Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ahhh, The Weekend.

Friday went pretty smoothly- Meg only had a half day of school (for real, not due to my inability to read the information packet) and after we had lunch we ran a few errands in town. Thanks to coffee, my mid-day slump is growing easier, but poor Megan is still suffering with it- I try to keep her moving so she doesn't fall asleep in the afternoons.
After a run to the Hema, the grocery and a strange almost-Walgreens kind of store, we stopped to feed the ducks that live near the shopping area, then came home to cook dinner. We ate pretty well- I made rough hamburgers with the ground beef I got a few days back, and made a little salad and some carrots to go with them. Megan ate her entire burger (no bun) and ate about 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, too! I'm happy to see her eating anything, of course.

Kip came home about the time Meg finished her movie, so he got to tuck her in- with the hedge roll at the end of the month, he expected to be in the office until midnight, so we were happily surprised to have him home at bedtime. Progress on Meg's doll house is slow, but since I'm no professional, I'm not too concerned about it. She, however, is confused as to why it isn't complete, along with central air and heat, and a pool in the back yard to boot. I told her she could build the next doll house.
Doll House - Under Construction

Chicks and Ducks and Goats
Saturday we headed out to a sweet little farm on the outskirts of Leiden with our friends Elaine, Craig and Daniel (he's the little cutie who's first birthday we attended on our homefinding trip).
The farm was a great success- Megan got to feed baby goats with a bottle, and big goats with a paper cup.
There were little pigs, loads of ducks, and a few other misc. animals (horse, storks, etc) but the goats were the most accessible. We had goat's milk ice cream
(oh, so good) and bought some cheese and honey while we were there. And chocolate covered pindas. (You know, peanuts. Your Dutch word of the day.)
No, I couldn't talk Megan into a pair of klompen. I think the world would have tilted due to the gravity of her cuteness had I managed.

After our fill of farm smells, we walked a short way to the town of Aa. Said "Aaah." Like they were awe-filled when they named it. Or lacking in inspiration. Or possibly trying to be the first town listed on any map of the Netherlands. Maybe it used to be down a tall hill. Or there were lots of Ear/Nose/Throat doctors living there. Or visiting there explained everything you wondered about. I could go on like this for hours, but I'm afraid it would be no more hilarious than it has been, which is not very.

We had a nice lunch in Aa, in a cafe near the lake. Megan and Daniel took several trips down to the shore to play in the water- it was downright HOT today! Not a cloud in the sky, it got up towards 90 degrees F! There were tons of natives swimming (the water was a bit too icy for us) and gobs of sun-worshipers out on the sandy shore of the lake. I'm sure the beaches are jam-packed today!

After lunch we headed back to Elaine and Craig's place for coffee and a visit, then had to literally drag Megan (who's favorite thing to say to Elaine all day was "I'm hungry. Do you have anything to snack on?") kicking and screaming out of the house- her witching hour is later and later as the week progresses, so 5pm was about right for a bad jetlag meltdown. She snoozed a little on the drive home, and is upstairs now with Kip playing an exciting game of Moose in the House.
Moose In The House

The First Week Wrapping Up
With the first full week over, I am feeling exhausted, but not that gross stressed-out exhausted from the move, more like a getting adapted to our new surroundings, true mental exhaustion type of thing. Folks here speak enough English for me to get by, I think, and the more time we're here the more I'll pick up, I believe. Will this place ever feel like home? Time will tell on that, I suppose.

Typing that sentence did cause me to take a long pause to think- I don't know if living someplace where your language is not the primary means of communication could ever feel totally like home. It does make me stop and think about the scores of international residents in Houston, and I now feel an appreciation for the way they must navigate life in an English-speaking city. I'm not sure if I've mentioned here the reality check I had in the grocery store back home, watching a Spanish-speaker and her bilingual child, realizing that could be Megan and me in the near future... Honestly though, life here so far is comfortable. With a roof over our heads, great food everywhere, friendly neighbors, an outlet to contact friends and family, there is hardly anything to truly complain about.

20 Questions
Top Questions Asked By Friends and Family This Week:

1) Is it really cold there?
- Nah, not that cold. I think my first reaction to the weather is not too unlike the reaction you have when you step out of the hot shower and into the rest of your house- it feels far colder because you were so warm and toasty to begin with. Coming from highs in the 90s to 100 in Houston with 3000% humidity, 65 degrees with low humidity feels downright frigid.

2) What is the food like?
- So far it has been one of two things- surprisingly good for it's either a) looks/smell/description, or b) possibly based on a drunken dare by a fellow Dutchman and we are frightened to try it. Example of a: cheese. Example of b: pickled herring.

3) How are you getting around?
- Walking. Megan's school is just a 4-5 minute walk away, the shopping street is about 15 minutes, and I haven't had occasion to walk anyplace else yet. Driving isn't too scary, but I've only done that one day- parking is the true nightmare.

4) Are there a lot of bicycles?
- Approximately 2 per person. I believe they multiply when parked in dark places. And there are scores of brand new ones in shops in every town. Or, to put it in an American comparison, there are about as many bikes as there are cars per person in the US.

5) Do Europeans really smell bad?
- Not that I have experienced. Unless they work in a cheese shop, I suppose.

6) I've heard Dutch is really similar to English. It shouldn't be a big deal to learn it, right?
- Sure. There are similarities, but Kip and I have found that assuming it is so similar only leads to confusion. Fortunately, there are a few common roots shared with French, so all those years of Francais I took are paying off a little here and there. Reading it is a little easier than hearing it spoken, but when you read something you have to give it an "auditory squint" to figure out what on earth it could translate to mean (thank you Jesse for that excellent imagery). Good Example: Dat is goed nieuws! Bad Example: (sticker on food) REKLAME (means "as advertized")

7) Europe is RIGHT THERE! Are you going to go visit wonderful places?
- Yes. Last Sunday when we were trying to decide what to do, Megan said, "I have a GREAT idea! Let's go to Paris!" Even she is clued in to what a great opportunity we have here to see the world. Unfortunately, until we get the whole SoFi number thing straightened out and can get a paycheck from BMC, funds are very tight.

Thank You. Yes, You!
Thank you to everyone reading for your comments, emails, video chats, etc- the more we hear from y'all, the closer we feel to home. As more folks get set-up for Skype and other video messengers I'll start keeping a schedule so we won't forget and go to, say, Paris on the Saturday afternoon we're supposed to be visiting with you.

For those of you reading but not commenting, emailing or anything, just click on the thing below that most likely says "0 Comments" and let us know you're here.
(PS- this goat kinda freaks me out.)


Anne said...

After seeing all the pictures and reading all the blogs from this week, I couldn't help but think, "they're never coming home." It just seems like such a different and amazing place. I can't believe it's only been a week, though. It seems like ages since I've talked/seen you guys and Megan already looks like she's grown up so much. Thank you for such wonderful updates (for the record, I laughed at all your reasons for Aa's name) and for all the pictures. You need to make Kip take some pics, too, so you can prove you were there. :) Can't wait to actually talk to you guys.


Kari said...

Now I wouldn't go so far as to say we are NEVER coming home. It is different, and amazing, but there really is no place like home.

Kathryn said...

Moose in the House? And is that moose in the bathtub?? But, I mean, where else would a moose in the house logically be? What in the name of all that is english-speaking is Moose in the House?

So glad to see pics and yes, that weird balding goat freaks me out a bit, too.

I'd say squeeze Kip and Meg for me, but that leaves you out of the mix (much like your absence in photos), so instead I'm sending a group squeeze!

Kari said...


Oh, Kathryn. When you are here we will show you the ways of Moose in the House. (PS- it's an American game, unless you call it Moose in the Hoose, then it's Canadian.)

Karin said...

Haha, I am so enjoying reading your take on Dutch food and our bike culture etc.
For the record, I never understood the appeal of pickled herring, either :P
Cheers, (Karin Elizabeth, in case you were wondering!)

CosmoPolitician said...

Yep, definitely reading all our adventures! and sooooo jealous!

Im moving to Kuala Lumpur in a few weeks and loving all your "integration stories!"

Sorry to hear about your finger! SAME thing happened to me years ago and i also passed out when they cleaned it!

take care and hope to visit you guys next year when i am in AMS!

JM said...

Good to see you guys are having some fun adventures! (I'm switching from GoogleReader to Feedblitz so I can be informed better on your blog posts.) Missing you guys so much! Love the "Megan-isms" post. Its perfect. Em says "Hi."