So we’re in Toronto … Olivia, Baziel and me. Eight hours after lifting off from Brussels, we nestled into the joys of Terminal One in Toronto. Adventure was in our six eyes.

We had to wait a fair long time for our shuttle bus to Scarlet’s temporary abode. Pas de problème. We all knew that we were about to be on a mission: to buy a basketball. You see, these kids are fanatics. They play on teams in Belgium. They dream of the future.

After we corralled Scarlet at Skyway Park, it was off on the 401 freeway to Yorkdale Mall, the home of SportChek, and hopefully many basketballs.

The ceilings were high, the glitter of wealth surrounded us and the people of Toronto flowed past in all their glory of multiculturalism. The store was full of athetic achievement, many sports represented in their clothing and equipment. Downstairs was the home of NBA devotees.

Ahh … the b-balls. Baziel settled on a Wilson Crossover model, and all was right with the world.

We wandered the mall in search of NBA jerseys but few were to be found. We had our treasure. It was time to play.

First to Anne and Ihor’s bed and breakfast. Anne glowed as she welcomed us in the door. The teens got it. They were glimpsing a new home.

Google Maps showed me a nearby school and we bounced our ball along the sidewalk. Around the back of the building were four hoops, all without nets, but that didn’t matter. Olivia and Baziel dribbled beautifully, laid up the ball gracefully, and nailed lots of long-distance shots. I … threw up the basketball in the general direction of the hoop. We had fun.

I was hungry, and convinced the kids to take a break for chicken. Yum.

Anne had mentioned that there was a basketball court near the local arena so we decided to explore in that direction. And lo and behold … there it was. Three young men crowded around one of the three hoops, testing each other. Baziel and Olivia did the same at another one.

Magically other teens and kids appeared. I just stared at all the athletes. One young boy in a red shirt was so skinny and so skilled. All those between-the-legs dribbles! At another basket, a supremely powerful young man was coaching a little boy who had gorgeous braided (?) hair and an everlasting smile.

A fellow came over to challenge Baziel to a one-on-one game. Olivia and I smiled as the contest unfolded. Then it was three-on-three. Baziel was beaming.

For the last hour it was a full game – five against five – as the sun declined. Belgium saying hi to Canada and Canada welcoming Belgium.

I loved it all.


Let’s go back in time and still enjoy each other in the present moment. Shall we meander together through the streets of Ghent? I think so.

Belgium offers many places to sit and talk. Like Italy, families come out, filling the squares and their sidewalk cafés. There is much to discuss and many people to watch.

We sat on a terrazza at lunch. Old men chattered away merrily in Flemish, which is incomprehensible to me. No matter. At the next table, a black woman with a delightful British accent hurried her family along. Perhaps there was a lot of shopping to do.

I wanted to pay for the meal and saw once more that in Belgium there’s really no tipping. It looked like the friendly young man serving us could have used some extra cash for school. It’s still mindboggling to me that a meal of ninety Euros would be paid with exactly that. I pulled out a five Euro bill and the fellow’s eyes widened. I told him that such a tip in Canada for his good service would be considered an insult. All at the table listened in wonder.

We sat near the canal for a long time. Two women dangled their feet over the water, their arms around each other. Young boys chased back and forth. Across the way, a island stage was being dismantled, now that the Ghent Festival had said goodbye to 2019. And many, many folks strolled by with their loved ones.

Lydia and Lore wanted to visit their favourite jewelry shop, and I tagged along. Jo and Baziel took their traditional position on a nearby bench. Inside, the hostess looked familiar, and so did the displays. After she was done with a customer, she looked at me and said in English “I remember you. You’re Bruce.” Indeed I was. “You sang your national song to us.” Indeed, I had … in December. A few minutes later I repeated the performance. Two of the three women I met back then were there in front of me. “Our friend will be sorry she missed you.” Ahh … So lovely to be seen.

I ate a Belgian waffle slathered in chocolate. An hour later, my stomach protested. As we explored downtown Ghent, I watched the dull pain. It was large, but not as large as the old city and its human beings. And I’m glad that’s true.

Bye, bye Ghent. Until December then, and another rendezvous with lovely bejewelled ladies.

More Than One

We’re home in Belgium, having said goodbye to our home in Italy. And then there is the question “What makes these places home?” The roll of the land is very beautiful, as is the grandeur of the old buildings. Tourist attractions abound, as do fine hotels and B&Bs. Still, the answer isn’t there.

It is very simply people who beckon me home. Perhaps we meet in the cool of this baguetteria in Roma. Maybe in our car today on the way to Oudenaarde. We gather. In the evening, Lore, Lydia and I watched The Notebook. It was the first time for me, maybe the twentieth for Lydia. She cried. My eyes were also moist as we watched a true love unfold over time. The three of us shared such a human experience. We all want to touch and be touched.

In a few days, Jo and Lydia’s son Baziel, and Anja and Curd’s daughter Olivia will fly with me to Canada. We will see wondrous things. We will go to wondrous sporting events. The true wonder, however, will be in sharing moments together, caring for each other, hanging loose in a most delightful way.