Gone with the windmills

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve changed my blog’s header.

I like the Twenty eleven theme templates, but I thought it would be nice to use a picture I’ve taken.

So, here’s an image from Kinderdijk. The Netherlands, windmills…I know, it’s a bit of a cliché. But I like this picture, anyway.

Kinderdijk is a fascinating place. We finally went there last week – after almost 2 years in the Netherlands, but better late than never! – and luckily there were not many tourists around, so it was quiet and peaceful. And windy, of course!

Here a couple more pictures. Enjoy the view!

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How I Jumped Off the Euromast and Survived

Last week I was on the Internet (wasting time, as usual) and I found out about this: abseiling and the zip wire of the Euromast.

I knew about the Euromast, and I knew that you can go abseiling there (abseiling meaning “a vertically controlled descent down at an independent climbing rope”). One of my classmates at the Dutch course I took (ja, I took a Dutch course!) did it and showed me some pictures.

The zip wire was something new for me. Well, not the zip wire itself, but the zip wire at the Euromast. Anyway, I don’t know why, but I tought “This is something I could do”.

The thought “I can do it” soon became “I want to do it”, then “I book it” and finally “I’m going to do it”. Since yesterday I can say “I did it!”.

So here’s how it went.

The zip wire at the Euromast is available every last Sunday of the month, from May to September. At the end of August we’ll probably be travelling, at the end of September we might be moving (but that’s another story), so we had to decide between the last Sunday of June (yesterday) and the last one of July. Why wait the end of July, if you can do it in a week? So we booked our descent for yesterday around 1:30 p.m.

I had less than a week to think about it, imagine how it would go and get scared. I looked at the pictures on the website, I even found some videos on YouTube, and it didn’t look that scary to me. Yes, you’re practically falling from 100m, but you’re all tied up, it lasts just about 15 seconds…it’s not a big deal, is it? So, I wasn’t feeling scared. I actually almost forgot about it, until Friday or Saturday.

The weekend approaching reminded me that we had something programmed for Sunday. That “something” was falling from 100m at a 100km per hour speed!  And I started having second thoughts, maybe it was better not to go, not to do it. But there was also another voice inside me saying “Come on! You’re afraid? So what?! Just do it!”.

Saturday night I even had a dream (nightmare?!) about it. I don’t remember exactly what happened in the dream, just that after taking the elevator to go up, I had to wait for one hour or so before my descent. And I think the most you wait, the most you have time to get scared!

Luckily, I think that it took just 15-20 minutes from the moment we entered the Euromast, paid the tickets, signed the disclaimer (“If something happens to you, it’s not our problem”) and the moment I actually went on the zip wire.

We arrived at the zip wire point and a big guy that looked like Mr Clean welcomed us saying something in Dutch. Ehm, can you speak English? Right now my brain is going “Aaaaahhhhh!!!!”, I don’t think I can speak Dutch, or speak at all for that matter.

I was then harnessed, and hooked on the  zip wire. There were two other guys there, one of them started explaining me what to do and what was going to happen. He told me to sit on the edge of the railing, facing outwards, slide down a little bit and stand. He told me that they were going to count to 3, then I had to bend my knees and I would start falling.

Well, I think he said those things. I guess a part of my brain was actually listening! The other part was going “It’s freaking high up here!!! I don’t want to do this anymore!!! What was I thinking!?!? I’m going to have a heart attack!!! I want my mom!!!”. Pretty brave, uh!!

Anyway, I obediently did what the guy told me to do, and even if I almost wanted to scream “I don’t want to do it!! I don’t want to do it!! I don’t want to do it!!”, all I could say (ehm whisper) was “I’m kind of scared…”. Yeah, right! Kind of scared, that’s kind of an understatement!

He was very nice and told me not to worry. It was perfectly normal to feel scared, it was even a good thing, and I was not the first one to feel like that. OK, if you say so…

Too late for second thoughts. One…two…three…bend your knees!

And whoosh! I started falling. Fast. And faster.

For about 4 seconds I was literally breathless. I don’t know if I closed my eyes. For sure I was not looking around me, at first. Then I started realizing that I was suspended mid air, descending fast. I thought “I did it! I’m here and I’m doing it!”.

Whoooo!!

Yes, I screamed a bit. A little, liberating scream.

After just a few seconds, I arrived at the landing spot where there were other guys who helped me land safely (but still in a clumsy and awkward way!) and took me off the zip wire.

I then waited for M. to make his landing, and we went back up to return harness and hooks, look at the pictures they’ve taken of us, and then enjoy the view of Rotterdam from the Euromast in a less adventurous way. Even though another crazy thing happened…but that’s another story, maybe another time.

So how was it after all? Scary, that’s for sure! But a great experience, and a good way to test yourself, see what you’re capable of, overcome your fears, and be thrilled with an adrenaline rush!

Before doing it, I thought that I would have enjoyed it  so much that I would have wanted to do it again. Well…no! At least not in a short time, I guess. I did enjoyed it very much, but I’m still feeling scared when I think about sitting on the edge, bending my knees and falling…

I’m proud of myself. I think I needed it to forget my insecurities, and see that even if something looks scary, you just have to try and go for it.

Count to three and let yourself go!

Indonesian food and random thoughts about identity

On Friday night, M. and I decided to have dinner at the Indonesian restaurant.

We arrived and asked for een tafel voor twee. The waitress seemed a bit confused, but after a moment she showed us to our table.

Another waiter took our orders, two biertjes and two rijstafels. He then asked us something in Dutch. A moment of panic! Ok, let’s switch to English.

Then the other waitress brought us the food, and said something in Dutch. We didn’t get anything, and we asked her to speak English. She looked like “Hey, you were speaking Dutch earlier!”

After a while, she came again at our table to check if everything was OK. She explained that she tought we were Dutch, and she was surprised when we switched to English.

How she could think that we were Dutch, that’s a mystery to me!

Anyway, she was also non Dutch. And when we asked her where she was from, she said: “Oh, I’m from a lot of places. I’m from Canada, I’m from Hong Kong…”

At first I was tempted to reply: “Ok, but where exactly are you from? Canada or Hong Kong?”. But then, is it really that important? Do we really have to look for an exact definition? Besides, the most precise information is exactly the one she gave us. And more interesting too!

Not only we learned that she is from here and there (and since a few months she is in the Netherlands to study) but her answer made me think about one’s identity, roots and culture.

It also reminded me when, while I was in Canada, I was asked a similar question – where are you from? are you Italian, you don’t look like Italian? – and I answered: “My mom is from the Philippines, my dad is Italian and I am…me!”

Not very precise, but true.

In between worlds

I just realized that it’s been four years now since I graduated. I also realized that I’ve spent half of this period abroad. The other half I was at home – that would be Italy, even though I’m not that sure now where home is.

Six months in Canada plus one year and a half in the Netherlands make two years living somewhere else. In a place different from where I was born and grew up. A place where they speak a language different from my native one.

One, English, is a language that I have studied and learned. The other one, Dutch, is a language that I am, or was, trying to learn.

What’s the consequence of that? Does the fact of translating oneself from one place to the other (and from one language to the other) result in some kind of loss?

It happens, when you move, that you lose things. You thought that CD was in that box, but it isn’t. Or the corkscrew is not with the other kitchen stuff anymore (true story). Can this also happen to people as it happens to things? Is it possible that you lose part of yourself in the moving?

Maybe something does really get lost and you find yourself in a world in-between, not belonging anymore to the place you’re coming from, but not yet part of the place you came to.

A friend of mine was telling me that when she goes back to Brazil with her husband to visit family and friends, they say “Here’s the Dutch couple!”. But they’re Brazilian. Or they’re not anymore, after living in the Netherlands for many years? But if they’re not Brazilian, are they Dutch?

In between worlds for me means also feeling  in between languages. You translate your thoughts into words, but in which language?

In this confusion, I find myself thinking in one language, but speaking in another one. I sometime watch TV in English, read the Dutch subtitles and make comments in Italian about the program.

And it goes also the other way around, as new words of a new language start slowly to have a meaning.

I was at Rotterdam Central Station some time ago, and they announced something about the high-speed train to Paris. The announcement was given first in Dutch, then in French and finally in English. To my surprise, when they gave the announcement in English what I thought was “They said that already!”. I had understood the part in Dutch almost without even realizing. It felt strange. I guess the weird and guttural noises did not sound that foreign anymore.

I don’t think that there’s only a loss then, if there really is one, in this confusion, in this in-betweenness. There’s for sure also something to gain in experiencing life in a different country and in a different language.

Moving from one place to the other, I’m not sure if I lost or gained something. Probably both things.

What I’m sure of is that I need a new corkscrew.

Babel on my mind

I now live in the Netherlands, and my knowledge of Dutch is just enough to answer “een beetje” when asked if I speak Dutch. And that’s about it!

So, I guess I won’t be blogging in Dutch.

What language then?

Italian? It’s my native language, after all. Spanish, French? No, I’d better not use a language I’m not so fluent in.

English? I’ve started writing this post in English, so I guess I’ve already decided which language I want to use.

I might switch to another one along the way though.

You never know. Non si sa mai.

Hopefully, I won’t get lost in translation!