Antwerp Dreaming

Following is an excerpt from an email I wrote to a friend in Seattle back on July 7th.

It is an overcast, on-and-off raining kind of day in Antwerp. My upstairs neighbor and I are going to have a coffee (tea for me) at the cafe across the street in a few minutes. Such a luxury to me! I’m enjoying the contrast in city living from our country mouse existence at home. There isn’t even a nice cafe in town, let alone across the street! At home, we don’t see anyone for days, unless we seek them out. Here, the sight and sound of humans are all around every minute. I think I like both ways of living, and notice that the experience of one deepens the appreciation of the other for me.

At the moment, a group of school kids are trooping by in two neat lines behind their teacher, their giggles and squeals echoing up and down the square and in through the open windows of the apartment. Cars are swishing past on the wet pavement. Occasionally, and unseen pair of high heels lightly clip-clop-clip-clops down on the sidewalk below the windows, a feminine sounding gait. I wonder if she’s pretty, or what she might be wearing, but instead of checking to see I let her go past and remain a mystery. There are no shortage of opportunities for people-watching here, so I don’t have to be greedy.

Last night, Conal and I had dinner at a lovely Greek restaurant a couple of blocks away. The waiter was charming and chatted with us about America and his first love, who was from New York. There is a huge variety of experience here with people in service positions, everything from haughty to spacey-uncomprehending to absolute charm and graciousness. Our gentlemanly waiter last night certainly fell into the last category. We decided we’d like to go back there, since the food was also excellent. They were out of their vegetarian mousaka, a great reason to go back.

I like remembering life in Antwerp, which is beginning to take on the flavor of a dream. Here is a picture of Oever Street, with our apartment balcony just visible to the left of Jacob Jordaens. Jespers, the little grocery in the white building, and just beyond it the cafe with the red awning, are on the right:

Oever Street looking south

It’s crazy quiet here at Murray Creek. The deers are cute and all, and I have my beloved Conal with me of course, but I guess I’m kind of missing the random company of strangers.


  1. Peter:

    Oct 25, 2008, Antwerp, Belgium. It is an overcast, on-and-off raining kind of day in Antwerp and I just found this post, realizing we were virtually Antwerp neighbors back in July!

    Oever is near the basketball/antiques/etc square, next to the entry to the pedestrian tunnel under the river. I had been passing by your apartment (just two doors away from that lovely erotic sweets store on the corner) almost daily just a couple of months ago, and I still do.

    If I’d known, I’d sure have rang your doorbell.

    Before I forget: I’ve never known how you both ended up in Antwerp last summer, but I’m sure that one day you’ll let me know.

    All the best,
    Peter, Antwerp

  2. Peter:

    Update: I knew Conal was working for Nazooka (headquartered in both CA and Antwerp), but I never knew why they physically wanted you both to come over.

    I know it may be kind of personal, but I’m just curious ;-)

  3. Holly:

    Hey Peter, I am now wishing I had reached out to you sooner, while we were still in Antwerp. I would have enjoyed a visit. We’d love to come back, perhaps as soon as next year, and when we do I’ll certainly drop you a note.

    We enjoyed the Sweet Seksie store at the corner. The owner, Kathy (I’m afraid I don’t know if that is the correct spelling of her name), is a friend of our landlord. She was delightfully friendly and kind to us, as were all the neighbors and shop owners we met.

    We adored our neighborhood, with the lovely trees outside our windows, our balcony, the grocery and cafe, and so much to do and see close by. Conal walked south to work each morning. Pretty much every day, I walked all over the place, usually starting to the north along the Hoogstraat. Perhaps we crossed paths without realizing it. :)

    As to the purpose of our visit, Anygma (a subsidiary of Nazooka) is developing software based on Conal’s research, and they were very interested in hiring him for the project. He’s pretty much *the* guy on the planet for what they were working on, and it’s not easy stuff, so his participation meant a lot to them. However, we were not prepared to move permanently, so we decided to come to Antwerp for the summer and then see what evolved.

    The development team is located only in the Antwerp headquarters, not LA. Conal’s physical presence allowed him to work with the team far more easily than would have been possible remotely. Our home in California is served only by satellite internet. We cannot use Skype or video conferencing here because of latency issues, making it very hard to effectively lead a team nine time zones away. Even without the technical challenges, there just isn’t enough overlap in the business day for the kind of interaction needed. Face time was important at that initial stage of development, so off we went.

    I can’t speak highly enough of Nazooka’s CEO, Rudy. He was somebody we met and had an instant rapport with, both Conal and me. More than our employer, he was host, friend, confidant, and kindred soul. If for nothing else, I’m grateful to have met him and know such a lovely guy shares the planet with me. Perhaps you’ll cross paths with him, too, one day, if you haven’t already.

    Anyway, I hope that answers your curiosity a bit, Peter! Thanks for asking. :D

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