Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Swimming lessons

I went to visit my sister today and happened upon her in the swimming pool, waiting patiently while her little four year old started her first swimming lessons.

It's a must, here in Holland. Swimming lessons. Given at terrible times, like early mornings before school, or just around dinner time. Mothers hanging patiently around in the damp rooms, exchanging gossip, all hoping their kids will finally achieve their A, B and C swimming diplomas.

For a long long time it was common for the schools to supply swimming lessons. Which meant whole classes getting into a bus, driving to the nearest pool for maybe half an hour of lessons, and then on the bus back. Very inconveniënt, expensive, and often times unneccesary because lots of kids already had earned their diploma's in their own time.

When our son was little the waiting list at the local pool was so long that we had to go to another one. This meant a half hour bike ride, either with our son on the back of the bicycle, or him biking himself with us pushing him along. We didn't have a car at that time.
In my memory it was always wet on this particular bike ride, and the wind was always blowing against us.
We were very very happy to stop the swimming lessons after the first diploma was received.

For our daughter, we did even better. After her swimming techniques became worse rather than better due to a teacher she didn't get along with, we simply stopped the lessons and let her swim without her diploma. She kept her head above water, that was the most important!
Believe me though, many a dutch person would be shocked if we told them this was how we handled it!

Monday, September 10, 2012


I went to Urk with my brother today, to give him a bit of a last feel of Holland, before he heads off to Curacao.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Odds and ends

It was a day filled with odds and ends:

Buying paint at a store with this view: 

Buying honey with this view:

Market at the windmill with these views:

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Today's journey will take me to the International Church in Amersfoort, about half an hours drive away from here.
Usually we attend an evangelical church here in Nunspeet, but lately I've been feeling a longing for some english speaking company and a different perspective. We'll see how that pans out!

Nunspeet is in the middle of the Bible Belt here in Holland. Sundays you will find many large families on their way to church. Dressed in the appropriate manner, girls with skirts or dresses only, often times with hats on and often in shades of grey and black. People will bike as much as possible and adhere to the sunday being a rest day and a day of worship. If you happen by one of their churches it's amazing to see the amount of bicycles parked in front of it!

There is actually a pretty big choice of churches for such a relatively small area. From very strictly traditional to your more evangelical type. No megachurches though. Have to travel a little bit further for those!
One small catholic church has managed to stay alive and we also harbor a small community of  Ahmadi muslims. 

It sounds eclectic, but in practice the older, more traditional churches are quite defining for the  "mood" of the town. Practically all businesses are closed, one does not work in the garden, or do odd jobs around the house that would be noisy for the neighbors. You don't wash your car out in the street and don't hang your laundry outside. Definately no loud parties or gettogethers. This is all out of respect for those who do want to keep sunday as a day of rest.

I've just been rebellious and  put in a second load of laundry (but won't hang it outside). I like the sense of peace that a sunday has here though. The world is a busy place enough without adding another day of business to it!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Swimming, two ways

Summer seems to have arrived! Glory!!

Instead of the calm tranquility in this post, the lake was filled with laughing and playing children and with teens showing off, all the while holding their smartphones in their hands. At a certain point two girls on horseback came riding by, madly twittering as they went (or whatever it was they were doing).
Hubby and I enjoyed a little lakeside break and I finally got to use my wonderful present, my bicycle bag picknick set.

Earlier this week I was at my sisters house. She has transformed her back yard into a swimming paradise for her young ones. Their slide construction is ingenious and has led to lots of fun, especially for her son. Even my son got in on the fun and jumped into the relatively cold pool. As for me? I voted to take pictures instead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I got an Asus Transformer Pad for my birthday this year which has led to me almost obsessively playing with it. I have around 40 books downloaded on to it, and further investigation shows that I can also use it as a laptop. Gone is my habit of getting up in the morning, fixing breakfast and reading blogs behind the computer. Now I just check my reader at intervals throughout the day (and facebook and twitter and my e-mail and so forth and so on...). I find myself scanning all the free e-books, to see what I want to download now. It makes me feel rich to have a library at my fingertips, all chosen by me!
The library here in Nunspeet is nice, but is not known for its extensive collection of english books. I've been added to the waiting list for The Hunger Games, maybe I'll get to read that before the summer is over. For the rest the choice is minimal. I also do a nice trade with my secondhand book stall man, where I only have to pay 50 cents for every book I trade. Seeing as I still prefer reading in english over reading in dutch, this doesn't make for a huge book selection. 
My virtual bookshelf now has a delightful mix of old books like Pollyanna and Little Women, as well as Lynn Austin and Janette Oak, but I've also discovered David Simpson, Brian James Freeman and Peter F. Hamilton.
Has anybody else noticed that a lot of the free books are the first of a series? I guess Kindle hopes to lure you in to buying the next book, and the next, and the next.
Whatever the case may be, I think I may have to discipline myself a bit more so that I don't get too lost into the world of reading.

I am however, also wondering if there are other great free book suggestions from you. Any books you'd recommend?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


It's very strange to note that a sense of time or a sense of distance is so dependent on where you're living. I know a lot of americans will think nothing of driving a couple of hours for a family visit, or even more than a couple of hours. Here it's not done. Or maybe I should say, it's not something that I do often.

This week was a bit of an exception. Not that I suddenly decided to drive to another country, but I did take the initiative to drive a little beyond what I usually do.
Wednesday I went to the camping I mentioned in my last post, which was an hours drive (really, what are we talking about!!). Yesterday brought me to a pretty amazing sauna in Bleiswijk, close to Rotterdam. If I include picking up my friend at her home in Utrecht, it made the trip an astounding hour and a half.  All of this left me feeling quite the worldly traveller. Pretty ridiculous, isn't it?
I keep forgetting that Holland is so small, and that distance is so relative. I've been thinking about going to an international church in Amersfoort which is 36 minutes away, according to the travel planner. But the fact that I pass by approximately 3 towns before I get there makes it feel far away. And it really is three towns that I travel past, not three suburbs!
The challenge for me is to keep remembering distance is relative and not to let kilometers get in the way of making good and  fun plans.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


My husband and I have never really fallen for the charms of camping. We prefer a caravan or a bungalow when we go on holiday.
Not so for many of the dutch.
Today I visited a friend who was staying at a relatively big camping in Overijssel, a province in Holland just to the north of where we live. She and her kids were enjoying themselves thoroughly. Evidently they ended up on a field of campers who were very friendly and sociable. Which is a good thing, because there's very little privacy here! According to my friend, these were the luxury sites, with more space than usual. To my eyes, it still looks pretty crowded. So I'm happy for her that they are in good company and enjoying their stay!
Husband and I often chose to stay at small farmer type campings when we went on holiday. With space for 10 to 15 tents/caravans, not many more. But even then I was very aware of how much noise I was making, and especially how much noise the kids would make. Our kids were awake almost every night for 8 years running, so this was a real concern. One time we even resorted to using sleeping pills for our youngest, but when he even woke up crying right through the pills we just gave up and accepted the noise.

Now I'm curious. Is it just me who thinks that this camping, and most in Holland are pretty cramped? Or is it a universal thing that when camping you end up very close to your neighbors?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


It is surprising to me, each and every time, how much a sense of space influences my mood.

I've just come back from France. It was my first time, definately not my last if it's up to me! I thought the fact that I spoke no french would bother me a lot, but actually it didn't. And how many french people do you know that come to Holland and speak the language?

I spent 10 days just soaking in the views. Of sunflower and wheat fields, of hills and rivers and valleys. It was so soothing to my eyes and mind.
Coming back to flat small Holland has left me feeling a bit flat and small as well.

I grew up with views. Views of hills and eucalyptus trees and lakes and valleys. Being able to look out gives my soul a sense of space.
And as lovely as Holland is (and it really is!), I miss space. It can be found if I go looking for it, so again I need to remind myself to go and look. To make the effort to sooth my eyes and mind.

I can't help but wish that it was just around the corner though ;-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Deventer Boekenmarkt

A drive with my dad to Deventer took us to the Deventer Boekenmarkt.
878 market stalls filled with books, attracting more than a hundred thousand visitors.
Happily, we didn't see that many of them. The weather wasn't too good, so a lot of people decided not to show up. We didn't mind, as it gave us the opportunity to park close to the town and wander around at will.

We took a boat across the water to reach the center of the town. Deventer is a charming old city, so that added to the ambiance!
My dad bought a book about John Wesley and a book about the history of Hoevelaken, which is where he now lives. I bought one of Rosamund Pilchers books, for which I apologize. I tend to like easy reads, and this one of them!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Meeting the dutch

Today was "black saturday", one of the days when the great exodus of dutch to the south is at it's worst and the highways are clogged with cars, caravans and trailers.
We just had our holiday in the Auvergne in France, a relatively unknown place. But it didn't matter where we went, we were sure to run into some dutch. We heard and spotted dutch everywhere we went. It's often said that the dutch are one of the most travelled people on earth. This trip confirmed it.
But  not only did we run into dutch, we ran into people that my husband knows, at a restaurant in the middle of Vichy. Who would have thought!
This man happens to have played an important part in my husband setting up his own business. It was practically a meeting through divine intervention. Just that morning my husband had prayed that he would be able to encourage someone that day and this meeting was an answer to that prayer. My husband was able  to tell this man about how some of the things he had talked about with Herman  had been so important. At a certain point in the conversation the man pointed to his arm and said "goosebumps". He had chills all over.

So not only did we see many anonymous dutch, we even met familiar ones. Wonder who we'll run into next time we're gone!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

La Belle France

Holland is pretty well known for it's ordered dutch houses. Things are perfectly aligned and structured and neat and cozy. Maybe that's why many dutch chose to buy a second home in France.

We're in one of those homes now. Probably built somewhere in the 1800's out of huge rocks. Big thick walls, little windows. Surrounded by old sheds with cracked wooden doors. This house is still in progress of being rebuilt, and so retains all it's old time charm. Building regulations are much less strict here than in Holland, so there's more freedom to be creative. And because there's so much space, you can buy a bigger house with a lot of ground for a lot less than in Holland.

This all makes for a lovely change of scene. After the initial shock of seeing what seems to be a rather rundown house set in the middle of weeds, I'm now sitting outside in the shade with a view over trees and hills. Bees are buzzing, the wind is blowing, the heat is shimmering on the old driveway and crickers are chirping away in the knee high weeds. 

Like I just read in a magazine,   "Travel and change of pace impart new vigor to the mind"

Monday, July 23, 2012


At last, at last, it seems that summer has come to Holland. We are treasuring every moment while it lasts.
Today I had coffee and lunch at Strand Nulde with a friend. We blissfully looked out on the water, admiring the boats, chatting about our kids (who are friends), morals, vacations, getting older, social media and husbands.
It was lovely!

Seeing as Holland is so small, every centimeter of the country is used for some purpose. So maybe 300 meters behind us the highway was roaring with busy people traveling to and fro. But for us it was just sunshine, breeze and good company.