Yes, it's a double episode this time :)
"So when are you coming to Belgium??" our friend Pawan asked us at the start of August. We had laughingly dismissed his silly question. However, Pawan seems to have a secret pact with the universe and somehow always gets his way. Exactly one week before departure we finally managed to get our tickets, Scott doing late nights to work on our new home (which is starting to look pretty awesome!) and me selling Jade and cleaning and packing all our stuff while Scott went to Auckland for a wedding. Picking him up at the airport, we drove straight down to Christchurch.
I had kindly requested my mum to pick up my friend Leona from the airport and to make sure my room was liveable so she would be able to stay the night. Miraculously, every single flight left perfectly on time and so unknowingly, my mum came to fetch us. At first, totally missing my wave and smile -looking for a taller, blonder specimen- but later holding us in her arms, with tears in her eyes. Yes, it was a good one, as far as surprises go!
After an initial hello -and some Belgian chips of course- we journeyed off to Sint-Niklaas where we were to organise this year's edition of Festival Paradiso - a nostalgic funfair festival. The only issue was: the fair bailed on us one week before date. We worked from morning till night and just one week later our Paradiso Family members arrived. We had turned it into a nostalgic street theatre festival with two modern fair attractions. The council was grateful we hadn't run away screaming and we kind of made the impossible happen. Mission accomplished! (See pictures)
The following month was filled with friends- and family visits. 'A month should be more than enough' we had thought while buying our tickets. We will know better next time...
The visit to the family in England didn't quite work out the way we had planned with the car breaking down just as we got across the puddle. A hectic few days for my parents followed, trying to organise a replacement car, get the old one repaired, hotels...
Besides that, my dear friend Maiken from Denmark came over to visit, Scott and I went over to Amsterdam to meet with a bunch of Paradiso friends (funny how my life and acquaintances turned out so very different than what I had imagined for myself 10 years ago!), I met some of my Belgian friends, ran some errands, stayed at Alex' and Hannelore's place and went to the necessary Belgian beer festival, we had a meeting regarding Paradiso 2017, and BOOM! it was over.
Though we had clearly seen our trip to Belgium as a visit, feeling the excitement of the continuation of our journey here in NZ, the acceptance of the departure was not easy. Having had about 3 hours sleep, I couldn't help feeling miserable on the first plane. At first the memories and feelings of familiar places came as a surprise -not having had them around for a year-, but soon I got attached to being 'home' again, leaving me feeling nostalgic and confused.
I had seen Belgium from a different perspective, having been away for some time. People seemed to be so distant and closed, I had to learn to not say hello to people in the streets (which I soon did after feeling like a crazy person due to the looks I had received on different occasions). Also, the population density seemed to be so astonishingly high compared to NZ (which it is) and it seemed hilarious that I could speak Flemish with people (even though I felt like a stupid little child, unable to fully express myself at first).
But as mentioned, you soon get used to the way things are, especially if it's home. And my dear friends at Plukrijp, my family and other friends I met certainly didn't make it easy for me to leave.
In any case, the day before we left I had really fancied Pad Thai, though being a real Belgian, I had requested home-made chips for dinner (I have never had chips so many times in one month in my life! But at least it might last me for the next year... Mmmh, who am I kidding?!).
But anyway, I fell asleep during my melancholy and at our first stop in Vienna we decided to watch one of our 4 remaining episodes of Game of Thrones. I then checked the monitor only to notice our connection flight to Shanghai was cancelled... Holy moly... We made our way to the information desk where more and more people started accumulating. Just imagine a 300-400 people flight, all waiting in the line, the confusion and worry were tangible. It must have taken around 10 to 15 minutes per person to rebook the flights, so we were so incredibly lucky to have noticed the matter early on. We got back to our cosy spot to watch GOT, this time with a packet of crisps and different flight tickets in our bags (see pic).
After having had our dinner by courtesy of Austrian airlines (we had received lunch and dinner vouchers, woohoo!) and returning to the gate for our flight to Bangkok at around 11 at night, there were still people standing in line to rebook their tickets. They had been standing there from 1 pm...
So flying to Bangkok, I knew what my breakfast (or lunch/dinner? What time is it?? Who am I?!) was going to be... We devoured our Pad Thai and will be careful what we wish for next time
Anyway, after a door-to-door 50 hour journey we arrived back where we started one and a half month before, surprisingly without any jetlag (we just slept whenever we could) and spent the next two days with Scott's family. From there we drove back down to Oamaru to Robyn's church house where we had been in March and April doing our Permaculture course. It's good to be here, at our home away from home, getting back on our feet and feeling so welcome.
We're planning on making a deck in front of the house so Robyn can get around more easily, while also getting our van prepared for the continuation of our journey in a couple of weeks. In excitement I will be waiting for the answer to my application for a partnership visa during this time to -hopefully- be able to stay here the coming 10 months...
New pictures are up, and more to come soon