By Madeleine Kando
I come to Holland regularly because my very very old mother lives here. I usually spend the first few days after my arrival in a je-tlagged semi-fog as I try to adjust to the minuscule size of practically everything around me. The car rental has a car ready for me which is the size of a large bumper car. I ask the attendant to help me shove my suitcase in the back and to instruct me on how to use the endless buttons on the dashboard. European cars may be small but they sure make up for it in complexity. The numerous scuff marks on the garage wall tell me that I am not the only one that has difficulty squeezing my bumper car through the narrow exit ramp onto the even tinier main road. I have to get used to the speed at which people drive their vehicles over here. The smallest hesitation elicits angry honking. Don't they know I just stepped off an airplane? That I come from a place where things aren't shrunk to Alice in Wonderland proportions?
The 45 minute ride to my mother's flat never disappoints. I have been transported into a Ruisdael painting. The huge sky pushes down on the horizon, a small sliver of earth dotted with church steeples and poplar trees. Cows, sheep and horses populate the lush green fields. It seems incomprehensible that such a tiny, overpopulated country can remain so rural, until you learn that the Dutch have very strict rules on where they are allowed to build. They voluntarily agreed to squeeze themselves into the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and a few others, leaving the rest of the country open for agriculture.
The area where my mother lives is smack in the middle of flower country. At this time of year, the fields are covered with tulips of every imaginable color. I zoom by fields of yellow daffodils and on my right, a breathtaking expanse of white hyacinths appears, covering the entire landscape with a sheet of delicate lace. I open my car window and the scent of flowers fills the cabin.
I have developed a routine over the years, which makes Holland feel like my second home. I like to bike on the polders and I have become a regular at the local health club where I try to replicate my daily lap swimming addiction. Lap swimming here is a dangerous affair. The Dutch, usually so regimented and organized, have never heard of swimming in a straight line. They like to chat while they swim, as if they were biking next to each other, swerving all over the pool. Consequently, a free style swimmer, looking down at the bottom of the pool, risks crashing head on into one of those 'kletsers' (chatterboxes), resulting in severe head injury.
Today, this happened to me. I came out of the pool dazed and with a nasty bump on my head. Stepping out to safety, I tried to reason with the pool manager, suggesting she use some dividers to prevent concussions, but she didn't think it would be fair. Segregating the 'swimmers' from the 'chatterboxes' is undemocratic, she said. After all, Holland is a not a class society!
With that I was reminded again how 'politically correct' this country is. Everything has to be fair, equal, no one stands above the fray here, lap swimmer or chatterbox.
In politics, there is no lack of representation in this minuscule country. Holland has over 50 political parties, 12 of which were in the government in 2010. Even animals have a Party here, with 2 seats in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. I wonder why they don't let dogs lap swim in the pool at the health club. Wouldn't that be more 'equal'? Or how about a 'Party for Lap swimmers'? For now, I am seriously considering wearing a crash helmet the next time I visit a Dutch pool. leave comment here
Friday, April 27, 2012
By Madeleine Kando