With adoption comes change. For me that meant a new home, a readymade family and a new country. I was adopted in 1989 by Olav and Jean, an American couple in process of moving to Belgium. Shortly after becoming part of the family, I was on a plane across the Atlantic.
When I arrived to my new home, I was awestruck. It was a looming white mansion, with french gutters and shudders on the windows. The yard was large and had an enclosed private Tennis court.
The house was on a block with several other homes, each more extravagant than the last. It was located in a private neighborhood in Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium. This was about 20 miles outside Brussels, where I would attend school.
Saint John’s International School
My brother and I were made to attend an English speaking International school. In fact, I went to all the normal classes for K-2 AND a special class to teach us common French. They offered meals and some of the menu items were: crepes, waffles, and even fries and sauce.
We road a large charter sized bus to school each day. The trip from home to school would be around 30-45 minutes. One memorable moment of my early childhood took place on that bus. My older brother was being picked on and a larger kid took his lunch box. I hit the kid and took my brother’s lunch pale away. I held the boy hostage with the pale as a weapon for a short time, until my brother calmed me down. I wasn’t allowed on the bus for a while after that. I was 5.
New weekend, New country!
The most common theme to my memories of childhood is: Travel. Throughout my early life, I always had something new to look forward to. Some of my greatest memories are catalogued below.
I was about 6 when we visited Paris, France. I remember it being very cold, especially when we made it up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We visited the Arc de Triumph and the Louvre. Also to be noted on that trip, I walked the beaches of Normandy.
Visiting Legoland was by far my favorite theme park destination, ever. We went several times through the years, each time seemed greater than the last. Imagine, an entire theme park made of [or at least made to look like] Legos. It was one of my favorite toys as well.
I especially remember Sweden, but not for the sights and food. Though, the incredible architecture and potent foods are to be noted. No, I remember it because it was the first time I had ever met “Royalty”. Our family was invited to attend a luncheon with the royal family. I bowed super dramatically, and the King laughed. I’ll never forget that.
England was pretty fun. I got to ride the double decker buses and we had some incredible foods from street vendors. When we visited Stonehenge though, it caught my attention. I couldn’t believe that these massive stones were stacked without modern machinery. Science and astronomy had me, young,
I learned to ski on the slopes of the Austrian mountains. The Alps are beautiful and very cold. I remember when I was on the bunny slopes, learning the ins and outs, and had a fright with the children’s lift. I was so undersized, the seat lift didn’t have the counterweight needed and lifted me off the ground. They had to stop the lift and get the ski patrol to pull me down. Good times.
The Travels End
All in all, my travels were incredibly positive experiences, early in life. I feel humbled and grateful for these experiences. I hold them dear. I would go as far to say that my travels helped mold me into the person I am today.
Alas, the grand European experience came to an end in 1992. My father was offered a job in the evangelical association “The Navigators” so we packed up the house, said goodbye to all our friends, and headed back to the airport. Everything I’d associated with family was being left behind. I was nervous and worried that things would never be the same.
Up we went leaving Brussels behind. I knew that in 10 hours, we’d be landing and yet, I had no idea what awaited me in the Garden of the Gods…