only 3/4 mile from the nearest Metro stop (and the fact that all the taxis were on strike that day), I decided to walk there and back. Naturally it started to rain just as I left and continued until just after I returned….and I hadn’t brought along an umbrella because there wasn’t any rain in the forecast.  Oh well. I was a bit damp but the trek was successful.

4) Running out again to the now defunct Ritz Camera to get two ID photos taken for my passport visa. I’m not particularly photogenic and the photographers seem to capture that deficiency well.

5) Sending all of this along with my CV, copies of my college diplomas, copies of every single page (even the blank ones) of my passport, and a few other pieces of paper to the Brussels office so I can get a work permit. [Of course, I still couldn’t get that until the FBI ran a background check on the fingerprints I had taken a couple of weeks before.]

Once the work permit was issued I had to take that up to the Belgian Embassy again to get my visa. Once I (finally) got to Brussels I had more paperwork to do in order to get a residency card. That excruciating process that had to be repeated every year for my three years there. Anyone who thinks America’s bureaucracy is burdensome needs to live in Europe to appreciate just how easy we have it in the states.

I began to see why some immigrants to my own country choose to take their chances bypassing the official procedures….you could grow old waiting for all the paperwork to be filed. And I’m only going over for a few years. And I was working for the same firm, just changing offices.

But it was worth it.

More to come.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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[Daily Post]

If it’s Tuesday…A Quick Look At Brussels

As my “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Brussels” adventure memory continues to unfold (see here for an explanation), the first step was to get orientated and find housing. That required a trip a month before the actual transfer would take place. Unless you have a place to stay for a while (like, say, two months), you’ll need to take this step.

Others from my company had made short visits prior to my transfer, so there was already an arrangement to stay in a “hotel” used many times before. The place was less of a hotel than a converted old European townhouse with a restaurant on the first floor and single apartments (two room suites) on each of the other two floors. A tiny elevator, when it worked, brought me to the third level where I took up temporary residence for several days. More on this hotel in later posts.

Brussels Office

Then, despite the rather unwelcoming weather (which I would soon find to be the norm), it was off to find the office about a quarter mile down Avenue Louise toward the Bois de la Cambre, a sort of mini-Central Park stretching south away from the “central” part of city. A nine story building with just enough glass to offer a “city view” – check! Desk and chair and spot for my computer – check! A few phone calls and some work not finished on the flight over – check! Now to explore the neighborhood.

Brussels Tram

Good. A tram line runs the length of Avenue Louise, with a junction in front of my new office. That will give me options as I look for a place to live. I also liked the fact that there are many statues and original artwork dressing up the streets. I’ll see a lot more of this in Europe.

Getting off the main avenue I traipse through the gardens of the Abbeye de la Cambre and follow the quiet road past the two ponds of Ixelles and into Flagey, a square and neighborhood featuring a large church.

Church in Flagey

More about Flagey in the future; let’s go back to the ponds. I looked at an apartment, really a garret, in an old house overlooking the pond. The view was beautiful. The ceilings were low. And by low I mean low enough to cause me to involuntarily duck, and low enough to knock out my rental agent when he didn’t duck. Once he regained consciousness, even he admired the lush greenery around the ponds.

Ponds in Ixelles Brussels

From Flagey I would head back across the main road, check out the Chatelain area, and then follow Avenue Louise down to the office. Not bad. This initial exploration was helpful. I got a feel for the area and the limits of how far I wanted to live away from the office. Eventually I would choose a place on the Rue du Magistrat, about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) from the office, which I could walk or hop on the tram. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. There is so much more to do before making the move.

[This is part of a series on living and working in Brussels, but also some hints on how to do it the right way if you’re considering such a big career move. Keep checking back here for more articles, all of which are included in a category called “Tuesday.”]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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