That time we hitchhiked across the border

On Friday, we woke up at an ungodly hour to catch the metro to Amstel Station. We had a mission. It was to attend the ESN Sound Festival and return with 81 photos (courtesy of three disposable cameras) and some exceptional memories. We recognised that it was (1) a festival (2) ERASMUS-organised so our expectations were quite low, but we went there filled with optimism. The unsanitary conditions would be forgiven with awesome music; the sleepless nights would be compensated with a fantastic atmosphere.

We were wrong on both accounts. The game had changed.

We were no longer in a quirky forest with over five hundred exchange students across Europe listening to great music. We were in a forest on the outskirts of a ghost town with the weirdest architecture ever, with about one hundred exchange students across Spain and France, listening to talented individuals… but whose music failed to inspire even a foot tap.

We tried, and tried, to enthuse ourselves but to no avail. Seven hours into the festival, we joked about hitchhiking back to Amsterdam.

Four hours later, we retreated to the sleeping areas where we conversed with a few other people who found the music to be entirely atrocious (and the mosquitoes to be quite persistent). We had forgot to pack a deck of playing cards because, bless our souls, we thought we’d be having far too much fun to bother with such things. With a playlist of Queen and Beyoncé, we had our own little Whine and Dine party.

(We dined on gum.)

“This is a spiral of depression,” said self-titled Dutch Guy referring to our group set-up. “Can you not be a little bit more optimistic?”

“There is unflushed shit in the toilet,” a Bulgarian noted.

After a few more notable examples, Dutch Guy resignedly joined our corner. Our ability to bring people down with us was quite surprising, and our woe was shared with approximately… everyone we talked to. We had grown from three to twelve in an hour. Our music was applauded.

Aaaaand then it started. The crazy Spaniards — prompting Sara to apologise on behalf of her country — and the equally crazy French — prompting Lucie to express her desire to break someone’s nose — came to the sleeping areas with a football microphone in hand. We should have known then.

But we remained optimistic.

At 3 AM, all semblance of optimism had vanished into vapours of profanity and frustration. There was a period wherein I was half-asleep, half-translating torrents of Spanish in my head (it’s quite easy when the word of choice is puta). There was a mix of both French and Spanish abuse being hurled at both camps. Lots of President Hollande! President Hollande! and, for some strange reason, USA USA USA!

A few people in our area made the mistake of having faith in drugged out festival goers, asking them to please be quiet; this only encouraged louder shouting, singing and some odious troll to continually open and close our door whilst shouting out a few insults.



Olé, Olé, Olé!

“We are going home tomorrow”

It was increasingly hard to summon the strength to block them out; our frustration morphed into anger and turned into resignation by about 7 AM when we could finally, finally, drift off to sleep.

We were awoken at 10 AM by a noisy crew member who opened the doors, yelled at everyone to wake up, and issued out a verbal warning. The water fountain outside was broken; the floor was littered; drug paraphernalia was abound; they had played with the fire extinguisher and hose; they were exceedingly noisy. The festival organisers were not impressed that the house rules had been so flippantly broken. There were a few disgruntled comments about the lack of enforcement a few beds behind me.

When the crew member left, Sara translated a few of the comments:

“I don’t give a shit!”

“We’re going home tomorrow anyway.”

“Tonight is going to be insane. Let’s be even worse.”

At their objections to the house rules (quite basic, really: no drugs, no violence, quiet in the sleeping areas &c.), Sara made a perfect observation: “They’re complaining about the festival and the rules, but that doesn’t explain why they’re assholes.”

At 11 AM, we were packed and ready to go. Our hitchhiking three had grown into the Hitchhiking 6. We made our signs and bid adieu to the cows. We headed out into… Bree.

After the first half hour at the petrol station, and the honking Belgians who waved but didn’t stop, we were feeling quite despondent about the whole situation. Erdi relinquished the asking to the females of the groups because “it would be better”. We took a few straight-up rejections with parting half-Flemish, half-English advice. But then an NL registration pulled into the station; the driver opened his door and walked out towards us.



He looked at our signs (Weert/Eindhoven, Amsterdam, and one simply titled: The Netherlands) and then pointedly gestured to Weert. “I can take you to Weert. Not Eindhoven.” He looked at our group, opened the doors, and helped us put our bags in the boot.

And I would just like to pause this entry right here to proclaim that this guy? NICEST MAN IN EUROPE. His presence in Belgium-land led to a question of whether he spoke French or not — in which case, at least one of us could offer him conversation — but he gave a hearty laugh and gave a cheerful, “Nee!” He spoke Dutch and Flemish, but managed to converse with us in broken English. Essentially, he drives to Belgium because the petrol is twenty cents cheaper than the Netherlands. Despite our limited conversation, he ended up driving us the additional 30 KM to Eindhoven.

See what I mean? Sweet man.

By half three, we were in Amsterdam. I got home, collapsed onto the sofa, showered, made hot food, then took a really long nap.

Tiring weekend.