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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kinderen sans borders

For the past two days, I attended a technology congress in Arnhem held mostly in Dutch with some of my department staff. Health care and hospitals is one area where the language is still quite a problem for the foreigners. I was perhaps the only non Dutch in the entire meet. For the first time I was swamped by a language unknown for 2 days. Towards the end, I gave up on even trying to figure out the few words I understood and retired to a nearby corner with a book. All that my ears could hear was a long buzz....

As we drove back to Eindhoven, we stopped at one of the colleague's house for a coffee with their family. With a couple of hundred cars returning back from the congress the highway was blocked for over an hour and we were late. Her husband warmly invited us home for some fresh coffee and waffles. It was bed time but their two young girls came running down eager to meet the guests. Sipping the coffee, the conversation obviously moved towards the intricate details of our university and the politics around the department as my colleague's husband also works there. I don't know if things were a little heated up and 'not suitable' for my ears as I still have a student status or as they were passionately discussing they forgot about me, but they switched to Dutch and were soon lost in a heated talk.

Ah! I barely cared at this point. I was observing what the kids were doing. It was kind of funny because their knowledge of English and my knowledge of Dutch were at the same level. They began by bringing down all their soft toys from their room and made them wear special clothes for the night and showed me how they tucked them in and sang them a lullaby. They entertained me, with the younger one playing the drums and the elder one, on her piano playing Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' (she must be 10 or 11!). As I ventured on in my broken Dutch, they tried to speak back to me in English. We were constantly laughing. It suddenly stuck me how amazing children are. I was a practical stranger who looked completely different, spoke a different language and they couldn't have cared less. They made me shed my inhibitions and speak their language without fear ( speaking would be far fetched, lets say attemp :) ). As the younger girl decided to try on some of the doll clothes herself for few more laughs, the other kid started drawing something on her board. She quickly made an art and gave it to me.


As we left their house the two girls came running behind our car until it reached the street corner. It reminded me of my childhood when we would stand at the edge of the house and keep waving until the person turns the corner. They managed to bond with me in the one hour I spent with them so effortlessly. The bliss of innocence!

17 comments:

karthik said...

Very nice post. In fact I was surprised to read this post which talks about how children are not opinionated as soon as I wrote my own blog about how opinions are useless. btw, the art by the young one is impressive, may be you can convey this message from me to her in case you get to talk to her again :-)

thamarai said...

Thanks Karthik...so true, I was telling my other colleague the same thing..how unbiased and straight forward children are, while we adults struggle so much in new cultures..Yes, will indeed pass on the comment..:)...I will visit your blog soon..!

~Lopa said...

I know, sometimes i feel Dutch kids are less shy than Indian kids, they mix up faster.

Last year when we moved here we were invited for dinner by one of Ashit's ex-client. He had already met the family so kids knew him by name. When they were there both had made some sketched n paintings of a car and boy and her mom told us that they were preparing it to gift you whole afternoon when they knew you are coming. Gal was around 7 and boy arounf 4-5.

And as soon as we were done with dinner. Girl was - Ashit lets play football on my Wii. And Boy who was younger to her - Lopa lets play car race on my nintedo... and They were laughing coz kids had already planned whole evening not leaving anything for their parents ! And they were meeting Ashit second time ( that too after more than year) and me for the first time !! They didnt understand english n we not a single word of dutch that time, but they still constantly kept talking.... lol

Archana said...

Kids are so sweet like that. They have no preconceived notions or judgments about people. They just take things as they are, and treat everyone as they would each other. :) Very nice read!

Aledys Ver said...

Nice post thamarai!
It's true - children are just so spontaneous!! Funny how the kids interacted with you while their parents had probably forgotten you and were discussing sth in Dutch! :)
How cute kids are!!
Pity that the meeting was a bit of a waste of time for you, since you can't speak much Dutch yet...
Cheers!

thamarai said...

Lopa, Indian kids are sort of shy...probably because we are completely untouched by exposures to other people..Its incredible how we had such a similar experience..the kids you met were even younger though...it feels pretty nice at the end...:)

Archana, Thanks for the comment..ya ever since my sister had babies I have changed my opinion a lot on kids...while with them time just sweetly passes by...

Aledys, My other colleagues are much elder to me...so I was a little out of conversation with them as such...;) and it wasn't a complete waste of time thankfully as I made several contacts and got some idea of how the Dutch network...but yes, kids are sooo cute!! :)

Efrutik said...

So the painting is very impressive to say the least. Definitely children have it in them, which makes me miss very often my abitiousness of childhood days. Things are complicated of coure even when growing up yet still at that age its just so innocently new and ambitious. Thank you for the post/share, I enjoy reading your blog :)

thamarai said...

Efrutik, thanks for visiting my blog! as adults we take things too seriously I think, we need to learn and let go..:)

EFRUTIK said...

That is very true thamarai! We need to "leeeeeeeeettttgoooo". Earlier today I shamelessly was observing little kids at the church, it was very adventurous to say the least.

Thanks for visiting my blog :)

thamarai said...

haha...Efrutik, good for you..:)..I dont think the kids mind that..

HaRy!! said...

Kids are real cute...they dont have this second opinion like grown ups do...or as Archana says..pre concieved notion...thats the way they are...nice write!

HaRy

thamarai said...

hello Hary, thanks for visiting my blog....kids truly are incredible, well, especially when you visit them once in a while..:)

A Touch of Dutch said...

I love this! Thanks for sharing :-) Such a very nice experience!!!

Finally I'm able today to catch up with your blog & this post made me smile. Have a great weekend!

Droomvla said...

I know exactly how you feel. Whenever I am with my inlaws, everybody seem to forget that I am an non-native speaker.

But the kids always welcome me with open arms. When I make mistakes, we all giggle. No judgment. Just fun, fun, fun. They share their toys with me, and stories too. And whenever it´s time to say goodbye, they always cry --- unashamed of the display of emotions.

thamarai said...

Hey Isabella, I am glad you are back in action...you have a good weekend as well..:)

Hello Droomvla, thanks for visiting my blog as well...I am guessing though that your level of Dutch would improve more rapidly than mine...your husband and family would be a strong motivation...:)

Droomvla said...

Hubby seldom speaks to me in Dutch. I guess, we are more equals whenever we speak English to each other. As for my inlaws, I see them 4 or 5 times a year. lol

I am learning more Dutch by reading the regional newspaper and talking to my elderly neighbor who is never too busy to listen to me speak in broken Dutch. lol

thamarai said...

hahah!! hey I had no idea...I thought husband would be the biggest factor..ya, but I guess since Dutch speak pretty good English, it must be easier talking in English for both of you..:)

Go elderly neighbor!! :)

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