The Swarm

I am sitting in Schipol airport, about to board a ridiculously long flight to Australia. My sister is getting married in about a week, and I am ditching school and the northern hemisphere in order to go get drunk with relatives. I’m also taking a road trip to see my friends from university, and go on a café crawl with them. They know how much I can eat, and won’t judge me when I throw myself with abandon into a day-long brunch involving multiple locations and far too many chai lattes.

My friends here in the Netherlands have had to put up with me randomly rambling about foods they’ve never heard of that I will eat in places they will probably never visit. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have been punctuating conversations with statements like “I’m going home in x number of days”.  Naturally I’ve been thinking about how I will describe my life here in a more evocative way than “pretty standard really” and how to give an idea of my friends here in a more accurate way than “yeah, they’re pretty cool”. And seeing as there is a possibility that I will be jet-lagged out of my mind and too busy eating to talk properly, I decided that mumbling “see the blog post” might be a more efficient and eloquent way of providing this information.

So here we have it:

B’s Helpful Guide to The Swarm*
*Aka her circle of friends.

The Stone Duck

The Stone Duck is a bona fide Dutchie, and exhibits many of the traits of this nationality. The primary one being a total lack of physical expressiveness. When the Duck decides to rearrange his facial features as a method of social interaction, he inevitably chooses to create the duck face. This can signify anything from greeting to agreement to disapproval. We’re never really sure. He is in possession of a great deal of sarcasm and a passion for really bizarre pop music.

The Wren

It’s a miracle that this delicate little creature can support the weight of the massive pile of books and scores she is regularly seen lugging around. She eats like a bird and is tipsy after half a glass of wine, but dances with as much enthusiasm as I do, so I can forgive her inability to consume an entire pizza unassisted. She’s a romantic at heart, naming her bike Juliette. Though she’s not nearly as bold as that star-crossed lover in her own romantic life, usually sending “signals” that cause her hours of angst, but are so subtle as to go completely unnoticed.

La Chatte Titane

In the case of La Chatte, the lyrics “I am titanium” are quite literal. An impressive combination of human and machine, she affectionately refers to herself as Robocop. She is able to provide the inner monologues of the cats that frequent one of our favourite cafés and is obsessed with Candy Crush. Her patience for wrong notes or bad conducting are about on a par with mine, which makes us entertaining, if tactless choir members. She can drink me under the table, but while doing so has the uncanny ability to appear completely sober.

The Oracle

The Oracle is an authentic Greek fount of wisdom. He’s the guy that you turn to for insights on how to negotiate tricky situations, for advice on how to organise your studies, and for beautifully written letters of recommendation. Basically, when life gives you lemons you go to the Oracle and exchange them for chocolate and ice cream. He’s also way too good at the werewolf game, every time he’s a wolf the village is doomed.

The Flying Tiger

Like all members of the Felidae family, the Flying Tiger thoroughly enjoys sleeping, and is very good at it. His definition of happiness is owning a dog (typical feline superiority) and he watches the scariest films ever made for their comedic value. He also has a particular and much appreciated talent for looking after Bs that have been incapacitated by viral plague. In his eyes the worst offence that one can commit is not eating breakfast, closely followed by not wearing a scarf.

The Rose

Rose is perhaps the only other human on earth that claims to go as red as I do when exercising. On numerous occasions we have vowed to work out together in order to have a beetroot face buddy, but seeing as we share the same level of enthusiasm for physical exertion, this is yet to happen. Rose is also one of the most generous and warm people I’ve ever met, and regularly uses her incredible Dutch phone voice to liaise on my behalf with the Dutch equivalent of Centrelink. On any given day, the Rose and the Wren can be found harmonising Disney songs. In public.

Sense and Sensibility

When I first met these two, I wasn’t sure we were going to get along. The first conversation we had included the sentence: “Oh, our house is an accident just waiting to happen. For a start, the distance between the hob and the boiler doesn’t meet British regulations.” Now read that again, with a soft London accent. A pigeon hole started to form, and when it was mentioned that one of them had studied at Cambridge, the box was immediately filled with pigeon. (Thanks to Tim Minchin for the metaphor). Or perhaps more accurately with eagle, because these two birds have completely defied the British stereotype I allocated to them. Sense is zany and plain spoken, and not at all as “correct” as I expected her to be. Sensibility has the endearing habit of bringing a mini kettle to school in order to have an endless supply of tea. They each have a large helping of good old fashioned British pragmatism, which after I brought a broken washing machine resulted in me washing my clothes at their place for a time. Nothing cements friendship like seeing someone wash their knickers. Jolly good, what!

The Slashie and the Trailblazer

If there was a Zoolander style slashie award for nationalities, I would award it to this guy. South African/Portuguese. Being two antipodean peas in a pod, we take every opportunity to tease or insult the other and play one-upmanship with the other’s existence. The Slashie is also rather fond of extremely dark humour, a trait he shares with his mitigating other half, the Trailblazer. In addition to being an extremely supportive and lovely friend, the Trailblazer has also done every unorthodox thing I propose doing in my studies, thus setting an extremely convenient precedent to reference when the powers that be provide equivocal answers to my requests. The Trailblazer can also eat as much as me, for which I am eternally grateful when out for dinner with other girls, particularly the Wren.

The Mafia

The Portuguese Mafia are loud, irreverent and numerous. They act like magnets for each other, if you’re with one others will turn up in the vicinity before long. They lament the quality of the food and cost of living in Holland, and resent being compared to the Spanish or Italians. They probably have many more topics of conversation, but it all occurs in Portuguese. As previously observed, they will play with any source of fire, or lacking an establishment provided flame, will attempt to create one of their own.


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