Going Dutch - An American Family in the Netherlands
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welkom in Denemarken - Posted by D

Yes, I just said I wouldn't be posting as often, but I'm on Holiday...

A bit more on Hamburg. We spent a day and a half in the city, and it's definitely a working town. The harbor tour focused heavily on the working waterfront, with dry and floating docks catering to war ships of every nation and private yachts that include built in weaponry to defend their wealthy owners from pirate attacks. Apparently much of the dock area will soon be filled in to make more room for container storage. A current container ship can now carry 3-4x what typical ships could carry years ago, and there is much less need for docking space and more need for places to put the containers.

We also saw several old churches. Hamburg seems to have an abundance of these, as the people of the city decided long ago that they did not need a central cathedral. Unfortunatly, Hamburg was burned to the ground during WWII (much like Dresden, actually), so most of the architecture has been redone since then. It's interesting to be confronted with history from the other side every now and then. One of the burned out churches has not been restored and is now a memorial to those who died in the war.

We spent the early part of today wandering around the shopping district and admiring the town hall and adjoining open square. We saw a brass band playing in one of the town parks, and it somehow felt very fitting. We also tried to see the world's biggest HO scale toy train collection, but we failed to pre-purchase our tickets, so did not have time to wait the 80 minutes for the next available tour. We may drop back in on the way home.

After we left Hamburg, we headed north to stay near Legoland. Traffic was terrible until we were almost in Denmark, so we had only a few chances to take advantage of the fact that Germany has no speed limits on the autobahn. I remember being surprised to learn that the autobahn wasn't a particular highway, but just a term to refer to all of their highways. In practice, there is currently so much road construction and traffic, that it's impossible to fly along for more than a few kilometers at a time. In addtition I'm now officially too old to feel comfortable going an unlimited speed, so I kept it under 160 km/hr. I'll let you do the math on that one.

We're currently staying at a hotel that feels more like a motel than I'm used to from Europe. All of the rooms exit directly out onto the hotel grounds. This place is clearly set up to cater to the Legoland crowd, as there are trampolines everywhere, a really nice dinner buffet with plenty of kid options (for our kids anyway) and rooms set up to be cozy, but suitable for a family of four if two of them are a bit small. Tomorrow, we leave bright and early to be at the gates when the park opens at 10. I hope the weather will treat us well, as the forcast is for light rain most of the day. I doubt it matters, since the boys will be having a great time in any case. Wish us luck anyway.
2:55 pm pdt

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vacation Update and Other News - Posted by D

We have just wrapped up our second week of a three week vacation. The first two weeks were spent in the US seeing friends and family and generally enjoying being "home." This week, we're motoring around Germany and Denmark with a potential short trip into Sweden thrown in for good measure. Tomorrow evening, we'll be in a hotel within striking distance of Legoland and we expect to have a very nice two day stay there followed by three days in Copenhagen and then a two day trip back to Hilversum. We'll meet some old friends who are visiting just in time to return to work.

Speaking of work, I spent some time in the US looking into my next steps. It's now clear to me that I want to go back when this contract is up, but I need to clean up some things here first. I need a plan and I need to execute it well and quickly. In addition, I need to cut down the amount of time I'm spending on/at work. I realized in the week before this holiday that I'm much more efficient if I'm under a time deadline, so I need to create an artificial one for myself and carve out more time with my family. We're all suffering for my recent schedule, and I don't feel like I'm seeing good results at work in exchange, so time to try something new.

For that reason, I will probably give up on regular updates to this blog from here on out. Reading back, things have been pretty much "poor me" for the last several months, and that is neither a good reflection of how I want things to go, nor a way I intended to use this blog, so I will stop. I'll have to find better ways to keep you, our friends and family, updated, but maybe better monthly postings rather than lame weekly postings will help.

So, status update as of now - we're still recovering from our jetlag. This makes us short tempered and we get on each other's nerves. Tomorrow should be a bit of the same, but mostly in the car, so naps can be had by the younger two of us and I think the prospect of two days at Legoland will turn things around. But, we're all looking forward to being home in Hilversum. We all have things to finish before we go, and even the boys are ready to get on with it.

The Netherlands will never be home, and the Dutch will continue to annoy us, but we shouldn't forget that they also amaze us. They are, on the whole, a friendly and tolerant people, and we shouldn't get caught up too much in their foibles. We all have them (Americans tend to talk too much without saying anything). Culture is a package deal, and you can't have the good bits without some of the troublesome ones.

So, my goals for the next 12-18 months are (in no particular order):

1. Sort out work
2. Find a job back in the US
3. Spend more time with M and the kids
4. See more of the Netherlands
5. See at least Rome, but ideally more of Italy
6. Take as many other trips around Europe as we have time for
7. Enjoy being here, learn what I can from the Dutch and work, and get out sane and happy.

I'm not sure when the next post will be, but trust that we'll all be busy living if we're not busy blogging.

Stay well.
1:25 pm pdt

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Running Headlong - Posted by D

Another multiple week gap. I need to check my calendar better I guess...

It occurred to me recently that we are closing in on the one year remaining mark. That's an incredibly short time to have left here in Europe, and yet it sometimes feels like forever to go. In particular, I've realized that we will have a tough time making it to even most of the locations we've considered visiting while we're here. At this point, I hope we can add Rome and Berlin to our list, as they are more or less "must see" locations. It looks like this summer's trip will be mostly back to the US, with a bit of Scandinavia thrown in for good measure.

Speaking of which, on Friday the 3rd, we will be on a plane back "home" for two weeks. Home is a nebulous thing at the moment, depending on whether we are referring to where we live, where we grew up, or where our heart is. I'm actually anticipating a bit of a let down when we go back this year. We had it last year as well, and a couple of our close friends have moved away in the last year, so the home coming will be slightly less warm than before.

In addition, the economy is apparently terrible, and I need to spend some time discussing the move back with my former and potentially future bosses. I'm looking forward to this part of the trip, but there simply isn't going to be enough time to do everything we want to do, and this will probably bite into at least a day and a half of it.

Last weekend, we had a work picnic at an old castle near Utrecht. It was a lovely day out, with eight kids and eight adults all running loose. It was a summer festival, and that meant lots of snack stands, some live music and 50 cents for the toilets. Once everyone was fed, things went very well. We also timed the whole day well, as the weather was warm and sunny until we pulled onto the highway on our way home. At that point, the rain came down hard and we were glad we weren't still sitting on our blanket as we had been just a few minutes before.

Not much more to blog about tonight. Sleep is needed and most welcome, and work comes way too early tomorrow morning.
2:42 pm pdt

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Long Break - Posted by D

Sorry for the second long break in updates in a row. Things at work have been really busy and I'm too tired on the weekends to want to put my energy here. Here's an all to quick update of our latest goings ons.

The Boys

The boys are now done with their soccer league for the summer. They enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'm not sure how it will go next year, as they will probably be on different teams. On the one hand, I think that will be a big help for the Younger, as he's been playing in his brother's shadow too long now. On the other hand, I think it might be hard on him as he's still quite shy with new people. Hopefully, he'll get over that in a couple of weeks and enjoy it, but only time will tell.

Drama is also over for the summer. We went to their second performance last week. The Older was the villain, and really got into his part. The Younger was the cook's assistant and did a great job with his lines as well. They both really enjoy this more than soccer, but the good news is that they will not conflict next year.

Scouts is still going strong, and the Younger will attend his first meeting next week. The Older has really been enjoying it, but it's not clear how it will go if they're both in it together. There were some conflicts in soccer when the Older didn't think the Younger was playing up to snuff, but I think scouts fosters a bit more cooperation and a bit lest competition, but we'll see.

Swimming is still going strong with the boys moving up at a regular pace. I'd like them to get their swimming diplomas by the time we leave here, and it seems they are on a pace for that. The Dutch, unsurprisingly, take swimming very seriously, and there are three levels of diploma that you can get. All of them involve a final test consisting of swimming greater and greater distances with more and more clothing on. I think third level essentially involves swimming our and rescuing someone while you're wearing a full snow suit. I'm sure that isn't exactly right, but you get the idea.


M is doing fine. She and I are both struggling a bit with getting things done at home. She's doing a lot of volunteer work at the school and has to haul the kids from one activity to the next, which, with so many activities, can take a lot of time. This weekend, she mended books from the library and worked in the yard a bit.


I've been doing the usual things. Work, work and work. I intentionally left my computer off this weekend, but now I'm feeling a bit stressed about it. I still need to learn to relax a bit more.

I've also been trying to plan our summer holiday. We'll be in the US for two weeks at the beginning of July, then back here for another 10 days of European vacation. Since we bought our tickets late, we'll end up flying out of Bremen (in northern Germany) as it's 300 eur per person cheaper. That means the second part of our summer holiday will start there, and probably head north into Scandinavia. I have a small goal to get us to Stockholm, but it isn't settled yet. We're also considering taking a Baltic cruise next summer, which would make Berlin a better target, but we'll see how it goes. In either case, we'll almost certainly head to Denmark for Lego Land, as that's worth at least a couple of days of distraction.

Not much else to tell. We're doing pretty well, all in all, and we don't mean to worry you with too few updates. We're just busy living our lives at the moment.
11:23 am pdt

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three weeks later... - Posted by D

Sorry for the long break in writing. Since we got back from Paris, things have been very busy, mostly at work. I'll try to catch up a little bit, but I'm sure I'll miss something.

The end of our Paris trip was fine. We spent the last Saturday in Versailles. I'd recommend buying your tickets ahead of time (that is, before going) as we waited for two hours in the line to buy tickets, only to realize that after we'd bought our tickets (probably another hour from where we were) we'd have to stand in a second line, at least an hour long, to get into the palace. Instead, we went directly to the gardens (10 minute wait) and enjoyed wandering around statue gardens and such. The past kings of France didn't spare any expense, that's for sure. We spent some of that afternoon with a rented rowboat on one of the canals near the palace. It was a nice change from the urban environment we'd been in for the past several days.

On the way home on Sunday, we were confronted with a very rude Dutch man. For a small portion of the trip, the train was very crowded (standing room only) and he got on just at that point. He said something to us in Dutch and indicated that if we had our boys sit in one seat, then he would be able to sit down. We declined, knowing that two boys in one seat would result in fighting. The man proceeded to kick one of our seats and yell and fume until his fellow passengers calmed him down. I suspect he wasn't being as rude as he seemed to us, but we stood our ground. There may have been 100 reasons that he was asking for the seat, but nothing really excuses his response afterward. It's a bit of what we've been learning over here. It doesn't always feel nice at the time, but sticking up for yourself is useful.

Since we got back, work has taken a distinct shift. I'm working just as hard, but now I fell like I've accomplished something at the end of each day. I'm making big progress on big things and it feels good. Much better than grinding through tons of e-mail and wondering what it all means in the end.

Thursday was Ascension Day, making this a four day weekend. We initially had grand plans for taking off somewhere for all four days, but instead we stayed home and settled for renting a boat and sailing around one of the neighboring lakes. It was fun, and it was good for us to stick our necks out and do something new locally. We all had a good time, and it won't be so intimidating when we do it again.

Not much more to say tonight, I'm afraid. Even though it's been a few weeks since updating, that's about all that's been going on. We hope to finalize our summer holiday plans tomorrow and then there will be a bit more to tell. In the meantime, hope you're all happy and healthy.
12:50 pm pdt

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Going Dutch - An American Family in the Netherlands

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This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License version 2.0: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/