Friday, December 27, 2013

Fa La La La La, La La La Laaaaaa...

I meant to come on here sooner and wish you a Merry Christmas, but I kind of failed at that.  Sorry!  So Merry belated Christmas.  Hope it was everything you needed and you were bestowed with the blessings that you deserve.

This Christmas was an awkward one.  No familiar faces, weather or traditions. I'll give you a 2-second background.  The Netherlands, as a whole, doesn't celebrate Christmas in any way like we do; there isn't the commercialism like we have back home (which I'm thankful for).  Christmas is for Christians and for going to church.  As far as I understand it, not about presents or things like that (as a rule; but not every house is like this. Some do celebrate and have gatherings!).  So no matter what we did, it didn't feel right.  Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy myself, but just different, y'know?  We opened our presents Christmas Eve evening (I got an mp3 player! It'll help a lot at the gym!) because Christmas Day we got up and out the door for Mass.  Then his parents picked us up at the church and we spent the day with them.  They even added to my snowman collection :)  Best of all, they got us a new toy.  Okay, it was addressed to us, but really it's for me ;)

A Philips (his dad works there) 3-in-1 food processor/blender/grinder.  I was speechless.  I needed these products *so bad*.  In fact, I even hugged the box (they've got a pic of that, conveniently).  I've even contemplated giving it a name.....

Well, not much else to say today.  I've got some organizing to do.  I might start slowly taking decorations off the tree.  We're hosting a brunch Sunday so I have to plan for that to shop for it tomorrow *and* head to IKEA to exchange under-the-cupboard lights.  I swear, we should have stocks in that company by now for the amount of times we're there.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  I met with Father from church (the meeting I mentioned before) and it went well!  In fact, he emailed the choir director introducing me; I wrote her back... and it looks like I'm now in the St. B choir.  Eek!  Next rehersal is Jan 9th, I think.  I asked her if she saw any problems with my low Dutch vocabulary to which I got the response, "Well, learn it!" (So Dutch.)  And I am... but since I've been learning general vocab and food vocab, I now have to learn music vocab.  She said she has an Italian with her and she does fine, so I should be okay.  And it's funny how I'm approaching it; I am resisting change so much and so worried about how I'm not going to understand things and figure I'll get overwhelmed and lose track and.. and... and I never stop to think that maybe people will be patient and understanding and it won't be such a difficult transition after all.  So I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

Cultural Differences: to note (before Christmas is REALLY over); Christmas trees - are (9 times out of 10) decorated with white lights, not Multi-coloured.  Heaven forbid you decorate your tree with coloured lights ("it's not as pretty") or - gasp - twinkling lights.  lol.  Hearing some of their comments make me giggle (though I do like white lights...).   There is your random information of the day.

Up and moving I go!  Hope you're having a great week!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

There Are Good Days, and Then There Are Bad...

I went to the gym yesterday to meet up with a new friend.  Found her, chatted a bit and started on my workout.  Yesterday was just cardio so I hit the treadmill for a half an hour.  There were two women to my left who seemed to know each other and were talking.  After warming up, I increased my speed and started running for a few minutes.  They seemed amazed (?), said something to each other, then the lady closest to me looked over and said something Friesian with a smile.  I said in response (also with a smile), "Sorry, I only speak English." So she nods, turns around and starts talking to her friend again as if I didn't exist.  I received no acknowledgement at all. 

*blank stare*

Wtf just happened?  I was more put off by her rudeness not acknowledging me, than by her refusal to speak English.  This is what I face here sometimes.  When I say they don't speak English here... THEY DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH HERE. 

When I detach my emotions from the situation, I can tell you she was startled at the English as it's not regularly encountered, probably felt too timid to try and it was just easier to not talk at all (at least, I hope this is it).  Was it rude?  Yes.  Is it a common response?  Not entirely.  When I ask people to say what they said in English, they get put off by it and don't repeat it at all, but at least most continue some form of conversation.  Also, if I step back, I could have approached the situation differently and responded in a way that was more open, and not perhaps closing off the conversation.

By the time I'd gathered myself together and thought of a proper, friendly response, they were done and had walked away.  Fail.

If I put my emotion back into it (like I did last night), I felt shunned, tiny, distant from a place I'm trying to connect, insignificant, like a jerk, wonder why I bother... I could make a list.  It also was a straw that broke the camels back and it felt 10 times worse than the situation actually was. It was another reminder that I'm the minority, this isn't my original home turf and I am of course the one that has to keep adapting, not necessarily them (at least I feel, more so).

My lack of response bothered me.  The past few years and the move especially, I've become this person who doesn't say anything, tries to be the nice guy and let's things just smooth over.  Anyone who knows me knows that's not who I am.  I don't get walked over.  I stand up for moments when I feel I'm being disrespected.  I give my opinion.  I'm a very passionate person.  I'm not a little mouse in the corner, I'm a raging lion.  Only, I know the reactions to the raging lion weren't always great and I have indeed become the little mouse - and now I'm trying to find a happy medium between the two.  So many circumstances have come up lately that this has now become something that I can no longer ignore.  It's time to change. 

How do you see this behaviour when you expected more of yourself and are disappointed on so many levels... and still practice self-compassion?  BrenĂ© Brown suggests expressing this intention, "I will talk to myself the same way I talk to the people I love."  When your best friend or partner is beating on themselves for particular behaviour, do you say, "Yeah, you're being a jerk. You really shouldn't have done that. What were you thinking?"  No.  We approach them with love and kindness and give them the best empathetic response we can.  It doesn't make saying that to ourselves any more acceptable. 

I have to practice what I preach.  Which is not easy.

Y'know what?  It really sucks having to be a grown up sometimes.  The only thing I wanted last night was to shut off, escape somewhere where my problems ceased to exist.  I wanted to not make an effort.  I wanted my home, my city, my street, my cat, my friends.  I wanted the familiar.  I am building a (fantastic) friend base here, but it just didn't feel the same to reach out to them.  I wanted to call someone up from back home, go for a coffee and vent it off and go window shopping. 

Instead, I cried it off, called it a day, woke up and brushed myself off and am trying this thing called life integration again.  Hiccups will happen, I know that.  This just reminded me to keep my wits about me and to try and remain more open to those around me who might have a harder time at adjusting to conversation than I do. 

In the end I am thankful I get to learn about myself.  Onward and upward!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Getting There

For the first time in 5 months I experienced a less than perfect transportation system.  While trying to get to an app't in Groningen, the trains weren't running.  There was a bus giving a shuttle between towns, but that would have doubled my travel time and I would have been very late.  So I wrote and cancelled.  Then I tried going to English Mass tonight in Leeuwarden. The train was late and when I got there they were locking up because there was no one showed up.  Ack.  But then a saving grace...

A lady and I were trying to get in, not understanding why we couldn't when there was a scheduled Mass (this is when we noticed them locking up).  The priest actually came out of the offices and we got to talk for a few minutes.  He spoke English very well for a Frieslander and I asked if I made an app't with him sometime, if he could talk.  He was more than happy to make an app't on the spot, so we compared calendars and we are meeting next week.  We stood and spoke for a few minutes and I gave him a quick "This is where I'm from, this is what I'm doing" blurb.  He actually has family in Canada, so that explains his good English (I find this is common with natives - the good English being because of family in Canada).  Oddly it's always Canada and not the U.S.  Heh.  Go Canada!  I walked away feeling lighter and more at peace.  Happy.  I instantly felt better than I did with my interaction with the Groningen priest, so there is hope.  Despite it being cold, he was more than happy to give me some of his time to stand and talk a while. 

I casually walked through Leeuwarden, enjoying the lights and shops being open (I guess this Thurs evening was a late shopping day, but not normally so).  While there was no Mass, I thought about making a night of it while I was out.  Unfortunately I realized I was still a good walk away from some nicer shops, so I decided to head home. I caught the sneltrein (fast train) which got me home 20min faster than the stoptrein (even though it was 5 min late as well).

Cultural Difference: Shops will keep one or both doors open to give an inviting feel for you to walk in, even though it's 4 C out.  You wouldn't see that back home.  So, they choose higher heating bills (ironic, for a 'cheap' frugal culture) for a chance more people will feel easily welcomed into their store. 

Despite today's train interruptions, I'm home safe and warm.  I'm accepting the fact I wasn't supposed to be in certain places today, or if I was, late. And that's okay.  I made a hot chocolate, topped it with whipped cream and caught up on Facebook.  I've got Christmas music plays and I'm going to write a couple Christmas cards now and we'll see what else the night brings.  W. is working late so I have a couple hours to kill, yet. 

It's almost Friday, if that means anything for your schedule.  Hope your week is going well.  If you have snow, throw some this way.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas without a hint of snow.  I'm not sure Mother Nature heard my plea.

Tomorrow night is our town KerstMarkt (Christmas Market/Fair) and I'm really looking forward to it.  So happy it's just the next street over, so W. and I will walk over after dinner.  I'll see what I can do about getting pics. I'll close out with a couple of our tree...

I was hell bent on getting a real tree this year (for going without for so many years; and I mean many).  So off to the garden centre we went. W. wouldn't let me get a big tree, our apartment isn't that big, so we looked at small ones :)
 A small tree for a small apartment.  I like it, it's cute.  I'll give another picture as well, with it lit up.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Addendum to Cultural Differences

To note re: Mail: I get yet *another* (third) ring at my door.  It's our next-door neighbour coming to pick up his post.  See, in the housing complex we're in, if you're not home, the Post drops off your package to your neighbour (or neighbour 3 doors down; honestly, I think they just keep ringing people until they find someone home) hoping you're best friends and it's not a problem to retrieve it.  We (W. and I) don't exactly love this; who's to say we're on friendly terms (we are) with our neighbours or not.  Bah.  All in the name of efficiency *rolls eyes*.

Cultural Differences

Some more cultural differences to note :)

Mail.  Mail operates on a Saturday here, including deliveries.  There isn't a monopoly on the postal system; it's all private.  It's even possible to get more than one mail and/or delivery a day by different carriers (there are two main ones, plus delivery companies).  PostNL is the main carrier, though I can't remember the other one.  Apparently there is even Sunday pick-up to get ready for Monday (where you drop your letters off in the mailbox) but W. and I don't understand why as there's no delivery. The post here is incredibly efficient and fast; easy to get something within 1-2 days. 
(Prime example: we ordered a couple things online the other night. I've just received a second, separate delivery. They really like to ship things separately.)

Construction. Construction sites work a little differently here (i.e road work).  They were repairing the road behind the plaza in town (still using cobblestone - put in place by hand - so awesome) and it was probably the complete opposite of what you'd find in North America.  Nothing was baricaded off, no caution tape, no Roads Dept employees standing around telling you where to go.  No.  You approach the site cautiously and maneuver your way around the best you can.  The man operating the digger is actually really good at watching for people.  It's such a concept... let people use common sense when in such an area.  Loose kids?  Not an issue.  People seem to take responsibility for themselves and those around them.  There isn't a "I can sue you" mentality here.  And it's fabulous.

Cats.  Cats here are very funny.  There are a few outdoor cats in the neighbourhood and you could walk by them a hundred times and call them and they still won't pay attention to you. They really don't care!  They do their derisive.. hold their head up and pretend to ignore you as you walk by.  I don't know what it is with cats here.

Laundry.  Yes, laundry.  First, most homes hang their laundry, not use a washer and dryer. It's a very European thing to do (partly because they're cheap and like to save energy costs and partly to save the wear of the clothes).  I can get behind it and all, but dude.. hard, scratchy towels are not cool.  We both want a dryer for that reason, but until we find an economical used one, it'll have to wait (#firstworldproblems).  Also.. they like to use separate detergent for each load.  We have a bottle each for colours, whites and darks (very affordable around €2 each). Not all detergents do this, but the one I like that's an "all in one" isn't cheap, so I look for it on sale only. 

Marriage.  The big 'M' word.  Not something often talked about in this house... yet ;)  I learned something interesting, though. Apparently this is also Europe-wide (France I know also does this, but I can't confirm other countries).  You cannot get married in a church and have it be legal.  You need to have a civil ceremony first and then you can have your marriage in a church (for your own purposes, still not legally withstanding).  I guess anyone can register to marry you? but this is from a friend and I still need to confirm it's specifics.  What seems to be common if you have both is you have the civil ceremony first, which is very private and invite-only.  Then you have the church wedding later in the day..public and anyone can come, especially handy for those coming to the dinner later on.  Two weddings means two expenses!  Gah!  I have not yet found a parish to call home, so this isn't an issue for me - yet.  I do plan to marry here so I have to accept facts as they are.  What I WAS thinking, though, was to have the legal ceremony here (perhaps still something religiously symbolic in it?) but get church-married back home.  I always wanted to get married in COOL so that would make me happy.  I discussed it with W. and he was all for it.  He's always happy to do anything that makes me happy, for which I'm grateful.  We shall see.

I'll leave you with that for today :)

Copyright Text