Nederland

It has been a whirlwind few days of travel. We spent Thursday in Alphen aan de Rijn with our dear friends the Van Keeken family, who were the first people we met when we moved to the Netherlands. At the time, they were managing the Camping de Waarbeek, where we stayed when we first moved to NL in 2003. Little did we know that this would turn into a long friendship. Back then, their kids, Willem, Tina, and Marija were young adults– now they all have kids of their own. Our kids had a wonderful time playing with Midas, Frida, and seeing new baby Luna.

Marian made us an amazing Nederlandse dinner of stampot three ways– with spek and wurst, natuurlijk! Stampot is mashed potatoes with other vegetables — she made one with sauerkraut, one with kale, and one with carrots. Marian is an excellent cook and it was amazing– a perfect Dutch dinner. Then we stayed in their lovely home for the night and after a delicious breakfast took the train to Enschede. This is where Mike learned first hand about the stilte or silent car of the train. The stilte car is exactly what it sounds like. The take home message, is that you don’t want to be on the stilte car with your three children. This is perhaps true of any three children, and especially true of our three children. Mike could not figure out why everyone was so quiet. I was in the antechamber of the train with our large luggage, to avoid having to move it too often. The riders of the silent car were very kind, and clearly knew that he was clueless– they did not make a fuss. Mike was horrified when realization struck and quickly moved all the family to the outer car with me. And we learned a new word!

Our 24 hours in Enschede was action-packed– we didn’t have a lot of time and we had a few dear friends and former colleagues to see. First we saw Robbin and Antoine, who shared a lovely lunch with us– so many wonderful salads and sandwich fixin’s, followed with delectable tiny cakes. We had three transfers on the train from Alphen to Enschede (there was a problem with a train, so some of these were unexpected), and we were so tired and hungry by the time we showed up at their door. It was really perfect to sit in their light-filled kitchen and catch up over a meal. The only negative was that due to our busy schedule we missed seeing their fantastic kids, Anthony and Megan. And we were enjoying ourselves so much we failed to take a photo!

Next we visited my former colleagues at the UTwente– who are now situated in a new building on the main campus. It was their end of the year drinks event, so a cool opportunity to see them and have a short visit to discuss the last ten years. Good times!

Then we headed to Judith and Niels house for dinner, getting the opportunity to meet their lovely daughters, Evie and Norah, for the first time. They served us this amazing taco salad casserole and we had the chance to talk for hours. The language barrier was not a problem for the kids, who managed to play and joke around. But again we were so busy catching up that we didn’t remember to take a photo. We walked back from their place to our hotel (the InterCity Hotel Enschede, which helpfully had a giant sign on its roof to light our way!) Here’s a glowing castle by the Enschede train station made of recycled plastics, and the view of the Enschede city center from our hotel room.

After a good night’s sleep we went into the city to meet some of the women from the Wereldvrouwen in Twente group– WIT was a huge part of our lives when we lived in the Netherlands. At times this group had many dozens of members. We had a fun lunch with just a few of them– Phing, Letteke and Katerina –and yes– finally managed to take a photo!WIT2!

WIT

One with Mike and one with Katerina– of course!

After this crazy busy fun exciting trip to Enschede, it was back to Amsterdam for a sleep and then the flight to Denmark on Saturday, December 22nd.

Amongst all of this craziness we even managed to celebrate Mike’s birthday, if you can call it that, while traveling.

Next up: Denmark, where we’re thrilled to learn that Christmas, or Jul, begins on 24 December– so we’ll get to open presents early this year!

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