Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Observant and Inge van Kan
Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?
Château Neercanne, 5 September 2015. “Max, maybe you think you were the one who came up with the idea of buying that house the two of you bought in Sint Pieter last month. But it couldn’t be less true. You’ve been manipulated. You were set up.” Inge’s wedding witness produces a yellowed copy of Observant from her inside pocket and begins to read a passage from the interview with the then 19-year-old student of Law out loud. “‘I’m enjoying it here in Maastricht. I’d like to come back here after seeing the rest of the world. I wouldn’t mind living in Sint Pieter.’”
Inge van Kan (35) blushes while relating the anecdote. “I guess I had psychic powers.” After all, it wasn’t a given that she and her husband would eventually return to Maastricht, even if they’re both from Limburg (Berg en Terblijt and Heerlen, respectively). “After completing my degree in European Studies – Law really wasn’t it for me – I moved to Amsterdam to pursue a master’s degree. I had a side job at a trading house. That’s where I met him.” Sparks flew at a date organised by Max, presented to her as farewell drinks. “Only two other colleagues were there, and they left quite early.” They started dating, but Inge dreamt of seeing the world – as she told us sixteen years ago in her interview – and left to travel for months. “It was bad timing, but we kept in touch.” When she came back, they jumped straight into a relationship. “He was seven years older than me. I liked that. He was open and relaxed and knew what he wanted. Or at least I thought he did.”
But no matter how into each other they were, their relationship didn’t quite get off the ground. Tensions rose and Inge eventually broke up with him. “He wasn’t ready to be in a serious relationship. He didn’t want to commit.” A year later, they ran into each other at a festival, near the toilets. Suddenly everything looked different. “He’d sown his wild oats and was ready to settle.” From that moment onwards, everything moved very fast. “I was pregnant six weeks later and he proposed to me after the birth of our son.”
Their house was too small to accommodate the new addition to the family. They made an offer on an apartment in Amsterdam. “The real estate agent said: add ten grand and it’s yours.” But that’s not what they did. “It was a matter of principle. We felt put on the spot.” They did a 180 and turned their attention to South Limburg, where they’re both from. “We love the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, but we also enjoy the peace and quiet of the Limburg countryside.” They bought a completely dilapidated house that had been empty for three years from the heirs of a deceased biologist. “There were wasp nests in the attic and orchids growing in the living room.” Renovating their dream house took eight months. They travelled back and forth from Amsterdam. In the meantime, they got married at restaurant Château Neercanne.
But if you think that’s where this domestic fairy tale ends, you’re mistaken. Her boyfriend struggled to find an appropriate job in Maastricht and they missed the big-city mentality. “A part of us was still living in Amsterdam, where many of our friends live.” They pulled the plug after 2.5 years. The gardener refusing to speak Dutch to Max – who didn’t speak the local dialect, despite being from Limburg – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “I’m proud of us for trying, but at some point we looked at each other and said: this isn’t gonna work out.”
And that’s why this interview is taking place in Amsterdam after all – in Café Hoogendam, around the corner from Inge’s place of work. At amsterdam&partners she’s responsible for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, setting up targeted campaigns to spread tourism. They now live in Overveen, a village neighbouring Haarlem within cycling distance of ‘Amsterdam Beach’, as the beach of Bloemendaal is marketed to international visitors of the city. It’s a ‘best of both worlds’ situation: “It’s quiet and there’s space, but it’s near the hustle and bustle of the capital.”
One more kid
She could use some peace and quiet. “My life has been quite hectic in recent years. I’m done with change for the time being.” She especially wants to enjoy time with her children, Jack (5) and Nora (3). “They’re two tiny humans with their own opinions and friends. They continue to surprise me. The other day, Jack suddenly started explaining to me how the dinosaurs went extinct.” But when asked if their family is complete, she turns out to be a little addicted to living a hectic life after all. “I thought we were done having kids, but I’ve been having second thoughts. I feel like our family is too small. I want more chaos. So, if we’re so blessed, I’d like to have just one more kid.”
Niels van der Laan
In 2003 we interviewed UM students about their dreams for the future. Now, in 2019, it’s time to check in with them and see where they’re at. They’re about forty years old now; did their dreams come true? We’re using this special year (Observant is celebrating its 40th birthday!) as an opportunity to find out. Former student journalist Niels van der Laan, who wrote the majority of the interview articles in 2003, is writing a fair share of this year’s articles as well. In addition to the previously interviewed alumni, we’re interviewing former Observant student journalists about their fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams.