Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Shroom of One's Own

(I am sorry, Miss Virginia Woolf)

A foreign correspondent par excellence has to camouflage himself trying habits and customs of the place where he momentarily lives. A professional conversationalist as well as a great connoisseur of journalistic techniques, the brilliant modern reporter can cheat in many languages.

As Ryszard Kapuscinski puts it on his book Imperium talking about his dangerous mission in Nagorno Karabach dressed like an Aeroflot pilot:
"If a Russian patrol starts to talk me, it's not a big deal: I pretend to be Armenian and I answer in Russian with an Armenian accent. If an Armenian patrol starts to talk me, it's also not a big deal: I answer in Russian but with a Lithuanian or Latvian accent".

That's exactly what I did in these five Dutch months. No, I did not learn Russian. Or Latvian.


I cycled a lot, pedaling backwards to stop.
I ate cumin cheese, pindasaus, bitterbal, frikandel, vla, hagelslag and stroopwafels.
I went to the National Cheese Museum (in Alkmaar).
I also went to the National Bicycle Museum (in Nijmegen)

I made pannenkoeken (in Utrecht).
I did the Herring Ritual (in Den Haag).
I survived to a Febo's kipburger (in Amsterdam).
I drank Grolsch, Bavaria and Jupiler.
I joked on the Belgians and dated a girl from Friesland.
I gave money to local celebrities Albert Heijn and Super De Boer.
I got tired of chipknips, strippenkaart and welpies.
I wore in orange more often than necessary.
I blew in a plastic horn cheering up for Holland.
I read the most intellectual free press.
I pretended to be one of the tallest person in the world.

Thus I can say that except for carrying a local blond lady on the back of my bike I behaved in a typical Dutch way. What? Wat? Are you telling me there is something else I forgot to try?

Excuse me, did you say drugs?
Well, it's not my style, you know.
I am not Norman Mailer or Truman Capote.
But you have a point.

I tried mushrooms days ago.
Those mushrooms.
Together with three colleagues from Munich, Vienna and Toronto we made a focus group.

As we crossed the threshold of the closest smart shop we were immediately asked
"Where do you wanna go?
"I mean, what kind of trip do you wanna try guys?" said the shop owner (we will call him Leopold).
A travel agency, we assumed.

Silence. Embarrassment. Two steps forward. Six steps back.

"Wait! - Leopold yelled- "Aren't you looking for mushrooms?"
"Well, so you are in the right place!" Smiled the shop owner moving his long ponytail.
Lesson number 1: speak the lingo.

"May I suggest you these Thai? They give you an excellent ticket to ride".
"Oh, do you really import them from Thailand?"
, actually we cultivate them here."
Lesson number 2: do not get fascinated by exoticism.

"Have a nice trip!"
"Thank you, Leopold".
"And don't forget to tell me what you will see!"
"Sure. Doeg!".

But we did not send him a postcard.

We had the Thai mushrooms in my room and then spent hours laughing at the Oog in Al (Bambi Park for insiders). We shared a childish happiness and a bowler hat while three generations of Dutches were staring at us from the benches around. What a perfect disguise we had!

All that I can say by my side is that when I am under mushrooms I can see every detail and feel every smell in a clearer way. The colours of flowers. The perfume of sun tanned skin. The stripes of a t-shirt. The aroma of Euroshop hazelnut chocolate.

Someone in our focus group saw a lot of action happening in the sky among the puffy white clouds. Someone else stared for a long time to a pair of jeans trying to convince us that there were blue dots moving in waves and circles. I tried to get the same show on a pair of socks but it did not work. Perhaps I looked there during an intermission.

Once an important poet (T.S. Eliot?) wrote that anticipation of pleasure is better than its fulfillment. That's utterly true. And not only about love.
I was not expecting that much from our Leopold's Shroom Day, but
as a reporter I am quite disappointed. I guess I chose a wrong angle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I want a stroopwaffle!