Monday, January 2, 2012

Godt Nyttår everyone!

I’ve been to Amsterdam. By which I mean that on my stopover back from Tel Aviv, I spent two hours walking in the drizzly city, narrowly being swiped by bikers, until I wimped out and returned to the airport and fell asleep in the most blissfully comfortable beanbag chair I’ve ever sat in. I had big plans for Amsterdam. I was going to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts, the Vermeers. To stroll by the canals. But after Stockholm’s rivers and bridges, the canals lacked charm. After a 5 am flight without sleep, I was too tired to even imagine standing solidly on my feet and contemplating Night Watch. I passed the Anne Frank House, and this is what it looked like from the outside:

And this was the line:

It turns the corner at the edge of the picture. So, I didn’t go. I thought, as I trudged past the waiting tourists, that growing up in the diary as I did I’ve had as good a look inside as anyone. And I took the train back to the airport and blissfully dozed for four hours until my connecting flight. It strikes me that in some way I failed the city, that I ought to feel some regret at missing it. But all I remember is the pleasant scent that the airport lounge wafted into my dreams.

I emptied my wallet yesterday. It had four different currencies in it, and after the grocery cashier watched me feebly fumbling through shekel, dollars, and euro before I found my kroner and could buy milk from the man with the steadily rising eyebrows,  I decided it was time to move stuff around. It did make me feel very cosmopolitan, though.

New Year’s in Bergen was pretty explosive. Literally. The air raced and quivered with fireworks, the rain shivered in quick bursts of light, and great “lilies and snapdragons and laburnums of fire” pricked the sky above the valleys. It seemed as though the lightning of our new year’s storm raced up from the ground to peal against the clouds, popping into flowering flares. It reminded me of the first time I saw fireworks in Bergen, but this time they were everywhere.

My mother asked me recently if teaching is now much easier, if my comfort in front of the classroom has grown. The truth is, I was never scared in the conventional sense. I’ve always loved standing up in front of an audience, and I’m not afraid of looking stupid when I don’t know the answer (to be honest, I teach English and literature, so it doesn’t happen often). But the more I understand what it means to teach, the more I face it with terror. My fear that my ego will cloud the classroom, that I’ll miss a moment of potential, that I’ll lack sensitivity and lose their trust, that I’m not pushing them as hard as I can because I simply haven’t pushed myself enough, grows each time I enter the classroom and see a little more the utter arrogance of standing in front of people as their teacher. So yes, I’m frightened to teach. Experiencing a different kind of humility from that which I’ve known before. And yet hopeful that my fear will guide me, will push me, more than complacency would do. 

Happy New Year’s, everyone! May it be peaceful.

A bit more of Amsterdam:

For some reason, my links to my Israel vacation post didn't show up for some people. So here it is: The Land.

1 comment:

  1. I like Amsterdam, and am lucky that Holland is quite near, but I agree with you Stockholm is far better.
    Welcome back to Europe!