Tuesday, December 15, 2009

more adventures

Sleep is steadily improving – at least for Joris, who mostly slept through the night the last two nights. Well, he still wakes up, but isn’t awake for long stretches of time anymore. I myself, on the other hand, will still lay awake for hours when woken up, unable to shut off my brain and so I entertain myself by worrying about everything, since that is what I seem to do best.
We’ve had a nice and busy time so far. On Friday we went to Madurodam, an outdoor park that features scale models of Dutch buildings. There are replicas of parts of cities and towns, industries and entertainment facilities, including the famous Red Light district with miniature prostitutes. Joris loved watching the trains, boats and other things that moved. It was freezing cold (literally) but it was still hard to tear him away when it was time to go.

That night we all were invited over for dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house in Sassenheim. We stopped by our former neighbors, Cees en Riet first who live next door. Cees had just come home from the hospital after suffering a minor stroke. He had already gone biking again. Riet is one of those special people that everyone immediately feels at ease with. Joris usually needs a good half hour to get used to people, but after five minutes with tante Riet he was ready to practically crawl onto her lap!

Dinner was a really nice time and Joris was just mr. charming pants throughout all of the visits (although it surely helped that everyone seemed to provide him with toy cars). Oma had come to dinner as well and afterwards we all skyped with my cousin Lydia in Cyprus which was kind of surreal. She and her son, Konstantinos will come to Holland next week as well. Joris kept asking to see Konstantinos, who is eight and was floating in and out of the screen and we managed to get the two boys talking to each other with the headsets on. Too much cute!

Saturday, Sietske and Daan picked us up to go to the Christmas market in Dordrecht together. Sietske and I met our first year of high school and immediately became best friends and we have stayed in touch ever since. Daan was one of my brother’s best friends, which is how Sietske and Daan met and got together. It was so nice to spend some time with them and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night when they and another friend, Sebastiaan, will come over for dinner and play board games. The Christmas market was fun, but rather crazy since it seemed like half the Dutch population had descended onto the downtown area of this little city. Joris particularly enjoyed watching the ice skating rink and announced that “someday I want to try that”.
Sunday my parents took us to a goat farm that is open to the public year round. Since it’s the Christmas season they had lots of activities set up and the place was buzzing with parents and kids. It was totally cute, well set up and run. We got to feed the goats, saw lots of other farm animals, including a newborn calf whose mother was still licking him clean. Jacob started to somewhat frantically look around for the hand sanitizer station after feeding the goats, but either everyone carries their own or we as a people are just less germophobic (I’ll let you guess which one is true). Joris painted a Christmas ornament and insisted on putting together a birdhouse – that boy really enjoys hammering nails! There also was an awesome little restaurant where we enjoyed Dutch pancakes with bacon and cheese.

After the farm we had a family get together at my aunt Coby’s house in Leiden. I hadn’t seen her, Piet (her husband) or my cousins yet. I always love get-togethers at their house; they’re comfortable, informal and always a lot of fun. I mostly chatted with my cousins Marieke and Irene who are both closest in age to me. Marieke’s daughter Charlotte is three weeks older than Joris and Irene’s daughter Emma is a year younger. It was so cute to see the three of them together, even though they didn’t really end up playing with each other that much. Marieke en Irene organized an impromptu cousin’s night out for this coming Saturday through the miracle of iphone. Within minutes my cousin in Cyprus and my cousin Mieke, who was sick in bed at home, had been informed and agreed to come. We’ll be meeting for dinner, a movie and drinks after. It will be the first time that I’ve been out with all four of my cousins at the same time. The only one missing will be my brother, but we consoled ourselves that he probably would not be interested in the tear jerker Dutch movie we’re going to see. In any case, the good company, good food and plenty of wine made for a memorably wonderful evening.

Yesterday we went for a shopping outing to Haarlem, one of the prettiest little cities in Holland. I picked up some videos and a book for Joris and we enjoyed some excellent hot cocoa. At night my parents had been invited out to a friends house and Jacob and I enjoyed a quiet night at our little rental house where we watched most of “Hook”.

In a little bit we’ll all drive out to Gouda (yes, of cheese fame) where there is a Christmas tree lighting with real candles (the other product besides stroopwafels that Gouda is famous for), choirs and other Christmas-y activities.

Dutch Efficiency Tally: (this is for my friend Joshua, who suffered through a highly inefficient hour at the Dutch consulate in Vancouver with me)
- A major highway ends in a traffic light.
- As unimaginative as American street names are, at least you can often times figure out where in town you need to be based on the numbers and wind directions. In Holland, if you don’t happen to know that you need to get through the van Gogh street in order to get to Bloemenplein, you’re SOL. Which is why everyone now seems to own a GPS.
- When you follow the free parking signs, you will NEVER get to an actual parking lot.

(Of course, as much as I defend and praise Holland when I am in the States, I am doing the same in reverse here. Yeah, you wouldn’t have guessed that, right? I guess I don’t fully belong in either place. Or maybe, more positively, I belong to both.)

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