Friday, 19 October 2007

extra vowels

I'm pretty bad at languages other than English. This is something I discovered in high school Latin, and nothing that's occurred since then has changed my mind about it -- my reading knowledge of French essentially consists in rapid dictionary usage coupled with good logical inference about what English sentence is most likely to have the words I just looked up. I resolved long ago not to let ignorance slow me down, and it's a good thing, or I'd have been a bit frightened to go to the Netherlands. Fortunately for me, everyone there speaks English. And anyhow, a lot of words are cognates to familiar words anyhow, but with some extra vowels added. Centraal Station, for example, is Central Station. That works out pretty well for someone like me.

I'm an entailer. I make detailed plans. Lists, with checkboxes. But not on this trip. I decided to forgo any form of planning beyond flight and lodging. I may have taken things a bit to the extreme. I didn't buy a guidebook or look at a map before I left, so I spent my first half-hour after getting off the plane wandering around Schiphol Airport running my eyes past Netherlands place names on train schedules. Although my present task was simply to get to Amsterdam, I thought it might be wise to check on the route between Amsterdam and Tilburg (the location of the conference, and the nearest train depot to my hotel in Hilvarenbeek). Somehow, I managed to glean that I'd have to head for Utrecht and/or possibly s'Hertogenbosch toward Breda. This settled to the extent it would be before I bought my ticket, I headed for Amsterdam. The plan: wander around for a while and find some food.

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