Monday, February 20, 2006

Echte Nederland

I love exploring new parts of the Netherlands and coming to a deeper understanding of the people and places that provide the texture and meaning for my adopted homeland. Over the past weekend, our family had an unique opportunity to discover previously unknown aspects of the Netherlands with our good friend Marco.

We started from our home in Amsterdam Oost at one o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, dressed in our finest for a wedding just southwest of Amsterdam's city limits, in a small village called Badhoevedorp. Luka and Elisa, some friends who had once been in a Zolder50 home group together with us, were getting married (which is kind of crazy, because they actually met in our home group -- meaning that our family has actually been in the Netherlands long enough now to have founded a home group, developed some history together, provided a place for Luka and Elisa to hook up, and actually see them move out of Amsterdam and get married!). As it so happened, the occasion also happened to be the first Christian wedding ceremony that any of us (including Marco) had ever experienced in Holland. The bells tolling from the high church tower... the bride and groom entering the church together... the congregation standing for parts of the service while the couple sat in the front... church deacons taking a collection in velvet bags half-way through the ceremony... enjoying a short, informal reception in the church lobby after the ceremony... joining the rest of the wedding guests to sing a creatively crafted version of Luka and Elisa's story from the past couple years... As with so many parts of our lives in Amsterdam, where multiple cultures and sub-cultures meet and mix, it's hard to know what was "traditional Dutch culture," what was "traditional Dutch Christian culture," and what was uniquely Luka and Elisa -- but at any rate, their wedding was an interesting experience that we were honored to share with them.

Following the wedding, then, our family had the special opportunity to travel with Marco to his hometown of Monnickendam, beyond the opposite (northeast) side of Amsterdam from Badhoevedorp. With Marco serving as our chauffeur, it was amazing to see how quickly the city melted into the wide-skied flatlands of the Waterland region of Noord Holland. Swans flecked the rolling green landscape and mirrored canals cut through the fields to reflect the shifting gray skies above. It was absolutely beautiful. And quiet. Marco led us on a walking tour through old Monnickendam, still and reverant as an open-air cathedral in the pre-twilight hours of Saturday afternoon. We gazed admiringly upon the ancient churches and the historic waterfront while Marco told us the stories of his city... Later, we returned to the car and drove along the dijk toward Marken. Vast expanses of glassy water made the sky seem impossibly large, and we were in awe to discover this "new" part of Holland, just a short distance across the IJsselmeer from Amsterdam. The day of discovery was capped with a delightful dinner, together with Marco's parents, in their warm and welcoming home. Such a gezellig meal from such hospitible hosts made us feel like we were visiting our own relatives (they even had a great box of old toys that Elliot and Olivia loved, just like at Oma and Opa's house in America!). The meal that we shared was echte Nederlandse food as well: smoked eel, ossenworst on a Volendamse "flip"... It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful day.

Now I just have to read the Asterix and Obelix comic books that Marco loaned to me...


At 9:22 PM, Anonymous J said...

Je n'ai pas su qu'on aime Asterix et Obelix aux Pays-Bas.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Mais oui, J! Or so I've been told (by Marco)... I guess absorbtion of Asterix and Obelix is more a condition for Europeanization than it is for Nederlandsification, huh?

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Ria said...

Hé Eric, wij zijn blij dat wij deel uitmaakten van een geweldige dag voor jullie. Het was heerlijk om jullie hier te hebben.
Amsterdam mag blij zijn met jullie.
Groeten aan Marci en de kids.
Ria (Marco's mam)

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Sander Chan said...

Hm... interesting hypothesis; Asterix and Obelix as a product of Europeanization... ;-)


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