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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Every beginning has an end,

and every end has a new beginning.

As on the day when we boarded that plane over 3 years ago to move from Pittsburgh to Amsterdam, with only 6 suitcases and a lot of unanswered questions, today we boarded the plane to move 'home.'  It is surreal.  Mixed emotions are to be expected, but we are predominately excited to be moving back to the United States.

We will certainly miss the numerous outdoor cafes, especially the ones next to a lovely canal or harbor, where you can sit for hours.  We'll miss easily taking a train to explore new cities, and experiencing all of the various festivals in different countries.  We'll also miss some of the "common sense" or "personal responsibility" policies like, for example, being able to go to a city festival, parade, outdoor concert, the movies, or barbecue in the park, and have a beer or glass of wine.  And, of course, we'll miss the great friends that we've made. 

It is nice, though to look forward to being in the same time zone as our family (or closer to it).  We look forward to starting our own family (in time).  We'll be able to read and understand our mail when we get it!  And, if you have an issue with a utility or anything, you can pick up a phone and there will be a polite and helpful customer service representative there eager to help you (free of charge).  Being able to run errands at shops after 5:00 on weekdays, so our entire weekend is not spent doing so... that will be nice, too.  Not to mention having a car back, especially for grocery shopping, so we don't have to carry or bike with everything.

We do not know what New Hampshire holds for us.  Even though we'll be back in the US, it will likely be a different experience than we've had before.  But, we are nothing if not adaptable.  After this Expat experience, we have learned a lot, and grown a lot, and we are confident that we can carve out our home wherever we may be.


Tot Ziens Rotterdam!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's not a red herring,

they really love this stuff!

There are few things quite as typically Dutch as a herring stall (maybe second to that is an Oliebollen stall in the winter). The origins go way back to their fishing and trading days over a 1000 years ago.  Raw herring, caught in the North Sea, cleaned, with it's head and bones removed, and conserved in in salt.  It is usually served with diced, raw onions, and sometimes with pickles.

Mmm... now doesn't that look lekker?!

And the typically Dutch way to eat it: pick it up by it's tail, and slide it into your mouth in one fell swoop. Like so:

You'll often see people walk up to the stall such as this, put a two Euro coin down, and be handed a herring without ever exchanging a word. Now that is Dutch efficiency!

So, we felt like it was our duty to get the complete Dutch experience by trying the slippery, slimy, smelly fish delicacy... and we waited until literally the last day to do it.  Here is the proof!

Confident in my abilities, I went first.  

Not looking so certain anymore once I have a mouthful of herring. 

Chad was, shall we say, not pleased with the idea.

But, he was a sport.

OK, full disclosure, neither of us ate any more than the one bite you see here.  But, how many raw herrings have you eaten (question not applicable to the Dutch)?  The only thing that would have made this experience better (other than trading the herring for an oliebollen), would be if it had been served to us by this lovely Nederlandse vrouw:


The rest of the pics are here on Flickr:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good friends

We have made a truly amazing group of friends in Holland.  Most of us were Expats, so we formed our own 'family' abroad.  We traveled together, barbecued together, and partied together (sometimes too much), and celebrated baby showers, birthday parties, and Dutch football victories.  Our experience would not have been the same without them, and we wanted to show them our appreciation, and celebrate our repatriation by throwing a farewell party.

We started with dinner at Bazar with Jake and Erin.  I don't know who was more upset about us leaving, us or them.  ;)  The four of us were our "American connection," and we helped each other through many days of homesickness.  We celebrated the 4th of July with barbecues in the park, and watched college football and NFL on ESPN America, or the ever-choppy Slingbox.  There were someone who we didn't have to explain ourselves to, or preface every story with "I'm an American."  You couldn't ask for better friends in a foreign country.  

For the party, we chose one of our favorite local, old-school Dutch pubs, Sijf.  All of our good friends from Erasmus MC and Maersk were there: Jake and Erin, Dayrina, Toyer (Andrew), Tim and Becky, Hannah, Rusa and Perry, Arjen and Linda, Dominic and Caron, and even the old party animal, Dick.

We will be forever grateful to the hospitality and friendship of Arjen and Linda Amelink.  They brought us into their home on holidays, family outings, football viewing, and more.  They introduced us to Sjoelen, and the art of grilling on a 1x3 foot charcoal grill.  Most importantly, they were our family away from home.  

They gave us some wonderful, unexpected gifts, including these beauties!

And, Perry and Rusa, also put together an amazing book for us, with pictures of some of our fun and crazy times, and personal messages from each of our friend.  Needless to say, this was the drop that broke the dam, and the tear flowed from this point on in the evening.

I hope that we will be able to keep in touch with these wonderful people.  And, hopefully, meet up with them again in future trips to Rotterdam, or somewhere else.

Thank you to all of our wonderful friends!  We love you all like family, and we will miss you greatly. (ok, here I go again with the tears...)


The rest of the pics are here on flickr:
(though, we only took pictures in the beginning, as later in the evening was all tears and beers) ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One last cruise

We have always wanted to go on a private boat around Amsterdam. One of Chad's co-workers, Fleur, has a family home and boat business on the water just outside of Amsterdam.  She took us and the entire Erasmus group out for a day on the water.

We had loads of good food and beer to get us through the day.  We even went through a lock to enter from the waterways outside of the city, to the inner canal system (my inner geek thought this was pretty cool).

Amsterdam is always beautiful from the water.

This was a fun one to mark off of our to-do-before-leaving list.


The rest of the pics are here on flickr: