Walking Alone

I love my Belgian family. We laugh together. We explore together, often wandering off the beaten path. And we support each other: Curd getting tired after so much driving in unknown areas, me coughing over here and over there. Etcetera.

And then there was a time for me to go out and about … alone.

I wandered along the Viale della Repubblica towards downtown Riardo. A narrow street beckoned upwards to the right and I followed my raised eyes. Beyond a tiny square stood a stone shrine to Maria. I thought of the thousands who have stood there.

The cobbles launched again, so steeply. Soon I was at the base of narrow steps that soared above the world. Balconies and potted plants greeted my climb. It was just like in the movies, and like a painting of an Italian piazza that hangs in my home. I stopped … stunned. I was really here.

The beauty of the scene embraced me, and yet a niggling feeling came my way: there were no people. Closed wooden doors told me that there were homes here but no one came out to say “Hi.”

I stood in the loneliness. It was so clear that ancient architecture and grand vistas only go so far in the creation of happiness. I need eyes meeting mine.

I ventured up and around and up some more till I saw the shade beside the castle approach. The gate was closed but I enjoyed resting in the lee of the stones. Just me. Just what I needed.

***

In the evening, we decided to eat at a restaurant a couple of miles out of town – the Masseria delle Sorgenti. I wanted to walk some back roads to get there. I believe my friends found that strange. They drove. My old friend Google Maps showed me the way, through a neighbourhood of Riardo and then out into the countrywide of vines, rows of small plants and huge bushes overflowing with white and pink flowers.

Once again, I wanted to be alone in the world.

The light was fading and I’d agreed to meet the folks at 8:30. All was quiet over the fields and part of me lounged in the solitude. Sadly, the other section of Bruce was well-scheduled, and so I didn’t give myself fully to the fragrant moments. Didn’t even take any photos.

Mr. Google told me that taking this road, that one and then the other would take me safely to my destination. And then I spotted a twinkling terrasse across the flowing land. Perfect … only about ten minutes late. That’ll do fine.

As I turned into the driveway, I noted that the sign said “Villa Ida” rather than “Masseria delle Sorgenti”. Not a problem. I pushed my chest out and strolled onto the patio, seeking my kin. There were little knots of humans spread across. I made my gracious rounds of the tables but there wasn’t a Jo or Lydia to be seen.

Huh? How could they have got lost? Google said I was here. You’d think that in a car they’d have been able to achieve that as well.

I spoke to a chef. I had just uttered the word “Masseria” when he threw his arms in the air, aiming his outstretched fingers way to the left.

Well … Back to the road. Down to the highway. A large sign announced my restaurant but I had no clue about how to find it. Two young men in a car pointed down the way I had come.

***

Just so you know, thanks to WhatsApp, and Curd picking me up amid the darkness, I was reunited with les Belges. The pasta was delicious. The company was better.

Ciao until tomorrow.

Day Three: And So We Begin

I walked out of my door this morning to the scent of wood. There’s a pool at the motel and workers are erecting a fence around it. It’s redwood, and the smell was sweet. I just stood and breathed it in, and life entered as well. There is great beauty available on the inhale.

The fence is composed of long horizontal boards, with a few inches of air separating each piece. From the window table of the breakfast room, I gazed at the design. The walls create the feeling of sanctuary but the openness allows contact with the world beyond. And we humans need both: a sense of home, of safety, as well as the need to reach out to others. I love symbols.

Kaitlyn and Ryan were back for breakfast and I was looking forward to talking to them again. Although they were friendly, they said no to my request to join them. As I watched them head to their room, I was sad. I felt the intentional distance. And I wished them well, knowing I’ll probably never see them again.

This afternoon, we members of the Evolutionary Collective begin our adventure. We’re at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, a collection of old stone and wood buildings created by Julia Morgan, one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling of architecture. And breakthroughs in our lives are possible for all of us over the next five days. Perhaps one hundred people will share the consciousness that is both personal and global, timeless and evolutionary, raucous and sublime. What will come to be? I don’t know.

***

I walked my suitcase to Asilomar this morning, and greeted kindred souls in the lobby. I knew there would be an online mutual awakening practice at noon, where we see each other in little rectangles on our screens. I decided to bolt for the beach with my smartphone. One boardwalk looked like it would go there, and I sallied forth. Sand dunes full of tiny exotic plants came my way. As I walked at some distance from the resort, I finally figured out that the boardwalk was climbing. 11:48. Push on or admit defeat? I stood for a bit, and soon was retracing my steps.

Another boardwalk seemed to be seeking water. 11:54. I trotted across 17 Mile Drive and there was the expanse of sand. Rocks to the right at the water’s edge. I plunked down on a fairly flat one and checked out what the worldwide folks would see, using selfie view. Yes! Waves rolling ashore and bubbling up on rocks. At 12:00, my friends from here, there and everywhere got to see the Pacific.

I could only hold up my phone for so long and then I dropped my arms, leaving people seeing me and the sky. After a little rest, here came the seascape again. And the pattern repeats. I was determined to give my best, to have the world see the beauty. Along the way, young families strolled by. I loved the wee little kids. And surfers in wet suits. And a school class eager to dig for tiny crabs. All of us together.

***

Now it’s late. There were 86 of us in the room, including 13 newbies to this depth of the work, including me. We did a practice where groups of five EC Core members would beam love to us new guys. All told, I got to stand and sit in front of thirteen groups of fine souls. At the end of it all, I knew I belonged, in a way that also thoroughly respected my uniqueness.

***

I am very tired. Time for bed, my friends. See you on the morrow.

Long Haul Trucker

I went to a men’s breakfast at a church in London this morning.  Before the food was rolled out, I took a seat in the foyer next to a fellow wearing shorts.  He was an old guy (sort of like me!)  We talked a bit of this and that and then I asked if he was retired.  He was.

“I was a long haul trucker for 45 years.”

I love learning about other people’s lives, especially if they’ve done things that I never have.  I’ve often wondered what a trucker’s life is like.  The flow of the open road sounds marvelous but being alone for so long feels like misery.  I’m not a “go it alone” type guy.

Robbie has been happily married for many decades.  But he’d often be on trips for five weeks at a time.  I asked him if 90% of his married life was spent away from each other.  “Yeah, that sounds about right.”  I asked how you keep a relationship going through such lengthy absences.  He smiled immediately and his eyes seemed far away.  “It’s not a problem.”  I looked again, and there was love.

My new friend mentioned that he had an accident once but that was 8,000,000 miles ago.  I asked about driving across the continent in winter.  “I know what to do when it snows, even when there’s freezing rain.  There’s a lot of weight in that rig but I just go slow when it’s slippery.”  Alrighty then.  Clearly driving truck isn’t for me.  I get so tense when the temperature is around 0º Celsius and the clouds are dripping their blessings.

I asked about whether trucking companies put pressure on drivers to cover a lot of ground fast, to absolutely make deadlines that are thousands of miles away.  “No, I had plenty of time to meet their schedule.  But I didn’t want to sit in coffee shops blabbing to other guys for two hours.  Can’t make money that way.”  Okay, I like making money too but I also want to spend time with folks.

Robbie said that often he’d have a trip that went something like this: Toronto > Laredo, Texas > Vancouver > Boston > home.  I can only imagine.  Did he drive alone?  “Yes, I love the peace and quiet, just turning on the cruise control and watching the world go by.  I’m a loner.”

He showed me a photo of his bright blue rig.  He was beaming.  “Two bunk beds in the back of the cab.  Lots of room.  After I got my max ten hours of driving in, I’d pull off somewhere and snooze away.”  Oh my.  So alone, but that’s what Robbie chose, so good for him.

Now the man is retired but I can see the blacktop in his eyes.  He says it’s a challenge for both him and his wife now that he’s home so much, but no big deal.  Here’s a fellow who has so many miles to look back on.  He seems at peace with himself.

We’re both a lot hungry and the bacon, eggs, beans and pancakes are ready for us now.  And anyway, I’ve already been nourished.

Day One: Up, Up and Away

Oh yes … another roaming of the world. Who will I meet? What moments will I cherish? Will I let myself be undone on the other end of the continent?

Since my flight zooms away at 6:30 pm, I had time to go to school. It was March Break last week so I hadn’t been surrounded by 12-year-olds for ten days.

On the road through farmland, I spied a V way high in the sky. I slowed and wondered as at least 80 tundra swans flew over Scarlet. These huge white birds come through Southern Ontario every spring on their way to the Arctic. They flowed out both ways from the leader, their wings appearing to be in unison with their friends. The power … the grace … the sense of a group direction. Wow.

And now in the classroom. As I opened the door, I heard a few cries of welcome, even with the Math lesson in full swing. I decided to sit back and see if any hands went up for help. There was only one, and I helped the guy, at least a bit. I wanted to have conversations, to hear about the kids’ vacation adventures, but the task at hand was long division. Inside, I felt a loosening, a relaxing into the possibility that today won’t be about 1-1 moments. I smiled, sat off to the side and waited for the approach of any kid who wanted to talk.

As the morning twirled away, a few young ones came over, curious about San Francisco. One girl told me about Los Angeles, and all the cool tourist stuff to do there. Another one talked about her sister waking up screaming one night, in great pain. She’s fine now. It was clear to me that it doesn’t matter what kids and I talk about. The moments of being together are all that I need, even if there are few of them.

Now I’m deep in the concourse of the Toronto Airport, enjoying an arugula and feta cheese salad. I’m so pleased with myself for not choosing some high-fat alternative.

I’m thinking about “Jeff”, the fellow I lined up with in front of US Customs. We were in long looping lines with probably 200 other folks. And we got talking. It doesn’t matter who went first … I’m pretty sure that both of us were open to conversation. Jeff lives in New York City and we’re both in love with the place. I got to revisit my favourite moments from two months ago, much to his delight. Central Park! The MET! The 911 Museum! The noise and hurry! How astonishing to launch right into life’s joys with a so-called stranger. Jeff even knew the San Francisco area and recommended a ferry ride to the cutesy village of Tiburon. After visiting the customs guy, we bid each other farewell with “Have a good life.”

Now I’m beside my friend “Philippe” on a big Boeing plane, 298 of us zipping along at 900 kilometres an hour. We’re heading to the Evolutionary Collective meeting on the weekend, sharing plane seats and a hotel room. We’ve talked for two hours about falling in love, living freely and uniting with the people around us. We’ve shared joys and foibles. We’ve leaned into the future and found mystery there.

Tomorrow morning, we go in search of a healthy restaurant and emerging miracles. What will San Francisco and Berkeley share with us? If we listen very, very carefully, all will be revealed.

San Francisco

I get aboard the big bird tomorrow.  Here I come.  The main reason I’m going is to gather with members of the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp group.  Our contact so far has been online, where we do the Mutual Awakening Practice and delve into the worlds of integrity, trust and giving.  Now we get to see that each of us really has legs!  The EC is a marvelous vehicle for exploring consciousness.  We aim to spread love across the world, irrespective of religion, culture, race, gender or any other variable you can think of.  Who knows what we can create during the upcoming three-day weekend?

Before the meeting, I have two days to explore San Francisco, and then two more afterwards.  Jody and I were in the city thirty years ago.  We loved sitting in a sidewalk café on Lombard Street, which was very steep.  I remember seeing a gentleman push a woman in a wheelchair … from two blocks down, to us, and disappearing two blocks up.  It was astonishing.  Then there was Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, the basking sea lions, the sun on the ocean, the long loaf of sourdough bread.

What will beckon me on Wednesday?  Right now it’s a mystery, like much of my life.  Will I repeat the itinerary or branch out to parts unknown?  Plan B sounds more exciting but I know I’d be fine with the Lombard viewing and biting through soft sourdough.  Still .. a tour of Alacatraz at night?  A stroll through Haight-Ashbury, the former hippie heaven?  Why not?

Perhaps I’ll set off in the morning with my active brain decommissioned, wondering what’s around the next corner, and having no need to see a top ten tourist attraction.  Maybe I’ll spot an old guy on a bench and talk to him for an hour or two.  After all, that’s how I met Lydia and Jo – on an Alberta hiking trail, and look where I ended up (in Belgium and Senegal with them).

On my recent trips, I’ve enjoyed blogging every day, from Day One to Day End.  There’s a rhythm there that I love.  It’s not appropriate to share the specific practices we do in the EC but I can give you a general flavour of us being together.  As for the world of San Francisco, the sky’s the limit for my words.

Come with me on the journey.  I promise you surprises, laughter and a bit of communion.

 

Twenty Flights

Perhaps I’m crazy.  Over the years, several people have volunteered that opinion.  I seem to be throwing myself into life in an unprecedented way.  I’m going here, I’m going there.  And mostly I’m flying through the air (with the greatest of ease).

Between now and early January, I’m stepping aboard twenty airplanes.  This will involve a major dip into savings.  It’s not that I haven’t considered the financial fallout … but I’m doing it anyway!

It’s all about love.  And the physical distance between my loved ones and me will decline to zero, again and again.  I will be looking into the eyes of Canadians, Americans, Belgians and Senegalese, and I will see beauty there.  I will truly be a world traveller, something that has not been true in the past.

Here’s my itinerary.  The dates are approximate but you’ll get the idea:

1.  March 19 – Toronto to San Francisco for the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp three-day weekend

2.  March 27 – San Francisco to Toronto

3.  April 30 – Toronto to San Jose, California for the EC five-day event “All Together Now”

4.  May 9 – San Jose to Toronto

5.  June 5 – London, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta for my nephew Jaxon’s high school graduation

6.  June 13 – Calgary to London

7.  June 28 – Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my friend Sharyn in Mannville, Alberta and my brother-in-law Lance and his family in Longview, near Calgary

8.  July 12 – Calgary to Toronto

(What?  One day between!  You’re nuts.)

9.  July 14 – Toronto to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

10.  July 15 – Amsterdam to Brussels, Belgium to visit Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel

11.  July 20 – Brussels to Rome, Italy to go ‘splorin’ with Lydia, Jo, Anja and Curd

12.  July 30 – Rome to Brussels

13.  August 4 – Brussels to Amsterdam

14.  August 4 – Amsterdam to Toronto with Baziel (Lydia and Jo’s son – age 14) and Olivia (Anja and Curd’s daughter – age 14)  to explore Toronto, Niagara Falls and Belmont for two weeks

15.  December 15 – Toronto to Amsterdam

16.  December 16 – Amsterdam to Brussels to visit Lydia and her family

17.  December 22 – Brussels to Dakar, Senegal with Lydia and ten other Belgian folks to visit the kids we sponsor in Toubacouta, Senegal

18.  January 4, 2020 – Dakar to Brussels

19.  January 8 – Brussels to Amsterdam

20.  January 8 – Amsterdam to Toronto

***

Why did I tell you all this stuff?  So you’ll think I’m super cool?  So you’ll think I’m absolutely full of myself?  Well, no. These trips are an expression of my need for contact, true communion, “being with” across the miles.  There’s some power surging up in me, demanding I pay attention.  My beingness has been deep for years, and that will continue.  Now it’s time  to get out there far more and do things – Bruce actions that make a difference in Belmont, San Francisco, Nukerke, Pompeii and Toubacouta.

Whatever happened to that recent fellow who wanted to hang out in rural Massachusetts for three months … in silence?  He’s still here.  It’s just that he’s been transcended and included.

On I go

Day Three (and Four!): In Love

I’ve been totally absorbed in supporting the members of the Evolutionary Collective as they meet in New York. So I haven’t blogged since Friday. I’ll make up for it over the next few days!

***

(Saturday) Usually when we hear that someone is in love, we think of a couple. Yesterday, I was “within love” with thirty other people. The eastern part of the Evolutionary Collective Core is meeting in New York for three days. And I get to assist. Although it’s not appropriate for me to share the specific practices we do, I can give you the flavour of our togetherness.

In this work, we make contact with other human beings. We “see” each other. Maybe that’s where the word “core” comes from. And we also go far beyond the relationship between two or three people. We’re participating in the evolution of consciousness in the world towards a place where no one is left out. Someone walks into a room and the group’s response is “Super! Another person to be with, to learn from, to love.” I sense a yearning in the world to touch – physically and spiritually. May love evolve through all of us.

(Monday) I’m in Scotty’s Diner on Lexington Avenue, waiting for my friend “Terry” to join me for breakfast. Yesterday late afternoon, we two assistants sat in the lobby of the Affinia Shelburne Hotel, realizing that all our EC friends had left for airports, trains … for home. I felt a momentary loneliness but then it came through clearly – neither distance nor time can separate us. They’re all with me as I sit here tapping away.

Before our meeting was to start yesterday at 10:00 am, the room manager “Denise” realized that the candle at the front of the room had burned out. The hotel didn’t have any appropriate replacement so I volunteered to find one downtown somewhere. Mr. Google told me about Diptyque a few blocks away, and it was open! The candle shop was down some corridor in an office building. Even with the shortness of time, I trusted that all would be revealed to me in moments. It turned out to be many moments. And when I got there, the store was dark. Ahh … truth in advertising.

I looked inside and wondered at my calm. 9:35. Clearly it was time to discover the glories of riding a cab in NYC. Bed Bath and Beyond was about ten blocks away. The cabbie was friendly and efficient. He commented that traffic was so light this morning. Okay, not exactly my perspective.

Into the store I rushed and asked for candles. “Downstairs, turn left, way down the aisle past pet supplies.” Sure, I can do that. I found a lovely round candle in a clear glass container … looked kind of elegant. I paid for my treasure and was soon back on the street, arm up, flagging down a cab like a local. 9:48. The driver heard the hotel address and headed for a freeway ramp. Yay for local knowledge.

9:57. Therough the door of the meeting room. Candle placed on the round table at the front, accompanied by a lovely bouquet of floors. A box of matches sat there, invitingly. Done deal.

This morning, in the darkness of my mind, I stubbed my toe on the two-inch rise from the kitchen to the bathroom. Oww! And now, after breakie, it still hurts a lot. Strangely and miraculously, though, I’m not adding anything to the pain. No “Ain’t it awful?” No angst about how life is treating me unfairly. Clearly the human beings I’ve just spent three days with are having their effect. Once Terry leaves on his bus for New Hampshire, I’m off to explore Central Park … slowly.

There, I’m back on track with you. Wonders of New York are ready to welcome me. Please walk with me over the next four days.

Day One: The Energy

It was a long trip from Newark Airport to Manhattan. An Air Train dipsy doodle to the New Jersey Transit Station, then a long wait, then a leisurely float to New York’s Penn Station. One fellow asked me for directions. I laughed and told him I was an absolute newbie. The folks standing around at the transit station seemed normal. It could have been a scene from downtown Toronto.

At Penn Station, I climbed all these stairs, building up my biceps as I hauled my suitcase upwards. A fellow hosting a tourist booth downstairs laid out my options. A cab would work. That’s certainly what a woman on the plane had suggested. As we landed, she said there was no way I should be navigating the subway system, in the rain, with luggage, on my very first visit to New York. I agreed. But Mr. Tourism Agent got me thinking: walk three blocks to a subway station. The train could deposit me within a thirty minute walk of my new home. Why not? Go for it, young man.

Finally a door, and the street. And then … whoosh! The sidewalk was packed with almost sprinting New Yorkers. The buildings soared above the canyons. Huge neon video boards sold their wares. And I was stunned. Sirens howled, horns blasted and the world was electric. Oh my God, who are all these people? And what am I enjoying all this noise, me of the silent mediation retreats? Just fall into it, Bruce.

I found my home … at 515 East 5th Street, and proceeded to be mystified by the lockbox that faced me. Oh, Bruce, I thought you were smarter than this! Apparently not.

Finally gaining entry, I noted that my apartment was 5C. In the first floor hallway, all I saw was 1B, 1C … A woman left her room and we smiled. “Is there an elevator?” > “No, it’s a walkup.” > (Sigh) A long haul indeed.

It was 7:00 pm. In my sweet room, with its red brick wall, I worked at translating the NYC subway map. Good luck. I Googled this and that, trying to figure out how I was going to arrive at the Affinia Shelburne Hotel tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.

Okay, it was time for action. I figured out that a northward bus was nearby. I asked folks for directions. Every single one of them was friendly! That’s not what I was told about New Yorkers.

Off the bus here, onto probably the right subway line there. Confused a lot, happy even more. And everywhere the surge of humanity. Wow, I love this stuff! At the end of exploration, there I sat in the lobby of the Affinia Shelburne, hoping I’d see a few members of the Evolutionary Collective hanging around. But no.

Now I’m in a bar called “Niagara”, congratulating myself on conquering New York. Except I didn’t. I’ve merely begun to embrace the city.

More to come …

New York

Arggh! I just completed a blog post about my upcoming journey to New York City. WordPress told me that my words were being saved as I typed, 380 of them. I edited the piece and moved towards “Publish”. And then the whole darned thing disappeared. I’ve tried recovering it, but my reflection on what starts tomorrow is … gone.

I’m tired and there’s an early wake up call in the morning. But I committed to let you know about my trip, and to do it tonight. So, back to it!

***

Can it be that I’m going to another new place? First there was Belgium, them Senegal, and tomorrow … New York City. What mysteries will reveal themselves? Will I stay open to what draws me, moment by moment? Yes, I will.

I got an e-mail in Belgium from an Evolutionary Collective staff member, asking if I would be interested in assisting at the upcoming three-day weekend. Folks who for years have been a part of this consciousness of mutual love and awakening are gathering at the Affinia Shelburne Hotel. My answer was immediate. I get to run microphones, move chairs, organize nametags and in general look out for what’s needed. And I’ll bathe in the beauty of others. I’m pretty new on this journey but I’m clear: I want to be where those folks are – immersed in something big.

How did I come to be with so many opened-hearted people? How is it that I discovered the work of Patricia Albere? It’s true that I’ve cared for people for many years, wanting the best for them, but that doesn’t entitle me to anything. It’s by grace that I have come this way. Now it’s my job to serve, to remove any distractions so that the participants can dive deeply into “being with” each other.

After Sunday, I have four days of exploration. The only “for sure” items in my mind are visiting the 911 Memorial and going to a Broadway play. I remember my immense sadness in September, 2001, and I know it will return next week. I have a DVD of footage shot while the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, and of the aftermath, where people were trapped in the rubble – broken bones, bleeding, difficulty breathing. What horror. When I’m there next week, I want to sit with my sadness, rather than cover it over with political analysis or stories of heroism.

This morning, as I was driving into London, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio. Tom Power was talking to a cast member of the play Network, based on a 1976 movie about the rantings of a TV news anchor who was “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore”. I was fascinated with the discussion and soon was yearning to go. “I wonder where it’s being performed.” The answer came right away … Broadway. That’s me! I got on my phone and scored one of the few remaining tickets. This fellow will be sitting in the balcony of the Belasco Theatre next Wednesday evening.

What will emerge over the next nine days? I’ve told you about a couple of knowns, but really they’re unknowns like everything else. Let’s go ‘splorin’. I hope you’ll come along on the journey.

Day Seventeen: New Year’s Eve

Well, I’m falling so far behind in my story and I’m tired. But I guess if I don’t catch up it’s really not an issue.

On Sunday night, several of us went to a dance competition in Toubacouta because Mareama was performing with her friends. She’s the young woman who arranged for me to have Senagalese pantaloons made. She also tried on my glasses. I wanted to be there for her.

We showed up at 9:00 pm or so and had to wait for awhile as the crowd surged into the dance hall. As far as I could tell, we were the only white folks, and that was just fine.

The eight of us sat in the second row, right in front of booming speakers. What a rush … although maybe I won’t be feeling the same a year from now if I need hearing aids. I danced in my seat, slapping my thighs in all sorts of rhythms that came to hands.

Around 10:00 a drumming group walked onto the stage. Woh! Now there’s a frantic pace. I could fell the blows in my bones and the beat was hypnotic.

Finally, maybe around midnight, the first of the dancing groups showed up. I saw stories in song and dance and the first few were about slavery. The acting looked awfully real: black folks dressed up as slave owners were beating on black folks dressed as slaves. And the crowd’s reaction? Laughter. I didn’t understand.

As 1:00 turned to 2:00, I had one question: Where is Mareama? Patience, Bruce.

I was beside a young woman wearing what I took to be traditional Islamic dress. She sat sedately … that is until this major hunk came out on stage, wearing flashy clothes and able to twist himself like a pretzel to the music. My friend went wild, throwing her arms in the air. Women shouted throughout the hall. The guy was a sensation. Gosh, women have never reacted to me that way.

Sometime in the wee hours, five men and three women strutted out wearing gorgeous reflective silver costumes. The music roared and they gave ‘er. My God, how awesome it was to be there.

Finally, about 2:45, here comes Mareama and her companions, all dressed in white. For the first part, she lurked at the back of the stage, but then she burst out to the edge, arms flailing and eyes crazy. I loved it.

Jo and I were the only ones from our family who stayed so late. It was worth it, and Mareama appreciated our congratulations as we headed for the exit. Well done, my Senegalese friend.

We drove home on the highway and it was cold without a coat. It no doubt helped keep Jo awake on the moto.

***

Okay, that was Sunday and now it’s Tuesday. (Sigh) I’m having trouble remembering what was what yesterday. I do know that I woke up at 11:00. A group of us headed out with Curd to get his hair cut. The man likes it short. On the way home, we passed the Toubacouta soccer field. Two uniformed teams were going at it and I had to stay and watch for awhile. It was enthralling. It was a simple dirt field. Goal posts with no net. And speed! There were deft passes, wondrously controlled dribbles and blasting shots. I would have paid for a ticket.

On the sidelines four boys tried to keep a soccer ball in the air. A swordsman flowing with red ribbons swashbuckled his way through the fans. And the music blasted from the loudspeakers. Oh my, it was an event.

Our three families had dinner together at Eddy’s. Louisa had been vomiting the night before and was very weak but she didn’t want to be alone so her family made sure she got to the B&B. She lay back in a chair by the pool and sure didn’t feel like eating. But she wanted to see the food. Jan dad helped her up and together they staggered to the buffet, so she could salivate about the steak that would be a major no-no. It was beautiful to see the love between father and daughter.

Later in the evening, I had a great conversation with Louisa’s brother Jean. They both speak fine English, as well as French and their native Flemish. Jean fold me about Belgium’s different areas and languages. He, like many others, thought that me learning Flemish would be a major chore. But Bruce, I thought, go for it.

And so the evening waned. We all left for our rooms before midnight. Party animals we are not.