How Time Flies…
Don't know where to start typing, so I'll just type anything that pops up into my mind … Basically I went to the states to visit my gf Isolde, who's doing her on-the-job training over there.
I hope that this report will give you a good idea of what I did the first 11 days of April 2005 🙂
So where did I go to?
Very simple, I went to Mooresville, NC (North Carolina) in the U.S.A.. Mooresville is only half an hour drive from Charlotte (where the airport is) and is West of Raleigh (the state capitcal).
Just check this map, way more easy 😉
North Carolina : eastcoast style:
Mooresville : halfway between Charlotte and Statesville:
The Bailie Family is the family where Isolde resided while she was with ASF in the States for 1 year. They're a really cool family now that I know them. Chuck&Sal are a lovely couple and great parents. DJ (9) & Chels (15) are great kids! They have a very lovely house and really can be proud of themselves. They're very friendly and accepted me from the moment I arrived! You guys are AWESOME!
Now Izzy is doing her on-the-job training over there, for 3 months. So I scraped the money together to get there (tnx to my sponsor who borrowed me the money, he knows who he is!) and spent 11 days there. The first time I went to the States, so it was all new for me 🙂
The States : Bigger, Better, Stronger … or not?
Well yeah, everything is bigger there. You don't buy a carton of milk (1 liter), but a gallon (4 liter). You don't drive kilometers, but drive miles (1.6 km). You don't have 10 kinds of cornflakes, but 25. You don't have 30 channels on the telly, but over 350. You don't have tiny car, but a huge one with a kick-ass sound system in it (even when you turn off the bass, you can still hear it through the speakers!).
So is this all better? I must say I like it! Loads of choice between loads of stuff.
I also was surprised by the politeness of the people. Always saying “thank you”, giving hugs, etc. Totally not the picture that I had of them before I left. And the cliché that Americans are fat totally is not true. Okay, you have some really fat ones, but it is quite in control. I was rather surprised that still so many of them are not fat, even though their food is very greasy (if you like eat burgers all the time).
Day by day report
On the first of April I set off in Brussels to Atlanta with a 767, I was seated in seat 40E and had the whole row for me, nobody was sitting next to me. That was a good thing since I like to stretch out my legs 🙂
So the plane departed at 11:30 in Brussels and took 9 hours and 30 minutes to cross the more than 7100 km to Atlanta. Slept during the flight and watched The Incredibles too.
After arriving at Atlanta, GA I went through Customs and ran to catch the connecting flight to Charlotte, NC.
But the flight to Charlotte was delayed, so there was no need to hurry (only had 1 hour to get the connection). With more than 1 hour delay the flight finally took off and I arrived at Charlotte.
Went to baggage claims and there she was, in all her glory, izzy! Bramus.very.happy! Sal & Chels' were there too and we started waiting for my bag to drop on the spinning thing (the name of it just slipped — edit: caroussel). After waiting half an hour (and talking to izzy of course) Sal and I went to place a complaint at some office there. Yes, they lost my bag!
After waiting half an hour more, we decided to depart, but also decided to walk down the isle in case I spotted my bag. And yes, I found it. They just misplaced it, plain stupidity!
After getting my bag we drove to Mooresville (where the Bailies reside) where I showered, unpacked, ate a bit and went to sleep after first meeting the whole family in a quickie.
Above that Rogier (a teacher of mine) was there too, to check up on Izzy's end term project.
Swamp : day 0
The next day I woke up and immediately started packing again cos' Rogier (aka “Roger” or just “teacher”), iso and I were gonna go to a swamp for 4 days. We got our rental car (a nifty small red Dodge) and set off to Jamesville, approx 270 miles more south.
We left at 1PM and arrived at around 5 or something PM in Jamesville. We had made reservations for the Roanoke River Partners thing, a sort of swamp (more rivers though) where you can go canoeing.
It’s a huge area, but we only did the bottom left of the map (marked in the green square):
There we rented our canoes but heard that we couldn't leave that night anymore, cos' we would be out too late. We received our peddles, life vest and pooppot (yeah right, like we would ever use that thing 😛 ) and started driving around to find a place to sleep.
After driving a lot and finally asking a few directions in a gas station, we set of to some “state park” as a friendly dude told us. By then it already had started raining very heavy (but really heavy!) and we kept driving to find a nice place to set up the tent. After the rain stopped (it already was dark by then) we set up our tent somewhere in the middle of nowhere and installed ourselves.
We ate big shrimps (*njam*) and rice, all boiled in some pili-pili enriched water. That really was GOOD!
Swamp : day 1
The day after (April 3rd by then) we woke up and yes, the sun was shining! Awesome!
So we drove back to the canoe-thingy (Roberson's Marina is the official name, managed by some female overweight wheelchair-sitting lady … very hilarious, though I feel sorry for her!) and set off canoeing (or however you write that). We got two canoes and were with 3, so we decided to make a baggage-boat which we tied after the boat we were in.
After 15 minutes we ditched that idea, cos' it was just not working. So Rogier jumped in one canoe and izzy and I stayed in the other one. Neither that did work, so we had the ingenious idea to tie the boats together, sideways. That was the bomb and we finally started cruising the swamp.
Ready to roll:
We did that rather at ease and just enjoyed the nature, the silence and the very sunny weather. We saw some wildlife (Otter (Beaver?), Eagle (with fresh fish between his claws!), birds, turtles, etc) and totally were relaxed by the calmness of it all.
At around 4PM (I think) we stopped near an abandoned hunting-shack and calculated a bit … we were going to slow and never would make it to our first platform (you could make a reservation for a platform where you would spend the night) … hell, the huge lady that handled the reservation totally misjudged us: no beginner is possible to make a tour that big in one day!
Map of the originally planned day 1 tour:
Map of the tour we did:
So we checked out the place (some strange cages behind it) and installed ourselves. Set up the tent behind the shack (so that no-one could spot us from the water), moved the canoes on land and slept a bit (canoeing really is tough if you'd ask me).
When it was dark, we booted up the barbecue we found there to make our steak (yes, steak!) and also made a nice salad consisting of cucumber, tomatoes and some lovely spices. Above that we ate cous-cous with that
After chatting a bit more we decided to sleep on the platform too, in the open air (under a roof though).
The Platform (still with the food on it though):
But still, the strangest stuff kept happening. All of the sudden the three of us woke up: a very loud boat with a very strong lamp on it cruised by, very slowly. The light stopped and shined directly at us. Then the light got stronger and after that it got stronger again. It was like it was midday! Unbelievably intense light! So we started thinking: did someone report us missing (since we weren't on the platform where we were supposed to be) and were they searching for us? We just kept still (as in “not moving”) and after a while the boat drove along … probably they were searching for hunters or something like that (the light was so intense it could most likely shine through 2 miles of forest!)
Swamp : day 2
So we got up, ate breakfast and redid the duo-boat thing and set off to the platform we had reserved for usage that day. Rapped my legs into the blanket I took from the plane so they would stay out of the sun, my knees really were severely burnt. Also made some mittens out of a pair of socks, cos' my wrists were burnt too.
We set off and started canoeing again on the big stream. It went rather easy, cos' it all was downstream. But then we had to paddle eastwards to get to our platform and that was upstream … really really heavy! After a long and enjoyable day of canoeing we arrived at the platform and again slept a bit. My biceps was a bit wrecked after all that paddling. :S
The planned tour for that day (very short imo):
The tour we made that day:
The Platform with an improvised sunblockthing:
We decided to leave early the day after (like after sunrise) cos' that would be cool. After thinking it over a bit, we kinda were forced to leave early cos' we had to make a long trip to get back in time (we still had to drive back too!). We were happy that the idea of getting up early came as “an idea” and not as something forced.
At the platform we then ate again (pasta with cheese-fillings, spiced up with loads of oregano) and after watching the stars and chatting some more we slept on the platform, in the open air.
Swamp : day 3
April 5 it was by now. We got up early, ate breakfast, tied the canoes together and set off to finish the tour, as you can see on the map.
We peddled really fast, but still could enjoy the nature. It really was awesome! The small narrow river on the top of the map that you can see was an awesome piece of swamp: trees in the water where we had to peddle under, aside, etc. really kewl, even though it was upstream 🙂
Big strong boys (or not?):
Blocked river, nifty!:
Then we reached the main river and chilled the way down. And at devils gut we went westwards (upstream again) and after paddling a lot (and very fast!) we arrived at the marina again.
We got back in the car and drove off to Mooresville again. Nearly rammed a car near me, but he kinda was in my dead angle so I hadn't see him. But no harm done, he had an awesome reflex as did I. It all went smooth. 🙂
Back at the house
So we got back at 9 PM (first stopped at Wendy's though, the best fast-food around imo, I'm totally hooked to it, even though I only ate it once!). Took a bath (the water was very impure afterwards, washing of 3 days of swamp) and went to sleep after putting all the laundry in the machine first.
Surprise : Charlotte
The 6th Rogier went back to Belgium so we drove back to Charlotte (Sal was driving us). That day Izzy surprised (well, I kinda knew it, but not exactly) with 4 days hotel in Charlotte, so after cruisin' a bit more (and reading the map) we arrived at the hotel.
It was really nice compared to the tiny amount of money spent. We had a bathroom, coffee machine, fridge, microwave and a TV! Really awesome! It wasn't in the centre of Charlotte, but that didn't bother us, it was really nice!
We got some supplies at the nearby gas station and watched some TV (CSI and such) and got some information on Charlotte.
A room with a view:
The 2nd day in the hotel we went (by cab) to South Park Mall, a really fancy-schmancy shopping mall outside of Charlotte. Bought some clothes in American Eagle (trousers and a short-sleeved shirt, totally the things I like!) and wandered around in the complex.
Then got back to the hotel where we popped the bottle of Champagne izzy brought along (she made me a nice basket, filled with stuff I like (pirate-patch, coke, champagne, chocolates, bath-fizzies, etc.) and watched some more TV (4 CSI's in a row, we’re totally hooked to that show!).
The basket izzy made me, unfortunately the handle snapped (sorry Sal, we broke your basket 🙁 )
The day after (the 8th) we went to downtown Charlotte … nothing much to do there as we found out it was more of a business district. Wandered around a bit and ate at McDonald's (nothing else was open anymore, and a Wendy's wasn't found either) and then went back to the hotel as it had started raining.
Back at the Bailies
The 9th we returned to the Bailies' house (Chuck drove us) and spent the day there at the house, talking up with them and shooting some hoops with DJ (love that kid, he really is AWESOME!). Also went shopping (drove the Volvo Convertible 🙂 ) and watched some TV (we kinda missed scrubs that Tuesday, so we watched that).
Teasing DJ a bit:
Shooting hoops with D-Man!:
Birkdale Shopping Town
That Sunday we went to Birkdale's, a small village filled with shops (it was built for that purpose only, very nice imo). Izzy, DJ, Chels' and I were in the Mercedes ML and Chuck&Sal drove the Volvo to get there. There we ate some pizza (after the girls first 'robbed' “white house, black market” (some store with only black&white clothes)) and wandered off to get some shoes for DJ and me. I found what I was looking for: some Nike's and Vans for only 75 dollar (way more cheap than in Belgium), but we didn't find any shoes for DJ though 🙁
Driving the Mercedes:
Chuck and Sal in the Volvo:
DJ and Izzy talking during lunch:
Then we drove back and we (“the kids”) went to Wal-Mart to buy some stuff for my departure. Izzy and I bought 50 Cent's “The Massacre” for DJ (the cleaned out version though, he's only 9) to compensate his unsuccessful shoe hunt and also cos' he likes that.
Shopping at Wal-Mart:
Then arrived back at the Bailies house, shooting some more hoops with DJ and packed my stuff for my departure which was the day after. Izzy and I then went shopping a bit more in Mooresville (the shops are open 'till 9 o'clock, awesome!) cos' we still had to get some stuff we didn't get at Wal-Mart's
Then got back, watched Alfie together with Izzy and finally went to sleep.
The 11th DJ woke me up (I asked him, cos' he always gets up really early when he needs to get to school), said him goodbye and later that morning Sal, Chuck and Izzy drove me to the airport (DJ & Chels' were at school). Kissed and hugged everyone goodbye and took off towards Belgium.
Called the Bailies when I arrived in Atlanta to say everything went well and then got on the long flight to Brussels.
This time I got seated in seat 18E, very good imo cos' I had no-one to worry about when tilting my chair fully backwards 🙂
April 11 … or is it the 12th now?
Arrived at 8:30 AM in Brussels (April 12) and got back home by train. It was hard to adapt back again to the life in Belgium … everything is so busy here; buildings are packed upon each other, people are stressed out, etc. Looks like I quickly got used to the life in the States … so used that I definitely will go back one day!
To summarize it all
I had a great time! Of course with Izzy together (hadn't seen her in a month) but also the States in general, as with the Bailies, one great family.
>> IT WAS AWESOME!
’till next time America!