Well, Belgium. I’m back. Do your worst (again).
Actually, please don’t. I didn’t mean that. Let’s try to be friends this time instead.
I arrived 10 days ago to Belgian winter and was reminded of a Game of Thrones meme. I think the phrase “Winter is Coming” has nothing to do with real wolves and people-eaters, but rather is a thinly veiled reference to Brussels.
Personally speaking, history has been inconveniently repeating itself. I landed back in-country greeted by changes in my work situation (including absence of my long-awaited work permit & visa, changes to plans for Australia, amongst other things). Ironically I went straight to SJM offices with Costa, who picked me up from the airport, bless her curly hair. Following this, I proceeded to get my clothes unpacked from storage and later flooded the apartment with all my stuff in it – a move reminiscent of 2013.
On a greater scale, the city has changed in the last 2 years. Armed military men stroll the streets, subways and train stations with submachine guns. Despite most of them being quite good-looking (and sometimes a bit flirtatious!), their presence is off-putting. Last night I was walking through Gare du Midi and one actually pointed his gun at me by accident. Okay – maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to this than most would be, growing up with a father and biathlon coach who taught strict gun safety – but it made me stop in my tracks. Talking to friends about this, they have speculated that while the purpose of some of these ‘defence’ tactics isn’t immediately clear, that maybe intimidation works. I can’t say I agree, and feel like this causes some significant harm to peace of mind and unity between people who look different to each other.
But enough of that – there have been some truly wonderful things about being back. I’ve had the chance to catch up with great friends like Costa (who follows the blog of a South African baby leopard – but not this one) and Remi (whose apartment I am staying in and who has plied me with chocolate, champagne, and chocolate – BFFs forever). I also popped over to Edinburgh for the weekend and down to Beverley to talk nerd with my great friend Jane. She was an EP fellow in Kingston when I still lived in Canada and it did my heart and brain such good to see her and talk about things no one else wants to (like U wave analysis in AF and Strictly Come Dancing).
Despite the way Brussels and I don’t really fit together, there are worse places to be and I have faith that we may be able to work our differences out with time. Besides, even if I am destined to stay here through winter, there are certainly perks: Birkebeiner, Vasalopet, Transjurassienne, Artic Circle Race… Cross country ski events designed to kill whatever Brussels doesn’t.