Big Picture, Little Details

When you take up new residence, the details of your routine are suddenly magnified… at least this has been my experience. Even (especially?) with the mundane: I think much more about making my morning tea and assembling my bowl of cereal now – because the details are different. I use the bowl I was given at move-in (my landlord said I could take it home as a keepsake! ha), more shallow than my go-to bowl from home. I search for the smallest saucepan in the cupboard, fill it with water, top it with the lid, and look out the 2nd story window as I wait for the water to boil. There is no kettle or microwave for me to absentmindedly switch on as I had at home.

There are other funnier things, too. In a dutch supermarket, the customer is responsible for weighing and pricing their own produce. I went to buy a lemon a few days ago (other stuff, too), but when I got to the check-out, the cashier gave me the strangest look. I’ve grown accustom to strange looks over the past week and a half, but how could I have screwed up buying a lemon?! Turns out there are individual weigh stations near all the fresh produce counters and you have to print your own label. So I went over and did that, and laughed at myself. It was kind of fun – once I was able to find the word ‘lemon’ in dutch.

(ps: customers must also pay for any grocery bags not brought from home. this, i believe, is so great.)

Thanks to my Dutch language class, I also now know that a ‘W’ is pronounced like a ‘V’, a ‘V’, like an ‘F’, and an ‘F’ like an ‘F’. Yes. This means the word ‘wakker’ (to awake) is pronounced more like: “vvv-ahh-ker.” And like all dutch words, this one is said quickly and with a lot of throat. SO, while I’m really just saying what time I awake in the morning, it definitely sounds like I’m swearing in english. Is it just me? Try it!

Planning a trip from home gets you thinking about all the big things you’ll see, all the obvious cultural differences you’ll notice, all the big ways the new city will vary from your home city. There will be lots of bikes. The museums will amaze.
The coffee-shops aren’t the same kind of coffee-shop. There will be the good food and the wine and even the Eiffel Tower one day.

But then you get there (here). And what distance once made clear, the present moment makes fuzzy. You expect the big differences – it’s the small ones, maybe the ones that relate most intimately to you as a person, that really make you think.  It is like my world has changed to be slightly off center, and in mapping out my old routine on this new setting, I welcome the way it heightens my senses to the littlest of things.

Also, church bells ring every 15 minutes and plans don’t stop for rain, it never lasts long anyway!


6 responses to “Big Picture, Little Details

  1. Mary Binder

    So great to read your words and share in your adventures and impressions. Thanks! Traverse City sometimes feels like a foreign country – so I can kind of relate 😉 Thinking of you a lot – enjoy every bit of this. Love you!

  2. Bill Guarino

    Now Cae, I know that you must be thinking of a different english word for wakker than what came to my mind, since you are not an Army trained, 61 year old Ford engineer! You are bright, fresh, young and so much better able to express yourself than I am! Lots of love, Uncle Bill

  3. Jack Keenan

    Cae. Reading about your language difficulties made me think about my grandmother on my mother’s side. She was born in the Flemish part of Belgium and was quite a tough old girl. She lost her husband…my grandfather…in a streetcar accident. And was left with four kids. My mother, Julie, only nine years old, went out and got a job as cash girl in downtown Detroit. Anyways, she had trouble with English and could not pronounce “W’s”. She would pronounce Woodward Avenue as “hoodahood”. I don’t why I’m telling you all this but you have a trace of Belgian. Also she was Flemish somewhat akin to the Dutch (I am told).Belgium is divided up into the Flemish and Walloons (sp?). They have never be amble to get along. Wallons around the area of Brussels are French speaking, and according to my mother thought they were a lot better than the Flemish speaking Belgians. Al little history lesson that doesn’t mean anything, Grandpa

  4. anne

    I love your patience with the market. Just think how simple this daily or weekly routine will be in a few weeks. I’m so thrilled you’ve started this blog!
    Your faithful reader,
    Anut xo

  5. mom

    Cae: seeing you on that utube video of leiden univ. I can’t imagine what its like to learn to speak Dutch…all those consonants! And you’re right…you are vahkker does sound like a lot like uncle paul.

  6. Kathy Kristopik

    Cae, I was looking for a good book to read and I decided your blog is what I am going to read instead! What a talented writer … I can just picture it all, thanks to your lovely descriptions. Hayley is right, you have a future in writing! Enjoy yourself, have fun along the way, and don’t forget about fall football here in Michigan — GO BLUE! Love, Mrs. K (Kathy Kristopik

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