Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spring Break

We’ve had a busy week here. The kids were off from school and we’ve been making day trips all around. It worked out well. I can’t think of one place we went that wasn’t worth the effort. We’ve learned lots more about getting around and getting things done.

The first thing you notice when driving around Holland is that everyone seems to be on a bicycle. To pass the time, we’ve been keeping a running tab of things that can be carried by bicycle here in The Netherlands. In the last two weeks we’ve seen people carry on their bikes: yoga balls, cellos, bass (as in “bigger than a cello”), and my favorite, a disabled person in a wheelchair (the bike was fitted with a ramp in the front for a wheel chair, no kidding!) Walt’s personal favorite is the women who ride their bikes wearing short skirts and high heels with another similarly dressed friend sitting side-saddle on the back.

Dutch moms can carry up to five children on their bikes. Most moms have a seat on the handle bars for babies and a seat on the back for toddlers. There is a special brand of bike called bakfiets (or “box bike”) which is literally a large wooden crate on the front of a bike for carrying 3 preschoolers or all of the groceries. I’ll attach a picture. I’m hoping to get one once we get settled. Since they can run up to $2,500, I’m hoping to find one used.

Jack has had a good week, but you wouldn’t know that by asking him. He is responding to the stress of being away by refusing to leave the house. He begins every trip the same way, “I don’t want to go!” He’s SURE he doesn’t want to go. He yells. He stomps his feet. He pleads to stay home.

One such trip was a walk to the grocery store. All the way there (1/4 mile), he told me how he was sick. He was tired. He wanted to lie down on the sidewalk and take a nap! Then we passed the kaashuis, or cheese shop. He stopped mid-whine and walked in. They offered samples. He tried one and then tried them all. He smiled. He laughed. He ran from cheese wheel to cheese wheel telling the kind shopkeeper how much he loves cheese. He was in heaven. The cheese here is not pasteurized, so it cannot be exported. I asked for the name of the cheese, but was told they simply name the cheese after the farmer that made it. We came home with half a pound of aged Dutch cheese made by Farmer Zacht. Jack announced, “That was the best trip ever!” Go figure. He’s said that every day this week.

Last night we made it to the 5 pm mass. I had looked up the time in the English Expat Church bulletin, but I should have known something was terribly wrong when we were the only people under the age of 75 in the church. There were only a handful of elderly parishioners there, and they smiled and waved to Jack as we took our pew. The Gregorian Mens Choir chanting Latin psalms caused me concern, as well. It seems we had found the Dutch mass with the full Latin Rite. Of course I had planted us square in the middle of the front row. There was no escape. A kind grandmotherly type offered us a booklet translating the Latin to Dutch. * Sigh* I was reaching deep for the lessons from Father Sabitini all those years ago, but I never did learn a thing in that class. Poor Jack. He leaned into me about 30 minutes into things and whimpered, “I don’t have any idea what’s going on.” Jack was so good. He even kneeled up straight for the first time ever, although he later confessed that the only reason he did that was because to lean back on the pew was so very uncomfortable. The mass was well over an hour. I don’t know how those Gregorian chanters put so many notes into so few words. We laughed all the way home, but Jack made me solemnly swear never to take him to a Latin mass again. That works for both of us.

Oh, Walt has found us a minivan that seats seven. We hope to have the sale finalized by Tuesday. The supposed “minivan” that we rented from Avis has been much too small. The kids have to sit three-in-a-row. All the way to any place, they bicker. “Stop touching me,” or, the ever popular, “You kicked me in the head!” are frequently heard from the back seat. The bickering increases with the distance traveled. Every time we arrive home, I remember that I need to start keeping Scotch in the house.

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