World Cup Fever : The Netherlands

Note: This was originally posted on Jun 14, ’06 10:46 PM. Some ineptness on my part while importing from an old blog makes this looks like a new post. 

I am not a big football fan. I don’t stay up late to catch the latest Premiere League or Serie A games. I don’t really care which team wants to have Beckham or how much Zizou transfer fee was. I support Ajax briefly, but that’s because I live there and they did won the Championship Cup at that time so I get to see the team in its glory before most of the players move camp and transfer to Spain.

However, the World Cup is a different story. First of all, it’s only on once every four years and then there’s something about how each country that makes it is represented by the best player that country can offer. Most of the time majority of the players are spread out throughout European clubs and in this one month they are all gathered under their flag; club-mates become ‘enemies’. Particularly if you happen to live in a country that has a team in competition then the atmosphere becomes magical.

I lived in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1994. I just graduated from high school and is anxiously waiting for acceptance from university. I knew that the World Cup is happening in the States but in the midst of exam I didn’t really notice anything until one day it seems that Amsterdam is bathed in het Oranje or orange, the team colour. It was amazing. In Bethovenstraat, my neighbourhood shop street, it seems that every single shop had orange banner and the Dutch flag on display, be it a clothes store, supermarket or the newsstand. I think even the cake shop displayed special cakes decorated in orange. When you go to the city centre, say to Leidseplein, the fever is more evident. More elaborate orange display everywhere. Everyone seems happier too!

One time I have to drop someone at the airport when the next day the Orange is playing. Well, even the airport is not saved from the orange onslaught. Fans queue up to go to America, to Orlando or whatever city they played. They bring with them small drums, tambourines and small trumpets and of course some bits of orange in their clothing. But not the full regalia, that they saved for the match itself. Now, Schipol is one of the largest airport I know and in summer it is usually not a very nice place what with sunseekers running the lines everywhere but just this one time, the football fans turned it into party mood. While they wait they toot their horn, played their drums and sing football anthems. Even the check-in counter people seem to be smiling more than usual.

Back in the city, upon waiting for the match the city centres is now not just bathed but drowned in orange. Orange people everywhere filling the streets and the bars since the afternoon. I decided to watch the games in the comfort of my living room. After all, since I’m not a major fan, being squashed amid drunken oranges is not my idea of fun. So I went home.

Well, if memories served, the Dutch time makes the qualifying round but lost to Germany in the quarterfinals or something. In the end Brazil took the cup that year.

This time around, the dutch team is composed of new batch of young players. No more Gullit, Rijkaard and the twins. Now Marco van Basten has switched costume to that of a coach and he did well so far. The team made it
to Germany and won their first match. Of course there’s 2 more to go before the next round and then few more matches to make it to the finals. Out of sentimental reason I hope they make it to the finals. Here’s to you Oranje!

Hash, High School, Het Museum

Flag of Amsterdam. The official city motto is ...

Flag of Amsterdam Image via Wikipedia

When people find out that I finished my high school in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, they usually thought it’s cool. Some though get all glazzy eyed and thought OMG, did you smoke like, pot, like everyday? Err… Well, while one of my classmate did give an impromptu lesson on how to roll a joint tobacco filled ciggarette paper in the school lounge, I never actually try them. The glazzy eyed crew were not impressed. So, what did I do in high school?

Not getting high every weekend that’s for sure.  I was so naïve or idiotic -probably the latter- I didn’t even realise what weeds smells like until Jou pointed it out to me during one of our many excursion to the Dam. There we were, Luci, me and Jou, my hs crew,  pondering whether we should get a tattoo, where and what when he suddenly sniffed the air and remarked ever so casually,

“Dang, it smells so strong today!”

then Luci concurs “Yeah it does doesn’t it?”

“Smells what? It always smells like this,” said the resident idiot

“Doh! Its the red light district. Coffee shops, space brownie?” asked Jou

“You mean hash?”

“Ding ding ding! Hello! Where have you been? You do live here don’t you?”

“Well… I just didn’t realise what it was. I just thought this area smells funny…”

“What do you think it is?”

“The dirty canal?”

I think Luci just laughed and Jou gave me the biggest eye roll ever known to mankind. And this all happened in broad daylight I might add. So no we weren’t under any kind of influence, except maybe all those tertier hand weed smoke/space brownie baking smoke inhaling. Hmm.. come to think of it, that’s probably why I’m slightly kookie.

So yeah, it is safe to say I also didn’t partake in any drunken debauchery in high school. What I did do is exploring the museum and music. Suffice to say that the Dutch has their share of great arts. Rijksmuseum is truly an amazing museum. The Doll House by far is my favourite part. So back in the 18th century, the hot item of the day is to own a Doll House which was a replica of their house and it would show you’re rich enough to spend money on ‘frivolous’ things. One such lady (or her family) donated her doll house to the Rijksmuseum.  I just love to stand there imagining the woman – it was a woman’s thing, not a little girl- who used to owned that doll house. Would she let the daughters play with it? Or did she, when no one is looking, play like a little girl that she once was? Then, as it is an accurate copy of what a house looks like at that time, I started imagining what would it feel like living in a house like that? Would I like it? How does it feel to have two doors? One for the servant and one for you? Must be interesting.

I would go to the museums with Sarah. She’s just so smart it was interesting to see her take on things we see. We’d have lunch afterwards, a slice of pizza with a glass of cool soda in Leidseplein. But Sarah wasn’t just my museum buddy, she’s also my music buddy. Well, not together because we played different instrument, she plays(ed?) flute and I do vocals. But we’d perform on the same events. One that I still remember is when our school entered a music festival/competition that was held in the International School in the Hague. There were a bunch of us, we actually go on a bus to get there, there were kids who played the piano, flute, and some other instruments. I was in the choir, I think we performed the little fawn song and one other I can’t remember. For a brief moment we felt like musician traveling from city to city to perform a show. We were supposed to watch other people’s performance and learn from them but since we were the only ones there from our school we ended up just going to each other performances for support. We both got blue ribbons! Happy!

This was also where I truly understand the meaning of a stage persona. How, when one steps onto a stage you can transform into whatever character that you’re inhabiting for that moment and if you’re good, you shines. See, they invite some the jury deems the best to perform at the end of the day. There’s this one boy who got to sing. What he sang I don’t remember, but I do remember watching him sing on that stage wearing just normal clothes but he looks totally amazing. He belted his heart out and he just has this aura – I can’t take my eyes off him. Then, a very funny thing happened. Whole thing over, speech etc presented, we filed out the hall trying to locate friends and the right bus. And I saw him. And he looks? Just normal. Just your average high school boy leaning towards geek chic. I was so surprised. Was this the same guy that was on stage just moments ago? Pretty much crushed my hopes of ever marrying an actor someday. They just look dashing on-screen (which was confirmed as I worked on television later on and met actors but I digress)

And that’s what I did in high school. Choir, vocal lessons, making up songs with Mel and her guitar, getting Haagen-Dazs with Mel, watching loads of movies with Kath, Luci and Jou, checking out the American bookstore with Kath, tramsurfing (have you ever done it? Highly recommended), and of course, dancing the night away. You can not really life in Amsterdam as a youngster and not check out the nightlife. The tourist club, the interesting places, places only locals know… out when the sun still shining and home when the sun is back again and not because the sun never drops 😉 Just where did I have the energy? Ah youth!

A thought just suddenly pops into my head. Would Mel ever take me on her bike through A’dam little straaten again? Most probably not, since the last time we did we almost went into the canal. Ah no, that wasn’t with Mel, that was with Helene. Ah well. I prefer walking instead of biking around there anyway.

Het Lijn 5

You are my best pal
every morning and
every afternoon

You’d be there
every day
without fail
whether I’m late
or early

Schooldays or weekends
whenever I need you
you’re there

Sometimes you make me wait
Sometimes, despite my best effort,
you left without me but,
you’ll always come back for me

Very rarely you disappoint me.
I’d truly be lost without you

I wish I can pack you up
and take you home
But alas!
That’s just wishful thinking

And so my dear lijn 5
here I am
stuck in traffic jam

Wish you’re here
so we can play that silly game
that Luci and Jou invented
the highly amusing
highly entertaining
Tram Surfing!

To your wellbeing and prosperity
May we ride again one day.

Until then.

*Jkt morning traffic 140311*