Today I went to the village market with one of the neighbours.
It’s fun, this leaping from culture to culture. From the buzz and crowds of Paris to the laid-back ambiance of a quiet Belgian village… I’ve been seeing and learning new things every day for a few months now, and I’ll never tire of it. After our wander around the market, we bumped into some of the neighbour’s family, and went for coffee and croque-monsieurs in the sunshine. I didn’t have much of a clue what the conversations were about, but I do enjoy listening to the language being spoken (and wondering if they’re exchanging jokes about me).
It was also useful that there was a small child present. Just learning to talk, he regularly shouted out one of the few words that he knew, and was encouraged and praised by all the family.
Fiets! they all chorused several times. Watching intently, I noticed that this happened every time a bike went past, and I made a tentative connection. Fiets? I asked my neighbour curiously, pointing as a bike roared past. She looked as delighted as the proud parent of a newly potty-trained toddler. Yes, yes, fiets! she exclaimed excitedly, patting me on the shoulder. I looked smugly at the toddler out of the corner of my eye. Two can play this game, I thought.
In fact, more than two – the family had now discovered a good method of including me in their group. Auto! chanted everyone, Hails and small child included, as a car drove by. Kijk! said the child’s mother at one point, and everyone turned to me and performed a mime for “look!” as good as any episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The child showed me up slightly though, by correctly identifying a lorry three times in a row, which was a bit annoying.
The bill arrived and people started fumbling for their wallets. I cleared my throat and tapped my neighbour on the shoulder. Hoeveel kost het? I asked in a clear voice. It was like hitting the jackpot, it really was. They all stopped and stared at me, smiles radiating from faces. One of them even applauded. And for that, said my neighbour proudly, waving my money away, it is our treat!
I grinned triumphantly at the toddler. I’ve only been learning Dutch for two days. He’s had over a year. A successful afternoon all round, I feel.