Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Blend

In many ways, you can view this blog and all of its entries as "things NOT to do when you're in the Netherlands". Recipes for scrumptious asparagus aside, the things I should have done but didn't and should not have but did are worthy of a Loreena McKennit dirge. It's not that I'm lax about following rules--to the contrary, I plan our weekly meals out well in advance and recently acquired a white board, which I marked up with permanent marker, in order to plot out a schedule of things to do when and where and with whom. However, I am also terribly lazy about researching things in advance--I blame my career choice, which is technically as a scientist. Research, to my mind, is something you do before you write papers, and not before meeting someone for drinks, even if it is your first borreltje.

The hive mind of the Dutch is something that I've alluded to several times--that inborn ability to know when it's coffee time (10-11), to set out your trash next to the one pole but not the other, and to get a twinge of nostalgia when you see games like "Ganzenbord", even if you've never played it before. Anthropologists call it "culture", but the level of indoctrination runs so deep that if the queen of the hive mind (not necessarily Beatrix) were to croak tomorrow, the chaos (inasmuch as the Dutch are able to withstand it) would be catastrophic. Trains would be delayed, and buses would be dirty--oh noes!

All joking aside, I am a terrible conformist. Oh, I'm more than happy to play along and be a good little Dutchie for a little while, until I get bored. That's when trouble--or rather, inspiration--begins:

Most people assume that I would be biking to my new job, which is a fair assumption, seeing as how it's 2 km away by Google Earth(that's a little over a mile for my American readers). The idea that I would have the audacity to walk that distance, on the other hand, was apparently novel enough that I found myself repeating that intention over and over yesterday, when I met my new colleagues for the first time. It's a twenty-minute walk--not a bad distance, and the neighborhood isn't dangerous, although it is true that I'd say that about any neighborhood that's not North Philly--working in and riding through a notoriously bad neighborhood dramatically skews your perception of what's dangerous. My mother would probably have a fit if she knew I was walking anywhere in the dark.

I suppose it was just as well that I didn't mention my real intention to the inquisitive multitudes, which involves in-line skates and taking advantage of the satin-esque, well-groomed and substantial bike paths between my new workplace and our apartment. It really would be very nice--the paths get enough traffic that they're mostly clear of debris, and the one path stops almost at the door of the very building I'd be working in. I did finally get myself a pair of in-line skates, fulfilling a four-year itch for Rollerblading action, and though it took me a little while to work out how tight everything needed to be and get my skating legs back, I'm at that point where I could realistically go to work on eight wheels instead of two.

But there's a difference between intent and action, and odds are I'd probably do all three--ride on the days when I need to pick up more Tweeb food (hooray for panniers), skate on the days when I have Dutch lessons in the evening, walk on the days when I don't. After all, a life of not-conforming can be boring as well--although given that NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, the extra bit of inspiration might not be a bad thing....

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