After my most eventful airport experience ever at PDX, Belgium has been peaceful.  My airport experience started with me declaring my larger-than-3-oz contact solution after TSA had told me explicitly that my peroxide-based solution was a medical fluid and exempt from size restrictions.  Which is true if you use standard preservative-laden solution.  If you have to use the hydrogen peroxide version, a factory-sealed bottle will be opened and test as a hazardous chemical.  You and your luggage will then be thoroughly searched and swabbed for other hazardous substances . . . even if you produce their own e-mail clearly stating it was acceptable.  It appears adequate training is not a strong point at the TSA.

As I leisurely enjoyed my breakfast after this fiasco, a distinct “we’ve located her” into a walkie talkie caught my attention.  Out of curiosity I looked up, and imagine my surprise when I found a large number of TSA agents and Portland Police looking at . . . me.  Really guys – just contact solution!  Turns out it was unrelated; however, I learned that I can be nearly finished with breakfast, accompanied by a large suitcase at my table and still be mistaken for a 5’5″ non-Caucasian restaurant employee who came through security 15 minutes before.Given that our flight was then singled out for TSA K-9 sniffing and random passport checks, I was half convinced TSA was just screwing with me, but all of the ID verifications were men.  Fortunately, the rest of my travels to Paris and on to Brussels were uneventful.So, reporting to work for the first time today, I found this will be my view for the week – not bad!

I’m in the French-speaking part of Belgium, which has felt a lot like being in France.  This included eating at a restaurant serving French food (no complaints on that here!); however, English is largely spoken and English menus (aka “cards” because a “menu” is a fixed price set of options for a 2-3 course meal) are widely available.  I’m forcing myself to order in French to prepare for rural France though.

The most entertaining occurrence today was realizing I can drive a manual still, but, while I could sort out converting the computer menu to English, the car stubbornly refused to go in reverse – you had to use a tricky way of pulling up the stick skirting while putting it into 1st if you actually needed to back up.  I was to the point of just hoping the car would roll backwards out of the spot in neutral!  Also, while an automatic isn’t common and can cost considerably more in a rental here, my car is equipped with built-in GPS, back-up camera and other fancy options, which is such a contrast to the US.  Had my first International driving experience today, which I will wait to comment on as it was fairly short and possibly not representative.