Hallo from Holland!
My trip to the Netherlands has been incredible and a part of me is tempted to stay here and miss my flight back to Madrid on Monday. This was my second visit to Holland, but the first time I only spent a couple days in Amsterdam and didn’t get a real sense of the country beyond the touristy sites of Amsterdam. After landing in Amsterdam on Friday, I took the train and my cousin Hiddo picked me up. We then went to pick up Auntie Lucie at her house and had tea before driving to the location for Family Weekend. I was a little bit nervous for Family Weekend because I came by myself, I haven’t met most of my family members, and we have quite a large family. There were approximately forty family members in attendance and it is amazing to me that they have this reunion every year. We spent two nights in a special house that is rented out to large groups in the countryside. During this weekend we ate, drank, talked, walked, played games, and just spent quality time with one another. There is no schedule or anything like that and people do whatever they feel like doing. Everyone was very welcoming and warm and it was so surreal to be a part of this event. I felt connected to a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed before. I could go on forever about how unique and spectacular each person I met was, but let’s just say that my family is the bomb. Most of them don’t get to see each other during the year, but I love that they consistently plan to reunite once a year for the weekend.
During the weekend, I also mapped out my remaining week of time by planning to visit some of my family members around Holland and Belgium so that I could get a good picture of the area. On Sunday afternoon, I went to Apeldoorn with my uncle Karel and his family to their home. I originally thought I would be traveling by train and bus, but he was so generous and let me borrow his Mercedes for my travels. On Monday, I took a stroll to the royal palace in Apeldoorn where the King and Queen of Holland live. It’s only a ten minute walk from their house. And after that I drove to Groningen to spend the night with my cousin Egbert who is studying in the city. We biked around the city and cooked dinner at his apartment. Tuesday, I stayed with my aunt Adriana and uncle Frits, who also live in Groningen. We had lunch in the city, biked by the lake, and cooked dinner at home. Wednesday, I drove to Rotterdam to stay with Hiddo. We took a water taxi into the city center, went up the Euromast Tower, and walked a ton. Thursday, I took the train from Rotterdam to Antwerp, Belgium and stayed with my uncle Sytse, aunt Roenilda, and my cousin Kanti. Kanti picked me up from the train station and took me on a marvelous biking tour of Antwerp. I ate a real Belgian waffle and bought myself some Belgian chocolate. Afterwards, we went out to dinner with the family and went to a great Gelato shop. Friday, I took the train back to Rotterdam and then drove to Haarlem to spend the afternoon with my cousin Anne-Hilde. In the evening I drove to Castricum with my uncle Johan and stayed at his place. This morning, Johan and I biked to the dunes and walked around the beach for a few hours. And tomorrow morning I will drive back to Apeldoorn to return the Mercedes. Finally, Monday I will take the train to Amsterdam and fly back to Madrid.
I have really enjoyed biking through the charming neighborhoods and city streets of Holland and Antwerp, but the best part has been the people and experiencing their culture. My family members and the other Dutch and Belgian people I have come across are so open, kind, and light-hearted. Of course, there was a crazy old couple who was honking at Kanti and I on our bikes, but those people are everywhere in the world. Maybe after I’m done teaching English in Madrid, I’ll move to the Netherlands and find a job here. What I really love about the Dutch people is that they are very direct. No bullshit whatsoever. They’re very honest, have a good sense of humor, and take care of their people. It seems like a pretty good life to me.