I knew Friday would be a big day. It was time to register with the city of Ghent. My visa to live in Belgium was approved four weeks ago, while I was in Canada. The Belgian Consulate in Montreal attached my brand new visa to the passport and mailed it back to me in Toronto. After I landed in Brussels last Saturday, the rule was that I had eight days to register with Ghent. I tried on Wednesday but the Ghent Administration Office was closed until Friday because they were moving to a new building.
Okay, those are the details. On Friday, I put all the originals of the necessary documents in my little backpack and started walking to Woodrow Wilsonplein, the square in Ghent where the office is. Momentous. Changing countries. New city. New home.
I took a number and after twenty minutes walked up to a friendly service representative. All that happened was that I was given an appointment for February 21. The cool thing was how welcoming she was. And making the appointment was good enough to fulfill my eight-day responsibility.
There was a skip in my step as I wandered away from the office. Soon I was beside the Leie River, and a row of blue metal chairs invited me to take a load off … to celebrate. So I did. My mind was as airy as the seagulls flying by. I watched two guys on the far shore having an animated conversation. The tram whizzed by on the nearby Veldstraat. I love the ring of its bell. Folks filled the street.
I was a smiley type of guy. All was well. Why not mosey over to one of my favourite pubs – Café de Loge – for a thrilling Belgian beer? Why not indeed? I raised my bod from the chair and headed off down a marvelous curving street full of buildings that are 200-300 years old. I felt LIGHT!
Wait a minute – a little too light. I reached behind for the backpack strap … and it was not to be found. I uttered a well-known expletive and whirled around. Passport, visa, originals of essential documents – O my God, please may they be there! Around one corner, now two. The third one would give me a view of those blue chairs. I had put my backpack on the ground beside the rightmost one.
The corner of the last building, and then revealed was my backpack, sitting on top of the chair. O my God again! Somebody moved it. As my legs sped up my feet, and I was only metres away, there stood a young man. I pointed to my chest. He nodded … and smiled.
“I hoped you’d come back.” Me too. “I didn’t look inside. You’re very lucky.” Agreed.
We talked for a few minutes, after I had ripped open the pack and found everything intact. He was a nice guy, a really nice guy.
Thank you, whoever is watching over me in life. (Sigh) I am blessed.