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.
On Wednesday it was Tony’s turn to walk the Avondvierdaagse with the kids while I went to a writers’ meet up in the city. And of course the weather was perfect for him: sunny until after nine o’clock, as it is here when it isn’t pouring rain.
Last night I had a second chance myself. I thought about holing up in a café while the kids walked, but in the end I decided to give it another try. And I’m glad I did. This time the weather was much better; it was even a little too warm at first, which I didn’t mind at all. I rolled up the sleeves of my cotton shirt and set off at a run after the kids, since I’d been left behind because of a last minute bathroom break.
There are quite a few Dutch customs that would seem, frankly, crazy in the U.S. Some of them involve the impressively wide range of stuff Dutch kids are permitted, nay, encouraged to do (cycle several kilometres to school by themselves, take public transport all over the city, etc.) Others involve acts of defiance against the weather (the impossibly long ice skating race, Elfstedentocht, which happens only when the ice is thick enough on waterways between eleven northern cities, or the wildly popular leap into the frigid North Sea on New Year’s Day).
I was not a podcast early adopter. A couple of years ago when Serial first broke, it took several of my friends raving about it for weeks if not months before I finally got around to listening. And for years, it remained the only podcast I had ever listened to. It’s not that I was opposed to listening; it’s just that I was accustomed to reading instead, having left National Public Radio and audiobooks behind with my hour-long car commute when I moved to Amsterdam.
So the first time I appeared on a podcast, I didn’t really have a huge frame of reference. And I was incredibly nervous. Give me a keyboard to hide behind, and the eloquence will flow. Make me actually form the words out loud with my own voice? Heresy!
One of the things we’ve been meaning to do since we moved to the Netherlands is go to the Keukenhof, the most iconic tulip garden in a country famous for its tulips.
The Keukenhof is open only from March to May. It tends to be crowded on weekends, and ridiculously crowded on Easter weekend, but by all accounts the tulips were in perfect bloom, so we went for it. And sure enough, the place is spectacular. Usually I’m more of a thousand words type of person, but in this case I think I’ll go ahead and stick with the picture(s). Enjoy!
Before I start I just have to say that this is kind of a vulnerable post. It’s a topic that is fracturing my entire self-concept and leaves me feeling very open to criticism. I don’t know why I’m writing it at all, except that I spend so much time thinking about it. So anyway.
A few weeks ago, an article titled Are We Different People in Different Languages? was circulating Facebook amongst various of my international friends. It’s a brilliant article on creative writing and multilingualism, and I recommend it if you’re interested in either of those subjects. But the discussion online was centred mostly on the title of the article. Several of my friends agreed that yes, people had told them their personality changed based on which language they were speaking. Some languages, it seems, brought out people’s funny side, while others made them more assertive or outgoing. Personally, I recall being very flirty in Arabic (a million years ago when I used to still be able to speak Arabic), which was not necessarily the ideal personality emphasis for a young Western woman in the Arab world.
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.
While I was chatting with Donna Bardsley at Amsterdam Mamas after she interviewed me last week about this whole process, she said something that I can’t stop thinking about. She had asked me during the interview what I thought about the Dutch education system, and in particular about the streaming system that separates kids out by ability at the age of eleven. I’d responded fairly positively (as I have on this blog), partially because I’ve always had an inherent hesitation about publicly saying something overtly negative about the culture in which I live at the time, and partially because I really do see some clear benefits to the system. But the thing that Donna said was that the parents who tend to have positive things to say about the system are those whose kids have ended up with a VWO advies.
We visited a couple more schools with Axa this week. By now we pretty much have the drill down (and she knows to keep her eyes out for where they have the cookies). I am starting to feel more confident about the process, and a bit less shell-shocked. After all, at the end of the day she just writes down all her choices and then we wait for the lottery. And none of my agonising or nit-picking about this or that advantage of this or that school will make much of a difference, if at all. I’ve also spent some more time researching exactly how the lottery works, which has been somewhat reassuring. For the truly nerdy (or desperately anxious) among us, here’s the link to a pdf of the analysis (in Dutch, sorry) of how the lottery went last year.
Maastricht is definitely one of our favourite places we’ve gone in the Netherlands so far. We took my parents there when they visited last October, and had a wonderful time. And since I never blogged about it, I thought I’d share some of our favourite Maastricht sights and activities.
We took the train down from Amsterdam, and it took about two hours and forty-five minutes. That’s a bit longer than by car, but we like riding the train, and it was nice not to have to worry about parking once we got there. Our hotel was just down the street from Maastricht’s lovely main square, a location which I would definitely recommend, since one of the delights of Maastricht is just wandering through its picturesque streets.