It has been a joyous return to school. Not only do we get to see each other again, but thanks to the excellent vaccination take-up in our region of Wallonia, the regulations that have governed our ‘modus operandi’ for months are being relaxed a fraction. Around school, middle and high school students are no longer compelled to wear their masks when seated in the classroom. This has given a real sense of liberation and the back-to-school buzz has been as effervescent as I can ever remember.

Our students are a thoughtful bunch! It was heartening to overhear students in Week 1 reminding their friends to mask up when they headed off to their next class – quite easy to forget now that we are moving in and out of mask-wearing. Initially, the students were very cautious to remove their masks, but now that we are in week two, a happy balance between mask-wearing and free faces has developed.

The first weekend of the semester was also a delight with our traditional Green and White Family Day. It was fabulous to be back together at a real, live community event. We had dancing, singing, coffee and croissants, community partners and short presentations; our spacious outdoor courtyard was abuzz with families and friends enjoying the barbecue and the sunshine with a short splash of rain. This is Belgium after all!

It is not an understatement to say that we were almost giddy with the delight of being in each other’s company. We often reflect on how lucky we are to live or go to school in leafy Waterloo, but this time, we feel rather privileged to be in Wallonia, where it has been possible to relax Covid19 restrictions more than in other areas of Belgium thanks to the higher uptake of vaccines and the lower rate of cases. Indeed, our good relations with the Commune of Waterloo have also been hugely beneficial in enabling us to make these gradual steps towards a more enjoyable and companionable normal. We shall continue to do all that we can to maintain our sensible Covid protocols to protect each other and maximise the opportunities for joyful school and community events. Never again shall we take for granted something so seemingly simple: these times together are precious.

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