Sunday Mornings in Belgium

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I am continually amazed at how the world wakes up and gets moving early on Sunday mornings here in Belgium, says Expatica blogger V-Grrrl.

 

Americans have reputation for being on the go 24/7—and they’ve earned it. We’re the country that has stores and restaurants that never close, highways that hum with traffic round the clock, and people who rarely slow down. The only time Americans come close to truly relaxing is on Sunday mornings. In America, this is the day most people sleep late, savor an extra cup of coffee, read the newspaper, and linger in their pajamas. No one is eager to get out of the house.

 

Not so here in Belgium. I am continually amazed at how the world wakes up and gets moving early on Sunday mornings. People queue up at the bread store and the line snakes out the door and onto the sidewalks. The spirited shouts of soccer players drift off the fields as teams play matches early in the day. Even with most shops closed, the village centers pulse with activity. Couples, families, dog walkers—they’re all out, chatting and strolling along the sidewalks.

But the real action is in the streets. Yes, Sunday mornings belong to cyclists in Belgium. Clad in aerodynamic outfits on sleek touring bikes, cycling club members dominate the roads, moving in colorful packs through neighborhood streets and along major byways.

They seem to be whizzing by if you’re standing on the sidewalk as they pass, but if you’re driving a car, and encounter large groups of cyclists, it seems they’re crawling along, legs pumping furiously while their bicycles move in slow motion. This is a scenario we’re all too familiar with because we attend church services in Waterloo on Sundays and meet many cyclists on our way.

 

There are days when this puts us in a less-than-Christian state of mind. One morning when we were grumpy and running late, we found ourselves in the middle of a cycling event in our commune and completely engulfed by bicycles at a traffic light. They were inches away from the front and rear bumpers as well as the sides of the car. I was terrified my husband would hit one of them and told him to watch his driving; the group included not just typical cycling team members but families with children.

 

Since we were already in bad moods, the comment led to a nasty exchange as my husband assured me yes, he could see ALL the cyclists, he noticed the children, and he KNEW how to drive, thank you very much! I countered that it wasn’t about HIM and his driving skills but about bicycles and stopping distances and the laws of physics and human mortality. He rolled his eyes and asked me if I was wearing my prescription glasses. Oh, the nerve! I resisted the impulse to remind him he is BLIND in one eye. Ah yes, quite a row. Not our proudest moment—and all on the way to church. How lovely!

Last Sunday could have gone the same way. Streets were closed throughout Tervuren due to a world championship cycling event at the park We’d left the house early because our daughter was going to be participating in the church service that day and was very excited about it.

When we realized one of the roads we normally take was closed, we didn’t’ panic, but took another, only to discover farther down the way that the adjoining street we needed was also unavailable. We stopped to ask a police officer who was directing traffic how to get where we needed to be going. He advised us to turn around and follow the “deviation” signs and they would eventually send us in the direction of the Ring.

And so we did. The signs took us all the way back the way we’d already come, wandered through Everberg, and then disappeared, leaving us in the middle of nowhere. All was not lost, however.

My nickname for my husband is Mappy. He has an awesome sense of direction, and I’m convinced a GPS system hard-wired into his brain. He often tells the natives the best way to get around their own towns. Somehow he managed to get us back on track and on our way to church, but when all was said and done, we probably drove a good 10-15 miles out of our way.

Despite all this, we arrived at church only six minutes after the service had commenced—but too late for my daughter to do the reading she’d been assigned. We spent more time in the car getting to church than we did in church.

But I’m happy to report that this time we took our cycling adventure in stride. My daughter, while disappointed, understood we had done our best to be there on time and accepted that with grace beyond her years. My husband, an engineer whose unofficial hobby is finding the shortest path between two geographic points, didn’t get horribly frustrated by our meandering tour of the back roads of Belgium on our way to Waterloo. And me, I managed not to gasp or clutch my heart as we rocketed around the Ring that morning, even though I’m normally a skittish passenger who often has to close her eyes and consciously slow her breathing while riding in cars in Belgium.

So even though my darling daughter didn’t get to read in church, the day was memorable nonetheless. Maybe we’re finally applying all those wonderful truths dispensed in church to our Sunday mornings drives to church.

 

www.v-grrrl.com / Expatica

© Veronica McCabe Deschambault. All rights reserved.

 

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