Painting the light of a better place

A moment lived in Belgium by Nico, a traveller from Belgium

Come to the sea side it’s been a while. That’s what my friend Julien told me last night over the phone.

10 am I am on the train to Blankenberg, a city on the north side of Belgium. It is a beautiful bank holiday weekend. I told myself “why not” has it is only 2.30hrs away from where I am staying.

I live abroad and don’t get the chance to see him often (maybe once or twice a year).

That day around 1pm I met with him and also got introduced to his girlfriend Belinda. She is from the Philippines, they’ve been dating each other for over 2 years.

She speaks good english and I am glad I can finally see her in person.

Sitting on the terrace of a restaurant Julien is telling me about his trip to the Philippines that he recently took to meet with Belinda’s relatives showing me pictures on his smart phone.

I Quickly understand that Julien went on his own because Belinda couldn’t travel with him as she is a “sans papier” (not legal on the European soil), She moved to Belgium with a wealthy french family from Hong kong being the maid for the children but after 2 years the Belgian state didn’t renew her work permit, so in the event she would travel somewhere outside of Europe or even a normal ID control, she would be sent home with no possibility to come back.

I can really see this is something she is scared about everyday.

That day we had a really good talk about how it is to live with a sword of Damocles above your head and really made me realised how fortunate we are.

Even though she is not allowed to travel for obvious reasons they still manage to cross some borders to go to France or Germany exploring the neighbour countries as she is keen to see what Europe has to offer with its beauty and, there is a lot.

I liked this adventurous way of thinking and at the same time felt sad to see her being limited not because of her own choice.

In the evening we went for a walk on the beach, the light was magic, feeling like in a William Turner painting with a pale light reflecting on the sea caused by a sky with a sun long gone.

We came back home around midnight, would look at some pictures on my laptop about beautiful places to discover in Europe. It was such a pleasure to see her eyes wide opened with the will to be able to go to such places one day.

I left the morning after. On the train back to my town and met someone with another story to tell.

A guy from Senegal that is also in a difficult situation (I say difficult because he has a huge smile on his face otherwise I would say terrible.)

He told me he had no other way then fleeing his country because he his gay and in Senegal being gay is the absolute shame especially for the family. they banned him to ever come back. He his from a family of 34. The father has 4 wives and his mom had 7 children. So you can have many wives but don’t dare being gay!

He also told me how his life was before. He used to be the owner of two grocery shops and had to trade some piece of land with 450 chickens in exchange of a fake passport to be able to fly to Europe seeking for asylum now as a refugee. But all the way the 34 years old Khadim was telling me his story, he kept on smiling. Telling me that he loves his country but can’t go back as he could even get killed but anyway never be considered anymore. Reputation in this part of Africa is what matters the most and they all know it. Your name and your family can never be put in the dirt.

I have to say, I have huge respect for him and I feel lucky I could be a witness of his story. For having lived myself in Senegal I could also get a better picture of the situation he is in.

What I learned from that is we should never judge people for seeking a better place to live as human being without knowing exactly what the story is, because we would do the same if needed.

I got his number because our train ride was too short and I am sure there is a lot more to learn from Khadim.

I also realised that no need to go far from your home to live a beautiful travel moment.

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