Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 5

Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 5


It is Day 5 Tuesday November 10th.

I work on my Tree Lady piece for several hours. I get it forming into an actual tree. It was daunting because I had no idea really how I went about making the first Tree Lady. I went about making her in a totally different way when it comes to body.

I decide I will enter it into the multi-balloon contest because I don’t know what will happen to it really otherwise and I figure it will be seen by the most people if it is in the contest. It will be due tomorrow afternoon if it is going to be entered.

When I made the first piece, it was like I was possessed and I was just so full of emotion and inspiration. Everything just magically came together and I felt the most surprised at what manifested from my own hands and imagination.

It was strange trying to make her again in this Jam room. I was nervous and self-conscious. I just didn’t feel the same magic and couldn’t channel it like before and I felt very vulnerable about it. I am a very insecure artist.

I was surprised that people were really into what I was making. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first one but people thought it was great. Addi Somekh even came by and he had seen the picture of the first one and he was like, “It’s beautiful.” I was like, “It isn’t as good as the first one.” He said he thought it was. In my head, not out loud, I was saying, “No, you should be disappointed in me, really.” I realized then how powerful it is to see something in person VS a picture.

I have seen and experienced both in person and so I can say, this experience of it isn’t as good as the first. But other people who haven’t seen the first in person just know that they are enjoying what they are experiencing now, and their in person experience matters more than experience via picture.

I am being very hard on myself and feel tempted to just pop everything and I am just shocked at how people are reacting so positively to it. People seemed impressed and were giving me thumbs up and saying things in a surprised tone like, “You made this?


I then go back and forth and am in massive inner conflict about going to Antwerp at this point.

This trip was about finding my courage.

I have been too afraid to fly for 19 years now and have missed weddings and funerals as a result. I have flown several times but just became terrified of it as well as many other things when I became an older teenager.

I had to get on a total of six planes this trip!

I was massively conflicted because I really wanted to go to Antwerp but was scared to go as I would be totally alone. A balloon friend had shared about being mugged on a train in Antwerp and that just made me more scared. What if I get mugged, raped and sold on Ebay? What if there is a black market Ebay? How much would someone like me go for, 20 bucks, I am afraid to find out how there might be insult to injury on pricing for me, lol.

I go back and forth on this for hours and decide to finally just do it, this trip is about finding courage after all.

I get on a bus to the Mol train station. At the train station, I was unsure if I was on the right platform. I ask this young man sitting on a bench if he spoke English and if I was on the right platform.
He says yes to both and does speak excellent English.

We get to talking. His name is Diego and he is in his twenties and is from Brazil, born and raised and moved to Mol because he has an aunt there and is learning Dutch. He is getting married next month.

I am Patricia, an American from TN who is a balloon artist going to a balloon convention in Mol. I have a daughter and husband and I am in my 30’s.

He tells me about how there is nothing to do in Mol and how people are not very friendly and don’t talk to each other. People are well to do and have money but don’t have friends. He tells me that the suicide rate is extremely high.

He is super sanguine as he is Brazilian and is used to people being poorer but happier and extremely social.

I tell him, “Well, I will be your friend, you want to come with me on an adventure to Antwerp.?”

He says, “Okay.” He was going to just do nothing anyway and why not? We both were in disbelief that this was happening, lol.

An American and a Brazilian meeting in the middle of nowhere in Belgium and going on an adventure in Antwerp, lol.

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We get on a train to Antwerp and talked the whole way. He tells me about Europe and I tell him about the States.

We get to Antwerp and OMG I would have gotten lost in five seconds. There are a million roads going in all directions, so many cobblestone paths going every which way, every way is an alley.

There is a McDonalds on every block interestingly enough.

My city has a Check Into Cash and a Church  every other building but this place has Diamond Shops and Frituur Eateries every other building, lol. 70 percent of all the world’s diamonds get traded there.

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The signs don’t make any sense, if you can even find them. Nothing in English, just French, Dutch and Flemish.

I tell Diego I want to see statues, eat a waffle, and go to a chocolate shop.

He takes me to all 3. It takes an hour to walk where we need to go.

I get to see amazing statues, buildings that I saw in travel videos, eat the most amazing waffle I ever had in my life with cream and powdered sugar, and get to go a lovely chocolate shop. I buy him a box of chocolates as a thank you gift.

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Diego made the trip so wonderful, I felt safe and didn’t have to see amazing things alone and had someone to make fun of things with and crack jokes. For example, we both couldn’t believe how many golden accents were on top of all the buildings. There was gold everywhere?! How these things weren’t stolen or things chipped away astounded us! You could took a piece of this wall to feed your family for a year, lol. He was a delight to talk to.

I liked to imagine that these giant golden decorative pieces were really golden wrappers covering chocolate filled figures.

There were so many times Diego would tell me, “Patricia, turn around, “as I would be completely oblivious to something amazing right behind me, lol. He laughed at me a lot about that which was so great, because that’s the kind of thing any of my close friends would do.

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We get lost but Diego has a GPS and we find our back to the train station.

Again, crazy gold everywhere at this station. This was Antwerp Central train station. We parted ways on the train as his stop was before mine and we are now friends on Facebook.

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I had an amazing time and got back to the resort just fine. I was on the bus with a musician who played music at the convention with Addi and is in the Unpopables band named Joey and so I didn’t have to walk from the bus stop to the resort in the dark alone, which it was like a 15 minute walk. Again I was not alone and had some company finding my way back. He was really warm and nice to me and it just kept the fire of friendliness going.

My feet were full of blisters that were totally worth getting. I hobbled everywhere I walked after this trip.


That evening I saw an amazing Rakugo performance by Diane ‘Kimono’ Kichijitsu.

She is amazing, check out her website,

What is Rakugo?
Rakugo is a 400-year-old tradition of comic storytelling in Japan. A minimalistic performance art, Rakugo features a lone storyteller dressed in kimono, kneeling on a cushion, who, using only a fan and a hand towel for props, entertains the audience with a comic monologue followed by a traditional story. The storyteller differentiates characters in conversation by moving his head from left to right, as well as with subtle changes in tempo, posture, intonation, etc.

The evening ends with more balloon jamming and I stay until 4 am working on my piece. It was an interesting experience because there are a group of people laughing and talking about naughty balloons and a guy making very very adult balloons while I am working on a very somber piece dedicated to my dying mother. It was a hilarious juxtaposition. That’s what I love about life, the great comedic situations.

I had to cover my Care-Bear hat’s eyes and I am not old enough to have seen the balloons I saw in the distance, lol.

Liz gave me her cell phone earlier in the evening and told me to call Kevin when I was done working so that he could walk me home as it was too scary and dark for me to walk all the way to my bungalow alone. I promised I would and Kevin did walk me home to my cabin at like 4 a.m. That was so beautiful of him to do and he and Liz took such good care of me.

I was really really homesick at this point. I couldn’t talk to my husband or daughter save for FB messages here and there this whole trip. It was killing me. I had never been away from my daughter before and never been away from my husband for this long. They keep me going.


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