Steve Edwards' website

Home Page

The Netherlands


Working at a bakery in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 2004 —

I first went to the Netherlands in May of 2000, and lived there, in Amsterdam, until December of that year.

In the summer of 2003 I met a Dutch girl in Ireland, where I was living, and returned to NL, to Nijmegen, that September.

I went back to Ireland in March of 2004, but returned to Nijmegen a month later, where I stayed until January of 2005.

On the "Second Day of Easter" (Tweede Paasdag,) just after I'd returned from Kilkenny Ireland, I walked past the bakery where I had worked until just a few weeks earlier. I'd left for reasons difficult to explain, and couldn't stay away.

The bakery was closed for the holiday, but I saw the owner through the front window. I went around back, and he brought me in.

Glad to see him, and he me, I found I could work there again, guaranteed a few hours per week. Arend also introduced another potential for me, one that suggested I may find a solution to the dilemma I'd been in.

Arend told me that there was a chance that his partner would be going to nursing school in September. In this case, he would need to spend more time taking care of their two infant children. He would need somebody to work more hours in the bakery, doing the early-morning bread shift.

The opportunity that this presented to me, the one that Arend suggested, was that I could apply by means of employment for a legal status in the country. It would be a rather rigorous process of application, of course, with no guarantee of success. But he suggested and I agreed that we would proceed to train me in for the position, and at the right time would go through the bureaucratic process of application.

The training was long and slow, and not really conducive to my way of learning. I would prefer to be given a responsibility as early as possible, and be required to fulfill that duty — learning by doing, as soon as it's minimally feasible. This training consisted of two early-morning shifts per week, working in coordination with either himself or the other morning baker.

I could never get the hang of it. I could never feel "this is mine to do," and do it. I could never think straight. Might have had much to do with my conflictive emotions about K_, or the fact ultimately that i did not feel a belonging in Holland. I like the country; but it's not always a comfortable place for me. You could think that maybe I was smoking too much; but I wasn't. I was moderate, using maybe a gram per week.

In any case, I never "got it." Arend was not always encouraging nor complimentary about my work, but I think in some general way the situation just never seemed entirely workable for me. I guess in some ways I felt my position becoming somewhat "beholden;" I'd be locked into an obligation to an employer who could enable my legality. It was to be a big commitment, and would entail reliance upon the goodwill of another. With no disparagement to the goodheartedness of Arend, the feeling of dependence upon an employer is anathema to my tendencies and preferences.

We did proceed to apply for my legal employment and residence in the country.

The first step in the process was to satisfy the CWI, the national employment agency. They needed to believe that I was the best candidate for the position; and they needed to know why an American ought to be hired in preference to a baker from within the European Union.

This was a difficult proposition, but one that could be finessed, in theory.

In the end, we did receive a work-permit for me, but one that was valid only for a half-year, and attached with several conditions — which, to be fair to Arend and his decision, were fairly onerous.

Arend decided not to avail of the chance to legalize me on such a temporary and conditional basis. I was angry with him at the time, but later understood his decision better.