‘If you need something here, it is there for you,’ she says, recalling with frustration her own university in Italy. ‘All that waiting. The queues. If it wasn’t for the terrible weather here, I would never leave. And the mountains – I miss them too. The Netherlands ought to be located in southern Europe.’ I sigh. ‘Your endless pining for the mountains. Just wait until you’ve seen the Wadden Sea.’
And there we were, walking over an expanse of mudflat in – thank goodness – lovely weather. She talks for hours about seals, shells and the gorgeous weather; the word ‘mountain’ seems to have been deleted from her vocabulary. The Netherlands: heaven on earth.
Suddenly there is a scream: ‘Stijn!’ Startled, I look behind me. She is up to her knees in the mud. I pull her out forcefully. ‘Ow, ow, ow,’ she yells. The pain gets worse in the weeks that follow. Walking gets harder every day but the GP doesn’t want to do anything. ‘A scan? No, we don’t do that here in the Netherlands just like that,’ he says after five weeks.
A visit to the physiotherapist is fruitless too. ‘Sorry, I can’t do anything for you. You need a scan. Oh, your GP doesn’t want to do one? I’ll give him a call. (…) Sorry, your GP really doesn’t want to.’
She switches to another GP. ‘A scan? I think that’s a good idea. I’ll make an appointment for you.’ She goes to the MRI department. ‘You have an appointment? Well, something’s gone wrong somewhere. There is nothing in our system.’
‘You know what?’ she says as she limps home. ‘You can keep the mountains at the moment, but in other ways I’m really missing Italy. All that waiting, all those queues. But at least in the end someone comes along who is really willing to help you.’