Friday, October 22, 2010

The crazy-weather week in Amsterdam

It has been such a full, satisfying week here. I called it "the crazy-weather week" in my title, because "typical" Dutch weather has finally arrived, with windy, chilly rain coming frequently and randomly. I heard today that it rains 260 days of the year in the Netherlands. I'm not surprised! What I am surprised by is the unpredictability. On Wednesday we had beautiful sunshine, powerful winds, drenching rain, and hail, alternating throughout the day.

I joined a local gym here, SportCity. It is possibly the most brand-new, modern, spacious, attractive gym facility I've ever been in. But there are some things about this gym (and I'm assuming these are Dutch cultural things?) that are distinctly weird.
- it doesn't open till 8:30am
- tank tops are not allowed - you must wear shirts with sleeves
- there is a 12-minute limit on cardio equipment (you read that right)
- there are no water fountains or towels provided
- in my 2 visits so far, the music playing has been Michael Jackson. ALL Michael Jackson.
Regardless, I am thoroughly enjoying the place.

I proudly released the Totem Family Newsletter this week. Besides a full contact list for all of the families with children here, it also listed upcoming events and activities, like kids gymnastics classes and Fun Things to Do around Waterlooplein. Everyone has seemed very appreciative, and I hope this will help build connections.

I already feel like my life has picked up quite a lot in the last couple of weeks. The days are suddenly full - I'm struggling to find time for laundry and groceries, in between playdates, outings, classes, and time at the site. This is all good.

This week, I spent two full days at the Totem site. In the mornings were my own "training" times - Wednesday I am helping run the kids gymnastics class, and Friday is Aerial Practice time. Then there's lunch with the kids, and in the afternoons I've watched the show - either from the audience, or backstage. In between, I am constantly glancing at my Russian notes, memorizing vocabulary words and trying to snag any passing Russians to ask questions.

A high point of my day on Wednesday was when Alya invited me to join in a Finale Dance lesson. She was teaching it to one of the newly-arrived artists (we have two new ones, who joined the show here in Amsterdam). She thought it would be good for me to know the dance, so I can help the kids to learn it - in preparation for the December kids show they're planning. I eagerly jumped up and tried to learn. It was harder than it looked - or maybe I am just really not a natural at picking up dance choreography? so we'll see how far I get.

And the high point of today (Friday) was the Hoop Dancer 2 showing. The story -
Nakotah is our Hoop Dancer. He has been with Totem since the beginning. But the directors have long known that if Nakotah gets sick, we're in trouble - he is possibly the main iconic image of the show. So the decision was finally made to bring in a backup Hoop Dancer. They found Erik, from Calgary, and gave him a contract. They decided to make him an extra - he now plays a Moss Man and a Monkey - and also to make Nakotah's second appearance in the show, Hoop Dancer 2, a duet. This way Erik is ready to fill in for Nakotah, but he's actively performing in the show every night as well.

So Hoop Dancer 2 had to be re-choreographed as a duet. They took a few weeks to do it, and today formally presented it. At 1:00pm, everyone on site was invited into the tent to watch the staging. This included me and a few other wives, all the school kids and teachers, Tour Services people, technicians, artists, directors, etc.

It was such a wonderful vibe in the tent. I felt really like part of a family, welcoming a new brother. We clapped and cheered for Erik's debut. And later that day when it premiered onstage, everyone backstage crowded around the screen to watch; when the artists came offstage there was more cheering and high-fives all around.

I imagine that there was a lot of this kind of support among the artists during the creation of the show. But I wasn't there - and generally families were not allowed in. So this was a first for me, and it was really lovely. The photo here is of Nakotah, Christian, and Erik backstage just before the act.


  1. Shana - I'm so glad to hear you are falling into a cirque rythym - and it looks like the kids are happy with their new friends. All sounds great - but 12 minutes on a machine - isn't the rule a minimum of 20 to get your heart rate up??? xoxo

  2. Yeah, and the machines actually turn OFF after 12 minutes. I'm there early, the place is pretty empty, so I just restart the machine as many times as I want. (going through the Dutch menus blindly...) It's just bizarre.