Languages, Lost, Learning

AR best

We just returned from an Andre Rieu concert in his hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands. The concert was phenomenal.

We got lost getting in and out of our first hotel—not once, not twice—but every time. It had four corridors on our floor and only one of them led to a tiny, old fashioned two-person elevator. Since an x-ray proved extensive damage to my left knee even if the pain didn’t, taking the lift instead of four flights of stairs seemed prudent. Change the equation to include our unfailing ability to get lost…and I’m not sure the elevator was the best choice.

Blame the train for the next drama. Heading back to Amsterdam there was an announcement over the speakers in Dutch. Only in Dutch. Then the train stopped and everyone got off. Everyone but us. Finally, a kind English-speaking fellow traveler stuck her head into our empty carriage and said, “You have to get off here and take another train.”

So we did. Again an announcement. Again only in Dutch. The train stopped. Everyone got off. Just as we were stepping off the train, a low-flying fighter zoomed over the station with deafening noise. My heart thumped. Were we in the middle of a war and no one told us? How would we know? We couldn’t understand a word of Dutch.

This time, I spotted a train conductor and chased him down…yes…it hurt. He said there would be another train in 38 minutes. Wait where we were. Not even five minutes later, he shouted at us and pointed. Our train was boarding and it was way up the track from where we patiently stood. Again the running on sad knee. We made it…but it was standing-room-only and no one could move, much less sit down. So a two-hour standing train trip with a barrage of Dutch that we couldn’t understand. We still didn’t even know if we were at war.

It gave me new compassion for people who immigrate to another country and don’t know the language. It gave me new compassion for babies who—regardless of their native language—start out in a world of confusing sounds and words that they don’t know. It gave me new compassion for puppies, who like babies, must learn every new word.

We stepped off the train in Amsterdam and quickly got lost at the back of the station when we tried to find a cab. We also nearly got run over by scores of racing bikes. We didn’t know that the red paved paths around the city were bike lanes. Bikes outnumber cars by millions, the taxi driver said—when we finally found him. Amsterdam was built for bikes. We saw one mom with two children and a basket on her bike and another child skating behind holding onto the bike. We saw bikes delivering hot meals, carrying rolls of carpets, carrying huge plants. We saw bike riders holding umbrellas as they rode one-handed. We even saw riders using no hands, just their knees as they raced by at incredible speeds.


We took a canal tour and saw people living on houseboats and barges. It was a trend hippies started back in the 1960s. It became so popular that now only wealthy people can afford to live on the water in Amsterdam.

barge 2

My favorite part of the trip, besides seeing Andre Rieu, was meeting River Girl, Val Poore, an awesome bestselling author who writes about living and remodeling barges with such humor and talent that she makes even plumbing interesting. Being on the canals and watching the bikes race bike reminded me of her unique and beautifully written book, “The Skipper’s Child,” which is now also in Dutch.

val and alan

And the event on the train reminded me of Jesus. How could we understand God’s Heavenly language without earthly tones had not Jesus come to this earth as a Man and taught us? Now we have the Bible in a language we can understand and it continues to be printed in languages for every nation of the world. God’s Book. A Living Book. A language to share with the entire world.

leaning buildings

4 thoughts on “Languages, Lost, Learning

    • I know the feeling! I loved reading about how amazed you were by the cyclists and also the boat tour. Thank you for your kind words about my books, bless you! We’ll meet again one of these days!

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