Class of '85
February 2008

Dear Classmates:

I always felt like I sold out for not having the guts to pursue an international career, especially after studying in Vienna my junior year of Gustavus and later earning my master’s in international management (Thunderbird 1989.)  Like a lot of people I stumbled into work I enjoyed, in association management, but not what I studied.  But sometimes we get another chance―I married a Dutchman and we both loved the idea of raising bilingual children and spending some time in Holland while the kids were young enough to soak up the language.  When my husband’s job gave us the opportunity to move to Norway, we convinced them to let us live in Holland so we moved here last May.

A year ago I was working four days a week, squealing into daycare to pick up my kids right at 6:00 p.m., getting home at 6:30 p.m. and trying to throw dinner together.  My husband didn’t like to fight traffic in his commute across the metro in his big SUV (getting all of 11.5 miles to the gallon) and he usually didn’t get home until 7:30 p.m.  We didn’t have a lot of family time.

Now we live in a small town near Amsterdam in a furnished apartment with only bikes, our feet and trains for transportation.  (Doing penance for our SUV, I suppose.)  As I write I can hear the accordion of the street musician in front of the grocery store across the street.  Our apartment is extremely convenient.  While we’re just 40 minutes from Amsterdam (which has the most nationalities of any city in the world with 177!) it’s like we’re in downtown Edina across the street from Byerly’s with a liquor store beneath us and the post office around the corner and assorted other stores all very close by.  Of course nothing is open on Sunday but we rather like the enforced relaxation.  Sunday is family day again.

Our kids go to public school and are already fluent in Dutch which is a hoot.  Nearly everyone in Holland speaks English but I am trying to learn Dutch too.  My college German helps, but some of it is so similar it’s just confusing and there’s only so much room in my little brain.  I am taking a three-hour Dutch class three times a week at a nearby University.  I bike 20 minutes along a canal with ducks and swans to get there (and see the occasional horse in a field) and feel like I’m an exchange student.

In my class of 11 there are people from Armenia, Bulgaria, England, Sweden, Iraq, Turkey and Canada.  You can imagine the range of accents all trying to speak Dutch.  I apologized to the woman from Iraq for George Bush and the war (it’s why she and her family moved here a year ago).  The Eastern Europeans are the really brave ones.  Imagine moving to a country where you don’t speak the native language or English (often the second language of choice here).  Many of them didn’t finish high school in their own countries so the whole grammar thing is very difficult.  Even still, the non-North Americans are much less hesitant to speak a foreign language even if they make mistakes.  I am the uptight American, not wanting to say anything unless I can say it correctly.  I score extremely well on the written tests but the real test is everyday on the street when I can’t make a play date for my kid!  It’s kind of like Gustavus gave us the theories and the information but it’s still up to each of us to shape it to fit real life and put theory into practice.

Consequently, whereas I normally consider myself fairly educated and articulate I now have the vocabulary of a five-year-old.  As I stand outside the school waiting to pick up my kids (400 kids at the school, located on a one-lane, one way street with no parking lot!  Just a FEW bikes!), I say my few phrases in Dutch to other parents like “Have a nice weekend” or “terrible weather!” but, since I feel like it’s such a copout to speak English, I typically just don’t speak at all.  I look around and it’s me and the Muslim woman from Egypt and then all the blond Dutch parents.  The Egyptian woman is very nice but she doesn’t speak English and her Dutch is as bad as mine so it’s extremely limiting.  It’s so humbling to realize I am the immigrant mother.  The day some of my visiting American friends (Jen Deweese and her boyfriend, Clem) went with me to pick up my kids we joked around while we waited.  Everyone I painstakingly spoke pigeon Dutch with chatted away to them in English.  It was like being in a parallel universe “look, she appears to have friends!  She uses big words and speaks quickly just like a normal grown up!”  Hopefully I’ll swallow my pride and make progress with the language barrier.  Now that my son has started school I have a little time for myself and am considering a part-time job at some point.  At least I’m in the right place to find an international job!

We really don’t miss having a car although there is the day once a week where I have to ride an hour and 45 minutes between biking to my Dutch class and my daughter’s swimming lesson.  Needless to say I don’t need a health club membership(!).  Frankly as it’s so densely populated here parking and traffic congestion make having a car more hassle than it’s worth.

The rain does take some getting used to, but I’ve finally realized it’s just like Minnesota, if you have the appropriate clothing the weather doesn’t bother you.  And my rain pants make that same cute swishing sound that snow pants do.  Hard to be worried about getting older riding a bike in the rain (while swishing), it’s very therapeutic.

Our lives continue to evolve.  Some of my Gustavus friends I thought were the most ambitious don’t work at all and are quite happy.  Some, I was sure would have kids, never did for one reason or another.  I’m trying to make fewer assumptions.  I met two women in less than 24 hours recently who spoke with pronounced British accents.  I asked each of them, “Are you from England?”  The first one said “No, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) the second one said, “No, New Zealand.”  I have to get more open minded!

Real life is sloppy.  It doesn’t fit between neat lines delineating black and white or past and future.  If nothing else we want our kids to learn to be flexible, that people may look different and speak different languages, but fundamentally we’re all the same and you just need to search for the common ground and celebrate the differences.

And hey, if both George Macaulay and Steve Bonesho can become ministers anything is possible!  Here’s to following your dreams, helping nurture those of your children, and the kid in you.  Make a change, take a class, call an old friend, shake up your routine, get out of your comfort zone and if you happen to come this way, drop me a line!

Class News

  • Angie Blomberg is a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers in New York.  Julie Dee Weisenhorn is an associate extension professor and director of the state Master Gardener Program at the University of Minnesota.  Bret Smith is an associate professor of physiology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
  • Randall Richert is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and is deputy chief, Security Forces Operations Division, Directorate of Installations and Mission Support, HQ Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.  His staff organizes, trains and equips all the security forces (basically military police and the USAF’s infantry force) for air mobility command at 12 continental U.S. active duty bases and 60 air reserve component gained units.  Randall graduated from USAF Officer Training School in 1987 and has earned two master’s degrees during his career.  He’s also managed to play a fair amount of football all over the world.
  • Pamela Conrad Greene has completed three half marathons and plans to run the international marathon in California in April 2009.  Bruce Gullikson was the winner of the Frank Voight Tennis Professional of the Year for the U.S. Tennis Association in 2007.  He is currently making two tennis instruction DVDs.
  • Teri Van Meter Roberts is a consumer affairs specialist with ConAgra Foods in Omaha, NE.  Mark Hennings works for RBC Dain Rauscher.  Kristine Beske Estenson is working with the Center for Experiential Learning at St. Olaf.  Lisa Koenig Wolff is a program support assistant with ISD 196.  Amy Swedberg Hinrichs completed a master’s degree in March 2007 and has started a doctoral program.  She teaches cyber English.

Campus News

Forensics Team Continues Excellence

The Gustavus forensics team continues the tradition of excellence, with major team and individual wins this season.  Last season the team ranked in the top 20, which is impressive since 14 of the top 20 schools are “Division I” schools that have more funding and more coaching staff.  While many schools have several full-time forensics coaches, the Gustavus coach also is a full-time professor.  So a unique aspect of the Gustavus program is the team meets weekly for peer coaching, a technique the team has found to be very successful. 

Twin Cities Gustie Breakfasts

Join other Minneapolis/St. Paul area Gusties for a once-a-month morning cup of coffee and breakfast while getting an update on Gustavus. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy. 394 & Hwy. 100), 8:00-9:30 a.m., $10 per person.  Reserve by calling Don Swanson ’55 at 763/533-9083.  Next upcoming speaker will be on Wednesday, February 20.

Gustavus Dancing With the Profs

Inspired by the popular television show Dancing with the Stars, a standing room only crowd of students, faculty, and St. Peter community members filled Alumni Hall on November 2 to watch Gustavus students and faculty/staff members swing dance to raise money for the St. Peter United Way.  The event, “Dancing with the Profs 2,” featured six teams of one Gustavus student and one faculty/staff member.  In preparation for the evening competition, the Gustavus Swing Club gave the teams dance lessons, while members of GAC-TV documented the learning to provide a video showcase on each couple.

Alumni Insurance Programs

The Alumni Association sponsors insurance products for alumni, spouses, children, and parents.  Products include life insurance, auto, home and renters insurance, and short-term medical insurance to fill temporary needs of new alumni without insurance after graduation and others who may have gaps due to unemployment.  For information about life and short-term medical insurance, call 800-635-7801.  For information about auto, home, and renters insurance, call:  800-524-9400, (800-328-0705, ext. 552 in the Greater Twin Cities area).

Gustavus Music Showcase

The three international touring music ensembles at Gustavus Adolphus College — The Gustavus Choir, the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, and the Gustavus Wind Orchestra —  will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 9 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.  Tickets for the concert are on sale through the Orchestra Hall box office and may be purchased in-person, online at:  www.minnesotaorchestra.org/boxoffice/, and via fax or phone at 612-371-5656.  Tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for children ages 6-18 and current Gustavus students with a valid I.D.

College Relations blog

Gustavus College Relations staff has introduced a new blog that will offer commentary and news on a variety of topics pertinent to the campus community as well as some photography, video, and audio content.  During the month of January the blog will feature the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra’s China tour and observations on several January Interim classes.  The new blog can be read at:  www.collegerelations.blog.gustavus.edu.

Athletics

Men's tennis coach Steve Wilkinson has been named the national winner of the United States Tennis Association (USTA)/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Campus Recreation Award.  This awards program, which began in 2003, was open to more than 2,000 ITA head and assistant coaches at the NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, NAIA and junior/community college levels.  Senior goaltender Trevor Brown became the first men's soccer player in Gustavus history to be named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Men’s Soccer Team as released by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Martha (Molly Barnes) ten Sythoff

mtensythoff@hotmail.com

1985 Guest Writer