Friday, November 19, 2010

Traveling among the Dutch

travelI headed back to the US this week, business meetings, my daughter’s 21st birthday, the run-up to Thanksgiving.  For the most part, it went smoothly: neither the holiday nor the terror alerts in Germany caused a noticeable increase in crowds or delays at security.

I was hearing a lot of concerns about the new TSA screening procedures: either get cooked in the body scanner or groped in the body search. In my experience, the scanner is time consuming and embarrassing – I’ve found that being singled out and ‘assuming the position’  attracts a lot of curious stares (and I have been asked to complete a brief survey about the experience after the scan).  So, I planned to ‘opt out’ of the scanner and take my chances with the pat-down, but the opportunity never came.

Sorry, back to the Dutch.

I was taking a break in Detroit, a family chattering away next to me while I worked.  One leaned over to ask me a question, and the accent had a homey familiarity.  Turns out they were, indeed, from the Hague, headed to Las Vegas.

What surprised me was that I hadn’t noticed all of the Dutch being spoken prior to that moment: either I’m just wholly accustomed to it or I’ve grown way too good at tuning out people around me.  Once I knew they were Dutch, though, I was surprised how much easier they were to understand than people from Maastricht.  I hadn’t realized the difference, or how my ear was still more tuned to the Northern ‘Queen’s Dutch”. Blame the Nuns.

The next day, taking a taxi into the city, the driver’s card had a familiar ring as well.  Another Dutchman, this time from Roermond.  He had an interesting story: came from the Netherlands 15 years ago and became naturalized, but had to give up his Dutch passport in the process.  Now he wanted to re-activate his Dutch citizenship and re-emigrate.

We had a good conversation about the IND and various immigration attorneys, whether a step-parent conferred natural citizenship, whether he could retain his US naturalization.

It been unusual to meet a lot of Dutch along the road: they’ve been nice enough to compliment my accent and to speak slowly when I’m parsing their vocabulary.  Good practice for the return trip (we’ll see if I hit a scanner…).

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