The universe and its perverse ideas of amusement

Just a few days ago, I was complaining to a friend that I had not done enough ‘hardcore’ things on this trip. I am constantly envious when I hear of amazing travel tales from long safaris through the African desert or eye-to-eye greetings with pumas in Costa Rica. So when I reflect back on my time away, I realise I have barely seen enough to sustain any interesting travel tales for the next 10 years.

On Friday, the universe heard my whinging and decided to play a little game with me. It was another brisk night in Gent; I had spent the day in nearby Antwerp hunting unsuccessfully for a pair of Miu Miu shoes and was now returning a little worse for wear at the day’s disappointment. Those who know me know that in times of starvation, I often exercise poor judgment. I thought it was a fantastic idea to not buy sushi at the restaurant whose menu I had been staring at for 15 minutes then and there, but endure the hour-long train ride back to Gent, followed by another 15 minute (or so I thought) stroll to another sushi restaurant I had found during my wanderings.

It was 10pm by the time I reached Gent and it was another hour until I had relocated the sushi store after retracing numerous unnecessary footsteps, gotten my meal and returned to the apartment. At the time, my room mate was not home to open the gate to the apartment block, but I assumed she had just gone out and would return in a few hours like all the previous times. So there I ate my sushi and watched the battery in my phone slowly fade. By the time 12pm rolled around, she still hadn’t returned and I began toying with the idea of finding a hostel for the night as she wasn’t picking up her phone either. With the night getting colder, I kept walking back and forth while I continued waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

It wasn’t until 2am that I finally reached her with the help of a night shop owner who graciously lent me his phone upon hearing my tragic tale of being locked out. She was at a festival far far away and would not return for the night, the key was hidden inside the apartment block. It turns out she had sent me several unreceived messages re the fact. After having zero luck waking the neighbours and discovering McDonalds closed at 12pm, the reality of the situation dawned on me. It was now 3am and freezing cold at 10 degrees. I had two options: really check myself into a hotel for the night or busy myself on the streets until sunrise at 5am sans working phone, battery or substantial clothing.

I chose the latter. Not because I had wanted to fulfill my wish of being hardcore but just because I considered staying at a hotel for a few hours a waste of money. As aforementioned, hunger often hampers my judgment and my meal had long ago been digested.

I barely remember what I did for those few hours, but it involved a lot of walking on already sore feet, sitting on benches massaging said feet and people watching. In spite of the cold, I was still in relatively neutral spirits and didn’t feel as though the situation was as desperate as I had expected. I was surprised at how inactive my thoughts were, how unafraid I was wandering those windy streets. The centre was still relatively lively with bar and club hoppers before dawn, but sunrise turned over silent lanes and empty roads. I remember following the sun in futile attempts to warm myself up as even the smallest gust of wind would send the chills straight to my spine. When I finally got back into the apartment at 9am, I made a bee-line for a hot shower and didn’t get out for half an hour.

If the previous night’s “events” weren’t enough, I neared the verge of tears after being misinformed about the correct train to get to the Luminosity Beach Festival in Netherlands. It took me an hour to get back to the correct station, another 10 minutes to reach the initially-desired station and another 40 minutes to walk to the festival on account of my horrendous sense of direction.

I had missed Leon Bolier’s, Rafael Frost’s, Julian Vincent’s sets and only managed to catch the last 15 minutes of Roger Shah’s by the time I made it to festival. By some miracle, my day was salvaged with the other amazing djs I had come to see, including W&W, Lange, Andy Moor and Simon Patterson. By midnight that night, my trauma had dissolved into something almost humourous when I recounted the happenings to my Couchsurfing host, Sanne. Although it may have been due to lack of sleep for over 36 hours, Sanne and I stayed up until dawn sharing life stories and other wonderful musings. We farewelled one another promising to meet again on Sunday and off I was to Gent again. Luckily, I wasn’t locked out again when I returned at 10pm, even though my room mate still had not returned but the gate was unlocked!

It seemed the universe threw a tantrum that Friday at me, the unsuspecting victim but mellowed its rage into a subtle fondness by weekend’s end.

Here are some pictures of beautiful Gent. I would definitely not have discovered this place on my own if it had not been for my girlfriend Steffy, whom I met last year in Fiji. This city is amazing.

Gravensteen castles

Steffy cooking a traditional Flemish dish of witloof wrapped in ham topped with bechamel sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes