A few weeks ago, I wrote about how One is the Loneliest Number. And while I certainly have some frustrations on a regular basis, I have to say what a difference a few weeks can make.
I don’t know if it’s because spring has arrived and my attitude is more receptive to the people around me, or if it’s just myself mellowing and not putting up so many barriers. Regardless, the last few weeks have been eye opening when it comes to the kindness of the people in this country.
Now, I’m the first one to say, the Netherlands is NOT Spain. Not by a long shot. The culture, the weather, the life – not even close. But that doesn’t make it a bad place and it certainly doesn’t mean that the people here aren’t good and kind, because they are.
The Dutch have a reputation of being very forward. And I don’t deny that it’s true. But I think there is a difference in being efficient and not beating around the bush and being rude. I see them as the former. But more than that, I have seen a kindness that I did not expect and much of that has been in recent weeks.
Remember how I mentioned that I was feeling left out at baseball because all the moms were talking in Dutch around me? I decided to let it go. I brought a book and if someone decided to speak with me that was fine, but I was also fine watching Aidan practice his new sport or to just chill out and read after what is often a very long day. And I’ve found that people have been approaching me more to chat. Is that because I no longer reek of desperation? Or that they’ve realized that we’re on this team for the long haul? Whatever the reason, suddenly things are changing – and for the better.
People are going out of their way to make sure we understand things. Not once, not twice, but multiple times and several people have put forth the effort to send messages to make sure we understand the conversations that are happening on whatsapp or during practices. They are treating us, the foreigners, with a kindness that I only wish more people in our situation could experience.
But it doesn’t stop at baseball. The other day, I was taking photographs for my next appointment with my career counselor. I was walking around my favorite place in town, the Vesting. It’s beautiful beyond words. And peaceful. A lot of people walk their dogs around the loop and people, for the most part, always give at least a nod or say “Goedemorgen” (good morning). That runners nod that I was missing in Barcelona – they do it here.
But anyways, back to the other day, in taking photographs, two men approached me to ask what I was taking pictures of and when I explained to them that I was just practicing, they immediately said that I had to see these particular birds, the Ice Birds, that were nesting nearby. The explained to me about where they nest and when they are here and their general behaviors. They sat with me pointing out when they flew out of the nest and what branch I could see them on. There was no need to do this. It was just a kindness and a pride in their country (or their country’s fowl) that had them helping me to capture an image of this special bird. The whole experience left me feeling warm inside. I had gone out of my comfort zone to take those pictures and in the end, I was rewarded with kindness.
I’m still not at a place where I feel I can say “I love the Netherlands” because I’m not there, but I’m finding myself endeared little by little to the beauty and differences that make it a unique place and that includes the people. And that it’s ok to not be like Spain or like home. It’s special in it’s own way (more so when it’s not raining which unfortunately seems to be the majority of the time). It’s only taken me 20 months, but this place might not be so bad after all!
Knuffels en kussen,