It’s funny. For the last four days, I’ve been amazing when it comes to writing my thesis. I went from nothing to seven pages of decent writing since Monday, and I was feeling good.
Then, today, I hit the wall.
Today I’ve written a grand total of 156 words, which will no doubt be deleted again next week. My meagre efforts are filled with holes in the form of [INSERT BACKGROUND HERE], [FOLLOW UP] and the always helpful [NEED MORE ON THIS]. It’s just not my day.
I realised at about lunchtime that I was going nowhere fast. Nothing was working; I was staring at the screen for ages, fingers poised on the keys, but hating every form of expression that would come to mind. So I zipped on my Michelin Man jacket (it’s four degrees outside) and headed out.
(Can I just point out, again, that it’s four degrees outside? That’s how desperate I was to get away from this thesis; not even scary weather would deter me.)
Despite the cold, I do like walking around Dordrecht. I’m lucky that I live right in the middle of the city, right on the Voorstraat; the main shopping street. Even though it’s such a quiet city, it’s still a city and someone’s usually doing something at least mildly interesting here.
A couple of weeks ago, I had my friends Ola and Lynda here in Dordrecht with me. Whenever we have friends visiting us, Paul takes them on a walking or cycling tour of the city. His tours are pretty epic; he loves Dordrecht and it shows. I often call him the mayor as he tends to know pretty much everything there is to know about the place. It also helped that earlier this year, took a course through work called ‘Dordtology’. So now he’s properly qualified. (Oh yes, and available for English tours on request.)
This time though, he had to leave halfway through his tour to go back to work. ‘What, work?’ us tour guides with no concept of reality were thinking. So I had to take over.
Even though I’d walked around town plenty of times with Paul, it hadn’t all clicked with me until I took Ola and Lynda around that day. I’d listened diligently to all the history, first to me and then to the different friends and family members he’d taken around. I’d marveled at the Grote Kerk, the main square that’s actually a bridge and the decorated city gate on the river. It really is a beautiful city.
But it really sunk in when I was actually drawing upon this information myself, and reinterpreting it to others. I tell tourists about Paris, Rome and Barcelona, and now I was doing the same for Dordrecht. It didn’t feel out of place.
I often don’t feel quite like an expat as I’m on the road so much, so I surprised myself when I could rabbit on about the Union of Dordrecht, the Synod of Dordrecht and all the big floods. I started wondering if I could do the same for Melbourne. I’m not too sure.
Dordrecht has its little quirks. I love the fairy lights in the trees leading down from the train station on Stationsweg. I’ve started to enjoy, and even anticipate, the sound of the Grote Kerk chiming its bell every fifteen minutes. I didn’t even mind getting woken up early one morning a few weeks ago to the sound of police evicting squatters from across the road.
Dordrecht doesn’t have Vietnamese pho, but it has great Surinamese broodjes. It may not have a Zara, but it’s got lovely gezellig little shops along the Vriesestraat. And shops may be closed on Sundays, but hey! We have Kinderdijk down the road!
I didn’t go far on my travels today. I just took a slightly longer route to the Albert Heijn supermarket, strangely enjoying the cold but fresh air. I never used to do that, but I feel like I owe it to pretty little Dordrecht now. It might not be on the tourist trail, but it’s pretty special, too.