It’s amazing how fast time can fly sometimes. And also how slow. There are days where I look back and feel like we’ve always lived here in the Netherlands. It feels (almost) like home already. We’ve got routines and we have become familiar with our neighborhood and our town. We don’t need the GPS as much as we used to. We’re starting to feel settled. And it’s only been 2 months.
It’s almost as though we never lived in Barcelona. It’s so strange because we have so many wonderful memories and friends there. But it feels like so long ago and a bit surreal. That’s when I feel like we’ve been here forever. And so it’s so strange to look back and realize that in fact, we’ve been here a mere 8 weeks.
But what we’ve accomplished in those 8 weeks makes me feel pretty good. I feel like we are worlds ahead of where we were when we arrived in Barcelona. I attribute that to both the language and that so many people speak English and to the fact that we’ve done this before and so we know what roadblocks and challenges are ahead so that we can be better prepared. I know that there are going to be moments of such frustration that I just want to throw in the towel (and there have already been many). And yes, there are those same moments when we lived at home but they are intensified 10 fold when you live in a foreign country and have to add the culture factor to the mix.
However, for 8 weeks, we’ve done a lot (in no particular order)…
- The kids started school on our first full day. They’ve already had their first school break (they are on a British system and start in August and finish in July but with breaks every 6-7 weeks).
- We’ve moved not one but 2 shipments of goods here and with the exception of one or two boxes, are completely unpacked.
- We’ve called 112 (Europe’s version of 911) for an ambulance.
- Josh has had surgery.
- As a result of the 112 call and Josh needing surgery, we’ve already found our general practitioner, something I had planned to wait on since we all had physicals this summer, but hey check that off our list too.
- We’ve found an eye doctor, had Aidan tested for allergies, and brought Liam in for a toe abscess. Josh found a dermatologist and has started light treatments for his psoriasis. Good times.
- The kids have been enrolled in sports since September. I think this took me close to a year to do in Barcelona. They are doing swimming and tennis.
- We’ve been to a neighborhood block party. And we have a neighborhood Halloween coming up in a few weeks, apparently the first one. The kids are especially excited to have a traditional Halloween again where we can go door to door to get candy. Given it’s the first one this neighborhood has had, hopefully they won’t be disappointed!
- I’ve established a regular running route and it is beyond beautiful and peaceful.
- We found a babysitter.
- We’ve found the movie theater that plays VOS movies (though I hear that here they do all movies in VOS except cartoons).
- Josh ordered our car – weeks ago… we should finally have it next week (til then we’ve had a rental).
- We no longer need our GPS for getting around town (for the most part).
- Josh and I bought Dutch bicycles and while he can’t use his right now, he will again in the future and I use mine at least a few times per week. Even the kids are on board with riding their bikes regularly.
- I found a hair stylist for myself and the kids (Josh has found his own). This took me 6 months in Barcelona. You can imagine how scrubby we looked after 6 months without haircuts!
- We’ve figured out the grocery store and what we can and cannot get here – though like in Barcelona I’m sure there will be surprises over time when we go “you mean we could get that here all this time and just didn’t know it??”. I really miss good chocolate. With it’s proximity to Belgium you’d think there would be better but at least it’s curbing my chocolate habit a little bit.
- However, I still need to work off the chocolate I’ve been eating and I joined a gym a few weeks ago. I don’t know that this is the gym I’m destined to stay at (I’m going to look at one by the kids’ school soon) but it’s good for the moment. This took me 10 months to do in Barcelona (albeit Liam was home with me for the first 9 months and gyms in Barcelona do not have daycares in them).
- We received our BSN numbers (like social security numbers – can’t do anything without them).
- I converted my hard gotten Spanish license over to a Dutch one. Apparently being an EU license I didn’t have to do this but since I think the Dutch one will be easier to renew in 10 years, I’m going with paying to renew now…
- We have explored our local area (at least as much as we’ve been able given Josh’s limited mobility) and aren’t afraid to leave town. It took us 3 months to leave the city when we lived in Barcelona.
- The kids have made friends and have had several playdates.
- The kids help me grocery shop via bicycle (it’s about a mile and a half / 3km each way) and actually enjoy it, though both have expressed they miss city life and being able to walk out the door and the grocery store is a block away.
- We found the American store in Amsterdam… a little taste of home every now and again is warranted right?
- The kids and I made a trip to Amsterdam (it’s only 30 mins by train) the other day – our first since we moved here since Josh can’t really walk around with us on the weekends (yet) and navigated just fine on our own. We also made a trip to Utrecht (there are 5 decent sized cities in the Netherlands, this is one of them) to go to Lego World.
- I stopped crying after just a few weeks – this took me 3 months in Barcelona. Progress!!
I’m sure there are many more things that I have forgotten here that we’ve covered in 8 weeks, but I’m feeling pretty good about what I just re-read. We still have our tough days and Aidan talks to me a lot about how much he misses Barcelona and how he’s still trying to figure out how he fits in at his new school. He’s concerned about making good friends – he’s made friends already but I know he’s looking for more than just surface friendships and is trying to figure out who those people are going to be. I’ve told him these things can’t be rushed but he’s at an age where he needs to figure it out for himself.
Liam overall has adjusted great. He has moments of sadness where he misses his friends in Barcelona but has this amazing ability to just move on to the next thing. He doesn’t dwell on it. I wish I could do this. He has jumped into the culture to the best of a 7 year old’s ability, telling me that he’s no longer American or Spanish but he is now Dutch. He has also taken to saying “nay” (no) as much as possible – it’s his only Dutch word that he says to me but it’s something and if he wants to embrace his one word, so be it. Given his first Spanish word was “culo” (bum), I feel like I’m coming out slightly ahead this time 😉
Josh as always adjusts beautifully. He, like Liam, has this ability to just jump right in and succeed. However, he hasn’t actually be here for 2 months but more like 11. But since he’s only been in this house for 2, we’ll call it even for the moment. But even if it had been only 2 months, he has still done wonderfully especially given the circumstances with dislocating his knee, his surgery and his recovery. We still have a long road ahead I suspect with his recovery, but hopefully the worst is behind him and he can start enjoying his time here as I know that he has been a bit depressed (though he hasn’t vocalized this of course) about the fact that he can’t do very much these days.
As for myself, as I mentioned, I’m not crying any more which is a good thing. It doesn’t mean I’m not having some meltdowns or tough days, just not feeling the horrible depression I was consumed with in our first weeks. I’m no longer struggling to get out of bed in the mornings and no longer feeling the deep sadness that I was suffering from on a daily basis. I look at that as a good thing 🙂 It doesn’t mean that I’m happy here – that will take time. But I’m determined to progress in a forward motion knowing that often times there will be one step forward and two steps back but doing my best to keep on inching in a positive direction.
So I think that for just 2 months time, we are doing quite well. And by far better than we were in Barcelona at this point in time. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year brings for us and closing out 2014, which has been by far a very rough year for us, on a positive note. Overall, I think in time we can all be happy here and feel good about calling the Netherlands home.