Friday, November 30, 2007


time to put up the kerstlichten (christmas lights)!

the dutch get into the holiday spirit a lot sooner than i'm used to. as i mentioned in a previous blog entry, the christmas lights went up downtown a few days before we americans would celebrate halloween. now, i know that if you were to go to target or safeway or any number of american stores sometime around halloween, you'd almost certainly find a few christmas decorations and trees to buy. but the majority of you probably wouldn't buy anything yet, because you still have halloween and thanksgiving to think about. we as americans tend to think about christmas much later... the stores wish that we thought about christmas sooner, but truth be told, we as a nation don't really get into the holiday spirit until after thanksgiving. (and then what happens the very next morning after thanksgiving? all the stores open at 4:00 a.m.! they just can't WAIT for us to get in there and start buying crap! and we're so excited to get christmas rolling that we fall for it!)

the dutch, on the other hand, don't celebrate halloween and they definitely don't celebrate thanksgiving. and since their gift-giving day falls on st. nicholas day (5 december, nearly 3 weeks before christmas), their shopping and decorating season starts really a full month earlier than i'm used to.

and besides, the days very quickly become very short, and the weather is pretty dull and gray, so it gives us all something to look forward to: christmas lights and gift giving and sinterklaas songs. it's all so uplifting!

so the day after adam and i celebrated our "second thanksgiving" (see previous post), we got out all of our christmas stuff and decked the halls. (last year we weren't sure if we wanted to celebrate christmas or not because we were so damn lonely, and we didn't bring any christmas decorations with us and we were too broke to go out and buy anything. but bob and rae, thoughtful and loving as they are, sent us a nice big box with our stockings and some christmas oven mitts and christmas hand towels and a frosty-the-snowman to hang up and a whole mess of other stuff that totally made our house feel festive. we went out the next day and bought ourselves a tree from the market for only 10 euros, and since it's a real live tree in a pot, it got to live on our patio for a year, and we get to use it again this year! hooray for recycling!)

adam lit a fire and i hung the stockings by the chimney with care, we put out the christmas tea towels and put the lights up, and now we're all set for the holidays! season's greetings, everyone!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

thanksgiving 2007

happy thanksgiving!

thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday EVER. i looooove thanksgiving, because it's so simple: just families getting together all across america to share a meal, throw a football around, and spend 4 days getting fat and relaxing. there's nothing commercial about thanksgiving at all, and i love love love that.

last year was our first thanksgiving here, and i was so miserable that i made adam take me to ghent that weekend. no way was i going to sit around in our big, empty, lonely house, with no pots or pans to make anything (let alone a turkey or mashed potatoes), no measuring cups, not even a telephone to call home. we didn't even have a BED. but i figured that if i could go to ghent, get out of town for a couple of days, i might just forget that i live here, and could pretend that i just am visiting europe. it was a really nice weekend and we did go out to dinner that night and i had apple pie at the end of the meal to celebrate thanksgiving. see this blog entry to read about our fun weekend in ghent last year.

but THIS year is waaaaay different. i was actually looking forward to spending a long weekend at home, just me and adam, eating and reading and sitting by the fire and feeling the baby kick. last year at this time, i never would have imagined this shift in attitude. seriously.

on thanksgiving day, adam and i went over to our friend, stephanie's, apartment. stephanie is originally from seattle and we met accidentally last year when she rang my doorbell to ask me if the car parked in front of her garage door was mine. (it was not, as we don't have a car out here.) she started yammering at me in dutch, and at that time i didn't know enough to even decipher 10% of what she was saying, so i just asked her straight up if she spoke english, and she spoke it so well that i knew almost immediately that she was an american. she is married to a dutch man named kees (pronounced like "case") and they have a young daughter, kirsten. kees' parents are actually our back neighbors, but i have never met them because i can't figure out how to find their door. anyway, stephanie and kees invited us over to dinner, and we happily accepted, and we ate with the three of them and kees' sister and brother-in-law. it was a really lovely dinner, with the traditional fixins of turkey, stuffing (one with chestnuts, one with mushrooms!), and mashed potatoes with chestnuts creamed into them (sooo good!). oh, and corn on the cob too, which is a real treat. i brought cornbread and cranberries, which kirsten seemed to like the most. (adam said maybe it was because for her it was like eating paint with those bright colors that she could smear around her plate.) after dinner we all had apple pie, and adam and i left around 9:30 to call our parents, who were all just now sitting down to dinner.

because adam had to work on thanksgiving day, we celebrated "second thanksgiving" here on friday. (hey, if the dutch get "second christmas" and "second easter," then we get to have "second thanksgiving!") it was soooo lovely and sweet. we slept in and had a simple breakfast, and then while adam did some "work from home," i got our snack plates ready: cheese and crackers, fresh veggies, olives, and chips and salsa. i finished up a magazine, hung out, just relaxed. soooo nice. here's a picture of adam watching the packers beat up on the lions, while he breasks up the bread slices so we can make homemade stuffing.

we got dinner started around 12:30, starting with the turkey that we ordered at the market. it was a 2.7-kilo bird (just shy of 6 lbs) that cost us about 15 euros (almost 25 dollars i think), so it seemed REALLY expensive, but we only do it once or maybe twice a year, so i think it's really worth it. AND we didn't get to do thanksgiving last year, so we were overdue. then the rest of the day was mostly spent relaxing and watching football on our awesome slingbox. (the slingbox is this super rad device that bob and rae picked up this summer after we convinced them that we absolutely would die out here if we had to go another season without football. it hooks up to the back of their tv, then connects to the internet, and then we can log onto their slingbox with our computer and watch what's on tv. and thanks to their tivo, we can record games and then watch them later. sweet. so we got football AND turkey this thanksgiving! just like back home! thanks, rae and bob!)

we ate around 4:30 and had all the traditional dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green beans, yams, rolls, and gravy. and because i can't make a pie crust to save my life, we had apple crisp instead. and we had so many leftovers that we could barely fit it all into our ittybittystupideurofridge.

happy thanksgiving, everyone! we are so grateful for you, and for this amazing technology that keeps us connected across the sea! we hope your turkey day was as lovely and simple and quiet and loving as ours was!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


There was a time when Malcolm had smuggled phosphates from Algiers to Libya. How else, really, in those days was a self-financed archaeologist to pay his crew of excavators (and more than the going rate at that)? He pulled at his tweed jacket atop his mustard sweater and cockeyed bowtie. Handsomely dressed, a perfectly disheveled emeritus with gold watch chain and wiry hair. And he had once even—you could see the astonished pride still in his eyes—coaxed the drunken Soviets into letting him aboard their nuclear submarine docked at Tunis. But there was only that one pause in his loquacious revelry. Could it have been that those phosphates were used in IRA bombs? Shudder at the thought. But, no, not at all likely. It was most assuredly all for agriculture. Most assuredly.

He was dining with a similarly small old woman of the same vintage who had said once while he was in the bathroom that Malcolm was “a good heart.” She had lived in Belfast throughout the troubles, fresh with a teaching degree in French from the Queen’s University. “Imagine every morning another news story, another policeman has been killed.” Screwed up eyes well socketed into a tough face, innocent like a snake: “Be a dear and get me another wine.” I asked once, stupidly, if she spoke Irish as well. “God no! Never been exposed to it.” (Clearly meaning quite literally that it was a disease, a kind of small pox of the mind.) And then, again like a fool, at dinner I had asked “When was the battle of the Boyne?” And she had clutched at her breast as if a coronary were setting in and exhaled “1690. Lord it is written on the strings of my heart.” Disbelief at the fool. And Malcolm talked of James II, exiled with all the Irish chieftains, scattered about the continent. The silent Dutchman had brought Orange finally to safe flower in Ulster.

The next day the North Atlantic was crying her eyes out. Naked branches lashed at the sky. Grey layered atop bleakness and grime. Went down to the city center of plaster pillars and light rose bricks to call for a black cab tour. Pat from Belfast picked us up in front of the city hall where the Union Jack flew limply in the rain and the giant white ferris wheel was just beginning to spin around silver lighted spokes. (Tattered signs hung over the streets: “Belfast wishes you a merry Christmas.”) The cab was British style with the roomy back seat. We drove a few minutes with the rain fogging the windows until Pat stopped and turned around to tell us the woes of Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Loyalist. On Shankill Road they celebrate with murals of William of Orange and Cromwell. On Falls Road they celebrate with murals of Bobby Sands and the other strikers. For one, redemption, for the other a massacre. For one, terrorists, for the other martyrs. And only a few blocks, one high wall, and barbed wire between them. In a single breath you are in a different world. Enemy territory. Gates still block many of the cross streets. Catholic homes caged by fencing to shunt projectiles away. The memorials on the Catholic side are still in pristine condition. It may be that peace lasts just as long as breath runs through Mr. Paisley and Mr. Adams. We can only hope that the children come to care more for shoes and cell phones than their parents’ pain. Then at last we could lay history to bed. Pat smiled with sad eyes as we stepped out into the now dark rain.

That night after a pint at the Crown we found ourselves at Maddens ringing the bell to be let in. Struck up a conversation with Kerry the stout and John the elfin. He had lived on Falls road and knew Bobby Sands. Imagine every time you leave your neighborhood being assaulted by the police. Memories of a Catholic girl I knew from the North permanently with bruised soul. “It is an occupation.” Before the peace no one would sit with their back to that window. This place was bombed twice. And do you see that man? (Brian Boru, I presume.) We were introduced to Brian who had spent most of his time in jail. He had the contemplative afterglow of pain finally at peace. I spoke the rest of the night into his gentle eyes beneath welcoming glasses and he told me to cry if that is what it takes. Men reduced to tears, to animals, to fear and then through to the other side. I had seen Belfast. A bloody pulp, a reeling fighter, a scar, a pair of gentle eyes.

intocht 2007

on saturday, hengelo welcomed sinterklaas and zwartepiet with its annual "intocht." intocht is the day that sinterklaas and zwartepiet (or "black peter") arrive from spain, bringing gifts for all the good boys and girls of holland. if you've been naughty this past year, though, then zwartepiet might put you in his bag and take you back to madrid with him. though that might sound appealing to a grown-up living in such a dark and cold climate right now, i can assure you that it's downright terrifying for a child to be threatened with something like that. nonetheless, the children love zwartepiet because he's the one that gives them candy and cookies and he's sinterklaas' helper, so he's the one who dishes out the toys and goodies.

i remember last year's intocht and how much fun it was, with the marching band and the floats, but how offensive i found all the black peters to be, because they reminded me of the offensive black-face face paint that people would put on before the civil rights movement in america, to make fun of african americans. coming from the USA, it seemed downright shocking to me to see all these children in black face paint. but my friend, valerie (you all know her by now), left a really informative comment on last year's blog entry about intocht, and i'm pasting it here so you know a little bit more about the history of zwartepiet, and how he's just dirty from being a chimney sweep, and how it doesn't have anything to do with his race or ethnicity. here are her comments:

The way I learned the Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet story, and why Piet is black, is just a little different. Not 'just a chimney sweep', definately not a moor...Sinterklaas has many helpers, who are all much younger then him. Since he's old, he can't go through the chimney himself anymore. Also, there's much too many houses and children to visit all by himself. He just couldn't do it alone. Fortunately he has his faithful helpers, who are all named Piet...So Sinterklaas rides his horse on top of the houses, the Pieten walk or bike or climb around him. He points out what presents should go down which chimney, and the Pieten actually climb down the chimney for him and back up (and they bring the carrots for the horse up with them again too). The tradition of Sinterklaas goes so far back that there were still fireplaces in all houses to keep people home. Obviously when Piet would climb down the chimney, he'd get soot all over him. His clothes, he could change, but eventually he couldn't get his skin clean anymore, he turned black. (You know that in the days Sinterklaas first started people who'd work in coal mines, or actual chimney sweepers often literally ot black as well, so that was a believable story to the children)And that's how Piet got to be black, he was just being helpful, helping Sinterkaas and making sure all the kids would be attended to. And Piet ha a nice life. He gets to live in a wonderful palace in Spain, go on a boat, ride bikes, play with the horse, help with presents and pull all sorts of pranks, plus, everyone loves him. They love him so much, they want to be him...So, yeah, it's partially the chimney sweep thing, but not in a negative way, but in a historically logical way.
thanks for the clarification, valerie!

anyway, this year i celebrated intocht with a few friends, which was especially nice because adam was in belfast for a conference. kelly (with the pink scarf), valerie (with the plaid hat), and sabrina (with the red coat) all met me at my place beforehand and we walked over to the station together. (i know sabrina and kelly from my new awesome girls-only book club, which is meeting at my house next time! yay!)

valerie was the only native-dutch person in our little group, so she of course knew all the sinterklaas songs and all the traditions. she said that she could tell that this intocht was happening in twente, and not in amsterdam (where she lives) because instead of fancy cars in a parade, we had tractors and forklifts and stuff. and instead of entering on a boat (which is how the original story goes, and how they do it in amsterdam because it's on the water), sinterklaas enters by train out here. we don't have many canals, and though there is a small harbor in nearby enschede, we don't have anything like that here in hengelo... so, train it is.

after we watched sinterklaas wave to the boys and girls, and after the marching bands and floats passed by, we walked back to my house and lit a fire in the fireplace and ate tons and tons and tons of cookies and candies and drank tea. i was so tired from all the crowds and standing, that i just plopped my fat butt down and made everyone get their drinks themselves. i felt bad about it, but people understood, and the party seemed to go just fine despite my tired feet. adam's colleague, petra, and her daughter, eva, came to join us too, and we all hung out together for a while before those two left again to see the parade wrap up at the stadhuis (city hall) which was right around the corner. i wish i knew more dutch so i could talk to eva, who is just learning basic english right now in school. she seems like such a cool person whenever i see her. i wish i could talk to her more!

later on, sabrina and kelly left too, and valerie and i were left here to watch the fire die down. since she was planning on spending the night, we just hung out a bit more as she knitted a scarf and i worked some more on my baby blanket that i'm crocheting, and it was all very girly and fun. then we went out to eat at a chinese buffet around the corner and came back and watched the princess bride, which i was surprised to learn she had never seen before! (best. movie. EVER.) it was really lovely to spend so much time with her, especially because adam was gone to ireland again and this house gets awful lonely when he's away. we had a great time. she stayed all the way until sunday evening, which was great, and caught her train just a few minutes after adam got off his train, so we were all able to meet up at the station together before i swapped one friend for another :-) . it was really fun!

email excerpt

this is an excerpt of an email i wrote to a girlfriend of mine recently. (i hope you don't mind, elizabeth, that i'm sharing it with the world... if you'd rather i take it off of here, just let me know!) it's a really good description of where we're at emotionally and mentally as we wait for the baby's arrival:

yes, 31 weeks. only 7 or 8 or 9 to go. at most, only 11 more weeks to go. (drs rarely let a pregnancy go more than 42 weeks...) it's almost time. mostly i feel like it's gone fast, but there are lots of times when i'm so excited i can barely wait to meet spruitje. (especially after that funny funny dream of his adorable gassy little scrunched up dumpling face!) but i know that the longer she/he is in there, the better off she/he will be. so i can wait. there will be lots of time to get to know sprouty after she is born, so i will be patient. and besides, this time that adam and i have right now, of preparing for this wee one, to transform ourselves from a couple to a family... that is very very special. we will never have this time again, in our quiet, dark, cozy, dutch home, feeling the kicks and the squirms and the hiccups, learning about the changes baby is going through this week, seeing the changes in my body, snuggling on the couch and reading to sprouty together... it's all very precious and tender and sweet, and i know it is only a matter of time before all of that changes forever. no more will we be the carefree, globe-trotting, 20-something couple -- we will be the settled 30-somethings with a family who can't take that road trip or stay out too late cuz the kids have school or hockey practice or the flu. i'm so grateful that we've had 10 YEARS to get to know each other, to pursue our own interests, to go to school a couple of times, to start businesses and backpack around the world and take off for fabulous weekends in cape cod and san francisco and vail and moab and move to europe and and and... but now, we are both ready to be settled, to be a family unit, to focus our attention on the future instead of on the "now". so yes, we are terribly excited and feel really anxious to meet the baby, but we both also know that soon enough this era will be over and a new one will begin, and we will wonder to ourselves why we didn't embrace this time more, why we didn't enjoy the quiet evenings by the fire and the exciting weekends in france, germany, switzerland, etc...

so -- yes, it feels like it's taking forever, because we want to meet spruitje so much. and yes, it feels like it's just flying by because we really enjoy this time together and are, admittedly, a little sad to see it pass forever into the rearview mirror of history. but mostly, we're just living in the moment, enjoying every little kick and bump and backache and craving. it's such a special time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

30 weeks

time for another pregnancy update:

i'm just wrapping up week 30. (a full-term pregnancy is 38 to 42 weeks, so i'm nearly done! or rather, spruitje is almost done! only 2 more months!)

everything still feels good. even though i'm 7 months along and look enormous, my body feels in great shape. in fact, i think i look the same everywhere except the area between my chin and my hips... from the back i don't look pregnant, but then i turn to the side, and WOAH!

i still walk everywhere, but riding my bike has been difficult for some time now because it just hurts my hips so much. walking, on the other hand, feels really good to keep my sacrum, hips, and low back feeling comfortable. i have difficulty bending over to pick something up or put something away, but i can still easily reach my toes when i do my yoga -- i don't know why that is, but there is is. like, i have a hard time putting on shoes or sweeping up in the dustbin, but when it comes to stretching and lengthening the spine and the hamstrings, i can do it just fine. weird.

my cravings have shifted, but not much: i used to have this thing for oranges, and now i'm all about bananas. which is good, cuz i've noticed fewer leg cramps since i've started on that kick. carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash are still my favorite things to eat, so i still have that whole beta-carotene thing going on. baby is going to have good eyes, i think.

and the nursery is really nearly done. we finally got a mattress for the crib, and we have just a few sheets and blankets. we need so much more: cloth diapers, bottles, a bathtub, books and toys... but i'm starting to feel like if spruitje poked his head out tomorrow, we'd be practically ready for his/her arrival. of course, we'll never been completely ready for a baby (no one is), but i've noticed a calm come over me since we have most of the "supplies" we need to care for a baby. my dreams are less frantic as a result of this too-- i used to have all these dreams that he was born waaaaay too early, but since we've done some major preparations around here (thanks again, adam, for all your hard work!) my dreams have really shifted into a more relaxed tone.

which is how i feel. i feel relaxed, calm, excited, anxious... all is well. baby is healthy and is SUPER squirmy, less kicky now that he's started to run out of room (and my insides are grateful for his reduced activity!). i feel like everything is on track for this thing to really happen. it's really happening! we're having a baby!

one year later...

this time last year, i was probably the most miserable and lonely i've ever been in my life. we didn't have any friends, any furniture, no internet or phone, the weather was dark and rainy ALL THE TIME, and we could barely speak the language. i was unemployed and we were BROKE from the big move. it was difficult.

fast forward, one year later... we're here, and we feel comfortable. we are seeing patterns and know a bit more what to expect from our neighbors and from our adopted country. this realization really hit me a few weeks ago when i saw the city workers hanging up the christmas lights. again. i remember them doing this same task last year, at the same time of year. i remember thinking how interesting it was that this country gets into the christmas spirit much earlier than in the usa. (they don't celebrate halloween or thanksgiving out here, and their big gift-giving day is on st. nicholas day -- 5 december -- not christmas day, so their holiday season is nearly a month earlier than ours, so it makes sense that they'd get out the christmas lights sooner too. last year that felt really weird to me, but this year feels normal.) anyway, i woke up one morning to a sound outside, and when i got dressed and came downstairs to see what it was, i noticed a couple of men dangling outside my window, as they worked to put up the sinterklaas lights. and a few days later, the oliebollen stand started setting up too. (remember the oliebollen? we wrote about them last year -- they taste similar to frybread, and are a seasonal treat out here, like how we have our christmas cookies back home.)

it's fun, it's reassuring, to see the rhythms of this town, and to feel more involved in those rhythms this year. i kinda know a little more of what to expect this time around, which makes hengelo feel more like home and less like a strange foreign city. what a difference a year can make!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

tea party!

recently i went to a tea house with two friends of mine, jolanda and mariska. i knew both of them from when i used to work at the call center, because they both worked there too. mariska is still there, but jolanda has since gotten her masters degree in HR and switched to a different company near deventer. anyway, when i was at the call center, the three of us discovered each others' fascinations with england, clotted cream, and high tea, and decided that someday we should all go to a tea house for a tea party and to talk girl talk.

so, a couple of weeks ago, mariska picked me up and we drove out to ootmarsum to enjoy the tea house out there in the countryside. the day was damp and cool and cozy, and the drive there was just lovely, filled with fat dairy cows and falling leaves and green fields dotted with thatched-roofed farm houses. we met jolanda promptly at 11:00 and after perusing the little gift shop and admiring all the pretty tea cups, we went inside to theehuis dennenoord.

the tea house was very cozy, filled with big cushy pillows and candles on every table. we reserved a table in the corner by the window, and after considering the amazing menu and almost ordering the full english breakfast (have i mentioned to you how difficult it is to get a decent breakfast around here?), we all decided that since we were in a tea house, and that since the whole point of the outing was to have a tea party, we would just go for the tea menu. so we did.

we each got to order our very own pot of tea, which came with a beautiful pot warmer beneath it, basically a stand made out of the same ceramic as the teapot, with a tealight candle in it to keep it warm. and cute little teacups too. we got the vegetarian option for the tea snacks, because the meats offered were raw salmon and pate', which i can't have either of and which jolanda and mariska disliked anyway.

so our food came out, served to us on trays stacked on a cool carrier thingy, with a good assortment of both savory and sweet: there were little chocolate muffins; some sort of coffeecake; layered sandwiches with the exact same thickness of bread, cream cheese with chives, another kind of cheese, and then another kind of bread (all three of us liked that one the most); another sandwich with a sweet walnut chutney, cheese, and lettuce; and pretty little scones dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam and fresh clotted cream (oh!). and i swear there was something else on there too but i forget.

and we seriously sat there for like FOUR HOURS, just talking and drinking tea (we all ordered a second pot after our food was finished) and eating and enjoying the coziness (gezelligheid) of the cafe and of each others' company. it was just so sweet. we all agreed that we will have to do a tea house tour (we even joked that we could make up t-shirts like rock bands, something like "twente theehuis tour" and put the dates and places we've been to on the back...), so that we can sample the different tea houses in the area. so stay tuned for more tea house reviews!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

super man

i'm so blessed.

some women do not have a partner to share their pregnancies with, or worse, have partners who just don't care one lick about the pregnancy, the woman, or the baby. some women have partners who mean well and are interested in helping out, but they don't know how to do it, so they just stay out of the whole mess because they're afraid they might screw it up somehow. i, however, have a truly amazing sort of partner, who not only is interested, but is involved, supportive, and loving to both me and spruitje.

adam has been just fantastic this entire pregnancy. even the part leading up to the pregnancy, when we spent two years talking about not only "when" we should start a family, but "if" we should at all. he's been completely present and focused throughout this entire journey. he has come to every single midwife appointment, at times even rescheduling things in his own calendar to make sure he can be there too. he holds my hand every time the midwife puts the doppler microphone to my belly to hear sprouty's heartbeat. he was the one who singlehandedly transformed the nursery from the moldy-wallpapered, spare room to a cozy, bright, clean nursery. he was the one who found the secondhand store when i started to freak about about the logistics of baby furniture, and he was the one who carried said furniture up two flights of stairs and arranged for a friend to come over and help out with the really big pieces so that i wouldn't have to lift anything heavy. he reads to me out of the pregnancy book to tell me what sorts of changes baby and i will experience this week. he makes me breakfast when i'm running late because even though i might not be hungry, he knows that spruitje is. he lights up with every kick and squirm he can feel when he puts his hand on my belly, and is disappointed when he misses them. he takes me to the baby store to buy bulky things like a mattress for the crib, things that are too awkward or heavy for me to carry home by myself. he has been there for every single weekly belly photograph, to document the changes in our bump week by week. and when i step out of the shower, he's right there, cocoa butter in hand, to rub cream all over my belly.

yes, i have a super man. he's incredibly supportive and excited, and it has made this pregnancy so much fun and so easy. and i just know he is going to be a wonderful and loving and involved daddy. he WANTS to learn, to know, everything he can about the baby, he wants to do so much for the two of us (spruitje and me) to make sure we're taken care of.

i think when women say "we are pregnant," it's not just some post-feminist way of being nice, of making the father feel more involved or included in this. because i think that it really is something that a couple can experience together. i've seen so much emotional growth in adam during the past 7 months, and i can see that this pregnancy has really become "our" pregnancy. it's not just me who is changing physically and emotionally, but adam too: he gets a sore back and shoulders from painting, from carrying, from giving up the extra pillows. and emotionally, he's far more aware of others now, and he notices other people and their moods a lot more than he used to, and i think he thinks a lot more about the future and how he can make the world a better place. so yes, we are pregnant, and i am blessed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

ireland - dingle ring

on one of our last days in ireland, we drove the "dingle ring" along the edge of the dingle peninsula. it's apparently where the movie "ryan's daughter" was filmed, though i've never seen it. but it definitely has cinematographic (is that a word?) qualities: open ocean vistas, breathtaking mountains, curious coves, an aura of history and mystery... truly some of the most beautiful scenery i've ever laid my eyes on.

we stopped first at a celtic and prehistoric museum, owned by some weird american who you just knew used to be some roadie for winger or something back in the day, and then got all burned out on too many drugs and bought himself a houseboat in amsterdam, and then his rock collection got out of hand so he opened a museum off the side of the road in ireland. yeah, that guy. his hands went straight for my belly when we walked in, as if that's ever okay to ever touch anyone's belly ever, but especially if there's a baby in there that you're trying to protect, then apparently it's even MORE okay to do that. sigh. (thankfully the dutch are not as touchy-feely as americans, so 9 times out of 10 people will see my tummy and leave it alone here.) but i digress. we saw some really cool artifacts, including the biggest wooly mammoth skull in the world, some really ancient goddess artifacts, and a case full of old viking jewelry and medallions and stuff. it was pretty cool. even better, he gave us a few good tips on where to go along the dingle ring to see the best stuff, so it was a good thing that we stopped there!

one of the things that the dude told us was to go see the beehive houses, these ancient prechristian structures made out of rocks (because what else are they going to build houses out of in those mountains?!) that date as far back as 2000 bce. the ones we saw were just on the side of the road, in some old lady's backyard, in her sheep pasture. it was really cool. we pulled over, walked up the hill a ways, and this tiny old woman came out of her ragged old house and said, "are you here to see the beehive houses? it'll be 2 euros each." and we talked to her a good long while but no one said much, it was one of those conversations with looooong pauses in between, but not cuz it's awkward but just because that's how the conversation was flowing. just very very slowly. so she opened the gate for us and just asked that we close it when we leave so the sheep don't get out, and told us that these particular houses were built by monks about a thousand years ago. and we were the only ones there and we could just take our time and it was very very nice.

and then we drove aways and stopped at some remarkable vista and saw the blasket islands and took about a million pictures before we headed up the road further to a village that i can't remember the name of, where we had lunch at a really lovely cafe and then continued on to take in even more scenery. i just can't describe in words how gorgeous everything was, and i really wonder if i will ever see any place as beautiful again for the rest of my life.

our last stop on the road was at the gallarus oratory, a structure almost 1000 years old, and is the only perfectly-intact example of the "corbel" style architecture left on the island. it is thought to be a christian church, and by the looks of it it definitely seemed like it was used for something more than just living in... the stones were all perfectly aligned, the corners were smoothed down, the whole structure just looked more cared for and intentional than the beehive houses that we saw earlier. a really cool fact about the oratory is that it is STILL waterproof after over 1,000 years! isn't that amazing?! i forget what the standing stone is on the outside of the oratory -- i can't remember if it was a gravestone, a marker for some other important site, or a teaching stone, or what. if anyone knows, let me know and i'll put it in here.

and i think that's it. we drove back to the cottage that night and played cards and ate dinner at sammy's again, i think we might have done some souvenir shopping in dingle, but we were all so exhausted from the day i think we probably didn't do much that evening. it was so incredible to see and touch all that history!

a few days later we were all back in cork, gearing up for our return trips home. adam and i flew back to amsterdam, just getting on board a few days before our airline was threatening to strike. bob and rae took a bus to a ferry, and then a ferry to merry old england, and then a train to london, and then a plane to home. we all got home safe and sound and without major incident (in fact, it was the smoothest flight adam and i had ever been on, it felt like we were floating, even when we took off and landed! and our bags were the first ones to come off the luggage cart or whatever it is at the airport, and we caught our train, and were home by lunchtime. amazing!) it was SUCH a wonderful trip and i'm soooo grateful for such an amazing family to spend my time with. i wonder what we'll do next year?...