Thursday, July 24, 2008

I almost forgot!

Kip, Megan and I had dinner last night with one of Kip's co-workers, Olaf, and his wife Greetje. They have been here in the US for 16 months, and are getting ready to move back to their home in The Netherlands in August.

Let me summarize our encounter: Olaf and Greetje SINGLEHANDEDLY saved the reputation of the Dutch people. They are simply wonderful! Warm, funny, helpful, personable- they are the Anti-Anke. They should be declared national heroes. They should have park benches constructed or trees planted in their honor in every park in The Netherlands. (The Dutch don't do people statues.)

They drove-home the universal truth about bureaucracy jobs- they had just the same miserable experience with the DMV and Social Security that we did with the Consolate. So I suppose Anke is off the hook. We'll see how things go Tuesday when we go and apply for the Dutch version of SSNs.

I was comforted that Greetje (pronounced like "Khreh-tcha") had basically been through what I am about to endure with the relocation. She had learned English growing up, but mostly just how to read it. She found herself thrust into an English-speaking world here, and had to overcome her fear of making grammatical and pronounciation mistakes very quickly. She and Olaf made a brilliant point I hadn't thought of- when you move to another country, you don't get a break from the new language. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines- everything is in the new language. Greetje brought stacks of Dutch books so that she could get a reprieve from English. Fortunately, English books for adults are easier to come by in the Netherlands that Dutch books in America- but I will take great care to make sure we have books for Megan in English, and gobs of movies for all of us.

It was wonderful to hear how Greetje's neighbors had embraced her, and kept her thinking and speaking in English. She drove-home the point that a network of friends makes all the difference in the world when you are transplanted in a foreign country. Just having someone you feel comfortable with to sit with, laugh with, someone who knows where the good ice cream and shoe sales are... One of the most wonderful things she said was, "We make such a big deal about differences in people. We're all so very much the same- the same worries, fears, problems, delights- the differences are so insignificant."

I am lucky to have a few online acquaintences who are located in the Netherlands, too- most of them photographers I met through Flickr, and one I found through a few web searches. Funny, I'm starting to feel a lot more excited about the trip now...

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