Yesterday I learned the word hoofddoek.
It means headscarf in Dutch.
I’ve been having Dutch classes for a fair few weeks now. Little by little, trying to decode this hoarse language, breaking it down in grammar, phonetics, structure and vocabulary.
The classes are great, and there’s always a lot of laughter, despite the difficulty of some lessons.
Maybe the collective struggle brings us closer.
We’ve navigated everything from the basic ‘Ik ben Nicole/Tolga/Francesa/Eri’ to the more advanced ‘Heeft u dat model in een kleinere maat in het wit, alstublieft?’ (which I had to Google to double check it wasn’t wrong. Anyway...)
It was in the last class that I learned hoofddoek.
The lesson was about clothing, colours, sizes. We were asked to search an outfit online and then try to describe them to the our classmates.
I stumbled across a picture of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier in their wedding attire, and that’s what I described and showed to class.
This type of exercise is where things get really interesting and quite fun. It encourages us to think beyond what’s in the book and the board. It forces us to be creative with how we describe something. We need to look harder to find new ways to speak about things that are so familiar. It makes us more aware of what’s in front of us, too. More often than not someone asks ‘How do I say that?’.
It’s also when people’s temperaments, backgrounds and personal preferences (and dare I say creativity) make the most difference.
When I learnt hoofddoek I was attending the Saturday afternoon class, in the place of my usual Tuesday evenings one.
In this new group of people, there was Muslim woman.
The outfit she chose to show was of a Muslim woman.
And now I know how to say headscarf in Dutch.
That reminded me, in a very clear way, how important diversity is in broadening, enriching our lives.
Diversity not only of race, religion, gender etc but also of experiences, personalities, cultures, upbringings.
Diversity of thinking.
I’ve always seen learning a new language as a means to understanding a new language and being able to communicate in a richer, bigger ways.
I have never thought about how important the actual process was.
By thrusting a fresher, harder look at familiar situations.
By encouraging constant revaluation of what’s in front of us.
By demonstrating the importance of the people in our surroundings.
It’s so good to be reminded the constant impact people around us have on how we navigate the world, even in the smallest of things. Offering us a chance to consider new, wider angles. Getting us to experience our existence a little differently, even through chance encounters.
It’s up to us to make the best of these serendipitous moments, but most importantly, to make room for them, to actively chase opportunities where they might happen, to constantly try to find people who can - perhaps unintentionally - teach you a word, a thought, a new point of view.
That what makes the world so beautiful and rich to me.
How about you?