From Here to There by Jane Shey; "My Move" to the 17th Century ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Here to There by Jane Shey; "My Move" to the 17th Century

(Our latest correspondence from Annapolitan Jane Shey who also lives in Belgium for part of the year....)

My Move to the 17th Century

After three years, I had to move to a new studio. My old place was literally sold out from underneath me. I came to Belgium with two suitcases but it took almost 4 station wagon loads to move my collection of stuff, thanks to my good friend Emily (though she may be reconsidering our friendship). As I packed, I kept asking myself where did all this stuff come from? But between hauling things back from my trips to the US and the local version of Goodwill, I accumulated all the necessities of modern living.

I have a fully stocked kitchen, rugs from Iran, a few small pieces of furniture and more books than I care to mention. But let me tell you about my new place; it made the pain and aggravation worth it.

I moved into the Great Begijnhof, which is University housing for PhD. students. I had to apply for a place and I must have written some some nice things because I was accepted. Maybe the line about sleeping in a park as Plan B, drew some sympathy. This is like a small walled city about 3 blocks by 4 blocks and in the 1600’s was inhabited by single women who were like Catholic sisters but did not belong to a religious community. Today it is PhD. students, single and married or visiting professors. There are no cars within the walls and it has cobblestone streets and it is very quiet. on....

I live in a room that is three times the size of my old space and I think it was the kitchen for the building. I have a fireplace at either end of the room (sealed now), 12 foot ceilings supported by very large beams, a tile floor and 18 inch thick walls. And I am on the ground floor so one of the doors opens onto a grassy lawn in front of my building. This place is out of central casting from the 17th century and I am in heaven. I can stay for up to three years while I work on my PhD.
With a little creative placement of furniture, I could get a couple more beds and run a bed and breakfast on the side. Well, if any of you are in Belgium, at the very least I can offer you a wonderful meal in a charming student studio and if the group is small enough - a place to stay.

I posted some pictures on the internet. If you use this link, you should be able to see them.

One of my first nights in my new place, I was sitting outside my front door eating dinner. Because we are a UNESCO World Heritage site, we have lots of tourists. They watch me eat dinner and I watch them. One night two older Kurdish women stopped by. They live in Belgium now and we had a limited conversation. Their limited English and my very limited German, which is a little like Dutch, makes it possible. They were eyeing the grape leaves on the vine next to my door. Of course, I said take as many as you like as if I owned the place. And they did. Three nights later, there was a knock on my door, and my new Kurdish friends presented me with a container filled with meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves. Needless to say, I was delighted and I gave them a gift of some of my new potatoes from my guerrilla garden at my last place of residence. I also told them to be sure and take as many grape leaves as they wanted and secretly hoped that next time they will invite me over for dinner.

Summer in Flanders, like the beer, is definitely worth sampling.

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