Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Belgium Weekends...part of ;p

Approximately 2 months later - I gradually found my own rhythm of everyday life. But this is no Discovery Channel; learning process can be both exciting and frustrating. Frustrating, when you want to write something but found no words for it…

So, I'll have my bollekes and we shall start with usually cheerful weekends. Especially May’s weekend – I remember sunny days, good friends, unforgettable journey and great moments…

First stop: Somewhere near Waterloo.

Voluntary organization usually held their activities away from city – somewhere so quiet and peaceful that you don’t border to remember the name of that place. Like somewhere near Waterloo. I usually pay attention to the road sign…and thanks to Napoleon; ‘Waterloo’ is very catchy. Moreover, it does not sounds French at all.

Most new comers will realize soon enough that Belgium is first divided by two languages, into two region; Northern Flemish-speaking region and Southern-French speaking Walloon region. Of course it’s common to find someone who speaks Flemish and at the same time French, but usually not the other way round.

I was traveling with my French and Nigerian colleague to a seminar – Working In Conflict Area – an unofficial visit from the International Secretariat members. I like traveling with Stan – with his beloved guitar around him, he is always in joyful mood and I don’t have to stuff my ears with digital wave. So when Stan is firing his flamingo, I took a picture of him at somewhere he said “Feels like French.”

For me this feels like ‘the moment’ - Welcome to Braine-l'Alleud!

From where I am, Flemish Region is one of the most English-friendly regions in Europe. Even so, in Antwerp, I feel shy to speak in English: my second – or more like fourth or fifth language. So no questions about it: One should have less expectation when you’re in Wallonia Region.

But like how I navigate the town of Namur, Antwerp Stadhuis/City Hall produce a perfect map – tourist friendly convenience or for some critics, effectively reduce human contact to the minimum.

The other picture from Wallonia Region that I have that worth sharing it here:

Castle high above the hill, overlooking the waterways and the old town of Namur – distinctive features of many other European cities. Today, that once the most strategic defense post is perfect for a pre-summer walk, have beers and enjoy the view on top of the hill.

Back to Flemish Region, I enjoy cycling to a small town called Boom.

Some 10 miles away from Antwerp city centre, Boom once a town with blooming brick industry. But for those who traveled here on the second weekend of May 2008, Boom is synonymous to Mano Mundo festival.

After the unforgiving cold and wet months, what people craved for is nothing but nature, sunny skies, beers and entertainments. And Mano Mundo is designed to provide just that.

For a minute I thought it was only a giant two-day music festival: Tents, stages, camps big and small were built surrounding the green landscape to host music of various genes. But I soon realized that this is a one-stop entertainment festival: There's Chinese calligraphy, Indonesian massage, capoeira, strong Moroccan mint tea, magic show, flea markets…

All these, complimented with two days of beautiful sunshine. Couldn’t escape the festival, I got pretty tanned afterwards.

Leaving Boom, we cycle pass some empty streets, seemingly deserted town. Not like its much different compare to Antwerp city after, say 1800 hrs. But somehow I feel eerie, so I peddle past it right after my final shot of this church. You guessed: a robust brick structure.

Now let’s move up north, where Belgium gets part of the precious North Sea coastline. Looking at the map you can almost sense the outcome after series of historical events, when both Dutch and British were dominant seafaring powers.

For a while I thought that big chucks of land beyond Knokke are Belgian soils – but surprisingly the Netherland owns much of the Western Scheldt, flowing out to the North Sea. Ironically, together with Ostend, Knokke makes me feels more like home – back to the real city, high rise and modern landscape.

That faithful much longer can they sustain our needs?

In Knokke’s World Press Photo Exhibition, both Prasant, my new Nepali colleague cum professional photographer, and myself can only stare the 2007 World Press Photo of the year in disbelieve.

No, not me. Yes, that one - the "Tired soldier in some bunker" in the US-lead war in Afghanistan.

Obviously the photographer does more than that picture, and all credits to him and his hard, risky effort. What really surprises us is the amount of war and famine related photos displayed in the exhibition. All these prized photographs come with stronger emotional attachment than ever, making them extremely provoking and powerful. Or depressed?

Anyway we certainly found ourselves happier at the Ostend seaside, although you can’t really swim in any of those. If the unpredictable weather around this region is why holiday makers prefer the coastline along Mediterranean Sea, this could well be the second. A huge and long coastline as well – must have been hard to defend during the war period - remnant of cannon bunkers - I wondered if anyone would notice it.

Granted, there must be some well preserved seaside, or one can swim in a pool overlooking the sea view. Summer is well on its way - the season when European spends more than they should – so you’d better have some resorts waiting.

But we are not really holiday makers – we walk, talked, enjoy the sun shine and barbeque back in the apartments, 15 minutes walk to the seaside. That’s what this trip is all about.

Back in Nepal, Prasant-ji is still looking for his elusive best picture. Oh I know that feeling, and it we both know it will keep coming. As long as we have enough O2.

This razor-sharp picture below (in fact, all the last three photos) separates my point-and-shoot camera with his DSLRs.

Mean while, our friendship can only grew stronger...


At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Low,

I see only 'huge' size ladies, where are those 'leng lui' that gives you headache hidden?


At 6:26 PM, Blogger @ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Alice! You will never forget that 'leng lui' story, will ya? hehe...But I've never said I will share photo here what, HAHAHA...

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Namil Nizam said...

Seems to be cool man...


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