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Today I finally saw a doctor here about my knee problems.

For some time now, I’ve been sorting out eligibility, getting health insurance and finding a doctor. These things haven’t been hard, but they have been a little time consuming. And even though the amount of time consumed was reasonable, when you’re hurt or sick 5 minutes seems too long to wait. Navigating the Dutch health system has not been overly complicated, especially given that I have a local to help me. But even still, that which is new and unknown intimidates me.

But awesomeness of awesomes, we managed to enroll with a doctor’s group practice (huisarts groepspraktijk) only 1.5 blocks away from us. I mean, short of house calls, it doesn’t get much better than this! And given my state of mobility this morning, it was a good thing I only had to manage 1.5 blocks.

The doctor came highly recommended by a friend of Wouter and he was everything I could have hoped for: friendly and funny, attentive, thorough and extremely capable in English. (This last thing was not a surprise, but a relief, none-the-less.) But… and here we arrive at our major our cultural difference of the day… he was very conservative and non-interventionist in his approach.

Dear readers, I don’t intend to pooh-pooh this approach right from the starting gate. Nor was this an entirely unexpected turn of events. I often get shocked looks from friends when I mention my affinity for Tylenol PM on long-haul red-eye flights or when I confess to taking NyQuil for a cold or when I suggest that Wouter pop an ibuprofen or two for soreness after one of his indoor football matches. So it was not a surprise when, after an intensive and painful examination of my knee (I may have whimpered), Dr. Dutch sat me down, made a diagnosis, showed me some exercises to loosen and strengthen things up, wrote me a prescription for stronger pain/anti-inflamatory meds and sent me on my way. And you know what? Part of me wonders if the prescription was an afterthought, thrown in at the last minute just to ease me into the Dutch way of doing things.

This experience stands in stark relief to the treatment I received for these same knee troubles just a few weeks ago in the US: X-rays and MRIs were ordered, surgery was discussed, referrals to an orthopedist were made, all without a diagnosis. (When I mentioned the orthopedist referral, Dr. Dutch exclaimed: “Oh no! Please don’t go to an orthopedist!”)

Interventionist or not, I don’t care as long as I start feeling better. And while the physical problems remain, I am extremely relieved that surgery is not looming. At this point I don’t really know which approach to medical care I prefer:  Dr. America’s “let’s get this fixed NOW!” or Dr. Dutch’s “well, let’s just see how this goes first.” While I would prefer to feel better NOW, having a diagnosis and a plan of action makes me feel so much better than waiting in limbo for the surgeons. So for the time being it’ll be “when in Rome,” I suppose, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Last Friday the 30th was Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), the Dutch national day. It is celebrated every year in honor of the queen’s birthday… well, actually the queen’s mother’s birthday. One the first acts of the current queen, Beatrix, when she was crowned was to declare that Koninginnedag would remain on April 30th to honor her mother. But really I think it was strategic– you’re more likely to have nice weather at the end of April than in the middle of January, on Beatrix’s birthday.

The centerpiece of the Koninginnedag experience is the Vrijmarkt, a nationwide garage sale. On this one day of the year, you don’t need a permit to sell things, so people flock to the streets to sell their old junk. I find this to be totally weird– to celebrate the queen by trying to get rid of old children’s toys, clothing and vhs tapes. But people are crazy about it– heading out days ahead of time with chalk and tape to mark off their space on the sidewalks. And those vying for primo real estate even camp out the night before to be certain that no one steals their spot.  And great effort is made to get the kids out there selling so they can get some extra pocket money– centrally located parks and streets in Amsterdam are set aside for the kids. Our downstairs neighbor’s daughter made 90 Euro selling cake! Now that’s some serious pocket money!

Apart from the Vrijmarkt, the day is just one big street party. Everyone dons some orange and hits the streets for shopping, eating, drinking(, smoking), and general merriment. This year Wouter and I, along with his brother, sister-in-law and another good friend, hit the canals on a party boat with a group of about 60. This thing was massive, built to hold 100, complete with many kegs of beer, crates of wine, small snacks, a DJ and two toilets (OMG, thank goodness!). We toured the main canals of Amsterdam, blasting dance music and generally making a spectacle of ourselves. I cannot imagine a better way to spend Queen’s Day!

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Flickr Koninginnedag 2010 photoset.

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I arrived this morning early (but hardly bright), back in the Netherlands for another stint of cohabitation. So from here on out things should be a bit more active in this space.

Today felt like a real move-in day. Part of this was due to the fact that I brought WAY more crap than usual. Relatedly, Wout met me at the airport which was a fantastic change of pace– usually I have to wait (woe is me, haha) until after work to see him. The morning also involved some phone calls and trips about town to make my living here official. Unsurprisingly, we discovered that this wont be an entirely straightforward process… although it seems like it will be manageable.

Sorting through shoes
Readying for the move sorting shoes shoes shoes!

Still it was nice to find that somethings stay the same and I can slip right back into my life here– knowing how to get home on public transit without looking at the timetables, popping into the neighborhood shops for favorite snacks and supplies, knowing exactly where everything is in the apartment and where most everything in my suitcase should go, not expecting (or getting) a single ray of sunshine (ah spring).

Howdy Neighborhood!

And maybe best of all, the silent greeting from the across the street neighbor who spends hours everyday looking out his window. He just stands there, watching what’s going on in the street but never speaking to anyone. Always wearing a white top and occasionally donning a stripped hat (a la Where’s Waldo) when it’s cold. Our own local zen master. His ritual appearance was a nice “welcome back.”

Howdy Neighbor!Howdy neighbor!

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