I am writing to you from a city that, if you are following the international (social) media today, is very dangerous to be in and in complete lock down. All this is a consequence of the Paris terrorist attack of last week. It is clear now that some of the terrorists were Belgian and at least one of them is thought to be hiding in Brussels. As a result we now have the highest possible terror alert level (4) for Brussels and a level 3 for the rest of the country. The Wall Street Journal describes the situation as follows:
In one of the strictest security lockdowns Belgium has seen since World War II, the government deployed troops, shut the capital’s metro system and urged stores to close after officials invoked the maximum terror alert in Brussels amid threats of an imminent Paris-style attack. “The level four was set for Brussels based on a serious and imminent threat,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said at a news conference. “This is the result of relatively precise information of a risk of attacks, similar to those that took place in Paris.” Soldiers were deployed outside many hotels and tourist spots throughout the capital. Police asked bars and nightclubs in the center of Brussels to close for the night. The city closed its subway system until Sunday afternoon, and concerts and official soccer matches were canceled. Brussels woke on Saturday to a security lockdown as Belgium raised the city’s terror alert to the highest level. Belgian authorities over the past week have stormed residences across Brussels in their hunt for more clues about some of the suspected Paris attackers who appear to have planned that onslaught in Belgium. Authorities are scouring the country for Salah Abdeslam, 26 years old, who is suspected of renting a car used in the attacks in Paris.
This is triggering friends and family in Argentina to contact us by phone, Skype, Facebook or Watsapp to check on us. Let me repeat what we have been saying: don't worry for us. We are obviously a bit worried and annoyed by the impact of this terror alert, but we can still get out and the biggest parts of Brussels are still OK to walk around in. It all sounds a bit worse in the media then it is in reality.
But the terror alarm caused St-V (the yearly celebration of students in Brussels; with a huge manifestation in the center of Brussels with lots of beer and music on trucks driving very slowly in the city center) to be cancelled. This is the first time (outside of the world war period) since the creation of the universities that this happened. Of course, students would not be students, if they did not ignore the cancellation and still gathered with many hundreds downtown.
Also because of the terror alert however many shops and restaurants were closed in Brussels this weekend and many will remain closed at least on Monday as well. This is obviously not good for the economy and for the tourist image to Brussels. Furthermore it was decided tonight as well that all schools should remain closed on Monday. As a result I just made a quick trip to my parent's home (without crossing any police or military) to drop of the kids for some emergency babysitting.
Various police interventions are ongoing currently and the police and security services are asking everybody on social media (individuals and the media) to refrain from providing details on where and how the interventions are taking place. The people are following the request very well and have turned to posting all kinds of pictures of cats. Do not ask me why, but this is social media for you. Below are 2 examples that people posted to keep their minds off the terror threat.
[Added on Monday]: The police was very pleased with the way people reacted and posted following picture with the message: "Voor de katten die ons gisteren geholpen hebben... Alsjeblieft!" [To all cats that have helped us yesterday... For you!!!].
The fact that we resorted to cats and that the police joined the game earned us lots of remarks in the international media as well (the surrealism of Belgium they call it). The lockdown itself and the fact that the situation is not stabalizing yet also earns us less positive messages. many countries are also issuing negative travel advises to Belgium; we are considered a dangerous place to go to for the moment...
The consequences of the alerts have impacted us this weekend as well. The circus class of Alex was cancelled on Saturday, a classical music concert for kids that we were planning on visiting got cancelled and we have been spending more time then usual on (social) media to check on the evolutions and keep friends and family informed.
This was also the weekend that Thomas, Carolina and Tobias decided on visiting us (to join the concert). Even though we could not do what we planned we still had a very nice time and the kids had a great time playing together.
We also went for a walk to the Argentinian Embassy for Carolina to vote for the presidential elections. Marina could not vote because her official Argentinian ID still is in Buenos Aires.
On the way back from the embassy, Alex and i made a detour to the comics shop and there Alex bought his first book with his own money. Over the past weeks we have been giving him small change from time to time and when he wanted a book in the shop i told him that he could buy it himself. I asked him 5EUR (for a 21EUR book) and he gladly paid it for a book about all the Lego Star Wars Figurines in existence...
There are not too many pictures this week. You can find some here. Let's hope the situation stabalizes quickly.
To cheer you all up a little riddle. Can you solve this:
2+2 = Fish
3 + 3 = Eight
7+ 7 = Triangle