Why Are You Brown?

Why Are You Brown?

Since the big DNA reveal last week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my Sub-Saharan African DNA. I have a sort of sense that it is rare to find out something so completely new about oneself at this stage of life. One thing that makes it strange is the way it invites me to recall and then rethink hundreds of little moments in my past. For instance, the fact that ever since I was a child, I’ve been asked over and over again some variation of this question:

Why are you brown? People usually didn’t put in precisely those terms, but it was always what they meant.… Read more

DNA Surprises

DNA Surprises

Ever since DNA testing got big a few years ago, I have had a sort of (morbid) fascination with it. I especially gravitated towards stories of mistaken identity, revealed family secrets, and reunions of long-lost relatives. Last year I watched in vicarious delight as Tony’s cousin—who had grown up as an only child—discovered and reconnected with the brother she never knew she had. I was pretty sure nothing like that could happen to me, since my family has been Mormon for generations, and is therefore peppered with more than its share of amateur genealogists.

I retain a healthy scepticism of any genealogical line purporting to go all the way back to 525 A.D.… Read more

Christmas in Normandy

Christmas in Normandy

Our Christmas holiday this year was a sort of revelatory experience. In opposition to our usual packed, busy, sightseeing holidays, we rented a little countryside cottage in Normandy and did nothing but what we liked over Christmas and New Year. Of course, predictably, what I liked was plenty of sightseeing, and you could say I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a relaxing holiday by saner elements of the family. But we had two weeks, so even with my adventure planning there were a lot of down days too, occupied by a pleasant mixture of reading, playing games, and taking walks on the windswept, empty beaches not far from our house.… Read more

The 2010s in Review

The 2010s in Review

I am still trying to wrap my head around this being the beginning of a new decade, as well as a new year. My approach towards New Year’s resolutions is basically nonexistent, since I am apt to reinvent myself on the spot whenever I feel the need, which tends to be multiple times in a year. However, I do love telling stories. In fact, the only possible way for me to ever make sense of my life is by telling it back to myself. Not once, but a thousand times. Memory is a funny thing. Our brains are constantly arranging and rearranging the past to make meaning out of it; reinforcing the parts that fit our own internal narrative and discarding the other unhelpful bits.… Read more

Christmas Letter 2019

Christmas Letter 2019

Dear Friends and Family Near and Far,

We hope 2019 has treated you kindly. Once again we feel grateful for the many wonderful moments we have shared this year. We are still living in Amsterdam, and feeling more rooted all the time. I write this from Normandy, where we are spending the Christmas holidays curled up in front of the fire eating cheese and drinking apple cider.

In February we drove to Alsace for our first (and very possibly last) ski holiday. The kids were soon flying down the slopes while I teetered along behind them thinking about how much longer it takes to recover from injuries in an almost-forty-year-old body.… Read more

DENISE School Review, Secondary School

DENISE School Review, Secondary School

This post is mostly focussed on DENISE secondary school (ages 12-18). For more information on DENISE in general and the primary school (ages 4-11), you can also check out my review of DENISE primary school.

Full disclosure: although my kids spent a combined total of six years at DENISE primary school and we had a positive experience there, we chose not to send them to DENISE secondary school. So this is not strictly a review, but more a compilation of the factors we used to make the decision NOT to continue with DENISE secondary.

My main reason for writing this post is because parents with kids ages 10+ often contact me wanting information on the secondary school.… Read more

denise-school-amsterdam

DENISE School Review, Primary School

This post concerns DENISE primary school (ages 4-11). You can also read my review of DENISE secondary school (ages 12-18). However, since it is the same school administration in the same building, you may find both articles helpful regardless of the age of your kids.

It is hard to believe my baby just graduated from Group 8 this week, and will soon be headed off to a new school. For our entire past four years in Amsterdam, DENISE (De Nieuwe Internationale School Esprit) has played a big part in our family’s experience of the city. The school has gone through many changes during its five years of existence so far, and I’ve had a front-row seat to most of them.… Read more

Holiday Confusion

Holiday Confusion

Yesterday I realised belatedly that I had neglected to buy chocolate eggs to hide for my children. It’s not too late; I’m pretty sure at least one of the five or six grocery stores within walking distance of my house is open today, even though most of them were uncharacteristically closed yesterday evening. There was a sort of palpable holiday feeling around the city last night. It’s the beginning of Easter weekend, and a two-week Meivakantie (May school vacation) for the kids, and King’s Day is next Saturday. Besides which, the weather is gorgeously sunny and warm; the cafés and restaurants had put every spare table outside, and they were all full of happy people.… Read more

Amsterdam Middelbare Lottery, 2nd Time Around

Amsterdam Middelbare Lottery, 2nd Time Around

Yesterday our family had its second chance to participate in the great Amsterdam Middle/High School Lottery. Raj’s list of schools ended up being fairly similar to Axa’s, with a few tweaks. Here it is, straight off the link they sent us with instructions to check it at exactly 15:30 on April 4 to find out what his lottery number would be, and in which school he would be placed:

I fully expected that when we clicked the link at exactly 15:30 on April 4 along with the parents of 7580 other anxious Amsterdam pre-teens, the server would inevitably be down.… Read more

Dutch Education Controversies

Dutch Education Controversies

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