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
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
My in-laws are here visiting, and we wanted to take them somewhere picturesque and typically Dutch. When I heard about Giethoorn, the pretty little village with canals instead of streets, I knew it would be perfect. Especially since we were also planning to go up north to visit Groningen, so it was right on the way. We're trying to do some more exploring and get to know this tiny country we call home.
Giethoorn is another corner of the Netherlands that somehow recalls the Shire to mind.
We rented a boat, as one does. They happened to be out of the basic metal boats, so we were forced to get an amply sized one with cushioning.… Read more
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.
It’s been just over two years since we moved to the Netherlands.… Read more
Several months ago my kids’ school started offering free Dutch lessons to parents. I jumped at the chance, not only to help reinforce to my kids that learning the language is important, but because I actually do want to learn Dutch. Juf Ricky, who teaches the lessons, also teaches the kids Dutch as a second language. She’s not only a great teacher, but also a really nice person. Today she took us on a tour of her hometown, Gouda.
Yes. Gouda, as in the cheese. What a delightful little town! We all met up at the Amstel train station and took the train there together.… Read more
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.
He presented me with the unfortunate news that as well as a criminal report from the FBI, I needed to submit one from my US state of residence.… Read more
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.… Read more
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).
And then there are activities which can involve both kids and extreme weather.… Read more
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.… Read more
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!… Read more