Christmas 2015: The Netherlands

Syntha and I are on what we have labeled a “Dutch-not-Dutch” adventure, because we both have ethnic ties to the Netherlands but don’t call ourselves “Dutch” outside of queries about our heritage. Syntha actually studied in the Netherlands for two years, and when she was young she had a double passport. My ties are more in the immigrant origins of my family, who immigrated to the states from The Netherlands anywhere from five to three generations ago.

So, our Dutch-not-Dutch adventure is a lot of me going to places for the first time, and Syntha going to places she visited in the past. Syntha is a fabulous travel-buddy, not only because she is laid back and knows Dutch (even though she feels a bit too shy to use it much), but because we also can use Bahasa Indonesia as a secret language when we don’t want other people to know what we are saying! Yes!)

It’s been a really fun three days. We landed early morning on the 22nd, and did all of the just-landed rituals– SIM cards and OV Train cards and money changing and coffee. Then we took the train from the airport to her friends’ house, where we are staying during our time in The Netherlands. Her friends Marchien and Michael are outrageously nice, letting us stay in their house even though they are busy with home renovations and their
two adorable children. (Since arriving, I have played with Duplo and wood blocks and dolls in imaginary situations, all with elaborate stories I don’t understand, since their their kids, who are five and three, only speak Dutch.)

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So, after meeting our hosts and getting refreshed, Syntha and I went to den Haag, where we perused a Christmas festival and saw the parliament building. It was fun, but the weather was drizzly and we were still adjusting to the cold. That, with our jet lag and lack of sleep due to our red eye flight, meant that by the time 6pm rolled around we were already tucked away in our beds.

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During our second day in The Netherlands, we went to Delft. After a false start (we got on the train, realized we forgot something, and had to backtrack) and getting lost in Delft (due to some questionable directions) we arrived at the Royal Delft Ceramics Factory. It was interesting to hear the history of something as recognizable as the Delft blue pottery, and it is always cool to see artisans and craftsmen doing things that they like.

After our tour, we hopped on a train to Rotterdam because we had plans to meet up with some past students, who were now studying in Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. We caught up over a meal in Chinatown, followed by stop by a cafe.

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On Christmas Eve, Syntha and I went to Zaanse Schaans to see the windmills. We expected that the area would be quiet and empty, but there were a surprising amount of tourists milling about. The windmills were charming and very picturesque (so, naturally, Syntha and I took a million pictures). Plus, there is a pretty well known tourist shop that sells all sorts of klompen, so we took a few snaps there as well.

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Our second stop of the day was in Haarlem, where we went to Corrie ten Boom’s house. It is now a museum offering free tours in both Dutch and English, and we managed to squeeze into the last tour of the day. Our guide was absolutely lovely, not only in her role as a tour guide, but also afterwards, when she chatted with Grasyntha and I about Indonesia (where her husband was born) and Michigan (which was the first place she asked if I was from when she discovered I was Dutch-not-Dutch). She left such a strong impression on Syntha and I that we might go back to the place, just to see if we could leave her a thank-you note. (“It took 35 years, but I finally found a Dutch person who broke all my stereotypes,” Sytha commented as we sat on the train.)

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So far my favorite part about being in the Netherlands is a mixture of my happiness of being able to both walk and take trains in the cooler air, and the blessing of meeting people who are genuinely friendly– our hosts and our ten Boom house guide being the main source of this feeling. We have a few more days left in the The Netherlands before we we head to Prague and Vienna, and I’m excited to see what those days bring.

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