Island of the Loud Birds

We are not island people, unless the island is generally green, cold, and foggy and connected with a wrongheaded place that has a queen. Islands which are mosquito-muggy and green? Nope, not for us. Or, so T. thought she was safe assuming. D’s random, “Hey, Big BrotherD says we should go to Hawai’i!” comment had her saying, “Uh-huh,” and moving on with her life. Until he bought the tickets.

“But, we’re not island people!” T protested.

“But, how do we know?” D countered.

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Our first time in Hawai’i maybe wasn’t one of our better organized trips. We neither of us was feeling that well (ironic, since we were going to visit someone post-surgery), and we forgot a lot of stuff. But, we arrived.

The ocean was overwhelming, as was the sky.

The contrast between stormy steel-gray and blinding sunshine seemed to change every four minutes. And there were CHICKENS. EVERYWHERE. Sooo many chickens. This was more amusing than expected, as the baby chicks would often scurry under the nearest large “safe” space when frightened. The first night, at a food truck, this was between T’s feet. She wasn’t sure whether to be amused or horrified. (Chickens evidently know a vegetarian when they see one.)

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The first night, we slept with the windows and doors closed. This did not prevent the Dawn Chorus from waking us at 3:20 a.m.

Our friend Ju texted us a screenshot of her phone about an hour later, during what she calls “The Hour of the Rooster.” We had no rooster – but we had everything else. Sandpipers. Mynah birds. Zebra doves. Waxbills. White-eyes. Java finches. We gave up and got up.

There isn’t much to do on the very North Shore of O’ahu, other than surf and hike, and people are avidly into it. Traffic on the North Shore of O’ahu is less amusing late in the day, as people just arriving on the island tend to need to pull over every four minutes to gawk at the water. Early in the morning, though, it is wonderful. We drove in the rain, which cleared, leaving us with that freshly-showered feeling (warm, wet, in need of a towel). We were still feeling meh, so took the day slowly. Starting with water seemed a good idea.

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Obviously, there were birds near the water, and this continued us on our Bird Odyssey. As T has said, a camera is merely a gateway drug to bird watching, and we chased birds our entire trip. This was its own amusement; D chasing across a golf course, while a coy sandpiper led him on was its own comedy routine.

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We decided early on to avoid tourist-y places this trip – no coffee or pineapple plantations, no luaus, no Polynesian Cultural Center – our purpose was to hang out with Ju, look at birds and water, and remember how to be Humans, Being. It took us the first three days to become accustomed to the low speed limits, random surges of people crossing the highway (the reason for the 35mph everywhere), and the warm rain (!!!!) before we truly started to enjoy ourselves, and of course, then, we had to start thinking about doing Last Things and going home.

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Of course, five days isn’t enough, when you’re trying to unkink your brain. Not if you’re not yet sure you’re an island person. Not if you’re leery of humidity, and the wildness of your hair and the way you look in fewer clothes.

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Once you stop caring about any of that, though, and embrace your fat, your frizz, and your fishbelly paleness, it’s just enough time for a little reset.

Has it really been that long?

I just saw a BBC article go by, about wintry weather in Scotland. Reading through the article, it’s actually showing video of someplace we’ve been in person: to the top of the lift system, in Glencoe. Of course I had to mention this to you all, but then had to find the photos of when we were there, and then to see if we’d blogged anything about it (of course we did). It’s amazing to realize it’s been 3 years since we’ve been back to Scotland.

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-D

Pineapple

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I like to take some awfully strange photos, but this one… is sort of a photo of a strange photo. What’s puzzling is the absolute prominence of the pineapple. Why should there be a pineapple there, in the bottom left, and were pineapples even grown in Brazil, etc.?

“As the Enlightenment period made the rich richer, the landed aristocracy began to engage in a frenzy of new hobbies, including gambling, boozing, and time-consuming, expensive pineapple cultivation. Pineries needed care around the clock, custom-built greenhouses, and mountains of coal to keep the temperatures high. The fruit took three to four years to bloom. The cost of rearing each one was equivalent to eight thousand dollars in today’s money.”

The Strange History of the “King-Pine” hints as to the answers to those questions… while bringing up innumerable more questions. Definitely worth reading the article for the strange history.

– D

Oh, WoW … or, Why We Pack Snacks

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The return journey from The Netherlands was a truly epic trip, and not by design. The initial flight from Amsterdam to Keflavic was delayed arriving, so we spent an extra 2 hours sitting around Schiphol Airport (which … is not a great airport, frankly, and the cheap flight terminal is positively horrible). That flight was then delayed further because they’d mis-loaded a bag and had to remove it before we could take off. All of that meant that the flight was around 3 hours delayed arriving into Keflavic and most people weren’t staying there but were traveling onwards. So, the airline bumped the two flights most people were trying to catch (to LAX and SFO). That meant that the connecting flight had to find a new slot into SFO, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Netherlands 2018 1239 This meant we ended up sitting around Keflavic for 8 hours instead of 1.5. Then, as we were ready to leave Keflavic, 6 people had given up and booked alternate flights, but left their luggage, so THAT luggage had to be dug out from where it had been loaded. Then, finally, we had the 8.5 hour flight from Keflavic to SFO. By this time our booked shuttle had canceled on us, so we caught a 40 minute Lyft ride home. All told, we left our rented flat in Amsterdam something like 27 hours before we arrived home, having planned for something like half that.

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We did end up purchasing food in Keflavic (which … is horribly expensive, and we’ll be putting in a claim for reimbursement, because spending nearly $100 on a couple sandwiches, some yogurt, and some drinks … is rather obscene). But, mostly, we ate our own sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and choices from an assortment of weird Dutch candy (mostly minty, some fruity, and included the random salty licorice). We also packed sliced apples (packed with sliced oranges, so the juice would keep them from going brown) and fresh cherries, knowing that wet and crunchy things are really what’s needed while in the air. Of course, we also packed our 1.5 liter water bottles & filled them at every opportunity.

Traveling like this (with our own food) may have begun as an effort to save money, traveling on budget airlines. Now, though, it’s just how we do things, and something we’ll keep on doing when we switch back to more mainstream air carriers. Which … we’ll be doing.

This is likely the last time we’ll fly with WoW, simply because it was so clumsily handled, and there were so many small problems along the way. WoW scores the worst in service, as well, which … yeah, we can see it. At times, sitting in Keflavic, we asked ourselves whether we were seeing the collapse of an airline, and whether we’d end up trapped in Iceland, having to book last minute tickets out on another carrier. That isn’t a feeling we’d like to repeat any time soon, and the extra $1,000 to fly with a reputable carrier would probably have saved us 15 hours of stressful sitting around.

We will leave you with this, from the Delft organ guy: yes, that is Despacito, played organ-grinder style.

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-D & T

“There Are More Important Concerns.”

“Travel makes one modest – you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” – Gustave Flaubert

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Well, it was bound to happen. The first text message a week ago was just a little crack in the wall, as some eager beaver just had to tell D of exciting news from the office… and now today D has had to take a teleconference so that he can give his two cents on some whatever vendor tool for blah, blah, blah. The seal is broken, and the wall is crumbling. T is tallying the number of times D’s work mates have no boundaries and interrupt his well-earned and desperately needed vacation. She imagines kicking them smartly in the shins for each infraction.

(D worries when she gets on this topic, because he knows T, despite appearances to the contrary, is still somewhat feral and might actually tell them she’s imagined kicking them… while shifting her weight to one foot… But, we digress.)

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Now that the vultures are circling and we can see the end of our trip just a few days down the pike, T has put on her junior sociologist’s hat and continued to process some of the things we’ve observed throughout our travels in this intriguing country (and from living in Scotland).

Twenty days in a country doesn’t exactly give scope for a deep dive into its society, but because we’ve lived abroad before, it’s easier to have a basis for comparison. Now, we’re fond of our home state and the benefits it has given us – and we love air conditioning, garbage disposals, public libraries and window screens — all things Europe commonly does not have. — BUT sometimes, American attitudes and ways of looking at things leave something to be desired.

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The interesting differences in attitude we’ve observed between countries is this idea of being The Best. The Netherlands is an amazing, brilliant country… and they don’t go on about it. In Scandinavia, there are national social mores about humility and modesty. The “best” is something perhaps children strive for; while adults, in contrast, just seem content to get on with things. Maybe it’s just that lately the national conversation has become steeped in empty superlatives – “greatest” “most” “best” – maybe it just seems like this blabbing about how awesome we are is new, but it’s not, really. To a certain extent, there’s always been an attitude of competitive striving – that “pursuit of happiness” which came from an adolescent nation determined to prove to a parental kingdom that it wasn’t just some rebellious kid going off on their own. We never intended to come crawling back to Mama England, and that bullheaded stubbornness has informed a lot of the flavor of our country. Ironically, those with the most privilege in this nation still struggle to recognize it because there’s a sense of deserving more, which causes so many a deep unhappiness — even as indigenous, Black, and people of color still haven’t yet achieved equality — but that’s clearly a topic for another blog post.

Netherlands 2018 163“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things — air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky — all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

In contrast, in the Netherlands, there’s less an attitude of competition here than there is of normalcy. There is a phrase here about “just do the normal,” thus the word that crops up a lot in conversation is “typical Dutch x,” or “typical Dutch Y.” People believe that they are basically all about the same, and that “normal” is basically weird enough, and there’s no need to be seriously eccentric or try to stand out from the crowd… which flows right into another Netherlands phrase we’ve heard often on this trip, when the conversation has turned to deeper matters in terms of industry, religion, and politics: “There are more important concerns.”

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There are bigger stories; more important fish to fry. DB’s mother said it frequently, when speaking of religions reacting to gendering (churches are sluggish about inclusivity), or issues surrounding healthcare (she’s a physician). SC’s neighbor said it in passing when speaking of how the children in her daughter’s elementary school interacted. In almost every situation where our societal inclination would be to harp on a point or insist on clarification, explanation, or agreement, the reaction we’ve observed is for people to sit back and remark that there are more important things to worry about. Normal, after all, is weird enough.

This idea is kind of fascinating.

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We thought we understood about people kind of having a live-and-let-live attitude from living in the UK, but honestly, Scots are rather opinionated and are quite free with their opinions. (Just get into a cab once and have the driver tell you that you’re wasting his time and could have walked where you needed to go. THAT’s always fun when you’re lost.) We’re told that the Dutch are, too, but rather than air that opinion in an insistent way, apparently once they get to know you, they’ll simply put it out there and go on. If there’s disagreement, the opposing opinion is just put out there, and people go on. It’s not as if people don’t argue – but there has just seemed to be less of a competition for who has the last word. It’s interesting.

Maybe it’s that we’re still guests in all of the places we’ve been, and they’re just listening to us go on. Maybe they’re all secretly laughing at us. Who knows? Maybe there really are more important concerns, and they’re away getting on with them. And, so we will, too.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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A Walk Through the Clouds (of Mosquitoes)

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When we arrived in the Netherlands, it was vilely, disgustingly hot — far hotter here than it was at home, much to our horror, with ninety percent humidity. Ughhhhhhhhhh. We hadn’t packed any shorts and had instead come prepared for the ubiquitous liquid sunshine of Holland – with flannel and wool, long sleeves and trousers. Hats. Umbrellas. We were, after all, in the land of endless rain. Netherlands 2018 887 Holland, tricky beast that it is, completely changed the game on us, and the resulting heat wave awakened The Swarm. We are as covered with mosquito bites as if we’d gone to summer camp, and it’s kind of ridiculous. There’s not much air conditioning outside of the bigger cities, and there’s not much call for it (most people we spoke with would prefer something useful like, oh, disposals. Don’t get expatriates talking about what they miss from the U.S. – somehow a garbage disposal is always at the top of the list. Anyway). Worse, because many of the buildings are older, the windows are unusual sizes and it’s hard – and expensive – to have them fitted for screens.

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So, no AC, and no screens, and a heat wave. If we lived here, we’d get some duct tape and a roll of mosquito netting or something! Fortunately, our rented apartment came with a big fan and a portable AC, and we did the best we could to keep the air moving. We had a few bites in Delft, but the further out into the woods and countryside we got, the worse it got. T walked, um, briskly through the woods, in hopes of keeping them off, but D loves his photography, and standing stock still to get just the perfect shot drew them to him, poor thing. He had eighteen bites in one afternoon, and then, to save his sanity, stopped counting. Still – he believes it was really worth it for some of the gorgeous pictures he got. Mostly. Maybe.


After we spent time with DB’s parents, they got a feel for who we were – or, really, who D is – and so DB’s Dad took us on a spur-of-the-moment walk to a place called Waterloopbos Marknesse in Flevoland.

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D often enjoys taking visitors to the SF Bay Area to Sausalito, to see the Army Corps of Engineers hydraulic model of the SF Bay. This model was used to predict what would happen to the Bay lands if some bright soul did X to this channel or Y to this River, and in the early 1950’s, it actually saved people a lot of money and loss of income (and possibly life) before they had computers do hydrology studies of this kind. Well, in the Netherlands, a place with a LOT of water and a lot of folks relying on engineers to keep them on dry land, Dutch water engineers were asked to do these same types of studies, not just for their own country, but for other nations. (You’ll have to click through to our Flickr page to see more.) Netherlands 2018 1132 Instead of enclosing their tidal model in a building, however, in the 1950’s Dutch engineers simply took almost three hundred acres (120 hectares) of polder forest – land reclaimed from the sea, but, in this case, too wet to use for agriculture – and built a wave machine and various locks to raise and lower the level of the water… to create artificial harbors. According to a rough translation of one of the signs: “…the ports of Vlissingen, Ijmuiden, Scheveningen (in the Netherlands), and abroad those of Lagos (Nigeria), Beirut (then Syria) and Marsa-el-Bregha (Libya) were recreated in the polder. Over the years, scale models have been built on 36 construction sites in the forest. In total, some 200 assignments from the Netherlands and abroad have been carried out.”

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It’s amazing, and a ‘rijksmonument’ – a national monument – now. The whole two-and-a-half mile area where the models are is half-swallowed by the forest. It really looks like ruins – and it is dead quiet in there, though that may have been because there were no guides out on the late Sunday we were there, so there were fewer families out and about. We walked the (3.42 km) two mile loop, examining the signs (which are in Dutch, of course) which told us which harbor was being recreated to study what the wave machine or locks were meant to do with the water. It was kind of mind-blowing that all of this was put together before computers… and then, in 1970, as the digital age overcame it, was simply abandoned, as faster ways to study the world came along. The multiple, detailed models prove why the Netherlands mastered living in a watery land.

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We were a little disappointed that most of the locks were padlocked so that we couldn’t turn on the wave machine or raise/lower the water levels, but we did manage to clamber around and affect a few things. Mostly we were glad we didn’t fall in (it’s not too terribly deep, maybe, but some of it is rather still, and packed with …squiggling things), as it really was a “spur of the moment” two mile hike we took… on the way to the train station. After that, we had to hurry through heavy traffic and change trains three times to get back to Delft before it got too dark. Still – mosquito bites and all – it was worth it.

Hunebedden & Goat Horns

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It’s funny how easy it is to slip into being “one of the kids” in a big family. After church and lunch with DB’s folks, we all crammed into her Dad’s big van and went on the traditional after-church hike. They drove us out to Megalithic era burial mounds called ‘dolmens,’ or, in Dutch, hunebedden (they’re literally translated as “giant beds,” as the old Dutch word for ‘giant’ is ‘huyne’). These artifacts at Hunebedcentrum are a lot like a shorter Stonehenge, and were dug up/placed between 3400-2850 BC, making them older than the pyramids in Egypt. Probably because no one went haring off to The Netherlands to dig up antiquities (and basically enslave the people), they’ve been largely left alone (there are something like fifty-four of them in the whole country), except by the Germans during WWII – they wanted an airfield, so they dug them up and moved them, displacing the sand and artifacts inside of them…

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Aaaand, shortly afterward, the Dutch moved them back.

Anyway. The sign said that archaeologists call the people who built them the Funnel Beaker culture, because they left funnel-shaped beakers and pitchers in the grave below, but obviously you don’t get to see all of that.

It was an interesting trek to the dolmen – through a rather dry type of woods and kind of dune-land outside of a farmland (there were roaming bands of sheep, dogs, and an actual shepherd). Netherlands 2018 980 We noticed that the ground underfoot was wet, because it had rained, but it wasn’t horribly sticky, because it was…sandy. And yet again we were reminded that The Netherlands has an awful lot of low-lying land that is near or below sea level. There was a lot of interesting wildlife to see on the trail – aside from the 900 varieties of birds and the gigantinormous mosquitoes and dragonflies, there were a lot of beetles that at first appeared black, but turned out to be a sort of iridescent blue. Netherlands 2018 975 There were numerous tangles of blackberry brambles along the trail, bushes full of what our hosts called “red berries” (red currants) and honeysuckle vines. The trees and bushes were totally different from the types of vegetation we’d gotten used to just a couple of hours away in Delft. And yes, this concludes the Pathfinder/Scout badge portion of this trip… if you end up hiking in another country, you’ll get excited about the flowers/trees/bugs too. (Have we mentioned that this country has storks? Giant, long-legged storks in huge nests up on poles in the middle of the towns… and really long-eared bunnies…? Okay, okay, fine. Enough with the wildlife.)


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It’s hard to know what to say about Giethoorn. It was settled by a bunch of peat farmers and fisherman. A 10th century flood revealed a great many goat horns (gietehorens) in the area, thus its goat-y name. It’s basically an old settlement in the middle of peat islands, and the only solid land is where the houses are… the rest is all floating reeds, bridges (about 170 of them in a tiny village with less than three thousand people) and …water. So much water.

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It’s beautiful and quaint, and still. That peat is protected land now and the reeds used to thatch the roofs is also grown in the area, and there’s a certain kind of boat called a Giethoorn punter that is made specifically for that area (punters are poled through the canals by a person standing up and in the back, someone has another pole going in circles as the rudder. Local kids are able to do the whole thing BY THEMSELVES; you can tell the tourists because it takes three people to make the boat move). It’s a cozy and gorgeous place… if you get there early enough. If you don’t, you’re at the mercy of tour boats with loudspeakers, hordes of visiting families who are quite sure they can drive an electric boat (only residents are allowed access to the speed provided by gas engines), badly paddled canoes, hordes of cyclists, people shoving cameras into every open doorway, and residents just trying to get on with their daily lives. Oh, and also, a lot of ducks.

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It’s a tiny place, but also huge, in a way. There are something like ninety kilometers – or about fifty-five miles – worth of roads in this small village, and they’re all water roads… so there’s plenty of place to take a boat… and run it into the shore, or up onto the reeds, or tip it over… yeah, you get the idea. It must be such a lovely place to live outside of tourist season… but much of time time, “tourist season” only stops for rain and snow. Fortunately, it rains a lot… we couldn’t imagine living with that level of scrutiny. It was like Disneyland, only the homes of the people were what everyone gawked at constantly. We were lucky, because DB has both worked for a boat tour company and her brother attended primary school in the village, so they know tons of people there, and could skillfully slide us through behind the scenes. Netherlands 2018 1022 We visited a mineral museum called De Oude Aarth (The Old Earth) and were surprised to find they had small crocodiles (!) and a ton of really great rocks – huge pieces of amethyst and petrified wood sourced from all over the world. There was a museum shop which had many pieces used as furniture – how’d you like a twenty-three thousand Euro table made of a gorgeous slab of petrified wood? Or an end table made up entirely of amethyst? (Someone wanted it; it was marked as sold.) For all the misery of having so many tourists dropping by, clogging up the waterway every weekend, at least businesses seem to be doing well!

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But the most fun thing for us was traveling back to DB’s house, up the quiet canal and pulling up to the back of her house again. Her little brother explained to us that kids in the Netherlands get boat licenses at the age of 12, and are expected to not exceed certain speeds until they’re eighteen and have a full license to move through the waterways. The level of freedom and responsibility is really different – we observed families with a high level of communication between old and young and a lot of respect and compromise on both sides. It was really interesting to compare and contrast it to American families.

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We have a lot of preconceptions about how things are “supposed” to go, how people are “supposed” to act. As Americans, it’s important to remember that we come from a judgmental Puritan past, and that it is where we get a lot of the ideas about society. We have a lot of “shoulds” we tend to put on other people, and it’s not good. This trip has been a reminder about not judging other culture and people, and instead observing and keeping our mouths closed. The quality of life in Europe is one of the most highly regarded in the world… and the people we’ve seen seem happy and content, even though they’re not the richest or the most successful in some ways. We’ve closely observed two host families and done a lot of thinking… and there’s something to be said sometimes for doing things NOT the American way. It’s something to think about.

-D & T

Living

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Thoreau

Thoreau was, of course, a Mama’s boy who “went to the woods” about as long as Christopher Robin did, with plenty of time to get back for tea, and sleeping each night beneath his parents’ roof. Still, it’s not his fault that a modern misunderstanding of 19th century English gentlemen and the weight of literary tradition made him out to be some über-naturalist; he went out into the wilds about as long as most of us would care to. There’s STUFF in the woods. Mainly stuff that bites; we saw a tick at the edge of the grass, and Himself had a gumball-sized knot on his side from what we think might have been a horsefly-ish kind of thing? Our personal collection of welts and weals from midges and mosquitoes weigh lightly against the liquid trill of starlings and thrushes, the soughing of the wind in the leaves, and the susurrus of water over rocks and reeds. Our weekend was filled to the brim with people – enough so that T’s introvert soul shuddered – but the myriad long walks were really restorative. (Click through this picture; it’s a video, but WordPress doesn’t play those in-browser anymore, so…)

Gemert – pronounce the ‘g’ as ‘h,’ s’il vous plait – is in an area of lovely, big trees, and about an hundred shades of green. The Netherlands don’t have a lot of hills, as it’s a lot of land reclaimed from the sea, but the forests are quite something, even though they’re mostly planted by hand, though the hundreds of years We really liked the Southeast of Holland, and since the rain and cooler weather returned, we liked it even better. Eindhoven, a tech-rich city which got a lot of German attention during the war, is fairly utilitarian (READ: ugly), but tidy brick villas of Gemert make for the quintessential storybook European village look. Lots to photograph, but the most fun was to step off of a bus and walk around a corner to see a friend opening her front door and waving wildly. We spent a lovely day with S. and her boys and will return Wednesday to have dinner with them (and to allow Mr. S to make another pitch to D about moving to Europe and working at his company ☺).

One of the other drawbacks of days with people is that we’ve fallen behind in our storytelling and in uploading photographs, but we’re taking today to just catch up and rest up. More to come!

Another day, een nieuw plezier

Afternoon.

Guest one has decamped, guest two is incoming. It is 29C/84F, and right now it is still, but periodically there is a cool breeze, which grows into a wind toward the evening. The forecast has threatened thunderstorms nightly, but other than the odd grumble, and the occasional quick shower, nothing happens to make people do more than take brief shelter with their ice cream. It is truly hilarious how unfussed Europeans, at least, are about getting wet. (The people screeching with umbrellas nearly putting out people’s eyes are …um, some of y’all. We take no responsibility for them.)

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We’ve come to that point where we’re losing track of days. Time is kind of a warm blur, punctuated by finding a particularly good coffee (if you’re D) or something close to iced mint tea (cold water, mint leaves, a slice of lemon. Close enough). The joy of being with friends is a lot of random conversations, and books, and occasionally doing things.

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We met the most delightful group of 50-60something Nederlanders on our boat tour the other day. They had grown up in Delft, and all nine siblings (minus the two who were meeting them later) were returning with spouses in tow to honor their parents, both of whom had passed away years ago – on the same day, a year apart. They translated the guide’s words to us, before the guide had a chance to swap languages. They raised a rousing cheer as they passed their old house. They ooh’d and ahh’d that they had a nephew in Cali who was coming to visit next month. They showed us where they’d fallen into the canal, and warned us not to drink the water, ever, despite the fact that it technically is drinkable (Ugh, no thank you; anything accommodating both swans and lily pads seems a bit too natural pour moi). We felt like a long missing part of the family.

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It’s been lovely to people-watch here (the image to the left is a link to a video – do click through to experience the square, here in Delft); we spend at least a couple of hours every afternoon or evening just sitting at an outdoor restaurant bar or coffee shop, slowly sipping something cool – or, rather, coolish, as people here don’t really do ice cubes much and iced tea or coffee is just something in a rapidly warming bottle – and just watching the world go by. Netherlands 2018 268 Occasionally one must needs move upwind of a smoker, but people strive to be courteous, because the third space here – the social space that is neither work nor home – is part of what makes The Netherlands work. It is apparently THE most densely populated country in Europe, but it doesn’t feel like it (outside of horrifyingly busy Amsterdam). Even the locals are content to simply BE.

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One of the other things we noticed is that there are all kinds of bodies here, and people aren’t trying to hide them. Americans, by virtue of their Puritan fore-bearers, have such a vastly different relationship with their bodies that is kind of calming to see people just… using their bodies and getting on with basic indifference instead of …shame emotions or even much interest. Everyone is out – old, young, middle aged. Beautiful and wrinkled, sagging, slack arms and legs, heron-thin and angular, solidly fat, with rolls and bellies, children pudgy and leggy, clumsy and graceful, people walking, talking, cycling, chasing babies, attempting bad cartwheels and handstands in the square and enjoying. People seem to be simply inhabiting the moment and their bodies and DOING things, and it is …not our American experience, in many ways.

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We met a sixteen-year old Dutch girl two years ago in California as an exchange student. She was a sweet kid, but we lost touch. T made an attempt to track her down, and let her know we were here, visiting her country. We offered to meet her somewhere, but she has instead arranged for us to meet her parents, attend church with her, and go out in her father’s boat. It’s a three-hour train ride, so we’re going to spend the night, and that’s our plans for the weekend. Netherlands 2018 286 Until then, we have Thing 1 visiting until Thursday, and plans are afoot for a bike ride (if it’s not some ghastly temperature), paddle boats, record shopping, and visiting the best vegetarian restaurant we’ve found, Hummus. (Yes. It has hummus. ALL KINDS. It’s so good.) Until then, we’ve got laundry and shopping to do (but not as much cleaning, as the apartment comes with a cleaner! Vacation perks). Until next time…

Cheers,

t&d