Fun and Beauty in Small Places
01.10.2009 - 08.11.2009
On October 1st, I arrived back in Nijmegen, Netherlands. I am here for at least three months to dance tango and prepare a couple manuscripts (from my Master's Thesis) for publication, and get a deeper sense of life in Netherlands... all things that were difficult or impossible with work and life responsibilities in Portland. As it turns out Nijmegen (see my earlier post here) is a great place to do all three of these things and a lot more! It is a delight, in spending time here, to discover such fun and beauty in small spaces.
Where to begin?
Before I left in August I had begun to look for a place to rent by posting want ads around Radboud University. This effort paid off splendidly. With some help from my friend Eve (who I met couchsurfing in Nijmegen in August), I secured a small apartment (small by U.S. standards) in an old farmhouse and the home of the Kees and Ruth. Kees is emeritus faculty in Computer Science at Radboud University. Ruth is mother of four grown children (ages 30 to 38), a fabulous cook and homemaker. Their farmhouse is on an old rural property (about 1/3rd acre) in the middle of a residential neighborhood south of the City center and minutes form the University. The farmhouse is surrounded by a beautiful pasture and garden with chickens, sheep, and various fruit and nut trees that attract lots of birds and even a friendly little hedge hog that I have encountered more than once. It all makes for some beautiful quite country living in the city.
Kees and Ruth. Photo by Eve Van Dijk.
My living room this summer before I moved in and got rid of the TV. Photo by Eve Van Dijk.
My GROOVY kitchen. Photo by Eve Van Dijk.
The rooster who calls every morning.
One of two sheep that keep the grass in check. This one is quite vocal and loves when I throw him/her and apple to eat.
The neighborhood hedgehog who dines (with the magpies) on the walnuts. I have seen her twice. She does not seemed frightened by my presence but goes about her business of foraging.
Me in the garden.
As the leaves have come off the trees I have seen lots more of the resident avian life including the cute, white-chested treecreeper (the European version of our brown creeper) and this great spotted woodpecker.
Me and my bike. I was lucky to connect with Amy Stork's friend Luke Bragg, an American living here in Nijmegen who loaned me a bike for 3 month.
This is the view biking down my street (Hatersweg) with the Linden trees in full color. Within days most of them had fallen. They reminded me of the Linden trees in Peninsula Park.
Sunday October 31st was Ruth's 60th birthday and I was invited along to this fantastic family gathering. We had lunch and a walk in nearby Vennengebied (see below) followed by snacks, presents for Ruth, and conversation at the farmhouse, and then by a fabulous dinner and dancing at a local restaurant.
Ruth receiving a gift with Kees.
I don't have a photo, but a highlight of the evening was Kees singing a beautiful ballad to Ruth and the guests after dinner. Makes me think some of the chaps at Peninsula Park Commons should take up this art of singing to sweethearts and dinner guests.
Dancing Foxtrot after dinner. I sat at a table with Kees and Ruth's second son Martin, youngest daugher Anneke, and several of their cousins... all of whom are about my age (in their 30s).
Anneke is an excellent tango dancer. After eating, she and her friend, Michiel (a Argentine Tango DJ of some repute in the Netherlands) did a tango workshop.
My daily routine has been to write during the day and dance at night with some biking and birding in between. I worked my way into taking dance classes at El Corte three nights a week at an affordable bulk rate (while not as extreme as other places in Europe, leaders are in some demand here). Stefan and Komala and Eric and Claartje teach my classes. They are wonderful.
Stefan and Komala teaching at El Corte. The classes are in Dutch but I can usually make out what concept or idea they are communicating. More often then not, when I don't, they or my follow will generously explain it to me in English. We monolingual Americans have it so good.
Just before the Friday drop-in Class at El Corte. At the monthly chain salons October thru April, Eric teaches a large class with people from all around Europe.
I spent my 38th birthday at the very crowded November Chain Salon (11/7 and 11/8). It was probably the most fun per square centimeter I have had yet!
The lights and dancers of El Corte.
Minutes before my 38th birthday.
Eric (orange-brown pants) and Stefan (white shirt) of El Corte were masterful DJs and hosts for this very crowded salon. Komala and Henry (not shown here) are also critical to making the Chain Salon and El Corte a fabulous place for dancers across Europe and beyond.
Fun in the sun after the last dance Sunday afternoon.
Tissa Stein in Nijmegen.
While here in Nijmegen, I have befriended the wonderful Tissa Stein. Tissa is from the bay area but has traveled widely and danced a fair amount in Portland. Some of you Portland tango dancers will surely recognize Tissa. She is living and dancing in Nijmegen until mid-November with plans to be back in December (in time for for the xmas salon at El Corte) to stay as long as a year. It's been a joy to share daily experiences with Tissa- including lots of dancing, good food, movies at the Lux, or an always engaging conversation- while both settling into Nijmegen.
As I described previously, Nijmegen has some fabulous parks and natural areas nearby. On October 17th and 18th I went on a couple great bike rides in Nijmegen's Vennengebied, a mix of dunes, forests, and ponds laced with trails, some for bikes and some for walkers.
Amazing storybook mushrooms!
Like most European cities and towns, Nijmegen has an incredible built environment too... and some excellent museums, outdoor markets, public art, and of course bike infrastructure! More on all that next!
Downtown Nijmegen on a sunny Autumn day.
Bike riding through Goffert Park, Nijmegen.