Arrival in Belgium

June 5, 2007

now with photos! 2006-06-07

After managing to sleep a cumulative half hour or so overnight, I arrived in Belgium this morning at 8:30 local time. It was then that I knew my day would be pretty much shot.

Actually it's a jackdaw, cousin of the crow

I now find myself at the Theological and Pastoral Centre in Antwerp, Belgium, home of the 2007 URI Global Council meeting (next week) and global staff retreat (this week). Sitting in a Spartan dormitory room, window open to let the breeze take the edge off the humidity, I listen to the crows and a warbler or a thrush calling (probably the latter). The crows are higher-pitched than our American variety, and their cousin magpie can be found loitering as well.

I have been across the Atlantic once — the UK when I had but 6 years — and I've built up a particular picture of the housing on the continent, viz. urban blocks of row houses and tightly spaced free standing units. I expect that picture is accurate in many places, but it is not complete. Driving into Antwerp the houses and the neighborhood did not feel altogether different from those found in North America. Oddly enough, the entrance strongly reminded me of the drive from the airport to the UBC in Vancouver (minus the water front, which I have not seen yet).

And yet I should not be surprised that this part of the continent looks and feels more familiar, thus far, than I expected — after all, London is only 400 km away, less than half the distance to, say, Italy. Being this close to the UK and to Germany, the twain of whom probably bear the most responsibility for the roots of American culture, it is only reasonable to expect more familiarity than would be found farther south or east in Europe.

Now that I have slept the afternoon away it is time to prepare myself for the upcoming meetings. My day job has been too intense the past few weeks to adequately prepare for this meeting, or to recognize that today would be spent in sleep rather than sight-seeing.

eurasian blackbird.jpg
Lots of zoom → lousy photo

P.S. I have now identified my thrush as the Eurasian blackbird (great photo), which is indeed a menu of the true thrush genus, Turdus.