Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Into my Dutch Classes

The universal answer to any of life’s problems is always and simply to take a class.

My inburgering was scheduled to begin “on or about June 1”, so I was happy to see a note from the folks at the local collage, letting me know that I was to report to orientation at 10:45 on May 31.  I pedaled over n the rain at 10:30 am, arriving with time to find the room.  It turned out that it wasn’t an issue, everyone was herded into the commons area where we were picked up by our  trajectbegeleider.

My group had three people: a lawyer from Indonesia with wonderful Dutch (she’s married to a local), a housewife from Angola who peaks French and a little Dutch, and (somewhere in between) me.  Our supervisor launched into rapid-fire nederlands, reviewing the terms of our contract clause by clause and reminding us that the Gemeente would receive regular reports on our attendance and progress.  We each offered a short description of ourselves, and I earned a bit of a frown for being on the Werk track instead of the Traject one.  I have no idea of the difference and have to straighten that out in the next week.

I had assumed that the two-hour orientation would be the end of things, but we were sent to a half-hour’s lunch before the afternoon classes. I checked the schedule more closely: we’d be expected four hours each day, every day, for two weeks of cultural training, with regular tests and evaluations that we would need to pass.  At the conclusion, we would start individualized language programs of similar intensity.  Yike.

I think that the college is a general vocational school for prospective residents: there were rooms for learning sewing, cooking, and carpentry along with the language labs and classrooms.  We paid 1 euro for a lunch of prison quality: dry coucous, overcooked veggies, a nugget of lamb.  Definitely a bag lunch from here on.

Then to another classroom, another set of introductions, followed by dialogs to drive home the rules.  We practiced role playing in which we called the school to explain why we couldn’t attend class that day.  “What reasons might you have for not attending class?” asked the instructor.  I assumed this was freeform, with points given for originality.  Te veel feest; te veel hoofdpijn.  The instructor icily informed me that parties resulting in headaches were *not* a good excuse, referring to a list of approved excuses which included hospitalization and childbirth.

Things picked up slightly from that: we are deep into learning when and how to visit the Gemeente when we move  or when our children are born.  Four hours of continuous and rapid Dutch is absolutely grueling, but I’m determined to get my head around it and to shine in the course.  I’m gingerly transferring skills from the classroom to the community (looking for an opportunity to point out De muis in de doos) and rearranging phone calls and meetings into the half-day that remains.

I will do my best.

   I will work hard.

      I will finish what I start.

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