Babelian of the Month: Héléna Van Aelst

Article published on Dec. 22, 2014
Article published on Dec. 22, 2014

In December, Héléna was brought the magic of Christmas alive by writing a very important series about detention centres for migrants in Europe. We needed to honour her work, between chip stands and stinky cheeses.

cafébabel: If you could have dual citizenship, which country would you choose?

Héléna: I have lived in Brussels for the past three years and I have Flemish ancestors, so I would say Belgian without hesitation! 

cafébabel: Which country would you like to live in?

Héléna: In Andalousia! The tapas are succulent, it is sunny the whole year and there is lots of surfing. What more can you ask for?

cafébabel: What is your favourite saying at the moment? 

Héléna: A quote from American anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

cafébabel: Can you tell us three countries that are better to live in than yours and why?

Héléna: If my home is Brussels, then it is better to live in France for good food! The list of food that I miss is cliché but true: baguettes and crusty pastries, good cheap wine, meat...and fruit purée, an almost non-existent product in Belgian supermakrets, for reasons that remain unknown. Maybe the subject of an article for cafébabel? 

If my home is France, then it is better to live in Brussels for the good mood of the people, quality of life and the chip stands.

The third country is Spain. Barcelona, Madrid and Seville are incredible cities and the Andalousian countryside is beautiful.

cafébabel: What is the latest cultural item to be found on your bedside table?

Héléna: A set list of the latest Angus and Julia Stone concert, signed by them. Je l'ai récupérée au bord de la scène grâce à un machiniste puis je leur ai demandé de la signer.  

cafébabel: Where can we find you on a Friday night?

Héléna: At the Horloge du Sud, a delicious African restaurant. I worked there for six months when I arrived in Brussels, and since then, it is my second home. If I am not eating there with my friends sipping one of their excellent cocktails, I finish my articles for cafébabel with a glass of 'wild', a mix of homemade hibiscus and ginger juice.

cafébabel: What advice would you give to someone who is nostalgic?

Héléna: To live in the present moment, to create new memories that are just as beautiful as those from the past.

cafébabel: Is it reasonable to say that French people stink?

Héléna: Yes, because it's funny! I don't know where they stink, but I imagine that it comes from our breath because we eat strong cheese? Either way, it makes me always laugh a lot when the American characters from Les Guignols (A French political satire show — Ed.) who call the French "the cheeses that stink."

cafébabel: Would you prefer to know a lot about one subject or a little bit about many subjects?

Héléna: Impossible to choose, so I play my wild card and I would ask for a combination of the two. Is that allowed?

cafébabel: You have just won an Oscar. Who do you thank in your acceptance speech?

Héléna: My mother, my love, and Claude Berri! (A French film director — Ed.)

Check out: Héléna's page on cafébabel.