It happens every so often that people contact me for advice on this or that aspect of moving their family abroad. I always try to help if I can, since I have asked for and received help and advice on this topic from so many generous people around the world the least I can do is pay it forward. So when a year or so ago I was asked to share some of our story in a how-to book on moving abroad with a family, I was delighted to oblige. My copy arrived just this week, and it was a lot of fun to page through it and remember some of the crazy and fun stuff we’ve done.
Thanksgiving away from family is a puzzle to be solved. Not celebrating is just sad and unthinkable, but since people, preferably lots of people, are a key ingredient to the holiday, celebrating does involve some planning and inviting, which can be more or less challenging depending on the circumstances. I've done my share of inviting, but I've also benefitted from some wonderful and thoughtful invitations.
When did I stop referring to trips back to California as going “home”? Was it when I realised my son has spent half his life outside his (first) passport country? The day we bought a house across the sea? Little by little on walk after walk over miles and kilometres of foreign roads? I think the first inkling of the feeling must have begun long before all that, when the plane touched down in Istanbul half my life ago, and I realised how much bigger the world was than I had ever imagined.
Dear Loved Ones Near and Far,
I confess that one of the main reasons I write this Christmas letter is not so much to let you know what we are doing as to find out what you are doing. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to grow up and live my whole life in the same little village. And then I watch a moody European crime drama awash in small town secrets and decide I don’t so much mind my itinerant city life. But I do miss being able to see all the people who mean something to me and be a part of your in-person lives.
Dutch education is neatly divided into primary school (ages 4-12) and secondary school (ages 12-18). So there’s no in-between. The kids basically go to high school at age 12.
Now, I’m not usually one of those moms lamenting that they can’t just stay little.
But I admit that this whole school thing sort of threw me for a loop, hitting as it did (not uncoincidentally) squarely simultaneously with puberty. Yesterday she was a little girl. And today she’s a grown up young woman going off to high school in a couple of months.
Well, the road to true love never did run smooth. Which is the ongoing refrain of this decade-long quest for Italian citizenship. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I did submit all my documents using the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s online application process. Not having heard from them in a while, and being concerned about the six month document expiration rule I mentioned before, I emailed the extremely helpful Adrianus at the consulate, and politely asked how things were going.
Having a party in the city carries with it some challenges. Most of them have to do with transportation. Neither we nor many of our friends have cars, which can make transporting eight rambunctious boys a bit of an adventure. That’s why as far as I’m concerned, the perfect summer party is what Raj chose last year: pizza in the park a few blocks from our house, with the Minecraft ghast piñata his mother cleverly made out of toilet paper.
But the kid is growing up, and wanted something a bit more exciting this year. To wit: laser tag! The closest place that offers laser tag is under a bridge in the centre of the city. Which meant that I had to set out from school walking with all the boys.
Sad, but true: this is the final post in the Amsterdam House Tour. I’ve run out of house to show you. The final room is perhaps the most important, seeing as how it revolves around food. So here you go: my kitchen!
Is that a fun, bright room, or what? I am a little in love with it. As you can see, turquoise is the name of the game. I still feel a bit assaulted by the brightness of it, but I’m pretty sure I like it.
For reference, here’s what it looked like when we moved in. So you can see that for better or for worse, we’ve definitely brought it into technicolor.
Almost ten years ago we moved to Italy specifically for the purpose of claiming Italian citizenship for Tony via a process called jure sanguinis (by right of blood). In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place: recording all the wacky and frustrating and occasionally miraculous things that happened along the way.
Several months, dozens of official stamps and seals, and many scoops of stress gelato later, Tony and the kids officially had their Italian citizenship recognised. And I was immediately eligible to apply for Italian citizenship myself as the wife of a bona fide Italian. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards our business failed, and we went through several rough years of financial instability, as well as some health issues, punctuated by various moves domestically and abroad.
Welcome back to the biggest tiny house in Amsterdam. Half baths, 3/4 baths, 1 1/2 baths, I never really got all the bathroom fractions straight, even through all our years of renting various houses with various configurations of bathroom facilities. However, I’m fairly sure that the bits of tile, porcelain, and chrome in our little house add up to somewhere in the vicinity of one whole bathroom.
You already met our tiny little powder room toilet in the Hallway. We are, in fact, lucky there’s a diminutive sink in there; many similar toilets in Amsterdam houses don’t have them.