Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blog #2 Mijn naam is Ken

First off, for those of you who have expressed concern, Corri, my best Dutch friend with the tracheotomy did not choke or die from the cookie I gave her. I know this because I decided to make her a banana bread.  Actually I wanted to make banana nut bread but I know nuts can be card to swallow. So I thought why risk it. I baked her a banana bread and took it over to her. She seemed surprised at my gift and since it was the first time I had ever knocked on her door she seemed startled when she answered and she had also forgotten to bring her microphone. She looked at my bread gift and, as with most Dutch people and my cooking, she seemed to not have a clue what it was.

I said "uh, banana.....broed (I think that is dutch for bread) ... uh, Banana?"

She still seemed confused so I made the sound of a monkey, did a slight monkey pose and then mimed a monkey eating a banana. She got it. I think. If not, she thinks I am some crazy American handing out strange breads and acting like jungle animals. Actually I haven't seen or heard from her since and I know she didn't choke on it because I saw her take her trash out so now I am beginning to think she is either scared of me or she didn't like my banana bread. Which is very rude and ungrateful in my opinion. I know my banana bread is good. I tasted it. As for me being the crazy one, well she came over to mY door crying which is way worse then my monkey dance. I think Corri and I are having our first fight!


Despite the EXTREMELY stressful bike ride to and from school I made it. Bike riding in Holland is a major issue but I will save that hellish part of moving to Holland for another day. The minute the class started I became aware that I might need to be moved to the Special Ed section of the class. Clearly others in the class have lived in Holland longer and have more experience with the language. The guy next to me from Gambia even stood up ten minutes in to the class and announced that he felt the class was too basic for him and he thought he should transfer to the next level. Oh please, what a show off! AND I had just lent him my extra emergency pen, which he took with him! The first day of school was not starting off well.

The Teacher, whose name is Wytske Versteeg, (yeah, that's right, you see it, YOU try to say it) gave us the exercise to "get to know" the person sitting next to us and then we would  have to stand up and tell the rest of the class about them. We should try to say what their name is and where they are from. In DUTCH! I have to use a sentence in Dutch on the first day? My heart started racing. To make matters worse, now that my Gambia, Gambian, Gambianeese or whatever neighbor left the class (with my emergency pen!)  my new neighbor was...get this...Jiaojia Xiujang from China. She speaks in some sort of combination of Chinese,  Dutch and possibly English AND she was soooooo soft spoken. I was leaning in as close to her as possible and squinting my eyes to hear her which I think made her nervous because she wouldn't look at me. I was starting to panic and develop stage fright. I have about three minutes to come up with 2 grammatically correct Dutch sentences about Jiaojia to say in front of everybody!

I was not at all ready and wasn't even sure how to say the name Jiaojia correctly, but before I knew it, it was my turn. I stood up and said something like

"um, mijn naam is Ken (which wasn't part of the assignment but I was desperate for material) , zjij (she... I think in dutch)  naam (name)  JiaoJia  (which I tried to say in my best Chinese Giao ya Gia or something like that)  and  JiaoJia..... uh..... China"

I heard a few giggles from the advanced beginners behind me. They were all grouped together in the back corner. I think their leader is this know-it-all guy from India who by the way has lived in Holland for three years already! I have to be nice to him though because he is downloading all the practice CD's for the entire class. So I guess he can make fun of me ......for now.

Anyway the teacher said with a puzzled look  "Well, you will get it, and that yes your naam is Ken."  Yes, that is what I learned on my first day of Dutch class. My name is Ken. Mijn naam is Ken.

Then Jiaojia stands up and, in this loud clear voice that I NEVER heard before, recites THREE perfectly constructed sentences in Dutch about me. She says my name, where I came from and where I live now.

I just stared at her as she sat down but she continued to refuse to make eye contact with me!

After that I was emotionally and educationally exhausted and I started to hide behind the guy from Turkey in front of me so that the teacher would not call on me. I spent the rest of the class trying to listen but mostly I focused on sneaking tic tac's out of my book bag whenever the teacher turned her back to write on the board. I am not sure what the rules about eating in class are but I didn't want to have anymore trouble on my first day.

Anyway I really can't say I made any friends on my first day at school. Jiaojia and I may (?) be close even though she deceived me and doesn't seem to want to talk to or look at me. I do know her name though, and that she is from China, oh, and, either me offering her a tic tac is offensive, or she very much dislikes tic tacs or she just does not want MY tic tacs.

And one last thing. Class went over 12 minutes. This better not be a regular thing.


  1. Ahhh, Boo! I'm so sorry your first day didn't go so well. Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it and eventually you'll probably be happy to have more advanced students in the class. Hopefully they'll start helping you instead of laughing. I've never had that maddness in a language class, but then again, I've never had a language class in Holland, and you KNOW my feelings about that ear sore of a language.

    Watch out for those sneaky "quiet" Chinese ladies. So scandelous!

  2. The girls are now following your blog and say a big hi. Don't expect any comments though cos they're either unwilling or unable to learn how!!

  3. Oh my God, I'm crying!! Really, you have all of my support in the world, but this was hysterical! I read it twice and laughed just as hard the second time, I'm sure at your expense -- I'm sorry about that. I can't wait to get to the bike riding. Maybe you'll give me incentive to get my Dr. Pepper bike out of the garage and tackle the traffic.

  4. What ever you do, don't offer JiaoJia any of your banana nut bread. . .thereby having to repeat your monkey mime! After all your squinting and plying her with tic tacs, that could really put her over the edge! Keep on learnin' that Dutch! I know you can do it. Mijn naam is Shirley.

  5. I have no encouraging words or advice, but I am laughing so hard right now! Good job leaving the nuts out of the banana bread! My mom is visiting, so I will have to read this to her! Hey, do you think Corri was throwing out your banana bread and didn't want to get caught which is why she didn't talk to you?

  6. Don't take Jiaojia's body language personally. In Asia, it's considered rude to make eye-contact with people who are not old friends or family, so in her culture, she was just being polite by not looking at you and being soft-spoken. And, again, the loud and clear "class" voice wasn't an affront to you -- but what is expected when addressing authority figures, i.e., the teacher.

    So, wow -- you're getting a really multi-cultural education all at once. Just take heart -- English and Dutch have many common roots, and it's not as difficult or weird to learn as you might think it is. Hell, you'll be dreaming in Dutch in a month, trust me.

  7. why not try (grammar) instead of getting frustrated with these stupid classes. Well, at least that is how i learned quite good dutch and enjoyed it.. for friends are all sorts of other activities, really!