Thursday, August 28, 2008

To Market, To Market and Start of Civilization

Wednesday is market day here in Heemstede- actually, in most towns Wednesday is market day, come to think of it. Now, my preconcieved idea about market day was 100% based on my experiences with "Farmer's Markets" in the US- great produce, random home-made junk, tree-hugging organic everything, and WAY SUPER HIGH PRICES. Oh, how totally wrong I was, and how very delighted and surprised I became as we walked around the market yesterday morning!

Let me set the scene: imagine one block of a main street closed to traffic all day. It is about the width of an American residential street, maybe a little more narrow, lined entirely with vendor booths. Now, "booth" is super vague- the vendors have spaces as simple as fold-out tables with pop-up tent-like covers over them, a few bars to hang consumer goods from, and a mid-sized vehicle parked behind so they can get out of the weather if it gets uncomfortable. The most extravagant vendor set-ups were similar to what you would see at an American Fair serving food, up off the ground with full electrical power for lights, ovens and refrigeration compartments. There was a huge fish vendor set-up, and it looked as if they had moved a huge fish store, complete with iced-down refrigeration cases with glass window fronts, right there to the street. There was a nut vendor with giant bins of fresh roasted cashews, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts... it smelled like HEAVEN, and they had 3 ovens in the back making fresh batches to sell! There was a chicken vendor, two chese vendors, two produce stands, pet supplies, several clothes vendors (one vendor who's specialty was underwear- that was interesting to see out on the street!), and 3-4 flower and botanical vendors. Candy, bicycle supplies, fabric, beads, sewing supplies, books, hats and scarves, stockings and hosiery, shoes, hand bags, the list goes on. I was floored at the variety, and how very permanent these one-day vendor slots looked. I can't believe that much effort is put in for the market- it seemed inefficient, but knowing the Dutch, the cost-effectiveness is there, I just haven't figured it out yet.

I made three trips to the market yesterday- mostly due to disorganization, but also it helped to go home and put things in the house, I have no bike or wheeled cart, so things became heavy after awhile. I bought a good amount of produce, a roasted chicken, some flowers (less than 10 Euros for 20 Gerber Daisies and 5 Sunflowers), a nice wedge of young cheese, and Megan picked out peanuts- in and out of the shell. I ate a "Kabab" which seemed very close to a gyro- deliciously seasoned lamb sliced paper thin, fragrant onions, bright red tomato- it was HEAVEN. I even found an ivory pair of leggings for Meg for 4 Euro, better quality than what I had paid just about the same for the day prior at Hema.

Jet Lagging Behind, Still
When Megan and I made it back from the Market for lunch, she scarfed down her PB and J and I fell asleep sitting up at the table. I still haven't managed to get my clock turned around- 1-2pm is the hardest time of the day for me! Megan seems to be really spacey and a bit ratty during that time of day, as well- it's like her ears turn all the way off, and sometimes like the word "NO" or "DO NOT" mean the exact opposite. I keep having to remind myself that she doesn't experience jetlag, stress, or anything else the same way Kip and I do. I have made many mental notes (hopefully they will begin to stick) that when she's acting "ratty" I should not gripe at her for it, but try and figure out if it's hunger, jet lag or stress at the root of things. Poor kid. I'm trying.

So, once I finally collected myself from the weirdo little table nap I took (Megan shook me awake saying "MOMMA! WAKE UP! LET'S GET CRACKIN'!"), Meg and I headed back into town for a much-needed supply- a coffee press. We nabbed a few more staples from the grocery store, and saline for Kip at the I-don't-know-what-to-call-it-but-it's-like-Walgreens-but-minus-the-pharmacy store, and headed home. I made a pot of coffee- words cannot describe how wonderful it was. The entire house filled with the aroma, and I was awake for the first time in days. We washed a carton of raspberries as a snack, and couldn't eat them fast enough- next week I'm buying at least 4 cartons instead of 2.

I <3 Our Neighbors
Let me take a minute to gush unabashedly about our neighbors. When I started reading about the Dutch, in preparation for our move, the books I read made it sound like we were going to be pretty much on our own here, with the Dutch being pretty reserved and kept-to-themselves. So far my experience is 100% the opposite- even strangers on the street give a friendly "Goededag" in passing on the street. Heck, I got help from a total stranger in the Hema on Tuesday- I flagged down a woman who had 2 daughters that looked to be around Megan's age, and she helped me figure out what size clothes to buy for Megan. Total stranger. Helped me like she worked there. I thanked her 47 times, too. But this isn't about strangers, it's about neighbors.

The house to our left (when facing the front of our house from the street) is a young family about our age with 2 boys, 6 and 3. The husband, Marcel, speaks excellent English, as does his wife, Suzanne. The boys aren't bilingual, and the youngest is very shy at first around Kip and me, but warms up after awhile. They have been such a gift- Suzanne loaned us the Littlest Pet Shop toys, which haven't had a day's rest since Megan borrowed them. She and Marcel loaned us their patio table, a tablecloth and chairs so we wouldn't have to sit on the floor to eat. Marcel not only helped Kip move our bed up the narrow and steep stairs to the second floor (1st floor in NL), but he loaned Kip his tools, offered us gardening equipment, and has been a resource for neighborhood information (like trash days, where to take recycling, etc.).

To the other side, we have an older couple, Hans and Marijka(?). I don't see them quite as often (I bump into Marcel everywhere- the market, school, the front yard), but they have been very kind. Marijka brought the blocks and puzzle over for Megan to borrow, and shared some insight about how the market works yesterday. They speak a good amount of English, and have offered to help us practice our Dutch in exchange for practice with their English. They are a sweet couple- Hans volunteers during the week to drive the elderly to medical appointments and to run errands- he has been retired for 6-7 years, he says it "keeps him young." I feel so fortunate to have such giving and kind people living around us!

I did run into Marcel everywhere yesterday- at the Market, where he told me the best vendors to visit, then at school when I was picking up Megan (he told me the short-cut to get to the school, which saves us 5 minutes!) and again later when Megan and I were coming back from our trip to the market. He let us borrow his older son's old bike, which is still a bit too big for their younger son- Megan and I plan on working on her bicycling skills after school on Thursday, she hasn't ridden a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels before, but I think she'll get it pretty quickly.

Could It Be? Normalcy?
We ate like kings last night for dinner- roast chicken, spinach salad (the spinach was so gentle in flavor!), fresh roasted peanuts, and chocolate-chip bread for dessert. We sat at the table as a family, with napkins and plates and everything- a nice taste of civilization to go with the great food. No meltdowns today- I think adding a touch of a normal routine with school, dinner together, and familiar foods helped a great deal. Megan did try to tell me that she wanted to take tomorrow off from school, but I told her that we didn't really have that option. She seemed to understand- I suspect it's just boundary checks for now.

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