When we landed in Amsterdam, I stood up to get a good look at the woman who had been kicking my seat, stretching out enough to stick her fingers in my hair, and passing her 3-year-old daughter over my head to her husband in another row for the entirety of a 7 hour plane ride. If she weren’t French, I would have glared. However, the French tend to think glaring is a sign of friendship so I chose not to.
The Amsterdam airport is like a high fashion mall. The stores were amazing and the women were all wearing the exact same thing: knee-high boots over jeans/pants and a trench coat with a large scarf. They all looked so stylish and put together that I could only imagine what they thought of the lazy-eyed Americans coming off the plane in the ski jackets and hiking boots. I’m glad I packed ONE nice pair of shoes.
As I sat and waited for David to find his parents (no cell-phone service = finding your ride the old fashioned way), I watched two men cleaning a 20 foot high glass partition with long squeegees and soap. I had never seen two men appear more gleeful yet scientific about cleaning glass. With each stroke of the squeegie, they stopped and seemed to discuss what their next move would be to accomplish clean glass in the most effective and beautiful way. It was a good indication of what was to come.
People in Holland don’t waste time with the niceties of America. When I asked my father-in-law how to say “Excuse me” in Dutch when I’m walking through a crowd, he couldn’t answer me. A native Dutchman himself, he thought and thought and finally decided people in Holland didn’t say excuse me; they just walked towards where they needed to be and respected each other’s time and space enough to get out of the way.
The house rented for the family is beautiful; over 100 years old and filled with fabulous European flair and history. The town here, Sommelsdijk (Sum-mel-stike) is fabulous with it’s long brick roads, quickly darting small cars, pedestrians with reusable bags, and children with the independence of teenagers. No one uses paper towels or napkins (in fact, you can’t even find them in the grocery store without hunting); everyone prefers cloth napkins. The woman at the restaurant we ate at for dinner was so thrilled with the 2 Euro my father-in-law left her for a tip that she ran out an entire box of Speculas (ginger cookies) and put them in his pocket before we made it to the street. And the BIKES. Everyone rides a bikes. I saw a mother riding with one child on the back of her bike and an infant sitting up like a toddler in the front of her bike, all while helping her oldest (maybe 4 years old) navigate his way through the streets on the bike next to her. It was amazing how healthy this culture looked in comparison to the Detroit airport from which I’d just flown.
We immediately began wolfing down meats and cheeses and bread (because these are the three food groups in Holland) and quickly fell asleep. The only way I knew what day it was today was because the “Friday” box was the next one in my vitamin holder to still contain vitamins.
So here I sit in my bed, a twin the rests comfortably about a foot off the ground and feels strangely reminiscent of marshmallow pudding, thinking about how after a single day in Holland, I am already changed for the better.