With this blog I am challenging myself to post a “Thought” every Thursday (the category gives this away). Today I’m in a rush to pack up bags and gets things straightened up around the house before our two-week vacation in the US (woohoo)! In past blogs I would get all bent out of shape with how/what my content was saying or does the message fit the blog theme. This would get in the way of any actual writing. The goal for me on this blog is too really just be honest and let it all “hang out”.
I am really excited to see my family and all my Aunts and Uncles plus cousins and their kids. It is going to be a blast! But I have to be honest, right now all I can think about is my friend back home who is going through a really rough time. I wish I could say more on this subject but she is a very private person and I don’t want to reveal too much of her situation because of this. But for the sake of discussion this issue is a life or death situation. While I am traveling to the States this week, I won’t be in her vicinity.
When things back home get really serious like this its makes being so far away so very difficult. The only real thing I can do is send a letter (okay, email) with my most heartfelt words expressing my love and support. But I want to do more. When it comes to my friends, I like to think of myself as a woman of action. I take the words “being there” to heart . Yes I chose to live in Europe but a part of my heart will always be with my friends and family. These people helped me become the person I am today! When you make a choice to live far away, you never know the hardships until you are faced with them. And friends, now is such a time for me. For this week’s thoughtful thursday I am sending all of my love towards my friend. May it travel through space and time to comfort my friend’s weary, breaking heart.
A daily routine for me and my daughter is to take a walk through this park. It is a remarkable place of beauty, as you can see by this photograph. There are geese, ducks, a rooster, and some deer that are in a fenced area in the middle of the park. There is always something to take a photograph of. The weather has been getting really nice as of late so we find more and more people walking their dogs, sunbathing in the chaise chairs along the canals, and moms with their children in the playground area.
My daughter has a remarkable gift of grabbing attention from strangers who will approach us to get a closer look. This is nice because before I found people to be rather closed off from any kind of contact. On this day in particular we were making our way out of the park when an older woman came towards us with two dogs. The dogs led her over. One had white and auburn colored patches and the other with white and black patches. I held their faces in my hands as they licked me. My daughter was looking towards the woman. We began to speak to each other. I asked about the dogs[ in Dutch], “What are their names?”. She started speaking slowly . The sounds she made were muffled and slow. I watched and listened closely. She pointed to her ears and said the Dutch word for deaf. She continued to tell me their names. The red one, “Rrr-o-sie” and I repeated it. Luckily it wasn’t a complicated Dutch name. She smiled and shook her head Yes. Then she pointed to the black one, “Mmaa-ch ch-o,” she said. She used some body language to show he is very male. And I said, “Ah Macho!” She smiled and shook her head again. I told her that Dutch is not my first language and asked if she could understand me okay. She again shook her head and said slowly, while pointing to her mouth, “Yes I can read lips and you speak clearly.” Then she told me she must get going because the dogs were getting restless. I smiled and thanked her for letting us pet them.
I thought about this exchange and got a little emotional for a moment. For the last few years I’ve never had such an experience like this one. This woman had every reason to resist communicating with anyone because she is deaf and it’s clearly harder for her to make the words come. At the same time I could be the same in that I don’t speak Dutch fluently. Yet we both took the time to have a friendly exchange. By being patient and listening to one another we were able to understand each other. There wasn’t anything in this moment that was important, really. But it showed me that if two people really want to communicate to one another they can. No matter what the obstacles.
I met my husband, of now 7 years, on a study abroad trip in Italy. We dated for less than a year and got married in the USA. After going through the roller coaster immigration process for my husband to get his green card, we jumped ship and went to live at his parents house in Italy. My husband is not Italian though, he is Danish. He had to show me on Google maps where Denmark is located. I had no idea.
When we went to live in Italy, it was nothing like our romantic beginning. It was winter and we were broke and NO ONE spoke English. I was listening to “Learn Italian” CD’s for about 3 hours a day. My one friend in the city couldn’t speak a word of English. Trust me, I tried to teach her! But at least I had a friend. Italians are wonderful even if you don’t know what they are saying.
However, as soon as my Italian passport was ready, I insisted that we go west to find riches and fortune. We were not digging for gold, but I needed somewhere I could find a job with my very limited language skills and somewhere not so expensive. This brought us to the Netherlands (the place I met Ms. Blogger herself!). The Netherlands has attractive welfare policies to help non-Dutch citizens get started and a low unemployment rate. Fresh produce is well-priced and most people speak English.
After 3 years in the Netherlands, we “landed” in Denmark to live near my husband’s parents. “Landed” is expat talk for those who are constantly on the move – which is how I feel! As an expat, you can never say how long you will stay in one location – but with our two kids (1 year and 6 years), a solid ground soon becomes important.
Anyone else fall in love with a foreigner… only to become a foreigner yourself?