Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mother Tongue

Writing for the International Examiner has opened a new world for me in Seattle. A new world, which at the same time is more familiar than other neighborhoods where PHD and I lived the past eleven years.

Since the IExaminer caters to the Asian Pacific communities, people of color and immigrants, I finally wound up in society more reminiscent of the colorful mixture of people I was used to in Amsterdam. On top of that, the International District, with its 3-5 story tall red and dark brown brick buildings, reminds me of certain parts of Haarlem, or The Hague, or even the Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam's Chinatown. I feel at home in the ID. Yes. How about that.

Major perks for a freelance reporter are the complimentary tickets. Combined with volunteer opportunities during events at the Seattle Central Public Library, the IExaminer's assignments got me to attend more functions in one year than in the previous ten.

The other night PHD and I attended a pre-concert reception at Beneroya Hall for David Diamond. The nearly 90-year-old composer, who in 1995 was named Seattle Symphony's Honorary Composer in Residence, received his guests on the Promenade in the Grand Lobby.

He gracefully agreed with me when I suggested that the acoustics in Amsterdam's Concert Gebouw (Concert Hall) might be among the best in the world.
"I wish Dutch composers would write more in their own language," he said, "I mean they always have to write in English or German."

Try as I did, I couldn't come up with the names of any other Dutch composers beside Andriessen. And that while I vividly remembered several faces. In particular that of a composer who lived in the Nieuwmarkt neighborhood.

This memory problem may be the effect of integration. Before, I was a reluctant immigrant (after all, there was no Need to leave the Netherlands), now my ties with my home country are involuntarily loosened. This must be part of establishing a new life in a new world. Part of my memories hide in the deeper vaults of my memory bank, while new information is filed closer to the front…

There are times when I worry that when I'm old and truly forgetful, my second language will disappear in vaults of which I will have lost the key and that only my first language will remain. I fear that I will only be able to speak in my mother tongue. I fear that if or when that happens, I will have to return to the Netherlands.
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