Letters arrived while I was in England, I was summoned to the Dutch Language Institute for a recitation on (the day before I returned to the Netherlands). A Dutch friend picked it up and made my apologies – we rescheduled for 9:30 am this morning.
The venue turned out to be a college on the upriver-outskirts of Maastricht. I pedaled over early to get the layout – an active church outside with shrines up and down the street,a cross on the schoolbuilding. Inside, dim tile halls and wire-windowed rooms: computer labs with students in rows with headsets, classrooms with students in rows making hard ‘g’ noises. This must be it.
Ingang Boven –> I took the invitation and headed upstairs. The woman mopping the floor yelled at me for tiptoeing through the edge of a wet spot. No sign of an intake desk. The office doesn’t upen until 11:30. I nosed into the language lab, and an assistant took me to a teacher who handed me off to the gymnasium back on the ground floor.
She slipped out a printout of an email from my Dutch friend, confirmed that I had rescheduled. Yes.
She pulled out another paper, exchanged it for my ID. I checked the personal data, she made copies. Check.
Another paper. Will you complete the course, can we report your progress to the Gemeente, do you consent… I repeated the Threefold Way to Dutch Language Mastery: I will do my best, I will work hard, I will finish what I started. I signed yet another contract.
That page is replace by three others, my test results. You passed the Intelligence Test, she remarked. I beamed. You passed almost all of the cultural test: you failed the section on Children. Ah, yes, the questions about who I would call if I became pregnant and what school I would take my children to (and at what age). Never mind that these were wholly irrelevant to my age and situation. You will need to learn these.
My language results: Reading / Writing both A2, Listening / Speaking both A1. If you work hard, this will not take long, she said, tapping the page. I started to repeat the Threefold Way, but we were onward too quickly.
Daily classes when you are in town; assignments to complete as you travel. The teacher will help you with a schedule when you begin June 1 – you will receive a letter. Cool.
You will need to carry a form that will be signed by each person with whom you have a significant Dutch conversation every week: doctor, storekeeper, restaurant, coworker, saying how well you did. This will make me popular around town – I can see asking the AH Clerk to sign my petition as my goods whiz by at checkout.
You shall need a Dutch Buddy to talk with – do you have any preferences? I begin to describe my ideal Dutch Buddy; she smiles and says that those are out of stock, but someone can be found who will be suitable.
And that’s it; back on the street and through another intake. Next time, it’s class time. Right?