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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Yesterday hubby and I took a drive to what we call a lake and what others might call a pond. It's just a short bike ride from here, but we were feeling lazy and took the car.
He has distinct memories of swimming in it as a child, and often of not swimming in it because it was so dirty. There was a couple hanging out in the evening sun with a fire lit, which is illegal. We passed by the corners where teens go to fool around, saw the beer bottles littering the beach, candy strewn across the sand.

But mostly my eye fell on this: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reclaimed land

One of my dear friends lives in Swifterbant, which is a small town in what we call the polder. 15 minutes from my house I cross over a bridge and find myself on the reclaimed ocean floor. A big stretch of land which once used to be sea and is now home to tulips, trees and big modern windmills.
I don't particularly like this area. Because it's relatively new the towns are very modern and the roads are laid in straight lines. None of the wandering lanes which pass by idyllic farms, just level roads where one is tempted to step on the gas and get a speeding ticket. And I don't like the big modern windmills. They look like ugly robots waving their arms at me.
But there is one advantage... the whole area where she lives is surrounded by water. So just a 4 minute drive from her house leads you to views of timeless nature on one hand and modern technology on the other. Boats came sailing by, in all their divers forms. We saw cars waiting in line for the the bridge to close. (The bridge was part of a four lane highway) The wind blew, the dog chased the sticks, and we had a few moments of peace and relative quiet.

It goes to show that beauty can be found anywhere, if you look close enough!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Small town mentality

This is indeed a realistic view of the area where I live in. Just a few minutes bike ride away. Of course, I could also show a  picture of the ugly factory which is located a few minutes bike ride away in the other direction. Like all countries, we have the good, the bad and the ugly here. I guess it's my choice what I focus on.
This morning I spoke to someone at work about the fact that I've started blogging again. To me it's my way of broadening my horizon beyond the small town cuteness of Nunspeet. I never thought that moving within Holland would be such a culture shock. But it seems to be true that living in a small town also seems to lead to people living "smaller" lives. Less aware of the big wide world, and more focussed on each other and on little details. Knowing who ones parents are is much more important in small town than it is in big city. Or is that just a cultural dutch thing?
One of the questions old timers ask here is "van wie ben je er eentje",  or "who do you belong to". I even find myself doing that after a while! And it also seems that the dutch norm of  "being normal is good enough" is stronger here than it is in a city. One must not make an effort to rise above the rest, or be very ambitious. You can see that in the level of education that children are offered. Mediocre is fine, there doesn't seem to be much room for those who can do better. Conversations can sometimes limit themselves to gossiping about the neighbors instead of stimulating ones brain with different view points.
So blogging is a good outlet. I'm glad the internet is here, that I can read about other peoples opinions, and that I do have friends that stimulate my brain and make me realize the world is bigger than this cute little town.
Ok, whine over!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Who knew that even painkillers are culturally defined?
I was chatting to my girl in India who found a great painkiller there. A mix of stuff that's not available here, and definitely not over the counter. Of course India is an exception to a lot of rules, with all kinds of medication being found on every street corner that definately would not be approved in other countries. When we were there my mom went looking for some simple med's to prevent diarrhea and was instead presented with a huge selection of antibiotics. I've even read that the resurgence of some bacteria can be traced back to India, because people use antibiotics until they feel better, don't finish the treatment and therefore increase bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
But I'm way off topic. I'm feeling the need for an indian painkiller because the dutch stuff isn't working for me today. And I also am feeling the need for some melatonin, because my boy isn't sleeping well without it. And that can't be bought over the counter here either.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I love our garden.
We live on the corner of a row of attached houses. I looked it up, and evidently this type of house is called a rowhouse/townhouse/or terraced house.  Very few houses are free standing here, there's just not enough room!
Being on the end of the row means we have an extra bit of lawn, making our garden pretty big by dutch standards. Often times the gardens of rowhouses are referred to as "postage stamps". I suppose that says enough!
So we're lucky with our garden. It has enough room for a picknick table, a hammock, a corner with regular seating and even a teeny tiny little vegetable garden that we planted this year. I don't particularly like gardening, but I do like seeing colors, so the effort is made to keep the garden looking sweet and welcoming.
Drop by for a visit, preferably when it's warm, so we can be outside and enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Around this time one of the most asked questions is "where are you going for vacation?". School has almost  ended and plans are being made.

My daughter is in India, having her own vacation adventures. Son much prefers to hang out in his room, with his computer and with his friends on skype or whatever game he's playing at that time. He can't be tempted to go with us vacation. He prefers the comfort and the familiarity of home. When we were talking about going somewhere we were faced with blank stares and rolling of eyes and firm statements about his not wanting to go with us anywhere in the near future! .
So alternatives have been sought, with the biggest issue being what to do with the fifteen year old computer geek? He's not old enough to stay at home alone. He had convinced us that he will be able to stay with friends, something that he will probably be arranging on the spur of the moment, as he is wont to do.
We will be heading of to France with friends. Lots of dutch folks head for France, evidently it's a beautiful country. I've always had a slight aversion to it, purely because of the language. I can't speak a word of French and when I try the reactions I evoke are either blank stares of incomprehension or hysterical laughter. My husband said he would get a good laugh out of my french this vacation, but I told him I would not make even one attempt to speak it, not matter how dire the situation. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sick Leave

This is my third week of sick leave due to feeling pretty burnt-out. In the weeks before I had been working half days, but that didn't have the desired effect of relieving my exhaustion.
As guilty as I often feel about being home without any severe physical symptoms, I'm also ever so grateful to the dutch system for making it possible for me to have a paid sick leave like this. Giving me the opportunity to recuperate, reevaluate, and start afresh in what I hope will not be all to long of a time. Because I am a civil servant, I also have the option of going to see a social worker or a psychologist to help me in this process.
The health care system in Holland works for our family in so many ways. I have a husband with chronic illnesses, a son with a chronic illness, and my daughter has been sickly for a long time as well. I can't imagine what our finances would be like if we had to pay for all of the medicine and medical checkups that we use or go to each year. Sure, we make monthly payments to our health care provider, but that is nothing in comparison to the actual costs that are made.
This is definitely one of the blessings of living here. 

Monday, July 2, 2012


Tomorrow a great friend of mine is turning 50. For some reason, which this post will make me research, it's a special occasion here in Holland. That's the fun of writing about dutch culture, I have to do some of my own research, and not just accept everything as it is!

So here's what my research turned up:
When you turn  50 you're said to have seen either Sarah (as a woman) or Abraham (as a man). If you're lucky, and have creative friends, a huge doll is placed in your garden so that all may know you have reached that ripe old age. The more creative your friends, the more creative the doll. And if you're not creative, you can always rent one of these gigantic blow up dolls instead.
Not being creative myself, I won't be making one of those dolls for my friend, and I won't park one of the blowup ones in her apartment either. Who knows what one of her other friends may do though!

This tradition actually stems from a bible verse. In John 8:57 it says the following:
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
I suppose, with the rise of feminism, women chose to include Sarah in this ritual as well.  

Another one of the dutch quirks. In a couple of years I may have friends crazy enough to put up one of these in my garden......

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Soccer Madness

Seeing my two "men" (husband and son) slouched on the couch watching soccer on tv reminds me of the soccer madness that hit this country just a couple of weeks ago.
When the dutch play, the world turns orange. Orange flags decorate the streets. All kinds of stores offer soccer gadgets (with orange often being the main color). When a game is played by the dutch soccer team people get together dressed in orange, often with ridiculous outfits like orange braids, orange wigs, orange pants or cutesy "dutch" outfits. Vuvuzela's are prepared to make some noise and bets are placed. Here's a youtube video of a number of dutch soccer fans making life very hard for a reporter. 
Though I'm not a soccer fan in any way shape or form, I do get a kick out of this form of patriotism. I think it's funny and it makes me smile!

But why orange? According to one site "Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family. The lineage of the current dynasty -- the House of Oranje-Nassau -- dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange). But while the color orange has royal roots in the Netherlands, today it symbolizes a broader pride in the country and in being Dutch."
And this site has devoted an entire blog post to explaining why the dutch like orange, so I won't bother to repeat!