Going Dutch

9 Dec

One time, years ago, when I was spending a semester in Amsterdam I decided I needed to add more physical activity in my daily routine. Running on the cobble stone streets was starting to do in my fragile knees. I needed something new, different. I think it was my travel buddy Maureen who came up with the idea of attending aerobic classes at a local gym. Having been coordinationally challenged my whole life aerobics and I have not traditionally been a good fit. Yet, I found myself one cold winter night entering into this fairly large studio surrounded by people in their best/brightest athletic gear ready to get their groove on. I wanted to blend in and hang toward the rear, but as usual, those spots were already taken so I found myself much closer to the leader than I ever intended. Soon, the techno was blaring and everyone had that gleam of anticipation that only the expectation of endorphins can give. Meanwhile I was giving myself my little mental pep talk… “you can do this” or “if you fall down, it’s ok, just make it look like you did it on purpose-just make it look like you needed a stretch”….

However, the next 60 seconds make me realize that the next 60 minutes were going to be harder than I anticipated. The instructor began to give his directions in Dutch. Up to that point, it hadn’t crossed my mind that I would only be able to understand about 1 in 100 words. Amsterdam is a multicultural city and I had gotten so used to hearing English that I came to expect it, assumed it would be used, or at least desperately hoped I had a prayer of ‘grapevining’ in the correct direction. I am so thankful that my first session in that sweaty room was not captured on film. Confused, off beat, peripheral vision fatigued, and often moving in the wrong direction I lumbered through the evening. I still believe that the leader was making some jokes and my expense throughout the routine due the volume of pity smiles I received as I made my way to the exit after class. I ended up going several more times, each one easier a little easier than the first though less funny to those around me. So why am I thinking of the pinnacle of physical awkwardness? The moment when the ability to laugh at myself got a full test drive? Because this is one of those moments that lives in my memory and often likes to come out and dance around my head for awhile. It reminds me to laugh at myself–something that I need to be reminded of often.

I think some moments are experienced so completely that they become part of who you are. I know all the pieces of your collective life experience are wrapped up, or shoved into, the fragile vessel of our memory, but I am speaking of those moments that even while you are in the midst of them there is a consciousness that this will stay with you…is one to remember. This is when time seems to slow, that my eyes dart around soaking in as many details as possible to repaint this scene over and over because I know it will be useful one day.

I have had several of these moments in my life thus far and they are not always as serious as you would think, i.e. Dutch aerobics class. It is has always interested me what things strike me, cause me to pause, and collect the fragments of the moment to put away for later. Often, it is in the little nothings. Not in the big life moments one would expect.

What are the moments that stay with you? Which ones seem to fill up all your senses when they bubble up and come out to play in your head?

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One Response to “Going Dutch”

  1. Dan December 11, 2008 at 4:02 am #

    I remember standing at the top of the “Pamper Pole” (30 foot telephone pole at “Epworth By The Sea’s” Rope Course) for over 15 minutes not able to make myself jump or get back down. We went through the “countdown” (3… 2… 1…) about 15 times. People were pretty fed up with me, but I finally jumped at the trapeeze bar, which is really tiny and too far out of reach and somehow supposed to make you feel better about leaping into thin air 30 feet off the ground. All this was while I was on a youth ministry team doing a youth camp – I don’t think I got much ministering done after that (at least not to the high school guys)!by the way, my word verification is: “frousli” (sounds like a vegetable that is a cross between brocoli and fried okra, I’m hungry). Just thought I’d share.

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