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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rule Breakers [1 of 2]

Instead of an email

I went to Amsterdam two days ago, to escape the four walls that I have spent so many hours in this summer. Because the rain doesn't seem to take an end. I craved to see people, meet strangers. So I took off for Amsterdam, the city with the most diverse collection of people, the city of silliness, tolerance and humor. And creative thinking. I've spent several hours in the center with it's buzzing shops and cozy cafes and went home with fresh energy.

Today I had to go to 'Mokum' again, for manual therapy. Normally, I turn a visit to my MT into a day out, tasting this bustling city. But since I had already been transgressing two days before, I told myself not to do so today. I made myself swear a vow to go home straight after my visit to the MT.
So... after I closed the door of the physical therapy center behind my repaired back, I set out for the nearest tram stop, simply glad the rain had finally come to an end. I honestly meant to take the tram to Central Station. Yet... a side street was beckoning me with a row of beautiful 'brownstones' and an unpredictable bend. [Vondelstraat] 

'Remember your promise' I told myself. 'Stop being so priggish.' was the reply. And my feet chose the side street. My back wanted to try out it's new [com]position and urged them on.
I like old houses. I like them so much that I chose to follow the street and not go into the park through it's entrance between the well cared for brownstones. I could hear the high trees of the park, behind the row of houses, anyway. There was a strong wind making them sound like the sea. Beautiful, this sound in the midst of a city. Sea sounds and singing birds. An unexpected gift I accepted gratefully.
My jaw only dropped once, when I reached the end of the street. The bend was a 180° turn... I found myself standing at Overtoom, with right across the street the MT's place. OK, off for the tram stop again. And once more... a side way, lined with old townhouses. This one turned … out to be a dead end street. I had no choice but to enter the park. It's just the Vondelpark I thought and shrugged. A tiny detour.
I've only ever seen a small part of the park. Thought that that was the entire thing. Today I discovered the park is huge. I got lost. But that couldn't disquiet my happiness. I was seeing a part of Amsterdam I had never seen before. I was enjoying the kaleidoscope of people. Tourists feeding pigeons, joggers, people on bicycles - old ones, rented ones- , tourists kissing, locals walking their dog, hard workers checking the stage for an upcoming concert...

I walked and walked, the sound of traffic getting closer. I passed a garden restaurant and, untypical for me, decided to leave the park before stopping for a drink. Just at that moment a group of tourists stopped me. The young man was holding a workbook with some loose papers and a pen. He gestured for me to take them. One of the younger women asked me whether I was dutch. “Yes” I admitted, “but I'm no from Amsterdam”. The older woman cut in. I had taken the others for eastern Europe, maybe middle east, this woman had Asian, or maybe south American, cheekbones. An odd couple, but nice looking an friendly. In English the older woman explained that they were doing a 'quiz tour' . The questions were in Dutch, and the answers had to be Dutch too. Could I please write down the answer for them...
I took a look at the paper. The question referred to a statue and it was to be described on several dotted lines. The three quiz tour-ists pointed a little further away from us. I saw a ring of people, more tour-ists, and peeping over them the pale grey stone eyes of a girl with pale grey hair. The statue in question.
I grinned awkwardly and tried to hand back the pad and paper. I didn't feel like doing their thinking for them. I was about to suggest they'd ignore the rule of answering in Dutch and write down the answer by themselves as an idea came up...why not interview those who asked me? 
Why don't you just describe the statue and I'll translate for you.” After all, I work as freelance translator (and writer).
The idea was accepted unanimously. 
I could hear a multivoiced “I see a naked lady”, “the lady is naked” Obviously her most prominent feature. At least they considered the girl to be a lady in spite of this. When I had penned it down, I asked for more. “She is standing” “Her eyes are open”
“Her hair is drawn to the back of her head” “She is gray”. All facts, which I deftly put down. But it didn't satisfy me, the teacher in me came up. “Are there no emotions?” The women caught up with my question. The girl was open, spontaneous and one even found her to be proud. The gray eyes and poise of the head, all I could see, definitely showed self confidence, so penned it all down, in dutch. Then I handed back the paper, content. After all, the quiz was to make the spectators look at art as an expression of feelings or ideas. To make them see! And my question made them pick up the notion.

I left the park and my feet steered me through an expensive shopping area to the vicinity of the Museumplein. That wasn't what I wanted, so I chose a few smaller streets, leading me right through several groups of children playing outside. After School Care in action. They looked like regular schoolkids during their break. Traditionally, the boys were playing football -socker, I should say- what the girls were doing was less obvious. Some ran past me, giggling. Only one, with reddish blond hair, halted and looked at me with blue, serious, eyes. “Funny, we are playing lions right now.” The confession like nature of her approach was to be taken seriously, but somehow I felt I couldn't see her point. Leaving me at loss for words. She pointed to my T-shirt, “Jesus the Lion of Judah” and I looked down... a full blown male lion and the orange sky made up of another, transparent, lionhead. [ I dress to impress :) ] How could I forget? I laughed, opened my mouth to say something back to her … no need she was already called away by her playmates. I like that, those short fleeting moments of communication that leave an impression you can carry with you. 

Grotere kaart weergeven  

I came from the street on the right side of the photo, and took a turn to the right. Which is the left side on the pic.

To be continued ....

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