Sunday, November 26, 2006

24 hours in Antwerpen

It's been frustrating moving to Belgie, I might have mentioned it once or twice ... and every now and again I've ask myself ... would I do it all again if I knew how it was going to be?
Lately the answer has been yes.

I still get angry about the ridiculous paperwork and time wasted in arriving but ... if it hadn't taken so long, I wouldn't have developed as a blogger and photographer, I wouldn't have had time for the projects I'm working on with all kinds of interesting people, and I simply wouldn't be living the kind of life that involves me singing the Antwerp football supporters song at the top of my lungs in a smoke-filled pub with the family and friends of an Alderman celebrating his 40th birthday, then picking myself up the next morning to take photographs at a cultural exhibition and breakfast ... two completely unrelated events that allow me to see how it is to really live in this city I'm coming to love.

For me, travelling in other countries has to be about people ... without people, the experience feels one-dimensional. When I went to Rome, I was fortunate. Marco took me home to his family on the back of his scooter, his wife cooked Roman food for me and their family made me feel welcome in a country that wasn't my own.

I met two Paolo's, an artist who took me to coffee and a tour guide friend of a friend, who took me to lunch and showed me some of the city. And then there was Enzo, my waiter for the evening ... the man who made my last evening hilariously memorable by showering his attentions on me, that blushing kiwi woman trying to work out how to be less visible alone in a restuarant in Rome.

Turkey was superb ... the people, the people and the people. The Turks are surely amongst the kindest and most hospitable people in the world. I still miss them today and am happy to be moving in circles that will bring me in contact with the ones who live here.

Australia and my brother's friends and family there welcomed me in ... how I loved it, such a surprise after years of 'friendly' traditional rivalry.

Fiji and a taxi driver took us under his wing, showing us the island while we were stranded there on the way home once.

Belgium has been more difficult. Belgians don't rush in and embrace the foreigner, that's how it is here. Sometimes I have despaired, wanting out, wondering what had made me so unpalatable in this new world ... but slowly, give them time and there are moments of people magic to be had in this country too.

So, reporting from Belgium today ... I'm saying 'Alles goed' and 'tot straks'.


Pam said...

This is nice to read - it sounds like you are Making A Life!

woman wandering said...

Finally ... it's been an up and down process so far, so let's see how it goes from here.

paris parfait said...

I'm so glad you're settling in and finding your niche in Belgie. It's true that each country has its charms -and its drawbacks. I think we always leave a little peace of our heart everywhere we live and love, which keeps drawing us back to these places, time and time again. So rather than one true home we have lots of homes! xo

Manic said...

Ohh, you're finally breaking down the Belgian wall. It's a long and hard proces which takes ages, but it's not a racial thing, it's against all. We just don't know how long a person stays and we don't want to waste time on people who are not planning to stay. We are on the cross way of Europe, means everybody moves through here, so it's very logical the way we act towards 'unknowns'.

V-Grrrl said...

There are times I enjoy my outsider status, my ability to be an observer and not a participant. Being anonymous and unnoticed can be lonely but it can also be like having a good secret or story to share and patiently waiting for the right moment and right person to share it with.

What I really miss is warmth and friendliness in business transactions. A smile from the vet who's caring for my cat, a friendly hello from the baker, a greeting from a shopkeeper. It's the minor pleasantries I miss even more than the true social connections.

woman wandering said...

Hey manic :) I think I've just met some really nice Belgians, yourself included.

Hi v-grrrl ... welcome back from Rome. So jealous I was.

You know, sometimes Gert still wants me fluent in Dutch ... other times he's glad I'm linguistically inept because there's often a NZ english commentary on rude people met out in the world that few understand when said in a rapidly delivered undertone - he's not sure his world is ready for my mocking.

Manic said...

Di, one piece of advice, don't mock in public, do it behind closed doors with people you can trust. No Belgian is to be trusted untill he has passed the 'trusty test'.

woman wandering said...

Thanks manic ... I don't even mock in public back home :)

ML said...

oh I am so glad you are coming to love Belgium!! That is so great@.. Now you have to come to Ohio and you will love it there cause I will take you alllll over the place!!