Tuesday, October 2

Finding My Voice

You probably heard.

I was under the weather last week, and as is standard for me anytime I catch a head cold, the virus descended from my sinuses to my voice box and I spent three days in the last seven, croaking like a frog. Handy only in the fact that such a voiceless condition elicits great sympathy from all whose ears were subject to my (lack of) melodious tones, to be sans melody is disquieting.

By Friday I was squeaking out low level decibels in my speech. Nearly audible, I was able to once again take my share of the incoming phone calls at work. A day at work was about all that my voice could take and by the afternoon I was once again sapped of sound. When a co-worker stepped in to the office to receive well wishes and a bottle of wine for her birthday, I gave it my all to join in singing "Lang zal ze leven" but couldn't make sound form through the chords.

The true test of laryngitis came Friday evening when, just as I was sitting down on my couch to watch some television with Ian and Elise, I spied several young boys inside the gate of my front garden. I hesitate only briefly before I label this gaggle as a bunch of punks. It was obvious they were up to no good. Emboldened by the numbers in their group they were measuring up the bikes standing in the front yard to quickly determine which would be easiest to make off with. What they were not counting on was the fact that all of our bikes are locked, but further and more to the point as you are about to see, they were not counting on being spotted.

But they were.

By me.

I am certain it was without grace, but confident that the speed with which I flew from the living room, through the hallway and out the front door surprised not just me, but all those brats boys gathered in my yard.

They quickly hoofed it down the road.

I suppose someone else may have left it at that, but this had awakened something in me and I shouted at them with all the strength in my lungs:

Hoi Jongens! Wat doen jullie daar? (Hey boys! What are you doing?)

As you are correct to imagine there was very little response and absolutely no complicity from the group who had stationed themselves down the street under a lamp post. I suppose they felt secure in their numbers and proud of their antics.

Of course, my shouts aroused the curiosity of my husband who was upstairs in our bedroom and he called out to me from the balcony. I quickly filled him in on the events of the past 2 minutes and fast as lightning he joined me in the front yard.

I continued to yell that they needed to answer for themselves and that I would call the police. This decree got the only en masse response which was a collective giggle.

That's when I got pissed.

And my husband started to run.

What could I do but give chase as well?

In my stocking feet I joined pace for pace with Don as we chased the hooligans from the street; the boys split immediately as each turned tail and took off, dashing around corners, across canals and running down parallel streets.

The pace of the chase and the heat of the moment served to completely unglue me. As we turned the corner to chase the last of them off, Don called out something decidedly derisive and I echoed in turn.

I have to admit, it was not attractive.

And there was no stopping me.

Obscenities flying, (ENGLISH ONLY--no language can match what we've got!) I tossed off as many insults as I could muster in rapid fire succession, and only ceased when my calm and caring husband put his hand on my shoulder and said "Jenn. We live on this street."

I clammed up, but I didn't calm down.

Don and I walked back to our home and sat down in the front garden to talk.

To be fair, he talked while I fumed. And then he listened while I decompressed.

I don't lose my temper very often. In fact, you could almost say never. But I did on this night and it has taken me days to settle down about it all.

Curiously, the entire scream fest did not call a single neighbor out of their houses to assist or watch. This fact, along with the belligerence of these wayward-going-nowhere boys was high on the topic list as I ranted about the event, and by association life in Holland.

But it's more than that isn't it? Though it seems commonplace, I know this culture has no exclusive hold on delinquent youth nor apathetic adults. I am lucky I think, that in my two years here that there haven't been more unfortunate events befall us. To be fair, Holland is a safe country by comparison and there is little violent crime here. But crime does happen. Specifically and commonly that crime is bike theft, general theft and vandalism. Most unfortunately for the populace it is standard and I dare say, accepted as just the way it is. This disregard for people, for property, for privacy, is rampant and universal.

It came to my door Friday night, and it sent me over the edge.

I am mad. I want to keep shouting. I want to do something about it.

Misery loves company I suppose. Please read what Fourier Analyst has to say on this subject. She's got a point.


  1. I was ranting in the blog I was writing tonight. Then I decided not to post it and threw it out. Then I read yours. And so I will post tomorrow. It makes me furious. And what is worse, it frightens me. There are so many instances in this society of "mild domestic terrorism" and no one seems to care, no one wants to notice. I am the "crazy, vocal, lady on the corner", not because I want to be, but because no one will do anything to help. And rather than play the victim, I fight back. I disturb the whole neighborhood when necessary to show them what is happening. I will not let things be ignored. It saddens me that you find yourself in such a frustrating place as well darlin'. I don't know what to tell you, but to just hang in there, stand up for yourself and hold your ground. You may not be invited to as many neighborhood BarBQ's, but then you will not be sharing the same values with those folks anyway!

  2. Oh Jenn, I feel your pain. A few months back someone was casing our neighborhood and stole all of my orchids. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I loved them and had nursed and nurtured them from little bitty things and in one night all 10+ were gone. I felt so violated. The same theif had stolen orchids from my across the street neighbor, a bike from the kids two houses down and the patio cushions from my other neighbor. Of course, as a group we called the cops who told us they could do nothing about it and there was no point in them wasting their time with filing a report.

    Yeah, I felt violated... and seriously disappointed in the system as it stands. I know they were only flowers, but knowing that someone had come up onto my porch and had taken the time to take them all down (and it would have taken quite a while) pissed me off to the extreme.

  3. Wow. Wow. This was made all the more disturbing to me by the fact that I thought I was reading a different blog. I couldn't imagine the woman I thought I was visiting could use anything but English.

    I'm better, now. I know where I am. Let me just say that you're right to stop them. I wish more of us were like you -- here and there. (And everywhere!)

  4. You know, you're so right about the swearing thing. I'm married to a Dutch guy and my experince is that if he or his friends want to swear, they all do so in English; Dutch just can't cut it with the effing and blinding.

    I do wonder though; is that something to be proud of?

    Fxxk it, yes!

  5. Do you really think your neighbours would be accepting vandalism? I would be pretty upset too.

    Yeah I do think bike theft is more accepted as "the risk that comes along to having a bike" when I hear the regular quotes that the value of your bike should be low but the value of the lock should be a tenfold of that. ....but then until it happens to them. I can't believe they wouldn't be upset as well.

    hmm I don't know.

  6. gb-
    I don't know that my neighbors would feel accepting of any of it if it were happening to them. The thing that just shocked me was the ABSOLUTE lack of response to the chaos and commotion outside their homes. What if I had really been in trouble? Would they have stepped out to get involved or would they have stayed comfortably inside? This is what I found so disconcerting. I am not trying to be critical, I was just astonished. Really. I was making a lot of noise! Where is the support?

  7. I've reached the conclusion that the Dutch have some bizarre way of cutting themselves off from 'noise' and such. I had an experience last year at about 2.00 in the morning/middle of the night and there were a group of about 5 guys in their late teens. They were hanging out of a convertible with the music pumping really loud. I'm pretty sure that the whole street must have heard it. Anyway, I tried to not be too much of a party pooper but after about an hour my patience wore thing and I phoned the police. That sorted them out and they were gone shortly after the police spoke to them. So thats one way of dealing with it. I never thought of myself as a nag who would want the neighbours to 'keep the bloody music down' but it is just ridiculous in this country. I really enjoy living in Holland but one of the things that gets up my nose is the fact that there is a complete lack of respect for the neighbours and zero consideration when they are blasting music.
    Anyway, I feel a whole lot better after venting that.

  8. Good for you for chasing them off! (in stockinged feet and all) It's more than a bit alarming that you got no help, no attention, no nothing from the neighbours though...

  9. This is one of the reasons I have two big dogs. They simply would not have put up with those 'boys'.

  10. Oh, Jenn. What an upsetting experience. I think you did the right thing by chasing them and making a commotion. I'm thankful you had your family there to support you. It is scary to think that things can happen - scary and terrible things - and that people can turn the other way or ignore it.

    Stay safe.

  11. I never got past the big hair photo to see this post. I just ranted last night on FA's blog.

    We had dear friends from the Netherlands and the stories of their childhoods in the 1970's and 80's made both Craig and me cringe. I don't think it is these youth per se but a general attitude toward parenting.

    But then the lack of care when someone is yelling outside your home? That is just inexcusable. Perhaps there needs to be a "Treat your Neighbors Better" campaign. I've read that Paris is trying to improved how its citizens treat tourists. Perhaps it is time the Dutch learn how to treat each other.

  12. Grrrrr! This kind of thing makes me froth -- I don't get how people can be so passive and willfully uninvolved. I'm sorry you had to deal with this, but I'm glad you chased them off.

  13. LOL I could totally see my husband and I having the same conversation - we live with these people could you keep it down. LOL Horrible that the crime is just accepted - way to go being the lone voice yelling out to get out of your neighborhood.

  14. If it helps any, here in the good 'ol U.S. of A. in my neighborhood, C and I got locked out on our balcony (which is 11 ft. off the ground with nothing soft underneath it) and screamed for help for a full hour until someone finally came out to see what's up.

    I'm sorry you went through that.

  15. I love that Don had to silence your cussing. Is it bad that that brings a smile to my face?

    The situation, though, is so infuriating. Ack. It seems un-win-able. How to end such a cycle?

  16. Go get 'em, Jenn. No one has the right to invade our private sanctuaries.

  17. Well I suppose we're lucky then that you don't live in the time and place where a bike is a pig, and the theft of it can mean that your family will starve this winter.

    It's a very violating feeling, having your "things" taken (or considered being taken).

    As for me, I just enjoyed the picture of you running down the street shouting obscenities. In fact, it kinda turned me on! Hee hee. If I were your neighbor, I woulda just opened the door and said, "Come on in here, baby. Let's find a way to put that outrageous energy to use!"

    But the best part of the story, to me ~ when you hollered at the houligans, your husband noticed your distressing sounds and sought out the reason, running immediately to aid in protection. I never had a husband like that. In fact, most of the protection I ever needed was from him. Or at the very least, because of him (or lack thereof).

  18. Hey- just discovered your blog from stalking Allison's. I spent a few months in The Netherlands and have been back to visit with by hubby a couple of times and we both noticed this type of behaviour from the kids there. Many seem to be real hooligans. Not a word I would ever find myself using to describe American kids but it seems so appropriate for what we observed there. Oh, American kids can be brats but this was outragious! 9-13 year olds blatantly disrespectful of adults and just generally causing trouble. Not snotty, but downright aggressively being trouble makers - destructive, etc. It was disconcerting. And not many people seemed to care much.

    The other disconcerting behaviour was the indifference of adults. The standard response in "customer service" (no such thing for the most part in Holland) if a request is out of the ordinary or effort is involved is "its impossible". As an American that is so weird because "impossible" is not a common word in our vocabulary.

    But aside from these things - I LOVE THE NETHERLANDS!!! Truly one of my favorite countries to visit and probably my first pick to live in outside the US.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your blog.