Expat Magazine

The Singing Warrior: Coffee? An Inbuilt Mechanism for Coffee-time

By Clogsandtulips @clogsandtulips
The Singing Warrior: Coffee?  An inbuilt mechanism for coffee-timeA memory of twenty four years ago, when I first came to the Netherlands.


We had settled into our new apartment. Two young lovers, star-struck and getting out of bed very late in the afternoon. No worries. Love fed us. Love provided. But at a certain stage, I had to meet the outside world. My then-boyfriend left for his work.
There was a knock at the door. It was my neighbour, Gerda. Her English was very stilted but we managed to communicate. I was invited over for coffee the next day. I was feeling chuffed. At last, I could make new friends and orientate myself toward being a model dutch citzen.
The next morning, I waved my lover off to work and pottered around happily doing little chores. I didn’t want to appear too eager so I decided to knock at Gerda’s door at around 11.30 in the morning. No answer. I rang the doorbell. No answer. I began to doubt whether I had understood her properly. Perhaps she meant another day. I listened and heard somebody inside and decided to hang around. She might be deaf. She might have a hidden handicap that I didn’t know about.
Finally, the door opened and a very red-faced Gerda stood in front of me. I was so relieved that I went to give her one of the customary two kisses on the cheek. She moved noticeably back.
“You are too late for coffee. It is nearly lunch time. De coffee is op (which means finished).”
I thought I misunderstood her. I replied:
“But you asked me over this morning. It’s still morning”, glancing at my watch.
“Coffee is served between ten and ten thirty You are too late. I want now to go finish my ironing.
With that, a very irate Gerda closed the door in my face.
I was dumbfounded. I had imagined us becoming best friends, shopping together and laughing at silly jokes. My dream was shattered notwithstanding my pride.
I thought about it and got madder. I opened up her newly polished brass letterbox and shouted in very loudly:
“Stuff your coffee. I don’t even drink the foul-smelling stuff. I am a tea-drinker. Yes, a bloody tea drinker. Thank YOU very much."
I went back into the now four- walls- closing- in- on- top- of- me. I greeted my Dutch lover with red eyes and explained the situation. He said:
“But everybody knows that coffee time is at ten. It just is. Why didn’t you go in earlier?”
I looked at him and a strange sensation hit me. It was called lonliness. I wiped my tears and turned away. I turned away for the next twenty years. Lost, lonely and feeling as if I was the most misunderstood person in the whole world. Coffee was only the beginning…….
This is a guest post from Niamh Ni Bhroin, author of The Singing Warrior: Finding Happiness After a Life Filled With Pain and Abuse. You read more about Niamh and her book at her website http://thesingingwarrior.com/.
Photo: nate steiner, Flickr

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