There IS a free lunch, Virginia: Day 3

Ky's plate

My feet are puffy and sore today; every bone lower than my ankles hurts. Loads of walking yesterday to see the 35th year of 7-blad festival Zevenkamp. I got no idea what the fest is all about, other than a celebration of the neighborhood. But oh, my! The Dutch do a nice festival.

I got so used to American festivals it was a bit difficult to make the switch. American festivals: lots of alcohol. Where’s the beer tent? Who’s sponsoring? Oh yeah, the alcohol with all the banners and scantily clad women offering jello shots. Where’s the stage? Better bring on some rockers. Do Freebird!

You know? Same thing no matter where you go. Okay, so maybe I’m generalizing. I’m sure somewhere there’s a festival designed for adults that doesn’t feature alcohol…Maybe some AA wing sponsors it. But there sure weren’t many, and none that I went to. The Dutch, on the other hand…

No alcohol. This was not a piss-fest. Yes, that meant that turn out in the 20-35 year old range was low. But some were there. What was on offer was an artist’s market, with painters and sculptors and jewelry designers. Local honey and jam. A fabulous hat designer. Gorgeous stuff. Then there were mini-boat races: far more enchanting in real life than it seems on paper. I found hidden garden retreats, bedecked with multi-colored ribbons. I discovered the kid’s play area the neighborhood designed and built. Yes, the people of the neighborhood took over a local patch of grass and transformed it (with the city’s permission). I almost dropped over when I was told they’d done it in five years. They’d put in fruit trees, flowers, herbs, and decorative vegetables. Everything was landscaped and neat. The children’s area was a kid’s dream. Imaginative playground gear, including a water feature where the kids got to pump up the water and watch it run through an elaborate drainage system, a huge full log swing that could seat 10 kids at a time, and a musical block set into the pavement that you could jump on and create a melody. I saw dancers and heard musicians. I had a free lunch of soup and bread with a range of spreads. Then later, I had a free dinner of fire-baked pizza that blew me away. Yes, I said free. There was no jar for donations, no fees, and no one pressured me to join their group or lend a hand. They just gave me food for free. Me and 50 other people. Amazing. Last night ended with a bonfire, circle drumming, and music. Today there’s another 8-10 hours of fun going on.

I’ve been to cultural festivals, musical festivals, art festivals, motorbike festivals. I’ve gone to festivals where I stick out noticeably because I’m not Greek or Chinese or Thai. I’ve gone to festivals where I’ve been one of thousands of t-shirt clad rockin’ out idiots for a night. I’ve gone to festivals where the wrong clothes will get you banned and knowing the right people is the thing to do. Never before have I gone to a festival that was so wide-encompassing. Every kind of person was there; young, old, white, black, yellow, Dutch, Thai, African…There seemed no cohesiveness to the group other than the fact that we were all neighbors.

It’s weird, being here, experiencing this life. I barely got to know my neighbors in the states. Here, they work together and it’s pretty obvious by how much they’ve accomplished that they don’t get mired down in petty politics. This is a community, a solid group of people living and working together, and RESPECTING each other. A bit intimidating, yes. These are people who want to get to know their neighbors. Who want to be able to say ‘hi’ to each other and stop for a chat as they pass in the street. It’s small town attitude in the big city and let me tell you – it WORKS. Didn’t matter that I didn’t understand everything that was said yesterday. I was made to feel welcome by everyone’s smiles. People look you in the EYE here. They want to SEE you, not just notice that someone is standing near them. I’m aware that if I get involved (which I probably will), I will no longer be able to hide behind my sunglasses in the neighborhood. People will stop me and ask how I am. The Dutch are sharp eyed. They’ll notice if someone’s down and they’re blunt enough to just bring it up with no preamble. They’re also tough enough to take the blunt truth back, though I’m still not quite comfortable sharing all my brain mess with everyone I meet. But see, that’s my problem here because they WANT to know. They WANT to know me. That I got clearly yesterday in the way I was treated. And it wasn’t so they could figure me out and put me in some mental compartment that’s titled this or that. It wasn’t so they would know whether or not I was single and available or a threat or possible ally. It wasn’t even because anyone recognized me and thought it would be cool to get to know the semi-celebrity. They only saw me, a new neighbor. A new face in the crowd. They wanted to say hi and make sure I felt welcome. They spoke clearly and slowly when they realized I didn’t have much Dutch. If they knew English, they used it. If they didn’t, we smiled at each other and I got their gift of friendship regardless of the language barrier.

On the final day of the 3 Day, 3 Quote Challenge, I’m gonna do something a little different. I wanna bust a quote. And the quote is:

There is no free lunch.

Bah and humbug. There IS a free lunch, Virginia. I just experienced it AND a free dinner as well. I know the arguments adherents to this ancient adage will spew. Part of the festival was paid by a grant from the government. The grant came from tax money so if you pay taxes you’ve already paid for the free lunch. Oh, ye mean minded doubters of good faith! That negates all the people I saw volunteering their time to set up chairs and tables and tents. All the people who got to the festival early and stayed late. All the people who freely passed their happiness around to share. No, sweeties, I got a free lunch yesterday. Smiles were my meat, laughter my wine. It was fine and delicious and a meal I look forward to having again.

Once again, the rules for the 3 Day, 3 Quote Challenge:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you. (thanks again, Heather From Crazy With Love)
  2. Share one new quote on 3 consecutive days. The quotes can come from anywhere or anyone.
  3. On each day, nominate three other blogger to continue with the fun. No one is under any obligation to continue with this game; it’s not cursed, so don’t worry that your bowels will explode if you don’t participate.

My nominees today are:

  1. sassafrassthefeisty SassaFrass, The Feisty
  2. sexyachymoody sexyachymoody
  3. blahpolar  blah fucking polar (I hope to pull you out of your funk, sweetie.)

Going back to the festival today. There’s no scheduled free luncheon like there was yesterday, but I know I’ll get what I need out there. The sun is shining, the day is beautiful, and my neighbors have cooked up some fun and laughter for me to enjoy. A free lunch, indeed.

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