Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 JUL 10: Going Dutch

The invitation came out of nowhere, and was quite a surprise. A local man invited me to join him at today's Jimmy Buffett concert on the Alabama coast! Wow, free admission to a hot beach party -- and all the tar balls I could collect, to sell when I came home.

But no, I turned down this invitation. Too many projects at home have my attention right now -- and in the midst of them, I hope to find time today to watch the World Cup final in men's soccer. OK, FIFA isn't smart enough to call this the "Soccer Bowl." But it IS smart enough to keep the game going, without long breaks every four minutes for commercials.

I'll be rooting for the Netherlands in the FIFA final, largely because I've visited that country twice. The trips were made for church conventions in the mid-nineties, and I actually learned some Dutch words to prepare. For instance, the word for left is "links" - and that was true well before someone invented the Internet.

We've shared here the mission work in the Netherlands of former Columbus TV news anchor Deborah Singer [26 Jul 07/30 Sep 07]. My church-related trips there didn't really have that focus. There were worship services, but also plenty of sightseeing. And it's the only time in my life I drove faster than 100. Well, 100 kilometers an hour....

I flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and consider Schiphol Airport among the nicest I've ever visited. You can wheel baggage carts anywhere on the grounds (at least before the 2001 attacks), climb directly aboard a high-speed train to Paris AND buy duty-free items. My orange Schiphol tie always seems to stand out - with a flag on it that most people guess is French.

True confession: if you pass a car in Columbus with the traces of an Ajax Amsterdam sticker on the rear bumper, it's mine. Ajax is one of the top teams in the Dutch national league. But no, they do NOT name soccer teams there after kitchen cleansers....

The church conventions were a lengthy drive away from Amsterdam. The first one was in Hoogeveen -- a city about the size of Auburn. But it's not big enough to have a top-division soccer team. And to my disappointment, it wasn't even big enough to have its McDonald's restaurant open for breakfast.

Hoogeveen has an old-fashioned Dutch windmill in the center of town, for people to tour. And if you enter shoe stores, you actually can find wooden shoes on a back shelf. But one thing disappointed me when I went shopping - the paint stores do NOT sell Dutch Boy. [True!]

Signs of the U.S. were present in several parts of Hoogeveen. One sporting goods shop thrilled me, by having a Kansas Jayhawk men's scarf on a back shelf! No, I did NOT buy it as a souvenir. The Kansas Student Union will sell that same thing, without making you fill out customs forms.

The second convention was held at a campground near the Dutch-German border. It was truly an international event, as I was recruited to translate a sermon -- but NOT into English. The speaker spoke Dutch. I heard English in headphones, then translated it in Spanish for a woman next to me -- who actually was a South American native, living in Sweden. I'm not sure the current Arizona Legislature would allow any of this....

(This location actually was a Christian campground - yet wine was served by the glass, at a food tent outside the main hall. Southern Baptist mission groups might want to put this place on a "to-do" list.)

I sang a solo in English during this church convention - and joined a group in an Ommen restaurant one night to dine on salmon pizza. Yes, it tasted different. Different enough that I understand why Stevi B's would put macaroni pizzas on the buffet table first.

But Amsterdam was NOT overlooked during my two Dutch trips. I toured the Anne Frank house, and was stunned by how small such a large piece of 20th-century history is. I also attended a Monday night classical music performance at the Concertgebouw, where names of famous composers are on the wall all around the hall. Unlike football stadiums, I saw no room to add George Del Gobbo's name.

And a busy square in Amsterdam allowed me to experience a "hamburger hot dog." That item was on the menu at a small hot dog shop - and I simply HAD to see what this was. The cook grilled a hamburger patty as you would in the backyard. Then he split it in two with a spatula, and put both halves inside a hot dog bun. At least I knew the meat was all-beef....

BIG PREDICTION: Despite all these nice Netherlands memories and my personal rooting, I predict Spain will win the World Cup title today. Now if some Columbus radio station kindly will broadcast the game in Spanish - to spare me from the British announcers on ESPN, who simply refuse to get your attention by shouting "Goooool!"

Thanks for your patience with this Sunday travelogue. Let's head back home now, for some weekend headlines -- beginning with someone I know well....

+ A Columbus church pastor escaped with minor injuries when his car rolled over at least twice on U.S. 80, around the Talbot County line. Ken Martin was taken to an emergency room, where he told me the car is a total loss. Here's hoping The Medical Center doesn't leave his bank account the same way.

+ WXTX reported a Phenix City utilities worker was arrested on charges of stealing more than $4,000 in city money. And here's the amazing part - the suspect is NOT an elected or appointed city official.

+ Georgia gubernatorial candidate Carl Camon campaigned in Columbus, going door-to-door on Lawyers Lane. Hopefully he wasn't shocked to discover no lawyers actually live on that street....

(As the contenders prepare for televised debates this week, they ought to use that man for training. As in that tongue-twister -- "Candidate Carl Camon campaigned in Columbus.")

+ Singing star Carrie Underwood reportedly reserved the entire Ritz-Carlton resort in Greensboro, Georgia for her wedding. So which song do you think she sang during the ceremony -- "Jesus Take the Wheel" or "Before He Cheats"?

(Who could have imagined Carrie Underwood would marry Mike Fisher, who plays hockey for the Ottawa Senators? This only reinforces the stereotypes about country music fans not having many teeth.)

+ Louisiana stunned top-seeded Albany in the Southern Indoor Football League playoffs 41-35. That means Columbus will host the SIFL championship game next Sunday - and I have an entire week to carefully prepare "Swashbuckler" jokes which won't be considered homophobic.

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