Tag Archives: belgium

Meanwhile In Belgium

22 Mar

Two noteworthy events happened in Belgium these past 24 hours.

I´m sure you´ve already heard about the most recent one: the bomb attacks in Brussels International Airport. It´s been four days since the main suspect in the Paris attacks was captured in Brussels, so it didn´t really come as a surprise. We´ve been hearing for years how our country is the focus point of unhealthy terrorist attention. I´m even surprised this hasn´t happened earlier. Like a bad migraine breaking through after you´ve been feeling it coming for days.

Belgium has now raised its terror threat level to 4, which is the highest level.

(One of the reasons this is all happening in Belgium, the bellybutton of Europe, is explained here.)

 

The other event, one you might not have heard about, happened yesterday (Sunday 21 March 2016): 25000 people took to the streets of that same beleagered Brussels. Their message was: there are alternatives. There are alternatives to repression, to fear, to cutbacks, to an unsustainable economy, to turning the country into a police state, to mutual distrust, to fear.

 

It takes only a few people with bad intentions to blow up an airport.

But it takes a lot more to mobilize 25000 people to get out of their house on a Sunday. (Especially in a country that only has 10 millions inhabitants and where Sundays are sacred.)

I believe in that power.

May that Good Force be with us.

 

 

Any Way The Wind Blows

14 Mar

When I was a high school student in Belgium, we were taught in French class that in France there was a type of wind called “mistral”. At that time, this made no sense to me at all. In Belgium, wind is wind.

But then I moved to Spain, to a village a stone´s throw away from the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the many new things I learned there, was a kind of knowledge I acquired in the most physical of ways. That air can be humid or dry. We don´t really notice that in Flanders´ Fields, but in Valencia: oh boy.

When the wind comes in from over the sea, saturating the air with humidity, it makes you freeze to death in winter, and drown in your own sweat in summer. They call this wind Levante, because it comes from the east, where the sun comes up (“levantarse” means “to get up” in Spanish).

The wind that comes from the west is called Ponente (“poner” means “to put down” in Spanish, so that refers to where the sun goes down -it´s really that simple) and brings along the dry heat from the plains of the Spanish midland. Very agreeable in winter, but when it comes along during the hot summer months, it feels like you´ve stuck your head into an oven.

This morning I went cycling, following a bike trail that runs through the orange fields (when I get a new memory card for my camera, I´ll post some pictures, I promise) to a village a few kilometers up north. The wind was coming from the north, so it blew straight in my face, making my cheeks glow. It´s called Tramontane, because it comes from over the mountains. It´s a dry, cold wind. And I loved it. As a matter of fact, I was quite surprised to notice just how much I loved this particular wind, and then it struck me: this was the wind from home. This was the wind I had grown up with. Cold and dry.

And the nicest part of it was that it actually came from home, from up north. And when I´d gotten to the end of the track and had turned around, it blew me straight back to my new home, pushing me gently but firmly in my back, as if to say: there you go, honey, there´s your new home now. But I´ll come and visit you from time to time.