Thursday, September 28, 2006

i STILL need a hug

today someone posted a comment on my entry, "touch deprived." and it hurt my feelings.

the comment was about how there was news out of colorado, and therefore my post was "lame" and "required an apology." but i ask, what the hell are you talking about? how do i get my news here? the dutch headlines (which i can't read and which were already published 8 hours before any news broke in the usa) aren't going to be talking about something in colorado. and besides, we had guests that arrived today, so i really didn't get a chance to peruse the shock-and-awe websites of cnn, msnbc, or the bbc because i was doing something more important: connecting with people i love.

but perhaps the more pressing question is this: am i not entitled to have feelings? terrible things happen every day around the globe. babies die. mothers are slain. people die in wars. famine. drought. disease. and yet, every day i am entitled to my life, to my own feelings. indeed, all of us are. i don't know what happened in colorado today. but even if i did, does that negate the fact that i still need a HUG? maybe getting a hug, putting out some good energy into the universe, filling our lives with gratitude (instead of being glued to a fear-mongering boob tube) would positively charge those around us. maybe that would make more of a change in the world than posting op-eds on this blog -- a blog that is meant primarily to keep my girlfriends and parents from worrying about us.

i don't mean to say that whatever happened today does not require compassion and healing. whoever has been affected today certainly deserves to be met with compassion. it is something we need more of in the world, and a practice i try to keep in mind daily. and, and, and, i need compassion too. we all do.

all feelings are valid, no matter what fox news tells you is happening in the world today. regardless of the color-coded terror alert, or the state of the dow, i'm still going to need a hug. that's all i'm trying to say.

touch deprived

and another thing i miss... furniture built for two. all our furniture in our apartment is chairs and tables. even the bed... it's a twin bed. so we pushed our twin beds together, but there's this crack in the middle, so we can't even snuggle in bed because someone's going to fall through the crack. there's no couch, so we can't snuggle up and read books together. just chairs and tables.

i get lonely enough as it is during the day, that when my man comes home i really want someone to hug. but unless we're standing up, we can't even touch each other. and you KNOW how much i need touch. is it any surprise that i'm a massage therapist? all i do all day long is TOUCH people. and i'm so touch deprived right now i think i could cry.

soon, amber... soon. soon i'll have an apartment with a couch and my bed will arrive from colorado. and my massage table, too. then i can get my daily-touch requirement again.

...anyone want to fly over here and give me a hug? i sure could use one.

Monday, September 25, 2006


boodschappen, or grocery shopping, is always an event for me. as you've discovered in my previous posts, it's challenging even knowing what i'm buying, even though my list states clearly: butter, eggs, corn flakes. so... where are they?

but perhaps even more fun than the veritable "grab bag" of surprises i seem to bring home every time, is the challenge of buying all i need and somehow fitting it into my bike bag for my 4 km ride home. soon, when we move into town in a few weeks, all i'll need to do is bring my little collapsable granny shopping cart (see the post "market day") and walk a few blocks. but for now, i have to pile on my tomatoes, toilet paper, and toothpaste all in a precarious pyramid on the back of my bike.

these pictures were taken outside of "my" grocery store, albert heijn, which is the chain grocery store in the netherlands. don't worry -- i still shop at the local market! but for butter and rice, i need to actually find a grocery store. and this is where i do it...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Twente Biking Tour

On Friday, I was fortunate enough to join other members of my philosophy department for their annual departmental outing. So, instead of going to work, we all met at the train station in Oldenzaal, which is a little town just northeast of Hengelo – about a ten minute train ride away. We walked to the middle of town to a bike rental store and we all picked out our fiets (bicycles) for a fietsrijdt through the countryside. On the way out of Oldenzaal, we passed by an enormous 13th century church and several quaint homes before encountering the steepest hills I have seen yet in this country (still very mild by Colorado standards).

Our group of about 15 philosophers toured through the Dutch country side, occasionally getting lost, but mostly just enjoying the scenery and discussions about hermeneutics or the philosophy of religion or some other obscure topic that we all enjoy thinking about. It was a great chance for me to get to know my colleagues better and to get to meet some people that work in our department on only a part-time basis whom I had not met yet. We biked along sun-dappled wooded lanes and through fields of corn and hay. The countryside was dotted with typical Dutch buildings and farm houses and black and white cows.

Our destination was Singraven, which is not a town, but rather an old manor that used to be owned by a long line of wealthy families. We ate lunch in a beautiful and slightly upscale restaurant that specializes in pancakes. I had a spekpannekoeken (bacon pancake), which was lekker.

The restaurant, however, was just the appetizer for the main course: the mill. After eating, we went next door to a saw and grain mill that dates from 1484. This pre-Columbian mill is still functional, and our department got a full tour from a strong and witty old Dutchman who showed us how the whole thing worked. He engaged the saw mill and cut through a giant log with five blades running in parallel to make wooden planks. He then engaged the grain mill and we actually got to taste the flour that sifted through to the bottom floor where it is collected and used locally – even in the restaurant that we ate at.

It was a real treat to visit such an old technological system with a bunch of philosophers of technology. I know for me that every time I see technological devices that predate the widespread use of fossil fuels (and even steel in this case), it really throws into sharp relief the kind of world we live in today and the kinds of artifacts and socio-technical systems that we take for granted.

We then toured the old mansion and learned all about the pottery and tapestries and stuff, which I thought got a bit tedious. After that, we biked back to Oldenzaal and caught a train back to Hengelo. There, we met up with other members of the department and some of their spouses (Amber did not go on the bike ride on account of a West Nile relapse, but she felt well enough to join us for dinner). The restaurant at the Hotel 'tLansink was quite ritzy and it was a real treat to have an upscale dining experience, even though neither Amber or I liked the food that the group had picked out (Mackerel tastes too fishy for us…but they did have a delicious apple pie for dessert). Amber then biked home and I got a ride from one of my fellow philosophers. All in all it was a priceless experience.

twentse landdag

we're very lucky to be living in such a green gem. when i think of europe, i don't think of nature. maybe i do a little, like with the alps... but generally i don't think of europe as being a very "green" sort of place. i think mostly of big, bustling cities like paris, london, or berlin.

twente, however, is unlike any of those places. it is lush and rural and "gezellig." it's down-home, authentic, and quaint. all the trees, all the water, all the farms... it's really like something out of a fairy tale: deep, enchanted woods and simple cottages spread out in pastures. like hansel and gretel.

today we really got a sense of our new home when we explored "twentse landdag", or "twente's land day", a celebration of the farms and handicrafts that make this area so cozy and charming. it was in the park that we explored last weekend (by that little farm house and garden that adam blogged about), and so we decided to ride bikes there this afternoon to check it out. we packed a picnic of wine, bread, and chocolate, and sat on a bench that was removed from the action, to have a little quiet time. the view you see of the little girl with the sunflowers at the pond was what we saw from our picnic vantage point.

there were a few different exhibits there, like "uw achtertuin is groter dan u denk" ("your backyard is bigger than you think") -- a stand that educated people on how they can grow food and herbs in their tiny back gardens and patios; a beekeeper; a woman spinning wool into yarn and then selling it; and even a pannekoeken stand that was WAY too busy for us to check out, even though i still haven't had a dutch pancake since i've moved here!

there were also little arts and crafts booths with things for sale. i bought a little jar of tomato-and-lemonpeel jelly to be eaten on toast or crackers, and adam bought the tiniest little wooden clog with the twente seal on it, attached to a keychain. closer to the farmhouse that we found last week was a brick oven where the little ones could make little bread rolls (broodjes) and then the grown ups would bake the bread in the oven!

my favorite thing was the petting zoo. all the wee ones were in there petting the smallest baby goat i've ever seen, and it looked like so much fun i had to get in there too. then we found a beer stand and had a grolsch at a picnic table in the middle of a lovely hay field.

it's such a blessing to live in such a quiet, green area like this. just this morning i was out in the soccer field doing my yoga, when i saw two blue herons fly overhead and heard ducks, geese, and even a few finches singing too. then i was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with my husband strolling past stands of homemade jam and organic potatoes for sale. i'm so much happier living in a town like this, than i would be in a big city like rome or paris or amsterdam. this is definitely much more my style.

Friday, September 22, 2006

west nile sucks

i'm so bummed!

for three weeks now i've been looking forward to this cool outing that adam's department had planned. we were all going to ride bikes all this afternoon and then meet up for dinner at some fancy schmancy restaurant in hengelo. and yesterday i got sick. again. so i couldn't go today!

right before we left colorado, i got a really nasty case of west nile virus. apparently with west nile, you can feel sick for months afterwards. fortunately i am healthy enough that my body was able to beat it without any nasty side effects that can accompany west nile, like encephalitis or meningitis or paralysis or anything. and most days i really do feel healthy and fine. i'm generally very active and so haven't really noticed the fatigue that usually accompanies WNV for several months afterwards. but my body seems to be manifesting this virus in a different way... as in, i'm totally healthy for about a week, week and a half maybe, and then i get all feverish and exhuasted again for a day or two. but if i sleep lots (like i have been the last two days) then generally i feel better in a little while. it might take a few days, but i kinda snap out of it.

anyway it sucks. it really, really sucks. i'm so HEALTHY and it's so frustrating to be SICK! and especially it sucks when i've been all cooped up for the last few weeks, and was looking forward to making friends and riding bikes... but today is not that day. to make it worse, it was totally gorgeous today: 80 degrees and sunny.

sigh. i'm going to try to make it out to dinner at least so i can meet adam's coworkers. i'm just so bummed and so frustrated that a tiny mosquito bite can cause so much frustration and illness. i'm just mad at myself, i guess, that i'm not healthy and that i blew a chance to make some friends today. west nile sucks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Technology and the Dutch

Well it seems that Amber has blown our cover in the last post -- yes, it is true, we actually work for a powerful lobbying company that represents the interests of farmers' markets around the world. Go organic or go home, I always like to say.

I have been settling into a routine at work --I usually get up around 7 and make the five minute bike ride to work at the Cubicus building at about 8. There is a strange goose that lives a solitary life and wanders around the front door of the building showing very little respect for humans and our bikes and cars...he will aggresively let you know who is boss and I have see him regularly chasing people away for no apparent reason. Because he lives in front of the Cubicus building, Amber has dubbed him "Cubigoose". Anyway, I grab lunch with some colleagues at the little cafeteria downstairs at 12:3o and work away until 5 or 6 (then I come home and Amber usually has a lekker dinner waiting for me, which is good because my lunches usually consist of bread and soup). I work in the department of philosphy, which is very small (maybe 10 or so faculty members) and is the only humanities department on campus. Everyone else is in engineering or applied social sciences like sociology, policy, economics, psychology, etc.

Our department focuses on the philosophy of technology, which is actually an area of study that the Dutch have long dominated. One of my mentors, and one of the founding fathers of philosphy of technology, says that the Dutch are so big in the field because much of their country is an artifact. The Dutch have reclaimed lots of land from the sea and have an elaborate and massive flood control system. They are, in other words, surrounded by technology, so it is little wonder that they would tend to reflect on it.

The philosophy of technology is a relatively new field in terms of being a real academic entity. But its roots go back at least to Marx, who articulated an early version of technological determinism: "The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." For Marx, the production factors (basically, technology) were all important in shaping society at large. So, his work shows how technology is intimately connected to issues of justice as it shapes working conditions and the opportunities available for the haves and have nots. His work also shows that capitalism and modern technology seem to be natural companions.

Marx of course spawned lots of thinkers (like Hegel before him), some of whom, like Marcuse went on to reflect more on technological society. For Marcuse, modern society is characterized by a technocratic system that rationalizes the lifeworld and diminishes authentic human freedom. His work became very popular in the 1960s countercultural movements, because it helped articulate the nature of "the system" or "the establishment" that many felt was being so oppressive.

Another big figure in the philosophy of technology is Martin Heidegger, who famously argued that "the essence of technology is nothing technological." He meant by this that technology is, at its core, not about instruments for serving our purposes. Rather, technology is something much more - it is in fact our whole way of being in the world. Its essence is what he called "Gestell" or "Enframing," which pictures the world as a standing reserve ready for appropriation.

Our department here at U. Twente is making a name for itself by practicing a new approach to the philosphy of technology. Many of the philosophers in my department argue that talking about Technology (with a capital T) like Marx, Marcuse, and Heidegger is too abstract and leads to too much dystopic (negative) thinking. Rather, they argue that we ought to turn "to the things themselves" (to quote Husserl) and talk about individual technologies in particular contexts and how they influence the way we act and interpret our world - how they mediate our existence in concrete ways. This could be called the "empirical turn," but of course it is all a matter of debate.

Anyway that is some news from my world - Amber found CSI on tv, so I am going to sign off and watch that with her. Tot ziens.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

unexpected happy-nings

what another beautiful day here in my neighborhood! just perfect fall weather... sunny, cool, crisp. and it's just so wonderful living out here in the east, with all the trees and peat farms and dirt roads. ah, holland.

i took my bike on a backroad into hengelo, trying to avoid the busy, noisy hengelosestraat, the road i usually take to get into town. i discovered a little road that's sometimes dirt and sometimes paved, and crosses a canal. i saw that apple orchard again and some very happy, milk-laden cows chomping on some sweet clover. so peaceful.

when i got to hengelo, my plan was to go to the market. (wednesdays and saturdays are market days here in hengelo.) i wanted to find some crisp apples to go with my nutella (mmmm... nutellaaaaaa....), and also some more tomatoes for some pasta for dinner tonight. but when i got to town, the market wasn't there! instead, the whole city center had been transformed into an amusement park! how fun!

apparently, there are these companies that circulate through the netherlands, and so about twice a year they come to your town and set up a veritable amusement park where you can go on rides, eat junk food, and win plastic crap and stuffed animals holding big hearts. i walked down the street that i'm hoping we'll get to live on, and there was a ferris wheel right outside our window! though it was cute and looked fun, i'm also kinda glad that it only comes to town twice a year, or maybe it wouldn't be so much fun to live there...

anyway, no such market. so went to albert heijn again to buy just a few apples and a couple of croissants and some yummy chocolate.

ps, speaking of the market: something i've been thinking about lately, though, is how much i love local markets. especially this time of year, when everything is ripe and beautiful. i've been thinking a lot about this spinach-e-coli thing back home, and it really makes me sad actually. huge fields of spinach that will go to waste because it was destined to be processed in a big factory. tons and tons of spinach at the store that won't be purchased or eaten, that's just going to be thrown out. meanwhile there are people around the world STARVING. so much waste, just for a small percentage of people who got food poisoning. i think i heard on the news it was less than 150 people who got sick in the entire country of 300 million. (maybe the numbers have changed since i heard that... the bbc really doesn't report on this outbreak.) anyway, it just seems so ridiculous to me to be so paranoid about something that's so good for you, and it really upsets me that we're so dependant on mass-produced food. so go out and support your local farmer! shop at your farmers' market! eat locally grown produce! the spinach at the local market is good and fresh and e-coli free!

pictures reposted

it's been brought to my attention that the pictures found in the "Sunday in Twente" entry aren't working properly... as in, folks are having a hard time blowing them up to a larger size. so i'm reposting those pics, along with a few others, for you to see. (that's just easier than reposting the entire original entry.) hope this works!... love, amber

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

every day is easier

maybe i've already said this before, but i'll say it again anyway: every day that we're here, each moment that passes, is easier than the one before. we'll never feel as lost, as confused, as frustrated as we did yesterday. each day gets easier.

today, after my yoga of course, i ran into hengelo to meet with the realtor. i'm in the process of signing papers and filling out applications for a lovely 3-bedroom maisonette in downtown hengelo. (i don't want to jinx it by talking too much about it quite yet. please think happy thoughts of us moving in. it's just perfect.) but i knew exactly where the realty office was at, which side streets would get me there more quickly, and also where the "VVV" (the tourist office) was at so i could pick up maps of my new town. afterwards, i swung by the "albert heijn" (the chain grocery store) and found stuff to make tacos for dinner -- complete with the tiniest little bottle of real Tabasco i've ever seen. then took the back roads home to see some canals and cows, and even passed a cute little apple orchard. it's getting easier every day.

just last week i was in hengelo and stopped in at a croissant place to get a snack. as i walked outside to take a seat, there was a table of two young women with way too many chairs. i asked, very slowly and in english, if i could take one of the chairs. and i made a motion to take it. and they both looked at me like i was diseased and from another planet. like i had a horn growing out of my head, or had two noses or something. just completely dumbfounded and annoyed with me. and i got SO ANGRY! i was so pissed off that they couldn't just tell me if this seat was taken or not! it's a simple request! come on! speak english! i know they teach it to you here! ... and after much gesturing and patience on their part, i was told that i couldn't have the seat. so i just sat on a bench nearby. and after i calmed down a bit, i realized that i wasn't so much mad at them as i was mad at myself. mad that i can't express my thoughts, my feelings, my wishes to those around me. mad that i haven't been myself lately -- i've been shy, i can't be sarcastic, i don't know how to crack a joke or have a conversation, etc etc etc. i'm just mad at myself that i have so much to learn.

but then there's today. today is easier. i think my biggest accomplishment today took place at the fietsenwinkel (bike shop). background: adam bought his bike from this store last week, but before he could take it home they needed to fix it up and make it road-worthy. so in the meantime, they gave him a loaner. we understood that we were supposed to come back on friday to pick up his bike and give them the loaner back, and since they just let adam take the loaner without even so much as a deposit or a credit card number, we really wanted to be certain that we came back on friday so they didn't think that we stole their bike! afterwards, adam and i realized that friday wasn't going to work out because we're going to go bicycling through oldenzaal all afternoon with his department, but that he could come in on saturday instead.

fast forward to today: i wanted to stop by the store and explain this to them. in dutch. and even though i had to occasionally switch to english, i was still able to converse in mostly-dutch. the woman i was speaking with, fortunately, didn't know very much english, so i really did have to talk almost completely in dutch. (it's been my experience that if someone knows even a little english, they want to practice their english, instead of letting me practice my dutch. very frustrating when trying to learn a new language, but i guess both of us are in the same boat...) anyway, it took a little bit of time, but she was patient enough to work through it with me, and i finally did get my point across. yeah!

speaking of dutch (nice pun), adam and i are signing up for a dutch-language class tomorrow. it will meet every wednesday night for 15 weeks in downtown enschede. i'm really excited to learn as much of this language as i can so that i'm not such an ignoramus when i'm out in public.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday in Twente

Today wrapped up a wonderful weekend of getting to know our new home a little bit better. We woke up around 9 and just read books and caught up with the news on line for a while. Then Amber did some yoga outside in the soccerfield right next to our place and I went on a jog. I somehow wound up in Hengelo after following a small rural road through forests, fields, and farms. There were canals and the occassional cow along the way as well as lots of older dutch couples out on a Sunday bike ride. I got back just in time to stretch a few minutes with Amber and then we headed back upstairs.

Our big adventure today was our bike ride to Volkspark in Enschede. I picked out a nice used bike the other day, which says "the flying dutchman" on it, which was enough to sell me. But they needed to keep the bike for a week in order to fix it up and get it ready for use (that seems to be the way used bikes are sold around here). They gave me a loaner bike in the mean time. So, at about 1 or so Amber and I headed off along the back roads and discovered much wonderment as we bounced along narrow dirt roads shouldered by towering beech and oak trees. The diversity of trees out here reminds us of Pennsylvania (absent the rolling hills of course). We discovered a little park on our way, which had an old Dutch farmhouse that is currently being used as a historical museum, nature center, and garden. We took these pictures there. Notice the Twente style barn/farmhouse, which is distinguished by the wooden paneling on the upper half.

We continued along and walked around Volkspark, which is probably the largest greenspace in Enschede (greenest city in Europe in 2004). It is speckled with ponds/canals, gardens, sprawling lawns, and trees - including weeping willows, cedars, and even a tulip poplar. We sat for a while and I read while Amber took photos of an impressive water fountain, which spouted a stream at least fifty feet in the air, which in Colorado would be considered an extreme waste of water, but they have plenty of the stuff here. We then walked around a little bit more and biked home.

As one last bit of adventure we somehow wound up biking in the middle of some sort of running race, perhaps a marathon, as we were actually getting passed by dudes with different colored running outfits on.

On the way home we saw a giant cedar tree that must have been at least 200 years old. We wrapped up the day by calling friends and family back home (now that they were up for their Sundays). Amber made a delicious noodle pesto tomato dish for dinner and we listned to the Packers on the radio. All in all a pleasant day in the bucolic region surrounding our little dormstyle apartment.

hengelo on saturday night

spent last night in hengelo, the next town over. hengelo is cute, small, less crowded and touristy than enschede. i've noticed that fewer people speak english in hengelo, which is i think for two reasons which are basically the same reason: one, the population of hengelo is older, so therefore was maybe not required to learn english in school. and two, hengelo doesn't have the universities that enschede does, and so has maybe either a less-educated or less-international crowd. it's basically the same thing either way you look at it: no students, so not as much english. i like it, though. it keeps me on my toes and forces me to learn the language better.

we went out last night with our new friend, stu. stu has an interesting past. he was born in england and is the son of a navy family, so grew up all over the place. i think most recently he came from washington state, but has lived in maryland, virginia, and even iceland too. he's here working on a different project than adam, but is in the same department.

we went to a bar for a heineken that came in a glass that was WAY too big. then went to a doner-kebap place for some french fries (that was dinner: beer and fries), and then stu found us a cool snooker/pool hall up on the top floor of some building. we were the only ones there, which i guess makes sense since the population of hengelo is, like i said, a bit older. maybe shooting pool on a saturday night isn't as much fun for someone who isn't in their 20's or 30's. i don't know. we did find an air hockey table there, which was great fun, and also a sexy statue of some hot chick that of course adam had to have his picture with.

then we rode bikes home, found a way to watch the entire south park movie for free off of the internet, and slept for 9 hours. what fun!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

just like home, but different...

whew! i've been busy! all this week i've been hardcore looking at apartments, and i think i've found one. please pray/light a candle/visualize us moving into this lovely apartment in hengelo (the next town over). it's just the most perfect, lovely, inviting place i've ever seen.

but that's not what i'm writing about. that was just my excuse as to why i haven't blogged in a while. i'm gone during the afternoon, when you all are asleep back home. by the time i get home, it's early morning for you, and i'm busy calling people and IM-ing them (you can find me on yahoo messenger as arbriggle, and if you join me there then you can see me on my sweet new webcam), and then it's bedtime for me and i still haven't blogged.

but this morning, i finally have the time again.

it's saturday morning here, finally a little cooler weather -- it's been 80 degrees and sunny sunny sunny lately. and i just wanted to show you what a very normal life we're starting to create for ourselves. it's just like back in boulder, really, but just in a different country... and though it might not mean as much to someone else as it does to me, i've recently discovered a place in hengelo that sells my favorite tea: chocolate caramel enchantment chai from celestial seasonings! what a treat! my favorite tea from my favorite town (c.s. is located in boulder, and i've been there a million times)! just like back home... there's something reassuring about drinking the same tea i enjoyed in boulder. every morning back home, i'd wake up, put on the kettle, and make my chai. then i'd do my yoga, call my parents or girlfriends, and go to the market. and today i get to do essentially all the same stuff. but i'm doing it in the lowlands, instead of the high country.

at 1:00 i'm going into enschede on my loaner bike to the bike shop (fietsenwinkel) to pick up my "omafiets," or grandma bike. then ride back to campus to pick up adam and stu, the only other american we know out here, and the two boys will take a bus to hengelo to another bike shop that i found that has less expensive bikes than the place where i bought mine. then i'll ride my bike down there to meet them, and we'll go explore the village of hengelo together. it's market day there today, so maybe we can find some weird fruit or some pretty flowers or strange cheeses or something fun like that.

adam reading his book and drinking his tea... just like at home!

downward-facing dog with bluegrass music coming out of my computer

making breakfast

our "ontbijt" (breakfast) : scharreleiren, brood met honig en boter, paprikas, gouda, en sinasappelsap. (free-range eggs, bread with honey and butter, peppers -- still those same peppers we bought last week at the market! -- gouda, and orange juice.) eet 'smakkelik! (lit: eat tasty, but is meant more as bon appetit)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


as i sit here with the sun setting outside my window, over a pristine soccer field and a forest of sycamore and beeches, drinking a very inexpensive italian wine, reflecting on my day filled with croissants and apartment viewings, i'm struck by the thought: i'm sad.

i'm really, deeply, sincerely Sad.

it's so hard to be here sometimes. everything is foreign, everything is a challenge. just going to the grocery store is a mental exercise. does this soy milk have any cow milk in it? no? okay. what about goat milk? does it have goat milk? no? okay. just soy then? good. that's what i wanted. dank u wel. how about this. do i add water to this tomato soup? i don't? okay, which ones do i add water to? oh, i see it has meatballs in it. do you have any that are plain? you don't. okay. how do i say "plain" in dutch. oh, you DO. okay. where are those at? dank u wel.

and so on. at least buying beer is easy. it's ALL good here.

i've been feeling sick the past couple of days. a mild fever, fatigue, sometimes a head rush. i wondered if maybe i didn't fully recover from getting west nile virus right before we left colorado. (ps, i came down with a nasty case of west nile virus, no kidding, the week before we left town. that sucked.) but then after i thought about it somemore, i thought that maybe i'm just quite literally homesick. i'm eating weird food and sleeping in a weird bed and i'm talking in a weird language and even the air is weird here. it's like... thicker. or denser. or hazier. i don't know. it's just different.

everything's so frustratingly different.

it was hard to explain to adam before we left boulder that i'm not sad to come to holland. but rather, i'm sad to leave boulder. does that make sense? i'm sad to leave my home, my community, my career, my friends, to follow my husband to a foreign land where HE has a job and HE has a reason to be here. and then there's me. completely reliant on my husband for money, for friendship, for support. it's really a weird thing for such an independent woman. so again, it's not "coming to" enschede that makes me sad. it's "leaving from" boulder. that's heartbreaking. deeply, utterly heartbreaking.

i know that things will get better over time. i know that i'll make friends, i'll find massage clients, i'll find a lovely home here. yes, i know that. please stop telling me that. let me just be Here, with this sadness, because it's important to feel that and honor that too. i don't want to sound ungrateful for this opportunity, because i know how wonderful it all is. i just want to sound Real for a moment. let me be sad. and then tomorrow i'll get up again, go look at more apartments, try to find something at the store that tastes vaguely familiar, ride my bike... life will go on.

it will never be as strange as it was yesterday. i'll never be as lost and confused as i was the day before. but still... it's hard to be here. i'm tired now. i want to go home. and i can't. this is home now, and sometimes... sometimes.... sometimes that makes me sad.

adam with all of our worldly possessions.

we're waiting in the frankfurt, germany airport for our train to enschede, which had a transfer in munster. we had already been travelling for i think maybe 18 hours at this point.

that's a long way from home...

day trip to the hague

it seems that nothing is centralized here in the netherlands. everyone has a job, and everyone thinks that everything is "somebody else's" problem. so trying to do all those required governmental things like registering ourselves and getting our visas taken care of has proven to be much more challenging than it really needs to be.

last week we went to the hague to take care of our visas. essentially, that required us to take a three hour train, then sit in a waiting room for 40 minutes, then go upstairs to a little room, and then three minutes later walk out with our passports newly stamped and approved. and then a three hour ride back. that was our "errand" for the day. pretty silly.

on the plus side, we did get to see the entire country and notice the land become even lower, even flatter, and ever more populous. and to boot, we even got to go to a museum before we came home!

we chose to go to the mauritshuis, right next to the queen's digs in the center of the city, and view a rembrandt exhibit. rembrandt van rijn was a dutchman who was born 400 years ago, so to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, the mauritshuis has created a special exhibit in his honor. they have displayed, all in one magnificent room, every single painting by the artist that is in their collection!

usually when i see a rembrandt, i'm in a museum that perhaps only has one or maybe two rembrandts in their collection. and i'm also usually only in a museum on a weekend or during the height of the tourist season. so when i see one of his paintings, i'm usually trying to get a decent look at it in a crowd of pushy people -- which is so exhausting and claustrophobic to me that i usually give up and go view a lesser known artist in a quiet corner somewhere.

but here... HERE. here is a room full of probably 20, maybe even 30 rembrandts. and it's september. and it's a wednesday afternoon. there was virtually no one there. just me, adam, and the guards. and the master painter.

viewing a rembrandt, up close and personal like that, was probably one of the more inspiring moments i've had in my life. the way he uses light to capture intensity, the way his muddy shadows make you feel tense, not knowing what's in the background. the detail he puts into his own self portraits, really trying to own his own mortality. it's really remarkable, and an experience that i'll never forget.

but wait! that's not all! we also got to view three vermeers, perhaps the best known artist of the dutch masters. he's the one that painted "the girl with the pearl earring" and also "view of delft." it was really something else when i was looking at "view of delft" and heard on my audio guide that vincent van gogh wrote to his brother about the same painting, and found it to be one of the best paintings he had ever seen. van gogh and i saw the same painting 100 years apart! isn't that awesome?!

the other attached pictures you see are around the old church or the big church or whatever it was. we were there right around lunchtime, and so chose to eat at the cafe that you see here, under the broad branches of a sycamore tree.

the cafe was actually built into the side of the church and was probably used as a residence by a priest once upon a time. pretty neat.

on friday we're going to amsterdam to run another passport-related errand. fortunately it's only TWO hours by train, instead of the three that it took to get to the hague. keep checking in and i'll be sure to write a story about that upcoming trip, too.