A Merkez Welcome

I came to the Sleepstraat over a year ago after realizing “I could live in Ghent!” I was staying with Lydia and Jo near Ronse and started taking the train into Ghent to explore.

The Sleepstraat is the centre of the Turkish community. Lots of pizza places.

I wandered upon a lovely old church – Sint-Salvator:

It had a boat outside! But the door was locked. I could tell that someday I would return.

I glanced across the street and swiftly translated the word “bakkerij” to “bakery”. I was hungry.

A bearded man behind the counter waved hello. Such a smile! Since there wasn’t a lineup, he had time to talk. I said that I planned to move to Ghent from Canada. My new friend’s face said it all: he was thrilled.

I sat down and ate a spinach wrap as new customers were greeted like brothers and sisters. I remember smiling.

And then I left … back to Ronse … back to Canada. In February, 2022 I began the process of getting a visa to live in Belgium. On January 28, 2023 I landed at Brussels Airport – my new visa securely attached to my passport. And I remembered the man behind the counter.

So … this morning I walked on the Oudburg to the Sleepstraat. And on to Sint-Salvator … on to Merkez.

There were lots of customers to serve and there was my friend serving them:

Once while waiting in line I caught his eye but he didn’t seem to recognize me. Oh well, a year is a long time.

I knew what I wanted to do – approach the owner and say “You are one of the reasons I moved to Ghent. You were so friendly to me a year ago.”

After I finished eating, and the customers were few, I went up to the guy with a smile on my face. I started talking. His eyes narrowed. He didn’t understand. Somehow, in the year between, his English had faded away. His two employees didn’t understand me either.

Finally a bilingual man came into the bakery and translated for me. The owner was polite but clearly “a guy from Canada” didn’t compute.

I was sad. This was not the moment I was hoping for. I really wanted him to get the difference he made in my life. So much for the value of expectations.

As I was putting on my backpack to leave, I thanked the generous translator.

Then I heard him say “Wait!” Another gentleman had come in the side door, and the translator was pointing at him and saying something in Flemish.

I looked up to see this:

There are two brothers

This one remembers me well

And I delivered my message of thanks

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