I’m happy to say that although it’s not really boiling, it isn’t freezing either. The days are lengthening and we sleep less in contrast to when this picture was taken, just after 8 am in mid January. Some woman walking her dog thought I was nuts as I kept running back and forth to activate the streetlamp. It’s time to check the Bois de Halle for bluebells, if they haven’t been frightened away…
We have a botched Rendez-vous at Kinderdijk and we go to another amusement park in Holland. It’s my turn to be amused as I stick my card into the swimming pool turnstile and the little electronic message pops up and says: ‘Gaat u verder’. What else would I do? I want to pack up at the incongruity of it all and I have to smile and think: I have come a long way! I have to think of the swimming pool blog mentioned previously as I obediently put my battered shoes on the shelf outside the pool, thank goodness I don’t need a swimming cap and there are no specific specs regarding the type of cozzie to be worn! I sidle into the changing booth, which to the unitiated, opens on one end and spits you out on the other so that you’re within reach of a locker. In Holland you mostly get your fifty cents back for the locker, in other places it’s tough tackie if you want to fetch something, you have to insert another coin if you open the locker and close it again. So you find your way to the pool, somewhere it says to wash your feet, I mostly ignore this and sidestep any kind of shower, I am clean and the showers could be freezing. In the pool I do my best to ignore the roof (so that I can fool myself for split seconds at a time that I’m enjoying a swim outdoors) unless it’s a really fancy dome-type affair and I might be excused for believing I’m somewhere tropical, ha ha! Once you’ve had your swim and hoped that you haven’t caught any warts or anything else that thrives in indoor pools, another funny sight greets you: people treat the communal showering area like the bathroom at home, having a thorough shampoo and wash with bathing costumes intact, well mostly. Usually this is something you do at home? I suppose it saves a bob or two and while you are semi-undressed, it’s as good a time as any. On your way out you may be lucky enough to catch a free hair-dryer or one with tokens. THere’s no message on the turnstile as I leave, too sad.
I had to guffaw at the hotel receptionist (I was trying to phone my Kinderdijk Rendez-vous) who asked me ‘Wat kan ik voor u beteken?’ Well you could mean a great deal to me or nothing at all, I had to say ‘excuseer’ twice as I was mostly tempted to unburden my many troubles on her, when I realised that that probably wasn’t the aim of the exercise. This being Holland, I was put through to the room number in question in a friendly helpful manner and I’m sure I could have asked to speak English too. I’m wary of doing this because I invariably switch to very poor Dutch half way through the conversation and then the person on the other end politely asks: ‘Do you want to speak English or not?’
I was also tempted to phone the ‘calamiteiten nummer’ at the camp site and I pictured the conversation going something like this: ‘Oh what a calamity!’ Then of course I couldn’t get any further because I wondered if people still used this word in English and what proportions would an emergency have to take on to be described as a calamity.
In Holland the eclectic decor also tickles my fancy….We’ve visited a pool that had African animals all over the walls and Bahama-style ‘shade’ jobs. Our favourite attraction park has a Western theme and if I wanted to I could stock up on cowboy boots, a Stetson hat, Red Indian type dreamcatchers etc, it’s my dream! Lo and behold, it might be time to phone the ‘calamiteiten nummer’ because what have we here, cowboys? No just people getting their kicks doing the Roller Coasters and stuff in Western gear, probably day-dreaming about taming a mustang or roping a few steers! Our latest visit to Toverland had me marveling once again. I’m sure the designer read Lord of the Rings (there’s a huge stand-alone tower that looks like a tree sporting a water-slide), some Greek myhtology (there’s a Trojan Horse at the entrance to a massive wooden roller coaster), the indoor area has European style (there was a crooked man who lived in a crooked house) houses for murals mixed with Aladin style decor…All wierd and wonderful!
Then while I was queueing (did I pay to queue?) for a ride, I got to wondering what my stone-age ancestor would have thought of what we do for thrills as she ducked the mammoth and possibly her partner who was going to drag her around by her hair later on…. Oh yes, what we do for fun….
My inspiration was once again this crazy post: http://pethatesblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/cancer-sufferer-and-other-strange-dutch-insults/
Indeed I do wonder how swear words really happen. They make no sense at all and what’s terrible in one language, doesn’t make anyone bat an eyelid in another.
However I must say I’ve only heard about half of these dirty words but then I live in Belgium and not Holland and even though there is only a hair’s breadth separating one from the other, the culture and the language differ quite considerably. Sometimes it isn’t even a hair’s breath as the border between the two countries could even go through someone’s back yard. So I’ve heard anyway.
Words that would make my hair stand on end in Afrikaans, just roll off a Belgian’s lips like I don’t knowm, honey, I suppose. I think there are one or two words that aren’t genteel to use in Afrikaans that are pretty rough in Flemish. Of course as I charter the waters of these two languages so near and yet so far, I have to laugh. Why, because someone has just knowingly told me that Afrikaans is a dialogue and five minutes later listens to me speak and then tells me that he hasn’t understood a single word. What can I say to any of these statements, nothing as they giggle their way through our very authentic words: surely it’s better to call a chameleon a ‘verkleurmannetjie’ or a ‘trapsuutjies’ as we do than to use exactly the same word as in English!
Somethin I’ve learnt is not to trust the subtitles on Flemish TV, I heard this weord word and saw it translated as ‘arsehole’ which I admit isn’t a very nice word but one that could be used in a joke. My kids were horrified, as explained in the blog above it’s all about a rather different part of the anatomy and very graphic at that! Flemish speakers don’t seem to think the f-word, used in English while they’re speaking Flemish, means anything at all, to them I have to say it’s not the same as the word used for a stud farm, as in stud off! No, no it’s somewhat worse.
This gets me wondering about language conflict. My grandfather had to learn Dutch in South Africa and anyone speaking Afrikaans had to wear a dunce cap for speaking this kitchen dialect plus apparently the Dutch teacher (straight from Holland I’m sure, like his colonialist forebears) would launch into a tirade roughyl translated as:
You think nothing of my language
you lowly good-for-nothing,
I hope that the birds of the heavens come and pick your bones clean etc etc
You get the drift. What’s funny is that a generation later I spied my father’s report card where he’d failed English. I gleefully asked: So what’s going on here dad?
His reply: You didn’t dare pass English otherwise you’d get beaten up at recess.
And guess what, Afrikaans is the lingua non grata once again as it’s associated with being the language of Apartheid etc. A pity it’s even better than Esperanto as it’s a living language and easy to learn.
What I would like to have a list of is all the words in Afrikaans that don’t exist in Dutch, these are great fun from the local vernacular, or simply generated somewhere or from the Indonesian slaves by the Dutch a whole year after they arrived at the tip of Africa. I’m thinking of beautiful words like:
Perhaps there’s an IT expert out there somewhere who can stuff an Afrikaans dictionary into a Dutch one and get it to spit out all the anomalies….
Before launching into this one, I have to say that I was inspired by these posts:
and my absolute favourite: http://pethatesblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/what-not-to-do-in-paris/
The latter just speaks to me. It’s all about culture shock, if you come from a warm climate, you put your cozzie (bathing suit) on, walk out the door and take a goof (jump into the pool).
So these poor Aussies arrived in Paris and thought it would be that simple, wrong! Sometimes guys aren’t allowed to wear shorts of any lengths and budgie-smugglers are the accepted uniform of the day. I thought my sons would understand why, I got some weird answers like:
1) if you have swimming pants that look like shorts, you keep taking water out of the pool and then the pool gets empty;
2) you could be hiding something, well if you’re wearing budgie -smuggling speedos, you most certainly are, or not. They’re also not just ordinary speedos that swimmers wear but look even more ridiculous because they’re the boxer-types, obligatory wear for swimming practice, and for some pools otherwise they never leave my house and certainly not the country, Belgium that is.
3) long (or short) shorts can be dirty and so the pool gets dirty etc etc
Yes, I seriously believe all of this. We dutifully go out with the proper bathing attire, try not to steal the swimming pool water and hopefully are rather clean when we get there, so I skip the mostly cold shower which is obligatory too. Not to mention the sometimes communal changing rooms ,well you get a private cubicle but I once had the misfortune of having a druk guy changing next to me with his plastic cup of beer which he upended, it flowed my way under the cubicle and missed my stuff but only just. He was swearing at the Walloons in Flemish, I was holding my breath for the moment he was going to break the door or the cubicle, or when vomit was going to be floating out way…
The other thing I could relate to in the latter blog was the feeling of having stepped in dog poo, you haven’t, not this time, but it feels like it, you feel it oozing through your toes as you get crapped on for doing something culture shock-like. I’ve worked out why they are so sparse on instructions, it gives some people the maximum opportunity to crap on people and so have a better day.
Which brings me to the first two blogs, which made me have a better day, Brussels has its fair share of whacky statues, and I don’t really understand the little guys with the big square heads in Leuven.
The other day I learnt something, you know how Mannekin Pis looks weird, no really, apart from the fact that he is peeing in public, he looks strange. I had half an hour to hang around, I had had coffee, done window shopping, my budget didn’t stretch to real retail therapy so I went into the Brussels Museum on the Grand Place. If you’re into porcelain relics and all kinds of relics found in Brussels, and very dark models of Brussels in the Middle Ages (maybe they forgot to switch the lights on) and 10 million Mannekin Pis costumes, this is the place for you. But seriously I found out what’s wrong with Mannekin Pis, the sculptor clearly didn’t understand child anatomy, the kid is built like a grown man, I’m talking about his muscles of course, little kids don’t have muscled arms and legs like this little fountain, and that’s why he’s there if you were wondering, in the Middle Ages people must have gotten bored drinking water from ordinary fountains and decided to try a different design…. I was saved from gleaning any more bits of wisdom because I got kicked out for taking a business call on my mobile phone…
You all know I’ve written about the annual frog migration and it’s back, three to four weeks later than anticipated because spring is taking its time in getting here.
I regret not leaping in with both feet like I usually do and helping the volunteers help the frogs cross the busy roads. The project is finished, BUT, one of the busier roads was closed for three nights last week, so all the frogs didn’t get squished. We went along with a bucket and saved some unsuspecting amphibians….
Fun again! I remember the Sagrada Familia (1990) as a rather sandy buidling site and lo and behold, it looks to me as if the interior is done. It’s beautiful and I enjoy Gaudi’s back to nature designs. The church doesn’t have the same feel as say Notre Dame de Paris, don’t ask me why. I was excited about another trip to Parc Guell and a walk down La Rambla. The latter was just overcrowded and the vibe at the beach at Barceloneta much more fun. Much aheming and ahhing took us to the somewhat overpriced but lovely aquarium too. Per chance we had some energy late-ish one afternoon and we went to the the Place de Espana. There were loads of people milling about, yoohoo, we’d stumbled onto the sound and light show, a highlight. Back to Belgium where the temps briefly spiked to what we’d left, 20 degrees but it looks as if winter is back next week….need some more escape routes….