Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Food: The International Language

This morning I heard a knock on my door. My heart always beats a little faster when that happens because I instantly know whoever is on the other side may not speak english. I am slowly learning dutch but it's no where to the point where I could actually speak in a full sentence. Living in the Netherlands has it's advantages for any english speaking person because thats basically the second language here. At any point I can ask someone if they can speak english and chances are they can. That doesn't mean they all can or chose to tell me they can. A life as a foreigner is often difficult,isolating and wonderful all at the same time. I smiled when I opened the door because it was my neighbor who is a older Turkish woman. She lives there with her husband,older daughter and grandkids. She is a short round woman with chubby cheeks and a smile that lights up her entire face. She can't speak a word of english. She hands me a cup full of Baklava and smiles to me. I thank her and give her an equally big smile back and thank her 10 more times before I close the door. I can't tell you how much that kind gesture means to me.

A year ago when they went on vacation to Turkey we spotted someone breaking into their storage building and trying to steal their bikes. After that person left we rushed over and brought the other bikes to our place and stored them. When they came home and found out what we had done, they changed. The next day they cut our hedges and smiled and waved. The day after we were invited over for coffee. We found out we saved the mans livelyhood. He rides over 10miles a day every morning to deliver papers. He is 72. Everything changed after that day. The woman would come over and drop food off to us. I can't tell you how happy I was because that woman can cook. I brought her veggies from my garden and she doesn't know it yet but she is getting baked goods this holiday season. The simple acts of kindness you can show someone goes so far. They have lived here 25 years and have always felt on the outside. I told them I felt the same way.

As a foreigner you are treated differently. People get impatient with me because Im slower when it comes to reacting to things. I'm sure most of you have witnessed a foreigner inline with their kids and the kids do all the speaking because they learn english quicker? Guess what, Im that mom now. My kids do the talking for me. Have you seen a foreigner struggleing to get things done and you get impatient because you don't want to wait? people feel that way about me sometimes now. I struggle to keep up,to not forget certain ways of doing things here and maintaining my sanity during this whole process.

I was one of those people who would get impatient and I can't tell you how many times I gave a dirty look as I was rushing on my way. I wonder if they went home and cried like I have done many times when being treated like that here. I don't want to be preachy but next time you see someone struggling, a kind smile goes along way. If you see someone new in your neighborhood and they may be from another country..bake them something and take it over to them. Even if they don't speak the same language,food and a smile is something that speaks for itself. By they way, the Baklava she brought over is the best I have ever had. It has ground pistachios in it and it's not sickenly sweet like the stuff I have boughten back home. It has the sweetness to it but she makes it differently and it's heavenly!