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J’Arrive

Posted By Alex Belth On March 28, 2009 @ 9:27 am In Bronx Banter,Childhood,Memoir | Comments Disabled

At the Sunday market in Waterloo:

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Groggy but still standing–okay, sitting–I am happy to back in the States, home with my wife and our two kittens.  I returned from a week-long visit to Belgium yesterday and with flight delays and traffic jams, it was a long day of travel.  But I had a truly wonderful trip re-connecting with my mother’s family, French-speaking Belgians, who live just outside of Brussels.  I ate frites and yes, a waffle, cheeses and chocolates, salamis and hams and wonderful bread (if only I drank beer; dag, that place is like heaven for beer drinkers). 

I learned a ton about the family history, both in Belgium and in the Congo.  I also learned to better appreciate what I have inherited from them as far as personality, taste and even talent is concerned.  My grandmother had a gift for drawing.  My aunt is a photographer and painter.  My uncle is a graphic designer.  My interested in paiting, in movies, in cooking, that all comes from them. 

My grandfather in the Congo:

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Here I am in an African shop in Brussels:

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I also recalled the summer vacations I spent there as a kid and noticed how much about the world has changed since.  I used to pine for my grandfather to take me to get the Herald Trib so that I could read three-day old box scores; I eagerly awaited letters from my family back home, which took more than a week to arrive.   Now, everything has changed thanks to technology.  I checked in on e-mail and the blog while I was gone, and saw my wife every day via skype, which is really a fantastic thing–and free, to boot. 

Here’s a shot of my mother and my aunt, Anne–kids in the Congo.

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Still, while there is plenty of Americanization there, some cultural differences exist of course. For instance, nobody has ever heard of Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez (if they were ever to hear about Rodriguez it would be as a footnote, as Madonna’s lover).  It is a place where baseball does not matter at all, and I found that to be refreshing.  It reminded me that while I love the game, really what draws me to it more than anything else, are the stories, the characters, the language, and the way it brings people together.


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