Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beautiful Buenos Aires

I knew when I moved to Chile, that I would definitely try to see the country but also explore the rest of the continent. It is not only affordable, it is also relatively easy, logistically speaking. High on the list was Buenos Aires, a city that definitely speaks to the imagination with its world-renowned steak, tango and colonial grandeur.

I will not go as far as to say that I was a ridiculous looking tourist with sunglasses and a big camera, but I wasn’t far off. Actually no, that is kind of what I looked like. We even took the hop on hop off bus, which is always a good introduction to a new place. And I know that Buenos Aires is often dubbed ‘the Paris of the North’ and I see why, but I do not necessarily like comparing things and destinations too much in order to not forget looking at what makes it special. So yes, wide avenues, neo-classical buildings, some art nouveau, indeed very similar to Europe and the history is apparent. At some point, this city must have been the epitome of elegance, and the ultimate exotic destination for wealthy Europeans. But once you add grilled steak, a tango show, love for soccer, and Spanish locals to the mix, Buenos Aires definitely has its own very special, very beautiful personality.

We did visit a tango show. And while buying the tickets online, I was worried it would indeed be a bit of a tourist trap. It was not! Not at all. The show already started with 2 horses, standing on their hind legs, acting out a battle. The stage was definitely set. I think we were the only family present with teenagers but my youngest was already convinced this was a great idea. Horses. On a stage. Then the spectacle followed: seductive dresses, sultry moves.. I am sure you think you get the idea but it was better than what you can imagine, it was impressive and enthralling, compelling. The finale comprised of all dancers and singers holding the Argentine flag, singing ‘No llores por mi Argentina’ while black and white images of Evita were projected on the wall. I had tears in my eyes. Seriously. Tears.

I also loved the liveliness of the city. A colleague advised me to visit the San Telmo market and that was great. Street-markets, stalls, vendors, atmosphere.. they are clearly just an ongoing bunch. We also accidentally walked onto a parade with dancers and a band. A random parade, you got to love it. It just totally confirmed my bias that this might be a people that had a tumultuous past and big revolutions but they still eat, sing and dance.

I have tried to find a dancing school in Santiago that teaches tango, I want to have some lessons now. But most schools advise you to show up as a couple. That rules me out. But the most important thing I learnt in Argentina is that I want to go back. So planning my next visit will be in the back of my mind.

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Food and stuff

I am either really naive or I had a very good upbringing – or both – because I never really stopped to think what I was eating until I had to start paying for it and preparing it myself. Actually, come to think of it, since I came out of a big household, I also never tasted sour milk until I lived alone.

So when I started travelling and living abroad, I was in for a surprise. Firstly, there were the things I had never eaten before. Daunting and exciting at the same time. Spoiler: blue Fanta and seaweed cookies are both equally revolting. But going to a local market and trying fruit is to this day one of my favorite things to do in a new country. Guava in Martinique, dragon fruit in China, different kinds of mango in Tanzania. I realize these things are available in Carrefour Belgium these days but they were not when I lived there. Besides, having a banana in a tropical country without it having been shipped on a boat, is a totally different experience. And I have to admit I never really stopped to consider that there are different types and varieties unknown to me of a product that I knew in only one version. For years, I tried to make real Belgian fries in Africa, but the potatoes are just not the same.

It was only when an engineer friend of my husband came to visit, that I also became aware of labels. He asked us questions such as “does this milk have the same amount of magnesium? are there additives in the yoghurt?” I had no clue. He gave me awareness 101, I started paying a bit of attention. Do you know how much sugar there is in ketchup? Or in tonic for that matter? In Africa, you have the added complication that a product can just stop being imported, or a container doesn’t arrive, and you have to buy what is available so reading labels is not a bad habit. And I started buying my milk and yoghurt fresh from the farm. Still not sure if that was a good decision but I am sure that the opinions about that will change per decade or person you ask.

So when I arrived in Chile, I made rookie mistake number one: I thought I knew things. Ha! It was totally back to the drawing board, getting used to everything again, and I do not just mean I was trying to find my favorite brand of coffee. But it was humbling and that is always good. It was after I accidentally bought honey that was not honey, that I started reading labels again. I of course had to look up some words in Spanish, you do not learn what ‘eneldo’ is in Spanish class. Thank god for scientific names and Latin. I very deliberately stay away from everything that says aspartame for example. (Chileans seem to love sweet.) We have been doing this for 2 months now and I still do not have many favorite products. And if you think that global brands are the same everywhere, guess again, even Coke was different in Tanzania. The girls have started a process of trial and error with school snacks. Notes on where we bought what and how high they rate it, are being made. But discoveries are made too. And that is what it is all about, no?


There is something about the water that other places just do not have. And then I do not care if it is a lake or an ocean, a place at the water just always feels like a room with one wall less. So imagine what an island feels like. (Extra advantage on an island: the humidity is bearable due to the breeze.)

I am not sure how many times I have been to Zanzibar in my life. And throughout the years I made the transition of booking backpacker places that offered a weak excuse for a breakfast to five star hotels, with the stage of decent average places in between.

So when this time around, my brother decided to join me and my family with his family, we decided to go all the way: a full week and five star places and extra excursions. (See pictures below)

Tulia Zanzibar was the revelation of the trip for me. I had never been there. It boasts about having the only pool slides and fastest wifi on the island so because we had kids and teenagers with us, that seemed like a great fit. I was not expecting the food to be excellent, I never really book a property for the food, but my word it was exquisite! Something that guests sometimes complain about in Zanzibar is the tides, and the huge distance between them. Tulia did not only have 2 pools anyway but they cleverly made an extra artificial beach for when the tide is high.

This does mean I had my water-island-beach fix for a while now..


Park Hyatt

Park Hyatt view pool ocean

Prison Island


Six Degrees Restaurant


Stone Town


Lunch at The Rock


Tulia Zanzibar


Spice Tour (the picture shows nutmeg by the way)



Today, I will be dropping my girls at the airport, for their flight to see the family and have Christmas with their father. I have dropped them at Kilimanjaro International Airport more than 20 times in the last years. And even though it is never a particularly joyous occasion for me (I am happy for them of course), I do love airports. I guess since an average visit to the airport means you are going on holiday, I am not alone when I say I love airports.

I find it interesting to just sit there and imagine where all these people are going and where they come from. Everybody has a story, right? And I am always intrigued to hear the story. And usually I leave it up to my imagination but sometimes it happens you end up talking to someone for hours during a layover and some of them do have such an interesting life story. I actually have facebook friends that I met in an airport. I guess sharing a gate created a certain bond 🙂

I have to admit I already did the imagining-thing when I was a kid. I remember sitting in a Quick-restaurant (Belgian version of McDonalds) and trying to imagine everyone’s life story. I would go as far as to imagine what some people’s living room would look like. In an airport, the possibilities are of course limitless. And who doesn’t love a world that is limitless?


Being thankful

Today is Thanksgiving. I am not American so I do not celebrate it. But I have to agree it is a good tradition to be thankful once in a while.

I personally get quite annoyed when people act entitled. When stuff is – or worse: when people are – taken for granted. I mean, marriages break up over this stuff, no? Not trying to be corny, but I find it important to teach my children to stop and think and realize these things occasionally. Maybe it should even be easier for them, when living in 3 continents, to notice positive and little things?

In an effort to motivate them to do so, and to make it a habit, we have a gratitude journal. Every evening, we write together but in our own journal what we are thankful for. And it does become a habit, something you then develop an eye for and think of during the day. After writing, the girls are free to share what they wrote or keep it to themselves. On the same day, I heard the following:

A: “I am grateful for showers and how clean they make me feel when it is dusty”

C: “I am grateful for the tree that holds the swing”

And I am grateful for how wonderful those entries are.




When my children were born – and I assume this is the same for everyone – I slowly but surely tried to teach them how to speak. The first time they then actually used the right word for the right thing, it was followed by applause. My eldest was a stubborn one though, she would say “opa” 15 times when pointing at his chair, but she would refuse to say it when he was actually there (yearning to hear it, I am sure).

Then of course the second one comes along and you are surprised how they develop totally differently. It is as if every child walks through a room full of shelves and chooses from the shelves whatever skill they want to focus on first. Number one made two word sentences at a young age, number two has incredible eye-hand coordination. They also seemed to treat vocabulary differently. Number one associated table cloth with sheet but number two named the table cloth an apple because it was green.

I recall the first time my daughter came home from school and used words she did not learn from me. I remember that exact moment, because I realized she would now be exposed to every single word out there. In the past, she obviously heard words from other people aswell but I was there. Maybe it makes more sense that I remember that moment because my children are raised in a multi-lingual environment. So when the gardener was tending the flowers and gave them water, she repeated after him “maji” and we all beamed with pride. But when she came home from school and said (in an accent more English than the queen, I must add) “water“, it was.. well, weird.

(And don’t get me wrong, it is not as if I think they will pick up bad words from the outside world. They pick those from me. We have a swear jar in our house and all the money in it, comes from me. We could go on an annual holiday with that jar. Although I do my best, I use ‘flipping heck’ and ‘shoot’ and that sort of thing. )

And now we have come to the stage where my kids throw my words back at me. Also a pleasure. (Not) Where I lecture them on something and by God, I have to admit they listened to every word and have actually registered what I said fully because a couple of days or weeks later it is thrown right back at you, and you have to admit they are right and you should practice what you preach. But hey, who am I kidding, I am still beaming with pride when they do that (don’t tell them though).

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The good, the bad and the ugly

I work in a holiday destination, and I am usually the one to read the feedback from guests after their holiday. Luckily, 95% of what I get to read is fantastic, full of praise and tells me guests are over the moon. Great. A perk to the job even.

But you can imagine that the remaining 5% consists of a wide range: from totally legitimate complaints, to a tad naive remarks, sometimes even rude notes, and then all the way to downright ridiculous comments. The totally legitimate complaints I can work with, gladly even, appreciate knowing them. In the category naive, it sometimes seems guests leave their brain at home when they travel. One lady told me she did not brush her teeth for a full week because our packing list did not tell her to bring her toothbrush. Right.. whatever. A rude comment I found in a written questionnaire, saying: “the driver did not smell!”. I immediately wondered if I should be worried that we did not meet her expectations? But it is of course the ridiculous ones that make my job such fun. When I heard “we couldn’t sleep at night, it was quite annoying the animals made sounds all night”, it is very hard to bite my tongue and not reply “oh god, did they forgot to turn the feature off again?”. Or when someone complained there was an animal on the path to the room, I so wished I could say “what do you mean? Do they not put them back in their cages?”

A common one I got very often, was the one where the guest wrote “the Maasai were not very authentic”. Well, it is not as if we got a Chinese rip off in wholesale for her. A colleague and myself even started drawing cartoons based on these comments.


Not only the feedback but also the strange requests inspired us. When we received a parcel of toiletries in the office, addressed to the mobile camp in the Serengeti, clearly the guest thought DHL would deliver it at his tent? Which would probably look something like this..?


Clearly, people’s trust in DHL is limitless because when a Chinese millionaire’s daughter summited Kilimanjaro, she told us “you can take me and my luggage down now” and she was appalled by our suggestion she should walk it down. She insisted. We explained planes and helicopters cannot really land where she was. So she said “you can carry me on the stretcher and you can DHL the luggage down”. The worst part? The porters actually did carry her down on a stretcher. And carried her luggage. (I hope she tipped well.) And I made this.


But my favorite – and it has not been topped yet – is this one: “the beach was very sandy and there were fish in the ocean”. Which I thought was a huge compliment, talking about a great experience, right? But no, I misunderstood, it was a complaint: the beach was TOO sandy and since there were fish, she did not dare to swim in case they touched her.



Home is where the heart is?

People very often ask why I live in Africa and if I will ever go back home.

Firstly, I did not chose Africa. I (we, at that time) wanted to leave and we were prepared to go (almost) anywhere. So it could even have been Costa Rica or Vietnam. Call it destiny, call it coincidence, but it became Tanzania. Many will be surprised to hear this but I hated it at first. Hated it. Talked about going home about every day. But I feel that if you do not live in a country for at least 2 years, you did not really give it a chance. This is not a scientifically proven fact, this is my opinion. So we stayed.

Secondly, Africa does get under your skin. It just does. The wildlife, the endless views, the weather, the sunsets, the hakuna matata-attitude.  How can you not get affected by that? I will not expand too much on the fact that I met the love of my life in Africa, but maybe it helped that I saw the place through his eyes. He (partly) grew up here, spoke fluent Kiswahili, he even spoke of sweet childhood memories, maybe it softened me up? Who knows.

And I admit: the hakuna-matata attitude is a double-edged sword. When you want someone to come and fix your water, and he says he will come Monday at 10.00 and he shows up Tuesday at 15.00, that can be infuriating. But if you can put yourself over that, there is something to be said for less stress. When I am in Europe, I am even stressed in the shower. The water pours so hard over my head, I feel rushed to wash and rinse faster 🙂

But to me, Arusha is sometimes a micro-cosmos, and life is simplified. The community I move around in, is fairly small, so is the industry I work in. There are obviously people you like less, but no point ignoring them so better learn to live with it. Also, you cannot really buy much so shopping is pretty much out of the question. Therefore following fashion is futile (impossible?) and you feel free to wear whatever you feel comfortable in, so liberating. And because there is less shopping, there is also no rivalry in school about the latest and hottest schoolbag or clothes because the Italian girl is wearing what she bought in Rome and the Indian girl wears her Dehli-outfit, and that is a wealth for my children, no limitation.   In terms of food, we only recently got luxury products such as imported cheese and they are so expensive that you think long and hard about when and why you would wish to indulge. Which is not a bad thing may I add. Not having much also makes you resourceful, makes you think. And yes, I like nice things but I do not depend on them, definitely not derive my self-worth from them.

And whether I will go home. Always an option. A very nice option even. But why not go somewhere else (first)? The options are limitless, no? Soon, the added question will become: where do my girls want to go?



It’s a small world after all

When you have been an expat for 16 years, the term globalisation is no longer something you read an article about, it becomes life. But the most amazing example of that just happened to me recently.

At my kid’s international school, they organise an annual international fair where all parents are kindly requested to make a stand which represents their country. Usually the stand has a game and some typical food. The parents are not only willing, they usually go all the way and the festival is very cool as a result. The UK and US stand are always quite big, the Asian ones have fantastic food, Belgium usually pairs up with Holland, and I always lose Celeste in South-Africa in search of her boerewors-fix.. In short: it is an experience.


This year, I found Axelle in China, where a very organised mum was teaching calligraphy. All of a sudden, a small Asian girl, which I deduced was the lady’s daughter, came up to her and asked in perfect Flemish (yep, accent and all) if she could have a soda. Imagine our faces. So I politely asked why her daughter spoke Flemish. The conversation went a little bit like this.

– me “your daughter speaks Flemish?”

– the mother “yes, we lived in Belgium for years”

– “oh really, I am Belgian. And which part of China are you from?”

– “do you know Hubei province?”

– “I do actually, I used to teach in Wuhan”

– “I am from Wuhan! ”

Mind. Blown.




Back to basics

Fancy websites are all well and good.. if you have the time. Turns out I don’t. I will blatantly ignore the fact that I couldn’t figure out the admin side of the theme I had purchased and really couldn’t be bothered anymore after some fruitless attempts. I will also blatantly ignore the fact that I could not read, let alone update, my own website in the office because the content was deemed sexually explicit? So apparently using the word sofiesticated, the wrongly spelled version of sophisticated, makes you sexually explicit? Who knew. I know better ways of being sexually explicit, and I would not throw them on the net, but who am I?

So it is back to simple blogging. Cheap, fast and easy. (Oops, I might be sexually explicit again, I surely hope I am not.) I can’t really predict with what frequency I will be feeling keen to write but that will then be a surprise to both of us. But Africa – and I guess life in general  – does continue to inspire. And I have never been one to shut up 🙂