Koffie in Arnhem

With so few days remaining to us during our stay in Gelderland, Lorie and I are beginning our preparations for departure, and that means that we’re making what will likely be our final visits to many areas that have become familiar during the course of these past two months. Today we made the bike ride to Arnhem one more time, this time with little real purpose except to go see the city again before we hit the road next week.

It seems strange now to think that we’ll be leaving so soon, and odd to be shifting our mental gears to use up and finalize things around here. Our meal planning is taking into account our last week now, so we’re finding ourselves being very conscientious of how much bread, milk, or microwave popcorn we might need for the next few days, rather than just purchasing it knowing that we have plenty of time to make use of it.

Two months, of course, is hardly any time at all in the greater scheme of things, but it felt like plenty of time at the beginning of the residency. Every time we visited somewhere, it seemed entirely possible that we’d be able to visit again, if we chose to do so. Now we can number our remaining days here on one hand, and it seems a little sad that we won’t be able to get back to the Hoge Veluwe in the foreseeable future, or take a bus into Arnhem one evening to have a drink at the eccentric little café on the riverbank we discovered this morning. Of course, there is still some possibility of returning to those things, and we could make the time to do so if we’d like, but it seems likely that we’ll be increasingly focused on preparing for our departure in the next few days, cleaning the house, making trips to the post office to send letters and packages, and generally making the most of our remaining days in Renkum, so we may not be traveling very far afield until we get back onto the train next Wednesday.

When we were in Arnhem this afternoon, we warmed ourselves up a bit with a cup of coffee in a Koningstraat café, and I watched the folks outside mill about the little square area. I found myself wondering how long I would have to stay in the Netherlands in order to feel like I “knew” the area, and could think of it as home. Things are more familiar to me now, but still at times I find unexpected gaps in my knowledge. We’ve done most of our own cooking, for example, and haven’t been in a restaurant since Amsterdam, so I found myself at an impasse when it came to making our order. Had I really been in the country for two months, but I couldn’t find the words to order a cup of coffee in Dutch? Fortunately, it wasn’t a crisis– that waitress, of course, spoke English, or at least enough for our purposes, and we were able to make our order just fine, but it left me wondering. I could think of how to say the phrase in German, French, Spanish… even Japanese and Hungarian, but I couldn’t remember what it should be in the language of the country I’ve been living in for two months.

Have I been too focused on my work these past couple of months to really absorb the culture around me? Or have I been doing what I’m supposed to be doing, rather than getting distracted by the environment around me? It’s a little of both, I suppose. I was here for an art-making residency, afterall, not an immersive language course. This very situation of integrated isolation is exactly what has lead to some of my more recent work, in fact, so I suppose I can’t begrudge that. Still, I think I’ll pursue making my Dutch-speaking a little more aggressive with these remaining days than simply saying “yes”, “no”, “hello” and “thank you” at the store at the proper times.

Oh, and I looked it up when we got home: if you wish to say, “I’d like a coffee”, the way to say that is “ik wil graag koffie.” That may or may not be the grammatically proper, but it will probably get the job done.

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