Saying Goodbye to Belgium.

I have spent this last week quietly wandering the city and saying goodbye to it. 

I have just another few days to tidy up loose ends and then I am gone.  

The good news, for me, is that in examining the 10 years I spent living here, I realised that I did find ways to be happy here, in this city I didn't really expect to stay in so long.  The Belgian bloke and I had talked of the possibility of New Zealand and Istanbul ... way back when we began but he needed to stay for his children, his career.

Over these years I have explored most of the country and was fortunate in meeting so many Belgians who became friends.  I'll miss them. 

There were the photography exhibitions, some of the best times of my life.  And the NGO job over in Brussels, that one where I did their communications and photography.  That one I put to one side for the 3 months as sole exhibition photographer in Berlin.  There were the corporate and private shoots.  And the portrait photography, individual and family, always.

The photography workshops over in Genova, Italy ... a million hours of weaving a network of good people and experiences that finally came together in the very best of ways back in the summer of 2015.  Just as my Belgian world was grinding to a nasty halt.

But living in Antwerp, I attended so many remarkable events, and was interviewed for television three times - interviews that varied in length but they were always curious about why this Kiwi was living in Belgium. 

I read an Antwerpen poet's poem in public and was praised by his widow for my reading.  I was also recorded reading an ee cummings poem for another city project.  I volunteered as a photographer at the integration centre, and had my immigrant story added to others stored in the new Red Star Line Museum.  I worked as a photographer in so many places, so many times out on Flanders Fields where the people of the Westhoek warmed my soul.  I met prime ministers, actors, governor generals and all kinds of other folk too.  Lots of Belgian politicians.  I voted in two elections, at very least.  Maybe more.  Belgian elections have this way of blurring into nothing for me.

There have been years of hard work, often unpaid but they were years rich in experiences and people.

Then I spent summers exploring Europe with the Belgian bloke, pockets of time taken out from our mad busy worlds.  I took him home to my New Zealand world and we wandered all over my country too.  Then there was Genova, Istanbul and Berlin.  Stavanger, thanks to Ren.  We explored Holland, Germany, France and Luxembourg too.  There was Salamanca, the opera singer's wedding in Madrid, and the Australian/English wedding we captured out in the English countryside; the weddings we did in France and Berlin.  Extraordinary weddings, extraordinary people.  There was Ireland and Rob ... 

So many of these trips were about visiting with friends I had made through the years. 

I never did learn the language.  I tried, my attempts were usually met with a disbelieving 'Wablief?'or ... 'We'll talk English'.  Or they'd simply reply to me in very good English.   That said, right about now, I find myself thankful I didn't learn Nederlands.  It would have seemed like such a horrific waste of my time as I leave, and I never had bucketloads of time to waste ... until the end.  Up until then, most of my time was used twisting and turning and trying to find ways to earn a regular income with that camera of mine. 

So all that is left for me here, is accepting that the big old story set in this Belgian world is ending for me.

Now to begin again, again.