Some people think that in order to be fully integrated into a culture you must pass a test, speak the language, and get an official certificate. I'd like to disagree.
On my way home from work on Monday, I felt the air diminishing from the back tire of my bike. I had only gone 1.5 miles of the 5 mile journey, and was not amused at the prospects of walking my bike all the way home. So I slowed down a bit, hoping that by doing so the air would magically stay in. No such luck. I only managed to make it a few yards further until I was faced with the bitter taste of defeat, which came in the form of a deflated tire thumping it's way forward.
As I got off my bike and started walking it, I longed for a miracle... or at least for someone to see me and let me borrow their bike pump. The miracle did come, but not until I reached the 5 star Amstel Hotel at the end of the road. I debated whether I should even try my luck, but the thought of the long walk home gave me enough motivation to enter the grand hotel in my jeans and Sketchers. Clearly, they could tell I was not a guest. I had my best "please pity me" smile plastered on my face when I asked the doorman if they had a bike pump I could borrow. Five minutes later I was waving goodbye as I biked away, happy to have two fully inflated tires.
I wish my story ended there. Then again, it wouldn't really be a story worth telling, would it? Instead, a mile after the air refill, I found myself walking alongside my bike again, making the 2.5 mile trek by foot. Unfortunate conclusion: the tire had a leak. That evening I did nothing more than lock up my bike and call it a night. Besides, without owning a bike pump there really wasn't much I could do.
Thus began my final steps of full Dutch integration the following day. First, I finally gave in. That's right folks, after two whole years of living here, I finally bought a bike pump on my way to work. I could feel a change start to bubble within me as I held it in my hand. But it wasn't until I went home that night that the transformation was complete.
I, Claire - the American who hadn't ridden a bike in years upon moving here and had a rocky start with my bike once I arrived, have successfully (and single-handedly) patched it's leaky rear tire. Even amid the stares of onlookers, I pushed forward. Even when I couldn't find the leak initially, I carried onward. And it was that determination which led to success. I, yes I, completed my final rights of passage last night.
Today, I am Dutch.