Annelot Pannekoek makes her way up the stairs with difficulty. Someone stood on her toe yesterday; it was completely blue this morning. “Maybe even broken, but it appears that they can't do anything about that, so it would be useless to go to the doctor. I taped it myself.” She is the host today, but the last one to arrive – she had to work until late. Fortunately, her fellow sorority members have already prepared lots of stuff. The Nynève girls go about as if it is their own house. “This is the Nynève living room, I never eat alone.”
An added advantage is that they never need a key. Pannekoek lives above a pub; the only barrier to overcome is the barman. Christian Hoebe, professor of Infectious Disease Control and this evening's guest, notices that he is very observing. This gatekeeper is used to female students going upstairs, but when there is suddenly a man at the door, he asks what he is doing here.
Now that everyone has arrived, the wine glasses have been filled, and the spring rolls with peanut dressing have been put on the table (Hoebe: “Wow, that looks wonderful. Did you make them yourself? I love Asian food.”), Hoebe presents his gift. “It may be a strange thing to give, but I also work for the Local Health Authority …” Pannekoek, who surmised what it was, burst out laughing. And indeed, Hoebe fishes a bunch of condoms out of his bag; after all, he is head of the STD outpatients’ clinic. But that is not all; the girls also receive a small packet of cornflakes and boiled eggs. “I thought: if I'm getting an evening meal from you, the least I could do was provide you with breakfast.” The gifts are received with great enthusiasm.
During the course of the evening, the conversation returns to the subject of the STD clinic a number of times, but first let's talk about travel, especially Asian travel – because of the spring rolls. “I didn't dare to eat them in Thailand,” says Denise Brouwer. “I thought that the skin around them might be made from something scary.” Maaike van Griethuysen travelled around Vietnam in January. “I had some time left after I completed the exchange programme. I started off in Ho Chi Minh City and travelled north.” Hoebe was stuck there for a couple of days once. “When the volcano in Iceland brought all flights to a standstill. I was helping a university with their curriculum of infectious disease control.” Aylin Aksu has just had her first Chinese lesson; she is going to Beijing for work experience this summer. “Do you need to be fluent?” Hoebe asks. That is impossible, says Aksu. “I have lessons from now until the summer. Fortunately, one of the group members speaks it very well.”
Aksu has a question for Hoebe. “I heard that the walk-in surgery hours for the STD clinic have been abolished, why? You now have to make an appointment.” The budget is limited, says Hoebe. “We see more and more STDs, but we are only allowed to carry out 8,500 tests a year. So we ask a few questions first, to see if someone fits into a high-risk group. Others will have to go to their GP.” To the amazement of the girls, students are not the greatest high-risk group. “In fact, of all youngsters under the age of 25, students have the safest sex.” The greatest high-risk group appears to be lower educated youths. Nevertheless, students with high-risk sexual behaviour who are under 25, can also visit the clinic free of charge.
During the main course – lasagne in a sweet pepper – the conversation turns to milk, because Aksu is going to do a project for Campina Friesland this summer. “It is being said that the Dutch are so tall because they drink so much milk,” Hoebe remarks. But Sophie Hammermann doesn't believe that. “I am from Liechtenstein, and we say that we have milk flowing through our bloodstream because we drink so much of it. But still we are short.” She does have another theory though. “You don't have any mountains, so no protection from the wind. You have to have strong legs to stand up against it. There is also so much water here, if there is a flood and you are short, you can't hold your head above water.” Hoebe bursts out laughing. “You are a funny bunch.” Hammermann pulls a tragic face. “Sometimes, that is not funny as I cycle home with a bellyache because I've laughed so much.”
Hoebe admires Pannekoek's spacious room. He also studied in Maastricht. “I started off in the Boschstraat, but when my girlfriend and I split up, I had to find something else.” He moved a few times after that. “Just like everyone else,” says Brouwer. “You think you are living in a good place, but then you get to know the city better and you go looking for an even better spot.” They are happy, at any rate, that the house is so central. And not in Randwyck. “We refer to that as the dark side,” Pannekoek laughs.
Apple pie and ice cream is brought to the table. Aksu brings the conversation around to women at the top. She is in the faculty council for Humanities and Sciences and there it is regularly a topic of discussion. “Why do you think there are so few female professors,” Hoebe asks. Hammermann rants on about how men and women are approached differently. “If a woman says ‘this is how it will be done’, you are suddenly bossy. I really detest that word. As a woman, you always have to be better prepared, know the most, do everything better.” Hoebe asks the girls about their ambitions. They are high. Hammermann: “Of course, we are members of Nynève.” Aksu: “We have created a culture around ourselves to really encourage each other. Almost everyone does something outside their studies, a committee, board, council.” Hoebe: “Really great.”