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USA meets Europe!
July 10-16, 2003
A report on Carli's visit to Frank and his family.
 
In 2000 I got introduced on the Africancichlids E-groups (now Yahoogroups) list by George. I must admit that this was quite an experience for me. I had to improve my English very fast and learn all popular acronyms to be able to keep up with all conversations that were going on there. On that list I also met Carli who was a very active member. She almost seemed to be online 24/7 and helped me with all of my language problems. I also spent many hours online, and soon we started exploring the chat options of that list. We spent quite some time on IRC, and became friends that talked about our hobby and family on a very regular basis. After all Carli and I both have young kid(s) . As I already met George & his family last year in Greece, and I also had George, Francesco & family as guests on the 2001 ABCV cichlid show and Carli coudn't be present on both occasions, we decided we finally had to meet too! After discussing all options for quite a while we agreed that Carli would come to Belgium for a week, more specifically from July 10 till July 16, so she could be introduced in our Belgian way of life and also to have a look at the cichlidkeeping hobby. Here are the highlights of what we all did and experienced with also Carli's comments in between.

 

1. The arrival

Early in the morning on the 10th of July I drove to the Brussels airport to finally meet Carli and bring her to my home to spend a short, but nice family holiday. Due to the smooth traffic I was there well in advance, so I observed all the people coming out of the central exit gate for more than half an hour to be sure not to miss her. The waiting seemed to last forever, but hey, there she finally was! Carli was all messed up by the lack of sleep due to an exhausting trip, but all in all she arrived in good shape. A quick smoke and a firm welcome hug were enough to get her going again! 45 minutes were needed to get to Beerse where my wife Hilde and the kids awaited us to give Carli a warm welcome. After a quick refreshment and the unpacking of the nice presents, it was time to meet our little country! We took our guest to one of the 6 baker's shops and also to one of the 5 butcher's shops in our village and brought some delicious pastry and cakes and meat along for supper. The time seemed to fly (that was the predominant feeling during all of the 6 days) and after the food and some wine Carli got overtaken by extreme tiredness. Travelling for more that 19 hours, layovers included, skip some time zones and having no sleep for more than 30 hours wears you out, and there was no exception to this rule for her! Time to sleep early to get in shape for the coming days!


A nice set of long drink glasses that we got from Carli as a present.

Carli: 
After flying for most of a day’s time, I finally landed, exhausted, in Belgium.   Or, rather, my plane finally flung itself roughly onto the runway of the airport in what was either a suicide attempt or a true, yet misguided, effort to land.  Regardless, the landing did manage to wake me up a bit!  Once my life stopped flashing before my eyes, I was ready to meet dear friends with whom I had conversed for years but never seen in person, as well as Belgium herself!
My first impression of Belgium was that she is much like home…very green and rather rural…simply beautiful!  My first impression of Frank was that he is very tall. I mean, very, very tall!!  I was so tired and overwhelmed with excitement at the initial meeting that I was unsure how to act and simply allowed myself to be led to the car and taken to Frank’s home in Beerse to meet his lovely wife Hilde and wonderful children, Matthias and Catho.  In the midst of the excitement, I managed to take a bath, and be taken on a trip to explore a baker and a butcher’s shop.  Both of which was a very new experience for me, as I am used to large grocery store chains, not lovely little specialty shops! I knew within hours that I could live in Belgium and be a very happy girl!

 

2. The Cichlid shops

We are both African cichlid enthusiasts, so leaving out a visit to the best cichlid shops in my neighbourhood would be a real sin! I had three reference shops in mind, all within reasonable driving dista.

The first one was the Aqua Blue Zaire shop in Beveren, Belgium. Frank Jansen, the owner of this retail and wholesale shop welcomed us and showed his latest acquisitions. He imports all kinds of wildcaught cichlids from both Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika. It happens frequently that there are rare species in the shipments he receives. We took our time to explore all the tanks and among the more *usual* species were some beautiful Altolamprologus calvus chaitika "white" that Carli seemed to like very much. Frank also had some very neat Sturisoma aureum, which appealed me very much! It didn't take very long for me to decide, especially when I saw the price tag! 4 of them were bagged and paid and soon after they were taken back to Beerse.


Carli behind the broken down Aqua Blue Zaire advertizing board.


Carli admires the numerous African cichlids.

Continued in next page

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