I am usually not the one in this house who goes on business trips. Because they are just not really a thing when you work part-time at a small nonprofit with a small nonprofit budget. While Tony’s business trips do occasionally include some perks for me, usually I’m the one at home single parenting while he’s gone. Which is OK. It’s part of the life I’ve chosen, and I don’t mind too much being home alone with my (increasingly independent) children when Tony travels.
Ever since we bought our new house I’ve been meaning to go down to the city archives and look up our address to see if any old photographs existed of our house. A couple of days ago, somebody told me that the city archives have a website where you can do just that from the comfort of your own home. And I immediately began planning this blog post, in which I go around our neighborhood and take then-and-now photos to match the ones in the archive. So welcome to a trip down memory lane and a glimpse of the Schinkelbuurt of yesterday.
When I did the obligatory unofficial Facebook poll of what to do in London, the two most recommended must-visits were Camden Market and the V&A. Camden Market will, alas, have to wait until a less grey and drizzly day. But as you know, I am always up for another museum, especially if it involves history or the fine arts. Or both, as the V&A does. It is a wonderful museum, and I heartily add my voice to the recommendations next time you are in London.
The 1899 ceremony in which the foundation stone of the museum’s current building was laid turned out to be Queen Victoria’s last public appearance, and it was then that it officially received its name, the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s a perfect place to explore at random, which we did, although in the end I believe we saw almost the entire museum. The exhibit themes range from time periods (e.g. 1300-1600) to geographical areas (e.g. Korea or the Middle East) to artistic media (e.g. ceramics or glass).
One of the Things You Do while in London is go to a musical (although I’ve extracted a semi-promise from Tony that next time it will be a Shakespeare play). We picked Wicked. And Tony has been crushing on the Dutch actress who played Elphaba ever since. I liked it even more than I thought I would, and it’s been so highly recommended to me by so many people that I was expecting to like it a lot. It was a spectacular piece of theatre. I loved the opulent costumes and the steampunk feel of the sets.
So far, London is spectacular. At least what I’ve seen of it, which is mostly the inside of the British Museum. Because let’s face it, we all know which person I am here:
It is entirely possible that I went straight there from the airport (having arrived at Heathrow shortly after eight in the morning), and stayed until I was literally shooed out at closing time. I also had to replace my audio guide when the battery died after several hours in the museum. So I guess I’ve confirmed my family’s suspicions on every vacation we take that I would just stay in that museum indefinitely if they didn’t drag me out.
We are coming up on two years in Amsterdam, which means almost one year at our new house, in our new neighbourhood. Are we still happy with our choice to pick a little house in the city rather than a bigger one with a garden farther out? It’s still a resounding yes! The longer we live here, the more we love it.
Schinkelbuurt is a delightful little neighborhood of Amsterdam that is also somewhat unknown. Possibly because it’s so little. It’s just that red-highlighted triangle with a tail in the bottom left corner.
Axa refused to visit the final school on our list, so I got an unexpected reprieve. And we are done! I must say that it has been an extremely educative process for me. I’ve learned more about the Dutch education system and the individual schools, but also come to understand better the importance they place here on school choice, both for parents and for children. The advantages of offering so many choices are obvious, I guess. Ideally, each student will find the program and school that is the perfect match as far as academic level, educational method, subject emphasis, individual accommodations, distance from home, and that indefinable “click” between the student and the school.
One of the best things about the way they do this whole high school thing here is that it’s so kid-focused. Whenever we walk into a school on an open day, it’s Axa who is greeted and handed a flyer, folder, bag of brochures, pen, water bottle, or whatever they’re handing out at this particular school (she promptly hands it all over to me to carry for her, but still). The students and teachers focus on talking to the visiting kids, although they are also polite and willing to answer the parents’ questions. Because let’s be real, the kids are 11-12, and sometimes they are more interested in the bowl of snacks on the table than in asking insightful questions about their future education. Yesterday I shared a rueful smile that transcended culture and language with a Dutch mother whose son had just grabbed a giant handful of potato chips out of a consumer research survey on whether Lays or generic chips tasted better.
There is one especially aggravating thing about this whole process: We spend by far the most time and effort on schools in which we have little interest, and to which it is very unlikely Axa will go. After all, 95% of kids get placed in one of their top three choices. It wasn’t very difficult to to choose those top three; we had a fairly good idea of which ones they would be based on their websites, programs offered, test scores, and proximity to our house. The visits were more to see how the school “felt” to Axa and rank them either one, two, or three.
If you look at a map of the Netherlands (which I should do more often, since I know many of its cities only as final destinations for the trains I take), you see that Maastricht sits in what Wikipedia refers to as an “eccentric location” on a little extra tail that dips down between Belgium and Germany. Of course, as always, there are a variety of strategic historical and military reasons for this, which you can read about in Alexandre Dumas novels and various other places. In more modern times, it was chosen as the location for the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, establishing the European Union, which I hope we can all agree to go ahead and continue to keep intact. Please.