Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

First trip home after one year in Holland

It is hard to believe that it has been an entire year since we were in the US. We didn't plan on it being that long, but it just worked out that way. Both of our parents were able to come out and visit us, and Chrsity/Vegar came out our way for Christmas, so we didn't go home. Needless to say, we were very excited to finally go back for a visit. We had a list in our heads of all of the places we wanted to go, people we wanted to see, & foods we wanted to eat. We looked forward to seeing signs in English, to understanding people when they talk to you, and to being around so many familiar things again.

One of the first things I noticed, even on the plain, was hearing all of the "American English." It was nice, just like when we visit the UK, to be able to understand background conversations. All transactions in shops and restaurants are very easy; no miscommunications, no repeating ourselves 3 times and still getting it wrong, no strange looks when we say something… it was a relief. I had a different perspective on the American conversations I heard. I can see how sometimes Americans can sound annoying and whiny to other people. We seem to just talk louder, and I heard a lot of people complaining. To be fair, though, it is very possible (and probable) that Dutch people are complaining all around me all the time, but I just don't understand what they are saying to know that it's a complaint. Haha!

Meagan and Trevor picked us up from the airport, and, after a quick trip to Chick Fil-A, we were pretty much useless that first night, so we went to bed early. Saturday morning Chad and I woke up like a lightning bolt around 4 AM, since it was already 10 AM Rotterdam time. We were able to make ourselves sleep a couple more hours, until about 6 or 7. Then we decided to get up and go for a jog down Grandview Avenue, just like old times. It was really nice to be up there again, looking at the quiet city in the morning. We also walked by our old apartment to take a look (looks the same of course). Hard to believe we spent almost 3 years there.

We went to the Strip District to eat breakfast at Pamela’s. The food was great, as usual, and it had been a while since we’d had a good American breakfast with pancakes, home fries, eggs/omelets, sausage, etc. It was funny, but as we walked around the Strip, everyone looked so "American" to me. People in their shorts and tennis shoes, ball caps, cups of to-go coffee, Penguins’ t-shirts (well, it is the playoffs), polo shirts, etc. Another observation was that we also saw a lot more overweight people than we’ve seen anywhere in our entire year in Europe. Now, granted, standing in front of Pamela's in the Strip is probably one of the places where you'll see this the most, but it was interesting to have a sort of third person perspective. The people look different here. When we lived there we were so used to it that we didn’t notice.

That afternoon, Chad's parents came up to Pittsburgh, and we had a wonderful afternoon in the hot sun, barbequing and playing corn hole. The Pens game was on that night, and I struggled to stay awake to even 10:00 to see the end. Sunday morning, we marked off a major item on our checklist and went to eat at Fat Heads and have some great American micro-brews. Chad and I split a burger topped with a pierogi, and the South Side Slopes (which, for those of you unfortunate enough not to know, is a huge sandwich with a split kielbasa, pierogi, grilled onions, and cheese). We ate as much as we could, but still had to take some home.

My dad came up to Pittsburgh and picked me up at Meagan's, and we went to pick up Christy, Laura, and Nikau (her son) at the airport. Chad went to Wheeling with his parents for a couple of days. It was nice to see Chris & Laura again, and Nikau was so adorable. At home, we were greeted by a cute little puppy, Riley, my mom's newest addition to the zoo. She is so tiny, only 4 pounds, and really fun to play with.

Monday, the four of us went to the lake to see Mike and Sue. It was nice to relax on the dock by the water & to sit in the middle of the mountains again. I miss them, because Holland is so flat. Christy and I rode the jet ski for a bit, which is always fun. Then we went to the movies and saw the new Star Trek, which was really well done and funny, too. We went to Chedder’s to eat dinner, a new restaurant in Morgantown. I took note of how polite the hostesses and waiters are. Imagine that, they actually Care about customer service. And, it was nice to have a big tall glass of ice water with no hassle, or accidentally ordering a bottle of sparkling Avian water.

Wednesday I went back up to Pittsburgh to have lunch with the Julies and Jen. Shrum wasn't working that day, so she brought Abby to lunch, who had gotten so big since I saw her when she was only a couple weeks old. It was nice to catch up with the girls, and hear how things at FedEx are going (mostly the same, of course). When I was telling them all of the places we had been, I realized how much we have done in just one year. It's amazing what you can do with 45 vacation days. ;) After lunch, I experienced a miracle… I got my PA drivers license renewed! I didn't have the exact form I needed, and I had a receipt of an online payment that I wasn't sure they'd take, etc. But with only minimal eye rolling on their part, and 1.5 hrs of waiting, I got it. Major mission accomplished (Chad was also able to renew his WV license in Morgantown, so we’re covered for the next 4 yrs).

It was a busy day. I met up with Chad and we went to H&R Block to sign the paperwork for our 2008 taxes, since they had helped us remotely. Then we went to the mall and had fun looking at all of the Penguins’ gear and the Super Bowl shirts in Dicks. Chad was mesmerized by the gigantic wall of American footballs and basketballs. I think I saw a tear in his eye. It was sort of surreal walking through the mall; all of the variety of shops, familiar signs, people wearing t-shirts of local sports teams, convenient little add-ons and options to everything, people eager to help you or answer your questions. Malls are really a snapshot of American culture (as is Costco, haha).

Thursday I met up with my ol’ girl Rose head. Fittingly, we met at the mall food court and had Chick Fil-A. Mmmm. It was nice to catch up with her. Chad then came down that night to stay in Motown the rest of the week. That night, my parents took all of us to an awesome new restaurant on Chestnut Street called Dragonfly. It was sort of an Asian fusion style, with really good seafood and sushi. It was incredible. Then, Christy and Chad and I met up with Laura, Sommer and Scotty, and hit up Gibbie’s and McClaugherty’s.

Friday we had a big cookout at my parent’s house, and all of Christy’s friends that were in town for the shower came over, along with a lot of other people. It was great to sit out on the deck again, smell the grill, drink good American beer, and catch up with people that we hadn’t seen in a year or more.

Saturday was Christy’s shower. It was really nice, and everyone had a great time. Her friends brought their kids, and it was amazing for me to see all of these girls in “mom-mode,” after seeing them all growing up & getting in trouble together. Sittee, Aunt Pat, and Nicole came up from Charleston, and it was really nice to see them again, too. The shower made me get really excited for the wedding. I think Christy was, too. Only two months to go!

With mixed emotions, we made our way back to the airport on Sunday. It was nice to be home for 10 days, because it was long enough to really be able to relax, and get a lot of things done at the same time. But, it was hard, again, to leave everything in our lives that is so familiar to us, and come back to Holland. Thankfully we are really settled in and having a great time in Rotterdam, so we don’t feel the anxiety we felt when we first moved. But, it’s still hard to leave our family and friends, and leave our lives on hold for another 2 years. I guess sometimes the really good things in life come with a sacrifice of some sort. You just always hope that the experiences gained are worth the sacrifice. I think in this case it is worth it.


Pics from our trip home:

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