Lisa Munniksma

freelance writing, editing, farming, travel

Unexpectedly Belgium


Add tractor driving to the list of fun farm things I've been doing in Belgium.

I’ve been in Belgium for nearly a month. This was definitely not the plan. My “plan” (meaning loose idea of how this trip might work) was to spend two weeks on each farm and one week exploring the country before hitting the next country. Mind you, arriving in Belgium was sort of a fluke. This was not a country on my must-visit list. I knew nothing about Belgium except that it has beer and it is situated nicely between The Netherlands (my starting point) and France (my goal for July). Considering that and looking at the calendar, I’m questioning how the heck I’m still here.

Any of you who actually know me might agree that I’m—shall I say—non-committal. When I arrived at this farm, Wouter, my host, asked how long I planned to stay. I told him two-ish weeks and gave the disclaimer that I didn’t actually have my next farm stay lined up. He said it was OK for my plan to be flexible.

As I started looking at potential hosts in France, I wasn’t finding too many that struck me as the next place I needed to go, so I wasn’t too quick to make offers of a visit.  But then weeks started passing faster. (I swear, one week went by so fast, I had no idea it was already Friday.) And now I’m at four weeks and one day, and I finally have my next stop lined up for the end of this week—a stop I am super excited about, despite having taken so long to actually find it.

Part of me was beginning to feel like I was stuck in Belgium, almost wasting my trip here. That’s just the tiny impatient part of me (as opposed to the large impatient part of me), though. The rest of me is thrilled and amazed at all I’ve done and seen.

In summary, I have: visited Antwerp for the quietest Sunday you can have in a city, visited Gent for a fun weekend with new CouchSurfing friends, attended the crazy and awesome Doudou Festival in Mons with new CouchSurfing friends, tolerated a miserable day and a half in Liege (my least favorite city so far), spent an afternoon exploring the small city of Mechelen, spent several afternoons drinking a quiet pint in Duffel and Sint-Katelijne-Waver, hashed twice in and around Brussels with some of the fittest and most fun hashers I’ve met yet, gone to two BBQs in Brussels, rode a bike one hour each way (home after 1 a.m.) to a random and artsy street festival in Boom, twice received light from Sukyo Mahikari practitioners, drank how many different kinds of Belgian beer, ate how many Belgian frites (glorious!), and met many people who have helped to color this trip a shade of bizarre.

Then there’s the work I’m doing on this organic, progressive and honestly inspiring farm: harvesting, planting, hoeing, weeding, driving a tractor while others sweat their butts off making hay, sorting leeks, cooking, attempting to make jam and desserts, plucking Colorado potato beetles from potato plants for six hours, scrubbing the produce storage room for two hours, tying vining-veggie climbing supports for what felt like eternity (we all hate these things), and learning to live and work with people who I might not choose to live and work with otherwise.

I’ll be sad when Thursday rolls around and I hit the train for France, and I can only hope the rest of my trip proves as unexpectedly unexpected as a month in Belgium has.

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