My Sketchbook Diary of Belgium and France, 2016

Click here to enjoy my sketchbook video.

June 29, 2016. I took the bus from Eugene, Oregon, to Portland and flew to Brussels, Belgium, took the train to Ghent, about an hour away, and was met by my Moroccan friend, Abdelaouhab Kerrou. At 32 years of age, he is fluent in five languages. First his native Berber tongue from the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Starting in grade school he learned Arabic, French and English, plus lessons in reading and writing Berber because the government wants people to retain their culture. Since he migrated to Belgium after marrying a Belgium tourist who was visiting the Todra Gorge where he grew up, he has learned Dutch in a mandatory program for all migrants.

Now he has a job giving training orientations to new migrants. Abdul took a day off work to show me around Ghent and we went to the Gravensteen castle, which is a copy of a much larger Syrian fortress. It was Ramadan, so Griet cooked dinner for herself and me and Abdul waited until after 10 pm to eat his.

After two nights with Abdul and his pregnant wife Griet, I spent a day in Brussels and flew to Bordeaux in the evening.

After spending three weeks with my son and his Ecuadorian wife in Quito, Ecuador, in May, where we bought Panamanian hats, it was fun to see this window display. It made me feel connected even in Europe, to my family.
Francesco made the most fabulous pasta salad. The dad, Renauld, served it saying, we make this because the children will eat it.  Yes, I remember the days of raising children and what they would and would not eat, very well.

In Bordeaux, I was met at the airport by my hostess, whom I contacted through couch surfing. org. She and her family hosted me for two fabulous nights and a wonderful day of sightseeing, eating in their garden and bicycling to a community center for a fabulous body-slapping and singing event, although I am not sure what it is called exactly.  Two men, in their 30’s entertained a group of about 50 children and adults for an hour with noises made by humming, slapping their chests, or mouths. It was amazing and so musical, it is hard to describe so it sounds attractive!

For the night, we drove to an Urban Refuge named the American. My hostess thought it was funny she booked it without knowing and American was coming too!
From Bordeaux I took a train two hours east, inland, to the small town of Thiviers, France.
From here I walked to the country home vacation rental for the wedding of my friends, Baptiste and Hannah.  The home happened to be on one of the pilgrim path that goes to Santiago, Spain. The path goes directly by the country home! 
Baptiste I met probably four years ago when he requested me to host him through couch surfing .org. We became good friends over the years and he invited me to his wedding in France. The couple met when they both attended the University of Oregon and she is from Lake Oswego, Oregon.

 Baptiste’s father is a professional musician and graphic artist as well. So he brought his professional keyboard, microphones and guitar which he would spontaneously use. Most often he accompanied the bride’s father and they laughed and sang and laughed. The families had not met before and had become instant friends. Such lovely families and it was a joy to be considered part of the family.

The weather was ideal the entire time. At the large picnic tables in the yard overlooking the cut hay field we had every meal, sitting and talking for hours and hours. Between jam sessions of the musicians.

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