Snippets of a day
Everyday I ponder over what to write in this journal. All sorts of interesting conversations, people, places, and events compete to get into a single Bon Journal entry. Here are examples of possible things I could write about today.
With a heavy stomach, still bloated from the impromptu dinner in Amsterdam, I apologised to my running club that I had run only once during this past week. My mates were sympathetic, especially after seeing my outrageous orange outfit, all kitted out to support the Dutch team in Euro 2004. One mate accompanied me, keeping his pace low enough to have a conversation.
At the fork, I turned left for my 7 km and he kept on the straight path to complete his 9 km. All alone, I could easily cheat and walk the rest of the way. But instinct told me to keep running, however slowly, because continuity was better than stop and go.
On this Saturday morning, in the flat heather area of the famous Het Gooi (the nature reserve around Laren and Hilversum), I could trick myself to think it's Africa. As the sun's full bodied potency beat down on me, I cursed myself for not taking the shadier route. Luckily I could see a single tree standing in the middle of the long open stretch. With not a soul in sight, I sprinted to get to shade of that lonesome tree, lingering there awhile to gather my strength.
With sweat pouring down my brows, I took a deep breath. Courage. Stamina. I can make it back. I've got to, for I did not want to be late for Utrecht.
The train to Utrecht left just as I arrived at the station. Since it was my first time going there on a Saturday, I didn't know that only two (instead of four) trains run per hour. I would be late for my lesson. Oh well! I didn't mind so much, because I had Bill Bryson's "Lost Continent" on me.
At Utrecht Overvecht, the stop just before Utrecht, I suddenly understood what Overvecht meant. Vecht is the river that runs through Utrecht to Amsterdam. Overvecht means over the Vecht River. I suppose it's similar to Bradford-upon-Avon or Richmond-on-Thames. To increase the value of real estate in Brentford, some people have renamed it Brentford-on-Thames. If it weren't for the River Thames, it could just as well be renamed Brentford-under-the-Heathrow-flight-path. I've never once not heard an airplane about to land or take-off when I cycled in Brentford.
As I approached the fish shop ("vishandel" in Dutch") I jumped off my purple bicycle to buy whatever is left --- to go with the Hoegaarden (white beer) waiting at home. I pointed to smoked herring and asked for two.
The blonde housewife next to me immediately asked if I wanted cooked or fresh herring. It's so typical of the Dutch, ready to help a non-Dutch speaking immigrant who uses sign language. Although I knew what I wanted, I jumped at the chance to rely on her help for the rest of the afternoon.
"What's this?" I pointed to a long thinly shaped beige fish.
"That's eel. It's very good, but very expensive," the housewife replied.
"Is it cooked? What do you eat it with?"
"It's cooked. Smoked. You can eat it with small pieces of toast."
"I'll have some of that then."
No matter how big or small the portions I ordered, the young lady behind the counter took her time to wrap it in a plastic box, cover it with foil or cellophane, and put it inside a crisp white paperbag with the shop's name on it. The attention to detail and packaging reminded me of shopping in Japan, where the shop assistants handled each item like precious stones, perfecting the packaging and delivery to an art. Zen has come to Holland's fish trade!
After I had satiated my ten Euros on samples of different kinds of seafood from this clean little fish shop, I cycled back home. In the setting sun, I took out the single strip of eel and cut it into five bite sizes. Three Euros for five heavenly bites ---- expensive but worth it!
In the evening, I went to Almere to see the ten o'clock movie "Day after Tomorrow." Unlike the last movie when I got a seat in the front row, I managed only to get a seat way in the back, behind the speakers. At least I was able to see the entire screen, which was important for the coming Ice Age.
12 June 2004 Saturday
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