April 25, 2022

How I've got my driver's license at 42

If you know me a bit, you know I always wanted to drive. When I've turned 18 years old, I must admit, I did not have that dream, but it creeped on me little by little over the years. 

First, it was never a need to have a car and subsequently a driver's license, because we always lived in big cities where we had public transport or taxies. Granted, I did spent a lot of time in public transport, but I always found something to do, it was my time to read a book, listen to my favorite show, people watch, embroider... it was a time I will miss while driving.

Still, we came here almost ten years ago, and I've always complained about the trains from Arlon to Luxembourg and how unreliable they were and when things started to get a bit better (they introduced the online tickets and the automatic machines at the train station), I've got my driver's license.

At this age, it is not so much as a need, but a dare: can I still do it? The answer is YES! Here is how I've done it.

It was a process. As you may or may not know, when I first arrived to this area I have never taken a class in French, I've never spoken French. I somehow had a B1 level in French because I speak Romanian and understand French quite well, but speaking was a different story. I did two summer schools in French when we arrived, but I've mainly learned how to spell words and construct phrases. Then I did the master's at and had to write and present and discuss in French. It was challenging at first, but it helped me to get a voice and get the courage to speak. Then I started working with French speaking people, and asked to speak in French as much as possible. And that is the level I'm in it now. But learning for a driver's license is a different kind of French. I can't tell you how frustrated I was when I went for the theory classes and knew the answer, but was unable to formulate it...

So theory classes. In Belgium they are not mandatory unless you fail the theory test twice. I was so sure that my level of language was not the right one I never even searched the Internet to see how you get a license in Belgium. I knew the system in Romania and in Ireland, in fact I almost passed the exam in Romania and I had a temporary driver's license in Ireland, but did not bother with the Belgian one.

I've started researching driving licenses in Belgium in October and found out there are two ways of doing it. Similar to Romania, enrolling in a driving school with an instructor or "manière libre" you pass the theory test and get a paper from the commune that you will drive in your own car with a designated full license driver, 1000 hours, the Irish way. I've enrolled in the theory classes (100 euros) because I knew I will never drive or learn to drive with my husband and because I thought it is the Romanian way, you do theory classes, then you do practice hours with an instructor. Only after the week of theory classes, I found out that in fact they were not mandatory. But it got me in the mood to learn the theory and found a very nice instructor (Elise from ProConduite). 

I've scheduled the theory test and started learning. I don't know exactly what I've learned, but failed the test the first time. In Belgium you have 50 multiple choice questions and to pass you need to answer to 41 of them. There are questions of 1 point and there are 3 questions of three points per test. During the test if it calculates at any point that you will fail it, it stops. So for my first attempt I got to question 20 and it stopped. I must have gotten two of the three points questions wrong or I don't know. Frustrated and only after 10 minutes of testing I went out. My husband did not even have the time to arrive back at the house and he came back to pick me up. In Arlon the testing center is in the meddle of nowhere, with no busses or any public transport, in zone artisanale de Weyler.

26th of January 2022

For the second time I went online and bought a subscription to I've learned with pen and paper, because I'm old school. My method was to write all the wrong answers on paper and explain to myself why I've answered incorrectly. The second time came in a very bad time, Ilinca was home because the creche had close at the cause of covid, so my husband had to stay with her in the car to wait for me. I was sure I will fail it again, but I didn't. When I've passed the 20th question I took it as a small victory and kept answering to see how far I will get this time. I don't know when I've reached the 50th question and knew I got it. I came out of the testing center and screamed so loud. To me passing the test in French was a victory in its own.

Then I've enrolled in a driving school. I was lucky to do the hours during my lunch break, the instructor was so patient and calm and it really showed that she wanted me to get the license. She found out what I kept doing wrong and pressed me to get it right, I still don't keep my hands on the wheel on the right places, though :) To give you an example, during the exam you are required to get to the motorway in between the two  Arlon exists. So you enter the motorway on one and exit on the other, the direction is chosen by the examinator. My instructor put on the schedule a day when I had two classes, so four hours, so we could drive to Bastogne, to change the scenery and learn better to drive in an unfamiliar location, but also to drive on the motorway. Was she required to do that? Don't think so. She was just doing her job the best. 

On the day of the test, I had a class with my instructor in the morning and then the test at 3 p.m.. In the morning it was terrible, I could not turn the car, I could not park in an empty parking, I drove to close to the edge of the street. I went home, cried my head out and thought of rescheduling. But my husband said that except for the time, I had nothing to loose and on top I will see how it's done and get experience for next time.

The exam. I was a nervous wreck, but when I got to the wheel I've somehow calmed down. Then the examinator came and asked me how I've arranged my seat, what I see on the mirrors and how to turn the lights on. I have to say at this point I did the school on an automatic car, because that is what we own, so even though I drove on it for two months, I did not know how to turn the lights on. Not signaling left-right, the lights. The examinator helped me on this one and then we started driving. In Belgium during the test you have your instructor on your right and the examinator on the back seat. You have to drive for 45 minutes and in this time you will have to make two maneuvers (parking or turning or driving backwards). From the beginning the examinator tells you what are your maneuvers, I had a créneau and driving backwards for 45 meters. A créneau is an S parking or lateral parking, it is the most encountered parking in this area, not only in Arlon, but also in Luxembourg and in France. Anywhere you have to park on the street chances are you will do a créneau. 

During the classes I did hundreds of créneaus but never got it the right way for my instructor, but as she said, during the exam you can get a B (bon) good or an AM (ameliore) to improve. If at the maneuvers you get a B and an AM, you pass. Safe to say, I don't know how, I got a B in both of my maneuvers. My only mistake was at the very end, when we had returned to the testing center and I had to enter the parking, I did not give the right of passage to someone coming from my right. I had a couple of cars behind me, I saw the construction machinery coming, but it was driving very slow. So in a split second, I've decided to go in front of it, but I don't feel I put anyone in danger. When I finally parked the car, my instructor's face was white. But the examinator said that she saw me looking in the mirrors, seeing the cars behind me, seeing that the construction machinery was a slow driving one, he did not even had to hit the brakes to let me pass and decided to give me my license. 

30th of March 2022

I can't describe my joy, I can't even get my mind around it now. It was luck. In a similar situation, almost 15 years ago, in Romania, an examinator asked for bribe. That is why I waited until I was 42 years old to get my driver's license, in French. 

To me this in an incredible fact, I feel I should be congratulated and have my own allegoric cart in the St. Patrick's Parade, but my friends either thought I already got it, or did not think it was such a big deal...but it is. During my first attempt at the theory test, I had a panic attack in the middle of it and had to answer a few questions without breath and with my jaw clenched thinking I would collapse at any minute. On my first practice class I wanted to stop the car and just run screaming. On my last class I felt so ashamed I wanted to dig a whole in the ground and just stay there. My instructor will say (because she said it) that from the first class I was her best student, I always thought I did not get it and will never do. The traumas that I've suffered in the Romanian primary school system are still there with me and will be there with me forever no mater how may hours of therapy I do and how many coping mechanisms I learn. 

But the liberating feeling I can only enjoy by myself. Advices? I have none. Just go, just do it. Age is just .... well you know better than I do.

See you on the road!

April 21, 2022

France - A day with Little Prince

 A few disclaimers so you better understand this post.

I was one of the weird kids in my cercle who liked Little Prince. When I grew up the vinyl player was the thing to own and we had one and we also had a record with Little Prince in Romanian and let me tell you it was boooooring, compared to other records with stories, of course. That was until I could read and I've read the book. From that moment on the Little Prince became my friend and my favorite book. To put it in context, I was a Momo by Michael Ende and a Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien kind of girl. 

Fast forward a few years when cable became popular in Romania and Cartoon Network had Disney movies on and when I must have been 12 or 13 years old when I've heard the news that Disneyland had opened in Paris. I wanted to go so badly, but it was never a priority and even if the communist times have ended for a few years at that point, visiting feely Europe was not something that common people of Romania would do. 

Fast forward to 10 years ago when I came to this region and Europe opened up for me. I've lived in Ireland prior to that and if you ever lived on an island before, you know traveling can be, at times, expensive, even with Ryanair and all. Also, my priorities have changed a bit and Disneyland in Paris was not on top of things I wanted to visit in Europe. But, as I've said, we moved to this area and I finally got to go to Disneyland. Let's just say that visiting it at 30 can be a bit disappointing and even if I've cried meeting Minnie, it was the little girl inside me crying, as I was already tired of queuing for some 5 minute attraction and of expensive merchandise. 

Also with Europe opened I got to go out of Strasbourg, I've visited a few times before, and into Alsace and discovered the Little Prince Parc. I knew I wanted to go, but I've felt that Ecomusee d'Alsace, just around the corner was more appropriate to my age and my interests at that time.


The actual post starts here; thank you if you made it this far!

I don't know if we went to the Little Prince Park for Ilinca, my daughter, or for me, but I know we both had a great time. Yes it is the version of what I imagine a 90's adventure park would look like, but we all had fun and we found a lot of things to do with a 2 years old toddler.

We left Luna at a sitter, if you go on the Park's webpage you will find a recommendation for a dog sitter. It was 11 euros for a day and Luna was happy. Although I don't see why they would not allow dogs inside, I can understand that dogs can sometime not like children and noise and the hassle ... although if they live with said children ... anyway. 

To me, the main attraction is the "hot air" balloon which is very close to the entrance or the exit. It is suited for younger children, and my daughter liked it, but know that if the wind is blowing the balloon will not fly. On the day we visited it stopped at around 12 a.m..

On the website you will find the attractions appropriate for each age, we did all of them for Ilinca and some for older kids. She liked the Boa Snake most and we could not get her to visit other things after she found it.

She also liked the Aerousel and went twice and liked the playground with Leapfrog.

We went on the little train and did the labyrinth and she liked the Citadelle playground and the airplane. We had ice-cream and looked at the people splashing while on the South Atlantic watercoaster and we ate a burger, we fed and petted the sheep and the goats and all in all we spent the whole day at the parc.


I did not like the place where there was the Fox. She looked so strange in that roundabout where kids were screamed at her or him, I felt so sad. I find keeping wild animals in parks pointless and inhumane.

I would have liked that there were more options for healthier food. The chicken burger I had, I hope had seen a chicken in its life. It was good and I (we) had no problems after. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people feeding Ilinca only bio, eco, coco, pupu food, but would have appreciated the diversity.

There were people who probably lived in the area and knew the system, but we did not get to any of the attritions such as Methamorphosis, The Volcano or Southern Mail because we were always one minute late or it was full or I don't know what. I've felt like at Disneyland when I did not quite mastered the fast pass system yet. 

Also, if you go on a sunny day, wear a hat and an SPF50 cream. Sadly they don't sell cream at the shop and as it was raining for a couple of days before we went I left it at the hotel. Stupid, I know. Also, buy water and have it with you. Yes there are places from where to buy water, but whenever we needed one it was never around.

Compared to other attraction parks in this area, this parc needs a bit of updating, maybe imagine other attractions, maybe ... I don't know. I've liked it because I knew the book, we all liked it in a different way, but we were all left with that feeling that is is not an amusement parc, but just a big playground. And maybe it is best this way. I don't know. You have to visit it and make up your own mind. 

As usual I'm more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

April 9, 2022

Timp de cusut


nu am revenit pe blog, aș vrea foarte tare să revin, dar știți și voi expresia cu zugravul are casa nezugrăvită, cizmarul nu are pingele...tot așa și jurnalistul și social media specialistul nu are blogul la zi. Lucrez, intens aș putea spune, la lansarea unui site în engleza, dar îmi voi păstra și acest blog din motive sentimentale. Veți afla tot la momentul potrivit de pe facebook, poate voi și posta ceva aici cu link-uri și tot ce trebuie.

Acum însă am revenit pentru o scurta (sper eu) postare despre timpul de cusut sau în general despre timpul pe care îl petreceți pentru voi, pentru hobby-urile voastre, pentru plăcerile voastre... Mi-a venit ideea în minte când am postat recent ceva pe o rețea socială și cineva mi-a scris - ”de unde îți faci timp?„ și cum sunt de treabă am zis să împărtășesc și cu voi rețeta.

Nu, nu am inventat vreo mașinărie și ziua mea are 32 de ore, ba chiar cu Ilinca mica, ziua mea nici măcar 24 de ore nu mai are, dar este important pentru mine să îmi fac timpul meu, ca altfel încep să învinuiesc copilu ca nu mai am timp și dăm în altele mai nasoale.

Din capul locului precizez că eu nu sunt fan al expresiei „nu am timp” ci mai degrabă al ”nu știu să îmi fac timp” sau daca vreodată mi-ai zis ”nu am timp să ne vedem” eu am înțeles ”nu am chef să ne vedem, deci să îmi fac timp”. Nu a mai fost cazul de ceva vreme să îmi spună cineva așa, cu atât mai mult cu cât pandemie plus expat life egal foarte puțin timp de calitate petrecut fizic cu prietenii, însă fiți pe pace și mie mi s-a livrat cândva placa asta.

Așadar de unde îmi fac timp? Pai am ascultat-o pe Stela Moldovanu care a zis la un moment dat ca ea se trezește cu o ora mai devreme decât ceilalți membrii ai familiei și coase. Îmi iese și nu prea, dar câteodată îmi iese. Nu îmi pun ceas sau altceva, uneori mă trezesc înaintea tuturor, mă apuc de treabă pentru job, termin pe la un 12-13, îmi iau ceva de mâncat pe tastatura (da, știu e nasol) și apuc o jumătate de ora ba uneori chiar și o oră de cusut. O oră egal 60 a minute egal 60 de fire cusute. Deja e regal!

Apoi, asta chiar îmi iese bine de tot, Laura prietena mea din Luxemburg, cu câteva cămăși superbe la activ, m-a sfătuit să cos și când prind 10 minute libere. Și mi-am amintit că așa am procedat și la Cămașa Matisse, de am cusut pe autobuz, pe tren, în vreo pauza și am terminat-o în aproximativ 5 luni. Însă am învățat să nu mă mai car cu toate bucățile cămășii după mine, pentru că la Matisse am pierdut spatele, a fost cu tragedii și frici, dar am scos-o la capăt. Eu cos cu mătase Dor din shop-ul Semne Cusute. Am cumpărat jumătăți de scul, deci mărimea firului meu e o jumătate de scul. Firul ăla, am cronometrat, eu îl cos în 10 minute. Așadar, daca îmi găsesc 10 minute, reușesc să cos un fir de mătase. În funcție de model asta înseamnă un modul cusut. Așa se avansează mai greluț și nu ai satisfacția pe care o ai când vezi o oră cusută, dar, per total, merge mai repede. 

Acum să vă arat și ce cos? Cos o cămașă pe care am văzut-o la Galateca în 2015 cred, o cămașă Cucuteni. Așa îi zicea în expoziție, așa îi zic și eu, însă nu e cămașa Cucuteni atât de populară pe Semne Cusute, cu planșă și de toate. Am început la finalul lui ianuarie, când a apărut în shop pânza de in - DeplIN. E o pânză pentru cămășile arhaice, cu destule fire cât să văd eu bine să cos pe ea fără ochelari (12x12 fire pe centimetru) și cel mai important cu număr de fire egale și cât de cât regulate. Adică firele nu sunt ca la inul inegal sau inia cu bucăți mari pe unele fire. E o pânza cu care mă împac destul de bine, mi se pare nițel mai frumușică decât Inia pe care am cusut cămașa mea cu chirușcă. Dacă nu ați înțeles nimic, probabil nu coaseți cămăși românești, dar nu e chiar nici o tragedie.

Cum spuneam, am început-o la sfârșitul lui ianuarie și aș vrea să o port de 24 iunie. Cu cât cos la ea, mi se pare termenul din ce în ce mai nerealist, dar ca luni, ca timp pare că sunt pe muchie. Am terminat o mânecă în două luni, ar mai fi cam trei luni până pe un 20 iunie cât să îmi las timp să o închei. Dacă nu o fi 24 iunie și o fi mai încolo, nu vreau să o fușeresc doar să prind termenul, la urma urmei nu mă fugărește nimeni. 

Cam asta ar fi. Rezumând, îmi fac timp dimineața trezindu-mă mai devreme, cos și dacă am 10 minute libere, iar ziua mea nu are mai mult de 24 de ore. Am job full time și o fetiță de doi ani și o casă cu vase, aspirator, toata lumea.

Vă invit pe Instagram @medemoiselle.ralu, acolo postez mai des si sunt foarte activa pe stories unde mai postez din când în când progresul la Cămașa Cucuteni. Sper ca această postare v-a găsit bine.