Please come visit the new blog and read the new stories.
Saturday, July 11
Friday, May 15
It's walk-down-memory-lane time at this blog. As we prepare for another trans-atlantic move, this blogger is reminiscing about the first days and months here in her host country. As a reader, you are along for the ride. The posts which follow are the original entries on this site, which in turn were yanked from emails and notes home when we first arrived. Things have changed a bit since that first year, it would be fairest to say, we've changed a bit.
All for all, it's been a great ride to be an expat. I am glad we were here.
Monday, May 11
*original writing date: June 2006*
I don’t know if I have ever, in the words of Thornton Wilder, “realized life” as deeply as I have attempted to do here. That phrase from the play Our Town has resonated in my mind more than once as I have felt the surge of life in the returning spring.
Perhaps it is because this was the first winter I have spent in many years where the word actually meant something. The dark days, the unbelievably cold temperatures, the fierce wind and freezing rain all combined to give us an experience heretofore unknown in my desert-raised kids’ lives. It was winter of a type that I personally hadn’t experienced since leaving Salt Lake City and its cold and gray winter months, back in 1984. So to say that the return of the spring was a welcome thing is to make an understatement of epic proportions. And now I am here to tell all that Spring Happens.
The first evidence that the seasons were going to change was the crocus that began popping through the frozen ground in late February. Little color spots pushing their way through the soil to reach out to the sun. It was an absolute delight to watch those flowers beat the odds of growing in freezing temperatures and hardened earth. Indeed, for me they were little pockets of inspiration along the streets. Following the crocus was the daffodil, or narcis, as they are called in Dutch. Gorgeous bands of yellow and white stretching along the canals and highways, nodding their perfect cup and saucer heads at passersby. After the daffodil the tulips arrived. And let me tell you this; all the postcards, all the photo books, all the legend tales you have heard about the fields of color—it’s all accurate and true. Amazing. Unbelievable. Overwhelming. There is no superlative strong enough to convey the absolute beauty of the tulip fields and gardens. We toured Keukenhof gardens and the open fields of Lisse by bike one afternoon in May. It was absolutely unbelievable. The fields literally look as if someone took a giant paintbrush and swept vibrant washes of color across the land. Even the best photos can hardly capture the intense beauty of that land in springtime.
Not to be outdone by the reputation of the tulip, the final stage of spring flowers brought the lily and iris. These lined the canals and towered over the returning green of the grasses and groundcovers announcing that the majesty of spring had indeed arrived. This phase of the flowering is the spring finale.
The arrival of the lily coincides with the temperatures hitting steady warmth and the shedding of the heavy winter coats. At this point in the parade of flowers it seemed something within all of us awakened and opened up for the sun. In the same way that the flowers unfolded and blossomed, the people returned to life.
It’s a remarkable thing to witness the reawakening of a city.
Streets that stood empty and lonely during the cold winter, all of a sudden were alive with people.
The café tables moved to the streets for leisure dining in the fresh air.
The canal again busy with boats also hosted the occasional adventurous swimmer.
Garden benches and front walks became perfect spots for neighbors to engage in pleasant conversation. Just as you imagine those conversations revolved around the weather and generally began with the phrase “Lekker weer, he?” Which means “fantastic weather, don’t you think?”
I used to consider myself a lover of the autumn, but now having lived a springtime in Holland, I have discovered a new identity. The moment that topped it all for me was watching the Horsechestnut trees blossom with perfect cones of pink flowers balanced on the branches. And then when just passing their prime moment of glory the petals fell ever so gracefully to the ground, littering the streets with delicate baby-pink confetti. It’s a Mother Nature party favor.
Yup, I am a spring girl after all.
Wednesday, May 6
*original writing date: 9 March 2006*
So as to be fair to the Dutch, I move now on this list to the things about the Dutch way that I am entertained by, or that I deeply appreciate.
In truth there are many, but I will mention just a few.
The typical Dutch way to greet a friend, to say goodbye or to offer heartfelt thanks is to enact the three-kiss tradition. A right cheek-left cheek-right cheek kiss is typical, along with warm words of expression. (Probably for my benefit as a foreigner, I am also reminded after the kiss-kiss-kiss that this is the ‘Dutch way’).
We have sampled and dabbled in a lot of traditional Dutch cuisine since our arrival here and the hands down favorite for everyone in this house is the Dutch pancake. Pannenkoeken are thinner than the typical American pancake, though not as thin as the French crepe. Made with flour, sugar, salt, eggs and milk, they have the most delightful texture! We eat them quite often, even for dinner occasionally. (much to the dismay of our Dutch friends-as pancakes for dinner is NOT the 'Dutch way') Traditional approach to the Pannenkoeken is to serve them with butter and Poeder Suiker (powdered sugar) and to eat them with knife and fork. My personal favorite is to smear them with chocolate spread, roll them up and gobble them down. It may not be the Dutch way, but it certainly works for me.
I can never say enough how much fun it is to indulge in the bike culture of this country. The fun of darting through traffic, figuring out how to balance the groceries, carrying a child on the back, and exploring the countryside by self-powered wheels is exquisite.
That's enough to keep me captivated for years yet.
Sunday, May 3
*original writing date: 9 March 2006*
Second on my ‘Dutch way’ list is the traditional line or ‘queue’ as the British would say.
The Dutch don’t seem to have a word for it ‘cause they just don’t do it.
Occasionally, you may see a proper line form in front of the cash register at the neighborhood shops or behind an ATM machine, but that’s as far as it goes. In general, while waiting for a turn at the Butcher’s counter, at the cheese shop, or at any of the stalls in the Market, you must be courageous and bold to get yourself positioned at the counter. You must be willing to push past the masses who in turn are trying to push past you and answer the question “Wie is aan de buurt? (Who is next?) with a very loud “Ik!!” (Me!!)
As for boarding a bus or a train? Well, forget everything your mother taught you about courtesy or waiting for your turn. You must join the pressing throng all trying to occupy the same space at once and position yourself so that as soon as the door slides open you can move forward and fight your way in. I think there are points awarded for the number of people you can step in front of or elbow out of the way as you vie for position. And, by all means please begin the press before allowing passengers on the vehicle to disembark. Oh, my, allowing others to “uitstappen” (exit) before you clamor to get on could very well cost you a seat.
As Emma and I await our second bus in the mornings, I grab the back of her coat as the bus approaches, push her forward a step and whisper “be Dutch” in her ear.
This has proven to be an effective method in getting ourselves properly placed in the crowd and we can beat others to the seats on a busy morning bus.
Yup, we're pretty much Dutch.
Friday, May 1
*original writing date: 9 March 2006*
We have passed our six month mark here in the Netherlands and it would be fair to say we have learned a great deal in the past six months. Collectively and individually we have discovered many things about ourselves and about the world at large. Chief among these discoveries is the realization that there is a ‘way’ to do things in life and then there is the “Dutch way”.
Take for instance: toilets. Not everyone’s favorite subject I know. But it must here be discussed that Dutch toilets are a wonder to behold. In a country where there is no water shortage and indeed no threat of drought, these are the most extreme water saving apparatus on the planet. Indeed, these are low flow toilets taken to the lowest extreme. Most toilets here consist of a tank and seat as you would expect, but the bowl itself is built with a "shelf" above the water, where all leavings must first fall.
I know, ooo-ick, but bear with me please.
I borrow here heavily from “The Undutchables” by Colin White and Laurie Boucke (a must-read for any ex-pat or long term visitor to Holland) to explain the Dutch way of bathrooms and other unmentionable acts within.
I know what you’re thinking… you are saying, "that’s just exaggeration for purposes of satire", but I am telling you this is true! And add to this the strange ways of flushing said contents into the nether regions. With the conservative water supply (again-in Holland? Why?) there is rarely enough pressure generated to sweep the bowl clean if you get my meaning. Inevitably, among the other decorations in a WC the one of utmost importance is the toilet brush. Which oddly enough, is an item "ever present, never discussed, yet always wet."
Sunday, April 26
*original writing date: June 2006*
In addition to my wonder and awe for the Dutch and all they are capable of carrying and/or undertaking while riding a bicycle- eg: full cup of coffee in one hand, mobile telephone in the other- is the ability to stop the bike with full grace and dignity. This is yet another facet of the bike envy I feel here.
Most of the Dutch vrouwen (women) and many of the men have an absolutely stellar technique for disembarking. This is accomplished by the subtle lift of the behind from the saddle of the bike and ever so expertly lifting one foot off the pedal, crossing it over and through the bike frame, and finally sliding it effortlessly to the ground taking a smooth step-step-step forward, as they coast the bike to a tender halt.
In similar manner, when mounting the bike they do so with the lead foot crossed over the other and balanced on the pedal. With one foot in contact with the road, the fietsenvrouw will give a kick-hop and swing her foot through the frame, reaching for the opposite pedal while simultaneously placing her derriere upon the saddle. And thus she is expertly on her way.
I have yet to master this enviable feat. Rather, my stops consist more of a white knuckle pull on the handbrakes, leaving several inches of tire skid lines on the path.
Additionally, when my rear end leaves the seat, there is no grace applied. But, with a grunt I fly off the saddle and do some sort of awkward jump-jump-jump forward, generally clipping my tailbone on the front end of the seat. Therefore, my start up tends toward a tearful re-entry as my tender coccyx alights and I attempt to find the least intrusive position for the pain. And then of course, I pray with all my might for no more stoplights.
Oh, to be Dutch.
Thursday, April 23
*original writing date: 12 March 2006*
There is no doubt about it, we live in the land of bikes. Sometimes, in transit to Emma's school when we've missed a bus and have some time on our hands, we have a count-the-cars-and-bikes contest, just to see if our observation can be backed up by statistics. From our very scientific study--sitting on a bus stop bench and counting out loud-- Emma and I have determined that bikes rule.
Our first counting poll indicated that in a 10 minute period, 101 bikes passed our bus stop, but only 47 cars. The second time we tried our counting, it was a 15 minute period and we were passed by 86 cars and 151 bikes! (Lately, we’ve been arriving at the bus stop in a timely manner and so haven’t been twiddling our thumbs. I mean to say, we haven’t had opportunity to continue our study.) Our findings show that all can rest assured that the bicycle is boss here in Holland.
There are three levels of biking here. First, you have your standard, peddle it yourself bike: the “fiets”. This is powered only by your own strength and stamina. I have commented before on the strength and stamina of the average Dutch person who can strap on myriad number of items and/or children to the bicycle and ride for hours on end. Even after six months here and taking this as the norm, it is still a marvel.
Next, there is what I've heard called the “broomfiets” (pronounced: Broam-feets) which is a regular peddle it yourself bike outfitted with a small motor, so when your strength and stamina just aren’t enough, you can rely on the motor to power you onward.
The third level of all things fiets is the Brommer (pronounced brrroam-errrr) which is your full-on Vespa or Moped kind of thing. These machines though fully motor powered enjoy all the benefits and shortcuts of the ‘level one’ bikes. Brommers are not my favorite. Or rather I should say there are some brommer drivers who do not make the list of my favorite things. It is not uncommon to be mowed over by an inconsiderate brommer driver while pedaling along in the bike lane.
But that should be a whine for another day.
The best thing about bikes as travel is that life is lived at the speed of transport. My life is paced by the cadence my legs power my bike. As a result I am never rushed, I am merely moving as fast as I can.
And that speed is just right for me.
Tuesday, April 21
*original writing date: 20 December 2005*
Attention one and all! Please add the following to the “Things the Dutch Can Carry While Riding a Bike” list.
Christmas trees. Yes, that's right, friends. Christmas trees.
More than once or even ten times in the last few weeks we have witnessed our city mates balancing atop their bicycles with fresh Kerstboem just purchased from the corner lot, on their way to home or flat to make the place festive for the season.
My own experience in finding a tree for our home goes like this. Just a short distance from our place is a set of shops, which I have described before. Just in time for the season an area has been cleared along the walkway and a tree lot has been established. This tree lot comes complete with a caricature of a little Dutchman selling trees to the neighborhood residents day after day. He wears a full set of snow trousers and parka as he spends his day outdoors trimming and wrapping trees for customers to purchase and carry off.
I approached him armed with my standard phrase in Dutch “Mag ik in Engels spreken?” (May I speak English) which generally goes a long way with the shop keepers and store attendants, and then I am able to ask my questions in the language I understand best. However, to my query, this man said “Nee” (No) and then continued in a jabber of Dutch.
So picture me, standing stock still, eyes as big as saucers and mouth agape, tiny patch of drool forming at the corner, as my brain clicks into gear and I try to sort through the jumble of words pouring from his mouth to translate the ones I recognize into English and make some sense of what he is saying. Ding! The light goes on and he is telling me that he prefers to speak Dutch and I should practice mine. So, actually no, I can’t speak Engels but I am welcome to speak Nederlands to him. (This all takes a bit, as the sorting processors in my brain are quite slow.)
“Nee??” I said
And he nodded at me.
So, digging as deep as I could into my 10 once-a-week language lessons, I did my utmost to conduct a tree buying conversation in Dutch. At some level communication must have taken place, because a few minutes later I had a beautiful little tree, which had been taken from its display stand and properly netted, tucked under my arm and I was on my way home with my first Dutch Christmas tree!
*It here must be noted that having exhausted my vocabulary in getting the tree, I neglected to ask for a “stand” and Don had to go back a little later in the day to seal the deal, so to speak.*
But I was off with my small Christmas bush under one arm and a special delivery package I had just picked up from the post office under the other. I must say, I felt rather festive schlepping them both through the streets to home.
Monday, April 20
*original writing date: 26 August 2005*
Do you remember this passage from the CAT IN THE HAT by Dr. Seuss?
Well, I hereby give witness that the Cat in the Hat, as wily as he may be has absolutely NOTHING on the Dutch and their ability to balance ALL while riding a bicycle. It is an amazing thing to watch, actually, as the locals pedal home with their shopping bags full. That’s impressive alone, but I wish I had a photo of some of the things I have seen them carry whilst cycling down the bike lane.
For instance, one man last week was obviously on his way to pick up a child from school and he pedaled his own bike while holding another bike alongside and steering both through the traffic so that when he arrived his child would have a vehicle to return home.
A common practice which we have also adopted is to haul a passenger on the back end or rack end of the bike. It is not at all rare to see a passenger sitting side saddle on a bike, but the racks are most often home to packages of all sorts; groceries, books, briefcases, flowers, etc.
Often, there will also be a bag attached-or in Dutch: fietstas which is like a trunk for a bicycle. That’s where a full load of groceries can be carried, or a picnic lunch, or school books. In our case, it’s a handy place for diapers, wipes and extra jackets.
Of course there are the seats for the babies and toddlers and though I can cart Andrew around on my bike, my mouth hangs agape as I watch the parents toodle by with a child not only on the back of the bike but also one strapped in a seat at the front! I was deeply chagrined recently when, as I walked my bike through a sharp curve and up a sloping canal bridge, because I didn’t have the leg power to negotiate the curve or the hill, I was passed by a somewhat rotund Dutch woman carting a toddler on the front and a Kindergartner on the back of her bike and not even breaking a sweat! Ah, me.
Also, Netherlanders, not to be outdone by commuters in the States are very handy with a cell phone while negotiating traffic on the bicycle. I haven’t yet seen anyone trying to do their make-up while riding, but I am certain that too could be done. Eight-year old Emma’s observation tonight is actually quite a tell all of this culture. She said “I guess you know you’re in Holland when you see someone riding a bike AND smoking a cigarette!” In her estimation, the two activities are usually mutually exclusive, but not here in Holland. No, the cardiovascular benefits of riding are cancelled out by the inhalation of nicotine.
It also should be mentioned that it is entirely possible for the locals to carry and consume a steaming cup of coffee while pedalling along.
Yes, these are the bits of the culture for which we will always stand at the outside.
Now, finally, I mention the piece de résistance in balancing all things a top a bicycle. Don and I, with Andrew in tow were on a bike outing last week when along the bike path came a man, one hand on the handlebars and one hand holding a rather large object alongside as he pedaled down the road. It was about 3 feet tall x 2 feet wide x 2 feet deep. He had a rope strapped around it and he held onto that with one hand as he maneuvered down the path. Friends, it was a small filing cabinet! I literally stopped my bike and stared as he passed.
That kind of balance is, in my estimation, the sum total of being Dutch.
Thursday, April 16
*writing date: 25 October 2005*
It's October now and the outside temperature is steadily cooling down every day. But before the shift in the thermometer and the onset of the rains, we woke not-so-long-ago on a Saturday morning to a blue-sky-high-wispy-clouds-very-warm-late-summer-day and thought “Ah, good day for the beach!” So we prepared our beach bags, donned beach attire and climbed on the bicycles ready for the ride out to Katwijk.
(It is an unbelievable pleasure to be only a few kilometers from the ocean.)
As we approached the beachfront town and followed the streets down to the shore, we became slightly suspicious that we were not alone. No, indeed, it seemed as if ALL of Holland had the same “Ah, good day for the beach” thought that we had. As far as the eye could see in every conceivable direction, there were people! I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that there must have been a million people on the beach that day. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but it was at least thousands. There were beachcombers, sunbathers, swimmers, surfers, seashell hunters, footballers, picnickers, sandcastle builders and beach babies occupying a spot in the sand and sun.
Undaunted, we locked our bikes, gathered our towels, our toys and our courage and set off to stake out a tiny bit of sand to call our own. As we walked through the sand toward the shore line, literally making our way through a sea of people here, we (meaning Don and I) became quite aware that there appears to be no dress code for beach wear in Holland. I think it reads something like this:
Rule1: If you just don’t want to wear a suit to the beach, well, you just don’t have to.
Yes, that’s right I am talking about *gasp* nudity. Mostly just topside nakedness, except for some of the toddlers who were completely buck naked—but as for shock value that doesn’t count at all, does it? But indeed nakedness all the same. I realize that this makes me sound like a bit of a prude, which I don't think I am--in fact most certainly am not, but I was feeling especially protective of my kids, who to this point in their lives hadn't experienced such a thing before.
So we exchanged a look, grimaced just a bit and wondered in whispers together what to tell our pre-adolescent, American born and raised son, and postured that perhaps not saying anything at all might mean he wouldn't notice. (yeah… it could happen!)
You’ve got this pictured in your head right? And you are getting a good giggle from the story, yes?
Well, we opted for the ever courageous, “don’t say anything” stance and pressed forward to find a spot to plant ourselves. Once found we sent the kids off into the water and waited it out. After some frolicking in waves and water, Ian came back up the beach from the water and ever so casually said “So...I guess no one has to wear a shirt here” to which we mumbled something of an ascent while surreptitiously checking his facial expressions to make certain we hadn’t overdone the exposure (pun intended) to European culture. All that said, he took it in stride and went back out to enjoy this stolen day in the sun. We, of course being the sophisticated parents we are, giggled. Until our shoulders shook.
I suppose this, the attire and the attitude, is all in keeping with the “nothing to hide” tradition of the Dutch. In general, the Dutch seem to have a much greater ability to embrace the uniqueness of their own bodies and don't seem to feel the need to “cover up” that we seem to feel excessively in the States. Indeed, it seems a much healthier sense of self image. That day at the beach, those who were clad in beach attire, didn’t seem to mind that their bodies didn’t fit the model thin image some feel necessary to possess before donning skimpy swimsuits. As a result, we saw a parade of people in clothing not exactly at the cutting edge of fashion and taste, but they were having a damn good time hanging out on the beach for one of the final summer days of the year. Enviable and perhaps something to aspire to, if ever I can shed the shadows of the culture I come from.
All that being said however, I really have to draw the line at middle aged pot-bellied men in Speedos.
Sorry, gents. I am so American.
Wednesday, April 15
*writing date: 30 August 2005*
This is what strikes me and rings true.
As I meet other ex-pats from around the world
we compare notes
and I realize that there are as many ways of adapting to change
as there are people who face change.
I have discovered a commonality in this international community:
we miss our old homes,
we miss our friends
we miss our families
and we miss our home country.
But we are each determined
to make a go of it in a new place,
learning a new language,
adapting to a new culture,
and making connections with people.
When you know others are out there
who are nothing at all like you,
but who feel exactly like you,
Tuesday, April 14
**Original publishing date: 1 March 2007 **
As I have been working on getting this blog ready for publication ie; pulling up old emails and sorting through journal entries from the past year and a half, I have been struck by just how very typical my adjustment as a foreign national has been. The expat help books all talk about the inevitable surge and wave of emotion a person will experience regarding his/her host country. At the beginning of the experience, the books promise, the expat will feel great admiration and love for the new place. Everything will be a grand adventure. All will be wonder, mystery and awe as the new resident discovers things about the new culture and country.
Inevitably to follow such a honeymoon experience is the fall from grace for the adopted locality. Mind you, nothing about the country changes directly, but in phase II the expat will feel quite differently about the host country. Thoughts such as "how does this place even FUNCTION?" or "this country can do NOTHING right" creep in. Sometimes these are voiced aloud. More to the point the expat may rant: "These people are strange. This food is terrible. This weather sucks. I WANT TO GO HOME!" or some such diatribe rife with emotion. Big swirling, deep emotions.
Ultimately a balance is struck, probably tenuous at best, wherein the expatriate settles into life in the new culture, no longer idealizing it nor demonizing it. Just letting it be.
So, very typical am I. Reading things like this, this, and this points the way clear to my absolute LOVE of ALL THINGS DUTCH. Months later, admitting things like this show the beginning of the decline. As for the decline itself? I didn't write about it then, and haven't yet written about the chasm of grumpiness I was in for a few months while I adjusted to the idea of becoming a more permanent resident of this country, rather than a one-year adventurer. I tend to be a "glass half-full" person and have been oft-accused of having a positive outlook. Not writing about the negative things let me hang onto that image. I will say that I am out of the abyss now and have struck my bargain balance with living in The Netherlands. Perhaps I will write about the void someday; but for now, understand that this blog for me will be the outlet I am seeking to write about, well, everything. The setting to express my emotion about living with the Dutch which can be simultaneously stimulating and deeply disturbing. The venue to point out what works so well here, and what simply does not. The spot to tell the things on my mind.
This will be the place for me to say my something about all of it.
If you care to comment, I welcome your words.
Welcome to my life.
Said by Jenn in Holland at 10:01
Monday, April 13
In between the moments that I am clearing closets, throwing out the junk, and determining which of our many accumulated items will be moving across the ocean with us, I am contemplating the experience of this life abroad. I don't know that there will be time at this time to reflect in writing the wanderings of my emotional mind, but I am enjoying the memories of the time spent here, the adjustments to life as an ex-pat, the adapting to another culture... all of it.
What I want to do next with this blog, I just don't know yet. But what I want to do now is this. I want to wander down the memory lane of my life in Holland.
And I want you to wander with me.
For the next few days (weeks, even?)I am pulling from the archives some of the early observations I took time to write down. Maybe you've read it all before, but indulge me and read it again, won't you?
I have liked it here. I have liked it a lot. And before I leave, I want to like it all over again.
Thank you dear readers and friends for being with me through this experience.
There's no doubt in my mind, it's been you who've made all the difference.
Sunday, April 12
If you are using kitchen shears to do your gardening, expect them to shatter.
Switch to proper garden clippers to finish the job. Bring branches inside.
Trim branches and arrange in vase.
Hang eggs on the branches!
Set your tree and add some extras.
Now, you are all ready for Easter surprises!
Happy Easter everyone!
Thursday, April 2
Don says: "Hey buddy, I hear you're going to the zoo today with your class at school."
Drew says: "Uh... yeah, I am. I'm going to the zoo!"
(*Andrew punches the air for emphasis*)
I say: "Hey Drew, tell Daddy about your name tag for the zoo."
Drew says: "Um. It says my name."
I say: "Right, what else does it say? Does it say you speak English?"
Drew says: "Uh, yeah, it says that. But I speak English AND Dutch."
Don says: "Ah, spreek je Nederlandse?"
Drew says: "Ummmm...yeah, I said I speak English AND Dutch."
Wednesday, April 1
Tuesday, March 31
Recently, I stood at the sink and chopped away at my hair. Which is something I tend to do when I am emotionally charged.
I get emotionally charged over things like big changes.
Big changes by my definition include things like trans-atlantic relocations.
Which is what we are doing.
Don is taking on a new challenge which will lead us stateside once again. Excited is a word I might use to describe the emotion of it all. Thrilled for him, happy for what this offers all of us, and sad to leave here. Very sad. I also might admit to being scared. But only if I were the kind of person to lay my feelings out for all the internet to read and see. Which I am.
76 days left on the continent.
Friday, March 27
Hello little blog
I am sure you're missing me!
I'm not far away...
Changes are afoot
Things I haven't told you yet
But please don't be sad.
Tell all my readers
they can find me at facebook
when I am not here
Soon I will be back
fingers fast at the keyboard
To say my something!
But in the meantime
trust me, I am missing you
as the dust settles here
Monday, March 23
It's not necessarily music, but it is music to me.
Please meet Pilobolus, a dance company I first saw when I was all of 13 years old. That was in Salt Lake City where their antics (and propensity to dance in the nude) stirred quite a controversy in town. Over the years I have seen them perform in various venues and in various places. The most recent being Saturday evening here in The Hague as part of my ongoing-birthday-present from Don.
I will never cease to be captivated by their artistry.
Cutting edge, edgy, and amazingly artistic, when Pilobolus (pīläb'ələs) (or in dutch pronunciation pee-LOBO-loose) is performing it is a visual feast.
Enjoy the bodies in motion video and understand that when I look at this, my heart sings!
Happy Music Monday !
Friday, March 20
Wednesday, March 11
Sunday, March 8
(Mama opens conversation)
"Hey, Ian, Emma... it's gettin' late."
(Teens collectively sigh)
"So...um...yeah, time to be making preparations for bed?"
(Unison monotone vocal response indicating lack of enthusiasm for above named task)
(Clock moves forward one, two, three... 10 minutes.
Teens remain glued to computer screens and keyboards.)
(Mom ups the ante)
"So, here's what I am thinking. Anyone still down here in 5 minutes is cleaning the kitchen before bed."
(Room immediately clears. Parent quiet time commences)
No applause, please. Just throw money.
Friday, February 27
Rivulets of water roll
steam rising upward
Water for good health
running warm o'er head, skin, heart
Washing tears away
Thoughts never ceasing
but quiet and quieter
while the water flows
Thursday, February 26
I am not in Lisbon this week.
As it goes with all best laid plans, something came along to change them.
This time the something is spelled P-N-E-U-M-O-N-I-A and the affected set of lungs belong to A-N-D-R-E-W. Which is to say, we've had a very sick boy on our hands since last Friday. On Saturday we huddled and fuddled and finally decided wellness trumps tourism.
We stayed home.
Thankfully, there is the magical world of A-N-T-I-B-I-O-T-I-C-S and I am happy, nay thrilled, to report that Andrew has rallied and is getting better almost as fast as he descended into rampant-fever-heavy-coughing-ragged-breath-purple-extremity-lethargy hell.
What I mean to say is he's sassy as ever.
And to prove my point, a scene of silliness, conversation in two
"Woah, what was that Mom?"
"What was what?"
"What was that I heard? Did you fart Mom?"
"No, baby. Mommies don't fart."
"Yes they do!"
*mama suppresses giggles*
"No, really they don't. I would never."
"You did! You farted!"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
*boy begins to wave hand in front of nose*
"Oh, mom, yes you did. You farted! And it smells disgustin'!"
* the mama sheepishly slinks from room*
Sunday, February 22
My dear readers, friends, and lurkers,
I need your help. In recent weeks/months I have received numerous emails in regard to moving, working and living in The Netherlands. And while I am glad to answer any and all queries which come to my inbox I have been thinking a couple of things here.
First, I am behind in getting some of these questions answered.
(That for the sole reason that I am a lazy correspondent and for all my time spent on the computer, not all of it is *ahem* productive time on the computer. So I am late to reply in some instances.)
Second, while I am happy to wax poetic about most any subject, I recognize fully that my take and perspective on this/these particular subject(s) is limited to my personal experiences. Those experiences may not be universal. And it is just ever so possible that my attitude about things is also not the same for every ex-pat or transplant to the continent.
So, to make my point clear here, what I need is a little help from you my friends, my readers and my lurkers. (I know who you are. Okay, not really true, but I do wish I knew who you were as I am relatively certain your presence adds meaning and substance to my blogging life and well, we should know each other better)
What I propose is this. In true kill-two-birds-with-one-stone logic, I would like to answer the email queries by post here at this blog for these kind strangers who have so kindly asked for my input. What I would like then to add to the story of how it goes for me to live, work and adapt to life in The Netherlands (huh, like I haven't told THAT story a thousand times before...) is the story of how it goes for you. You meaning the collective you who read here and live here too. I am appealing to all those who live in the lowlands or any of the neighboring countries.
What I am hoping to offer the kind strangers is a gathering of other kind blogging strangers who can shed some light, share their perspective, give encouragement, fill in the blanks, inspire, deter, or generally answer the questions others have of those of us who have been there, done that.
My post would read something like this:
Jenn goes blah-blah-blah about her life for awhile, attempts to make people laugh, and answers a few questions along the way.
Then, Jenn LINKS to you and suggests (nay, commands) that readers go take a gander at what you have to say and/or contact you directly to get the info they need. Toch?
If you are willing to help me out here, please can you send an email to me at aeinoyou AT yahoo DOT com and leave me either an email address (which I will encrypt) or a blog url (which I will link) to share with the question askers when I post. Your shared stories, experiences and perspective will be meaningful to all, of that I am certain.
Thank you to all of you in my blogging world (lurking and otherwise) for making my life so rich. Thank you for helping me share that wealth.
Jenn in Holland
Saturday, February 21
Out of the circuit and in the sun for the half-term holiday.
Leave your link, your love and your comments here!
Até a vista!
Wednesday, February 18
Tuesday, February 17
I have commented before on the nature of a Dutch house. The fact that land and space are in short supply and large demand in the lowlands produced and produces a country where skinny and tall is the norm. Second fact on that matter is that the Dutch physique itself fits that same description, but that friends, is commentary for another time.
Let's talk architecture.
Our home sits on a street of homes which look just like ours. Not only does our house resemble every other house on the block, we also share walls on 2 sides with neighbors. Who share walls on 2 sides with their neighbors. Who share walls on two sides with their neighbors. And so on, and so on, and so on. I know you have the picture in your head but just to illuminate, I shall show you. It looks like this:
On the inside our houses diverge from one another, not just in matter of decor but also by means of alteration and remodeling which most if not all the homes on this street have gone through (or are in the midst of even as I type these words). So where my neighbor a few doors down (count that, it's like 6 walls over) has knocked down a wall to make way for a less ship's-gallery-like kitchen, the owners of our home have left narrow kitchen in place but opted for a second (oh! the luxury!) bathroom on the first floor.
The variations are endless I suppose, but the one place where no alteration is possible and no alternative available is the staircases.
I tell you now, my dear readers and friends, Dutch stairs are a wonder to behold. Narrow, steep and windy are adjectives which fit but only for lack of better, wilder, more apt terms to describe the narrow, steep, windy things.
When we first moved to Holland, our youngest, Andrew, was just 2 years old. The sight of the steep, narrow, windy stairs in our first home in Leiden was enough to make me throw up in my mouth just a little. Steep. Steep. Steep. Oh, shit. Teaching him to ascend and descend with care and caution was the first item of adjusting to Dutch living on my list. Andrew quickly mastered the mostly crawl on the way up and the bum-slide-bump on the way back down. And while he tumbled down those steps at least once, he is not the family member who holds the record for most stair mishaps.
No, that would be me.
After our first year in Leiden, we gathered our things and moved to The Hague (but not before moving all of our accumulated THINGS to a friend's home while we transitioned, and hauled all of those possessions up TWO sets of steep, narrow, windy stairs to the second floor of her home). Our house hunt in The Hague consisted of one single element for me. On sight of stairs alone I chose a house. Well, almost.
Nearly impossible (especially as a family of five) to find a place to live WITHOUT stairs, I adjusted my standards and the OKAY TO MOVE IN list included places that at least had a hand rail next to steep, narrow and windy. Staircases which literally resembled ladders were out. Definitively.
So, we chose a home which, yes, has stairs. But steep, narrow and windy as they are, they are captured between 2 walls and sport a handrail for nearly the entire run.
Still, I've managed to fall down them more often than any other. Which is what I did just now as I was heading to check my e-mail. Thus, the birth of this post.
I think it's time I adopt the bum-slide-bump.
Monday, February 16
Perhaps my fav'rite love song
For now and ever
Sinatra sang it
Ella, Chaka, Barbra too
(zillions of others!)
"Looks are laughable
Surely, strange love words
"But don't change a hair~
Stay little valentine stay"
With ev'ry clear note
I hear love and devotion;
Captured by the thought
Of each day for Valentine
A forever love
Sunday, February 15
You haiku too? Come join the fun.
Link it up if you're playing my game. (even when I don't)
2. Soccer Mom in Denial
Saturday, February 7
Friday, February 6
Wednesday, February 4
Monday, February 2
Possibly the cleverest thing I have seen in a very long time. I simply had to share! Pour yourself a cuppa and press the play button. I believe you too will be carried away. HER MORNING ELEGANCE OREN LAVIE Sun been down for days--A pretty flower in a vase--A slipper by the fireplace--A cello lying in its case--Soon she's down the stairs--Her morning elegance she wears--The sound of water makes her dream--Awoken by a cloud of steam--She pours a daydream in a cup--A spoon of sugar sweetens up--And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--As she goes in a store--With a thought she has caught--By a thread--She pays for the bread--And She goes... Nobody knows Sun been down for days--A winter melody she plays--The thunder makes her contemplate--She hears a noise behind the gate--Perhaps a letter with a dove--Perhaps a stranger she could love--And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--As she goes in a store--With a thought she has caught--By a thread--She pays for the bread--And She goes... Nobody knows And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--Where people are pleasantly strange--And counting the change--And She goes... Nobody knows
HER MORNING ELEGANCE
Sun been down for days--A pretty flower in a vase--A slipper by the fireplace--A cello lying in its case--Soon she's down the stairs--Her morning elegance she wears--The sound of water makes her dream--Awoken by a cloud of steam--She pours a daydream in a cup--A spoon of sugar sweetens up--And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--As she goes in a store--With a thought she has caught--By a thread--She pays for the bread--And She goes...
Sun been down for days--A winter melody she plays--The thunder makes her contemplate--She hears a noise behind the gate--Perhaps a letter with a dove--Perhaps a stranger she could love--And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--As she goes in a store--With a thought she has caught--By a thread--She pays for the bread--And She goes...
And She fights for her life--As she puts on her coat--And she fights for her life on the train--She looks at the rain--As it pours--And she fights for her life--Where people are pleasantly strange--And counting the change--And She goes...
Sunday, February 1
How do you say?
SHOCK THE WORLD.
All bets are on.
Saturday, January 31
Friday, January 30
Attempting to find
the ideal five syllables
to end a haiku
Making the point with one word
counts as poetry
Here's what I'm thinking
I truly do like people
but they disappoint
Selfishness seeps in
Some take without give
As a big giver
I must admit exhaustion
Sincerely I wish
a world full of giving hearts
as the way of life
You'll join me, won't you?
A loving utopia--
Goodbye to grumpy!
Farewell to selfish! No more
Thursday, January 29
"Ack. What time is it?"
"looks like almost six."
"Bah. I suppose I should start thinking about dinner."
"What do you think I should make?"
"ummmm... a phone call?"
Tuesday, January 27
Monday, January 26
Rock-a-bye your baby...
When I was first in college (even WAY back before I met Don) I enrolled in a popular class on campus called Program Bureau. It was run by a campus icon at the time, a woman by the name of Roene DiFiore, whose very presence in the room meant a song was coming on. For everyone. The class was designed to be a sing-out group, meant to entertain at conventions, parties and other gatherings. It was a class for the misfits, the shy, the wannabes and the starlets. A perfect gathering point, a community in and of itself. (That it was also an easy "A" meant it was a class filled to the brim each semester).
With a Dixie melody...
Students would gather in the music room, giggling, gabbing and posturing for sitting position on the room's risers. A grand piano stood in the center of the floor awaiting the entrance of Madame DiFiore. Decades older than our nearly-twenty-something selves her triumphant daily entrance was never a disappointment. Her usual garb of free flowing frocks in magnificent color, her hair in an untidy up 'do on the top of her head, her eyeglasses held round her neck with a black cord, and her lips painted in shocking orange or red all made her a wonder to behold. She was an eccentric delight. An unforgettable oddity. A personality never to forget.
She would sit at the piano and lead us in song. Sometimes with her glasses perched at the end of her nose, most often with them swinging freely at her ample bosom, she swayed with her eyes closed as she carried herself away in the music. She wrote the lyrics we were to memorize on the chalkboard and systematically removed words and phrases until we had learned every word. On so many occasions she would stop herself mid-sentence and pat around her hips, her belly, and her breasts with her hands until, ultimately triumphant, she would reach under her shirt, into her bra and withdraw the article she was seeking: pencil, tissue, lipstick. You name it, she seemed to have it stored there.
And when you croon, croon a tune...
Under the tutelage of Mrs. D. we learned the oldies, we learned the goodies. We belted out Broadway tunes. We held hands over hearts and sang of our country. There were silly songs. There were hymns. There were lullabies. There were blues.
It was music. Pure and clear, loud as our voices could sing it.
From the heart of Dixie...
It was under Roene's care that my own voice blossomed. And to say that isn't to say that I didn't sing before, I spent my whole life singing, but what she gave me was this uninhibited PASSION to SING from my guts. From my soul. From the very heart of me.
Just hang that cradle mammy mine...
In private lessons in her office studio she mentored me on some of the greater tunes of HER time. Classic Broadway music (which she taught me to belt like nobodys business!), 40's torch songs, and campy radio tunes. My memories of standing at that upright piano while she plunked away at the keys and called for me to stand up straight and let it all pour out are very precious memories indeed.
Right on the Mason-Dixon line...
My first meet with Madame DiFiore was not in her class but on the audition stage for one of the first musical try-outs of my college career. I sang, she played. She then invited me to join her class. After that I was her dedicated, devoted student spending semester after semester in her music room, traveling the circuit of conventions as one of her ambassadors of music to entertain the college visitors.
And swing it from Virginia to Tennessee with all the love that's in ya...
She called me the "little dynamo" because counter to my size (diminutive at 19) my voice was big. Really big. The first tune she taught me by rote (I don't read music) was the showstopping song from 42nd Street. Lullaby of Broadway kind of became my calling card performance piece in those years of Program Bureau shows. She would call me forward from the group and set the stage with her introduction. "Folks, you may want to back up here... this one packs a punch." Then, opening chord and first notes, ending in a growl, a roll and the ultimate deep breath long note belted ending.
Weep no more my lady...
I can't be certain I was any good at all, but darn it, it was a fun, fascinating and ultimately soul fulfilling time for me.
Sing that song again for me...
Now, of course, my concert giving is limited in scope to the audience of my family. Generally accepted as one of the mama's strange, eccentric behaviors as she stirs the soup or folds the towels, it is mostly tolerated. Even though they've heard the repertoire (repeatedly) before.
So soft and low just as though you had me on your knee...
When Don took me to London for the weekend, a weekend or two ago, we sat on the 17th row to see the adorable, amazing Mandy Patinkin in concert. Starstruck, but behaving myself, I found myself wrapped up in his voice, his music, HIS repertoire. And when he broke into ROCK-A-BYE YOUR BABY I thought I might just be swept away in my own emotional memory.
A million baby kisses I'd deliver...
Roene DiFiore passed away nearly 20 years ago, not too many years past the time I stood at her side and learned the old songs she loved. The songs that I love too. The very songs I sang to my babies in their infant days. And yeah, the same tunes I sing in the shower.
If you would only sing that "Swanee River"...
That her influence on my life is deep seems obvious. It's in every song that I sing. It's in the way I appreciate the artists she loved. It is marked by the magic of hearing any of those tunes again.
Also, it might just be in the way I store my lip gloss in my bra.
Rock-a-bye your rock-a-bye baby with a Dixie melody!
Saturday, January 24
Have you seen my black sweater? Is there a mate to this sock?
Are you playing? Leave a note and I will link you back... just as soon as I finish folding these towels. :)
Friday, January 23
Tuesday, January 20
An American celebrates an historic day with her International colleagues.
"...we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."
Barack Obama, Inauguration Speech, 20 January
So many words on a Tuesday
ushering in a Wordless Wednesday
Monday, January 19
Nope, not a sport fanatic. Not at all.
Sunday evening, Don and I found ourselves in company of some of his colleagues with the playoff game (conference championship) of the NFC as the impetus for the gathering. That's right. I attended a football viewing party.
But, you are not a fan of football, you say.
That is correct, I reply.
So, why this one? You ask.
I shall tell you.
Phoenix was playing.
Yup, Phoenix, my hometown. Or rather, my town of 8 years before we moved to The Netherlands. The fact that the team had risen through the ranks this season, winning game after game had certainly eluded me, but The Cardinals arrival at this championship game, precursor to THE SUPERBOWL couldn't be missed. Well, I suppose it could have, but with the plethora of email and facebook messages arriving from LOYAL FANS (aka my friends) back in Phoenix lauding the accomplishments of the hometown team, I didn't miss it.
I presented myself honestly and openly at this viewing party outing myself immediately as the person in the room who easily knew the least about the sport and likely couldn't care less about the game.
And then, there was the National Anthem and the kickoff.
And somehow, I was completely swept in.
Suddenly, I was the person in the room jumping up and shouting louder than anyone on the good plays. I was also the person in the room holding head in hands and biting her nails on the bad ones.
In a word I was looking: Fanatic.
Midway through the game I publicly declared my enthusiasm for all things PHOENIX CARDINALS announcing to all within earshot: "If the Cards win tonight I am getting cornrows in my hair tomorrow!" (Follow my logic here, this in honor of the ever-amazing Larry Fitzgerald, Number 11, Wide Receiver, who I admittedly developed a bit of a crush on through the course of the game--but honestly, what's not to love, admire and emulate when watching the powerhouse of grace, speed and finesse?)
(Oh, and he's super good looking too)
I know Don was secretly (he even may have said it out loud) hoping that my enthusiasm for white girl dreds would leave me or I would retract the statement by the end of the game. I did neither but offered the compromise that I would merely throw a few plaits into my coiff as
talisman token gesture of fanaticism support until the Superbowl.
So,that's that then. The Phoenix Cardinals won the game and are on their way for the first time to the mother of all bowl games. And me? I am braiding my hair in devotion. Upon consensus there will be one into the 'do for me. One for Elway, the stuffed bear who was watching along with us (that's a whole 'nother story), and one in for Don's boss. Raise your hands in the air in support of The Cards and I just may add a braid for you too.
Don't worry, I will complete the look with red and white beads hanging from the braids. It's going to be grand. I am celebrating the way only a fair weather fan can.
American Football is so my sport.
Sunday, January 18
I should be working. Really, I should. There is lots to be done and the hours to do it are drifting away. Instead, though, I am wandering the house, the internet, and my own imagination.
Blame it on the random spotted sleep I have had the last 2 nights. Poor Andrew has been sick and between bouts of vomiting we've been doing a lot of cuddling. And in the end, at his recovery, I am feeling the shell-shock of not sleeping. Mostly that is manifesting in this can't-focus-on-nothin'-state of mind which I confessed to when I started this paragraph.
Reader warning: If you are looking for coherency and succinct point in your blog reading today, move along. I just don't think that will be happening here.
I've been thinking. About lots of things really, but mostly about fear. The way it manifests, the way it underscores, overrides and dictates action. Perhaps I should insert CAN into that sentence. The way fear CAN manifest, underscore, override and dicate actions. My actions for sure. I am assuming here this is a universal experience and others have the same feeling. (You'll have to report in the comments section and tell me if it's so.)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (First inaugural address):The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
What is on my list?
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of what people think.
Fear of trying something new.
Fear of leaving something behind.
Hoshang N. Akhtar: An intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex,and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
Depending on the moment I am considering some or all of those generalized categories where fear can grip, my response is typical:
And I will admit here to being more of a fighter than a runner. Or I have learned to be in recent years. Truth be told, I am a talker and I can talk the fear into nothingness, by simply talking it to death. I am good at that.
Thomas Jefferson: There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.
What I am considering though is less about conquering fear as it is learning to just live with it. It's ever present isn't it? At least in the generalized sense. There is always something to fear, whether it is rational or otherwise. So, the question I am (not entirely lucidly) focusing on is: Why fear fear, anyway?
Myriad others have thought about this too I am sure, and have quipped famous lines denoting their rather profound and poetic thoughts regarding fear. I don't have any of those to offer here.
I am just thinking.
Living with fear without feeling the need to avoid it nor conquer it. It seems doable, doesn't it?
Japanese proverb: Fear is only as deep as the mind allows
Alternatively, one could just eat ice cream. To hell with the examined life.
Saturday, January 17
So lazy indeed I haven't managed to renew the Mr. Linky add-on. Please tell me you've played and I shall post the linky-love by hand. It might be a struggle, but for you I will do it.
Bud-de-dum everyone's in love...
THIS LIST IS THOSE WHO ARE NOT TOO
DISTRACTED LAZY TO BLOG:
Sunday, January 4
Some (long) time ago, not too (very) long after I opened this blog, I posted a piece about the things (15 of them) that we might like to see in a care package from home. It was a write-on-a-whim moment. One of those I seemed to be better at when I first kept this blog verses what it's been like around here lately. The ultimate result of posting such a list was an overwhelming outpouring from these "strangers" in my life who took it upon themselves to cross the blog barrier and become real life friends by reaching out and sending out care packages of various sizes and contents.
Stunning, amazing, incredible really.
And awful damn cool.
(I hope you all know how very thankful I am for all of it--all this time)
Among the generosity by post was a box of books from a new friend whose own childhood roots were in Holland, and whose love of reading rivals the readers in this house. By email I was able to peruse her bookshelf titles and shortly after we were treated to a delightful package of reading material straight from her home to ours. So happy was Emma with the offering she gathered all the titles I had "ordered" for her and promptly planted herself on the couch to read.
Of course, I caught the moment on
It is, after all, about the love of the book.