Gevoel: ALS IM SPELEN INHALEN
(Translation: Like I’m Playing Catch-Up).
Ok. What with all the yarn threads I’ve been spinning being so busy here in Holland, I have decided for my final third week in the Fatherland to do each day as a series of short succinct (well, ish) stories. Rather than the seemingly never-ending spiels that I have been spouting out, I feel it shall well be the better go. Thus the title being “Feeling Like I’m Playing Catch-Up”; what with doing so on detailing my days further on afield, as well as double way in catching up with all the family.
So: to day one, Sunday.
- I must admit, I did curse my alarm when it sung out at 8am to rouse me up and out for a run. What with having had a rather large rager with the cousins the evening before, the idea of snuggling back down into slumber sounded seriously sensational. But I got up, jammed out a jog then headed home to help set up for the family meet and greet, or as it is known now, my Dutch birthday.You see, when I first contacted Annelies about coming over to stay she asked if I would like to have a Sunday arvo gathering of the clan. Rounding up of the troops, congregation of the characters, jamboree of all the Wortman ones. Upon my enthusiastic response, she issued out an invitation to all those in the gene pool for Sunday May 22 at 2pm.And it was a true and utter delight. I donned my beautifully intricately laced and linked dress I bought in Barcelona (from H&M of course) and plaited my hair through with a band of flowers (also from H&M, I must admit) and waited eagerly at the door for the first arrival.
- About 25 Wortmans (and Geitenbeeks and de Kreeks and van der Vlists – married-on names, you see) (Though why anyone would ever give up Wortman is beyond me) (also insertation: in Holland the name does not have connotations of a viral pimple, as “wart” is “wrat” and “wort” elicits links of either writing or carrots) came to the party (literally) and it was great fun.I didn’t mention it before but two of the Geitenbeek sisters – Maria and Inneke – are actually married to two brothers, being Jan and Maarten. How fabulous is that! I said of Maria and Jan’s meeting in a previous post, but Inneke and Maarten met through their older siblings and went on to hitch together a few years later. I find that so special; talk about keeping it in the family.
- At my Dutch birthday I had remarkable yarns with all but I had an especially fabulous one with my new mate second-cousin-by-marriage-I-guess, Maarten. I told him all of my realisations of who I am and what not and we had a really reflective exchange about all such stuff. I could feel he really got me and where I was coming from and it was really noteworthy.
- My favourite part of the afternoon? When Will turned up! She has been quite unwell and it was aloft in the atmosphere (I.e., “up in the air”) whether she would be able to come, but 2.30pm struck with the door opening and her coming in. It absolutely made my day wholeheartedly.
- And I was inundated with invitations for the week to come! From having a completely clear calendar it was suddenly crammed full with daily doings and family fun. From a sleepover at Simone’s next Saturday (I shall inform on who this incredible soul is upon that succinct(ish) story) to getting cheesy with Frans and Wyna Friday to Thursday pursuits with Yvonne and Jacqueline, my week was suddenly chockfull of engagements and get togethers and gatherings (I admit it, I set up a few A4 sheets detailing the days so I knew where I would be and when, as well as making a copy for Annelies so she was also aware of my whereabouts).I definitely made the right choice staying on alone. Happy Dutch birthday to me!
Monday was the previous post being the day with Frans and Wyna (naughty naughty, out of order!), so onto Tuesday:
- Well, not too much to note here; I spent the day doing admin; getting presents for the clan sorted (each having their own especially thought out item – gift-giving is taken very seriously by I), having an evening of playing Rummikub with the three van der Post kiddettes (who I have now adopted as my surrogate siblings), going for a fiets ride with Yvette (I loved it; upon navigating her way around a tricky corner she declared, “Nailed it!”; totally rubbing off on her) (and we had a jolly chuckle when to alert some riders ahead we were about to pass I went to ring my bike bell, only to find it was broken and came out more as a croaking frog. You know how people say, “It’s the little things”? I’m totally starting to see what they mean) and roaming around observing things as I do. So here are just a couple of notes:
- The whole listing-of-livers on plaques outside of homes. Now, not all and every single abode does do this but the vast preponderance do so, and I find it so damn ingenious. Like, never again the knock-at-the-wrong-door! You know exactly who lives within as the little list tells you just who does. (I had a little moment where I had the thought that if you had a stalker it would not be the best go, but I’m sure a stalker would be able to figure out where you resided, plaque telling so or no plaque telling so). (I also flirted with the idea of adding “Poppy” to the one at the van der Post home in vivid, but as I have not seen a bottle of Jiff about I thought the joke may not go down too well should the markings not come off).
- I stood well entranced for a fair while upon coming across a lass making peanut butter at the markets – from actually peanuts no less! Not necessarily a Dutch thing, but something I witnessed in Holland so here we go.
- Something I find both cleverly convenient as well as a mite inopportune; what with most Dutch home being at least three storeys, many have a toilet located on the bottom floor so when the need to expel arises, one does not have to scurry up the stairs to emit. So yes, extremely handy and what not – but hardly any of them have a basin to wash your hands after doing so (bar the van der Posts – theirs has a sink and such)! And I have found myself in quite the conundrum on three occasions; like, when you exit the facility, do you go to the adjacent kitchen and soap up, or do you go upstairs to the bathroom anyway, or do you simply not have a rinse? Well, I certainly didn’t want to receive the depiction as the Girl Who Does Not Wash Her Hands After Making Wees, so at first I took to the kitchen sink to do so. But then I was worried I would earn the report as the Girl Who Washed Her Hands In The Kitchen Sink so I freaked out about that too. The Solution? My ever-friendly Purrell, which I made a big show of making sure al and sundry saw me applying upon flushing and returning to the group. I’m nothing if not an answer come upper-er.
- Like pretty much all of Europe, when going to a shop there is a charge to receive a plastic bag to carry your wares in. I love it; it’s so much better for the environment, is it not? (Even if I forget every single time to take a carrier and end up having to either juggle all my goods home or be the baddie and buy one). But when going to a shop and receiving something back in paper bag (not charged for) the Dutch close the paper purse up so as to tuck the top corners into the product, rather than wrap it round or fold it over. Confused? Hopefully the beneath pic shows what I mean.
- And a nuance I also just adore; while groceries are done at the Albert Heijn (like the NZ Countdown) or the Jumbos (what I’d say to be partner to Pak’n’Save), every single family I have seen go to their select stores for certain items. Meat from the butchers, bread from the bakers, fruit and vege from the, well, fruit and vege shop, and so on. And come the weekend, required foodstuffs are foraged for at the markets, such as cheese and such lark. I just love it – it seems so 70s or so to me (not that I lived in such times, though I wish I had).
- In every single home I have been into, double, queen and king size beds are not made up of one mattress; rather, two separate ones are placed on the base with the fitted sheet encasing the two to be one. When I first saw this in Annelies and Richard’s room, I thought perhaps one of them had a back problem (Annelies or Richard, not one of the mattresses) or they couldn’t decide whether to go with a soft or hard underneath – but no, ‘tis the go! (And is the case in Germany also, I have found on my arrival in Munchen, as is the following point as well).
- In Kiwi kitchens, as well as Aus, fridges and dishwashers are more often than not installed with their location clearly evident, what with a stainless steel handled door denoting a fridge and “Fisher & Paykel” white or silver compartment showing it to be a dishwasher. But it is not the case here in Holland; both are disguised behind the front of a fitting-in cupboard door to match the rest of the room. So every cupboard looks uniform along with said two appliances as well, with one unfamiliar with the whereabouts of all having to comb through to find the required.
- In many of the stores and supermarkets there are life-sized people stands of bakers and cheesemakers and what not. I cannot tell you how many times I have greeted the cardboard creatures, thinking they are actually alive. Like, I’d say upwards of twenty times. So much so that in one shop I held myself back from saying hi – and of course, it was the one time it was a proper person. (They totally didn’t understand what I was trying to say as I burst out into giggles on realising they were real. I hopped out of that deli quick smart).
- I have said before about the Dutch “G” being pronounced very hard and guttural. So when people talked of “Hoouda” (with a good throat thrust) I was unsure as to where they were referring. It took until today that they were saying what we know as “Gouda”. (I blame Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum and She’s the Man).
- There is this homeware store in the Netherlands called Blokker, which is kind of like the Dutch Briscoes. Pretty much every town and city has at least one and they are quite fun to cavort around. But the best bit? The fronting female on the TV ads is none other than Sarah Jessica Parker! It goes to show how infiltrating American pop culture is that a face such as hers can be so famous as to be behind a home décor shop.
- Upon asking the Dutch (and I can generalise here and say it as a collective, as it has happened every single instance with every single Dutch lad or lass) if they speak English, all able respond, “A little”. But mate, they don’t speak “a little”; they are capably conversational, if not full on fluent. On being asked if I speak Dutch I respond with “a little”, but my definition is far less in aptitude than these Dutchies.
- Earlier in the week on hearing I was staying on, Will excitedly invited me for a sleepover and showed me her spare bedroom. “For you every night,” she insisted, showing me where the towels were kept (bless her). However, what with her not being too well, the sisters said it may fare better if I instead do the day with her and sleepover at the aunty/cuz Yvonne’s.
- So the plan was put into play that I would go to Will’s for lunch on the Wednesday, hang out for the afternoon then make her dinner.After a breakfast with Dennis (bless him also; the night before he told me to set my alarm to be up and at ‘em (NOT “Adam”) for 8.45am as he would make me the morning meal; I was a touch apprehensive what with me not eating a good deal of many morsels, but he was so cute – at 8.15 he clambered upon his bike and set off for Jumbo’s to collect fresh bread and fruit, then came home to boil eggs and set the table up. Such a champ) I went to the little local bakery and bought some bits to make Will lunch. An almond round cake, a flaky croissant (inserted with a chunk of cheese and ham) and a carton of fresh strawberries.
- Then I headed to the bus stop and hurtled through to Alphen (and I mean hurtled – the lad behind the wheel certainly was speedy).I was gladdened to find aunty/cuz Jacqueline was already at Will’s buttering her some bread, as on unpacking of my bag I found the croissant had been severely flattened and was looking rather sad.
- The three of us hung out for an hour or so, looking through old photos (I came across a wedding invitation for one Cornelia Hendrika Wortman, a cousin of some sort; how good is it, this rephrasing and recycling of names? My Opa is Hendrick Cornelius Wortman, somewhat similar, no?) (and three letters Opa had written to his granddad back when he first went to NZ; once again, imagining the lumbering lad sitting down to pen and paper an update to his own Opa had my throat tight) and then Jacqueline listed a, well, list of groceries Will required.
- “I’ll go get them!” I insisted. “Let me go do it!”So after a quick foray of the cupboards taking photos of needed items and screenshotting images of ones not in the apartment, I headed off to do the small shop. (Luckily I sidled up to a young lad loading the shelves and pitifully pleaded his aid in finding all I necessitated; it’s rather hard to figure out what aisles you need to go to when all is in Dutch and not quite as clear as you anticipated. Cheers to Jip – he was a champ).
- I went back to the apartment and Jacqueline took off home. And what a lovely rest of the day Will and I had! We sat and watched an episode of Dr Phil, which was absolutely the best idea; what with it being broadcast in English and having subtitles in Dutch, we could both fully follow the plot of the man being roasted over his inappropriate relationship with his 16-year-old stepdaughter (an aunt was calling molestation while he swore it was just a close friendship) (“NEE!” Will and I averred – pronounced “neigh”, which always has me picturing ponies when someone responds in the negative – when old Philly said how when the girl stayed over she slept in the stepdad’s bed, with her mother banished to a separate room).
- When 6pm struck I got started on cooking up dinner (I admit I was a fair bit nervous; as I have said before, I cannot cook beyond a bowl of boiled vegetables. Luckily such was on the menu – Will never has a dinner without her staple potatoes – and along with her steak I chucked together a salad and cut up some carrots). And my, it was so funny – although we could not outright converse, we could completely figure out what the other was trying to say with gestures, pointing at things and the odd understood word.
- When I put her meat in the pan, Will went to the fridge and got me the butter, signalling to slap some on the steak. I knifed off about a tablespoon size and slathered it on, where she motioned “more”. So I added another same-sized swill, where Will impatiently signalled even more. “Really?” I asked, whereupon she took the butter block from me, hacked off a good half and chucked it in the pan. Dutch gravy you see – pretty much butter and meat juice to drizzle over your tateys.It was so cute – when we sat down to eat (sea of butter at the ready) Will put on an apron; I thought it so nice an option for the older persons. I mean, wearing a bib or such has the potential to feel so degrading, but pulling an apron overhead (well, tying round the back) is so much more, almost respectful of further-on folk and doesn’t make them feel incapable.
- After consumption (Will ending the meal murdering back a pottle of chocolate mousse – my, I wish I’d caught her expression on camera when I pulled it out of my grocery bag for her (for once I had remembered to take one along to the shops)) I did the dishes (can you believe in her cupboards she has no less than 21 jars of applemoes, with a further six little pottles in the fridge? I can so see where I get it from) I gave her a little gift I had gotten for her; not much, just a photo printed of us for her mantelpiece and a block of choccy spelling out “I love you”. There was a bit of a bluster for me; in the card I had drawn a picture of what was meant to be me and her, with her wearing one of her many scarves, Unfortunately however my inability to on point illustrate had the said scarf looking like a noose, so I frantically tried to explain to her through Goggle translate what it was meant to be.
- Both of us were rather weary so I suggested a “slappen” (nap). Which is how Jacqueline and Yvonne found us upon coming to pick me up to go to the wine bar – both of us slumbering soundly, a Dutch talk show bleeting on in the background.
- You know, my Italian afternoon Rome-ing was incredible, seeing the splendour and gasping over the grandeur of all the ruins and what not. And my day dallying about Prague was extraordinary, as was Amsterdam, Krakow, Switzerland and Slovenia. But I’d take an afternoon hanging out with Will, watching Dr Phil and just being in each other’s company over any of the aforementioned any day.
- (I had initially planned to do the whole week in one post but – as always – I have yarned on far further than anticipated and this supposedly “succinct-ish” story telling has gotten lengthy. So rather than keep you scrolling I shall break it into two).