Tuesday, April 21

O Christmas Tree

*original writing date: 20 December 2005*

Attention one and all! Please add the following to the “Things the Dutch Can Carry While Riding a Bike” list.

Christmas trees. Yes, that's right, friends. Christmas trees.

More than once or even ten times in the last few weeks we have witnessed our city mates balancing atop their bicycles with fresh Kerstboem just purchased from the corner lot, on their way to home or flat to make the place festive for the season.

My own experience in finding a tree for our home goes like this. Just a short distance from our place is a set of shops, which I have described before. Just in time for the season an area has been cleared along the walkway and a tree lot has been established. This tree lot comes complete with a caricature of a little Dutchman selling trees to the neighborhood residents day after day. He wears a full set of snow trousers and parka as he spends his day outdoors trimming and wrapping trees for customers to purchase and carry off.

I approached him armed with my standard phrase in Dutch “Mag ik in Engels spreken?” (May I speak English) which generally goes a long way with the shop keepers and store attendants, and then I am able to ask my questions in the language I understand best. However, to my query, this man said “Nee” (No) and then continued in a jabber of Dutch.

So picture me, standing stock still, eyes as big as saucers and mouth agape, tiny patch of drool forming at the corner, as my brain clicks into gear and I try to sort through the jumble of words pouring from his mouth to translate the ones I recognize into English and make some sense of what he is saying. Ding! The light goes on and he is telling me that he prefers to speak Dutch and I should practice mine. So, actually no, I can’t speak Engels but I am welcome to speak Nederlands to him. (This all takes a bit, as the sorting processors in my brain are quite slow.)

“Nee??” I said

And he nodded at me.

So, digging as deep as I could into my 10 once-a-week language lessons, I did my utmost to conduct a tree buying conversation in Dutch. At some level communication must have taken place, because a few minutes later I had a beautiful little tree, which had been taken from its display stand and properly netted, tucked under my arm and I was on my way home with my first Dutch Christmas tree!

*It here must be noted that having exhausted my vocabulary in getting the tree, I neglected to ask for a “stand” and Don had to go back a little later in the day to seal the deal, so to speak.*

But I was off with my small Christmas bush under one arm and a special delivery package I had just picked up from the post office under the other. I must say, I felt rather festive schlepping them both through the streets to home.

1 comment:

  1. and ...do you throw yours through the window on New Years Day as well? Seen that happening in Scheveningen a couple of times yet. 1) so early to take it out 2) so crazy to literally throw it out of the window from a couple of floors up! Hugh?