That’s understandable. After all, if you come from a culture where public nudity is not the norm, it can take some screwing of your courage to the sticking place to relinquish your clothing. To say nothing of relaxing to any meaningful degree while wearing only your birthday suit in a room full of similarly (un)attired strangers. But I mean this seriously and un-ironically: if you have never been to a Dutch spa, you are missing out.
There are, of course, the undeniable bragging rights that come out of such an encounter. You become one of the initiated. And forever after whenever you go back to that place where nudity is not the norm, you have a party story everyone wants to hear.… Read more
I have in general an excellent opinion of the Dutch education system. In fact, I would cite the education my children are receiving here as one of my top reasons for living in the Netherlands. The variety and quality of the almost exclusively publicly-funded schools is astounding, and the autonomy, respect, and responsibility kids enjoy here render it unsurprising to me that Dutch teenagers consistently score among the happiest in the world.
That said, I’m also fascinated by the various controversies that surround the way secondary education in the Netherlands is organised. During the past four years that we have lived here, and whilst shepherding two children through their transition from primary to secondary school, I have had ample–perhaps excessive–opportunity to discover and discuss these controversies with both Dutch people and foreign parents with children in the Dutch education system.… Read more
The kids have been begging for a ski trip for years; pretty much ever since we moved to Amsterdam and they learned from friends of the existence of ski trips. California girl that I am, skiing has never been much on my radar. I had a brief stint as a snowboarder in college because my roommate was obsessed, but as a highly anxious person, I generally have enough adrenaline in my life without purposely creating more by sliding at breakneck speed down a snowy mountainside.
However, I’ve noticed that parenthood is all about jumping heedlessly into things you’re totally unqualified and madly unprepared for.… Read more
Eighteen years ago I graduated from university. I had been thinking about grad school for years already by then, but looking back I realise I never considered it a real option for me. My parents had been fully supportive of me getting a bachelor’s degree, but as devout, traditional Mormons, their script for their oldest daughter after university continued in a fixed path towards mission, marriage and motherhood. Not all Mormons uniformly believe this way (and some are much more extreme, as Tara Westover recounts in her riveting memoir, Educated), but my parents did, and for them it was core to their faith.… Read more
Yes, it’s that time of year again, or that time of life, I should probably say. Because I have two children, I get to enjoy the whole school shopping saga for a second time. There are two years between Axa and Raj, which is enough time that we have to visit all the schools again, but not enough time that I have forgotten all the stress and anxiety of the adventure. Ah, well.
Although it has been an intense month with many evenings gobbled up by school visits, I don’t feel like it has been quite as difficult as last time around.… Read more
Nine years ago I wrote a blog post where I posed this question, mostly to myself: Are you an expat or an immigrant? That post was the summation of a couple of years of self-reflection navel-gazing; i.e. expat blogging. Being an expat–or a “serial expat”, as I started calling myself when we seemed unable to stay in the same country for more than a few months–began as a grand adventure. I think one way to describe those years is to say that I spent a lot of time back then seeing myself through other people’s eyes. It is almost impossible not to do that when you suddenly uproot yourself and move halfway around the world.… Read more
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.… Read more
What do I love so much about Thanksgiving? I think it’s that there are no traditions to worry about except hanging out together and cooking and eating with people I care about. There’s something so cosy and nice about being warm together inside while it’s cold outside and the smell of turkey and stuffing and pie and everything else taking its turn in the oven wafts in from the kitchen.
It’s the quintessential family holiday, but it’s also a holiday that I have spent many times away from family. 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.… Read more
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.
But whenever and however it happened, the truth is that the centre of my universe has shifted.… Read more
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.… Read more