A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
What happens if you put a Dutch, a French, a German and a Brazilian in a boat?
Well, they row, row and row!
And if this thought crossed your mind, this is not the beginning of a bad joke, but of a great story.
This weekend, rowers from all over the Netherlands gathered in Amsterdam for the 42nd Asopos Najaarswedstrijden (no worries non-Dutch speakers, this post comes with simultaneous translation), meaning the Fall Regatta. This competition is mainly special because the leading race is for first year rowers, those who have just started practicing.
And by now, you have probably figured that the Brazilian mentioned above is not a random coincidence: Yes, this weekend I was there too with my fellow rowers, taking part in this competition as well.
But wait, how did I end up there? Well, as a student in Leiden, you can enroll at the sports center, but you can also enroll in one of the several sports associations. And as a keen rower wannabe, I enrolled in one of the rowing associations, Asopos de Vliet. Leiden also has another rowing association, Njord, which has also been the subject of a previous post (apparently us Leideners are really enthusiastic about rowing 🙂 ).
Once enrolled, you are divided into poules (groups) in the beginning of the season and coordinate amongst yourselves when you can row. Rookie boats need 4 people + a steerer + a coach. So a simple practice already turns into a nice get together. Also, it is a good opportunity to meet Dutch people (as associations also involve many social events), see canals in a different way and improve those rusty Dutch skills. In the blink of an eye, words like klapjes (small strokes), strijkjes (reverse strokes), houden (stop the boat) and my favourite : Slag klaar (get ready to row) become part of your vocabulary.
So after practicing for a month or so, there we went to Amsterdam Bosbaan: Leaving Leiden while still dark, assembling our boat while the sun rose and trying to keep the cold away in our uniforms. All around, many people, all cheering for their clubs and wearing their colors (in our case, purple-white-red). Add sun, nice weather and enthusiastic locutors to the mix and bam, there’s your recipe for a great day.
As this regatta is organized by Asopos, all their freshmen are scheduled to help out and of course, I was there promptly to take my shift. Being in charge of serving drinks in the food tent was also a big shock therapy in terms of speaking Dutch. I may not know much, but by now surely know the commands of a boat and how to run a bar rudimentarily. Not bad for a day’s worth of practice, right?
And the excitement does not end here. On the same occasion, shoots were made for a Dutch series- Feuten. No actors were there (even if they had been, I’d probably not have a clue), but among cheering crowds, boats and people on their uniforms, you could see the cameramen just walking around with those funny microphones (the ones that look like a furry dog ).
Then, suddenly you’re there, in the middle of the rowing lake. The wind is cold, but you don’t feel it. The other boats are there, but you don’t see them. Your team is all there is at the moment. And all you can see is the red flag waving and your steersman shouting. And in a few minutes is over, but man, what a feeling. A truly eye of the tiger moment.
All in all it was a great day, as our boat made it to the quarter finals. But most of all, it was one of those moments when you start realizing that time has passed and you are no longer just a foreigner, lost around wondering where Haarlemmerstraat is.
You feel you indeed belong to Leiden, to the University and to all there is around it.
So guys, hop on, cause the journey in this boat has just started!
Slag klaar, slag klaar, go!
Met paars-wit-rode groet (with purple-white-red greetings)!