Destination Sweetheart at the Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp

This review was written for the European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW).
You can find & follow the ENoMW at their website, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Youtube

Destination Sweetheart opened in the Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, Belgium on the 25th September 2020. 

Red Star Line Museum

On first arriving at what is one of my favourite Antwerp museums I wondered if I was going to get my money’s worth: the exhibition itself, on the ground floor, is not big in terms of the space it occupies and looks initially like a a foyer expo of the sort you might idly look at while waiting to go into the main museum.

But it’s deceptive; there is a lot to take in and I could have stayed longer than the allocated 90 minute corona slot- indeed I would have had to, in order to read, look at and examine it all in its entirety.

Destination Sweetheart tells the story of those who emigrate for love and marriage, and it takes us with them on their journey, inviting the visitor to consider the choices and experiences of the love emigrant/ immigrant at various stages. This is cleverly achieved, given that there is really no single story to which these diverse physical and emotional journeys can be reduced.

At the entrance to the exhibition, the visitor encounters the photograph of Anna Raveaux, whose experience is the starting point and the inspiration for the exhibition; in 1920 she took the bold step of taking the Red Star Line to go to America to marry her partner, Roger, a sailor. The visitor stands in the building where medical examinations were conducted before passengers like Anna were permitted to board the Red Star Line boats.

It is fitting that a woman’s story begins this interesting and thoughtful exhibition. While women migrants are not the sole focus of the exhibition, for me their stories certainly seemed to dominate: on the first exhibit (a touch-screen featuring the pictures of twenty couples) fourteen of the eighteen stories of opposite-sex couples are related from the woman’s perspective, and it was the woman in every case who had made the move to her partner’s country. The exhibition also concludes with the story of two women artists – Kim Snauwaert and Anyuta Wiazemsky Snauwaert- whose relationship/ marriage is the focus of their art installation “Tussen Ons” (“Between Us”). This last part of the exhibition also details the intrusive nature of the police checks which occur when a “sham” marriage is reported.

Between the start and the end, there are many, many stories – frequently told from female perspectives – conveyed through images, recordings, films, letters, documents, historical texts and objects. The stories reflect the lives of transnationals who have made their journeys both to and from Belgium, in a wide variety of circumstances: Fati from Burkina Faso, Esther from Australia, Avdia from Romania ….

Translation: AVDIA “I came to Belgium to start a new family, and for freedom. But things here became difficult with my husband. He was loving, but also aggressive. Everything looked good to the outside world, but I returned to Romania. He came to fetch me.”

Not all stories are happy ones for their women narrators: Avdia’s story is one of surviving a relationship with an aggressive man (“I felt I was in his power”) and at points we see that laws do not favour women: one woman did not want to give up half her possessions to her fiancé in order to get married in India, as was her intention when she flew there with a wedding dress in her suitcase. Marry a Belgian as a refugee and you may not leave the marriage and retain your resident status unless you are the subject of domestic violence: you must arrange all the documents necessary to do this – it is not hard to see how such laws work disproportionately against vulnerable migrant women.

This is an extremely engaging exhibition, curated by Lien Vloeberghs. The various media through which the stories are told and the variety and humanity of the stories themselves render it completely absorbing. The exhibition is accessible to speakers of Dutch, French and English. Go and lose yourself in the past and present stories of migrant lives at Destination Sweetheart, before the exhibition ends on May 30th 2021.



References

Red Star Line Museum. 2020. Destination Sweetheart. [online] Available at: <https://www.redstarline.be/nl/content/destination-sweetheart&gt; [Accessed 13 October 2020].

anyuta wiazemsky snauwaert. 2020. Tussen Ons / Between Us — Anyuta Wiazemsky Snauwaert. [online] Available at: <https://wiazemsky.eu/tussen-ons&gt; [Accessed 13 October 2020].

Acke, D., 2020. DPG Media Privacy Gate. [online] Hln.be. Available at: <https://www.hln.be/in-de-buurt/antwerpen/red-star-line-vertelt-pakkende-liefdesverhalen-in-nieuwe-expo-destination-sweetheart-heel-wat-mensen-lieten-hun-thuis-achter-om-hun-geliefde-na-te-reizen~af9309ba/&gt; [Accessed 13 October 2020].

And with thanks to Laura Vargas Villaveces (museum guide)

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VISIT ITAKA LANGUAGE SCHOOL

 

ITAKA Zuidrand language school is pleased to announce that it will hold its annual ‘open door’ event on September 12th and 13th in Edegem. We will offer various activities throughout the day in the garden of the music academy. Visit our Facebook page or website for more information.

Tel: 03 457 59 22 (during the school year)

GSM: 04 86 53 09 15

Email: info@mijnitaka.be

A Spanish Class at ITAKA

Registrations are ongoing. Please rest assured that, in accordance with the government advice, all COVID-19 protective measures have been put into place. Please see the website for course offerings. The 2020-21 school year begins in the last week of September.

The school caters to adult learners, particularly for those over 50 years old and seniors. Courses include English, Chinese, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Art History, Music History. The school has a no stress philosophy, which means no exams. ITAKA Zuidrand has four campuses in and around Antwerp.

WE HOPE TO WELCOME YOU AT THE OPEN DAYS!

 

 

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Molly’s – Antwerp’s oldest Irish pub

AudreyAudrey Molewska runs Molly’s Irish Pub on the Jezuitenrui. Nessascityblog got to ask her a few questions and the answers revealed not just some facts about a local business – but a story with a big heart.

 

Hi Audrey! Can you start by telling us about Molly’s -where and what sort of pub it is?

Molly’s (Jezuietenrui 4) is currently Antwerp’s oldest Irish Pub. A little off the main streets of Antwerp, we’re very much a hidden gem. We’re not so much a tourist bar; mainly more for the expats (although EVERYONE is welcome at Molly’s!).


interiorThe greatest thing about Mollys, in my opinion, is the sense of family: for a lot of us this is our “home away from home”, and the friends we make here are our family. Then there’s the regulars – those countless number of wonderful people-  friends- who have frequented this pub, some for more than twenty years. We’d never last without them. Our prices are fair, the Guinness is great, we showcase proper trad music, plus there’s more sport to watch than you can shake a stick at! Whoever crosses our door gets a warm Irish welcome that will keep them coming back for more. The staff care, the customers care….we’re family …Dysfunctional sometimes, but what family isn’t?!

 What about you? Where are you from and what’s your work background?

I’m from Swords Co. Dublin, Ireland and I moved here in 2012. It was a classic case of “Woman In Love Follows ‘Love of Life’” and sets up home here. I worked in a number of well known Irish bars  (bringing twelve years experience with me from home) but I never found the right fit for me. Staff and management in the larger bars never seemed to care about the customer, being more about the turnover. Something as simple as not knowing a regular customer’s name is unacceptable to me. I decided I needed to have my own place in order to stop working for people I couldn’t respect, and be able to really start giving people what they wanted…a PROPER IRISH PUB. I won’t claim to be the only one these days, and I’ll give a shout out to others operating with the same ethos: The Highlander, The Northerner, An Sibhin, and The Corner House. 

 

What do you like about living and working in Antwerp? 

jesuitenrui
Jezuietenrui, where you will find Molly’s

I LOVE living in Antwerp! My first six years were spent living in Limburg, and then Kasterlee (both beautiful places) but when I finally moved to Antwerp, it was the missing link! Finally, I had the support I lacked before, the city life that revived me, the acceptance and help I never properly received (in my busy life I’ve never fully mastered the language despite my attempts!). It’s never easy, but it’s easier than before!

I love how cosmopolitan Antwerp is. The people are so helpful and friendly.  In these times I see us all, as small local businesses, trying to  band together, regroup, and try to support one another!  Perhaps the “family element” of Molly’s is evident in a lot of places in Antwerp!

How did Molly’s survive the shutdown, and how is re-opening going?

With difficulty like many. Finances were a constant juggle, alongside supporting a family. We missed our customers and our family. We stayed in constant touch with regulars and friends to check on their health and to see if they needed help.

familybar
Near re-opening time, we put out an S.O.S to our lovely regulars to see who could provide some skills and help to make a “NEW MOLLYS” for our customers….the response was overwhelming!

We now have a whole new look; it’s spotlessly clean with a new-look terrace, and we plan to keep making more changes as the months go on.

We’re all hoping (touch wood!) that there will be no second wave – all being well, what are your future plans for Molly’s? 

 

As stated, more renovations and possibly an extension in the future to provide our customers with an authentic Irish Kitchen. This is “phase 1” as we call it….hopefully there’s more to come!! And to all who helped: you know who you are – Molly’s would be lost without you!

flag

 

Find Molly’s on Facebook
Email: mollysirishpubantwerp@gmail.com

 

 

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Special post: The Yellow Window

The Yellow Window Coffeehouse can be found in the old part of the city. Like all local catering businesses it has been much affected by the Corona Virus regulations and lockdown. Currently offering take-away, The Yellow Window should also be on your list of places to pick up a great coffee as restrictions ease as the coffee and the cookies are delicious.

Meet Dominic, who runs The Yellow Window.

Hi Dominic! Can you start by telling us about The Yellow Window-where and what it is?

IMG_20200601_142143
Dominic at The Yellow Window

The Yellow Window has been open since November of last year, located at Vlasmarkt 8, 2000. The Vlasmarkt is just off the busy shopping street Hoogstraat, where there is a range of international bars and restaurants.

We serve  breakfast and lunch dishes accompanied by high quality coffee which is supplied by a local micro-roasting company: Cross Roast. We have three aims: tasty food, great coffee and impeccable service (with a smile). One thing I learned over the past ten years of working in catering is that the customer always appreciates a friendly attentive waiter or bartender, and it’s something I personally appreciate when I’m out for dinner or drinks. 

What about you? Where are you from and what’s your work background?

I grew up in the midlands of Ireland (lots of green fields and cows) from the age of ten, although I’m originally from the UK. Ireland is home for me and I love it dearly. I always knew I wasn’t going to stay in Ireland after school, as I had that desire to travel and see the world. After school, I returned to London to work for two years in bars. I loved living back in London but It wasn’t going to be long term. I then went onto Spain to work two seasons in bars, nightclubs and restaurants (with way too much partying!). I then returned to Ireland for one year, working in a hotel.

I moved over from Ireland in 2015 and have been living in Antwerp for the past five years. Originally I intended to stay for six months to a year, but from the moment I arrived in Antwerp I fell in love with this beautiful city. 

What do you like about living and working in Antwerp? What are the challenges?

IMG_20200601_142332There’s lots I love  about living in Antwerp. There is beauty on every street, from the very accessible Meir shopping street, to the beautiful buildings throughout the city. The parks, the museums, the bars, the beers, the food, I could easily go on and on and on! 

Before I came to Antwerp, I didn’t know much about the city, the languages or the Flemish people, and I was nervous that it was going to be difficult to communicate with customers, or in the shops but I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of the community speaks English. I have met some of the nicest Flemish people during the past five years. 

The biggest challenge I have found since being in Antwerp is trying to learn the language. I do my best in certain situations and I can understand more than I can speak. Having my own business has motivated me to learn and understand more and more everyday. 

How has the pandemic and the shut-down affected The Yellow Window?

Other than the fact The Yellow Window was only opened for three full months before the shutdown, the effect has been huge! I have had to re-think and reorganise my business plan for the future. 

IMG_20200601_142347
The Yellow Window interior: soon customers will be able to come back inside

I have many ideas, with some already in place. I have been exploring many options for the future and I am very excited with what’s coming up at The Yellow Window. 

Now that the next phase of the government’s plan is going ahead on June 8th, I can look forward to (I hope) regaining a more steady flow of customers, even with the long list of restrictions. 

One thing I will say is – watch this space!

Lots of people seem to have become enthused about baking during lockdown. Do you have a great recipe for us to try?

IMG_20200601_142519
home baked cookies at The Yellow Window

Before the lockdown I never saw myself as much of a baker; now, I have made many batches of cookies over the past few months. I tried different recipes I pulled from the internet, making many mistakes along the way but I have landed on a recipe that is working well for me. I can’t take the credit, as it’s not my recipe. It’s this one from Sallys Baking Addiction. Sally’s recipes are very clear and easy to follow.

 

 

Find/ contact The Yellow Window:

At Vlasmarkt 8, Antwerp 2000
On Facebook

And on Instagram.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B808bENplUZ/

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Guest post: Renting While Muslim

This post originally appears on Wasapninworld blog and describes the writer’s experiences of looking for a home to rent in the Antwerp area a few years ago.
It is not a very heartening read; we would all (I hope) like to live in a fairer country than the one described here, but as the writer of the post told me, “it’s one way of starting conversations” -and clearly this is very much a conversation that needs to continue in Belgian society.

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 12.31.02

I had lived at my parents house most of my youth life and then moved into my own property when I got married. I then moved abroad and my residence was always provided by my employer. All rights, contracts and viewing was always prior to my arrival to our new country and home. That was until I relocated to Belgium which was my first job in Europe outside of the UK.

We were allocated a relocation specialist who helps newbie arrivals find a new rental house/apartment and ease them in the country. We should have been greeted by the relocation specialist when we first arrived in Belgium but our relocation specialist was busy and could not meet us. During our first initial meeting we would have been given a new Belgian mobile phone Sim card, get help searching for apartment/house, be taken to the supermarket so we can be accustomed to the new area, and finally have a lovely dinner or lunch- all of which never happened with us because our relocation specialist was busy when we first entered Belgium. So neither did our first trip to a supermarket, and we were never given a new Belgian number so we could be contacted, nor ever shown any apartments for rent. We did all that ourselves. We checked into our hotel (allocated by the employer) and stayed there for a few days looking at our shortlisted viewings which we had done while we were in the UK. After being a few days in Antwerp, our relocation specialist messaged us to request if we could meet for coffee (instead of dinner/lunch) as there are no halal places in Antwerp. This was our first visit to Antwerp and we did not know anyone there but a quick Googling told us that there are plenty of halal places to eat. It was clear for us that the relocation specialist did not want to meet us, so rather than make a fuss we politely declined and that was the last we heard for a while.

Our experiences are limited to Antwerp renting while Muslim in Belgium. Below are just some of the scenarios that panned out.

At first, we decided to stay as close as possible to my new work place, which was located in a very white suburb of Antwerp.
NOTE: My rental deposit of 3 months’ rent is covered by my employer, who are also my reference. My employer happens to be a very reputable work place in Antwerp for over 50 years and my salary was well above minimum requirement.

1. We found this lovely house with a garden. Arranged to see the property and loved it. We agreed to take it but were told that there are other viewers and the decision would rest with the owner. We were told within days that the owner of the property decided to rent with someone else.
2. Arranged to view an apartment walking distance from the above property. There were two apartments available in the same block. It was a brand new apartment block. We were met by the same estate agent as previous. We liked the property and agreed to take it. We were told that the owner will let us know. The owner happened to be the uncle of the estate agent. Weeks went by and we heard nothing even after asking for an update. Emails and phone calls were not returned.
3. Arranged to view another apartment in the same area. Saw the apartment and agreed to take it. We were told someone would get back to us. Every time I would ring to speak to the estate agent, he was never available. We never did get that call back or the apartment.
ForRent4503738_6404. With the above experience rather than go for a viewing ourselves we decided to ask the relocation specialist to visit on our behalf. When we asked about a particular property, she strongly discouraged us, as it is the centre of the town and there are works due to take place right outside of the apartment that we were interested in, which will cause major traffic and will last for months. Heavily reliant on local knowledge we decided against pursuing this further. (We later learnt that the roadwork did go ahead but was not a major traffic issue and only lasted about a month or so, much lower than the impression given to us)
5. We decided to search further away from the work place. A balance between the city centre and the suburb. Rather than pay for extra hotel accommodation we decided to go back home and search from London. We found a brand new block of apartments where three apartments were available. We rang and agreed to take the property without seeing it. We were told they would not rent without us seeing the property. I explained I was in London and it’s difficult to travel with a 3 year old child who is not well. The owner insisted. We had no choice but to make a last minute trip back to Antwerp. As expected, we liked the property and agreed to take it. We were told we would be informed of the update very soon. Within hours of leaving the property we were told that all three apartments had been rented out and they had not realised but other family members had rented them out without them realising it. (Note: These properties were unrented for 9 months as they were advertised on the rental website available for rent.)
6. The message was clear we were not wanted in certain parts of Antwerp. We then decided to search in the city centre or other areas that were predominately occupied with ethnic minorities. We looked at and investigated many properties but did not feel the quality was up to our standards. We also tried to rent in the city centre and during numerous calls; we were told they would not rent to Indians or foreigners. We were shocked to hear this as they did not know we were non-white foreigners because I sound British because I am. They were mentioning it as a selling point.
7. As a last resort I had to ask one of my new white colleagues to ring on my behalf and look at the property. Once we both agreed, it was acceptable I arranged to view the property without my family. I agreed to take the property because at that point no one would rent to us. As it turned out the landlord was very nice who is Jewish in faith and who had rented his property to a tenant who was Muslim in faith. Sometimes the glimmer of hope comes from communities that know what is like to be different.

All the while there were at least 4 other new colleagues coming from different parts of the world who very quickly were able to find and rent. Maybe it was a coincidence that they were all white but I clearly think not. Throughout this experience it must be added that everyone we interacted with was polite, smiling and courteous. On face value, there was no indication of anything being wrong. However, someone who has lived as an outsider all my life you quickly learn to read the body language and the other signs that are very hard to conceal. I know my British accent has made it much easier when interacting with the local indigenous population in Antwerp. I later learnt when making friends with the African, Moroccan and Turkish community of how frank and open the remarks can be. They had been told that renting would not be provided if their wives, mothers and daughters wear the headscarf or if they cook their local food in the apartment.

ForRent589068_640I clearly do not look white British but I do sound it and my wife wears the headscarf. On face value, we pass by as Moroccans or Turkish depending on the lens of the looker but our accent tells a different story. However, our face value determined our renting while Muslim experience and that was of racism and Islamophobia. The invisible cloak of freedom and equality was marred by another invisible cloak of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and the colonial mentality of being better than others are. Europe/Belgium has a problem of race and identity and the sooner we face up to it the sooner we can work together to eradicate it. To highlight the seriousness of the problem a report was published in 2017 where “Job applicants with convictions for violence are more likely to be taken on than those with Arabic surnames, criminologists have found. Applicants with a violent past and a Dutch name stood a better chance than those with an Arabic name but no history of violence, said researcher Chantal van den Berg.”1

I have lived as a ‘Paki’ in England and as an Englishman in Pakistan. We have always been outsiders to where I have been posted for my jobs. Identity is something I have had to question and have come to the conclusion that the world has more in common with each other but we focus on the smaller differences rather than the similarities. In the back of my mind, I thought at least it is not this bad back home. Back home for me was the UK but I had not lived there for over a decade due to work but little did I know that it too had changed for the worse when we relocated back in 2017. More information to follow soon.

On a positive note once all the renting problem was resolved at least until the next time we had to move, I found the local Antwerpians of all shapes, sizes and colours to be a lovely bunch so much so much I would much rather live in Antwerp than my home city of London.

 

1: https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/racism-in-europe-a-tale-of-two-brothers-9483

Report discrimination

Meldpunt – Report discrimination (Flanders)

and

Unia

 

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Spotted by Locals: Best Antwerp Blogs

It’s lovely to hear that Nessascityblog features on this selection of Antwerp blogs for 2020 – compiled by Spotted by Locals, which is a blog about art & culture trends in cities all around the world: check them out for your future post-corona travel plans!

You can find Spotted by Locals on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

spotted by locals
image from spottedbylocals.com

 

 

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Pregnancy in social isolation: a special post by Laura Owen

Pregnant in Antwerp in coronavirus times.

Day 150 of pregnancy

 I woke up this morning, sunshine blasting through the windows: I’m feeling good. I finally have that “second trimester superwoman energy” that I keep being told about.  I’m on day 150 of this pregnancy, but things couldn’t be weirder with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing.

So my topic is “A Day In The Life of a Pregnant Woman:  week 4 -coronavirus outbreak”. Because -as good as I feel-  I also feel a deep-rooted sense of anxiety that I can’t quite quash. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 14.48.04It’s a pretty strange time for all of us. Even if we have never felt anxiety before, these unprecedented times can make even the toughest feel anxious.

I know this is something that I am dealing with right now.

I am not usually one to share my worries and concerns to the masses on social media (that is a “treat” reserved mostly for those closest to me) but these exceptional times make me want to share how I’m feeling. I know I’m not alone in feeling insecure at this time and I think we all need to show sensitivity, and embrace the sensitive sides of others. 

When I woke up this morning, despite being allowed the luxury of waking up one hour later due to my lack of commute, my first thought was “something is worrying me … what is it?” Not a nice way to start the day. But that worrying feeling is something that we are all living with, especially if you are pregnant, looking after newborns or managing an ongoing health condition.

pgwoman-163617_640Sometimes I cry or become super emotional all of a sudden, without any warning. 

I can only imagine that what I am experiencing now is what those with permanent anxiety feel every day and I have never had so much appreciation for the way they carry on. But I digress – Of course, I am still able to function and I do so. 

So I start work from my home-office and plough through the day (the highlight naturally being lunch and break times, as I am sure any expectant woman can relate to!). I have scheduled Zoom meetings (no sweatpants for me!) and I plod on with my regular other tasks. 

I also keep up-to-date with the housework (with the help of my husband of course) – It’s amazing how much more washing and general untidiness you create when two people are living full-time in the house! Other than that, it is “business as usual” -whatever this “usual” now is. But throughout it all there is this unsettling feeling of insecurity, that I don’t know how to make disappear. 

It’s the little things such as not going out to do the grocery shopping; not being able to plan as much for our upcoming baby as I would like to; my husband not being able to come to doctor appointments with me; not being able to share our baby’s first kicks with grandparents; not knowing if I will be able to go back to the UK to see friends and family before the birth; not knowing when my parents and sister will next be able to come see me. The list goes on and on and  starts to cast a shadow over all that is positive around me. 

pregnancypost

Yes, I know that all that matters is that our baby and I are healthy (and so far- thank goodness -this is the case) but all of these thoughts worry me and give me a feeling of uncertainty that I am not used to.

I am used to being the friend that friends can rely on, and on relying on those friends in return. However,  right now I am struggling to find that same sense of comfort that I usually get from my friends – I am a tactile person by nature and week 4 of quarantine is getting to me because I can’t see friends and hug them.

In summary: Week 4 of quarantine is making me have more questions than answers. 

But – I am doing my best and being kind to myself. 

So that is the message I want to end this post with:  be kind, reach out to that person you haven’t spoken to in a while (they might just need it) but most of all – be kind to yourself. It’s OK not to feel OK right now. We all have our worries and anxieties and these are completely normal in such unprecedented circumstances.

Laura

PS: Find me on  Instagram @lauraowenonsea to connect and share positivity! 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-zNYKQnyyR/

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Leo Reijnders: An Antwerp artist with a mail-art project that’s perfect for lockdown.

Leo Reijnders is a local Antwerp artist from Borgerhout, who you may also know as De Wolkenbreier (The Cloudknitter) or from Antwerp’s underground radio station: Radio Centraal.

His current project is just right for the present situation and invites participation from all artists -whether you are a professional or enthusiastic amateur. Perhaps you would like create something artistic for the very first time?

Leo’s mail art project – “ALBENE” – is a collaboration with the Albanian Embassy in The Hague, and Dutch Art Collective, Quartair.

ALBENE 6

Want to take part?  Design, draw and send a post-card of your own creation to Leo. It won’t be returned, but it will be displayed in an exhibition at the Albanian Embassy in The Hague and in a Youtube film of the artworks. Here’s a film of a previous mail art project –Let’s Sky The Limit .

CardAddressThe theme of the mail art project is THE LAST SUPPER. The address to send your work to is:

LEO REIJNDERS – THE CLOUDKNITTER

Bouwensstraat 9
2140 Borgerhout
Belgium

 

Participation is not restricted to Antwerp or Belgium: Leo hopes to receive cards from all around the world, so encourage your friends and family in other countries to join in! Previous projects attracted contributions from 30 different countries.

Because of the uncertainty of the current situation, there is no hard and fast deadline, but you definitely have at least until September to get your cards in the post.

Card 1Additional links

Cloudknitters.be

Cloudknitters on Facebook

Leo Reijnders on Instagram.

Leo Reijnders on Linked In.

Leo Reijnders on Twitter

An interview with Leo on Borgerhout TV (in Dutch)

And here is another project that Leo is currently working on (pic below) at Transvaalstraat / the corner of Waterloostraat.

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LUDDITES: a new book shop & wine bar on Hopland, run by Richard & Jorien.

Hi Richard! Can you start by telling us about Luddites -where and what it is?

We’re at Hopland 34, which is in the city centre; the street that goes by the back entrance of Stadsfeestzaal. We’re a bookstore, wine bar, and hideout from the modern world, all rolled into one, and lodged in a beautiful 1902 townhouse.  We have classic wooden bookshelves and no wifi; hidden just upstairs is our wine bar, where you can lounge and read a book or converse with your friends and family over one of our delicious wines. The idea is that if you buy a book, or make any purchase of €10 or more, that first glass of wine becomes half-price. I find that wine drinkers get excited about that deal, whereas book readers are more indifferent and, if you are both, then you are over the moon.

Also, our book selection is about half Dutch, half English. We have about three thousand titles, so if you are looking for a book in English, look no further.

Luddites4
Luddites can be found at Hopland 34


What about yourselves? Where are you from and what’s your work background?

I moved here from New York, but grew up outside of Philadelphia, and studied mainly Classics and Literature. Naturally, there’s not much of a market for that, so I turned to contract killing. It worked for a while, but suddenly I was getting too much heat from the Feds, so I had to move to a city no American could point to on a map. Antwerp was an obvious choice. I had so many friends back home congratulate me on my big move to Germany.

Jorien was a librarian in a small Flemish town for a number of years, so she is keyed into the Dutch book scene, and has been dreaming about opening a bookstore since she was an adolescent. 


Ja, Antwerpen ist sehr schon: what do you like about living and working here?


It is cosy, perhaps sometimes too cosy. The city has this way of sucking in unsuspecting people, such as myself. I was only supposed to spend two years here, and when I first moved to Antwerp, which was during the winter, I didn’t think I would make it that long. But then the summer hit, and I experienced the beauty of the city: the long, warm nights sitting with friends on terraces, the thriving arts and music scenes, all of the great restaurants and shops. You could feel the collective sigh of relief from everyone after the first rays of the spring sun hit—followed, of course, by a mad dash to the closest terrace to bask in them. I realised that the city had been hibernating all winter, and that I had to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about it. Now, it has been six years.


What do you read yourselves? Any good book recommendations for us to keep usLuddites3 occupied during lockdown?

Well, we try to cater book recommendations to the tastes of our customers; Jorien is exceptional at that because of all of those years working as a librarian. Personally, the last book which struck me as poignant and left me wanting more was Paul Auster’s 4321, in which he examines the four vastly different arcs one character’s life can take, based on small decisions by his parents. The first one hundred pages are a bit of a struggle, but then you get hooked (I guess I have a type). At 880 pages it is a whopper, so it is great if you are stuck inside with nothing to do. Perhaps also Crime and Punishment? We have this lovely Norton Critical edition of the novel, which provides a lot of footnotes and makes the classic much easier to digest. Now, I think, is the time to read those long books that have been on your list forever—those books that are marriages rather than flings—because if you don’t read them now- at this perfect moment for them- when will you? 


5) We can’t -unfortunately- avoid mention of the C word. It must have been gutting for you to have to close so soon after opening, because of Covid 19. How are you planning to cope over the next few weeks, and are there still services you are able to offer?

Good question! I’m frantically building a webshop (update: it’s now live- see links below) at the moment, but that probably won’t be up and running for another week or so. In the meantime, people can still inquire and order books (and wine) from us through our general email address (hello@luddites.be). We offer free delivery within the city of Antwerp, and delivery at cost everywhere else in Belgium. I’m also in discussions with a couple food delivery services, so in a few days you should be able to order our wines through your favorite food delivery app.

Luddites5

Lastly, if you want to support us now but would prefer the full Luddites experience, you can order gift cards through that same email address, and come visit us when our doors are open again.

 

 

Links & Contact


Website: https://luddites.be/

Webshop: https://shop.luddites.eu/

Facebook                                   Instagram

Email: hello@luddites.be

All images in this post courtesy of Luddites.

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Information for Parents: Secondary School Registration and Allocation in Antwerp Region

A guest post by Timo Carlier.

 

Meldjeaan.antwerpen.be 

meldjeaan
image source: meldjeaan.antwerpen.be

 

If your child is currently enrolled in Grade 6 in a local primary school – het 6e leerjaar – then it’s time to choose a school for secondary education, or secundair onderwijs. If you have not yet registered your child, you may have received a letter in the mail reminding you that this process should be completed before 5 PM on April 3rd, 2020, which is this Friday.

In the wider Antwerp region, registration is done through a centralised process, via this website: https://meldjeaansecundair.antwerpen.be/

NB: Corona virus regulations have not affected the timeline of the registration process. 

Should you miss the 3 April 2020 deadline, you will still be able to register with individual schools from 11 May 2020 onwards, but keep in mind that places will be full in some schools by this point. This late registration process closes 3 June 2020.

Gent and Brussels have their own Meldjeaan sites here: https://www.meldjeaan.be/
The registration process

I found signing up on the website straightforward. You will need your child’s rijksregisternummer (national registration number) which can be found on their ISI+ health insurance card (or on the pink stickers used for doctors), or on the back of their ID card (see pic below).

kaart
image source: halloouders.be

If your child does not have an ID card yet, it is probably best to contact your local city council, or districtshuis.

Once signed up, you can select the schools you are interested in by typing the names into a search bar and selecting the schools you want. I’ve been recommended to list at least five schools by a representative of Meldjeaan. Then rank your schools by dragging a small arrow next to each selected school’s name up or down. This is an important step; the order counts. You are now ready to complete the process, though you can revisit the site any time and make changes, up until April 3rd.

Note about 1A and 1B streams

Most children who complete primary school will need to sign up for the 1A stream in secondary school. Children who are unable to successfully complete their primary education will most likely need to choose 1B. However, if you are unsure, it is always best to ask your child’s teacher for advice.

If you are unable to access the website or don’t understand a step in the process, you can call the Meldjeaan team or email them for help (see below.

Results and registration

Results will be sent to parents on 6 May 2020, after which you should register your child at the school you have been allocated. This should be done by appointment and by contacting the school directly.

If the allocated school is not your number 1 choice, you will automatically be put on a waiting list for the schools higher up your list.

Waiting list and follow-up process

This is where things may get a little complicated. It is possible to move up your waiting list, even into the start of the academic year. Please keep the following points in mind:

 

  • Always register your child with the highest ranked school on your list you’ve been allocated
  • By doing so, the schools lower down on your list automatically fall away; this frees new spaces for other applicants
  • You will automatically be put on a waiting list for schools higher up on your list
  • If a space higher up is freed up, you will be notified and can now register with that school; the previous registration is annulled
  • You cannot register with multiple schools
  • It is perfectly acceptable to annul registrations in favour of a school higher up your list, should they become free
  • If you want to see high up on the waiting list for a particular school you are after 6 May, log back into the meldjeaan.antwerpen.be website
  • Waiting list positions are valid until 7 October 2020 (note: this is after the start of the school year!). After that, it’s best to contact the school in question directly for information.

 

Overall, this seems like a fair system to me. It certainly beats parents having to camp out in front of schools, which I’ve heard so much about. 

I have not included details about special education, or early selection for children who have older siblings already enrolled in a school, or whose parents work in Flemish education. Please contact the organisation for more information on that.

Useful information

You can find a list of secondary schools in Antwerp here. You can find information about schools and subject choices here. You can find a current list of available places in schools here. From 10 AM 8 May on, the Meldjeaan website will publish a list of remaining free places for those who have missed online registration. You can also contact them by email or phone: 0800 62 185

helpdesk.meldjeaan@antwerpen.be

classroom-2787754_640

Disclaimer: I am just a parent who has recently gone through and learned about the school registration process over a period of two years, by asking many people lots of questions (and taking lots of notes). I am not an authority on the subject, but I am sharing what I learned here. It is therefore always best to consult the helpdesk above for information.

 

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Antwerp Life During Corona Virus Restrictions

Hello, and thanks for reading Nessascityblog!

As you can imagine, a blog which is usually devoted to sharing information about events, is not going to be very busy right now, so I though I would just do a general post about life in Antwerp and Belgium under the new restrictions, and share some useful links. I will keep editing this, so if you think there is a link I have missed, do get in touch.

UPDATE 27th March: Extension -current measures to stay in place until 19th April.

Information and News from Belgium in English

Flanders Today and The Brussels Times are the news outlets which will bring you the latest Belgian headlines and information in English.

The government website with information about Covid 19 is here and available in French, Dutch, German and English. You can also follow the Federal Health Department on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.36.05
The Stad Antwerpen Instagram page.

(translation of text in image above: Stay home; do not gather with others; keep a distance of 1.5m; outdoor exercise is OK, with max 2 people; look after yourself and each other)

The Stad Antwerpen page is mainly in Dutch, but if you go here and scroll down, you will find .PDFs in a variety of languages.

Last week I published this blog post with information in English about organisations and help lines, if being at home is not safe for you or your children (or if you are anxious that someone you know is not safe).

Kids

school table
home school

Lessons are suspended and children are learning from home. Only those who work in essential services (and who cannot find childcare) may take their children into school. Colleges and universities are delivering classes and assignments online.

For learners in English, I have this list of educational sites.

Support and interaction

Lots of people want to help at this time. Others needs help. Stad Antwerpen has this page (in Dutch) for those either requiring help, or wanting to volunteer their help. In both cases you need to fill in a form:

Here is the form if you need help

These are slips to download and deliver if you want to offer help to your neighbours who may be in a vulnerable group. NB: you need to do this while observing social distancing as much as is possible. Other forms of volunteer work can be found here 8pm

At 8pm many people are taking to their balconies and windows every evening to applaud the frontline workers who are keeping essential services -especially health services – open and functioning.

It’s important to make time to Skype/ Zoom/ WhatsApp/ Facetime with friends and family.  If your family is in an other country, you may have extra anxieties and feel home-sick. That’s very understandable – so if you are on Facebook you are very welcome in our group Expats in Antwerp. Not just for Covid 19 info- we have a daily chat thread each day, for general conversation, sharing news, recipes and -of course – pet pics!

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 12.53.26
Expats in Antwerp on Facebook

Financial support and assistance for incomes and businesses affected by Covid 19

RVA Antwerp

PMV.eu

Finally….

blogging-1168076_640If  you would like to help keep Nessascityblog going by writing a blog post for me, then now is the time! I welcome posts about how you are managing your time; the challenges and achievements of our changed circumstances; creative writing; how you are working and how your Antwerp business has been affected. Feel free to get in touch if you have an idea!

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This weekend in Antwerp: 14th & 15 March

UPDATE: Stad Antwerpen closes museums, libraries, sports facilities (including pools), community centres and all non-essential services from Friday 13th March until the end of the month. Here’s the update from the website

From midnight 13th March – Belgian schools suspend lessons -some are staying open to provide care if needed for the children of essential workers) until 3rd April; as well as cafés, restaurants. At the weekends, shops (apart from pharmacies and supermarkets) will close.

March is Black History Month in Belgium. Here is the agenda, where you can search for events near you. The theme of Black History Month 2020 is “The Roots Of Our Health” and it will be explored through events such as debates, movies, exhibitions and performances.

If you have a young reader, then you may also know that March is “Jeugdboekenmaand” (Youth Book Month) which means that there’s plenty going on in Bib Permeke for children and young people throughout the month. The theme this year is ART.  See the Permeke library website for events, activities and exhibitions taking place there, or the search the complete agenda on the Jeugdboekenmaand page.

Next Tuesday is St Patrick’s Day, and we wish our Irish readers a wonderful day! Although, it looks as though some celebrations around the world will be cancelled due to the corona virus, let’s hope that the Irish pubs in Antwerp are able to keep their doors open for what is always a fun night/ weekend in the city.

Saturday

Screenshot 2020-03-11 at 17.31.27
An Sibhin

Antwerp has four Irish bars: An Sibhin, Molly’s, Kelly’s and The Irish Times. All have celebrations for St Patrick’s Day planned, but they’re clearly over-excited at Molly’s on Jesuitenrui, who are kicking off already with live music, promos, sport & giveaways, and at  An Sibhin on Nationalestraat (pic right) with the 6 Nations Finals on today, (and a breakfast on Sunday).***CANCELLED

It’s Retro Day in the second hand stores (‘kringloopwinkels’) around Antwerp.

CANCELLED *** Beer lovers who look forward to MEUG festival will also be getting in the mood at Bar Chapel with a one-night pop-up bar, opening at 7pm – register on the link, for a free drink. ***CANCELLED

Sunday

Screenshot 2020-03-11 at 17.27.09
Plantin Moretus

CANCELLED *** One of my favourite museums is having a birthday party. After all, it’s not every day you turn 500, like Christoffel Plantin. The Plantin Moretus Museum on Vrijdagmarkt will be celebrating with a few different events, but starts today with a party, taking place both in the museum and on the Vrijdagmarkt: here is the agenda for the day. You can read more about the museum and Christoffel Plantin on this excellent guest post by Daniel McBrearty, from last year. ***CANCELLED

If you see runners in unusual places around the city today, that’s because it’s the Antwerp Urban Trail. You can register for this event until the day before. Register here. There are 7km and 12km runs, which go through famous Antwerp buildings that will be opened especially for the event, and you can view the routes here.

And if you see some well-fed looking oxen on Grote Markt, that’s because of an old Antwerp tradition called (literally translated) Weighing The Fat Ox which starts at 2pm. This dates back to Napoleonic times and you can see the animals being weighed on the traditional scales. Here’s an explanation of the history behind this tradition:

bull-3541819_640“In 1795 the French occupation put a stop to Antwerp’s butchers’ guild. The Vleeshuis then closed its doors and new covered market halls sprung up in its place. Butchers started organising themselves by market hall. Those from Sint-Jan founded an annual weigh-in for the fattest ox on the Grote Markt in the middle of the 19th century. The market hall no longer stands but the weigh-in still takes place. It is a remnant of what, for a long time, was a daily sight in the city: cattle wandering around.” (source)

It’s Boekenplein on de Coninckplein in from of Antwerp’s Permeke library. The monthly second hand book market returns after a cancellation last moth due to storms. The book market will be on from 10am -4pm.

After a grey and dreary week, there might be some improvement in the weather, although Friday is likely to still be rainy (mainly in the morning). Saturday and Sunday will be brighter, with a much lower chance of showers. Top temps on Sunday – around 14 degrees.

Miscellaneous

hand-washing-4818792_640If you are concerned about the corona virus, this page will keep you updated about the current situation in Belgium (or via the Federal Health Department on Twitter). The situation is subject to change, and I will attempt to update if any of the events listed here are cancelled. At time of writing, larger indoor events (over 1000 people) are likely not to go ahead -if you have plans or tickets for such an event, check the event organiser or venue website.

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