Amsterdam – the first European city I visited.
It was spring 2004. I was a trainee at the Radio Nederland Training Centre (RNTC), along with ten other participants from Africa, Asia and Armenia. As it was my first time, I was very happy to be there. We spent six weeks of trainers’ training sessions. It was tough yet fun.
After 8 years, I went back to Holland/The Netherlands to present a paper in the Digital Crossroads Conference at the Utrecht University. When I learned that my paper was accepted for presentation, I was ecstatic! I have always wished to go back to Holland and to RNTC (a separate post about my visit will follow).
So there I was, arriving at Amsterdam Centraal Station from Aarhus (Denmark) after a 15-hour train ride (passing through Germany). Okay, just let me say that it was not a great idea but I kinda welcomed it since I haven’t tried taking the night train before. But yeah, it was a terrible idea! I arrived in Amsterdam feeling groggy and floating. It was weird ’cause I did sleep well, or so I thought. I had a nice cabin in the train and since I was travelling alone, having the cabin all to myself was very nice. Nevertheless, I was feeling strange.
Then I had to meet my friend, Letitia, who is based in Brussels but was in Amsterdam that time to watch the Pearljam concert. It was such a nice coincidence that we were in the same city on that day! She was going back to Brussels that night and I had to go to the conference, so there was no other time. So despite the weariness of my trip, I met her and it was really nice to see her again! We just talked for 15 minutes and then I had to leave and catch the local train to Hilversum-Noord, where my generous host, Marijke was waiting.
Photo: With mon amie Letitia 🙂
I immediately saw Marijke at the stop and went to greet her as soon as I got out of the train! It was great to be back in Hilversum! 🙂
Hello again, Hilversum! 🙂
So Marijke met me at the station then we walked to her house (well she put my luggage on her bike). She then made lunch for me and we talked while I was eating. We had a lot of catching up to do! But I was already in a rush. My presentation at the conference was scheduled at 4pm, so I had a quick shower and dashed back to the train station to go to Utrecht (a 30-min ride).
Marijke suggested that I should get a taxi from the station to Utrecht University as I might miss my presentation if I walk! I hailed a taxi and the driver gave a wry smile when I told him that I wanted to go to Drift 23 (where the university is). He said it is so near that I could actually walk to there! But I said I don’t have time to walk and I need to be at the university before 4pm! Grumbling, he told me to get in the taxi and that he will take me there, although normally, he wouldn’t! He’s an angel. The fare was Eur 6.25, more than half the “usual” fare of his usual routes. I was lucky.
Indeed it was very near and I was in the university at 3:45! Again, I was lucky. So I had enough time to gather myself and prepare for my presentation. I was the second presenter and while I was sitting there waiting for my turn, the weariness of the 15-hour train was slowly taking its toll.
I silently prayed that I will survive the next 2 hours, that I will successfully present my paper and that I will intelligently answer questions from the audience (15 of them), if need be.
I breezed through the presentation, although I was told that I was fast. I did not notice that I was going fast. My head then was feeling heavy and I wanted to finish it fast! After my turn, I sat down and tried so hard to keep my eyes open.
Oh well, sorry for this not so good shot of me while presenting, I asked someone to take it
Then the question came. While a guy was asking, I wondered, “Is it just me or is he asking in slow-motion?” Well, he seemed to be so.
But right, it was me!
I panicked. At the start, he did not make sense to me and I prayed again that I will “understand” what he was saying. It was a good thing that he took his time in asking so I had time to “slowly” get what he meant. Luckily (again), I was able to answer him in the best way that I could although I was not my best that time. I heaved a sigh of relief when he “kinda” agreed to what I was saying. I got worried for a while – that I will not make sense to him – but I think I did.
Whew! The 2-hour session was over and done with. People were clapping their hands and I just closed my eyes and offered a silent prayer of thanks.
I joined the conference reception after that and lingered for a bit to meet some people. Then I had to leave and go back to Marijke’s house to rest for the night.
What a day!
I did feel good after. I was so proud of myself for having survived the ordeal.