Under thug, see me

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

We were visiting Volendam - a town of around 23,000 - where wooden shoe makers and cheese factories abound.

It’s pretty touristy with a good amount of shops selling typical cookie-cutter Dutch knick-knacks like miniature wooden shoes, tiny windmills, carved tulips and ceramic cows that spit koffie melk through their open mouths.

As we sat in the back of an open-air café/bar, eating kibbling and drinking koffie, we watched as several tour boats emptied out on the waterfront, delivering eager bodies into the tiny maze-like streets.


Later on, our food finished, Geoff wandered and Jan shopped while I stood with the 4 year old admiring the big brown boats. That’s when I noticed a Japanese couple taking turns snapping photographs of one another standing in front of the picturesque harbour.

Because I’m a nice girl with poor instincts, I offered to take a picture of the two of them together, using their camera.

They looked at me, confused. If not slightly irritated. It didn’t occur to me that they might not speak English.

Not willing to give up easily (remember, I grew up rurally), I broke into a terrific game of charades right there on the street. Those tourists needed my help and I was going to give it to them. Dammit.

I pointed at myself, made a camera shape with my hand, gestured at the harbour and pointed at the two perplexed faces standing before me. All the while holding my daughter’s hand.

Just then, one of the couple’s tour mates noticed the performance and began shouting and flailing her arms wildly. Whatever the helpful friend was ranting about was serious because the look of confusion on my audience’s faces quickly turned to panic.

Judging from the horror in their eyes, I’m guessing it was something along the lines of, “She’s a bloody thief! Get away from her! The travel agent warned us about people like that! She wants to steal your camera! Hide your valuables!”

The woman quickly shoved her purse under her coat while her husband squirreled away his camera. They didn’t take their eyes off of me as they ran - backwards - down the cobblestone, leaving the 4yr old and I standing in the middle of a sizable and highly judgmental crowd.

Not long after, as I explained the ordeal to Geoff and Jan, we passed by several tourist groups. I knew we had encountered the crowd containing my fearful friends when - all at once - fingers started pointing and cameras started flashing… in my direction.

Which is why it's a good thing our Netherlands vacation is coming to an end.

No, really.

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