I moved to Rotterdam in 1991 when I was 19. My younger sister had just moved there the year before, and because we always were close together, I decided to also go to school in Rotterdam, this seemed a good idea, and it was. I grew up in a small place with 5000 people where not much happened besides all the things we could do in the forests everywhere. I remember little about that time, even when I look at the few pictures of the places we lived. I just remember that I was a good time living there; remembering a feeling is maybe easier than remembering facts. I do remember the little supermarket just outside the door that was open 24 hours a day; back then, most stores still closed at six, so this was special. I also remember the bike ride I took every day to the other side of the city, timing myself to go faster and faster. Being 19, I was also still unaware of my place in life. I think I did not read any books, and I have no letters or diaries from that time, so I have no clue what was going on in my mind. I went to school where you got trained as a middle management/care mechanic, but I am pretty sure that I had no specific reason for choosing that direction. After little more than a year, I quit school when I was selected for the Marines.
The test for the Marines was one of the first times I met myself. I remember that I was all nervous about the trip to where they tested you in Amsterdam. Amsterdam was an unknown city to me, we usually arrived by train, and you could walk into the city from there. Now I had to go to another part of the town, and I wanted to get on time, but traveling in a strange city bus made me nervous, not knowing where to get out. In those day’s there was no electronic sign in the bus that showed the name of the next stop, and you also had to push a button to let the driver know you wanted to get out. Just sitting in a bus, driving through unknown streets, after unknown streets, and somewhere, out there is your stop, and you have no clue (and no smartphone that tells you where you are). It seems insignificant, but this memory/feeling is engraved in me. I just wanted to be prepared; that’s why I asked the driver halfway through the trip to let me know when to get out.
The test went OK, it took two days and from the ca. hundred guy’s 2 made it and one was me. This was the second experience I had that I have never forgotten. First, the nervousness of getting out of the bus at the right stop and then being almost the only one that made it through all the tests. In most of these tests, they tested if you could stay “cool” under stress, I guess I can, as long as I don’t have to take a bus to the war.