Friday, April 20, 2012

Moving in March - to the Netherlands

"Removals" in German, on the side of the moving truck
Moving with an au pair family was a strange experience. We had professional movers in, so in the weeks before everything in the house just had to be sorted out, something I couldn't really help with. Moving day saw snow falling again as I got home late from a night out and jumped into the shower, then sat around for hours watching the movers work like crazy but unable to do anything, I'm not good at sitting idle like that!

Moving day - camera didn't capture the falling snow!
After lunch Jacquie and I picked the kids up from creche and drove to Boxtel in the Netherlands, where their grandmother lives. On the way there we had a disturbing phone call - the movers had miscalculated and a lot of our stuff wouldn't make it to the new house for up to a month. My being out that night and arriving home late meant that they'd left my room until the end, and my furniture was stuck in Luxembourg.

Me and the kids at the dinosaur museum
Staying in Boxtel for a few days while Jacquie and Rogier sorted out the new house was actually more enjoyable than I expected. I didn't know this Oma very well, but she turned out to be really good with the kids and heaps of fun, and as I sat watching TV with the kids while she cooked us dinner and brought me a glass of wine, it really felt like a holiday. It was also the first time that Ollie has called for me when he's woken up during the night or in the morning, even when I've been alone with the kids in the past, he's woken up calling for Mama and Papa, so that was really cute. While there we went to a dinosaur museum, and the kids spent a lot of time imitating dinosaurs - in their world dinosaurs roar like lions, very cute!

Our house - front view
On Wednesday afternoon Rogier picked us up and we headed to our new house in Badhoevedorp, a small town of about 11 000. Technically, Badhoevedorp is not part of Amsterdam, its in the municipality of Haarlemmermeer, an area reclaimed from a former lake in the 19th century. However, we're close to Amsterdam, if you walk a couple of minutes from the house and cross a bridge over a canal, you see the big sign saying 'Amsterdam', its a bit like Belfast is to Christchurch. Badhoevedorp is nice, a lot like pre-earthquake Rangiora, with a couple of supermarkets and some shops, a lot of parks, and quiet streets where all of the neighbourhood kids come out to play. That first afternoon Rogier met a South African au pair in the park, and I've since met half a dozen more.

Our street, with our house on the corner and the park opposite
Our house is nice, its smaller than the house in Luxembourg was, but the living areas are all open plan, so in theory its harder for the kids to destroy something while I'm in the kitchen, and it has much better outdoor living space. We live literally right next to a small park, a couple of hundred metres away from Pepi's school, and with 500m are the shops and a couple of pubs. Pepi started school the day after we arrived, here in the Netherlands you start going when you're 4 years old, but from 4-6 years you're separated from the big kids and its mostly playing and painting and learning to count etc, like Arin's school was in Belgium. I guess its more like preschool in New Zealand. So far he's loving it and he spends a lot of time drawing pictures for his teacher.

The canal, houseboats and windmill close by
At first I was catching the bus to the centre of Amsterdam city, it takes about half an hour but was quite expensive, so then I began walking to the tram stop 20 minutes away, and taking a half hour tram in to save money. Now I can bike in, it's about 10km depending on where I go. At first the weather here was amazing, and everytime I walked around and saw the typical dutch windmill towering over the houseboat-lined canal I had to smile. I'll write more about what I've been doing here the last six months soon.

Pepi's first day of school

I have mixed feelings about having left Luxembourg. On the one hand, it's a small country and I had spend enough time there to get a feeling for the place and had travelled quite a bit both within the country and just over its' borders. I also feel like I was stuck in a bit of a rut in Luxembourg, as there isn't all that much to do and I had far too much free time on my hands, and spent far too much of that time just drinking. However, I miss my friends from there and while I do like the adventure of somewhere new, I really miss knowing my way around, having favourite places to go to and having good friends - in essence, I miss feeling really settled somewhere. Since I moved to Europe over a year ago the longest stretch of time I've spent anywhere was this 7 months in Europe, and I'm really starting to feel the urge to settle down and make a base for myself somewhere. I'm getting really sick of having the same conversation over and over and over again "who are you, where are you from, how long have you been here, what do you do".

Inside the new house
Moving into the house with this family has made me feel a lot more comfortable living in their home, since I've been living here as long as they have. However, the first week was really rough, I arrived to discover not only my furniture was missing, but most of my possessions as well, and I'm pissed off that the move put me financially out of pocket as I had to go purchase some basics like underwear and a cardigan until the rest of my stuff arrived. I'm also the bottom of the priority list here, and even now after seven weeks I'm missing some furniture and don't have mirrors or hooks up. Its making it harder for me to settle in and I'm getting sick of still having stuff in a box or piled on the floor.

But, the last six weeks have been better, and I will post about what I've been up to soon, trying to get on top of things before some upcoming events that will make interesting blog posts - Queens Day here, and then trips to Poland, Portugal and Luxembourg.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Freezing February in Luxembourg - Part II

Me and Hauke covered in snow and confetti at the Diekirch Cavalcade
Wow, I've really failed at keeping the blog updated haven't I? The end of February, and also the last month here in Amsterdam have been crazy busy, so I've got a bit of catching up to do, so please excuse a couple of bad blog posts until I'm up to date again. Part I of February in Luxembourg is here, and my mid-month trip to Metz is here.

To summarize the last half of February:

I spent an insane amount of time running around completing a ton of errands and working extra. Despite my best intentions of crossing off everything on my to-do-before-leaving-Luxembourg list, there is still a lot for me to check out next time I visit!

Ollie and Pepi being all cute on Valentines Day
I went ice skating one night, at an indoor place in the city. It was actually really boring, in the memories I have of ice skating in Christchurch, with the music, disco lights and constant games and competitions, it's a lot more fun!

Valentines day was pretty quiet, I just stayed home with my two boys. It marked one year since I first set foot in Luxembourg, as I'd come out here for one night on Valentine's Day while I was staying in Brussels. Its amazing to recall my first impressions of the country and contrast them with my current feelings towards it now. I should do a round-up of seven months in Luxembourg post sometime.

Ollie, Hauke and Pepi off on an adventure!
Hauke came to visit. As I expected the kids fell in love with him immediately, especially Pepi, who spent whole weekend either tailing Hauke like a baby duck, or repetitively asking where he was. We walked all around the city checking everything out, actually managed to take Pepi out for hot chocolate without disaster, did a lot of shopping, spent an awesome night out with my spanish-speaking friends, a not-so-awesome-because-I-got-really-sick night out visiting a few clubs (Hauke got bounced from a club for being too young!) and another relaxed night out visiting a few very fancy bars. We also took the kids out to Esch-sur-Alzette on the train, and went to the Cavalcade in Diekirch, so a very intense but awesome weekend.

Diekirch Cavalcade - candy in one hand, vodka in the other!
Diekirch Cavalcade is the biggest Carnival celebration in Luxembourg. Carnival in Europe is similar to carnival in Brazil, a huge celebration before Lent begins, with a parade/street party type thing going on. Think Santa Parades in New Zealand without the Christmas theme and a whole, whole lot more alcohol. I was amazed, despite the event being 'kid friendly' with kids marching in the parade and lining the streets, the majority of adults in the parade were drinking and smoking really heavily.

Pepijn's birthday cake
I remember that they banned throwing candy in parades in New Zealand because of the dangers of kids running out onto the road, but here in Luxembourg they threw not only candy but miniature bottles of spirits, and people were walking around offering candy to kids and pouring alcohol for the adults. Very strange. You get more of an idea what it was like from my photos here.

We celebrated Pepi's fourth birthday. I made a Postman Pat birthday cake that wasn't quite as cool as Ollie's train cake, but still took quite a bit of work!

Me with friends on my last night out in Luxembourg
I went to strip clubs three times (they're the only kind of bar still open after 2am on a weekday). Definitely time to move to a new country when you're visiting strip clubs so much...

I went out with friends for a last-hurrah, it was a really awesome night and I'm so glad that my various groups of friends all got along so well when they finally met! I arrived home at 6.15am and was still awake when Ollie woke up and started crying at 6.30am.

We packed up and moved out! Ok technically this was March, we left Luxembourg on March the 5th. More on the move later...

More photos are here.