I’m writing this on an airplaine, with less than an hour away from landing in Belgium: or also known as possibly one of my most favourite countries to visit yet 😄 and it’s probably no surprise to any of my friends back home that I’m travelling here: my friends got fed up hearing me gloat over how good Speculoos is 😂
This is not the first time I’m travelling here: my sister decided to join me, making it our first sister trip together. But the last time I was here, I wasn’t on holiday with any family member, nor on a summer break with my friends. It was my first solo trip, and I learnt the news less than 2 weeks prior a project I was solely travelling for started!
For 19 summer days, I was sent to Belgium for a European Voluntary Service project to serve as an animator in a Salesian playground with other Salesian animators. It was also an opportunity to make friends with other international Salesian animators and youth wjo also participated in this project and some whom I still keep in touch with to this day!
Although I still mention how great the two weeks I spent there were (and they truly were great), it was perhaps the most challenging experience for me personally. Firstly, spending about two weeks with children, youth and adults who don’t speak in your native language was an unexpected hard nut to crack! Yes, I was able to speak English to almost everyone, but some we’re too afraid to talk in English out of ridicule, which forced me to sometimes interrupt Belgian conversations in English. Moreover, most children didn’t speak English, and some also came from the French region, so they were only able to speak French! This took me out of my comfort zone to think of different ways of communicating with them non-verbally to get over language barriers!
A second reason it was challenging for me to experience because of what was going back home. It’s not that anything bad was going on, but I did miss it, and longed for it badly. But looking back, the worst mistake I committed whilst staying in Belgium was that I spent almost everyday thinking about what was going to happen when I return back home instead of living in the moment. Although the experience was a tough one and didn’t help me not miss home more, it was bad for focusing on it because when I did come back home: the thing I yearned most for was no longer there. And I couldn’t do anything to bring that back, not could I bring back the time I spent in Belgium again.
I might be travelling here to celebrate one special moment with a Salesian brother I got to know on the playground last year, but I guess it’s a second chance for me to make new memories and not fall into the worry about people and life back home trap and just live in the present moment – and I promise I will not waste this moment time round 😊