Monday. On the evening of my (and the Queen’s)birthday, I sat at the cafe across the street from my apartment, sipping red wine and eating pasta with fancy mushrooms and a light cream sauce. As in most Dutch restaurants, the lights were low and candles were on every table (a general and cosy approach to life that the Dutch refer to as “gezellig”). I sat between two large groups, one a family including a baby and perhaps a grandparent, the other a gathering of about six friends. The mood was quietly festive. Jill Scott played in the background. And the woman who helped me with the menu (who I assume is also one of the owners) periodically checked to make sure I was enjoying everything. Although she and I didn’t discuss that it was my (or the Queen’s) birthday, she and her sweet cafe certainly contributed to my private celebration.
Tuesday. Due to a somewhat spontaneous appointment to meet my new favorite contractor to get started on the garden makeover, I found myself in a gigantic home depot-type of store early in the morning, sleepy and freezing. But since this was our third shopping trip together, the almost three-hour process didn’t seem quite as painful as it could have. We discussed the vision for the space, which started out as a dead and unattended garden and has plans of becoming my outdoor sanctuary. As I chose a water pump for the fountain (I’ve been so serious about this fountain), a cat in the store casually drank water from one of the big model fountains. Even the gigantic home depot-type stores can be gezellig at times.
Wednesday. Cold sweating and on the verge of tears at 9am. I was up and ready to go by about 8am. Since I had no clue where my 10am class was located (I had a building name with no address), and since I still could only use very basic internet on my phone, I needed to act first thing in the morning. At 8am, the university information center was closed and wouldn’t open until 10am. There would, however, be a phone line opening up at 9am. This meant it was pointless to go anywhere on campus if people wouldn’t be around until later. So although 9am put me a little too close to the time of the class, I waited. And at 8:59 I spoke with a man who knew nothing of this mysterious building. He gave me a vague idea of the location of the complex it was likely a part of. In the end, he wished me good luck.
I was panicking, picturing myself in front of the academic probation board explaining why I hadn’t shown up to any of my classes – shrugging, “I just couldn’t find any of the buildings.” But then I finally thought to call my department. After a couple of tries, I finally found someone who knew. It was nowhere near that complex the first guy mentioned. And it also had nothing to do with the building listed for the class. So fortunately, by 9:15 I was out the door, and the woman from the department was just emailing the rest of my class.
After much confusion, by 9:45 I was in the lobby of yet another building, along with about 40 percent of my classmates. None of us could find the damn class. And once the professor joined the search crew, we knew it would eventually be gezellig again. The class didn’t fully start until about 10:30. Some people came about an hour late. And some never showed up at all. But in spite of the drama, it was a great class. I’m looking forward to going straight there next week.
Thursday. Meeting two new professors, my classmates and I introduced ourselves. Many of us had already met. But a few were new. And since I’m shameful with remembering names, the re-introductions were helpful. Dutch, German, French, Costa Rican, Greek, American, Chinese…people in the program are from all over the place. Pretty diverse academic backgrounds as well. But the things that stand out to me the most: I’m the only black person and (I’m pretty sure) the only one in her 30s. I need to get over my issues, I know. But they’re being nice to the old black woman. And I find them to be quite charming. That also goes for the professors who seem to be quirky and intense smartasses. One an anthropologist and the other a sociologist, they each described research interests and general backgrounds that made me want to grab a beer with them. Sitting among colleagues and beginning to learn from some pretty dope academics on subjects that directly relate to my life plans – in spite of the awkward seating and terrible lighting, I would still say it felt pretty gezellig.