I swear I’ll blog more this year on life in Amsterdam

There was a small chance that my new year’s post was going to be written in 2024, if my recent blogging habits are anything to go by. But here I am, with an aim to write more this year – at least a few more before the next new year.

I’m not sure if others who have moved up north from the south feel this, but new year doesn’t really feel like it did in South Africa, after a long holiday in the sun and with the best of South Africa’s gin. January here feels like a different kind of “reset” to what they used to be, and it’s neither good nor bad. August/September feels more like a fresh start, likely tying in with a new school year and the post summer holiday glow.

This December/festive season was our first in Europe sans lockdowns and restrictions, and it was beautiful. The lights. The markets. The cosiness. The oliebollen (literally translated as oil balls, but better described as a beignet, or as I call them, happiness), the sparkly shop windows, the gift shopping (I’m a shameless gift giver and receiver over Chanukah/Christmas), the glow of the streets. We visited several markets, and drove to Gent in Belgium for a weekend where we met my dad in -5 temperatures, the coldest snap we’ve had this season. It’s been a mild’ish winter and we’ve been so well insulated in our warm apartment that we haven’t need to turn on the heat, something our budgets are very grateful for. However, “mild” winter in the Netherlands can still mean that you ride home from the station in the wind and rain, with your glasses fogging up and your paper grocery bag disintegrating as soon as you take it out your bike basket, leaving you to juggle 12 items in your wet arms as you shuffle to your front door for some welcome shelter.

And shuffling is what I’ve doing a lot of lately. I haven’t run in nine weeks, which I think is the longest I’ve not run/jogged for in about 20 years, even including my pregnancies when I waddle-jogged. Possibly connected to my bike fall in October (or not), I started getting pretty awful knee pain when I ran, which I couldn’t get through. So I stopped, went for physio, was diagnosed with a tight leg, and given some stretches. But with Dr Google, my experience of my own injuries and pain threshold and the level of discomfort, I *knew* it was something more, so I planned my whole speech for the physio (I had recent practice a few months ago in pushing for an X-ray), and lo and behold… my physio was off sick, so I had a new one tending to my knee.

This boded well as he approached things with fresh eyes, but my sob story was still in place. He suspected a torn meniscus, referred me to the GP. The GP thought the same, so referred me to a specialist (remember, in the Netherlands, one can’t go to a specialist without the go-ahead from the GP, unless you want to pay out of pocket) who then gave the green light for an MRI. The MRI indeed showed a tear, which fortunately isn’t bad enough to require surgery, but still bad enough to keep me out of running until I’ve built up some strength and stability. So now, I’m doing my exercises as if my running life depended on them (which it kinda does), and hoping I can soon be running alongside the Amstel.

I’ll be starting 1:1 conversational Dutch lessons soon, which means I can no longer “hide” behind classmates during group lessons, trying to avoid as much talking as I can. The only way out is through… and so through the hardship of speaking 1:1 I must go, in order to get a bit more confident and competent, hopefully.

Work is going well, and I haven’t been this fulfilled and challenged in a long time. A blog post has been brewing in my head for about two years on working here, and how it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It’s not the work itself, but the learning of different cultures and the directness of the Dutch. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s been hard for me over the last 2.5 years. But more about that next time… I promise.



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  • Merle Rakusin

    15 January 2023 at 4:23 pm

    What a wonderful and descriptive story. Sorry about your knee...hopefully you will be back on the road soon. Sending hugs from […] Read MoreWhat a wonderful and descriptive story. Sorry about your knee...hopefully you will be back on the road soon. Sending hugs from Cape Town Read Less

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