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Archive for January, 2010

A seemingly Dutch-inspired surrealist painting by Russian artist Vladimir Kush, spotted on TrendLand. Oil paintings, no computer involved, clearly influenced by Dali and yet so original.

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No, this isn’t going to be a long-winded comparison between the two countries. Nor will it be a short-winded comparison.

Wout got us tickets to see the Netherlands and the United States play football/soccer at Amsterdam ArenA on March 3rd!

Would dressing all in red-white-and-blue and donning an American flag cape be too much?

(Whoa, I would never have thought that I would ever don an item of clothing with an American flag on it. And now it might happen.)

NL vs. USA Photo

photo © Amsterdam ArenA

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… and Arrivals

My good friends Tom and Betty just returned to their Swedish second home a couple of weeks ago. They split their time every year between Stockholm and Wisconsin and have certainly become role models for me with regard to living as an expat. As we switched positions last week– me coming to Wisconsin, them heading off to Europe– I found myself a little envious. Sure, I’ll be back to the Netherlands soon and Sweden only a little while after that, but they have Sweden now! Sigh. Lucky.

I got an email from Tom about a week after they arrived– a little update for friends and family about his first week back in his “Svenska Hem.” He always hits the ground running, catching up with old friends, seeking out previously unexplored spots in the city, starting up speaking Swedish from the moment he steps off the plane. Of course, they’ve been doing this back-and-forth for more than half a decade, but I’m just filled with admiration! It always takes me a few days (sometimes weeks) to remember how to live in the Netherlands or Wisconsin when I make the transition. It’s a bit easier coming West, because I have more friends to call and more favorite spots to check out. But still I always feel like I just don’t fit in immediately upon arrival– the city changes, friends have their own lives and things have continued on without me since I’ve been gone.

Maybe part of the problem is that I think too much about how I fit into the lives of the people and places around me. I set myself up as the traveler being reintroduced, trying to pick up where I left off. Maybe Tom’s excels at the transition because he focuses on how the things going on around him fit into his life. With regard to the comings and goings of expat life (or any sort of nomadic living), perhaps it’s important to remember than where ever you go you are the common denominator.

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Comings and Goings

Happiness: the US/EU visa waiver program: three months without a visa!

Sadness: the US/EU visa waiver program: *only* three months without a visa.

As my days in Europe are nearly up, I head back to the US again today. It’s always a sad goodbye, but I think I get better at it every time. Instead of thinking about living alone, I think about how cozy my Wisconsin apartment is in the wintertime. Instead of thinking of making tex-mex dinners together with Wout, I think about the plentiful and cheap tex-mex on offer from any number of ‘lekker’ establishments. Instead of thinking about missing Wout, I think about how much I’ve missed my friends.

It isn’t better than life together, but there is certainly a silver lining.

When will we have the technology to pick up and move cities so Madison and Amsterdam can be neighbors?

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New Year’s Resolution

One of my greatest joys has been (secretly) reading online journals of expats living around the world. I think these journals are probably meant for friends and family at home, but I love these little glimpses into the lives of people who have taken a giant leap into the unknown, attempting and succeeding at making a life in a foreign country.

Sometimes I lose sight of the path that brought me to this exceptional experience and my life doesn’t seem particularly special. I feel as though I’ve stumbled into my present circumstances. But somehow, without noticing it, my life has become like these online journals that I read so faithfully.

So this year, as part of an accelerated 30 before 30 exercise, I’ve decided to start my own journal as an expat. Of course, this is primarily for friends and family to keep up to date with the goings on in my life. But perhaps others might stumble upon these notes, begin to ponder adventures in other countries and find themselves unconsciously making choices that lead them on the path toward a life abroad.

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