This Christmas will be one of many firsts. Not only will it be the first time I am celebrating the holiday outside of my continent and time zone, Dec. 25 will also mark the end of my first three months in Canada. It has been a fascinating journey so far, since I have met great friends, discovered stunning places and learned the true meaning of happiness.
Yet, as the excitement for a Canadian Christmas rises, so does my longing for home. Strange how you start to appreciate where you come from more once you leave it behind. All of a sudden, my take on my home country has turned 180 degrees, transforming Belgium into a most beautiful place on earth, offering the best education, chocolate and beer - or at least, according to me.
So, to compensate missing out on my favourite creamy leek soup and my annual intimate family gathering, I decided to treat myself to an early Christmas present: a search for Belgium in Canada.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I dragged my Chilean and Dutch friends Betsy and Rick to Steveston to enjoy a traditional waffle at Damien's Belgian Waffles. It felt like returning home when I entered the shop; the smell, the shape and the toppings all reminded me of Belgium. My mind immediately wandered back to past visits of the capital Brussels, where people carry around warm waffles on the go instead of Starbucks coffee cups.
While I was told the owners were Belgian, too, I was slightly disappointed when it turned out they had left a few years before. However, the chef originated from a French town near the Belgian border, so he did seem to know his business.
Among the offerings, there were green tea waffles and ones with maple syrup; yet, I convinced my friends to try a traditional waffle - and my favourite of all times: one with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
I enjoyed every perfect bite of it, and felt like the proudest Belgian when I saw my friends did too.
I continued my quest for all things Belgian two days later as I sought out some fries. (I have never understood why they are called French fries; they are as Belgian as you can get.)
Exactly one week before Christmas, I accompanied the same friends, plus Eva - the only Dutch-speaking Belgian I have met here - and her German classmate Christoph, to Belgian Fries in Vancouver.
Except for my twin sister and her picky eating habits, there is nobody I know who does not love them to bits.
Munching on fries that taste like the ones at home, I saw I had a few more converts.
And although she is not a big fan of guided tours, I have Betsy convinced she should definitely fly over to Belgium for an eating tour.
While sitting there until we were the last ones to leave at closing time, I realized it was my company making the waffles and fries taste even better. I might miss Belgium now, but as soon as I return, I will miss Canada - and the friends that joined me in my search for Belgium.
So although the chocolates and chicory with ham and cheese sauce are still on my list of favourite things, I am determined to enjoy my remaining time here, and cannot wait to experience my very first true Canadian Christmas.