You can read the first half of Zoe’s blog from our trip to Utrecht as part of the Tandem project. So what happened next…
twisted round the corner
my neighbours would like the name.
old yellow car. parked beside home
I find myself curious:
the stories the owners could tell!
two windows, decorated in twos
a lonely bottlecap beside my leaving feet
I pass. aware that this
is the only bottlecap I have seen
The walk from our apartment to the theatre is approximately an hour and most of the route is along the canal. I noticed that in some places there were constructions going on, and general reparations of other things, but not until Friday morning did I think more about it: at home my mind often views construction sites and things alike as just fixing what is broken, but here I was curious to know what they were doing and my mind viewed the sites as well-needed TLC duty–taking care of the city.
We were spot on time for our 11am start today, and the walk hadn’t even felt like twenty minutes. Perhaps I had been too distracted by the canal, the clean streets, and the ease of little traffic that made walking here so peaceful, but it did make me think about how these simple differences from what I’m used to at home made such a striking change in the community, or at least what I saw of it.
“Do you think the birds are louder here, or that it’s just quieter?” I wondered. I continued wondering. My perception is only mine. What is here and new to me it not the same as what is here and familiar to someone else. Are these birds loud or do I just think that they are?
We gathered in a small office next door to the hallway/cafe area we spent most of yesterday in and discussed what we had done already, and what we’d each be doing during the rest of our visit, first and foremost: what to do today. There were a lot of things that we’d done or just that I’d noticed and there was a lot of things I was looking forward to too; I spent the first half an hour of getting started just getting up and sitting back down again, switching between sitting in the office and sitting outside, thinking more extensively about our arrival on Tuesday and what our first full day on Wednesday was like. It helped me to think more about what I had already learned and what I was curious to learn.
I woke up immediately worried that I would get lost on my walk to the theatre alone, but when I did leave the apartment and set out on my journey it turned out I didn’t even need my map. What was difficult, however, was keeping on track with the time whilst noticing all of the little, beautiful details: the way the sun reflected differently off of all of the different windows along one street, children singing as they cycled along by the canal, people strolling with their dogs in and out of parks and through the terre verte green grass.
canal view cafe
I am here. and nowhere else
even in the reaches of my mind
and it is not often that I–
so thoughtful inside–
am present. quite like this:
the hum in my finger tips
loose strand of hair above my eye
the breeze in my ears
canal view cafe, I am walking by
It was quite my surprise when I made it to the theatre without getting lost and not even a whole fifteen minutes late.
The afternoon felt like it had flown by as I sat, considering what had been up until now and what was still to be afterwards, and writing away. I was curious as to what everyone else was getting up to, and what to expect to hear about, but I found myself what could have been too distracted by other things like the links between the different parts of the building, the remembrance statue outside, how all of the people I had been talking to or even just passed in the street were all used to turning right at a roundabout. Perhaps these things were nothing of any particular importance, but I was ultimately curious to find out what the word ‘community’ would mean to any and all of these people; the people I have met have all been such nice and friendly people, and the ideas that I have heard, the way this city works, all seem focused on people as a collective of individuals rather than just the individuals themselves.
Surprisingly but not unpleasantly soon, it was time for Fuzzy’s Live-In Room: not everybody can afford to have a grand piano featuring in their living room, accompanied by a chaise longue, and even a tandem leaning so casually in the back. Somehow the theatre stage looked cosy and home-like, even though it was bigger than pretty much any other living room I’ve been in, including at the Chapel. It was exciting to let the world inside.
I daresay the city centre is as beautiful during the day as it is during the night, like the same pair of captivating eyes, only cast in different facial expressions. There was no decrease in the amount of people cycling through the streets or any increase in litter on the floor, but there was a sense of something less peaceful that still wasn’t unfriendly, just busy.
We walked along different streets, looking around and into windows. There were a few shops for the mind, clothes shops, art galleries, homewares, and cafes in abundance. In one of the small homewares’ windows I noticed a china dinosaur, patterned like one of those blue and white old plates; I wondered, “Where are you from?” and “Where will you go?” until two doors down I was distracted by a cheese shop, lined with all sorts of types and tastes, cheese wheel upon cheese wheel on the shelves inside. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so much cheese in one place before.
We sat outside a small cafe for a little while and I thought about what I would put in for today: how all of the rooftops aligned on the street were all different shapes; how everybody navigated fluidly around each other; the glints of the sun reflecting on the water and on different bicycle handlebars. All of these things could be something I would write about, but would anybody want to know?
The evening stretched across us slowly, seeming only to switch from day to night. There is something almost dangerously beautiful about the waterfront against the darkened sky, with the beer festival and the lights that still shine when your eyes are closed, like some sort physical representation of when you rub your eyes too hard for too long and start seeing galaxies. It was almost as though the small amount of red, dotted and patterned, scarce in the overall imagery, was holding my eyes open for me as we stood in the city centre on Friday night, and it briefly crossed my mind how, from far away and way up high, all of these cyclists would look just like a colony of ants among street lamps, furiously pedalling towards their destinations, perhaps unaware of the contrasting ways of other colonies across the ponds and the puddles.
We wandered around the centre, noticing street signs and reading the English versions on statue labels, before heading for a drink and something to eat. We must have sat by the river for a couple of hours, talking and listening and seeing all that there was there for us to see. It was strange for me to think that I had been worried only a few days ago that I wouldn’t fit or I wasn’t enough in this city, and now I sit here feeling more peaceful and happier than I have in quite some time.
Ladies and gentlemen, I had gotten myself lost. If it had been earlier in the week, I shamelessly admit I would have probably panicked, sat down, and maybe even cried for a few minutes before trying to be reasonable. But given my general understanding of the area now, and no doubt it helped that wherever I had ended up, which was by the canal at least, was so peaceful and serene, I didn’t even get as far as worrying about anything other than being later than I already was. Nevertheless, I was rescued and even arrived at the theatre with time to spare before the vriendenconcert/maestro competition.
I was sat within arms reach of Zuilens Fanfare Corps as they played. I could feel the sound traveling through the floor and up the legs of my chair; I found myself with the kind of contentment that could have made me cry if I weren’t careful. I watched as the drummer played more carefully than any drummer I’ve ever seen and one man briefly ‘played’ a bucket and chain.
Leendurt had told me a bit about the fanfare earlier on and it was even better to see than just to hear about; different generations of people playing music together in a fanfare that had been running for A LOT of years, some of whom had been playing for more years than I have even been alive. Amazing.
Roots of time combine
Another land. in the neighbourhood:
We play for love
Rich and poor and altogether.
I think: here I am
I began to teach
Something social I really think
Develops connection, independent people,
Whole world ensemble
Another opportunity: join a group that
Makes it fun
I’m really happy when I come here
Look forward, closely:
After a while it was down to the competition. I won’t pretend to have known then what a conductor’s job is specifically, or what factors are considered in order to judge the competition, but I do think watching the event gave me a better understanding [of a conductor’s job], especially when, during the vote count, I was slightly perplexed to find the whole room, including myself, on our feet with our arms the air, practicing keeping tempo (at least, I think that’s what we were doing).
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to happen after that, but I wasn’t surprised when Fletch won, receiving a trophy that the fanfare won in 1958, and became the maestro of Zuilen for the year!
After the competition and well-deserved congratulations, we sat around fish and chips, talking more about what had been done, what was still going on, and what would be done later. It wasn’t like sitting around drinks on Tuesday night when we first arrived at Zimihc, but it was as friendly, if not more so now, and I once again didn’t feel out of place.
I had scared myself
half to death
unaware of the strength
of the weakness that I had
it had wasted
my time on those
first few days. but now
around this table
with faces I knew and
faces I will see again,
I speak evenly;
I do not stare
at my feeble hands;
I am curious
in my plantpot
and in this garden,
alone and together.
I do not want
to go home yet
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