In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.
In many ways things between Lucie and I began to disintegrate right from the day I arrived in Belgium. Touching down in Brussels, she was on hand to meet me at the airport before leading me outside to meet her father Tom. Slim, tanned and talk-show-host-dapper in his freshly pressed shirt and trousers, Mr. De Smolden smiled, shook my hand and was courteous enough in his rusty English. And yet there was something in his detached demeanor that suggested life in the family home wasn’t going to be as welcoming as I’d hoped. Still, as we sped off towards Lucie’s hometown in her dad’s fancy car, I told myself to try and be positive. After all, it was only for a few weeks and then we’d be getting a place of our own. After the challenges of life in The Middle East, the adventures of Slovakia and the trials and tribulations of traveling around India, I mistakenly believed that a couple of weeks in the north of Belgium would be a piece of cake.