Belgium 2015

Although we have run Instructor Training courses outside of North America, the attendees have been a homogeneous mix of locals.  This year we scheduled one in Belgium for participants from Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Kenya and China (an expat living in Spain).  Fay Johnson (MT), Sun from WMAI China and I were the leaders.  After some initial angst following the Paris bombing and the heightened security concerns in Belgium, and particularly Brussels, we decided to proceed anyway.  I am happy that we did.

PRECOURSE:  I arrived 2 days early for a meeting that was delayed until after the course.  It gave me a chance to get a little rest and a wander around Brussels.  Brussels is a pretty cosmopolitan place.  As well as being the capital, it is the home of NATO, the European Union and the Benelux countries (their Secretariat).  This is fitting in that Belgium itself is like 3 countries with French, Dutch, and Flemish enclaves as well as those for the growing influx of people from around the world.  In addition to the Belgium Federal Parliament, the French and Flemish communities have their own parliaments too. This all makes for interesting and arcane politics.  Here are 2 of a surprising number of articles from the NY Times that offer glimpses of some of the complexities.

Brussels is on a hill which means it is a great place to walk around (even in drizzly late November). There are plenty of bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, and stores on many pedestrian-only thoroughfares.  Even their convenience stores have a good selection of decent food on the fly.  Delhaize, the parent of our own Hannaford markets has one called shop and go.

Despite reports by the US press, there was little evidence of the high alert that had been placed just one week earlier.  Not so surprising. Sure there were some military presence in the airport, in front of the French Embassy and occasionally in the shopping district  but I had no sense of unusually long waits or tension on the streets.  People were out and about enjoying shops and displays with their children.  This was true in both the more traditional European and Eastern neighborhoods. In fact the only tension I felt (and it was mild) was when hundreds of people joined hands in a long, winding line as a demonstration for the environment.

COURSE:  Our course was held in Lustin, a small, rural community with no traffic light, located in the South central part of Belgium.  We ran it at the training facility for Outward Bound Belgium (OBB), a partner of ours for over 20 years.  I won’t bore you with the details. It was a really fun and rewarding challenge.  Everyone was enthusiastic and collegially committed to the task at hand. Here is a picture of all of us sharing a meal.

group pict

Sun is in front of me with James (Spain by way of China) standing next to him.  Then Fay, Lella, Johan (Belgium), Riccardo (Italy – his arms and hands uncharacteristically down at his sides), Kazi and George (Kenya), Pieter (Belgium),  Henri (Finland), and Sverrir and Elva (Iceland). 

AFTERMATH:  The day after the course we took a train to Leuven, not far from Brussels.  After another pleasant walk, I met with the principle decision makers for OBB.  They hope that with Pieter and Johan as instructors, they will be able to run our courses less expensively and perhaps expand to other locations

That evening, I wandered around Brussels again. As you know, I am not a huge Christmas fan but Northern Europeans know how to do it right.  I had an excellent beer and bought chocolate while enjoying the ambiance and festivities.  It was a good trip.

After returning to GA, I flew to MN to visit family.  Here is my 94+ yo Mom.  She may not recognize me but I know she is happy when I visit.  Plus it is always good to see Mark, Roberta and Teri

mom 2015-12

No one ever accused either of us of being photogenic.  Remember, happiness is a relative term

After another week in GA we drove back to ME.  Except for our return to GA in early February, no trips now until mid-March.  Maybe I will be able to get something done.









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