Friday, February 16

First Impression

17 August 2005

We have arrived in Leiden and tonight marks our first week of living in the Netherlands. The trip here was not without incident but at least it was without drama or mishap. The first leg from Dallas to Houston was delayed because of bad weather in Houston. The attendant was kind enough and keen enough to book us on an earlier flight that afternoon so that we would make the international connection, but somehow missed that she had double booked 2 of the seats. We spent a few nervous minutes as they worked to sort it out on the plane, and finally decided to send the nice couple with the same seat numbers on another flight and leave the family of five and their five carry-on bags and five personal items sitting happily in their seats. The international leg of the flight was also delayed as they were working on a technical problem with the entertainment system on board so we were able to make the connection with lots of time to spare.
The kids traveled well. In fact,our two year old (whom we were most worried about keeping entertained on a 10 hour flight) slept from takeoff to landing. When we arrived in Schipol airport we spent a few anxious moments waiting for the (late) Taxi service which had been arranged for our pick up. Ultimately we hooked up with the driver and as he sized us up and ALL OF THE LUGGAGE he sighed heavily and said “Hooh! Dats a lotta bags!”. We had given fair warning to the company that we were quite a crew with the five of us and all of our luggage, but I guess it’s hard to get your mind around it until you see it! (And we were quite a sight with 10 large suitcases, 5 carry-on bags, 2 laptops, 2 backpacks fully-loaded, a bulging diaper bag and a car seat!)
So, jet lagged and hungry we loaded up the van and headed down the highway to Leiden. We were greeted here in the house by the mother of our landlords. She received us warmly, made tea, gave us the rundown on the house and even drove us to the neighborhood market for our first grocery run. Now, there’s an experience not to miss: Grocery shopping in a foreign country while completely jetlagged! It has since gotten much easier, but that first experience of trying to negotiate the aisles, recognize the packaging, translate the dutch labels and the dollar/euro conversion was mildly disconcerting. However, armed with milk, butter, bread, bananas and cheese we came home ready to face the new experience.
The home we are renting is absolutely perfect. It is a row house, newly constructed with three stories. It would most readily be described as a town home in the States. The kids had a great time that first day exploring all the rooms. Our landlords have been more than generous and the home is completely furnished and stocked for our convenience.

Besides the house wares and furnishings the landlords also left their bikes for us to use. So on our first Sunday afternoon here we set off on our first bike adventure. Not to be swayed by the fact that we are novice Nederlanders we saddled our borrowed bikes. Our destination on this first outing: The North Sea. We biked through some beautiful countryside and towns along the way. We rode and rode and rode over the hills and across the canals. And then, we could smell the salty air and the sky was thick with gulls so we knew we must be close. Once the bikes were parked and locked, the kids got immediately busy gathering sea shells and searching for crabs in the sand. They were more than mildly disappointed when we wouldn’t let them shed clothes and go for a frozen dip in the ocean. As we stood on the beach we watched a big storm approaching so we escaped the cold rain in a Shoarma grill and ate the first of what will become a fast favorite: Shoarma broodjes. It is not a Dutch food per se, but a middle eastern dish which has been adopted into the local cuisine. Delicious spiced beef served on pita bread with a garlic sauce and a spicy chili sauce. We waited out the rain with this perfect cuisine-escape and when it cleared, we headed for home. Our first bike adventure in Holland took us on a 12 mile round trip tour. Not too bad for a group of newbies.

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