The almost one-year Amsterdam update

This time last year I was buying the last of the Corenza Cs and Sinucons, saying some sad and very socially distanced or online farewells, and hustling (Andrew, not me) with authorities to get all the paperwork from the Dutch and South African sides to ensure we could get on our repatriation flight. I was also going for nail, hair and waxing appointments, knowing it was the last time I’d not be paying huge fees (I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that beauty treatments here aren’t cheap).

I was also trying to shop online in Dutch so that we would have groceries on arrival, and I was putting Google Translate through its paces communicating with the handyman who was going to IKEA to collect all our furniture, and then assemble it. We were doing our best to have as soft-as-possible landing (metaphorically), and it really did set us up for an incredible, beautiful and hard year that made me grateful each day.

I’m saving it all for the official anniversary post next week, so here’s a little update on what’s been happening recently.

We’re going out more

Now that things are open, we’ve been trying new restaurants, and I feel like there are worlds and worlds here we still need to explore – in Amsterdam and out. I’m feeling a little panicked by how much I still want to cover. Andrew and I even had our first date out in what felt like eleventy and twenteen months (actually 15 months) – dinner in de Pijp and then a beautiful walk home.

We’re looking at hiring a car on weekends and exploring new areas. On that note, we took out a car a few weekends ago, and I really wanted to give it a go, so I drove. It’s like relearning my brain and hands, but it all went smoothly.

We’re fully vaccinated

Say no more!

We had to change our July holiday plans

This was a hard one, and something we battled with until the last time Cyril said in his address that Gauteng was closing to non-business travel… but we cancelled our flights to South Africa. It was heartbreaking on every level, but we didn’t want to risk not being able to see everyone (our family is split in three provinces) or get stuck.

We’re going to Croatia for two weeks and I’m ecstatic – it will be our first holiday since February last year (not counting public holidays we’ve had). I plan to read, run, read, run, drink gin, run, read and drink more gin. I might even throw in some Dutch learning too (read on for reasons why).

I’m learning Dutch… slowly

I’ve mentioned before that in big cities, Dutch isn’t required, and that the Dutch speak English superbly (the best non-English, English speakers in the world, apparently), and no one gets upset or offended when you start chatting in English, without trying to muster a few awkward words in Dutch.

But, it bothers me that I can’t converse in it – usually in the school environment, like parent or teacher Whatsapp groups. This week, there was a class mom gathering at school so that the principal could say thanks for all our help this year. I wanted to understand everything, and I wanted to speak back. I hate that in school-related meetings people have to chat in English because of me. I hate it than whenever I’m in my kids’ classes, I don’t know what to say to the kids because I don’t have the words.

Last week for example, Rebecca’s class had a little thank-you “event” for the class moms and sang a song, and gave us some artwork. All I could say was “thanks” and “how awesome” in Dutch, along with lots of “wows”. I suspect that in some instances I might have even mixed up the words awesome (geweldig) and annoying (vervelend), two words I irritatingly confuse a lot.

Anyway, the learning is a slow process for me. I’m not magically fluent from watching football and tennis with Dutch commentary, nor from reading Rebecca Dutch books with awful pronunciation. While I’m going to lessons, it still involves time and learning, which I’m not always doing.

Also, and the city Dutch are known for this – each time you say a few broken words in Dutch, they’ll reply in English, which is at once a blessing and curse. A blessing because I don’t know how else to say what I want to say beyond that first sentence, and a “curse” because how am I going to learn what to say next if I can’t practise?

Anyway, I’m strongly motivated to put more effort into learning, so here’s hoping I can have little conversations within the next few months.

I visited an eye specialist

An orthoptist… have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but it’s a specialist optometrist who deals with eye issues such as squints and double vision. I have a bit of the latter, and a squint apparently (eek), so I was referred to an orthoptist during a routine eye exam with an optometrist.

A few tests later (including wearing an eye patch for an hour to see how the eyes worked afterwards), and I need to wear glasses 24/7 without prisms for the double vision (like my previous script) to see if things correct themselves. My orthoptist (see how I fling that word around often now) said that they’re not always fans of prisms because the eyes get “lazy” and might need to be tightened surgically.

My orthoptist (there it is again) gave me a script, I chose some frames at a glasses shop, and now I’m awaiting my 24/7 glasses and sunglasses. In three months I’ll go back for an assessment.

PS: I think I’ve mentioned before that you can’t just go to a specialist – you need your huisarts (GP) to refer you to one, and you can either choose your own, or they can find someone for you. The reason is two-fold from what I understand – partly because they’re your main contact and keep an oversight of your health and who you’re seeing, and partly for health insurance purposes.

To be honest, I was frustrated when I knew I had to see the orthoptist that I had to jump some hoops in order to make an appointment, but it was really quick and organised. I phoned the huisarts, spoke to the receptionist/gatekeeper/organiser/hustler, and 15 minutes later a doctor called me to find out more. Then 15 minutes after that, I had a referral letter and a reference number to quote when making the orthoptist appointment (the reference number is for the medical aid).


Here are some pics from around town (city).

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