A few days ago, I wrote to one of the many new friends I had made at the International CALL Conference in Antwerp, “Meeting you … made a huge difference to my time in Antwerp … it was genuinely the best time I have had at a conference and mostly because of your good company.” The atmosphere at Antwerp made it a huge success. I arrived alone, but felt warmly welcome in this gathering of the CALL community. I met several real kindred spirits and immediately felt that I was among friends. All this was and is still true, but there is now a huge pall of sadness hanging over my memory of the conference.
At the gala dinner on the Tuesday night, I sat next to a young researcher from Malaysia, JC Ng Shi Ing, who had brought her one-year-old son, Ben, to the conference with her. I was full of admiration for her because I couldn’t have imagined coping with a successful teaching and research role along with a young child. However, JC was managing more than well, and she had brought her lovely sister, Elisabeth, with her to help look after Ben while JC did her conference thing. We laughed together all night, and Ben joined in with a game of peek-a-boo. The sisters encouraged me in my plans to visit Asia and invited me to visit them in Malaysia if I did travel out that way. They were lovely happy, warm, kind people, full of life and plans for the future, a future that was never to be. JC friended me on Facebook so I was able to watch her progress travelling round Europe before heading back home, to see pictures of her visiting a zoo, and of Ben paddling in a lake in Estonia, and I was also able to follow the dawning realisation among her facebook friends that JC, Elisabeth and Ben had been flying home on MH17, the plane shot down over Ukraine. This still seems impossible to me and there are no words to describe the awfulness this loss must mean to anyone who knew them and especially their family waiting for them back home. It is just unbearably sad …
I am posting here a link to my twitter story of the conference, including tweets from JC and pictures of her presentation: https://storify.com/MairLloyd/antwerpcall2014 Mine is mentioned there too on the Monday afternoon.
Here, also is a gallery of pictures from Antwerp:
As the conference closed, Jozef Colpaert, visibly moved by its significance for him, put up a slide of the final verse of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’:
‘May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young ..’
JC tweeted a picture of it with the words ‘We will meet again’. I hope we will somehow JC, and Ben and Elisabeth. Until then, ‘May God bless and keep you always …”