Life Story Interview of Bethany Tinsley
Megan A. Hayes
University of Southern Maine
For some reason when I was born, the hospital where my parents were supposed to take me wasn’t, it didn’t have space or something, so they had to go to like the other side of the tracks hospital and they said that they knew for sure that I was definitely their baby because there could be no mistaking it as they looked out over the sea of babies that were possible, I was the only white one. So, there is no mistake about mix-ups at the hospital.
We lived in Cleveland. My parents were 26, I think, when they had me and they, at that point, my dad had gone to business school and he was working for McKinsey, a consulting firm, although I know that probably still at that point, my mom…my dad and my mom, thought that they were headed for politics in Ohio at that point. My mom thought she would be mayor of the um, like the mayor’s wife in Cleveland or something.
What else do I know about Cleveland? We only lived there for two and a half years so obviously I don’t have a ton of memories except for what was told to me. But I can remember, my first memory that I can see in my mind’s eye is of being with my dad’s grandmother (I think that’s right), Maama we called her. She would always take me to look at the big dogs that lived next door. Like, I don’t know. I think I could see it from my bedroom or something. I just have a very big memory that I know what that room looks like. On the other hand, you wonder sometimes if like people tell you these stories growing up and you just create a little scene where that happened and so that’s what you remember. So, I don’t know. And everything else is mostly from pictures like looking through family photos and stories. [Portion of interview cut].
What else? When we moved to Holland, well first we moved to Denmark for a few months while we were looking for a house in Holland and my dad had a lot of clients in Denmark so it was the right place to be. And I think my mom was pregnant with James at that point. I was two and a half, three-ish. And, I don’t know, apparently I was very, I don’t know, I would just like go up and talk to anybody. I mean we lived in a hotel or like rented an apartment or something, and I would just like go up and down the hallway with my tricycle and say hello to anyone I could find. I didn’t, I mean I spoke sort of English, but I was sort of…I just remember not having any trouble speaking to anyone. You know? Like with little kids I would just sort of, at three years old it doesn’t matter what you speak. You know? You just play. Having a kind of ease around that. What else do I remember? Nothing else about Denmark.
[My dad] was still working for McKinsey as a business management consultant, which he did for eighteen years so all of our moves, most of our moves were related to that for him like moving up in the company or having opportunities to move to a different office or taking that for whatever reason. He would like if there was a company that I don’t know was , or like wasn’t meeting their whatever, their quota or whatever, then you bring in a consultant to look at what you’re doing, get some information, do some market research and um they have a lot of experience with businesses and running businesses and they just tell you what to do, what to change. You know, they’re kind of like that.
So then we moved to Holland and James was born pretty soon after we moved into our first house. He was born in Holland. And I remember it, like I used to tell the story that we got off the plane and my mom went into labor and James was born. But I think what actually happened was we moved to Holland and we were living in an apartment for a couple of months and then we moved into a house and the day that we moved into the house or that night, she went into labor. So there was still moving boxes everywhere and she’s like nine months pregnant and just you know that lifting and whatever. And she was also like lifting bricks into the trunk of a car the day before she had me or the day she had me or something. Nothing like a little heavy lifting, I guess.
So James was born, [I was] three or almost three or whatever. Our birthdays are very close together in the month. I remember loving being an older sister, always finding ways to make him laugh when he was crying, that kind of thing came naturally to me. And I just have lots and lots of good memories about that time period, like living in that house, the way everything was. I’ve been back to visit it cause actually friends bought it from us when we moved and they’re still living there. And it’s bizarre to go back you know? When you don’t grow up in a place or you live there, we lived there for about four or five years, you think it’s a certain size and then it turns out to be a lot smaller and that kind of thing.
It was a modern house so it was very square. It had this very odd shaped roof that was sort of an obtuse angle but one side was at a at one degree angle and the other side was at a different degree angle so it wasn’t like a little pointy roof like you would normally see. It had big open windows and it had a beautiful garden. We had a great gardener. We had a pool in the back. We had chives, I think, grew in our garden. I just remember that there was some edible plants that grew in the garden. And I had a bunny named Stompertje, which means Thumper in Dutch. And, I don’t think I had anything else. I was going through school in Holland, so I spoke Dutch at the same time. I went through the first grade in Holland. So I was speaking Dutch at school and English at home. And that was fine.
And we had a I guess one of the biggest influences in my life was having a Dutch nanny there and it is actually odd to me now that it was only about four and a half, five years of my life because she just was just a huge part of my life and like no other nanny or babysitter had been, but I guess when you’re going from three to seven years old those are really formative years. Her name was Cobie and she was our babysitter and housekeeper and consultant on everything Dutch. She just had a very, she was kind of like, she was just one of those people who knew how to get children engaged at any level at any time but be strict so that they really followed her rules and they totally respected her and she knew lots of little, I don’t want to say herbal remedies, but she knew concoctions and things that you would need, not anything hocus-pocusy, but just like when you need to gargle with salt water and when you need to have a throat lozenge. I don’t know how to explain it, but very Dutch, not American, not the American way to solve things.
So my mom learned a lot from her about raising kids and about the Dutch way of raising kids. And there was a lot of, there was some culture clashing there because in Holland the way my mom always tells it is that the nail that sticks out gets beaten down or whatever. It’s socialist in some ways and it’s just disapproving in some ways. Very puritan, I guess. Although they probably wouldn’t describe it that way, they would think that they were liberal. Again, it depends on if you’re in Amsterdam or outside of Amsterdam. We were outside, but just outside. When we lived there the second time, I got a little more of that liberal world, but when we were there the first time, you really are in kind of this like pretty wealthy neighborhood…small, small, small town. Very fairy-tale-village looking.
But it was a great place to grow up. I mean it just everything smelled so good and the flowers were gorgeous and you walked everywhere or you rode your bike and you know, your friends…you got to come home for lunch for an hour and a half or an hour or something. You could go over to your friend’s house. And…I can remember making tapes for my grandmother and my grandparents and you know like talking into the tape and we would send that across the ocean as letters to my grandmothers since I couldn’t write so they would kind of know me as I was growing up, I guess was the idea. But lots of family came and visited because when you have the chance to go to Holland and there’s a family living there…so we always had guests. What else about Holland?
Throughout my whole life, [my mom’s] been, she’s done lots of ESL kind of teaching, teaching to ESL people, she’s done some volunteering at schools, definitely lots of volunteering at schools and some volunteering at churches. Was she speaking Dutch? Yeah, everyone spoke Dutch. My dad was the worst like. My mom, see I was actually conceived in Holland. They lived there for a year or something before I, before we lived in Cleveland and I don’t really know why. I can’t remember. But, so my mom went to this monastery where you, or a nunnery where you live with the nuns and they you’re like immersed with Dutch for I don’t know is it a month or two months or what and the joke was she went to the nunnery and she came out pregnant at least that’s when she found out she was pregnant with me so but that is also where she learned to speak Dutch pretty well. She always has an accent whereas I didn’t have an accent, but she has more vocabulary and I have the vocabulary of a seven year old because that’s when we left. So, in some ways I have a better ear but not as much to talk about! Unless you want to talk about dolls and toys. [Portion cut].
Anyways, what else? I loved my classmates. I had started taking ballet a little bit when I lived in Holland. But you know it was just frou-frou, little baby dancing. And, I didn’t do much else. There was not a huge emphasis on sports that I can remember anyways, people played around in the yard, in the schoolyard, and that was fun. But I just remember PE never appealing to me really or anyone else. It seemed like…Oh, I do know that we had to learn how to swim. You have to get your swim diploma in Holland. I don’t know if that’s because sixty percent of the land is below sea level or what. But, it’s funny. Not a lot of people have pools; there’s not a lot of beachside that you’d want to be at because it’s mostly cold, yet, everyone has to get their swim diplomas. So, I did learn how to swim there. [Break]
So then we moved to Houston. My whole family, extended family is from Houston. And my mom and my dad both grew up in Houston. They were actually both born in either Dallas or Fort Worth, but both of their families moved to Houston and they were…their families were kind of friends of friends. So they met during high school, right after high school before college at a party that was thrown by this mutual family friend. And anyways, so my families have both known each other because one of my…my dad’s mom is in politics and my mom’s mom is a minister and was, they were on the school board together and actually my mom’s mom wasn’t a minister until I was, until she was like sixty or something so really they got to know each other during school board issues and that was a really hot topic in Houston in the, you know, sixties and seventies because of the segregation and the reintegration and all of that.
So, what else? We lived in Houston and the reason I’m telling you about the whole family thing is because that was part of the reason why we moved. I think my dad was happy to be away from the family for awhile but I think my mom really felt a need to like have her kids know their family, you know, and I think my dad finally came around to that too and he had an opportunity to work there through McKinsey and so he did.
And so we moved there and I went into the second grade and you were about to ask it that was different than Holland or so. It wasn’t a big deal, I think. I’ve never been the one that had real trouble moving. James has had trouble a couple of times. Claire had real trouble when we moved to Holland the second time. I’m usually pretty adaptive. And I don’t what it, I think it’s just my personality it’s just like “Okay, what’s the new challenge? Let’s do that. You know? If dad says we’re moving, we’re moving. That’s fine.” You know? I’m never the one that’s [attached]. I don’t know if that’s cause I’m the one that did it the most or what. I’m always excited for something new, I guess, too.
So, on the first day of second grade, I think I might have told you this already but there was a…my mom was walking me to school and she realized that I, although I spoke English quite well at home, I had no idea how to speak about things in a classroom. So we had, you know when they give you the list of things you have to buy for the first day and she was walking with this bag and she was pulling out like, “This is a ruler. This is a spiral bound notebook. This is a folder. Three ring binder.” You know, of course, it’s not that hard, it’s a folder, it’s a binder. But how do you know which is the folder and which is the binder? Like, if you don’t know? You know what I mean? You might have heard these words but you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. Like the first time that we went to a restroom, we had a class break to go to the restroom and I was like, “Yeah, naptime! How are we going to nap in here, guys? It’s just like cold tiles.”
In second grade, I had this really fat black, really like loving teacher. I don’t know how to…that’s what I remember about her was that she was like encasing and I remember that we did a project that year about how much is a million. My mom was involved with this for some reason; it was for the science fair. We were counting out a million kernels of corn and every morning we had to each count like a hundred or a thousand or something kernels of corn into a cup and then pour it into these jars for a long time so that we would know how much a million really was and we finally had a million kernels of corn in these jars and we could see it.
So, I loved Houston because I got to be, like my cousins who were my age were there which was great fun and our grandparents were there. Seth and Josh and Will. All of them, plus, well I mean I have like sixteen cousins, I think, but some of them weren’t born yet. But a lot of them were there. And there’s a bunch around my age group. All of the kids. My dad has two sisters, my mom has three siblings: one sister, two brothers, and they were all having kids around the same age except for some of them. So, that was a good part of it.
I loved my school. We lived three blocks away and sometimes I would ride my bike and sometimes I would walk but usually I would try and get my mom to drive me because I didn’t want to walk or ride my bike because it’s so friggin humid in Houston any time of year. It’s unbelievably humid. You go outside and the weather sits down on your head and you can’t get up. Sooo humid. And everything is air-conditioned and you go from one air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to your air conditioned office and you’re hot and wet for about five seconds in between but it’s enough that when you walk into the air-conditioning it blasts you and you’re like freezing. So, I didn’t really like to play outdoors at that point. I really liked Holland; it’s cold there; it’s cool. It’s often rainy. It’s just fresh; it just smells fresh all the time because it’s just rained. [Cell phone ringing in the background].
We definitely kept in touch with that nanny that we had. She was older than my parents by about fifteen to twenty years. She was like a grandmother, like a second grandmother. And we definitely kept in touch with her. We went back to visit often cause my mom believed that we should keep up our Dutch, you know, so we would be sent back and we would stay with Cobie and that was like a big treat because she knew like everything that we loved and she’s just amazing.
And what else? James, I remember, my mom would try to keep up the Dutch at home, or have like or try to make us speak Dutch with her to keep it up and my dad…my brother would say, “Mom we’re in America, we have to speak American now.” You know? Like he would have none of it. He hated, I don’t know that he hated, he just thought that there was no point to it. So, his Dutch disappeared much faster because, but he was only like three or four when we left, so he didn’t have it as much in him. So, but we did keep it up over the years.
So Houston…hot, family. Oh, I know. Third grade was when, so I was telling you about second grade, the teacher that I had, and what I was really getting around to was that those were, that was actually the year that I had the worst grades I ever had in my entire life, like I got all B’s and C’s because I was adjusting to the language piece and I don’t know, I just don’t remember feeling super motivated. Like I remember hating math, hating math. I don’t know. But in third grade I had this teacher who really kicked my ass into gear and you know suddenly I was just…I had to learn these multiplication tables and I had to learn to write. I don’ t know, she was just a good teacher. She was a really scary teacher. Like when you found out that you had her you were like, “Oh no, mom please can I have someone else? Can you make them change it?” That kind of, that repudiated teacher. But of course, I really feel like she turned me around to feel motivated about school, the way I have ever since then. Like, just that it was important. I also had a circle of friends that liked school and got involved with that.
My sister when we moved to Holland, she was born in Houston, but really pretty much raised in Dallas and so she had all her friends there. She was probably, how old was she, she might have been like seven or eight. When we moved to Holland, it just ripped her apart. She was so upset all of the time. And she cried and cried because she couldn’t speak Dutch, but we put her in a Dutch school. At seven, it’s a bigger deal than at three, you know? There was a lot of adjustment. And the kids in Holland are just, they can be really mean. You know? They are kind of snappy and they have a different attitude and if you don’t grow up in it. It’s hard to adjust to people making fun of you culturally in a different way than you can usually shy off or ignore. So she was just incredibly upset and the first thing was that we put her in a public school and there was like thirty-five kids and so there wasn’t enough personal attention to really get her to learn Dutch. So then we put her in private school and things got a little better. But it was still just, she was crying all the time. She would only be okay if mom was around and she would be in tears if mom wasn’t.
[Claire] was born when I was in fifth [third?] grade, so eight and a half. It had been five years since James was born, so I don’t think I thought that they were necessarily going to have another baby when they did decide to have one and I remember coming up with a list of names for my mom thinking that that would be helpful. So, basically what I did was I wrote down the names of every girl in my class and or all my favorite friends and my favorite movie stars, their first names and…I was eight, or I was seven and a half when she was conceived, eight and a half when she was born. She actually chose one of the names from my list, Claire. But she decided to spell it the French was whereas I had spelled it the American way. [This was after one of my friends], not a close friend, but one of my friends from school. I don’t think she knew that. So then Claire was born and I was eight and a half, so I was like a little mother. [I was in third grade], is that right? Yeah, and, you know, I learned how to change diapers and feed the baby and everything so it’s interesting, and I was there at the birth, my brother and I both were, so it’s interesting when I’m in this thinking about having babies someday. It doesn’t scare me as much as some people who have never dealt with a baby and just really wouldn’t know where to start. There is something about me that is just feels like, “Oh, I could handle it.” Not that it would be easy at all, just that I don’t feel like it’s a big nebulas, “Oh god, there’s probably ten billion things I don’t know how to do,” that sort of thing. And…I probably had my first jobs before I left Houston, like as a babysitter. [Portion cut].
And I also remember the first time, like I had lived abroad but always in kind of like white neighborhoods and in Holland there is not a lot of black people and in Houston there’s lots of blacks and Hispanic people. So, I just, I remember when I was like, I want to say five but that wouldn’t be right, maybe eight, seven or eight, I had a friend who was black, Millicent, and I just have this, this vague memory: she didn’t eat a lot of salt. And that was somehow to me, that was characterized with being black but I think it was just, cause it did have something to do with her lineage, you know? Maybe everyone in her family had high blood pressure or something, I don’t know. But anyways to me that was characterized with that. And I also just remember there being awkwardness around being able to get to her house or her coming over to play at my house. I think she probably just lived really far away but I don’t remember being welcome in her house or her being able to have me over to play and I don’t really know why that was but…It was just, I just remember that that was a time when it was like, it made, it just didn’t enter my mind that there would be delineations and kind of like after that friendship was kind of when I started to get that, that awareness, [racial] awareness. And then really my closest friends were white and from immediately around the school which was a pretty wealthy place.
What else? I can’t think of anything else from Houston, so we can just move on to Dallas. I was going into the sixth grade. My dad had a lot of clients at this point. He had two or three really big clients in Dallas so he traveled a lot anyways; my whole life he has traveled a lot, but he was gone pretty much everyday to Dallas and then he’d come back for dinner. But you have to understand Dallas; there’s like thirty-nine flights a day between Houston and Dallas. It’s a fifty-five minute flight, so it’s kind of like an easy commute. And, but nonetheless, it’s still a lot of flying.
So, so, we moved, it ended up making sense to move to Dallas and my dad became director of the Texas branch of the firm. And my mom again was still active in the PTA and doing the ESL stuff. And we were more active in the Unitarian Church when we moved to Dallas. That was like the most churchy that my life has ever been was when we were in Dallas. We had a really good church there. It was called the First Unitarian Church and it’s a really big congregation and the minister was really good and my dad actually liked to go which usually he’s like a little too woo-wooed out by the Unitarians. So, that was big for me because we’re talking sixth to tenth grade now. So, I was coming of age, learning about sex, and orientations, and cultures, and different…in the Unitarian tradition they teach you about all these different religions and they teach you…there’s a whole year on sexuality that they bring in people who are gay or lesbian [interruption—pause]. So, they have a whole year, it’s great because it’s all your peers, it’s like seventh and eighth graders together and, I don’t know, it’s just like everything you ever wanted to know about sex in a safe place to discuss it. Unitarians are very, like we want to put this out there for you. And parents are always scared to send their kids to like seventh and eighth grade youth group, “Oh god, they’re going to come out smoking marijuana and having sex.” Other than that you know it was, I never felt totally, I still always felt pretty puritanical around, I mean these were pretty liberal kids and they’d done more than I had and whatever but I did always feel accepted and interested in what was going on. I wasn’t like best friends with anyone but I did have a good time.
Yeah, [middle school] is always awkward. It was scary; it was definitely scary because it was, you get into like who’s cool and who’s not. I remember like the first day of sixth grade. We had a few contacts, my dad knew some people in that office and they had daughters who were going to be in my grade, so I had met these people. My parents had brought us together. “Yeah, play!” But in sixth grade, you don’t want to play with anyone. So, I had these artificial connections. And then the first day of school, you know, you’re put in a certain pod and you’re put in a certain homeroom and you’re talking about a class of like three hundred people now, [which is bigger than the school in Houston], but I can’t really remember.
Anyways, so the first day, Shannon Baker, my lifelong best friend has, comes up to me and asks me if I want to be locker buddies with her. I mean I had never met her before. This is the first day. So, I said sure and we, I don’t know… she was just really nice. She was one of those people who would kind of find people who were…she was always one of those people who met the international students and met the people who were quiet. She was just one of those people who dug people out of their little caves. But she was not very popular in sixth grade and she had all that baggage that she was bringing with her of like just bad encounters of being like not well treated in elementary school and not begin cool enough and not being skinny enough or pretty enough or whatever, you know?
So, we became friends but I was always conscious of that I was…that the ties, like the ties that I had with the people that my parents had introduced me to, it turned out that they were really popular people and then I had to sort of, I felt like I had to decide between being friends with them or being friends with Shannon and some of her friends. And I just remember that that whole time, it was always really clear to me who was cooler than who. Like perfectly delineated in my mind like where I was, where everyone else was, who was on my tier and where and why and I don’t know, if that was the place or the way that people’s minds work when they’re in that middle school time. But, it was definitely, it was Highland Park; it was probably the most bubble like atmosphere of wealthy people that we’ve ever lived in. It was a public school, but only to those people who lived within the borders of these two small towns within Dallas. So, and you can only, like a huge percent of paying for the school comes from income, property taxes, I think, I can’t remember and income taxes. So I guess that’s normal, but what I’m trying to say is that you’d have to have a lot of money to live within the boundaries of these two places. There were very few people who didn’t [come from money]. Very white. It had some Hispanic, some black. But very white community; in the middle of Texas, which is, you know, very…there’s more Hispanics and African-Americans outnumber whites by a huge degree in the south, in Texas. So again, not representative of the world but an interesting mix of people for sure. Just lots of fun, intelligent people, a very good school. Definitely appreciative of what I got out of it. But definitely didn’t get much of a broadening of the world, so it was good that I came from already having moved a lot and having seen a lot and lived abroad, I guess. Because, they say that people that leave the bubble like need to bring little oxygen tanks to breath outside of it because it’s that contained of a little sphere, of its own little orb. And people leave to go on ritzy vacations and then come back but they don’t touch the outside world. [Portion cut].
I went to Mexico for three or four weeks in the summer after eighth grade. That’s where I met my first boyfriend and we got together then and Shannon was furious because we both had gone on this trip together and she thought that we were going to spend time together but oh no. I fell in love with this guy. [End of first tape]. I mean that was just…he wasn’t that great. But he seemed great at the time. [His name was] Steve Feinberg. This was a three or four week trip that we took that was like a class, not our…it was like a little group of people, I’m not explaining myself very well, but it was a group of students, but not necessarily from our school. We all went down together and you were completely…like you lived with a host family but you went to school and you spoke English. You went to school to learn more Spanish and you did, but not a lot because you weren’t really immersed.
So, anyways [the transition from middle to high school] was as big as anybody else’s. It felt important. I do remember one thing about being there was that I got tested and was accepted into the, I think it was then called, Talented and Gifted Program, although now it’s called Gifted and Talented or something, so that meant that I could be in this special TAG class. It was just all the really cool people, not cool but really brilliant people in our class. We did all these projects, like how to make the best paper airplane and how to build things out of…I remember building a medieval castle out of sugar cubes at one point. You did all these weird little brain tests. It was kind of like this experimental talk-about-stuff class but with these really cool people who were really just brilliant and so much fun and they all ended up being the valedictorian and salutatorian and everything else, the top ten people in the class. So, I really loved that.
That also led me to be in OM, Odyssey of the Mind. Again, the same thing: really quick thinkers, creative projects. I was also doing a lot of theater and a lot dance throughout that whole time period and I really loved that. The ninth and tenth grade I was in a dance company but it was just through a dance class that I’d been doing for a long time. We went to a competition, I think, after ninth grade and that was a big deal. But I remember always knowing that I wasn’t super as competitive as it was getting. It was getting to the point it was like, “I want you to be at dance like [four hours a day], five times a week,” and I didn’t have the time. So, I knew that something was going to have to give because I was in like all honors classes, doing theater, doing dance and somewhere near the top of my class. [Portion cut].
I moved to Spain for a semester because I was doing the semester abroad exchange program, junior year, and I told all my friends that I’d be right back in three months and it wasn’t a big deal, it was just a semester and then my parents called in November and said, “What do you think about moving to Holland?” and I said, “But I told all my friends that I was going to be back. I can’t move to Holland. Okay maybe I can move to Holland.” Because Holland just seemed like such a great idea because I love Holland. So, again, another new bright frontier, somehow. At this point, I had moved so many times. I just liked to move every four or five years. I get itchy, otherwise. My dad does too, I’m pretty sure. My mom doesn’t, but my dad does. So I moved.
I was in Spain. I can go into cultural details there if you want. I was basically a freak-show. Walking down the street people would come out of their house to watch me go by…cause I had really long, red hair, pale skin, and I was about seven inches taller than the average Spanish woman/girl. And I dressed really weird. In Dallas I just, I wore a lot of jeans and sneakers and tee-shirts and I really liked to wear those lumberjack plaid, button down shirts. I wasn’t very stylish. I mean I liked, I was kind of in style, but I kind of I was more airing on the side of comfort, you know? In Spain, they dress like they are going to go out to party. I was fifteen at this point, turning sixteen. And I just didn’t have a clue how to wear things that were fitted to my body. And I bought weird things there thinking that I would blend better but it didn’t work out at all. If I could show you the things I bought; it was so awful.
They eat differently. They have the siesta in the afternoon. They eat late at night, something like nine or ten. They have like a little meal, rather than the big meal in the evening at five or six; they have a big meal at two or three, sleep, then have a small meal at nine or ten. I loved my host family; they were fantastic, fantastic people. And I really lucked out. There were two other Americans in the town and I became really good friends with one of them. One was a boy, one was a girl; I got to be good friends with the girl and we’re still friends to this day and we see each other about once or twice a year and she didn’t have as great a time with her host family but it’s always hit or miss.
So, school was hard. For the first two weeks that I was there, I didn’t understand a word anyone was saying even though I’d been studying Spanish for five years by then. Just because you don’t ever hear anyone slurring it all together ever when you’re learning it. So I had no experience with that. But I got a hold of it and then it got to be okay and I actually followed the study except that in literature for an eleventh grader, we were studying like ancient, like what would like, I don’t know not like old English in the sense of English that we really can’t understand, but let’s say Shakespearean English, we were studying works like that in Spanish. You know what I mean? So I really couldn’t understand what they were saying cause it was like all these weird words that I hadn’t really, couldn’t like ‘thou’ and ‘hast’ that you wouldn’t know, wouldn’t have learned. But all in all, I think I did pretty well considering and I remember one of my philosophy teacher, who was probably convinced that we were all stupid because we didn’t speak Eng-, didn’t speak Spanish very well, give me a ten, a ten out of ten on my final paper and he was saying to some other teacher, “You know, not only can she speak Spanish, but she’s intelligent too.” As if this was like a [revelation]. So, my Spanish wasn’t perfect, but apparently my thought was okay. So that was kind of cool.
I could not adjust to the partying scene, but I tried. They go out at like I don’t know eleven or twelve and they stay out ‘til about four or five, but usually…this is on the weekends. And you just go. The whole town is out. It’s just understood that everyone goes out. The one or two weekends when I didn’t want to go out, I stayed in and people the next week would be like, “Are you okay? Are you feeling well? I didn’t see you out last Saturday.” “Yeah, I’m fine.” “Are you sick? Did your parents die? What happened?” I’m like, “No, I just didn’t feel like going out.” “Oh. Well you’re coming out next week, right?” They just could not comprehend and looking back, you know, I’m glad that I got all the experiences that I did, it definitely set me up for party scenes in Amsterdam that I would not have known about. Anyways, Highland Park prepared me for none of this European club scene, is all I can say. And it didn’t…if you look at my circle of friends that stayed, they never really experimented with anything or drank much before leaving high school. It was a very clean world, in our little group of friends. That’s not to say that everyone in my school was immaculate, they weren’t, but we just didn’t dabble in that too much.
When I came back from Spain, I bought a packet of cigarettes, even though I didn’t smoke and because I wanted to smoke with Shannon and that would be like our little, oh my god, let’s rebel…I was like I didn’t smoke a cigarette, but I really want to try it and I knew she would be on board with that, you know? So we had like two puffs of a cigarette and stomped it out, gagging and coughing and going, “That was awful. I can’t believe…” And the guy that we both had a crush on, Josh Pollack, he smoked cigarettes and we were like, “I can’t believe Josh smokes. I can’t believe he likes it.” Anyways, that was my first cigarette. [Portion cut].
So the other half of eleventh grade and twelfth grade I was in the International School of Amsterdam so…because I didn’t speak Dutch at an eleventh grade level, they put me into an international school where they speak English. And I had a great time. I was like, there was forty-one people in our class and they’re from all over and you learn about really the only segregation that was there was between the asian and the non-asian community because the Asians are still, there’s huge language block even though they’re learning English and they’re learning it well; it’s just, they can’t pick it up as fast as like a Norwegian or a Swede or…learning the whole characters and how to pronounce them and all the different ways they’re pronounced and I don’t know what else. They tend to be a little more cliquey. So I remember that being prevalent but not overwhelming. It wasn’t like you couldn’t talk to them, it was like you probably might not run into them as much.
That was where I had to decide, instead of doing all honors, you do three highers and three subsidiaries, which is a really great way to make people decide what they’re going to do honors and not try and do everything honors. So I did English and History and Math and the reason that I did math was because I had had some science throughout my whole, science was always the one that I chose lower in in high school. It was like the one thing that I never did honors. And then I had chemistry tenth grade and then when I went to Spain, I had chemistry again in eleventh grade because that’s what they were teaching then. So then I came to ISA and there like it’s half way through the year and you do in ISA, you do the IB, the International Baccalaureate diploma for two years so I was doing it in a year and a half and pretending like I had been there since the beginning. So what can you jump in to? Chemistry, not physics. So I had to do more chemistry, but I wasn’t that good at it, so I choose to do that subsidiary and I knew that I wanted to have a science or math higher level so I chose math, even though I’m not that good at math, but I’d had higher level math my whole life.
So, I had just really great teachers, just loved them. You had them for two years straight which was great. I finished that diploma. I graduated. I took the Spanish IB’s at the bilingual level. You can take a language in the A level, like it’s your native language, or you can take it at the B category, like you’ve learned this language and you’re testing your knowledge of the language. But I had a teacher, who I … so I took it at the A level and if I passed that then I got bilingual because I did English and Spanish. So I got my bilingual diploma and that gave me some kind of a scholarship through the American Women’s League in Amsterdam and that gave me a little bit of money to go use at school, which was nice. At college.
So the second experience in Holland was incredibly different because now I had mobility to some degree. I couldn’t drive because you couldn’t drive there until you were eighteen but I had a moped and I could drive the moped to the bus station or the train station and take a train into Amsterdam and go out and so I did sometimes. And I had sort of, it was weird cause I had a couple of friends that were the more studious type that I was friends with at school and then I had another group of friends, also from school that were more cool and racy and [risqué] and we would go out, you know whereas my little study buddies wouldn’t go out. So, but they weren’t as motivated in school. But we would go out to places and just hang out in Park or go to like coffee shops and sometimes smoke and sometimes not. I remember my mom promising me…making me promise her that I would never go to a coffee shop. But they’re like not the most threatening underworld places that you could imagine. You know? It’s literally like a café, but they happen to sell weed there. You know? It’s like very chill, very happy people. It’s not like a scary underground world. And so that was a big deal, that I disobeyed her. Because I don’t often do that. I don’t think that she ever found out or she might have just turned her…a blind eye. [Portion cut].
[End of transcripted portion of interview. Interview continues on tape].