Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Height ain't nothing but a number.

I move my step a little to the right. I still can’t see the instructor. So, I try moving it to the left. Still a no go. I’m in the back of the room. That is only half the problem. In any class I have taken since childhood I have gotten in the habit of being in the back of the room. Not because I don’t want to pay attention but as a way of being polite to the rest of the class. The norm is that if I’m in the front I’m blocking everyone’s view. In my belly dancing class in Kyrgyzstan I stood in the back of the room and over 30 bodies could still see myself in the mirror in the front, even if I couldn’t see the instructor.
It’s different in my new step aerobics class. Dutch/Fries people are tall! There are approximately 20 women in my class and I am only taller than two of them. And these two are Marshal Plan survivors! They didn’t get all their vitamins growing up. Also, they are currently in that stage of life where you are shrinking.

For the first time in my life I’m not tall. I’m not short either, I’m just average. I don’t tower over all other women. I have even gotten a slight crick in my neck while talking to some of the other women at the gym. On average Dutch people are the tallest in the world. The standards here are different.
While in Leiden visiting my British friend Sarah got touchy one night when I wouldn’t declare here to be tall. At 5’6 maybe 5’7ISH she wouldn’t be considered tall in the rest of the world. How could she expect me to tell she is tall here in The Netherlands. I ended up yielding on the fact that she was not short, but she defiantly wasn’t tall. She was average. I am a good 7 inches taller than here and somehow we are now both being declared average.

When we were in a jazz bar I commented on how some of these girls are just excessively tall. Sarah asked I was referring to a girl standing next to the bar. I looked over at her. Yeah, yeah… she is too tall! Sarah looked her up and down then looked at me. She informed me that she thought I might be taller than the woman. Holding my Heineken I slowly backed toward the woman and back to back with her. Sarah came over to judge the situation. She told me that I was in fact a good inch or two taller than the woman.
I was confused the woman seemed to tower over the crowd. Then I slowly realized that I was taller then they crowd. I noticed that even though we were in the back of the bar I could clearly see the performers in the front. How could this be? I’m not tall anymore, I’m average. I glanced over the crowded and the answer came to me. Most of the people in the bar were internationals. Students who had come to Leiden from all over the world. These weren’t local tallies, they were foreign shorties. For the rest of the night I relished in my resumed status as tall. I was able to reach over people to get another drink from the bar. I examined the musical instruments that hung high on the ceiling. I looked over peoples shoulders as they played trivial pursuit on a video game machine. I was tall! Then like Cinderella we left at midnight and went back out into the world where I was returned to my lowly status as average.


  1. Anonymous said...

    I guess I would be average there too....even though I'm not as tall as you, I'm still pretty tall for a girl.
    I would love to visit the land of jolly green giants soon!
    Love ya

  2. becky said...

    when i was in amsterdam in july, i noticed all the tall women, too! i felt short there.