Friday, October 30, 2009

My Dutch Class Report #2 Poor Mrs Wytske (My Teacher)

I have now had four of my ten Dutch classes. So much has happened and changed since my first (and only) report about my class.

As you may recall we meet once a week on Tuesdays from 7-10:15 p.m.. Not 10 but 10:15. Those last 15 minutes are tough. After the third class the teacher announced that there was no class next week due to fall break. Thank God! All this school work has been hard. I deserved a break. All of us international students yelled out for joy in our various languages and tribal sounds once we each looked up in our native language to Dutch dictionaries what she said. I felt like I was in High School or college again and was just told it was Spring Break and heading to Cancun! The whole bike ride home I kept singing "PARRRRRR TEHHHHH I am on falllllllll break....PARRRRR TEHHHHH I am on SPPPPRRRING BREAK." It was the best bike ride ever! I love Holland. It is one of the top ten countries in the world on the number of holidays and vacations for students and employees. I have never wanted to get a job so bad, just so I can get the required 25 days paid vacation (not including holidays and sick days).

I announced my news to Jur by saying "Nederland is goed. Ik ben op vakanties". Then I broke out into my fall break party dance and pranced around the house. It was a good thing there was no beer in the house cause I am sure I would have made a beer bong and gone crazy.

Anyway, as of this Tuesday vacation was over and it was back to class. The vacation flew by! I was dreading going back as if it was the first day. I sat in my usual seat. I get to class early now to claim it. I have discovered that some cultures (ROMANIANS and GERMANS to be specific!) seem to have NO etiquette when it comes to seat assignments. True, we may not have been assigned seats, but I like to sit in the same seat. I chose my seat. It has a good view of the clock. It is at the end of the row so I have plenty of elbow room. It is not in the front and not in the back but toward the middle back so if I am lost or confused I can sort of be hidden. I was so mad when I got to class two when I found Eve or Eva or whatever the cold German woman's name is sitting in my seat. That was my seat. Now I notice she keeps moving every class to a different spot and I watch as people who used to sit in the seat which she now occupies walk in and are instantly confused and displaced. I can't help but to revert to history and wonder what it is with Germans needing to occupy everything? I am watching her! The big day will come when Eva the German tries to take Lieve's (or something sounding like that), the flashy dressing scarf wearing French woman, seat. Lieve is very outspoken and I don't think she would tolerate the invasion. I class-dream about them fighting over their territory. That would be one hell of a battle. I think as an American in Europe I get caught up in The Band of Brothers, Winds of War Hollywood movie version of Europe.

On class three I came early to stake my claim before the German, and THEN the quiet Romanian women came in (LATE I might add) and sat in the seat right next to me! OH GOD! See we sit at these two person table desks. This is not a normal classroom. During the day it is a science biology lab for High School Students. There are jars of pickled ancient animals and insects all along the right side of the classroom. It was kind of distracting and gross at first. Our desks are lab tables. They appear to be clean and the room never smells. Judging from the pictures on the chalk board (I see them since I am the first to arrive because of the GERMAN!) the students are actually dissecting a flower (Iris or Lily or something). Anyway the Romanian lady walks in (LATE as I said!) and sits down on MY lab table. Why would she do that? She has disrupted my personal space. She has immigrated into my territory. A whole different type of invasion. This was an annoyingly big deal! CLEARLY there were at least two or three empty lab tables in the front or back. GREAT! Class three is ruined for me now! Our elbows were practically touching and NOW this forces me to be her Dutch Lab Partner when it comes to the conversation exercises! Uugghhh the Romanians are hard to understand and she is like Jiajio (my previous Chinese Dutch Lab Partner) so soft spoken.

So NOW not only do I get to class early, I also spread my back pack, my papers, textbooks, pens and candy all over my lab table to make people feel unwelcome. It worked this week but I am always ready for another country to invade.

The really hard part about the class is that we are from all over the world and have different levels of Dutch and English and have no idea how to talk to each other in most of each other's native tongues. We seem to have all grown slightly scared of each other. There is a lot of darting eyes, the occasional hesitant smirk and a lot of shrugging shoulders. For example this guy from some country (I honestly do not know where he is from. He could be anywhere from South America to the Middle East, he is very unusual. I have thought that perhaps he is Gypsy.) looked across the aisle at me and pointed to something the teacher had written or said and mouthed some sort of question or statement to me. I had no idea what he wanted or was trying to say and I did not want to offend him so I did this physical combination of a shoulder shrug indicating...I don't know, plus the slight unfolding my hands indicating...I welcome your question, at the same time I widened my eyes to indicate.... I too am surprised by what he is pointing out, and the same time nodding my head in a weird way indicating both... yes and no. This is a safe answer that allows me to not point out that I have no idea what is going on or what anyone is saying. I learned this from Jiajio (My Ex Chinese Dutch Lab Partner). She did it to me all the time. It is a very effective technique that has spread faster then wildfire in the classroom. Now we all do it. Especially to the teacher, Mevrouw Wytske, when she calls on us.

Poor Mrs Wytske. The class seems to be taking its toll on her. She has a lot to deal with. People from all over the world asking her questions in broken English and broken Dutch. She is trying to teach one of the hardest languages in the world. She also has her own difficulty with English. I feel for her sometimes. Many times I see her just stare at a student when they ask something. She seems to have the look of a deer caught in headlights. A look of shock, fear and helplessness. As the weeks have passed I have noticed that the class has taken it's toll on her. Each new class she dresses in darker and more depressing clothing. By the end of each class her hair is all desheveled and frizzy and she always ends up with chalk powder smudges all over her face and clothes. (Especially her shoulder and elbow area because she is always hugging herself for comfort). She appears to be losing weight and has definitely aged. She no longer wears make-up or jewelry. It's like she has given up. She seems to have developed a nervous twitch on her lower lip that seems to be aggrevated when any of us raise our hand to ask a question. Especially by the guy from India who sits in the front row and asks a lot of questions. I feel for Mrs. Wytske because in all honesty I have no idea what the hell he is saying and wether he is saying it in Dutch, English or Indian. I am not sure how she deals with this. I am starting to worry about her. After the first hour I am exhausted just witnessing it all.

The most common question she gets though, which occurs at least fifteen to twenty times a class is: "I sorry, please, Wytske, but what you in book page where, danku?" or many variations of this question. This too seems to make her upset. I hope she knows we are all trying!

I study. I do. Jur and I both work on my flashcards, which is very challenging for our relationship. I have put post-its all over the house to become accustomed to seeing words. Jur tolerates this. To see him drinking from a coffee cup with a post-it is very touching. He cares. I asked Jur's sister Cathy (mijn schoonzus) for some children's books which she gave me. I am presently reading a lovely ten page book about a family of pigs that are going to a Mud Festival (I think?). It is a bit advanced for me.

Most of the time we learn strange things like words involving ice skating, cheese and dogs. I am not sure why that is but I trust Mevrouw Wytske. This past Tuesday, however, we did learn about numbers and time. All hell broke lose as Mrs Wytske played an audio tape of authentic announcements of train schedule changes. All of us just looked up into space hoping to catch a glimmer of a word so that we might catch our imaginaery train. Numbers are hard in Dutch for example 1998 in Dutch is negentienhonderdachtennegentig. What? They might as well be saying supercalifragilisticexpealidotious (which I am starting to believe is a dutch word, probably meaning something important like "look out!"). These long words are annoying. Get this....3271 is drieduizedtweehonderdeenenzeventig! Huh?
When I confronted Mevrouw Wytske about my dislike of this (most of the class giggled in agreement) her lip twitched a bit but then she turned to the chalk board and wrote in English threethousandtwohundredseventyone and turned back to me with this smug chalk covered look of victory and said "see in English it is just as long, you just separate the words with spaces. Dutch are more efficient and take up less space." I shrugged my shoulders, opened my hands, widened my eyes and bobbled my head.

So that is my Nederlandse klas report. Next week, if I am correctly reading ahead in the book, we are learning about nephews, bald people, beards, twins, Van Gogh, ham and itching. I still do not know how to say help me, I feel sick, I don't want to eat that, I am lost or important things like that, but I can tell you if a woman has red glasses, a dog is on the couch or that I am not camping....... I'll keep you posted on Mrs Wytske's health and the progress of my class. Tot Ziens.


  1. Love it. I also left you a funny post on your ice message but it erased. Can you believe that? It was really funny too!!!

  2. hahahaha, i loved that post! insanely funny, ive been reading up on ur blog since yesterday ;p

    moving to amsterdam myself next week :o (from norway, tho i came to norway from canada lol)

  3. Well let me know when you get Simon! And if you need any help!

  4. hey, yeah no problem ;)

    you got msn or something similar by the way?