When we Met (1)
(or how our story began)
Steve and I met almost 33 years ago, in The Hague, at the place we both worked. He arrived there a couple of months before me and the last thing we both expected, was to find each other.
I was 18 years old and sort of fresh out of school, when I left for The Hague, for my first job. It was a large Christian foundation, mostly voluntary based. I say mostly, because we did get some ‘pocket money’, next to free housing and 3 meals a day. I already told you a bit about this before, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much 🙂
This foundation was broadly based and included many departments, from writing, editing and printing books as well as a monthly magazine, recording cassette and video tapes (yes, it was that time), to distributing and selling it all in their own bookstore. They did not only own the office building, but also the whole block which it was a part, of as well as a block across the street, including an old movie theatre, where services were held. Apart from a couple of reserved apartments for (international) guests, most employees were housed there, which meant maintaining the lot was their responsibility too.
Next to that, they had a network of 13 churches throughout the land, which were not all small ones either: including kitchens, Sunday school rooms, their own video / tech rooms etc. To top it off, they also had a large orphanage in Indonesia. I guess that sums it up, though I might be forgetting something. In short: they needed a lot of people, to keep it all going.
It was expected you would be flexible towards your position, which meant, we both switched positions several times. Steve was a plumber, carpenter, electrician, technician, part of the band and part of the video team. All Sunday services, as well as most special services, were recorded – they were pretty progressive for that time – and broadcasted via their own channel.
I started as the ‘canteen girl’, became the main hostess – which meant cleaning not only the office, but also all the rooms for guests, as well as stocking them properly – helped in the grand kitchen, worked at the audio department and ended as the receptionist at the welcoming desk. On Sundays I would be one of the Sunday school teachers too. We were there for about 2 years, so you can imagine, that by the time I got used to one job, I had to move to another. And here I am, previously telling you I’m still having a hard time switching gears sometimes 😂
When I arrived, Steve was working as a printer in the basement, where the printing department was housed. As mentioned, I started as the ‘canteen girl’, which came down to serving coffee and tea, throughout the whole building, which was 3 stories high, the ‘old fashioned way’. There were no coffee vending machines, we had 2 large kettles in which I prepared the coffee and tea. I then proceeded to divide half of it over several thermos, place them on a cart, together with al other necessities and got on my way throughout the building, serving everybody at their desk.
It took me some time to get everyone’s coffee or tea wishes just right – though my predecessor left a pretty endless list – and maneuvering the cart without completely destroying something. At the start it was also a lot of fun – Not – when I had to go all the way back, because I forgot something.
It certainly had its benefits: I got to meet everyone at least twice a day and entered every office department, as where I would normally have no reason to go there. Fortunately there were 2 elevators, less fortunate was the carpeting, which was sure to cause many electric shock when touching doors – which were many – on my way…😣. However, I was one of the few, who was able to roam ‘freely’, through the building.
All non-office departments, which of course included the printing department, were allowed to go to the canteen for their breaks and have their coffee / tea, there. The big kettles with the remaining coffee and tea, were neatly placed, so they were able to serve themselves at the counter.
Our meals were also served in the large canteen, which was fun – well, the food wasn’t always – and gave everybody the opportunity to get to know each other. There were people from all over the world and the comings and goings were something of a daily occurrence. I have some really fun memories of sharing meals with my colleagues. It was during those shared meals, the person who directed the art and theatre department, asked me if I would be interested in taking part in their plays, mentioned in Mix and (-game-set-) Match.
Steve was asked to take care of the lighting, because some of these plays were pretty huge – though we would also perform in a smaller group in, for example, prisons – and ended during holidays on the stage of Congresgebouw (now World Forum), The Hague. Thinking back I still can hardly believe I actually acted on one of the largest theatre stages of The Netherlands, where we would perform once per year. The experience was something else, ultimately leading to a leading part as a witch – yes that’s right! It was absolutely one of the most fun things that happened to me while working there.
The one thing people recognized me from off-stage (where I of course I wore this crazy, self designed outfit and took it to a whole other level 😉), was the same thing Steve tried to catch during a working day: My Laugh. All you peeps who know me in real life, know my laugh is not a shy, contained one, nu-uh. Steve told me, he could hear my laugh over the noise of the printing machines, if I was near enough, sometimes – that’s some skill right there! – and it made him laugh too.
One of the ‘rules’, the foundation (tried) to maintain: they wouldn’t ‘allow’ coworkers to start a relationship. Their reasoning: ‘When you decide to come work with us, you dedicate your life for at least 2 years to the work’ (and this was all with a Christian outlook, to reach people around the world). That meant, no distractions in form of relationships, which could go wrong and ended in people leaving before their time was fulfilled. Apparently, this had happened before. And in all fairness, I agreed to that, since I was not planning on starting a relationship of that kind anytime soon and I did come there with some calling in my heart. But ya can’t plan life now, can ya.
It goes without saying we failed to adhere to that rule. We started to get to know each other during shared meals and quickly found out there was at least one thing that we had in common: our love for and taste in, music. Having never before found a lot of people who shared the same taste, that was a real winner from the start. And though I never was a musician myself, Steve actually was a professional before he came to The Hague and even played many of the songs I so loved.
Where I couldn’t believe his age at that time, he couldn’t believe the place I grew up in, actually existed, since he never heard of it, ever. Well, that wasn’t a real surprise 😂, since it was just a little village way in the north of our little country. The only thing that could speak for it, was the fact it was named after some Russian princess, from the 18th century. As far as I know, that is now obsolete, because the whole region was renamed. Aah, well.
Since we were fairly close to the coast – Scheveningen – we sometimes walked all the way there, just to get away from everything. Another nightly walk, was to the city, which was not much shorter, but more lively as you can imagine. You see, it wasn’t just the working week, during the weekends, we were mostly busy too, during services or some other gathering. Us spending free time together and getting closer didn’t stay unnoticed very long. As in all working environments, keeping things secret is pretty much impossible, not that we tried that hard…
And so it happened one day – it was the beginning of a new week – Steve came to me, saying: ‘I want to speak to you this coming Thursday, I need to ask you something’. Ooh, well..Okay… During that time I still suffered from migraines sometimes and whadaya know: that Thursday my head was about to burst from it. The anticipation got to me haha, having a pretty fair idea of what he was about to ask and not a hundred percent sure how to answer. Mind you, by then we knew each other only just 3 months…
We went to Scheveningen straight from work, it was a nice, warm day – which didn’t really help my headache 🙄 – and sat down at the beach. With a lovely little flower bouquet in hand, he went down on one knee and proposed to me. Aaaw, isn’t that just the sweetest! But now I had to answer…I told him I couldn’t say Yes, yet, but I surely wasn’t going to say No either. I felt I shouldn’t be jumping into marriage like that – which was not my heart but my brain speaking, it still does that sometimes – He understood, though he emphasized, it was clear to him, I was the One and he had no trouble waiting for me to be ready to say yes. Well, that was the second sweetest thing ever.
Romantic as the evening would seem, after that we hurried back, because my headache was pretty much ruining the whole thing for me and I needed to lay down. Funny though, it just makes me remember the event even better and we still laugh about it now: always ending with the same joke in different variations, but coming down to: I was so ‘happy’ he proposed, I got sick only thinking he was about to ask me haha.
There was no way we would keep that a secret and soon we experienced opposition from management, seeing as we weren’t allowed to be together… Without wanting to get into it too much, I will just say they tried everything to keep us apart and most of it could be described as manipulation. Through it all, we only got to know each other better and I got truly convinced we were made for each other. So we stood our ground, believing and declaring: we did not anticipate finding a partner and being adults, we needed to make our own choices, especially one as important as choosing your partner for life.
It wasn’t always easy – as I talked about a little in Choose to let Loose – but we stuck together and to our beliefs. It was truly encouraging to see many of our colleagues were happy for us and sharing in our joy as well as in their support in our ‘conflict’ with management. Afterwards we said, we might have stayed longer, would they have just given us the chance to show and accept, we were not just in it for our own fun, we did come there to make a difference.
We took it slow and got engaged about a year after we met, on the same date my parents had their 25th anniversary, the 16th of October. We planned to get married the year after that and all that time, we showed our commitment to the work, but it wasn’t enough. That’s basically where we first learned that believing in the same God – or so people say – is not a guarantee, you’ll actually agree on things. It’s the way we experience things and ultimately, the way we believe things are meant to be. Free will and all that.
It’s why we always strive to not judge, or display any kind of attitude that smells of superiority. It’s why we really, really, don’t like fake people and we got even more convinced, we need to be true to ourselves. If one does believe in an almighty God, fooling Him wouldn’t ever work anyway now would it? One of the biggest, if not The Biggest, change in my life had started, When we Met.
To be Continued… (you have No Idea, how much I wanted to use that)
Wishing y’all a very lovely weekend, I miss your faces ❤