supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

After a couples weeks of nannying it hit me. I’m a real life Marry Poppins. According to my kids, I came from the sky (airplane) from a far off land (Japan) to live in the room upstairs. Thanks to my time as an ALT I turn just about everything into a song, sometimes without realizing it. I also carry a large bag that has just about everything in it. My 2 year old is convinced there is an unlimited supply of bananas in there.

However, this may not be a good thing. In real life Marry Poppins wouldn’t be magical, she would be a bit crazy. A vagabond of a carpet lady who sings to herself and speaks to all the imaginary creatures around her. She even hangs out with some shady people. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie but maybe Marry Poppins is best left on the film.

On the nanny front things are getting better, and I’m really enjoying my job. As an ALT I had so many students that I was lucky if I could remember a student’s name let alone really get to know them. This is a great chance to really build a strong realationship with the kids that I take care of. While having 4 kids sounds like a wild time, (sometimes it is) I really enjoy having 4 very different children to hang out with. I have been able to have some unique time with each of them.  Although I don’t really take care of the older 2 often, we do things after school together like play video games or make cookies. The 2 year old and I have a great time together and he’s starting to trust me more.

The 4 year old and I have had more of a dynamic relationship. Upon arrival she thought I was great, this new play thing. She would make me drawings, fight to sit next to me at dinner, and even gave me her Hello Kitty. But when she realized that I was actually the new babysitter she wouldn’t have it. She stopped talking to me, crying when I sat next to her in the car, glaring across the dinner table. Luckily this behavior was saved only for when Mom and Dad were home. When it was just us at home she would happily listen to me. But once Mom stepped in the door she wanted nothing to do with me. Things are getting better now. Sometimes she wants to hang out with me even when mom is home, and I am starting to get drawings again. There’s only the occational dinner time glare. I’ll take it, its getting better.

Maybe I should watch Marry Poppins again to get some more pointers. I’ve decided that even if its seems a bit crazy there’s nothing wrong with little magic during the day.

 

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biiiicyle biiiiiiicyle

I thought that Japan had an abundance of bikes/cyclists, that was before arriving in the Netherlands. People had warned me, I even read about it in books, but nothing could prepare me for the for what I would encounter here. Nearly everyone rides bicycles here. Seriously. In Japan bike transportation was primarily used by jr/senior high school students and those who were too old to drive a car or motor bike. Not the case here, students, commuters even entire families use the 2 wheel mode of transportation. Kids can ride a bike around the same time they can walk. In addition the bike paths here are great. They are usually separate from roads and are well marked. There’s even a website similar to googlemaps dedicated only to Dutch bike paths. The bike love here extends far beyond anything I could have imagined.

my vehicle for cruisin’ with the kiddos

I have not just one but three bikes to use during my stay. A ママチェリ or cruiser bike with sweet floral panniers for errands around town. When I have the kids we take the minivan of the bicycle world, the cargo bike. The box has benches and we buckle the kids in for trips around town. These trips are quite short as it get much more difficult/ heavy to ride with 4 kids in the box.

 I also have a racing bike to use. That’s right a real racing bike. I had a decent bike in Japan but I sufferd from a severe case of bike-lust. I couldn’t take my eyes off other bikes, they seemed so great, lightweight, more functional than my own. I wasn’t cheating on my bike, I was just looking. My case grew even worse upon arrival to the Netherlands. There were racing bikes everywhere, I just looked on longingly, thinking how great it would be to explore the country with a bike made for distance. Then I found out that my host family had a an older racing bike that’s my size and I can use for the year. I almost cried tears of joy. Since getting the bike I’ve been tearing up the roads between Rotterdam and the Hague. There’s even some plans of multiday rides in the works. I’m basically a riding machine. There’s no stopping meeeeeeeeeeeee (insert freddy mercury via don’t stop me now)

Day tripping to Antwerpen

Last week I went to Belgium for a day. Yes just a day. I still can’t get over the fact that I went to a whole new country with a different language just for a few hours. But I guess that’s Europe for ya. My host family has friends outside of Antwerp so I went to the city in the morning and met my family in the afternoon.

This was the first time that I really had the traveler’s rush while in Europe. That little spark you get when wandering through an unknown city for the first time. There’s something about the chance/opportunity of getting lost that makes traveling a little exciting. When I go places with my host family they are great about showing me around and explaining the history behind everything. Its fantastic not getting lost and I have learned so much more than I would have if I was on my own. But there’s also something about an aimless walk through an unknown place that I love.

the interior of antwerpen station

 Antwerp impressed me right from the start. I took the train from Rotterdam (about an hour) and when I got off at the station I was blown away. The 120(ish) year old station is quite famous and for good reason, its beautiful. After my station photo shoot I went out to wander.

Northern entrance of Antwerpen station

My mission: the Belgian triple threat, beer, waffles, and chocolate. I knew that my trip wouldn’t be complete without consuming these three. Antwerp is also famous for their diamonds, but I only have so much spending money and I have to be honest that food is really my highest priority. I am happy to say that Antwerp was mission accomplished. I had waffles in a delightful cafe right on a plaza in front of city Hall. The plaza in front call Grote Markt was everything I expected Europe to be with beautiful old architecture, cafes, all in the shadows of a gothic cathedral. Outside the plaza I found a Belgian beer store with over 250 beers. I bought a father’s day present (little late), found a couple beers and took them to a park by the river. On the way I passed a french fry truck selling wonderfully greasy freshly fried potatoes complete with curry mayo. Although it wasn’t on the original mission, it sounded like a good idea. It was a great idea.

City Hall and Grote Markt

After my solo picnic on the river I made my way back to the station to catch my bus and grabbed some chocolates to complete the mission. But to the honest I wasn’t blown away. I prefer darker chocolate. (I also blame working at Chuao for my chocolate snobbery.) On the other hand the waffles really were everything I heard they were. They really are better the rest of the world’s waffles. Not just extra thick like the one’s Denny’s serves but there’s an extra something in them, probably sugar and crack. I will be going back just for the waffles, as well as shopping and museums, but mostly the waffles.

 

From the vault

I totally forgot about these little nuggets until the other day while scrolling through my computer. Smoking in Japan is extremely popular, so instead of an anti-smoking campaign they had a polite smoking campaign. Oh Japan you never fail to amuse me.

Vagabond-ing

Its possible that I have a fear of standing still. I tend to twitch when I’ve been in once place too long, or if its been a really long time, spontaneous dance moves have been known to occur. This is also true on a macro level. In the last 7 years I have changed residences 10 times, towns 5 times, and countries/continents 3 times.  There’s probably some deep seeded psychological reason why I feel the need to continue to relocate but for now I’ll just blame it on a sense of adventure.

I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far. I’ve had some incredible experiences that I never expected to do in even my wildest dreams. If you would have told me that I was going to live in Japan 5 years ago I would have looked at you like your head just few off and went bouncing down the road. Asia was never on my radar. Riding an elephant; I didn’t even know that was legal. (probably isn’t) I never thought that I would be living in the homeland of Vincent Van Gogh and the Nederlands Dans Theatre. These things just tend to fall into place with some planing and prayer.  I also plan on continuing these adventures until I find some reason to slow down and stay in one place for a while.

While the constant relocation had given me opportunities to have ridiculous adventures, and make some incredible friends all over the world, there is a bit of a downside. I haven’t really had the chance to create deep roots anywhere. Most of the friends that I have made in my travels are temporary residents as well. It was great to meet friends from all over the world while in Japan, however, it also means that visiting all of them will be pretty costly. Even my friends still living in the United States have managed to move to every corner of the country. On those occasions that I do go back to the homeland, visiting college/high schools friends/ family is no easy feat.

Times of transition can also be difficult. Leaving one great place to go to another can be exciting but also painful. Take my exit from Kagawa for example. I had just made friends with a great group of people a few months before leaving. Our friendships were still on the upswing of the friendship. There was so much more potential for awesome. Besides, it never feels good to say goodbye to good friends. I know that I’ll be able to pickup where I left off with people that really are friends. But I still miss having those people in my daily life. Our strange little jokes, spontaneous adventures/dance parties, and late night pick up talks, for example. Each of my friends have had a unique role in my life that isn’t easy to replace.

 Meeting new people is great. Its given me the chance to learn so much about the world while traveling. I’ve been able to find out about cultures that I haven’t even visited. I’ve met so many people from South Africa, France, and England that I feel like I have had the prep courses for visiting. There are also times that I crave familiarity. A place that I can truly call home, or a friendly/ familiar face. I love making new friends, but sometimes I don’t want to start from square one. I want a person that knows the backstories to my friends so I can start telling a story without giving additional explanations.  Or someone who knows all the stupid stuff that I have done so my random acts don’t seem quite as crazy. I don’t have to explain or entertain, we can just “be” together and that’s good enough. After a whole lot of new, there’s nothing better than old, familiar and worn in.

 This hit especially hard after arriving in the Netherlands. I was still getting used to leaving my fabulous Japan friends, and didn’t stay with a group of people for more than 3 days while in Thailand. I was ready to just be in one place for a while. I wanted to see / be with someone I already knew. I wasn’t really in the mood for something new I really just wanted something familiar. This resulted in me making little to no effort in exploring / meeting people for the first 2 weeks in the country. My family probably thought there was something wrong with me, or I wasn’t happy. I really was I just wanted to take it easy for a while. Luckily my host family has been incredible. They have made me feel so welcome and at home that it has been the next best thing to familiar. Almost a new familiar. For now I think that I’m over this little hump. I’m starting to meet new people, been exploring the area, and have a fabulous summer trip planned.

 Things will be good for a while. I don’t regret moving frequently and don’t really plan on stopping any time soon. There are those times though, when the loneliness creeps in to remind me of the friends that are far away. I find these times are best solved with a grand adventure, skype date,  cookie dough, or McDonalds (they’re everywhere).

the arrival

home for now

In case you curious, here’s the lowdown on my current situation/location. I’m living in a suburb of Rotterdam, Holland, as an au pair (nanny) for the next year. I’ve already been here a month, and there’s 11 more to go. This is my story of the first week or so.

The travel time from Bangkok to Amsterdam was somewhere around 20 hours. With all the layovers and time changes its hard to keep track. (On a side-note, I had a 4 hour layover in the Kuala Lumpur airport and if you have to have a layover somewhere this place really isn’t bad. There’s a jungle  garden that you can walk through, comfy seating everywhere, free sports/movie watching areas, and enough internet stations to make up for the lack of free wifi. Definitely made the long travel much more manageable.)

why yes this is an airport

 

my last meal in asia. it was only fitting.

After traveling half way across the world and making my way through customs I was greeted by my au pair host family. I can’t say how great it was to have somebody waiting for me at the airport. I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to stay, how I was going to get there, and if I was going to get ripped off along the way. My family took me to my new home and helped me to settle in. After staying in primitive/basic hotels for the last 5 weeks I was thrilled to be in a nice home again. There were hot showers, flushing toilets, laundry facilities, and a REAL BED.

The girl that I was replacing was still around for my first week. It was great having someone show me the ropes of everyone’s daily routine and how to get around town. After she left, I was on my own with the kids during the day. We had a couple rough spots as the kids were in the process of testing my limits, and figuring out who this person was that was still in the house after 2 weeks. We get along great now, and have some fun times together.

My family has 4 kids, 2yr, (almost) 4yr, 5yr, and 8yr. Quite a change from growing up as an only child, but things aren’t nearly as crazy as it would seem.  I don’t take care of all four kids on most days, the older two go to school then its my job to hang with the younger 2 until the big kids get home. We go to the park or zoo, draw, make cookies, watch Barbarpapa, and read stories. Its a great time.

 house of parliament at the hague

The area I live in is 20 minutes by train from Hague and Rotterdam. However the town feels more like a country town; similar to Broomfield, CO. My family lives in a great new house, in a development that’s so new the trees are still tied to stakes for support. Just a km or so away from are farms, sheep, and windmills. While not the most happening place its great for running and cycling. I am much more likely to go running in the country roads than around the city. Its easy enough to get to either city by the metro train, so I don’t think I could ask for a better location.

Things are coming together nicely. I’ve met a few other au pairs in the neighboring cities, and have gotten to explore the area fairly well. I’ll be going on a summer vacation in mid July, and starting dutch classes in mid september. I’m waiting so long to start classes because I have to wait for the new session to start. Not a bad adjustment to a new home, town, and country if I do say so myself.

changing things up

Once upon a time, not too long ago this blog was called “ellie goes east” and that was all well and good when I was in east Asia, but that’s no longer the case. The condensed update is that that I have relocated to the Netherlands just outside of Rotterdam. I suppose that I could argue that I am east, depending on the way you look at things, but I thought that it would be more fun to change the name. The address will still be the same, since I don’t know how to do links and redirect pages. So basically I just gave my little corner of the internet a new nickname: “diekman goes dutch.”

Thai Finale: Chiang Mai Adventures

This is the last of my Thailand posts! The first part of my Thai trip was the relax on the beach with friends portion, while the second half consisted mostly of doing cool shit. After my friends went back to Japan and I recovered from my sadness of leaving friends/Japan behind, I had a few more days to explore in Bangkok on my own.

After trekking through temples in Bangkok it was time to go north to Chiang Mai via (you guessed it) overnight bus. Chiang Mai was my favorite town in Thailand. It was super walkable, and the people were super friendly. I made friends while eating lunch and standing at the fruit shake place. My first night in town I took a cooking class. We learned all about the different ingredients used in thai cooking and made ourselves a wonderful meal. I made panang curry from scratch, thank you very much. Even made the curry paste myself. In addition I made a papaya salad, and mango sticky rice for desert. Not to brag or anything, but it was pretty awesome. I may even use my newly gained cooking skills and make a meal for my host family.

that’s right I made all of this fine lookin’ food

Earlier that day I had a tiger adventure. Not a tiger of an adventure (not that its an actual saying) but I had an adventure with tigers. We went to a tiger park where you go into a cage with a trainer and a tiger and have a photo shoot. I’m never one to shy away from a camera, and add a tiger, its gonna get amazing. We opted for the 2month olds who were still cute but not as expensive as the baby babies. I got to spend a fair amount of time with the tigers and even take a short nap on one. Serisouly how cool is that? I slept on a tiger. I still can’t believe it.

this can’t be a good idea resting my head on a sleeping tiger, are you sure about this sir?

The next day I went on the standard-all-in-one trek adventure. I woke up feeling less than awesome and the truck ride to our tour did not make my prospects for the day look good. After a few pills and a tonic water I was ready to go. And just in time to ride the elephants. That’s right we rode ELEPHANTS!!! We rode on these chairs that were much like sadles. At one point our chair was askew and the only way to fix it was for me to get off and ride on the head. It was awesome!!! I held onto the ears for balance. The skin was really rough and was covered with corse hairs that were about an inch long. It was a lot like riding a horse, that was bigger and slower, and with a long nose used for eating fruit. Our elephant spent a good 5 minutes under a lychee tree getting his fill. After the ride we got to feed and hang out with a baby elephant and its mother. Although the baby was only a couple weeks old it was pretty big. At one point the baby saw me and trotted across the pen to play with me. I squelled like a 13 year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert. I was overcome with more kawai than I can handle.

After the elephant extraveganza the tour took us on a hike to a waterfall, then a rafting trip. The river was pretty tame so our group made our own fun by fliping the raft as often as possible and throwing each other in. I slept most of the car ride back into town.

The next day a couple guys from the tour and I rented motor bike and explored the area around Chiang Mai. (Don’t worry Mom, I didn’t drive the motor bike I was a passenger, and ALWAYS wore my helmet.) We went to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple on the top of a near by mountain. I was expecting some serene mountain top get away, but instead it was like the buddhist disneyland. There were stalls and people everywhere. I was only able to walk around the outside of the temple because I forgot my long skirt and my shorts didn’t pass the temple dress codes.

I finished my time in Chiang Mai and Thailand with an hour long foot scrub and massage just because I could. I had one more day in Bangkok before boarding my plane to the Netherlands. My trip in SE Asia was even more than I expected and I had really high expectations going into it. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I’ll be in that end of the world.

Temples Thai Style

While in Bangkok I spent a couple days just going through the temples. After living in Japan for almost 2 years its safe to say that I was a little templed out. Unless I knew the significance, most temples I saw in Japan and even Vietnam had the tendancey of blending together. Then I saw the Thai temples. They were amazing!!! I wouldn’t say better than the Japanese temples and shrines because they are different, but I really enjoyed the difference. I went to Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and Wat Phra Kaew. Each of the temples were ornatly decorated with gold and brightly colored glazed tiles. I was blown away by how ornate the temples were. I just couldn’t get enough of them.

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