There are countless things I love about living abroad. Experiencing new cultures, learning a new language, being close to so many other amazing destinations (Paris is a meer 3 hours away!). I even love being pushed out of my comfort zone more often than not. And having the space to search for and develop who I am and where I’m going has been incredible. But expat life isn’t all train rides to Paris, trust me.
One of the biggest challenges I’m facing here is balancing the art of “keeping in touch.” I am an introvert, so my gut instinct is not to be around people too much, even when I live in the same country as them. So, as you can imagine, I haven’t taken to Skype as well as I would’ve hoped. Between the scheduling and the planning and the fact that when it’s the afternoon in Colorado, I’m beginning to think about crawling into bed in Holland, I’ll admit I’m not the best at staying in touch.
And if you want to know my dirty little secret, I am quite bad at sending emails as well. And there’s really no excuse for this. I have no “but I’m an introvert” defense, because letter writing ought to be an introvert’s best friend. The problem here is, I am a procrastinator with a bit of an anxiety problem. So I put off writing an email, and put it off and put it off, until I’m so anxious about this unwritten email and what the intended recipient must think about their lack of letter that I simply don’t write the email- and the process continues on repeat. Yes, the paradox is obvious to me too, but this is how I am. And I’m trying to be better.
So to those of you waiting for an email or Skype date- I’m sorry, I’m working on it, and I promise we’ll talk soon!
And to those expats, or those with lots of friends around the world, or anyone with advice on this subject- please send it my way! Figuring out how to keep in touch with everyone and not spending all of my free time in Gmail or on Skype has been a goal for the past year. And while I think I’m getting better at it, I could use all the help I can get. I would love to hear about your experiences or advice in the comments!
Christmas was a while ago, I realize. But as this is my “renaissance in blogging,” we’re going to have to back track a bit. I’ve been pouring over our pictures from the trip and getting a little bit homesick, I’ll admit. We had such a nice time while we were home and despite one minor accident involving the scope of a gun and my boyfriend’s forehead, it was pretty much the perfect trip.
Since we began dating, Jozef has only met my parents and sister via Skype. So he was in for a two week crash course in everything family related. I can imagine that was pretty intense and maybe even a little overwhelming. But he handled everything amazingly. Everyone loved him, of course, and it was really nice to show him this other side of my life he doesn’t really get to see.
We arrived just a few days before Christmas, so the first week we were in Colorado was pretty much all family stuff. We had breakfast with my dad’s parents Christmas morning, and moved on to my mom’s family Christmas afternoon. Then it was dinner with my Aunts and dinner again with my grandparents the next day. Every “event” was so gezellig and full of catching up and reminiscing.
By the end of the week, though, Jozef was ready for a break. Ok, so was I a little bit. One of his favorite scary movies is The Shining. It just so happens, the hotel The Shining was inspired by and even written in is located just an hour away from my parents house. So after all of the Christmas festivities died down, we took a beautiful mountain drive up the The Stanely Hotel to get away and recharge for a night.
I’ve stayed at the Stanley a few times before. As a kid it used to scare the pants off of me. But I love it now. It’s such an old and stately building, beautifuly preserved inside. The hotel itself is such an experience by itself. We ended up staying in, ordering room service, and watching The Shining all night (it plays on repeat in the hotel).
The next day we headed back to Denver to catch up with my very best friend in the world. It’s so hard living far away from each other, and there never seems to be enough time to see each other when I’m home, but we make the best of what time we have. This time we all headed to a speakeasy, downton. It’s this super cool cocktail bar that transports you back to the 20′s the minute you walk through the door. The lights are dim and the bartenders wear suspenders and bow ties More importantly, though- the cocktails! Oh the cocktails. They were amazing. Also, the BBQ pulled pork potato chip nachos were about the best thing I’ve ever eaten. If you’re in the Denver area, I highly recommend you check out the Green Russel. Trust me on this.
We were in Colorado for New Years as well, and spent it at a small party with friends. It was a bit of change for Jozef, because in Holland, New Years is full of fireworks- lots and lots of fireworks. So it was a bit quieter than he is used to, but still super super gezellig. And we drank our weight in champagne to ring in the new year, of course!
The next day, I took Jozef to hike around Red Rocks. I love being able to show off the super cool sites in my hometown. And Red Rocks is definitely one of them. The colors alone are amazing, and visiting the amphitheater still gets me super excited. We checked out the stage and wandered around the grounds, and finished the day with an early dinner/late lunch at the Morrison Inn- another must-try if you’re in the area. While we warmed up from our winter hike with a delicious burrito, we decided to make some new year resolutions together. I’m usually not big on resolutions, but I do love to set goals. It was really special to sit down together and set goals for our own selves, as well as things we’d like to work towards as a couple. It was a simple and fairly short moment of our trip, but one that really meant a lot to me. Later, I’ll also be blogging about our resolutions and how we’re doing at acheiving them. You all can hold us accountable ;)
The rest of the trip was relaxing and just enjoying the comfort of being home. We played board games and ate cookies, lots and lots of cookies. It was the best Christmas I’ve had in quite a while, in fact. Thinking back over it all is making me quite anxious to get back and visit again. Luckily we’ll be heading that way again in June! Until then, I’m happy to have such nice memories to think about when I’m feeling particularly far away.
I’ll leave you with these two photos of my niece, Ella. Because she’s super cute and sweet… until she’s not.
Well hello there! I am writing to you from my new, lovely living room in my new, lovely home that I share with Jozef! In my last post I wrote about wondering (and worrying a little) about how it would go and what it would be like. I am happy to report that things are going better than either of us could have anticipated. But a lot has happened between then and now, so let me catch you up a bit!
- One week before I was meant to wrap up my job as an au pair, I fell down a stair (yes ONE stair) and ended up in the emergency room with a cast and very very sore foot. A few doctors visits later (and experiencing life without insurance- very humbling indeed!) I am now out of the cast and walking *almost* normal. The bright side was that I got to move in with Jozef a week early. He took such amazing care of me the entire time. He has been my champion through it all, especially when I called him right after I fell, a little hysteric. He dropped everything a drove to get me immediately. I so appreciate him! The downside, beside injuring myself, was having to leave my au pair family early and without any sort of “goodbye moment.” It definitely was not how I envisioned my last week with everyone. Three weeks later, after we got back from the states, I heard the kids thought I was still in the hospital! So I tracked them down after school and got some “grote knuffelen”- big hugs.
- A week after my stint in the emergency room, Jozef and I took a transatlantic hike to my home town of Colorado to see my family for Christmas. I didn’t get to go home last year, so I was really looking forward to this. I have to say, my mom really pulled out all the stops. I think every decoration we had collected over the years was out and the pile of presents under the tree was bigger than I had ever seen it. The entire house was lit up and exuded Christmas. I was so happy when I walked in the door. I’ll be blogging more about our trip tomorrow. So the gist is- two very gezellig weeks catching up with family and friends. What more could I ask for?
- After we got back from the states, Jozef and I *officially* began living together. I finally have all my stuff moved in now (albiet most of it still in boxes, until we figure out what to do with it all). But my clothes are in the closet, my books are on the shelves, and my hair products are taking over the bathroom. I love how our things mingle around each other, blending into one another over time- just like our lives are doing now.
- A week after our trip to Colorado, we took off again to Maastricht for our one year anniversary. We stayed in a super cool old monastery and ate A LOT. I will be blogging later about that trip as well, so check back later this week!
- I’m working! I was lucky enough to find two nanny jobs fairly close to our house. But they’re far enough away that I am getting some great exercise on the bike. Surprisingly, my thirty minute bike ride in the morning is one of the best parts of my day!
- As I settle into a life with Jozef, I am also looking towards my own future. I am applying to Leiden University to study psychology in the fall. I desperately want to get in, as the program is taught in English. Hopefully I will have some good news on the subject around June.
- A few weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Paris for a friend’s birthday. Paris is such an amazing city to wander around and snap pictures. And, yes, you guessed it, I will be blogging about that later, as well.
- Now that we’ve been living together for a few months, Jozef and I are trying to put a bit more of our stamp on our home. We’ve ordered a dining room table and have some Eames Chairs in mind (replicas of course). I really want to make our house comfortable and unique and great space to entertain, especially for out of town guests! Luckily we have a few coming at the end of the summer, so that’s our deadline to get the house going in the right direction. I’ll be sharing the experience on the blog. I hope I can inspire those going through the same experience, and get insights from those of you that have been there.
- Last, but certainly not least, last week I received a letter from the immigration office saying I am approved to stay in the Netherlands officially- until August. I will be approved to stay longer after I complete my citizenship test. It’s all part of the process and the end result is totally worth it!
And now you’re caught up! I hope to be catching up a bit more often from now on and would love to see your lovely faces in the comments! You can also subscribe using the button on the right hand side, if you are so inclined.
Sometimes, people tell me I’m brave. Until recently I didn’t really understand why. It has become ever so apparent just how hard it is living in a different country- right now and for some quite some time to come. I’ve always known this, on some level, I’m sure. But the other night I had one of those “flood of knowledge moments” when the heavy and real truth wraps itself around your shoulders and whipsers its arrival in your ear. All I could do was sit in the middle of a dinner party and listen (and maybe freak out a little bit).
I, of course, am still happy about my decision to stay in the Netherlands. I also still wouldn’t exactly call myself “brave” for moving here. When it came down to it, it wasn’t especially difficult to choose to stay here. I am more than excited to start living with Jozef and to see what our life will look like together. He is everything I have ever hoped for in a partner and the thought of doing life together fills me up to the brim! But, I must say, the words “this is hard” keep running through my mind. Everything from socializing, to getting a drivers license, to finishing school, to putting a sentence together, is a challenge. And sometimes I just get tired and think about my mom and my best friend and the English language, and I start missing home.
So I took a few days to simply feel bad about it. And I really think that’s okay every once in a while- to be a little grumpy, a little down in the dumps, and complain a bit. I simply took a few days to allow myself to whine without any expectations of finding a solution. And the funny thing? I feel so much better today. I woke up thinking lots of thoughts and feeling really good about most of them. This gist is, it’s going to be hard, you’re going to be sad sometimes, and that’s okay. Allowing myself the grace to be upset these past few days gave me faith that I can have, and can get through, these moments again in the future. If I am patient and give myself the space to work through the homesickeness or frustrations, then I can come out the otherside just fine indeed.
So today my hope for you is grace. I hope you remember to treat yourself with the kindness and patience that I’m sure you afford to your friends. And I espeically hope you come out the other side just fine.
Let’s put the snake on the table: I am really bad at blogging. I have ideas, I have intentions. I have no follow through. Maybe it’s because I work a lot, or maybe it’s because my particular nature of work takes a lot of mental and physical energy, or maybe I’m just lazy. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide. So today I’m not here to offer apologese or grand plans to write every single day. I’m just here on a whim, a desire to write. And I also have something important to say.
I have lived in Amsterdam for one year and eighteen days. That is so strange to me, just how fast it’s gone. It seems like minutes ago I was that nervous girl stepping off the plane at Schipol airport, looking for her host parents and what lie ahead. Seriously, it feels like minutes ago. But, it feels like ages ago in other ways. Because I’m not that girl stepping off that plane. So much about my life and about my self has changed since that day one year and eighteen days ago, that I’m not sure I even have the words for it all right now.
I may not have words for it, but I have a name- Jozef. My game changer, my plot twist. My very handsome plot twist. What would this year have been like had I not met that guy? Fun and adventursome, probably, but a lot less joyful. Because that’s the word I think of when I think of Jozef. Joyful. The joy of knowing this amazing person loves me and the joy of getting to love him back. It’s pretty great, actually, and I feel incredibly lucky.
So why am I telling you all of this? Why am I bragging about my super cool boyfriend? Because I’m very excited to let you all know that, rather than moving back to the States in December, I’ve decided to stay in The Netherlands!
Jozef and I will fly back to Colorado for Christmas and stay through New Years. Then, we’ll fly back to the Netherlands together and start working on this life thing. In Dutch it’s called “samenwonen,” on our immigration paperwork it was called “family formation,” you would probably call it “living together.” We generally call it “in 3 months,” not that we’re counting :) I am so ready to start this new adventure with someone I love so very much. We’ve given this a lot of good thought and have talked about it endlessly with one another. But as with any new and big step, this comes with a lot of excitement and a healthy dose of fear. So I hope that no matter your views or opinions, we can count on your support and love, because we both need and welcome all we can get!
I’m so excited for everyone back home to get to meet Jozef during Christmas, and I’m equally excited to see everyone I’ve missed so much since coming here! And if you’d like my new address for all your care package needs (you know how I love a good care package!), leave me a comment and I’ll send it to you.
And perhaps you can expect more blogging in the future. Perhaps :)
In which I ate, and apparently nothing else.
Lekkere Tartja from Cake Loves Coffee
A late night in Amsterdam means a late breakfast at Burgermeester
Albert Cuypstraat 48
A cake for the boyfriend. Because I’m rather fond of him.
A Victoria Sponge from Rachel Khoo. Hers was prettier.
Cooking a big dinner for us on Sunday night- a new tradition.
And because I’m fond of him :)