Science - February 24, 2005

Couples / I knew she was trouble

This week in the series on the joys and frustrations of love affairs between students or WUR workers of different nationalities, a couple that live on the same corridor: Nell Vazquez (26, Mexican/German), MSc student Food Safety, and Kees van Dijk (26, Dutch), MSc student Meteorology.

It all started when Nell walked into the corridor of the student flat where they live, in August 2003. Nell: ‘Kees was the first person I saw. He was in the kitchen, reading the newspaper like he always does.’ Kees: ‘When I found out she was going to stay here and her boyfriend was going, I knew she was trouble. I knew we could work.’ As he was also involved in a relationship, Kees kept his distance. Nevertheless he was nice to her. Nell: ‘I still have the piece of paper with his directions for how to find the supermarket and the bank.’

Cute
The first months nothing happened. Most nights Nell chatted with her boyfriend, a Mexican/Swiss guy from Mexico, and Kees went home every weekend to his girlfriend and his job. Nell: ‘But on Valentines Day my boyfriend broke up with me. He was living in Switzerland at that point, but said our relationship could no longer work because of the distance.’ Although she was upset, Nell didn’t tell her corridor mates and concentrated on her exams. But one night she walked into Kees’ room. Nell: ‘We had a therapeutic talk. And then I thought: he’s cute.’ Kees felt the same: ‘The next day I broke up with my girlfriend. I knew what was coming. But I didn’t know it was going to last this long. It started as something physical.’ Nell agrees: ‘We didn’t know each other well, but the few times we’d sat together I told him things that I don’t easily talk about with friends.’

On-off
After a few weeks they had a break. Nell: ‘We didn’t really know how to behave as a couple. We were in the Bunker one night and he didn’t touch me at all, whereas I’m used to physical contact; I touch my friends all the time.’ They had a short argument, and walked out on each other without saying anything. Soon afterwards Kees left for a two-week holiday. When he returned Nell avoided him, but Kees persisted. Nell: ‘He’d brought me a birthday present and when I agreed to meet we got talking about what had happened and got back together.’ A few days later though Nell went to Mexico for a month. Kees: ‘I think we needed that break.’

Language
Taking the time to talk about what’s bothering them seems crucial. Like at Christmas, when they had their first big quarrel. Nell: ‘I don’t like Kees saying stupid. I think it’s rude and offensive. But we sat down and talked about it.’ Kees: ‘I didn’t know. In Dutch it’s a more common word.’ They don’t find it much of a problem that they both are using a foreign language. Nell: ‘When I’m angry it’s sometimes frustrating, as I can’t find the words in English. But at the same time that’s an advantage, because I can be quite explosive.’ She also remembers one morning, half awake, she started to speak Spanish to Kees. ‘I think it was because I felt so comfortable around him.’

Car
Although they live on the same corridor, they don’t spend every night together. Nell: ‘We don’t feel the need to sleep together every night and the rooms are quite small. But in the weekends he often puts his mattress beside my bed.’ When asked about their future they fully agree that this is it. Nell: ‘We will last. We’ve already bought a car together, fifty-fifty. For me it was a big step.’ She also shows a ring he bought her. Kees: ‘We’ll probably get married and have kids.’ Nell: ‘But not yet.’ / YdH

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