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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!
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