Stijn van Gils

Column: The Dutch

So there I was, up a mountain and unprepared. Because I had to spend the past few months counting aphids, my summer holiday was somewhat delayed. But now, after working for a week with a Spanish research group, I am on holiday at last. My Spanish colleagues praised the Dutch export of expertise. ‘The Dutch…
Stijn van Gils

But now I’m on holiday. Ahead of me walks a stocky, athletically built man with a dog. I have trouble keeping up with him and sometimes have to run a bit. ‘I could show you the mountains,’ the man had said when I rented a room from him. I was surprised by his offer. My holiday house landlord is blind as a bat.

I look down, feeling slightly nauseous. ‘This is a nice place for bouldering,’ says my landlord, as his dog guides him along the ravine at speed. I watch open-mouthed as he steps nimbly over loose rocks. It turns out that my guide has been walking these mountains blind his whole life long: he partly earns his living from climbing competitions.

Hours later we begin the descent. ‘This is always a boring bit,’ comments my landlord as we reach the valley. Suddenly a tall man appears in front of us. A Dutchman. ‘You can’t see very well?’ he asks, pointing at the white stick. ‘I don’t see anything. But this is my guide dog, and I guide him,’ pointing at me. I nod. The Dutchman shakes his head. ‘Be careful,’ he said in a tone that implies that my guide is not just blind but mentally handicapped too. He informs me that he knows the area well and that ‘this is really irresponsible’. ‘Fuck off, fuck off!’ I think as I smile and thank him for his expertise.

The Dutch get everywhere, and everyone knows them.’

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