I believe that we experience a place in relation to other places. It can be small or big, close or far, alternative or mainstream only if set against some term of comparison. When visiting other cities I put them in relation to each other and to my current experience of Wageningen.
On Saturday I was off to Maastricht. When living in Maastricht I used to think of it as a small city where most DJ's should be hanged and quite a few people should learn how to speak proper English. These days, though, Maastricht does not seem so provincial anymore. It seems now that people dress and talk so charmingly. Meeting fellow graduates from my former faculty, one is busy developing a new type of camera which can produce three-dimensional pictures. Another is writing a book comparing Korean and Finnish education. Unexpected horizons, multiple possibilities. The river Meuse brings a breath of fresh air and open space to my senses, similar to the stillness of the Wageningen landscape.
On Sunday I left Maastricht to London. Definitely scaling up. I visited my friend at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. In the hall, a Japanese guy declares the end of the world a couple days a week. Feminists of all genders and post-colonial studies students of all colours line up for a free lunch provided by Hare Krishna people. My friend lives forty minutes away from his faculty. Not walking, not biking, but by underground. Beat that 'far', Wageningers.
After the radical chic talents of Maastricht and the cosmopolitan charm of London, Wageningen appears greyer and narrower. Then, serendipitously, the memory of a beetle green jacket against the orange brick wall of Forum, the warmth of an old-fashioned gas stove. I realize that a place is what you make of its space and of the connections you establish.
Now I’ve got chickens in the yard. Beat that, Londoners.