Thursday, February 05, 2009

Office Borrels

A few weeks ago we hosted one of our annual office "borrels," very similar to cocktail parties in the US. This particular borrel was the IFOR New Year's get-together, done by our staff so that friends and associates have an opportunity to see the office and meet our team. We provisioned the event with a wide assortment of Dutch drinks and snack foods and provided some entertainment for the quests (usually all from North Holland).

I may have mentioned that I have been learning a new song, like I was doing while in Rochester, NY, but this time as an effort to study the Dutch language. An acquaintance of mine at the local library, Hein, suggested the song, a classic Dutch "lied" called Ode aan Maastricht, as he has been learning a new song in English by Scottish singer/songwriter Amy Macdonald.  So, I took the challenge.

My musician friend Srdan Kekanovic in the adjacent office found out about this and talked me into singing the same song with him playing the guitar at the borrel. We practiced on and off for about a month, although I was still hesitant about doing this in front of a house full of native Dutch speakers. Additionally, I had invited a couple of neighbors (lady friends) this year, who just happen to be in local singing groups―probably not the best way for me to get to know them better.

The time came, I ended up performing with Srdan at the party and all went as planned; everyone had a few good laughs, as well. It was actually a riot! Srdan plays professionally and had helped me though all of this, otherwise I might have been deported by now. Just kidding! My next door neighbor and her friend even asked me to join their singing group. Oh sure, I thought, that will be interesting! It seems that everyone in Alkmaar is in a singing or musical group... it's just the thing to do here.

So, the following Monday night I showed up for my first practice with the "Spoorbijster," 18 women and now two guys with me included. At least all the songs are in English and older 60s, 70s, and 80s rock 'n roll and Motown hits, all of which I've already heard many times in my youth. The last number of the night was, "Happy Together" by The Turtles. Ha!

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