This is a big week for me. I am celebrating a birthday and it is the two year anniversary of moving to The Netherlands. Moving here was a huge step for me, as you can imagine. One of the smartest things I did was to start this blog, as it was a way for me to express myself concerning the strange new life that I was living. It was also a great opportunity for me to share with my friends in the United States and the blog also introduced me to some new friends.
Here are just a few observations about what has stood out to me about living in The Netherlands…and this just scratches the surface.
The beauty of this land cannot be denied. I still act like a kid at Disneyland, looking all around with my jaw hanging open. To stand in a field of tulips, to count how many windmills you see in one day, and to watch cows and sheep grazing in the flattest land you have ever seen…that is my fortune. In New England, they say “wait a second and the weather will change again” and that is also true here. The weather changes so many times in a matter of hours, from bright sunshine, dark clouds, rain and then back to blue skies. But the Dutch skies are blow your mind fabulous…it really feels like nature is putting on a show.
The people are nicer and friendlier than I thought they would be. I did not know what to expect, but they were super nice from the start. They welcomed this American with a sincerity that I found surprising and touching. The Dutch are very direct people and I have discovered that that is not a bad thing, in fact, it is kind of refreshing.
The two hardest things about living here are pretty obvious: leaving all that I love in America and adjusting to the Dutch language. The language has been a huge challenge for me and something I am still grappling with. On the other hand, it has given me many moments of laughter as the words are just so strange and funny (to me). The good news is that almost all the Dutch speak English, but that still does not get me off the hook from learning the language!
A few weeks ago, I was in a café with three friends. Everyone was talking and I looked to my left and saw a man walk by our table. I literally gasped. The man was wearing wooden shoes (klompen). Not the kind you see in the tourist shops. These were big and dirty and had obviously been worn for a while. I interrupted the conversation and said “look, look!” They looked at the man and looked at me. I exclaimed “he is wearing wooden shoes!” Someone said “oh, he is just a farmer (boer) coming in for some coffee, I guess.” For me, it was an official moment. The first windmill, the first canal, first wheel of cheese and my first image of a man really wearing wooden shoes, because he needed to or he just wanted to. He was not wearing those shoes for my benefit, not for any tourist show, he was actually wearing the shoes for himself. I loved that.
I could go on and on about life here, and that is why I have this blog…a place where I can go on and on. But as I live this week of memories, I can look back on the last two years with a smile. And yet, my eyes fill up very quickly because when you move towards something, that means you are leaving something or someone behind. I am so grateful for the Internet for being my link to my friends in America as they mean the world to me. Many people have been on this adventure with me, either physically or virtually, and that has made this transition so much easier.
So I continue to be a student. I am learning about this country, this culture and the people. I am learning how to order that one cup of coffee (koffie) that comes with NO refills.I am learning how to be a good parent. And I am learning that friendship does not mean standing in one place, under one sky. Friendship crosses across all boundaries and oceans and time zones and that is a great thing to remember every single day.
And now I am looking at the sky. When I started typing this, the sky (lucht) was clear blue and now…white clouds have quietly arrived. The show has begun.
What I am reading this week: THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS by Chris Bohjalian.