Saturday, 29 September 2012

Little Update

My's been a long, long time since I've posted on here.  I don't know how it happened.  More than a year has gone by, without me even looking at blogger.  And lots has happened since then!  Most importantly, my boyfriend and I got engaged around this time last year.  We decided that we wanted to hold our wedding in Canada, so we've been working on the plans for our day since then.   I'm really excited for the wedding (though I often have nightmares that something on the day is going wrong).  Mostly, I'm super excited that all of my now fiance's family are coming to Canada!  I think it's amazing that they are willing to make the trip with us.  This is no small sacrifice, as a lot of our friends and family have children, and obviously flying with a whole family isn't cheap.  But most of the important people in our lives are willing to make the trip with us.

What I've always envisioned about my wedding day, is that it would be so special to have all the important people in my life in one room.  I'm so looking forward to having both the special people from Canada and the special people here in the same place.  This is even more special, because normally these two halves of my life are separated.  

I'm curious about how my "schoonfamilie" (in-laws) will react to our traditions in Canada and our way of life.  My father-in-law to be (though in Holland they would already call him my "schoonvader") doesn't speak any English, so it will also be interesting to see how he reacts to everything.  

Thank God for the internet!  Without it I think our planning from a distance would be impossible.  I'm going to try to be a little more active on here, because I actually do enjoy posting!

Monday, 21 March 2011


One of my best friends from Canada was here this weekend with her boyfriend and new baby.  These were our first house guests in our new house, and I had been looking forward to their visit since Christmas when they said they were planning a trip this way.  Their upcoming visit was also a great reason to get our attic ready for visitors.  We've got a proper little guest room up there now.  

It was absolutely wonderful to have them here and to show them some of our life here.  Definitely "gezellig".  It always feels so strange and fun to have people from my life in Canada here in this life.  We spent Saturday showing them around the town where I work and later around Zwolle.  It was such a great, sunny spring day and so fantastic to spend time with good friends in the sun.  

The last month of work has been incredibly, incredibly busy and at times I really didn't know how much longer I could handle that kind of pressure.  It actually doesn't show any sign of slowing down at work, but I noticed today that my energy was so much better.  Time with good friends can do that I suppose.  Next weekend we are off to Amsterdam with our friends again and I can't wait! 

Certainly, my friends and family have been the most difficult thing to give up while living outside of Canada.  But being away has also made me appreciate the preciousness of good friendships and how important time with "my people" is.  I've decided (as a result of how much I enjoyed myself this weekend) that it is important for me to put more time into "cultivating friendships"...often we are so busy with so many less important things that we forget to make this a priority.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Language barrier?

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful spring day.  We were a little late getting going with our usual Saturday morning errands, but I had a great little sleep-in and it felt good to rest up a little bit after a very busy week at work.  The market in Zwolle was crowded by the time we got there.  Usually we try to get there quite early to avoid the crowds.  The sun was so beautiful that we decided to stop and enjoy it while having a coffee at one of the restaurants ("lekker op terrasje zitten" as the Dutch would say).  To our surprise, an English speaking couple sat down across from us: a Canadian woman and an Irish man.  We spent about an hour and a half chit chatting.  

Sometimes I forget just how fantastic it can feel to speak your own language to someone!  I am lucky that I am able to speak English and Dutch to my colleagues at work (at least a couple of them).  This means that they understand what I mean even when I am speaking my mish-mash of English with a few Dutch words in between.  What I really noticed yesterday was how much easier it feels when chit chatting with total strangers to at least be able to speak your own language.  It was a real treat.  

Friends of mine from Canada will be in town to visit next weekend.  It will be the first time we've had overnight guests in our new house.  We've been busy getting things ready for them...knowing that people are coming is definitely a good incentive to get things organized here!  I'm really looking forward to having people from home over here and staying in our home!  And to speaking English all weekend long with a girlfriend of mine who probably knows what I want to say before I even open my mouth.  

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tax time

It's that time of year again....crocuses are coming up, the days are getting longer, it's almost Spring!  This also means it's time to file your taxes!  While the deadline in Canada is April 30th for filing your tax return, here it is April 1st.  I was just thinking back to my first year here, and how much scarier a process this was for me than it always was filing taxes "back home".  First of all, I had no idea that in order to file my taxes, I would need to have a "digid".  Someone did actually mention to me that I would need to apply for one, so I made sure to arrange this right away.  I got all of the papers in the mail, and put them in a safe place with my salarisstroken (pay stubs) and jaaropgave (T4 back home) and figured I would take all of that to the appointment with a local accountant which I had arranged.  Later, I realized that I needed to activate the digid by a certain date or the activation code would expire...I of course did this too late, so had to apply for a new one again!  Aaah!  

I remember walking to my appointment with the accountant, because at that point in time I didn't even own a bike.  The office was probably 4 kms from where I lived.  This is of course not far at all, but I remember being unsure of where it was and afraid I would show up late etc.  Looking back, I see how small my world was at that point in time.  I walked everywhere, and the essential parts of my life existed in probably a 1km radius. 

The tax return did end up being completed in time, and the accountant managed to get some money back from the money I had spent on health insurance in my first year.  Since I had only been there half the year, I hadn't earned much and qualified for some sort of tax break!  However, going to the accountant led to a pretty steep bill (which came I think 3 months later or so!).  I didn't trust myself to do it alone, online, in Dutch at the time.  So, I didn't have a problem spending the money to ensure the job was done properly, but looking back I suppose I could have found a Dutch person to help me out with it.  

This year my bf will be doing it for me (yay!).  I feel like I have to excuse my laziness and dependence here by saying that I always did my own taxes in Canada (literally from the time I was 16 years old).  I actually feel like this is the first year where I might have tried doing my taxes here on my own, but apparently since we live together now it makes sense to file them together.  This sounds a little complicated, so I will let him handle it.  I've got all the papers together...and have a brand new digid seems every year I have to arrange this all over again since I lose the code from the year before.  And every year I curse the Dutch government for having coming up with this crazy thing. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

I spent this Saturday at a typical Dutch birthday party (or fairly typical sitting in a circle at this one).  At such an event, family and friends of the "jarige" (person celebrating) are invited to come and eat cake, drink coffee and chit chat for a few hours.  The polite thing to do when you arrive is to congratulate the person whose birthday it is...but also everyone else who's there.  I found this pretty strange the first time.  My boyfriend started going around the room, shaking everyone's hand and saying "gefeliciteerd", of course without warning me that this was the custom.  

At this birthday party, I had a bit of a chat with one of my boyfriend's uncles.  I've met him before, but he seemed to forget where I was from I had to give the usual explanation about what I was doing here and where I came from/why etc.  When I told him I was Canadian, he began to tell me how he remembers being freed by the Canadians at the end of WWII.  Hearing these sorts of stories never fails to bring me to tears.  (I cry easily...but still.)  Being here, and meeting people who lived through that time, makes you realize that that time wasn't so long ago.  It also makes me realize how lucky I am to have been born at the time and place I was.  I have met people here who were literally in concentration camps or prison camps during the war, and it is amazing to see how resilient they are.  They have gone on to make wonderful lives for themselves, despite all they have seen and been through.   

Sunday, 13 February 2011


We took a great little walk in the forest today.  I think this is going to become part of our normal weekend routine.  I'm so looking forward to the days getting longer so that we can enjoy the nearby forest after work too.  I never thought of the Netherlands as being a forest-rich country, but really there are tonnes of great spots for walking or biking.  I also think one of the great things about this country is the amount of bike paths.  Running and biking is so much safer with these paths.  Last summer we spent a couple of weeks in the south of France for vacation, and I nearly risked my life trying to run along the road there.  Though it's only mid-February, you can really notice that the days are getting longer and warmer. Here are some photos from our walk today.

This last photo is of what the Dutch call "heide".  I am pretty sure that it would be called heather in English.  When it's in bloom it's beautiful!  (see below)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Big City Love

I went into Amsterdam today to run a few errands, taking the train from where I live in the East.  (Actually, due to work on the train tracks, I actually had to drive to Amersfoort first...but that's beside the point.)  I was slightly shocked at how happy it made me to be in a big city for a little while.  I always treat myself to a starbucks drink when arriving, and as I exited Amsterdam Centraal latte with my latte, I thought to myself "heerlijk".  Seriously...I actually thought it in Dutch.  These things have been happening more and more often lately.  Last week while driving, I started yelling at another driver in Dutch.  I suppose it's a sign I've integrated. 

My boyfriend has exactly the opposite reaction to the busy feel of a city like Amsterdam.  He would much rather live in a smaller, quieter place.  That's actually a big reason why we've chosen to live really close to the national forest here (The Veluwe).  I on the other hand, loooooove the convenience of being in a large centre.  There are a million fun things about Amsterdam, but I think what I really enjoy most is that there I can find basically everything I could ever want or need.  The last few years that I lived in Canada, I lived in Toronto and I loved that too.  Toronto has lots of great little neighbourhoods and tonnes of amazing shops and after a few years, I knew exactly where to go for whatever I needed.  I had a favourite card store, clothing store, coffeeshop etc.  Unfortunately, where we live is so small that none of those things exist here.  So today, with my Starbucks in hand...I almost felt like I was at home!   The only thing missing was my Canadian girlfriends.