Marrying the Neighbour

Yes I did. And no, I wasn’t that desperate to get married, especially to this guy. Because obviously marrying the next-door neighbour makes it to the top of the list of romantic clichés. But it is not everyday that I run into a good-looking super-blond dude on the stairs at 1 A.M., asking me for a lighter. And then inviting me for a bottle of wine (a bottle!) at his place, full of confidence. (Again: one in the morning!) That night, we ended up chatting for a bit at my doorstep and we agreed that it would be a less upfront idea to meet for a coffee during the day. The month that followed witnessed frequent knocking on my door for sugar, salt, lemon, olive oil, painkillers, you name it. Then the handsome neighbour moved to a different part of Beirut. Three months after, we started dating and I insisted we keep it light and simple, no serious business. Three years later we got married. Last weekend we celebrated our one-year anniversary in Amsterdam, the blond dude’s home town.

And what better way to celebrate love than with music. We made our ‘katoenen huwelijk’ a three-day Dutch-musical-festival-integration-fest. With a couple of beers on the back of the bicycle, we headed to Frankendael Park, east of Amsterdam where Tchaikovsky’s Pique dame (Queen of spades) was broadcasted on a big screen, live from the National Opera & Ballet. The three-hour opera revolves around the obsessive desire for becoming rich through gambling. Aside from the story plot, I was fascinated by the beauty and clarity of sounds, their dramatic intensity and resonance filling the open air. It was sunny and warm after a week of constant rain. Those who arrived early found a place to sit. Those who were late, rested on picnic blankets drinking wine and soaking up the sun.

The next day we headed to another kind of music performance in Wormerveer – a small town 23 minutes away from Amsterdam. How did I end up there? Well, a friend was playing in a band and we wanted to see her. When we arrived, we saw a completely different crowd. People watching the opera the day before in the park had an intellectual, upper-classy look. Today, the audience seemed to be from the work hard, play hard crowd. Many looked like working-class middle-aged men and women, and most sported tattoos, piercings and/or dreadlocks. The location of the festival used to be a squat. Leftist and anti-fascist signs were still hanging on the walls inside the bar. What I thought was a meat sandwich at one of the kiosks turned out to be a falafel. I didn’t recognise it, but that’s what they called it. There was only vegetarian food.

Although I felt a little strange and out of place, there was something very genuine about these people. They seemed tough; like whatever life throws at them they’ll take. The festival was small but a lot of fun. There were five bands, mostly local, except for the one band a friend of ours played the drums in: Le Garage from Utrecht. It’s a little like a Dutch version of the (awesome!) Lebanese Wanton Bishops. Their music was mostly alternative blues/rock with a deep delivery of rhythm and blues. We danced till sunset – which means 10:30 P.M here, this time of year.

Later that weekend, as part of my integration and assimilation process with the local culture (smiley! :), we did what many Dutch people are obsessed with whenever the rain stops and the sun pops out for a moment: go out and play! Our last stop on this musical weekend was at Parkpop in the Hague, one of the biggest free pop festivals in Europe. There were four stages with continuous national and international bands of all kinds. And to my surprise, K’s choice – my favourite Belgian band – was playing. It reminded me of my evening runs at the Corniche near the sea in Beirut, when I used to listen to “Not an Addict”, one of their best-known songs. There were more than 270,000 visitors at the Parkpop that day, from different nationalities, backgrounds and musical preferences. They got together with no trouble at all. No fights, no accidents whatsoever (although I understand that’s not always the case). Everyone was enjoying the music, the food and the cold beer.

The anniversary weekend ended with a romantic brunch that my sweet husband prepared: a cold bottle of Prosecco, strong and smooth warm coffee, tasty salmon, succulent parma ham, fresh bread and juice, sunny side up eggs, a variety of fruits and of course the yellow Dutch cheese (yummy). It was perfect.

 

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Opera at Park Frankendael
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‘Made possible partly by the squatting movement’
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Le Garage kicking ass
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K’s Choice also kicking ass
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