I feel more in tune with nature here.
Today we went up to Harelbeke and de Gavers, on a day trip to the south of Flanders. I have to admit that during my year here, I never stayed too far from the coast, so there are still many places to see and now I am taking every opportunity to visit different nature reserves with my friends. It’s still summer here, even though the country is trying very hard to shake it, and from time to time the sun is warm enough for me to take my jacket off.
Harelbeke came first, because we wanted to see the bee-eaters that are breeding on a building site there. When we left the house, I was surprised at how warm it was after the day of rain yesterday. There were already some birders there when we got to Harelbeke, all set up with binos and cameras. Spotting the bee-eaters turned out not to be that hard, as the parents were constantly flying towards and from the nesthole, bringing food to their little chick.
The story of the bee-eaters in Harelbeke is actually quite a nice one: they started building there and only during the process realized that in one of the not-yet occupied areas, in a large hill covered with grass, a couple of bee-eaters had decided to breed. They are quite rare in Belgium, actually, and contrarily to most cases where man and nature collide, this time they shut down building around these hills, cordoned off the area and put up signs to inform people about what they were seeing here. Bee-eaters are quite colorful birds, almost reminiscent of colibris with their long beaks and multicolored plumage. Flying around the building site, doing the most spectacular of acrobatics in the air in the search for insects, I could observe their shining feathers in the sunlight. It was quite beautiful.
We left the birds shortly after lunch, to the lake in de Gavers, which was really just around the corner. It had a playground, and a beautiful path to walk next to the lake, and also a little forest. On the lake, I spotted some black-headed gulls, coots, and mallards, but nothing special - instead I enjoyed the calm atmosphere and the sun, accompanied by a bit of wind and the smell of wet grass under trees.
Later, we sat down on the grass to play a round of guessing games, and them made our way home, where I decided to take a short walk to the seaside, because I’d been missing it like hell. There weren’t so many tourists left, the sun wasn’t too strong anymore, and I sat down in the sand and read a bit while listening to the French kids calling to each other while gulls were complaining in load croaking noises.
Afterwards, me and two friends went to the cinema like we used to when I still lived in Belgium. We watched Paper Towns and joked around about our old inside jokes and people we knew. On a crossing after the movie, we skipped on the white stripes because one of the friends said that crocodiles could catch us if we didn’t. It felt fun to fool around like that.
When we got home, me and my friend sat down with some scotch and a puzzle and just talked - about how we had missed this, about how sad it was that it couldn’t be like this forever. Talking about this, I really don’t know how i’m holding out hope that my internship will bring all these things back that I felt before I left, and that I am now only finding in the small moments. It’s unlikely, and it’s very dangerous for me to think like that, but I can’t help but end up thinking that this is what I want to do.