A glass of diverse cultures, abilities and sexualities in a Brussels pub

By: Angel Dimitrievski – Skopje, Macedonia, Community Chapter

Following an EEC Youth meeting in Brussels with Chalks Corriette, I spent some time exploring the melting pot of cultures, that make up Brussels.

It’s Sunday evening. I am reading a book in a pub in the heart of Brussels and the waiter turns off the radio. The ladies next to me take a small drum out of their bag, a few papers dripped with coffee and they start to sing. A melody that makes me stop doing everything at that moment, and I just listen to them. One girl had traveled from Brazil to visit her friends in Brussels, and learn new singing techniques from another lady who is retired, and has been singing her whole life. While they entertain the pub, guests from Zambia arrive and sit at the next table. One of the new arrivals joins the musicians and now they are synchronized as if they had sung together for years.

A girl in a wheelchair enters the pub a few minutes later. There are no obstacles stopping her from reaching the table where her friends wait for her. She talks about her work, and how she hates that the new working week starts tomorrow, Monday. Even though I have experienced the world of disability, quite deeply, it is astonishing for me how this girl has an exciting life, even though she is disabled. I know, it is nothing to be surprised at, and as an advocate and activist for the disabled community, I often say that this way of life should be the norm and not an exceptional situation. But, I just do not see this happen on a regular basis. It made me feel very good.

On the next table, two boys are drinking wine and speak about something in French, holding hands and celebrate their love. Maybe it’s an anniversary. In the country where I come from, probably this would be met with public humiliation or in the worst case, a beating. I just can’t imagine how someone would make that beautiful voice next to me, stop singing Brazilian songs, or forbidding these boys to show that they love each other.

But I could not get out of my mind, comparisons of my home country, where this was a problem and not a usual atmosphere on a Sunday evening. I finished my orange juice, congratulated the pub musicians on their performance and ate one last Belgian waffle before flying home. The waffle was small and extremely sweet, as was this weekend I spent in Brussels.