I leave the Dampoort towards the jetty at Dokken-Noord. This is the old harbor area and they are trying to turn it into a hip residential area. Until recently, the area was dominated with abandonded harbor buildings that stood covered with graffiti, now there are fancy appartment buildings showing off in their place. Gentrification in Ghent. Not such a bad attempt in itself I must admit. I like to come and sit here. And I also see that people from different ethnic groups do indeed interact with each other here in a fairly casual way. Before I settle myself on the jetty, I stop at the shop for a treat. Once settled down, I make myself comfortable and record another soundscape. Across the water is a road to a hospital and a striking number of ambulances with sirens pass by. They had indicated on the news that the contamination figures in Ghent are currently not doing well. After the relaxed atmosphere I encountered at some locations, this is quite a reality check. As the blues echoes from Graffiti Street, at the same time there are people fighting for their lives in the hospitals. And here I can hear how the ambulance in trying to rush them to the hospital in an attempt to save those lives. Nevertheless, there is still a pretty relaxed atmosphere here. The weather is good and people come to stretch their legs by the water.
While I enjoy a fresh beer in the sun, I think about all the impressions I have encountered in Ghent over the past few days. From the deserted streets, to a holiday feeling in the parks and on the jetties along the water. Police driving past more often than public transport does during rushing hour. A shared hatred for Mr. van Ranst and his plea to respect the safety regulations. Distrust for the vaccines, a mouth mask culture that seems to have erased the 1.5m rule, but also people who do their best not to sit too close to each other. Skaters, skaters and more skaters. Although you feel that life has come to a stop, in most places that frozen life doesn't feel so unpleasant at all. Yet in other places a chill creeps up on me, as I see how this situation is holding society hostage and squeezing life right out of it.
Two months later
I arrive once again at the waterfront after a long trip through the city. The first thing I notice is the absence of the sirens. The atmosphere is pretty much the same as the last time. A dubious graffiti stating: ‘Junk’s not death’ implies that people managed to deal with the boredom perfectly fine, although perhaps not always in the most positive sense of the word. I step on my scooter to leave the city, taking the Nieuwe Vaart as my route out of town. Here I get once more confronted with the devastating effect of the lockdown to our society, as a heap of thrash lays piled up under a fancy billboard saying: Watch me...