Not as in the final frontier but as in that bubble we call our own personal. Like most people, I get uncomfortable if I feel like someone is a close talker or otherwise just too nearby when in social settings. I think I read somewhere that Americans in general have the largest personal space expectations. Kind of fitting when you think about how large we are as a nation – in everything from distance to food portions and our number of big butts. I think I have always been a very good “space reader” knowing how far away to stand from someone and how to minimize the personal space infringement.
Last night, I sat on a bench next to someone while we talked and ate. At first, it was very disconcerting to not be sitting across the table but rather directly next to someone. After awhile, when neither of us got our eyes poked out or other disastrous happenings from being too close, I settled down and realized that sitting next to someone on a bench was the most powerful physical sensation of friendship that I had ever experienced. It was a change of perspective. Normally, when you sit across from someone, there’s a give and take but you are both looking at things from your viewpoint. But when you are sitting next to each other, you are facing the same direction and it is that moment that you feel like it is the two of you against the world. I was still thinking about it this morning when I was riding through the woods to work.
The Dutch custom when you greet each is other is three kisses. To help you, it is left, right, left. Meaning you go left first. And hopefully the other person is also going left, otherwise concussions can result. For most part, I buy into this practice. This is a little different from what I am used to since I normally prefer to greet people I am close to with strong hugs. But I recognize that’s a bit much for a small country like this so I fall in with the Left Right Left method. However, just like the Dutch language with it’s uitzonderings (exceptions) I have one. Marianne doesn’t mind my habit of American hugs and I am grateful for that. I think if I didn’t have someone I could give a big hug to every now and again, I would probably have to go join the Hare Krishnas and get my hugs out that way. Of course, that would also include buying into the fashion style, giving up my banjo for the drum and wearing patchouli. I don’t think I can do that.
Over the weekend, I went to a coworker’s anniversary/birthday/daughter’s birthday/it is summer party in one of the old, old houses out in the country that you can now rent out. I went with one of my coworkers, the other Caroline on my team. It is so odd to live somewhere that your first name is really common. I have never experienced this. Last name, oh yeah! Here is the exact opposite, my first name is very common and my last is not. It was a big party, I think easily 100 people. After that, I caught the last few minutes of the Brazil – Netherlands match.
Sunday afternoon, I was back in Utrecht to hang out with my non profit group. In two hours, we had a really excellent vegan lunch and I had them set up with an action plan for expanding their group and their capacity. I have to say, I really get a charge out of empowering people. I like to think I encourage them instead of direct them. They are a lovely family and I really want to see them succeed in their quest. But they need to toughen up their thinking and I think I managed to help them see how and why.
A week from today I am off to Atlanta. So, if you want something from the Netherlands, be sure to get your request in before I leave I:) Schiphol is an amazing airport but they don’t carry everything. I think it will be strange to be without a bike for two weeks.