Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And then there were two ...

And then were two, who are one again. After a month and a half of crazy mobile phone bills and conversations interrupted by passing trains, wind and rain, and other mobile phone conversations in Dutch, German, and sometimes Spanish or Russian, Team Hillseekers is on the same continent, the same page, and the same diet of cheese, tasty breads, and French wine.

Becky arrived just over a week ago and we’re well into our Dutch cultural immersion. It’s actually been a bit of a crazy week – for Becky especially. Lots of the things that I’ve adjusted to over the past two months are suddenly on Becky’s plate … all at once, like a paper plate overloaded with Thanksgiving dinner … with the sauce mixing with the potatoes and veggies, the broccoli casserole squashed by two heavy slices of ham, and a deviled-egg trying ever so subtly to work its way off the edge of the plate to make the great leap to the carpet. Her plate though is packed with a new job, new commute, new gym, new coworkers, new laptop and work email account, new closet, new bedroom furniture, new pantry, new city bike, new washing machine with Dutch labels, new paperwork involving visits to the immigration office, etc. I keep noticing things that I’ve already become accustomed to that she’s experiencing for the first time. “Oh yeah, two weeks ago that was pretty confusing, now it’s second nature.”

I was chatting with one of my expat friends (who is on his fourth year in the Netherlands) and he mentioned that with most transitions you always have a safe zone to retreat to whenever the transition gets stressful. For example, you may start a new job, but you still have the same friends, the same house, the same grocery store, etc. If you move cities (within the States), you may have to start over with just about everything, but at least you have the same Target, the same Starbuck’s, the same language and pictures on street signs, etc. With an international move though, your “safe zone” options are dramatically reduced. Everything is new … and it’s new all at once. Sometimes it’s a lot to deal with and situations can go from charming to "we just hit an ice berg and the ship is sinking!" back to charming in a matter of minutes!

Having a partner is huge help and the best safe zone of course. Having friends nearby is another great safe zone – and we’re very happy to have some friends from the States here on assignment as well. Getting our furnishings from the US was a good start as well. Our flat was furnished when we got it, but it’s feeling more like a home now with our photos, books, and decorations added. So, we have lots of mini-safe zones and that helps make up for so much being different all at once. We’re also doing all we can to go with the flow and try not to get too bent out of shape for any of the many hassles of this early transition phase. It’s not always easy though!

Speaking of our flat, we’re making great progress with unpacking and getting settled. Our cargo container arrived a few days before Becky did and I went on an all-out sprint to unpack it and screw together furniture before she arrived. We’re surprisingly unpacked at this point, with only a couple boxes to go and a dozen pictures to hang on the wall. Our flat feels like a home now – it looks much different than earlier pictures that we posted – much warmer, which is a good thing considering that winter will start soon here!

I’ll try to publish a couple more stories this week. Now that our unpacking activities are slowing, I should be able to post some back stories and make some good progress on the 12,000 part series on cycling here!

By the way, thanks so much for your emails lately! I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to respond more quickly. I announced our new web site to a couple hundred people, many of whom I haven’t chatted with in some time. So, I’ve been getting these great emails that I’m really enjoying reading and will soon be responding to. I couldn’t be happier hearing from you, so please keep in touch.

All the best,


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