On Tuesday I was reminded about one of my very favorite things about the Netherlands. Granted, there’s some stiff competition: cool weather, clean air (crystal clear, relative to Taiwan), daffodils (no, not tulips – you see daffodils in vast swathes beside the road, but only a few tulips here and there. They’re either less hardy or more expensive.), restaurant menus I can (mostly) read….

There are some unfavorite things as well, like having someone tell you he can’t come to a meeting because 4:30 is too late in the day, or having someone reargue all sides of an issue you thought was finally closed, or having all the shops closed by the time I leave work every day (which, come to think of it, makes sense of people wanting to leave early!!).

But back to favorites: I think my very favorite thing of all is the part where people ask me to come row and race with them. You have no idea how gratifying this is, after many years of “Who else can we get to fill our quad? Not Paula, she’s too little.” It’s funny; you’d think that would be more of a problem here int he Netherlands where people are taller, but it really isn’t. Maybe people just take height more for granted here and don’t think much about it.

So I’ve been asked to race in a quad in November; stroke is L, who won the Skiffhead (very big race!) in the Master A category this year, R in three is extremely powerful, M in two seat is stroke’s doubles part (they did well this year in the Tweehead and the Skøll Cup). And me. Yikes!

Generally, stroke seat sets the pace that everyone else follows, so you want a strong rowing with good technique and good timing there. The middle seats are the ‘engine room’ of the boat, and since the frontmost rowers have most effect on the set, you want a good technical rower there to keep the boat level. So no one expects me to be the powerhouse of the boat, but on the other hand those are only minor distinctions – every rower in the boat needs to be contributing to the overall power, timing and thus speed of the boat. So I have from now to November to build up my strength and endurance to where I can keep up with the other three, and to get my technique back to where it used to be (or better, of course).

I went out in a single yesterday, with M & L, also in singles, and a coach (the wife of Ted’s Dutch rowing partner). It was great! Nice weather – the worst problem was the setting sun in our eyes. I’d never worked with this woman as a coach before, and she was even better than I expected; I knew she was very knowledgeable, but there’s a difference between knowing what the problems are and being able to communicate them in a way that will help the rower to fix them. Also, for an adult rower, or at least this particular one, it’s important to pay attention to what the rower knows and can feel herself, and she did that. So now I have a couple of things to work on myself (being on the water about 10 times in two years is not particularly good for your technique, though at least I had the erg to train on) and I’ll meeet with her again in a week or two.