My recent lesson: Always take an umbrella

At least once a day, I have an “OMG, I actually live in Amsterdam” moment. It could be when I’m running along the canals, or riding on my bike with my basket full of groceries, or at a famous museum that is on our doorstep (sorta). It also happens frequently when I’m introducing myself to global team members, and I say something like “Hi, I’m Tanya from the Amsterdam team”. I mean, we actually live here! (pinches self).

The kids impress me daily with their bravery in walking through the school gate each day with a smile and ready to face a day in Dutch (the teachers speak English, so they do communicate with the kids). Rebecca settled brilliantly from day one, and leaves each morning excitedly on her scooter. On her birthday next week she’ll move from the kindergarten to the real school, and she’s had two half-day trials in her new class and adapted well.

She went for a routine checkup with a GP and a vaccination (she was up to date in South Africa, but needed one more here before she turns six). We had to send her vaccination record to the health department, and then we literally got a callup letter a few weeks ago, asking us to take her for a free checkup and jab.

Rebecca’s bravery certificate

Max just received a similar callup, and we need to make an appointment for him to go for a jab too. He was completely up to date in South Africa, but they want him to have an extra one (I don’t know what it’s for yet).

Max and his class go each week to a huge school garden, specifically for kids to learn about flowers, fruit and veggies. Max brings home herbs and veggies that he’s picked each week, along with some flowers. The garden is close to their school, so they walk there and back.

A few weeks ago, Max’s teacher asked for volunteers to be class mom (each class has three), and I put my hand up as they like having new moms onboard, plus I thought it would be a great way to learn more about the school and integrate further. I’ve been “class mom” a few times for both kids, and there hasn’t been much to do. This time, we are meeting with the teacher, and the other two moms and I are having a pre-meeting, so this feels like serious business. I’ll report back.

My cycling is going a little better. Last week I had two “breakthrough” rides – the first to an area called De Pijp, and the second to the big Zuid station. It was good venturing out my enclave, though I’m still wobbly and petrified when I hear a motorbike behind me, or have to veer from something.

The weather is getting cooler, and our container still hasn’t left South Africa, and our wait is around another two months, so I’ll likely be without my winter boots and scarves until proper winter. We will likely need to do lots of winter wardrobe shopping, and fortunately nothing in the container is urgent, though the coffee machine would be amazing (the poor husband has to Aeropress about five cups a day for each for us). I did buy a hand blender to make soups, and I eagerly await the reunion with the Kenwood Chef and Nutribullet.

Things I’ve discovered in the last week:

  • Kruidnoten – they’re like little ginger biscuits, in different varieties, and often coated in chocolate. I will NEVER buy these again. I pretty much ate a whole packet in one sitting – they are delicious, though Max didn’t like them (yay, there were more for me).

Kruidnoten are typically eating for Sinterklaas. What’s this, you might ask? Well, according to Iamsterdam, every November, Sinterklaas travels from his home in Spain to the Netherlands, bringing kids presents and special treats. The day after he arrives in the Netherlands, he traditionally takes part in a colourful parade through Amsterdam.

The arrival festivities include a boat parade and horse parade through the city. Children line the route to wave at Sint and his friends, as traditional sweets rain down upon them. The Sinterklaas festivities continue on a daily basis until the main celebration on 5 December.

  • Runners don’t run facing oncoming traffic! I’ve never noticed this as the few times I’ve gone out, I’ve been in parks, or other runners haven’t been out and about. Basically, they run with bikes and cars coming from behind, and it was terrifying to watch. I’ll stick to the way I know as I have trust issues.
  • While education is free, kindergarten and aftercare aren’t, and they’re expensive. You can apply for a grant, and the government pays back a percentage. We still need to apply for this – it can take a few months until you’re paid back. In the meantime, we’ll fork out a few hundred euros each month for Rebecca’s aftercare.
  • I’m not as bad at looking after plants as I thought I was. I now have three orchid plants (one doesn’t have flowers, but is still alive), a bonsai-type plant, five baby plants, and five other plants, two of which are large, under my care. Nothing has died on my watch, which is a pleasant surprise as I don’t have a great track record.
  • One must take an umbrella and raincoat everywhere, even if there’s no sign of rain. We have been caught in unexpected rains several times and the weather literally changes quicker than I can even put on that raincoat. I got quite a few recommendations for raincoats, but we bought on sale from Rains, a Danish brand, and they repel the rain superbly. I got decent ones for the kids from Zara Kids.
  • I had to get some party packs for Rebecca’s party at school, so I headed to Action to get toys (sweets and chocolates are forbidden, even kosher ones. Action can be likened to Westpak at a push, and I got such cute toys and even a well-priced Barbie for Rebecca. They also have a large range of sweets and chocolates, and I nabbed a large white Toblerone and some Reese’s peanut butter cups. I could have spent ages in there and I would have bought more if not for the fact that I’m not Dutch and cannot ride a bike AND carry a big load. On that note, during my Saturday-morning run, I saw a man on a regular-sized bike with three kids in the front, and one at the back. He went by so quickly that I couldn’t gather how exactly the kids were seated, and how many fitted seats there were on the bike.

Here are some pics from our day in the Hague last weekend. It rained for a bit while we were there, and I was ill-prepared – no raincoat or umbrella!


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