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
When we were planning family trips as a kid, my mom used to tell me that anticipation is half the fun. It seems I took it to heart. Perhaps a little too much to heart. Tony and I have moved a lot of places since we got married fifteen years ago. But we have planned even more moves than we have executed, in varying levels of depth, up to and including consulting Google Maps street view to check out various prospective neighbourhoods.
Planning to move somewhere is a sort of reflexive impulse for us. We do it when we are feeling frustrated about the weather, the culture, the food, our jobs, or anything else about where we live now.… Read more
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
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
Dear Loved Ones Far and Near,
This year was a milestone for the Family family: we have now lived in Amsterdam longer than anywhere else since we got married. We celebrated three years together with our adopted city in March. To inaugurate our happy state of being true Amsterdammers, we finally had a bike stolen! The advice generally given to newcomers here is to buy a cheap, old bike and a lock that costs more than the bike. Everyone uses two locks. In fact, after my bike was stolen, a helpful friend even told me about the “three lock rule”. I’m hoping my new bike sticks around for longer before becoming part of the thriving stolen bicycle black market in Amsterdam.… 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
The other day I came across this article about the love locks on Paris bridges. You know, the romantic tradition where you and your lover affix a lock to a bridge to symbolise your undying love, and then dramatically toss the keys into the river below.
Except that according to the article this tradition isn’t romantic; it’s vandalism. I suppose they do have a point. It was OK when the first creative and enterprising lover did it. But if each of the hopeless romantics in the world puts a lock on a Paris bridge, all the Paris bridges will sooner or later collapse from the accumulated weight of all those locks.… Read more
One of the Things You Do while in London is go to a musical (although I’ve extracted a semi-promise from Tony that next time it will be a Shakespeare play). We picked Wicked. And Tony has been crushing on the Dutch actress who played Elphaba ever since. I liked it even more than I thought I would, and it’s been so highly recommended to me by so many people that I was expecting to like it a lot. It was a spectacular piece of theatre. I loved the opulent costumes and the steampunk feel of the sets.
The plot is clever, and there’s some great character development.… Read more
This is a post for some random interesting stuff from Malta. Such as the language. What Maltese sounded like to me was a mixture of Arabic and Italian. Which in fact it more or less is! It originally descended from the version of Arabic being spoken in Sicily around the turn of the previous millennium (9th to 12th centuries A.D.), and it’s still considered by linguists to be a variety of Arabic, although it’s written in Latin characters (with some lovely funky additions like an H with an extra bar) and only perhaps a third of the current vocabulary descends from Arabic.… Read more
I found this post mostly completed in my drafts folder, and thought I’d share, since it’s been awhile since I did a nostalgia post. One of the beautiful things about moving often is that you experience the “little things” of life in so many different ways. Like the smell of the plants outside your window. Or the way different fruits taste when they’re in season. Or the cadence of stray overheard phrases in different languages.
Among the constant yet changeable things in my life is the evening walk that Tony and I have taken ever since we got married. Besides being a great time to reconnect as a couple, talk about what’s on our minds, and get some fresh air, our walk also helps to explore whatever neighborhood is ours at the moment.… Read more