It’s that time of year again. It’s the 2nd anniversary of our move to The Netherlands! In preparation for celebrating this second anniversary, I had a look back at the one year anniversary post from last year and found that while year one was an up and down rollercoaster of emotions and trying to settle in, year two proved to be a little calmer, although it had its own set of challenges.
We kicked off our second year with an awesome trip to Iceland, and, while that was a lot of fun, we were also a bit apprehensive about how the coming year would go. As we wound down on year one, almost every single one of my close friends was leaving the area. I wasn’t really sure how it would feel to “start over” again. In addition, we were nervous about the teacher that our youngest had as she was pretty tough. And, our oldest had struggled a lot with letting go of the life we had in The States and accepting the life we currently had in The Netherlands. On top of that, we were going through the process of buying our house in The Netherlands and making decisions about what to do with our house in The States. There was a lot to be uncertain about.
As we started back to school, I was a bit down without my friends, though I did still have one close friend that I did several things with. Having her around really helped a lot, and, as I was now heading up the PTSA group at the school, I tried to really force myself to get to know several other parents, both new and returning. While most of the friendships were not quite as close this year as the ones the year before, I did find that I enjoyed many of the people, and we were able to do things together. I also found ways to be in touch with some of my friends from the year before, which was nice as well. We even began working on planning a trip to London to spend a weekend together which was one of the goals that I had for our second year here (spoiler alert-Covid ruined that). I was also working on the goal of doing a regular biking activity with a few of the moms at the school and had a schedule of excursions planned (spoiler alert-the weather ruined that). So, as we moved into the Fall, I felt pretty good about our social life. I was in a Bunco group, weekly tennis lessons, a bookclub, and had coffee and lunches regularly with other moms. We also had another family or two that we enjoyed doing things with regularly. We had even socialized with our neighbors a couple of times. By the start of 2020, I had rejoined a choir and a yoga class. Those old feelings from year one of being out of place and uncomfortable were there sometimes, but for the most part, we felt like we had found a niche, and we felt more connected to the customs and celebrations here and more prepared in how to handle the ins and outs of our daily lives here.
At school, the kids were facing a few struggles. Socially, there were some tough situations facing both of them, but nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary for their ages. Our oldest was also facing struggles with the Student Council that she was heading up and our youngest was having some issues with the classroom environment. Overall, though, they were doing well. The oldest seemed to have finally let go of the hangups regarding old life versus new life and was enjoying one of her friendships here in particular. She was enjoying several of her classes and her music and she even had a weekly dog walking job. The youngest was enjoying extracurricular activities. learning a new instrument and socializing with friends. Overall, there seemed to be a more positive outlook on things.
In the first half of the second year, we were able to take several trips which were a lot of fun. We also did several things around The Netherlands. We were able to have my mom for a visit at Christmas time. We were looking forward to several upcoming trips and activities. And then, the second half of our second year arrived and with it came Covid. It seemed like everything changed overnight. The kids were no longer in school and hence their social lives came to a screeching halt. Our youngest struggled with this tremendously. Our oldest felt glued to the computer for classes and assignments and missed being able to be in person with her friend. My social life also came to a halt. There were no more activities, no more seeing friends and because everyone was spending so much time assisting and monitoring their kids’ distance learning, there was little communication with anyone. In addition, all of our trips that we had been looking forward to were canceled, the visit from my mom was canceled and several special school activities were canceled. We were not very happy.
At the same time though, we were getting to spend a little more time together. We were taking a lot of walks, eating lunch together, our oldest and I were working on a daily music challenge which required spending many hours a week together, and I was able to give some real attention to helping our youngest improve school and organizational skills. On a personal note, I was working out and meeting some fitness goals and I was exploring a new interest in art and card making. It was far from an ideal situation, but we were trying to make the best of it.
We finally made it back to school for a few weeks just before the end of the year. Though we were a little nervous, the kids were glad to be back and got to have a few of the regular end of school activities which was nice. But life was pretty quiet, and I could feel a small negative aspect to all the staying distant. That feeling of being a little out of place and uncomfortable was growing. Now, going to the store or having to interact with Dutch people felt a little worse than it previously did. Driving, biking or having to take transport somewhere felt a little overwhelming. It was like a little backslide thanks to all the months of isolating in our English speaking, Americanized home and school environment where we were not forced to be a part of Dutch society at all. And, it also made very clear that I had failed miserably at one of my goals for year two which was learning more Dutch. It has been a bit of an unsettling realization.
But, as we finish year two, we are trying to remain positive. We just got to take our first real trip since Covid began, and it was a lot of fun. We also have recently been able to get together with the other family that we like to do things with, and it was really nice to be social again. We are still really enjoying living in The Netherlands, and we like the area that we live in a lot. There are a lot of nature areas near us, and we really enjoyed walking in and photographing those areas in the spring. There are also still a lot of things to do in the area and in nearby European locations. And we still really love the international nature of our life here and getting to know people from so many different places.
But, as with every year it seems, with those positives come the struggles. Again this year, we had to say goodbye to some friends at the end of this year, we just found out that our closest friends will no longer be at our school next year, Covid is still wreaking havoc making everything for this year (school, socializing, travel, etc. an uncertainty and at times a fear), and we are not sure where we will be at the end of year three and with that uncertainty comes a lot of decisions and potential stress. It seems the only thing we can do is hang on and try to make the most of year three, whatever that looks like.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to take a look back at the goals we had for year two and set some goals for our third year. Of course, as we learned from Covid, and at times from the expat life in general, life may just come along and make all of these goals impossible. In which case, it will be time to make some new goals.
Year Two Goals
- Learn more Dutch -oops…socializing, PTSA work and watching TV took precedence.
- Visit more places (we’ve got some really great vacations and day trips on the horizon that we are really looking forward to)-we tried, we really did but Covid just messed this one up.
- Take some biking excursions and/or work up a biking group with some friends-I did one with friends and we did one as a family. Dutch weather is hard, you guys!
- Take a small ladies trip or do some other exploring locally with friends-I went to some Christmas markets downtown with some friends and to a friend’s store opening in another city, does that count? Again, Covid reared its ugly head and blocked my ladies’ weekend away plans.
What I learned from these goals this year- reaching goals can be hard especially when things outside of your control interfere or when you just really don’t commit to something. But you can always adjust your goals and explore goals you didn’t know you really had. I added some goals this year after setting these original goals-
- Complete the Kiliminjaro Climb challenge with my oldest-did it
- Push for and join a parent/teacher choir at school-did it (though it was short-lived thanks again to Covid)
- Lose weight and get in better shape-did it
And now….Year Three Goals
- Take some family bike excursions to work up to a several hour biking trip in the spring/summer.
- Visit more places-I’m not giving up on this one; I just need Covid to cooperate!
- Complete a couple of artistic projects that I have worked up as well as a cross-stitch that I have been doing on and off for about 20 years (mostly off which is probably the problem).
- Walk for an hour at least 3 times a week.
- Play tennis weekly with another couple and with moms at school (again I need Covid to cooperate)
And so, with some reflection on this past year, a positive outlook and fresh goals in mind, we are ready to jump into year three of our overseas journey. Thank you for coming along with me on this journey for another year. Happy anniversary and away we go!!
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