Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: "What does his voice sound like?" "What games does he like best?" "Does he collect butterflies?". They ask: "How old is he?" "How many brothers does he have?" "How much does he weigh?" "How much money does his father make?" Only then do they think they know him.
---Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Things making us happy in Leiden
1. We now own rain gear.
It rains a lot in Leiden, and biking is our means of transportation. Owen is a strong enough biker to hold an umbrella while he bikes, but I'm still getting to that point. And although I have a couple of jacket-like articles of clothing I didn't have anything resembling real rain gear til this week. After last Sunday's trip to church and getting soaked to the skin both ways, I went and bought us both some cheap raingear.
grocery bags don't really cut it.
rain gear is much better!
Mark, one of Owen's closest friends, and a friend of mine since Deerwander days came to visit us here in the Netherlands. It has been a blast having him around during the days, going to museums with him and having him in and out over the last nearly two weeks. He's come and gone a bit, going on adventures to Scotland and Ireland, making the most of this visit to Europe. It's been great.
I mentioned that I've been heading to museums with Mark during the weekdays, but Owen and I have also been going. He's writing up a blogpost about the Naturalis Museum now. I should say that for a city this size, Leiden has a ton of excellent museums, all with a very Dutch flair. They are usually bilingual throughout the museum (which is so nice for us) but the museums are always eager to point out local achievements. These artifacts were brought by the first Dutch archeologist working in Egypt, these tools belonged to an innovative Dutch surgeon, these tile pattern was originally based off of Chinese influences but became emblematic of Dutch domestic culture and export. I think in the US, we are much happier to dip our fingers into other people's achievements, or to not care as much how the things we use came to us. I like this Dutch national pride. And it makes sense. They have a lot to be proud of.
4. Baked goods.
It's been chilly in our house, and although we now have learned how to turn on the heat, a cold house has made me very eager to bake. I will post another post very soon with the recipe I use for Roman Apple cake adapted for the gluten intolerant, but for now, here's the original recipe I found online.
5. Dutch class.
Owen and I are taking a Dutch class at his department. It's an immersion class so you really have to do the work or you'll look like an idiot, but I already feel like a bit of one given the other students. We have a lot of students from Italy in the class, and many of the students know four or five languages. This past week we all went around the room saying where we come from and which languages we speak. The first student said, "Ik kom uit Italië, ik spreek Italiaans, Engles, Frans, Spaans, en een beetie Nederlands." There were almost as many distinct languages as students, with languages as diverse as Latin, Romanian, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, Russian, Serbian, and it made my shaky accomplishments in highschool French look poor indeed. Everyone in the class is fluent in English as well as their native tongue, (Owen and I are the only native English speakers) and most students knew at least three if not more. It's so easy to think of my language as the only one worth knowing, (particularly with all the time and effort I've put into studying it) but how simple to not realize other people think the same.
Another way we've been keeping warm is knitting. I am very nearly finished with my first ever sweatervest, and I'm thinking fondly of my mother-in-law and new family and our happy trip to Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool festival a year ago this weekend. Here's what I wrote about it last year.
7. The Prague fiasco
Here is some of the furniture at our gate.
Now this story may not sound like a happy story at first but stick with me. Mark, Owen and I had planned to be in Prague this weekend. We thought it was high time to explore a little more of Europe, and Mark was eager to see Prague, so what better occasion? After much careful planning (it can be tough to travel with significant allergies in yet another unknown language) we got up very early yesterday morning to head to the Rotterdam Airport, a place full of cushy couches, delightful little coffee-drinking nooks, security with our shoes on, and decor with a whimsical flair putting us in mind of the Oegestgeest Bank office. Our flight was cancelled, and then merely delayed, then cancelled for real, no reasonable flights to take us there a little later, so our plan was a wash. Mark was still eager to go and see another country, so he caught a train to Belgium, and we planned on heading back home, figuring out how to cancel the rest of our flights, and get our money back and our new plan was to meet him in Brussels today. But here's what happened. We got home and my stomach with which I had been on nebulous terms all day, decided to outright revolt, and I found myself sicker than I've been in about seven years, probably longer. Which brings me to the happy parts of the story. I am so thankful that I was sick at home with a immeasurably sweet husband taking care of me. Not in a youth hostel. Not at some great historic landmark. Not on a train. Not in a plane. Not anywhere but home. New weekend plan? Sleep. Stay in bed. Watch old Disney movies. Eat applesauce and bananas, maybe rice. Work on finishing the sweatervest--or possibly just watch Owen finish it. Maybe go to church and a baby welcoming party if I'm feeling stronger tomorrow. Mostly? I'm planning on loving and being loved.