Wednesday, June 29, 2011

things I'll miss from Holland when I am gone 5_ my moederfiets

so this is my beloved "harley". After a lifetime of not riding a bike I came to Holland and wondered if I would be able to join in the national sport of ridin' everywhere. First I got a normal bike and was shocked to confirm that I could still ride. Then I got the moederfiets or mommy bike, with a lower center of gravity, stronger structure and extended front to fit bundle No. 2 .

I love this bike. I've used this bike as practically my sole mode of transportation for the last 3 years. seriously, I didn't even have a driving license when I first arrived (long story), so you could find me going down the beautiful cobbled streets of the old center carrying my family size toilet paper packet on the front or back seat. Great additional carry space. Added plus: the kids are tied in and cannot get distracted, or head in different directions.

Unfortunately my harley was stolen, rather symbolically, soon after we confirmed our move. If we were staying I would get a cabby bakfiets, but under the circumstances, I don't think that Brooklyn is yet ready for it, and so I've been struggling to decide what to bring with me. I don't know how it will work out, but I just can't imagine moving around without a bike anymore.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Things I'll miss from Holland when I'm gone 4_ the view from my house

Our house is in an old cobbled street right in the heart of The Hague's old town. There is an antiques shop down the street with a photograph that must be over 100 years old. And there in the photo is my house, the canal, the whole street just as it looks today, (minus the cars).

The view from the house is one of the reasons we moved into it. We see the seasons change on the trees and the canal outside our window, from summer with overgrown green, through fall when the leaves float away on the water and into winter, when the snow and ice often covers the view.

We also have regular guests in the canal, an odd family of ducks or swans, the Sunday afternoon lazy boat riders sipping wine, or the summer tour guides that will wave back to the kids.

This one I am pretty sure that I am never going to be able to beat.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Things I'll miss from Holland when I'm gone 3_ the beach

I'll admit that in the 2.5 years that I lived here it was never warm enough for me to go into the water, but never the less, there is a beach 30 minute bike ride from my home... it will be missed

things I'll miss from Holland when I'm gone 2_ kiddy marathons

Ok, it's very likely that there will be marathons and runs in NY, actually, I know there are, but what I'm not sure is very common is the fact that the preschools sign your kids up for the 1K special run that takes places before, run with a coach (aka dad or mom), and get given their number and a medal at the end.

I just think it is a wonderful tradition to get kids to start doing these things young. I waited at the finish line (camera in hand) and watched as a very focused 10 year old girl won the race. soon after came a slightly chubby kid that must have been about 8 and was nearly in tears. His dad kept pointing to the finish line, they were nearly there. I'm pretty sure that kid hated every minute of the race, I'm also pretty sure he was incredibly proud (and rightly so) and dearly cherished that fact that he had finished a marathon.

My 5 year old has ran 2 marathons, my 3 year old one. I don't think they could have that in their belt anywhere else in the world. This is one happy and proud momma signing off.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

12 months June_ family self portrait

This is coming back from the princess' end of school year party. All the kids in her class had to dress up in their national costume and do a fashion show. The princess, who is never shy, decided this was the time to gain this new skill. I feared this might be one of those traumatic moments that she would be telling a therapist fifteen years from now, so yeah, momma did the fashion walk too.

This photo was taken after a whole afternoon of eating junk, dancing, running... tired but happy

click on the photo to see large

Click on the month to see previous:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Things I'll miss from Holland when I'm gone 1_ bike rides through the forest

So inevitably my posts are going to be about the move in the coming weeks... (ok, perhaps months.) And I think it is easy to predict that many of them are going to be somewhat melancholic.

This will be my 13th international move (in case some of you were wondering). You'd think I'd be used to it by now but no, I'm not, they still stress the hell out of me, and inevitably at some point I will ask my husband for a divorce and blame the entire world for my choices.

Damn right too.

One thing I started to do a few moves back is to write down a list of things I will miss from the place I leave behind. I do it so I will not forget the less obvious ones. I do it because I like to savour the last mouthful.

So here goes number one: riding my bike through the parks. This photo was taken one such day, I think it was last summer. The view & light were so stunning that I just had to stop and try to capture it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

on nostalgia- moving on

In saying farewell immediately nostalgia moves in. We start missing what is before us because perhaps this is the last time we see something, do something, go somewhere. There is a certain vulnerability and heightened senses at the same time. Everything tastes better, everything looks better... It's like the memory we choose to keep from our childhood. When we insist on making ourselves believe that everything was good then, everything was better then, even sadness was simpler... how naive.

Everything seems better partly because it's familiar, while everything on the other side of the abyss is ... unknown. Everything on the other side looks very much like that song from The Doors:

"people are strange, when you are a stranger,
faces look ugly, when you are alone..." know the one.

Also, the abyss is not the type that you just close your eyes and jump into. Moving is possibly the sole abyss that you actually have to put together, brick by brick, in order to be able to cross it.

Grief and loss are an intrinsic part of this expat life, the one where you start off thinking that life is a playground and you can just get off one ride and hop on to the other. In real life there is a cost, there is a loss, everyone around you is affected, everyone suffers, even those that stay behind, the ones that surround you and watch you turn your back and walk away mid sentence, while you walk through the little foot path you've put together over that abyss to try to get to the other side, holding one child on each arm, praying to god that you'll be strong enough to get everyone safe to the other side, and reminding yourself that there is another side, that at least some of it will be fun, that at the end of this path there will be a rainbow, because every dodgy path you cross in life adds new colours and new tones to your life; new words, new tastes, new stories. So that rainbow will be brighter.

Because at the other side, when you make it (and there is no reason to believe you won't make it), the sun will shine again, and if there were tears, once again there will be smiles. And then you'll be able to put the kids back on firm ground, roam new gardens, climb new trees, discover new adventures, while your arms recover from the effort, perhaps strengthened too, and grab some coffee.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

dreaming of childhood-photo post

I want to carry on with the theme of spring, summer, and this dreamy childhood memories that all these backlight pictures bring me. I want to keep revelling in the warmth of the present and familiar, for as long as I am allowed to....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

on welcoming spring

The winter in Holland is nasty. There is no way around that one. I know people from the north like to say there is no such thing as bad weather, just innapropriate clothing. But to that a spaniard would have to answer "el que no se consuela es porque no quiere" i.e. you can always find a consolation for you woes if you try real hard.

But, yes but, the spring in Holland entirely makes up for it. Wild flowers (and not so wild ones) everywhere... how many places are left where your child can roam amongst wild daisies?

so we must enjoy what we get, while we have it. We are sipping this cup slowly, eyes closed, letting its warmth fill us within.

we are welcoming spring with open arms

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The beast awakens or why band aids should come with instructions for use with an epidural- moving on

You know how they say that you should pull a band aid off fast so it hurts less?

Well, I feel like someone is pulling out a ginormous band aid from my imaginary chest hair. One hair at a time.

We are moving.

If you come here often you’ve heard this one too many times, but before you roll your eyes and press delete or open another tab let me add this:

…. in 8 weeks.

Oh yeah, the destination: top contenders where Togo, New York and Panamá.

And the winner is…

… drum roll…

New York!

And that is the way of the beast. It slumbers, and growls sleepily, and then, oh yeah, then, when you start feeling comfortable in that dark cave, when you start getting used to the sound of the beast, when you stop being bothered by that sleeping beast breath smell, spring arrives, the snow melts, and she attacks.

Fortunately, I’m an old wise man when it comes to these things, (a chubby middle aged mom for all the rest), so we’d gone ahead and looked into schools, and I am happy to report that both our kids our now placed in alternative multilingual private schools in Brooklyn, although I am likely to have to sell either my husband or my body in order to pay for them (I reckon we’ll get more for the hubs, so really this is just a pragmatic decision).

There is the minor detail that we hadn’t yet agreed where we would live: Thehubs is urban only, (preferably pre-war and cool), I’m wherever, as long as there is space, green and trees for the kids to climb (aka suburbs), so this big fight we were postponing for when we knew fer sure is now pretty much pre emptied. We got the kids accepted to these schools before the move was confirmed. Apparently I lost.

And the cherry on top: In case some of you had been wondering how I manage to raise two kids AND go on mission, my secret was a lovely, efficient and fully reliable lady that came with us from Cambodia, who was all excited about moving with us to New York, that is, until we confirmed the move, when she informed me she is not coming with.

[insert panic attack here]

So this is why I have been quiet. I have about 4 brain cells that have not gone into total meltdown, and those are dealing with the flu.

In the meantime my sister gave birth to a lovely, healthy boy, and my bicycle got stolen, which means I have no mode of transportation in a city where cars and walking are frowned upon (and result highly inefficient).

The hubs booked a cool tattoo artist in Amsterdam as a farewell/ anniversary present, but I fear it might end up looking like the one on Angelina Jolie’s arm, except instead of birth coordinates it would read:

- sell car

- cancel utilities & direct debits

- close bank accounts

- meet with tax consultant

- install five arms and two brains

Oh yeah, and I’m meant to be flying to Ethiopia for work in July, (unlikely… whole post surely to be dedicated to that as soon as some brain cells come back from sick leave), and Bangladesh in October. I’m booked solid until Feb 2012 and I work from home, problem being, I wont be having one for a bit.

My head is turning, literally. The other day I had to lie down because the room was spinning as if I’d drunk a good bottle of red, except with less fun and a lot less calories, and I’m getting NO WORK DONE, which I can probably put down to the (organic) sleeping pills that I have been on for the last couple of weeks.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit late on my May family portrait post, (which is all sketched out but alas not done).

For those of you wondering about what it is like to juggle aid work and family life, (or simply expat nomad life), you might want to keep an eye on this blog for the next couple of months. It wont be about exotic places and cups of tea with nomads, but mundane every day life things like adapting to new schools, finding a home in a city you are not familiar with, making friends, discovering parks, dealing with loneliness, and sorting out logistics.

Bread and butter of our trade.

But we aid workers are often (and rightly) accused of being a bunch of whiners, so I’m going to close off on a positive note:

I had a 3 hour yoga retreat (added plus the hubs came along, was the sole male, and I got to watch him stick his head between random women’s legs while doing an upside lotus); My sister gave birth to a lovely healthy baby; My kids got accepted to alternative, diverse, bilingual schools; My daughter learned how to ride a bike without the little wheels; We are going to live in the city of dreams, full of creative energy, and to replace my stolen bike I am planning to buy myself a kick-ass mother bike for which I will probably have to sell someone else’s husband to pay for.

Alls good. Now someone just needs to inform my brain cells and hope they’ll join me back soon before I get fired.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

a safety net

I love the aesthetics of this photograph, but looking at it this morning, it felt like it reflects a lot what my life currently feels like