Tuesday, March 30 2021

koen, swinging like spider-man, and the pork chop onionpocalypse

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday, nice weather, drinking coffee - BLAH BLAH BLAH. Let's just get on with it.

Had you for a second, didn't I? My journal entry intros were getting a little stale, and I just wanted to shake things up a bit. All those things are true - I'm drinking fresh coffee, the weather is remarkably beautiful, and it is Tuesday. At the moment, I'm posted up in our living room. Since Ziggy is in REM sleep on my side of the bed, I deemed it safe to sit in her favorite napping chair while I write. The fishtank quietly buzzes behind me. The curtains glow yellow with morning sunshine. I don't have any extroverted commitments until twelve o'clock today, and I'm eager to get started on a quiet, thoughtful morning.

Sip. How are you today? How did Monday go for you? My Monday had an interesting and stimulating start. A while ago, a coworker named Koen reached out to me over slack. Koen is a security product manager from our Dublin office, but he grew up in the Netherlands and he's a native Dutch speaker. After he spotted me using a goedemorgen in a slack channel, he reached out to me privately over slack to inquire where I learned that word. We traded some phrases, and he kindly offered to help me practice my Dutch over Zoom.

Well we finally put it op de kalendar. The first meeting of my week was my Een op Een met Koen. Being his early Monday evening in Dublin, it was probably the last meeting he attended that day. We greeted each other in Dutch, and Koen politely asked if I'd like to switch to English while we set expectations.

"I definitely need to glue a lot of things together in English, still," I laughed. "But I've got Google translate open if I get in trouble."

Koen asked me why I was trying to learn Dutch, and I told him about my family's heritage. For this question, I've gotten pretty good at saying de vader van mijn moeder komt uit Gronigen. My mother's father comes from Gronigen.

"Ah, kghrrrrronigen," said Koen, hitting the g a little harder in the throat. "That's how they say it in Gronigen, but I'm from the southern part of the country. I'm faking it when I talk like that."

He continued. "So have you ever been to the Netherlands...". I mentally sifted through my narrow list of Dutch words to formulate a response, but Koen finished his question. "Or have you only visited Amsterdam." He smiled teasingly.

"Guilty," I laughed. "I visited Amsterdam with my wife. That was before I got really interested in my heritage and started to learn Dutch, but we had an amazing time."

Koen was interested in my sense of heritage. That's apparently a uniquely American phenomenon. "Like, I'm Dutch - that's my 'heritage', but I've lived in Ireland for seven years," explained Koen. "I look out my window and see buildings that have stood for hundreds of years, it's like that everywhere."

"That's interesting - we don't have the same thing here in America," I replied. "Our country is so young still. I guess people's heritage is still recent memory. And the more I learn about Dutch people, the more things I see in the way I was raised."

My comment piqued Koen's interest. In Dutch, he asked me what kind of things I do that most Dutch people do.

Ik doe mijn boodschapen bijna elke twee dagen. En ik been heel goedkoop. I do my grocery about every two days, and I am very cheap. Maar, ik heb geen fiets. But I have no bike. "That is very weird, right?"

"That is weird," said Koen. "You should fix that."

Koen shared that the American (and Irish) way of conducting a work place took some getting used to. "When Dutch people make decisions, there's no hierarchy," explained Koen. "We all just get in a room and talk until we reach consensus. It was weird learning that higher ups could make decisions that affect me without my opinion. Now there are drawbacks to the Dutch way too..."

Koen also explained how his Dutchness made it hard to receive feedback. "When Americans give me feedback about my performance, ze gebruiken te veel leuke and liefde woorden." That is, they use too many nice words. Dutch people are forthright and honest with their opinions, especially when it comes to giving feedback. There's no such thing as a compliment sandwich in Dutch culture. "I would hear the nice words and think great, everything is fine I don't need to change," laughed Koen.

We both left the conversation beaming. I had my doubts about starting my Monday morning off with a cultural collision with an Dutch speaking Irishman, but my chat with thirty minute chat with Koen was such a wonderful start to the week.

For dinner, Marissa pulled out the big guns and committed to making a French recipe we watched on YouTube. "You should make that," I sleepily remarked from the couch watching Stephane bake pork chops under a mountain of caramelized onions. Evidently, Marissa took me up on it. But our Hy-Vee order didn't have enough pork, so Rodney and I took a quick grocery trip. After we parked and made our way through the lot, I turned to Rodney.

"Hey, do you want to swing like Spider-Man?" I asked. Rodney was confused. Evidently, he had forgotten about something we used to do when he was a lot younger. When taking him to Hy-Vee, I used to pick Rodney up by his armpits and let him swing like Spider-Man. I made the webbing noises with my mouth, and when we reached the concrete pillars out front, I'd let him perch and jump off of each one.

Since Rodney was already wearing his Spider-Man costume, I took the initiative. I swung him through the parking lot by his arms. Rodney is a lot heavier now, so by the time we reached the sliding doors, I was huffing for air.

When we returned, Marissa's kitchen was already hot and hissing. While we were gone, she got a start on cutting up all the onions - all eight of them.

"You used eight onions!" I laughed. "I had no idea this would be so much work."

"It wasn't so bad," said Marissa, keeping an eye on the pan while they crinkled over the stove. "But I might wear goggles next time."

I coined the meal Pork Chop Onionpocalypse, and it was pretty good. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Have a great Tuesday.