Saturday, July 17, 2010

Easter Morning

It’s been a good week here. We’ve learned a whole lot about The Hague and the Dutch.

The first thing to know is nothing here is done without coffee. If a plumber comes to fix the sink, offer him coffee and expect him to drink two or more cups. Walt says at work every meeting involves several cups regardless of the time of day. The coffee here is very good and very strong. Luckily they put it in very small cups or I would drink myself into a complete caffeine delerium.

The next thing I have learned is that if you are driving “Big Brother” is always watching. They have speed cameras EVERYWHERE: every intersection and every quarter mile on a stretch of highway. There are frequent speed traps where an officer stands on the side of the road and records your picture and speed. He does not need to pull you over. Every time you are recorded speeding, you receive a little purple envelope in the mail announcing that you have been fined 120 euros or more. Parking tickets are 60 euros. You also receive these in the mail. Unfortunately, I am expecting to get a lot of mail….

My next big lesson was Dutch laundry. They have little tiny washing machines here. The inside is about the size of a bread box. Because all of the instructions were in Dutch and once you start a cycle you must wait the 2-3 hours before the cycle completes, my first load of laundry took 12 hours to finish successfully. Last Sunday we were unable to leave the house because all of our clothes were dirty and I could not get the washer to work properly. I have not yet washed sheets. I am living in fear of the time it might take. We may all be sleeping on the couch that night.

The food here is wonderful. The produce is garden fresh. The meats and fish also have a fabulous amount of flavor. Junk food is hard to find and expensive. There are no drive-thru restaurants. This put me in a panic at first wondering what to buy for dinner and how to cook it, but things have settled down now. Every ex-pat I meet who uses a bike claims to have lost between 10 and 30 lbs since their arrival.

Oh, get this, national dinner time is 6:30 pm. Everyone everywhere has dinner then. Very strange.

Walt has been my hero this week. He bravely tackles all things written in Dutch. With his laptop under his arm and Google Translate open, he completes all tasks from filling out the bonus card application for the grocery store to relighting the pilot light on the heater. I don’t know what I’d do without him

Walt is off to Malaysia at the end of the month for an 8 day trip and then Sakhalin Island (1000 miles north of Japan) in mid May. Look it up on Google. I think Siberia is more inhabited than this little corner of nowhere. Although there is a town on the island, he will be flying to the far northern part of the island. There is nothing there but a pipe coming out of the ground.

He is loving his job so far. It seems interesting and challenging without seeming like it will swallow him whole. He was told he was coming in too early when he arrived at 7:30 am. He was told it was time to go home by 5 pm. On holidays like Good Friday, the building is like a ghost town. No one uses Blackberries or checks e-mail at home. Home is where you spend time with your families. Go figure! Although his job involves international travel, it will be no more than 50 to 60 overnights per year. This works out to four or five nights per month. We both think this is a good deal.

The school has been a very soft place for us to land. Jack and Jordan are quickly making friends from many different countries. Jack has taken up playing soccer and rugby at lunch and after school. He’s amazed at all the different cultures represented in just his class. Jordan has made many friends and has playdates scheduled for the week after break. The other moms have been very supportive of me. I cannot have a conversation with a person without her offering her phone number and an invitation to get together again. Easter week is slow for us. The kids have off from school and a great many of the school families are off traveling. We look forward to hearing their travel stories when they return.

Walt, Audrey and I went out house hunting on Thursday. We saw nine houses and one was more than we had hoped for. It’s nicely situated between the school and the village center. It has five large bedrooms (ok, large around here) and a little tiny back yard.

Last night we took the kids to the beach. The water was cold, but it was a great night to be out. The kids played in the water for an hour. We watched crazy people bungie jump from a crane at the end of a pier. Audrey didn’t fall the water once She’s become quite good at listening to me in the last 10 days.

This morning Jack and I went to the English Catholic Church for Easter services. The mass was a full 2 hours, complete with baptisms of butt naked babies in a large font and an African drum choir. Jack and I both had a blast. (Does that sound strange? We had a blast at church?). We arrived an hour early by mistake, but it worked out well. We became friends with the family in front of us (also an hour early) and Jack has a playdate scheduled with their sons next week. It seems that “Age of Empires” is a universal language of 8 year old boys.

I should wrap this up. The house is a mess. Oh, but one more thing. Before we came I had heard that Dutch women wash their windows every day. I did not believe it. Now, unfortunately, I do. I am completely humbled by how clean and tidy everything is around here. Everyone will know that my house is not Dutch. Maybe I will find out their secrets…

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