Jaap says I skate like a prostitute — with my legs wide open. To say that I look like Bambi on ice would be more politically correct, but Jaap’s way of phrasing things is more entertaining. Some people say he’s a lompe boer, or a farmer who behaves or says things in a crude way. (It’s a term of endearment).
And while I never really did manage to close up my legs, I’ve improved to the point where I’m no longer stumbling after after every stride. I’m no longer the foreigner on the team who can’t skate. Now I’m just the foreigner.
The ice rinks are closing as the weather becomes warmer.
But before you can leave the ice rink, there are two things you must do (or at least this is what the Utrecht team does):
- Skate in the opposite direction.
Traditionally, you skate counter-clockwise around the track. You go straight, and turn left around the corner, and that’s really about all you do. Not once did I have to make a conscious effort did I have to turn right.
So imagine what it’s like to turn right for the first time in months. I couldn’t do it, and neither could most of the team. People would hold hands and lean on each other as support.
2. Jog one lap barefoot around the ice track.
Or two, if you’re feeling particularly daring. The ice is cold to the point that it sticks to your bare feet, so there are no worries about slipping and falling on your bum.
Back in September when I was planning what I wanted to do during the year, I wanted to speed skate because:
- It’s typical Dutch. It’s the one and only sport the Dutch go nuts for during the Olympics, and the one sport they dominate. And if studying abroad is all about experiencing different cultures, why not give the national sport a shot?
- It’s novel, it’s cool, and it’s something I wouldn’t be able to do back home in California. I wanted to try something new, and the thought of zipping around the ice at high speeds appealed to me.
- And okay, maybe I wanted to see what it was like to wear those skin-tight body suits. Jaap let me borrow his for a week and I felt like the top banana.
Woensdag is schaatsdag.
Every Wednesday at 9:30 PM, I would bike forty minutes to De Vechtsebanen for skating practice. We would skate until midnight and then go for a cup of tea, some warm Chocomel with whipped cream, or some beers to make it a brisk trip back home. I often wouldn’t be back home until 2 or 3 AM, although that’s also due to my habit of stopping by the student bar to say hello to the regulars — a hello that often lasted for at least an hour.
I did that every week for six months. Speed skating (and the usual routine associated with it) was something I looked forward to on a regular basis, so it feels odd to have that gone now.
I’ll be back on the ice soon enough.