So about two weeks ago I joined the world of working people again. Yes, my glamorous life as a stay-at-home-mom in a beautiful European city has come to an end… and can you believe it… it wasn’t actually that glamourous. I think I expected I’d have all this time to explore Haarlem and beyond. Maybe paint a masterpiece by a canal? Become a regular visitor at the Rijksmuseum? Master the Dutch language?
The truth is… I did explore a lot of Haarlem– mainly in search of the best croissants and American-style pancakes, but there is still a lot of the city I am clueless about. “Beyond” included a few visits to Amsterdam… and that’s about it. I mean really, why is it that the 6.5 hours a day kids are in school (when it’s not a half day of course) goes by so insanely fast? By the time I took the 15 minute train trip into Amsterdam and worked myself out of the crowded rings, I swear it was time to turn around so I wouldn’t be late for school pick up.
As for the other things, I did not paint a masterpiece. I mean, I can’t paint at all so what was I thinking? However, I did purchase a charcoal pencil and drew a really cute cat named “Beans”. She was only cute that once though, I can’t really draw her again. Is anyone interested in buying the rights to this adorable character? Send me a message, she may be available for a low low price. As for the museums, other than Joe’s beloved train museum, I am a regular at none of them. And my Dutch? Well, I did sign up for a pricey course… but unless you count my good friend (you know who you are 400 euro friend!) I gained nothing before I dropped out. I’m mostly learning the language from my five-year old now. He’s a decent, if impatient teacher…but he’s free so I’ll take what I can get.
Not a Dutch Masterpiece
So overall, I’d say the dream did not match up to the reality of the past year at home. I think I also forgot that doing stuff and going places usually costs money, and you know… not working means you’re not making money. Despite the very many things I did NOT do with my year off, there are two things I did accomplish. First, and most importantly, I made friends. Through a combination of Joe’s school, and some very lovely expat groups– I’ve met some very nice people. People I genuinely, truly enjoy and want to spend time with. Not that I didn’t have people like this in my life before, but I honestly had a lot less. I guess there’s nothing like feeling completely out of place to make you push yourself to be a little more social.
As for my second accomplishment… well you’re looking at it. Starting this blog might not seem like that big of a deal, but believe me when I tell you it is for me. I am the most technologically unsavvy millennial that lives (yes, just barely, I think I qualify as a millennial). In my home, I am in fact known as the breaker of all things tech. So while the writing part isn’t so hard, the fact that I researched and learned how to actually publish my words is nothing short of a miracle.
Now that I’ve returned to work, I recognize that these two accomplishments will take effort to maintain. As a teacher, I’m not surprised that that the first weeks of school have been very busy for me. This is always the case. I’m hoping soon I’ll be able to take a breather and spend more time with both my friends AND this blog. They both make me very happy.
In regards to my new job, I really want to talk to you about the commute. As you may or may not know, I lived my adult years up until 2018 in New York City and Chicago. In both of these places I had no car, and relied on public transport. In NYC I can recall seeing another human being literally sitting down and taking a dump on the subway not once but TWICE. In Chicago, the smell of urine and general sense of danger you felt riding the train was daily. As you can imagine, transport in the Netherlands is quite different.
I start my morning commute with a leisurely ten minute bike ride from my home to the train station. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that this process also includes at least five minutes of high-fiving through the window with Joe as I load my bike up. During these rides I am learning the fine art of bike riding while wearing a dress. For example, I have learned that rather than the length of your dress, it is actually the weight of the fabric that will determine if you can ride without flashing.
This is my current favorite dress. It is great for recreating movie scenes, but not for bike riding.
Once I’ve arrived at the station, I park my bike in the massive fietsstalling. This includes trying not to kill myself as I maneuver my bike onto the upper racks that are obviously built for people much taller and stronger than myself. On a good day, a very kind fellow commuter might see me struggling not to die and help me. This always make me very happy, but it happens only occasionally.
Nothing brings terror to my heart like parking my bike on the top rack
Once on the train to Amsterdam I finally get to relax in my plush seat and enjoy the lovely scenery. This includes fields of sheep, cows, and horses, with the occasional canal or lake interspersed for good measure. Pulling into AMS Centraal is like something out of a movie with the beautiful churches and crooked row houses crowded around.
From there, I switch to the metro (subway) and it is so hilariously unlike any other subway experience I’ve ever known. First of all, it is clean. No pee, no spilled coffee, and definitely no poop. Rather than screaming about the coming apocalypse, my current fellow commuters are all calm and nicely dressed, and I’m pretty sure one I see regularly is a famous ballerina. With all that said, you do pay a pretty penny for this nice transportation experience. And while the classical musical piped through the speakers is a nice touch, it really doesn’t compare to the bucket drum guys who hang out in Union Square.
On a final note, you may wonder how Joe is adjusting to my return to work. Well, he started asking a month into last school year if he could just stay at school longer. This was after informing me that I provided pretty boring after school entertainment. So he’s in a class now that teaches him how to cook. He makes his dinner with the teacher and friends, and they eat it together. It’s pretty great that I can pick him up and just hang out rather than rushing to make dinner too. On other days, he goes to a place with a ton of toys and cool outside play spaces. My first week back it was broiling hot, so I rushed home at the end of the day to pick him up, thinking he’d be very unhappy. When I arrived at the club he was literally eating a popsicle while chilling in his underwear in an inflatable pool. Instead of being happy to see me he said “I’m not done in the pool yet. Can you come back later?” So yeah, I’d say he’s doing well.
I’m hoping to find the time to write here again soon. The idea of raising a bilingual kid (when I’m not bilingual myself) has really been on my mind a lot lately, so I’m thinking I might let those ideas out soon. Until then, happy back to school everyone!