Thursday, April 12, 2012

Holland - Day 1, 2, 3 (April 9,10,11):

Well I've made it to Holland. The flight was long, and it was split up into 2 four or five hour flights, which I'm not sure was better or worse. I wasn’t really able to sleep so I guess it was nice to be able to stretch my legs in between. Our layover was in Iceland, and talk about a BEAUTIFUL nationality.  I'm not into blondes, but my goodness did they have some goodlooking people there.

We reached Holland at about 13:30 (get ready for military time people), and took a taxi to pick up the van. The area surrounding Schiphol airport reminded me very much of suburban Boston, only the cars were smaller and signs in Dutch. The buildings next to the highway were nothing special, and there were small fields and trees that looked similar to those back home. But as we drove farther from the airport and north towards the van and Oudkarspel, where my grandparents live, it became clear that this was the Holland I was waiting for. Green EVERYWHERE. Green grass to be more specific. There were small, lush fields everywhere dotted with mostly sheep. I also saw many horses, lots of small ponies, and a few goats. Houses were quaint, built of brick, some with thatched roofs. On the road we took to get to the garage where the van was stored, everything was brick. The brick road was lined with brick houses on either side, a brick sidewalk and brick driveways. It felt like a village out of “Beauty and the Beast,” where everyone knows your name and calls you strange behind your back.

We got the van with no trouble and headed on to Oudkarspel. The scenery remained similar to that described earlier, although we did pass one area that looked more urban, with big grocery stores and lots of shops. People were not out biking that day because it was very gloomy and rainy.

The house where my grandparents live is in a “campground” which is sort of a glorified trailer park. There are a few actual trailers, one or two, but most of the homes are permanently built with decent sized yards and very nice landscaping. My grandparent’s house is bigger than the image they painted in my mind, with two small bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and good size dining and living room area. My room is pretty miniscule, but I don’t mind.

View from my window

That first night we all passed out around 9:30, 10 o’clock. I had one of the best sleeps of my life, but my grandparents were jetlagged and woke up in the middle of the night for a few hours.

Day 2:

My second day wasn’t too eventful. I caught up on business emails, we re-rented a storage unit to use while we're here for keeping extra bikes and things, and we went on a short bike ride around Oudkarspel. I was again struck by how close the houses were to each other in certain areas. Similar to what I described where we picked up the van, the villages we biked through had houses on either side, with a tiny or no lawn, so close to each other that I could see on my left and right what people were watching on television. And it seems that 8 o’clock is television watching hour in Holland. I suppose if I had cable in the US I might do the same thing. I was also amazed at how much I could see into everyone homes! Nobody seemed to mind that anyone walking or biking by could see directly into their living room and kitchen.  As we biked back the long way through the campground to go home, it was the same. Everyone watching TV, and you could see on both sides into everyone’s houses. One of the neighbors saw me gawking and waved. Oh and that's right, it is light until EIGHT THIRTY here! And in the summer it will be light until eleven!!! Okay back to the story.

Pop told me that another neighbor of his doesn’t like him, because he keeps his hedges “very” high so that we get some privacy. After that bike ride we took, I really appreciated it!

Know who that is?
My peaceful sleep the first night was made up for the second night when I couldn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m.! I think part of it had to do with the book I was reading, “Catching Fire,” the second Hunger Games book (thanks Lizzy and Karina!), but part of it was just jet lag.

Day 3:

So far I have found Dutch people to be kind, friendly, rude, funny, judgmental, and tall. The service here (and I believe in Europe in general) is very slow, and they don’t apologize for anything, because as Oma said “we are always right.” (and we are)

Bike Ride to Heerhugowaard, notice the old and new windmills!
I went biking on my own in search of a mini SIM card for my newly unlocked iPhone. The guy at the Vodafone place spoke English, and we discovered that my phone is not unlocked, but he kindly gave me the business card of someone who might be able to unlock it. I was in a mall, so I walked around and got a few necessities. I’ve gotten really good at saying “sprechkt u engels?” Most people do speak english. I've found out that no one has any idea what witch hazel is, which I will have to bring back with me from the states on round two. One woman at a store was a little rude, but mostly the cashiers were nice.

I can’t help but feel like an outsider. I don’t speak the language, and I don’t know if it is my imagination or not, but I swear people sometimes look at me funny like they know I am not from around here (before I open my mouth). I think it might be my clothes. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there is a definite Dutch/European style that I don’t have yet. I'm definitely not “in my element” here, which is a little lonesome.

Pretty Windy!
But soon I will be wishing for some alone time away from the old folk. We start our first tour on Sunday, so I also learned a thing or two (or twenty!) about bikes today. I was really impressed and amazed at how easy it was to do basic bike maintenance. Pop and I got about 10 bikes ready for Sunday, tires filled, brakes, gears, everything checked. I like the hands-on work and watch out because my triceps are going to be huge from pumping up tires. I look like a total dork when I do it though, because instead of keeping my knees straight and just bending my arms up and down, I keep my arms fairly straight and bend my knees. I think I must look like a strange dancing flamingo. 

To sum up: Holland is nice so far, quaint, beautiful, exciting, but I'm still missing you all. If you want to get a letter from a foreign country with a cool stamp on it, send me some snail mail! Go back to facebook for the address, not sure if random people can see this! 

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