Lucia has something to say

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Road to Rwanda

The marido and I will be in Amsterdam next weekend.

I was raised in a sheltered Dutch American community. Calvinist. I went to Christian school, where all the kids had names like DeVries and Vanderberg and Jabaay. I went to church with them twice on Sunday and for catechism, Calvinettes (really!), and Sunday school. There were all sorts of rules that didn’t make sense. We couldn’t swim in our pool on Sunday. We could take out the mitts and ball, but not the bat. We couldn’t ride our bikes. We never ever went to restaurants or stores on Sunday. And around our grandparents, we weren’t to play cards. I went to Christian school through elementary school, high school, and even college, where I took two years of the ever-so-not-useful language Dutch. (Which today I can only speak only about 5 words - hello, goodbye, and I don’t know, which is a useful phrase.) We went to dances called “parties with music” because we weren’t allowed to dance. I was the good girl.

Members of my extended family went to the Netherlands to gather family genealogy. To Friesland, to a town where all the Vennemas and Walstras and Van Blah Blah’s were from. And practically everyone I knew in my childhood, except for a handful of neighbors, were Dutch American.

Adults worried about their kids going to college, even the Calvinist college, because they would “go astray.” I got a good liberal arts education there which did exactly what it was supposed to do–It taught me to think for myself.

In this environment, I’ve often wondered why even as a small child, I would think, “It’s better than living under a horse cart in India.” What did I know about India? Nothing. Except there were probably missionaries that went there. But I didn’t want to be a missionary. But I wanted to go. So, in my young mind, when I wasn’t thinking about being a stock car driver, I decided to be an international journalist. I’d go to India. I’d go to war zones. And I’d be good at it.

Rwanda? I won’t cry. I never do. I’ll visit basket makers and coffee farmers. I’ll talk to people about their lives. I can’t work if I cry. People say, “You must cry everywhere you go.” But I don’t. Because I don’t think I can work to make things better in my small way if I’m absorbed in my own emotion.

So, on the horizon, a woman who grew up very differently than who she was raised to be, will go to Amsterdam and then Rwanda.

15 Comments:

Blogger gr said...

Whew. Two ends of the spectrum, Amsterdam sounds like a good vacation spot, but Rwanda....!!!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

There's a city on the west side of Michigan called Holland. It's the twin of the place you grew up...very Dutch, very Von Blah Blah.

They have a rockin' tulip festival every year. And a wooden shoe parade.

I have a smidgen of Dutch in me, but all I know is that Amsterdam sounds like a kick-ass place to visit.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Wow Lucia. So much we hadn't known about you. How wonderful to learn these things.

Its tough being raised in such a restrictive environment - I had something similar but not Calvinist - but you obviously had the imagination at a very young age to see yourself beyond that. How very cool.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Citymouse said...

Did you ever think this is why you are an "introvert"? (how you grew up?)

Be brave, dont cry if you dont want to but if you must--know its okay.

Blessing on this trip!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Citymouse said...

Did you ever think this is why you are an "introvert"? (how you grew up?)

Be brave, dont cry if you dont want to but if you must--know its okay.

Blessing on this trip!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Thailand Gal said...

I wasn't raised in an environment like that but knew plenty who were. Even as a kid, it was easily recognizable to me that the parents and extended families of those kids did not have the best interests of the kids at heart. They had their own agenda, even if it was making sure their kids toed the line so they, the parents, would get Points with the Big Guy.

Your spirit was far too large for that. Without knowing specifically why, you knew there was a different world out there with all kinds of people, all kinds of learning.

Thank goodness, eh? :)


Peace,

~Chani

9:47 AM  
Blogger Lucia said...

GR: Amsterdam for a short vacation. Rwanda for work.

Mona: Oh, I know Holland. And that college I went to was in Grand Rapids.

Maggie: You always, always cheer me up. Thanks for the lovely comment about my wide and wild imagination.

CM: Thank you!

Chani: Yep, my childhood was all about Points with the Big Guy. Thanks for your lovely comment about my spirit.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Steven Novak said...

I really do admire you a great deal.

And I don't often say that to people.

Steve~

11:38 AM  
Blogger Bobealia... said...

I get this because I work with kids with special needs. I worked with one lady (who quit) who felt pity for the children and it was detrimental to both the child and her, and I realized that I don't feel sorry for these children. I think they are fantastic and sometimes they piss me off, and sometimes they make me laugh, and once in a while I feel helpless when they look at me with big eyes that ask me for help, but then because this is the classroom and not the big world, I can help them and that makes me feel really really good. I also have a strange sense of humor that allows me to laugh at the fucked up things they do sometimes. This is a quality that I know helps me in this environment. I'm going on and on... but all that is to say that the qualities you have and use make you good at your job for whatever reason.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Gordo said...

My wife and I visited the Jeath War Cemetary in Thailand when we were there five years ago. I didn't cry, but it's an incredibly humbling experience to be surrounded by the even the hint of such atrocities. I can't imagine what I would be like in Kigali or the outlying areas.

Good luck.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

In my small world you so rock cos of what you do. Stay safe and have a great trip.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

I don't see you as a crier. on the outside, anyways. when you are working to effect change it's easier not to cry.

i'd have done a whole lot of other things in amsterdam...but well, so it goes.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

The more I read your blog, the more I realize how similar we are. I wasn't raised Calvinist, but most of my friends were so I know a fair bit about it. I was raised Mennonite, which meant my list of restrictions were very similar to yours.

You might get a kick out of scrolling back in my archives and reading my very first blog post when I was preparing to go to Africa for the first time. I'd been raised to believe in sending missionaries to convert all the heathens there, but when I finally made it to Africa, it was for a very different purpose.

The only time I've cried in Africa was when I got treated too much like the "great white hope" and felt horribly uncomfortable with it. That experience is in another post called "Eating Bread with the Bishop".

9:47 PM  
Blogger Rebekah said...

You live such an interesting life...

and the crying? I cry all the time, but at the silliest little things. TV shows, and silly cards.

When the real shit is happening, I'm holding it together. My best friend thinks I'm a freak because I always seem to be sobbing after everything has worked out.

Have a Stroopwaffel for me on the street in Amsterdam!

3:44 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

the ever-so-not-useful language Dutch

My significant other has mastered the most usefull phrase ever in that language: "kan ik alstublieft een haring hebben met uitjes?"
['Can I please have herring with some onion?']

Unfortunately, she didn't know what the most important signs were.... duwen / trekken (push, pull - both on doors), and initially 'HEREN' (Gentlemen) seemed like the right place - can't spel heren without 'her', so it must be right.

5:09 PM  

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