Tuesday 25 August 2020

West wind blowing

So here we are, the wind has turned. The breeze blowing hot and dry weather from the East, with temperatures that the Dutch call a heatwave but made us feel right at home, has been replaced with a stout zuidwester, that fierce sea wind from the West, right off the North Sea. Dutch sea winds bring moderate temperatures and rain, making me shiver as I type this in my clothes that are better suited to the tropics.

The Netherlands are beautiful when the sun shines. At the end of our road we walk straight into the dunes, were pathways meander between wild roses and seaberries, all the way to the sea. Dutch beaches are wide and white, worlds apart from the black lava sands of Bali, both equally gorgeous yet so different. The first time we walked onto the beach here, we almost got blown off again. Dutch summers are treacherous, sunny and warm can become cold and wet in minutes, you have to bring layers of clothes when going out. The North Sea is grey and frothy, its waves flat compared to Bali. My Canggu-trained menfolk won’t get their wax out for them, but as I see Roel and Tijm staring at kite surfers scooting across the waters of the zandmotor, I’m thinking those sea winds may serve their purpose yet.

Of course, getting used to living in a new country is about more than the weather. And although many people tell us we moved ‘home’, it doesn’t feel like that, not yet. The Netherlands are new to us, it has been fourteen years since we lived here, the kids never have. Repatriation is strange, you have all the hassle of an intercontinental move, without the excitement of an exotic location. You have changed, with a lot of different cultural experiences, yet you still look and sound the same as a ‘local’. Often, as I stand in a shop or am on the phone with one of the many institutions this country boasts, I feel myself an awkward outsider - the Dutch don’t cope well with people that don’t fit into boxes. It makes me feel for ‘real’ foreigners, that don’t speak the language and have no network of friends and family to advise them how to navigate the Dutch bureaucracy where, unlike in Asia, rules are rigid and the same for everyone.

This move was a tad unexpected to me, and with both Roel and me at home, the children that haven’t been at school in half a year, I still feel in limbo. In a few weeks, school will start and hopefully life will become more normal. As normal as this family gets. Often, when people ask me whether we moved ‘back for good’, I cringe. I smile politely and give the only answer I can. ‘For good is a very long time.’ I’m sure the wind will eventually turn again, and who knows where it will blow us?

We are here now and will stay as long as we like it. And there are plenty of things I like about the Netherlands and living in Den Haag. When I feel too cold I list them and I feel better: Family and friends old and new. Kids sleeping over with aunts and grandparents. Cousins. Boating in Friesland. The dunes, the fresh air (although I might revisit this in winter when it becomes too fresh), the wind in my hair on the beach, and the fact that the sun is friendly enough to sit in (ironically I’m much more tanned now than I ever was in Asia). Seaberry kefir and kids picking blackberries. Public libraries. Kringloopwinkels (recycled goods shops). Cheese. Dewdrops. Petting zoos. My new old fermenting crock. Wild green herbs and flowers. Museums. Sheepskin rugs and wild duck down duvets.

A lot to love and we are here, in the Netherlands. Our newest adventure.