How Bonita got her groove back

We’ve been back from our life changing trip to the Netherlands since Friday, but have somehow managed to maintain our post vacation buzz. Perhaps it is because we had such a marvelous time. Or because I am relaxed to the very core of my being. The trip was an amazing success, from start to finish.

We went to the Netherlands for my  international high school reunion. It was a happy accident that we spent our first real family vacation among the dutch, who have evolved holiday into an artform. If you want to learn to vacation, look to the Europeans. And the dutch like to have a good time and access to beer at any time of day, which is something I like in a country.

Reconnecting with my dutch self

Reconnecting with my dutch self

Day 1:  Amsterdam

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I can’t believe how familiar everything feels. Of course the city has grown and changed, but the essential dutchness of it all catches me in the smallest of ways. Driving along the rows of identical brick houses. Seeing the bike paths and all the women biking to work in skirts, tights and heels. Standing in front of the WC, fishing out tiny coins in order to get in, because nobody pees for free.

We find a parking spot near a lyceum, just as classes are about to begin. I watch all the high school kids come careening into the school yard on their bikes, carefully parking in the line of bikes without knocking them all over. It’s so familiar as I watch them remove the bungie cords and pull bookbags off their bike racks. Two professors stand on the balcony above the entrance, holding tiny cups of coffee, watching with subdued curiosity. It is all so familar, my heart jumps. Thus begins the trip no one would believe possible: sometimes you really can go home again.

This is the Netherlands I remember.

This is the Netherlands I remember.

Day 3: Reunion

What a great night! We had a record breaking turn-out. It was a bit surreal though. All my insane dancing videos had preceded me. Everytime I would introduce myself to someone, they would say “I know, I’ve seen you on the internet.” They said it with affection, but it was embarrassing. I’m a goofball on-line, where do you go from there?

The party went all night. I got some great time with many dear friends. I rarely reminence, but for the party and the other meet ups with friends, I indulged in hours of remembered stories and incidents. It was touching to reconnect with people who had the shared experience.

4 am Baby!

4 am baby!

I lived in the Netherlands for only three years of my life. Yet it was ages 16-19 which are hugely influetial years. The dutch and international experiences really shaped my world view and my place within it. And it was such a good environment, it was the first time I really found my people and eventually myself, a good-time loving, smart chick who like to work hard, play hard and see the world. I loved the Netherlands and it loved me right back. It’s no coincidence I ended up in Seattle, it parallels the Netherlands in many ways beyond dreary weather.

Day 7: Eindhoven

The general consensus among guidebooks and the internet is that Eindhoven (the city in which I lived) is the red-headed step child of dutch cities. This is a pretty typical description of my beloved city:

You might wonder why a town the size of Eindhoven only merits a page in a guidebook: half an hour there and a few statistics, will tell you why.

I know, right? It’s no Amsterdam, Hague or even Rotterdam. And it lacks the quaint charm of the smaller cities such as Den Bosch or Maastrict. I guess I love Eindhoven the way I love Las Cruces, it’s a party town with heart. What more could a party girl need?

My favorite Eindhoven moment? Well there are a few. The first came the day after the reunion. I had made plans to meet up with a dear friend the next day. She too, is a party girl, and I really underestimated how much she had been drinking at the reunion when we made the plan to meet up .

The next day, when I showed up almost an hour late, she wasn’t there. Thinking she must have gotten a table in one of the cafes nearby, I start looking for her. No luck. So I start looking for a cell phone store, to get a phone, so I might call her. As I’m looking for the store, I pass a random cafe and hear english. Sure enough, it’s her and some other friends. The best part? She had no recollection of our conversation the night before. I just randomly happened to pass by where they were eating. See? Eindhoven takes care of it’s own.

The day after.

My peeps.

And as if that wasn’t cool enough, four days later, I was walking through the market square with Mr. Applebum. As we passed yet another cafe, I recognized a familar face. It was one of the recent graduates from our school, who I had met at the reunion.  I couldn’t believe it, I had been away 18 years and then then two times I walk though the city, I find familiar faces. Don’t be fooled by the guidebooks, Eindhoven is a magical place indeed.

Coda:

It’s impossible to convey how much this trip meant to me. I tried so hard to manage my expectations going into it, yet, it surpassed all my best hopes. I needed to reconnect with this part of myself. I needed to crack the code of how to travel internationally with my kids. I needed Mr. Applebum to see what made me who I am. And he did. And he fell in love with the Netherlands as well.

Chillaxin' in Eindhoven

Chillaxin' in Eindhoven

As for the holiday aspect? I have written about how wound tight I am. It’s so hard for me to relax and just stop worrying about everything. On this vacation, I achieved a level of relaxation that I have never know before. At one point as we were driving along during the first week, I realized there was no tension in my body. I have never felt that relaxed to my core. It’s just like I said, the Europeans know how to holiday. And for that, I am most grateful. We will be back, as soon as we can. We know we ought to go to Spain or Italy next time, but we both could go right back to the Netherlands. And we just might.

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