Show Me Your Neighbourhood Around the World – Brussels, Belgium

Today, I am going to take you on a walk around our neighbourhood in Brussels, Belgium, as part of The Piri-Piri Lexicon’s Show Me Your Neighbourhood Around the World series. Annabelle is also a Board-member at Multicultural Kid Blogs. You should click through to visit both sites, they’re really great resources!
Show me your neighbourhood around the world
I truly enjoyed preparing this post. I must admit to wistfully walking around the neighbourhood these past days, looking at things I know I will miss and remembering how much I’ve enjoyed living here. But enough sappiness!
First, for those of you unfamiliar with Brussels, a little bit of back story. Brussels is the Capital City of Belgium, and home to many European and international institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, Nato, etc). It is officially a bilingual (French and Flemish) city and has a very large population of both immigrants and expats. Foreigners sometimes joke about how hard it is to find a Belgian living in Brussels (though this isn’t really true – I know many!).
The city center is quite beautiful and historic, and you can get more info on the touristy part of town here. However we live in a commune (not the hippie kind! Brussels is divided into 19 communes) with more recent architecture, so not necessarily the most typical part of the city.
Now let me show you around!

Show Me Your Neighbourhood Around the World – Brussels, Belgium

1. A Playground

 Playground
This is our neighbourhood playground. It’s right in front of our apartment building, which is very practical when you don’t have a garden! We’re actually lucky enough to live within walking distance of at least 3 different parks/playgrounds. I love how this particular one has a nice mix of green space and play area. It has a great ramp for sledding in the winter, and some great green paths amongst some garden plots.

2. A local mode of transport

 

Despite Brussels being considered the number 1 most congested city in the World according to the annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard,  it actually has a great public transportation system and bicycle lanes keep popping up all over the city. I used to cycle to work everyday, and though some parts are a bit scary with traffic, it really is a fairly cyclable (is that a word?) city.

Transport
In our neighbourhood you see trams, buses and bicycles all the time, but lots of cars too. There are city bicycle share spots as well. We live within walking distance of about 4! Unfortunately, no metro in our neck of the woods!

3. A typical house/building

 

We live in a fairly recent neighbourhood, with some construction still going on, so you won’t find any stunning art-nouveau. There is a certain sameness to the construction, with mostly 3 different types: big 50′s and 60′s style apartment buildings, which can mostly be described as eyesores, some smaller mid-century houses and more recent developments from the 2000′s.

Buildings

 

4 – A street nearby

 

We’re lucky to live in a really calm child-friendly neighbourhood. As you can see in this picture, there are signs put up around the neighbourhood warning drivers about people playing in the streets :) You can also see our mail-person’s delivery bike propped against a lamp-post!

Show Me Your Neighbourhood Around the World - Brussels, Belgium

5- A school, nursery or other education facility

 

Pre-school
This pre-school/elementary school was so hard to photograph! First, it’s dark in the morning when I took them. I didn’t want to get people in the pictures, so I waited a bit after drop-off. Second, It’s very low and protected from onlookers. It is surrounded by shrubbery and trees, and it’s hard to get a good look inside at the playgrounds and gardens. The smaller kids (preschool – 21/5 to 4) have a closed off area to themselves and the 5 to 8′s have a bigger area to roam. There are not enough schools in Brussels, so there has been some very controversial addition of pre-fabricated buildings to existing schools already busting at the seams.

 

6 – A market, supermarket or other shopping outlet

 

Supermarkets&Market
Small supermarkets and neighbourhood markets are generally the norm here, but we actually live close to 2 quite big supermarkets, the Belgian chain Delhaize, which is my favourite and stocks quite a lot of organic and fair trade products. it’s currently undergoing renovations, so I’ve had to shop elsewhere or at the big Carrefour hypermarket, which sends my senses into overload! We also have 2 neighbourhood markets, but they are not as nice as many throughout the city.

7 – Other local and typical stuff

 

I just had to mention our neighbourhood collective compost! Among the little plots, there is an eco-garden and collective compost bins where anyone in the neighbourhood can take their organic waste. this is great for those of us who don’t have a garden or much space for a kitchen compost bin. Plus, you get a share in the compost once it matures! Perfect for balcony gardening!
Neighbourhood Compost
And I wanted to share what our mail vans look like. I always find it interesting how they vary from country to country!
   MailVan
I wanted to add a picture of the commune’s pool, but alas didn’t get a good picture. Every commune here has a public pool, open to everyone for a small fee (around €1,50) and to public schools for swimming classes, which are part of the curriculum from preschool!
So that’s our neighbourhood!
Don’t forget to check out the other neighbourhoods around the world in this series at The Piri-Piri Lexicon. Thanks Annabelle for this great idea!
Show me your neighbourhood around the world

Our Petits Choux at Les Petits Filous Photo Studio – Review and Special Offer

Today I have another review and SPECIAL OFFER for BXL Sprout readers (just scroll down to the bottom to go directly to the to the special offer)!

As promised, I would like to introduce you to the eye-catching Les Petits Filous photo studio in Brussels!

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

The pictures speak for themselves

I’m gonna be honest here – the story behind this whole photo shoot review is actually embarrassingly long. Almost a year ago (!) I was contacted by them to do a giveaway post about their studio. I don’t usually post about products or services I haven’t tried myself and the email came at a busy time, so I was only really able to have a good look at their website about a month later. However, soon as I saw their photo gallery, I totally fell in love with the pictures and (almost unabashedly) asked if we could do a review of a photo shoot instead :)- sorry guys! But did I mention there’s a great promotion at the end of this post? Anyhow, we booked a session early in the year but, lo and behold it was the winter of all illnesses and there was cancelling and rescheduling until we finally had the shoot in June, right before they moved to their new studio… Enter summer, and here we are now! Can I just say how great they were with all of this? Really, all delays were entirely my fault…

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

My favourite picture of the Sprouts together

Les Petits Filous is run by Louise and Guillaume, both professional photographers with a background in portraiture and fashion photography, which really shows in their clean style and striking pictures. Louise hails from Jersey and usually photographs the English speakers while Guillaume, being French, normally works with the French speakers. A truly great idea to make the kids feel more at ease!

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

Yay for different backgrounds and bubbles!

This was actually the first time we were photographed professionally with kids. I was a bit worried of what to expect and how the kids would react to being front and center with a big camera pointed at them, particularly Sprout 1 who can be quite shy (read “hard to work with”) around strangers – not that you’d guess from the pictures!!! He ended up totally stealing the show, and even, um, trying to interrupt his brother’s portions to get back in… But Louise and Guillaume handled that quite brilliantly as well, redirecting Sprout 1′s attention, and capturing Sprout 2′s attention with bubbles (what kid doesn’t love bubbles?) and squeaky toys.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

The jumping pic is one of Sprout 1′s favourites. Sprout 2 couldn’t quite jump yet ;)

It was amazing to see Louise do her stuff. We had spoken to Sprout 1 about going to meet a photographer who was going to take our pictures, but Louise and Guillaume really did make it fun… to the point where, during our bedtime ritual of “what was your favourite part of the day today?” Sprout 1′s answer was going to the photographer, despite having gone to a party in a park in the afternoon, with animals and games! I would say that’s just about the best compliment ever from a 4-year-old :)

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

More brotherly love

I really can’t stress enough how professional and great they were with the kids. You could really tell they loved their job and were good at it too. Louise started by asking us some questions on the sofa in their studio, just getting to know us like a friend might, and then off we went to the actual “photo studio” part of the room. She began with sprout 1, explaining to him that the big light was like a sun giving us light for the pictures and even letting him peek through her camera’s viewfinder.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

I can not replicate this sweet face at home…

Lousie would gently prompt him to give her his best smile, or jump as high as he could and I was in awe with how cooperative he was. I mean, this kid almost always gives me a cheesy smile for the camera or some other contorted face, and this is assuming he stays still long enough for me to get more than just a blur! Luckily, movement is not only ok, but encouraged, along with props, as per the information pack we received pre-session.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

Super Sprout! You’d be right to guess these are his favourites

One of Sprout 1′s favourite features was the background wall, which is a sort of ramp so he was able to literally climb the walls in true superhero style! Louise snapped away and halfway through the session, Guillaume took the memory card she was using and started prepping the secure online photo gallery which essentially means you can begin viewing and choosing your photos immediately after the session in their viewing area. It was very close to lunchtime for us, so we opted to do this online at home.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

Melted mama heart…

Within a week the digital files (you get 5 edited pictures with the basic package) were ready for pick up on a flash drive containing the pictures in both high-resolution for professional printing and low resolution for internet sharing. It is possible to get more photos and professionally printed and framed fine art prints directly through Les Petits Filous as well. The usb flash drive itself was like receiving a little present! It was so beautifully packaged, which really sums up the whole experience.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

hmm, I wonder what’s in here?

Bottom line… I would most definitely recommend Les Petits Filous for their stunning portraits. I think the full price is well worth it and there were so many wonderful pictures to choose from, we actually ended up purchasing quite a few more!

If you would like to try for yourself, Louise and Guillaume are offering BXL Sprout readers a limited time offer! Just quote BXLSPROUT when booking and get your shoot for €100 instead of €150 until October 31!!

For an idea of prices:

  • Photo shoot + private viewing gallery+ 5 digital photos = €150
  • Add 10 photos – €150
  • Add 20 photos – €225

They do kids, families, maternity and newborn photography, and will also travel to meet you for an extra fee. So go over to their gallery and check out their blog to get a feel for their work and book a session. Don’t forget to mention BXLSPROUT!

To keep up with promotions and their work, you can also follow along on their Facebook page.

Les Petits Filous Children's Photo Studio Brussels

Enjoy!!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary photo shoot for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was given, and I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I feel especially good about.

Bear & Dragon Photography – Review and Special Offer

If you’re a regular reader here, you may remember a post from July where I whet your appetite with some gorgeous pictures the lovely Nicole from Bear & Dragon Photography took of our family.

In said post, I promised a more in-depth review of the photo-shoot in the beginning of September, with an offer for YOU as well (you can find your special offer near the bottom of this post). So, please play along with me as we pretend it’s still the beginning of September…

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

A walk in the park with Bear & Dragon Photography

Nicole had already been on my radar due to her lovely blog Life of Bear & Dragon, and through some contacts I had with her through the BCT. I thought the photos on her blog were so stunning, I even approached her at one point before she officially opened her Photography studio to ask if she was a photographer.

Of course, I was so very excited when Nicole contacted me a few months back offering us a photography session for review on the blog :)

We chose an outdoor session, which with our lovely Belgian weather can be a bit of a challenge. I actually think rainy pictures can be gorgeous, but with an almost toddling baby and a very active preschooler, I thought it would be a little too hard for this mama to manage at the time. First, the never ending winter, then – totally unrelated to weather – Sprout 2 got a humongous bruise on his cheek, front and center! It ended up taking us a while to get the right match of weather, free calendars and un-bruised faces, but we did it! And the resulting pictures did turn out gorgeous!

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

See, no btuises and a lovely smile to boot!

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

Father and son moment.

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

Love the light :)

The whole process, unlike the weather in Brussels, was really quite straightforward. We set a flexible date, time and place and confirmed everything was a go on the morning of the photo shoot. She also gives some tips on what to expect on her website.

When we got to Parc de Woluwe, Nicole was there waiting for us at the ready. We chatted a bit, getting everyone to feel comfortable, and then we took some more traditional family shots first.

After that, we were basically set free to do our thing, with Nicole tagging along, standing back a bit. Apart from the occasional guidance to the best light and some suggested shots, it was quite easy to forget she was there – a definite plus for the camera-shy!

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

Nicole even humored Sprout 1 by wearing one of his play silk “capes”. And yes, my photography pales in comparison!

The whole session was in English. Nicole was really very friendly, and despite Sprout 2 being in an incredibly, out-of-character grumpy mood that morning, you would never guess by the photos! Both Sprouts were really at ease, a definite plus when you’re talking child photography. If you’ve ever even attempted to take a picture of a child, I think you know what I mean!

After the session is over, it takes about a week to get your pictures. Again, very straightforward process with Nicole sending a link to a secure online viewing gallery with her preselected, unedited pics for you to choose. Once you pick your photos, she does her editing magic to give them a more polished look and you get to pick up a lovely flash drive with your precious moments.

Digital images are ALWAYS included in the price of the photo session, and you get boyh low resolution files for internet sharing and high resolution files if you want to get them professionally printed, but you can also order professional quality prints of your favourites through Bear & Dragon.

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

How cute is this little flash drive with our photos?

Bottom line… I would definitely recommend using Bear & Dragon Photography. And luckily for BXL Sprout readers, Nicole is offering a 20% discount for those mentioning the Brussels Spouts until October 15! That means you can get a 1 hour Photo session, plus 10 digital pictures for just €100 instead of €125!! Bear & Dragon offers longer photo shoots as well, so just browse through the Bear & Dragon gallery for a feel of her other work (she does maternity & newborn, studio, weddings, family, lifestyle, etc.), pick which kind of shoot you would like and contact Nicole to book your session.

bear-and-dragon-studio-1-of-1-7

Studio session

Bear & Dragon family and child photography Brussels

Bear & Dragon Studio

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary photo shoot for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was given, and I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I feel especially good about.

From Trilingual to Bilingual?

These past three weeks since we first got news of the possibility of our Big Move, I’ve had languages on my mind. While we’re very excited to be moving to the US (side note to say thanks to everyone for the lovely comments and emails :) ), I’m more than a little sad my sons will most likely lose their French. Well, Sprout 1 will most likely lose his French, Sprout 2 hasn’t really acquired much other than au revoir!

From Trilingual to Bilingual?

Our linguistic situation will most definitely change. At the moment, Sprout 1′s strongest language is English, Portuguese is second, but very close to English (albeit with an American accent) and French is the weakest, despite having excellent pronunciation (how weird is that?). We currently live in a country with three official languages (Flemish, French and German), but are surrounded mostly by either French speakers or foreigners (including English speakers, native or not). We will be moving to a country which speaks predominantly English, which means his strongest “home language” will be THE dominant language, and I’m trying to figure out what we can do in order for it not to take over entirely. On the bright side, he was very happy to learn he was moving to a country in which HIS language is spoken.

From Trilingual to Bilingual?

Being bilingual English/Portuguese myself, my first thought was to simply switch over to speaking Portuguese with the Sprouts, since they will be getting English from just about everywhere else. But Sprout 1 doesn’t like it when I speak Portuguese with him, and quite frankly, it doesn’t feel natural to me either. I’ve read many times about studies (study? sorry, can’t remember which or how many, but if you’d like extra info, I’d be happy to look it up) demonstrating that language is more than just a means of communication; it is also a way of showing love and can be very confusing to a child if you switch on them. I also recall reading in Raising Multilingual Children, by Tracy Tokuhama-Espinosa, how she switched languages on her son half-way through his second year and how that confused him and delayed his language development overall. After some discussion with Papa Sprout, we decided it might be best for me to keep speaking English to them directly, but use Portuguese as our family language when we’re all together, like at dinner and such. I’m really hoping this will work out and that I won’t forget to switch gears myself.

As for French… Is it destined to die? Will Sprout 1 ever even recall having known it to begin with? I know so many children of immigrants who have returned to their parents’ home country (in this case Portugal) when very young and who have completely forgotten having ever known the language of the country they were born in. True, for the most part, their parents didn’t actively stimulate the lost language, but still. French does not come naturally to either the Papa Sprout or myself, and wanting to develop good Portuguese language skills in our Sprouts, how are we to help them with French? It’s most likely they won’t even have it at school, given the importance of learning Spanish as a second language in the USA.

From Trilingual to Bilingual?

And Sprout 2? He will never have even had the opportunity to learn French (cue Mama guilt on not giving my children equal opportunities – but can you ever?). I’m mourning this lost opportunity.

For now, I’m collecting audio-books and DVD’s in French to take back with us. We are also taking French books, but that isn’t much of a help on its own since Sprout 1 insists we translate them to our respective languages when we read.

What do you think? I’m I giving this too much thought? Does it even matter if French gets lost, or do you have any ideas on how to keep it alive?

This post is part of  the monthly Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, along with a lot of other great posts full of tips, tricks, trials and successes in the great adventure that is raising multilingual children.  This month’s carnival is hosted by www.perogiesandgyoza.com. You can check out the rest of the carnival on Monday 26 August. For more information, go here:

raising multilingual children blogging carnival

Big changes coming up!

We’ve been back from our holidays in Portugal for about a week now, and we are oh so busy. There are big, big changes for us on the horizon and my head is still spinning a bit from it all!

3br Duplex Apartment for Sale Evere

That’s right! We’re moving!

While we were away a great opportunity presented itself and, to make a short story shorter, we are moving! Across the Atlantic! To Washington, DC! In a little over 3 months!

I’m panicking slightly as the reality of it sets in. Our apartment is officially on the market, we have a ton of things to sell, give away or ship. No housing arrangement in the States yet. No school for Sprout 1 yet (and if you’ve been following, you might remember how stressful that has been for us already here, here, and here). And you might also remember how we weren’t planning on leaving Brussels AT ALL, and actually complained about everyone else leaving here. Ahem.

A lot to think about regarding this here little blog too… Obviously once I leave the country, the focus won’t be so much on Brussels. But I have a ton I still want to share until that day comes.

Now that we’re moving back to the States, will I still be an expat? A repatriate (despite not having lived there since I was 12)? How about my kids? Goes to show, we really don’t fit in pigeonholes, do we?

With so many things to sell, I decided to put up a second blog for selling, giving things away. You can find it here – brusselsmovingsale.wordpress.comFirst up is our apartment. We really have to sell it soon, since we’d like to wrap things up here before the new fiscal year starts, so until end of December. Please have a look, share, etc. I won’t be bothering you on here with this stuff, but if you’re in Brussels, or about to move here, feel free to subscribe to the other blog so you can catch yourself some great deals. I’ll be adding to it slowly at first, with the apartment being the very first thing! Lots of pictures, do check it out and pass it along. Thanks!

 

A Walk in the Park with Bear and Dragon Photography

For ages now I’ve been wanting to get professional family photos taken. Ok, maybe not ages – more like 4 years. But still, it feels like ages, especially since my research into child photographers in Brussels turned up mostly fake poses and cheesy pictures. In an unexpected turn of events, I recently came across two great professional family and child photographers in Brussels and was invited for complimentary photo sessions with both for review. Of course I said YES!!! I’ll be doing a more in-depth review of both in September because, let’s face it, we’ve all checked out (at least mentally) for the summer by now – or is that just me?

Brussels Maternity, Baby, Child, and Family Photographer

A walk in the park with Bear & Dragon Photography

But, until the full reviews are ready (keep your eyes peeled in September; there will be some perks for BXL Sprouts readers!), today I want to introduce you to Nicole Gustafsson of Bear & Dragon Photography.

My family had the pleasure of meeting up with her in Woluwe Park last weekend for a laid-back photo shoot on what was a gorgeous, sunny morning.

Nicole managed to capture some great shots despite a grumpy, sleepy toddler and the slippery wet grass from early morning dew. Here’s a sneak peek at some of our beautiful pictures.

Brussels Maternity, Baby, Child, and Family Photographer

Grumpy? Who said I was grumpy?

If you’d like to have an outdoor photo shoot, I would highly recommend making the most of this gorgeous weather and getting in touch with Nicole for a summer shoot.

Brussels Maternity, Baby, Child, and Family Photographer

Capturing memories

If you’d like to  see more of Nicole’s work and find some of her picks of activities for little ones in Brussels (she’s the mama of a toddler herself) you really should check out her blog – Life of Bear and Dragon – and of course, her website.

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary photo shoot for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was given, and I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I feel especially good about.

Professional family and child photographers in Brussels

 

Giveaway! Luke’s Beach Day yoga book for kids

Giveaway! Luke’s Beach Day yoga book for kids

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book
Happy 4th of July!
I’m very excited about the giveaway I have for you today! It is one of a series of yoga-inspired books for kids aged 3-8, written by Giselle Shardlow of Kids Yoga Stories, and it comes just in time for the beach :)

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

When you can’t enjoy the book at the beach, the park is a close second!

I practice yoga myself (at least I do when I have the time, so can you still call it a practice?) and can personally attest to the wonders it works on connecting body to mind, keeping both fit and peaceful. I’ve tried to include Sprout 1 in my (sporadic) practice, but found it sometimes hard to transition from upward facing dog to downward facing dog with a preschooler on my back!!

I knew he liked it though, and I’ve been on the lookout for good resources, so I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review Giselle’s most recent book, Luke’s Beach Day. And I’m happy to say I was not disappointed, and neither was Sprout 1!

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

Triangle pose!

Luke’s Beach Day is, as you may have guessed, the story of a little Australian boy named Luke who goes on a field trip with his friends to the Beach. The book is available in both English and Spanish. The story itself has a very strong, but not preachy, environmental focus and stands well on it’s own as a picture book.

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

Shark pose!

However, the great thing about this book is how Giselle seamlessly weaves yoga right in as Luke and his friends do poses related to the storyline. The book is quite engaging and Sprout1 was excited to do the poses alongside Luke. The main character being a boy just makes it more appealing to me as the mom of two boys. Too often you see only girls depicted in yoga products for children – it’s quite refreshing to see a boy as the main character of a yoga book . But if a girl yogi is what you’re after, check out the other Kids Yoga Stories books as well.

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

Great demonstrations and sequences at the back. I want this one Mom!

In addition to the little call-outs with the yoga poses throughout the story, you will find an entire list of poses at the end, along with an explanation on the proper way to sequence them and how to best introduce them to your child(ren).

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

Ah… Resting Pose

There is an excellent guide to the book at the end explaining ways to use this book with children. This can be especially useful if you are a newbie yourself, but is also useful if you practice yoga yourself but are unsure how to introduce it to children.

Giveaway! Luke's Beach Day yoga book

All in all, Luke’s Beach Day is a wonderful way to introduce children to not only yoga, but to the Australian beach and caring for the environment as well. The story is just the right size for my 4yo, and the call-outs with little drawings if the yoga poses are perfect for attracting children’s attention to them. I was very pleased to find the sequencing of the yoga poses was well laid out and the tips for parents and teachers at the end of the book is a wonderful resource, whether you are using this book at home or in a class setting. This is definitely a book I would recommend!

And you could WIN IT!!

Giveaway! Luke’s Beach Day yoga book for kids

To enter the contest, please sign in using your Facebook account or email, and click on the different ways to enter. This giveaway is open worldwide!Luke’s Beach Day will be sent to the randomly chosen winner directly by the publisher.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway! Luke’s Beach Day yoga book for kids

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Luke’s Beach Day for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was given, and I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I feel especially good about,

Adios Google Reader

Adios Google Reader!

Adios Google Reader!

Since I know many BxlSprout readers subscribe to the blog via Google Reader, I just wanted to give you a quick shout-out that Google Reader is retiring and will no longer be available after July 1st. That’s Monday!! So if you you read this blog in your google reader, you will either have to subscribe via email (you can find the little box on the right hand sidebar) or you’ll have to find a new reader, such as Feedly or Bloglovin’. It’s quite easy to do, all you need is a click and all the blogs you’ve been following with google reader will pass to your new reader! If you use Flipboard on your tablet, you can also add your blog feeds by logging in to your google account in the app. Just remember, you have to do it by Monday, or it will be adios to your blog feeds along with Google Reader!

And for those who don’t subscribe but would like to, you can find BxlSprout here on Feedly and here on Bloglovin’.

Enjoy!

 

Planes, trains, automobiles… and language?

Summer break is upon us, and so starts the booking tickets, packing, traveling, visiting family… For us, this usually means a trip back to Portugal to visit with family and hopefully (crossing fingers the weather will be nice) a little beach and a lot of general outdoors time too.

Travel and Multilingualism Carnival @ bxlsprout.com

in Minho, Portugal

It also means the dominant language for my trilingual boys (can I refer to my 1yo as trilingual yet? He does understand au revoir…) will change greatly. Sprout 1, now 4yo, is pretty comfortable in his use of Portuguese, but like I’ve said before, he has quite the American accent… His strongest language continues to be English, which can be very useful when traveling to other countries, since it’s such a widely spoken language and he can communicate just about anywhere. When going to Portugal, however, things are a bit different.

You see in Portugal he is expected to speak like a child with the same age, who has been living there their entire life, would. This is definitely NOT the case. He has great vocabulary, good grammar (for his age) and feels quite at ease speaking, but he has THE ACCENT. I’m fine with that, but most people tease and make jokes about it and, even though there’s generally no harm intended, he’s getting to that age where these things affect him and make him self-conscious. Different, if you wish.

I’m reading a book at the moment – Growing up with three languages – in which the author refers to how multilinguals are many times judged unfairly in comparison to monolinguals and how it’s not only unreasonable, but also highly unlikely to achieve equal performance in three (or even 2 or more) languages. This rang so true to me.

Having grown up bilingual English-Portuguese myself, and especially because of having lived in in both the US and Portugal at different developmental and educational stages, I am well aware of how true that is. I still feel more comfortable in one language or the other depending on topic, as well as with whom I’m speaking. I also notice a difference in competence between written and spoken use of my native languages. I never expected any different from my children.

Yet, it pains me to see how people poke fun at his quirky accent. I guess it doesn’t help that there is a long-standing “tradition” of teasing immigrants and referring to them as “come ons” and “avecs”. This stems from the huge wage of immigration towards the end of Portugal’s fascist regime to English- and French-speaking countries. Many of these (mostly illiterate and unschooled)  immigrants returned to Portugal with an altered lingo and it was common for their children to not even speak Portuguese.

So, what will we do? Well, we take visiting Portugal as an excellent opportunity for the Sprouts to have more contact with Portuguese language and culture. It’s definitely great for them and Sprout 1 always comes back with a richer vocabulary and better sense of grammar. As for the teasers? If we know them well enough, we’ll definitely tell them when Sprout 1 is out of earshot, but for the most part we’re more likely to just shrug it off and not make a big deal of it. We certainly don’t want to make Sprout 1 feel like we think this is a big deal. As long as it’s low-key, we’ll just try to gloss over it. And if we notice it’s affecting him? I guess we’ll just have a chat with him and figure things out from there.

I’m wondering if this is a challenge others face as well. I would love to hear how you handle it!

This post is part of  the monthly Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, along with a lot of other great posts full of tips, tricks, trials and successes in the great adventure that is raising multilingual children.  This month’s carnival is hosted by alldonemonkey.com and the topic is “Multilingualism and Travel”. You can check out the rest of the carnival on Monday 24 April. For more information, go here:

raising multilingual children blogging carnival

The One Left behind

The one left behind

Completely unrelated bluebells in bloom at Bois de Halle outside Brussels

I’ve been thoughtful lately on what it means to live in Belgium. I generally like the country. I’m quite happy to raise my children here. We live in a nice neighbourhood, with mostly friendly neighbours and lots of green spaces. Unlike most coming from Southern European countries, I am not entirely unhappy about the lack of sunshine (to be honest, the strong sun in Portugal constantly gave me migraines) and think complaining about the weather is more of a pro-form thing. Although the extra long winter we had this year? Yuck. But it was like that elsewhere, too.

I do believe it’s important to learn the local language(s), to mingle with the “locals”, to step outside the ‘expat bubble’. However, I must admit it’s generally easier to make friends within that bubble, whether it be for work-related reasons as it was before I decided to take time off from work to raise my sons, or for other circumstantial reasons as it is now that I’m ‘home’ full-time.

You see, the thing with being a ‘stay-at-home mom’ in Belgium is that it’s mostly an expat/immigrant thing. I don’t know statistics, but I would guess the vast majority of mothers in Belgium return to work after their meagre maternity leave, just now up from the 15 weeks I was entitled to when I stopped working. And dads? Well, they only get the 10 days, and not even fully paid. I won’t go into the social aspects of this, as many countries have this same problem and those coming from the United States know it can be much worse. The point I’m trying to make here is how hard it can be to integrate Belgian society when most of them are at work while I am with the kids. I cross paths with some when doing the school run, but again, most of those who are available at drop-off and pick-up times are not Belgian.

And so I find myself living in the expat bubble, despite casually socialising with Belgians as well. What happens when you live in the bubble though, especially if you’re here for a period longer than 3 years, is that you find people coming and going from your life. You make friends. Close friends. And then you must say your goodbyes. It’s great, meeting all these different people with such vastly different backgrounds, and heck, it’s never been easier keeping up with everybody as it is with today’s technology, but it’s simply not the same. Some friendships you need to develop over time, sharing the same place in time. I believe it’s our human nature.

After being in Belgium for nearly 7 years now, I’ve seen many people come and go. I’m on the introverted side. It’s not that I’m incredibly shy or anything, it’s just that I need time and space even when making friends, which makes this whole accelerated process of constantly meeting people, getting to know them, sharing with them and having to let go of them extremely painful for me, and quite frankly exhausting. So yeah, I guess I can understand where Belgians are coming from when they may seem a bit reserved towards us expats. It’s not easy being the one left behind

This post was originally written for the Fans of Flanders website, where you can find me and many other great contributing bloggers. Go check them out!