Feeling: HEEL NEDERLANDS (“Very Dutch”)

Feeling: HEEL NEDERLANDS (“Very Dutch”)

I feel a real affinity with my Dutch side.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel true ties to the Pole in me and my Kiwi family means the world. But there’s something about my Nederlandic ancestry that I really feel akin to.

I ”twas in Holland for a day and a half, but I saw a good 30 per cent of my family members. Some drove an hour to see me, another set changed their travel date to France so they could come have a coffee, Opa’s 85-year-old brother and his wife made the effort to come over for a hug. Last night a group of cousins and aunties came over and stayed until 1am catching up and having wines and laughing, laughing, laughing.

The most of them speak English so we can converse, but when they slip into Dutch I just love it. Here and there I pick up a word or two and can follow the conversation for a strand, but even when I can’t I just love to listen. People say the Dutch language is a horrendously ugly reverberation, but I think the guttural “G”s and sometimes dopey-resonating words are just magic. I always loved hearing my Opa talk in his real tongue and hearing our family friends chatter when I was a kid, and here is just 10-point-oh.

I spent yesterday until 14:00 with Uncle Frans and Wijna, with cousin Simone (she came to NZ when I was six and she was 24; last year I stayed with her when I was 24, and her daughter was six. Guess I’ll have to keep this going and procreate to have a six-year-old in 17 years time) and her mother Neske (the one who was the one to term me “Poppy”) coming over in the a.m. Then the doorbell went and there was Uncle Kas (another of Opa’s brothers) and his wife Leni there on the doorstep.

With each of them, Frans made sure to mention two things: 1. He and Wijna are going to downsize to an apartment, but have a room for me to live with them next year, and 2. That I had gained 4kg and looked, “Beter, zo veel beter!” I love the Dutch bluntness; over breakfast he squeezed my arm and said, “Hoeveel kilo’s, 4, 5 kb?” (“How many kilos, 4, 5kg?”). And I found instead of being pierced with absolute devastation as I usually am, I smiled and said, “Four now.”

He was so proud. So impressed. When they dropped me at Anneleis’ in the afternoon, he made a point of making them all stand and look at me where a consensus was made that I looked a lot better. For a recovering anorexic/obsessive orthorexic, such a show is somewhat desolation-inducing, but their happy happy happy faces made me smile back and even eat half a stroopwaffle. (I know, what?!).

I’ll admit; part of me was terrified about coming back to Holland because I just knew the addition to my frame would most definitely be mentioned. But I decided it’s not going to get me down; if I didn’t look “better” they wouldn’t say so – likewise, if something had happened and I’d had a full blow out, they’d be sure to say as well. (Imagine: “You’ve gained too much, you looked better before.” Seriously, they would tell me).

Being back has all the memories of last year disemboguing in; tit bits that don’t necessarily spring to attention when I think of my time in The Netherlands, but absolutely warm me when they swim to the surface. Cousin Dennis making me breakfast after a trip to the supo and spending his carefully accumulated pay from his shitty part-time job on supplies; cousin Camille taking me on his motorbike and being giddy with glee when I asked him to speed up – “My girlfriend won’t even come on it with me!”; going out on the potent sauce with the cousins and dubbing home on Sharon’s bike, only to discover rather than side saddle as I was meant to I was straddling; circuiting the lake for an early morning walk with crazy Aunt Yvonne; getting Yvette up at 4am for luilak – “Lazybones Day” – where you run around the streets banging pots and pans and waking all the neighbours; Aunt Jacqueline gifting me a little wooden heart saying about family being the most special and telling me my visit had highlighted the important of relations. Just the seemingly small things that make up the fizz-feeling whole.

And just the way they welcomed me when I arrived. Honestly, I hadn’t realised the extent of which I was so well received last year. They were all oh so joyous to re-see me, faces alighting with giddiness and all jostling to get the first go. And the remembering of my likes, dislikes and quirks! Anneleis had especially brought me back a packet of vege chips from Spain because she knew I would froth on them. Wijna made her Dutch beetroot and Frans carefully deboned a piece of fish. Yvette especially went to Jumbos (supermarket, pronounced “Uuuumboh” here) to get a jar of appelmoes. Uncle Richard (not Uncle Cock, but actually some kind of cousin married to Anneleis) showed me photos of a retro restaurant in Amsterdam he did the outfit on, saying he thought of how I would love it when he was working there, and saying how his lads at the football club always ask, “How and where is Poppy?” When I went up to Yvette’s room (sharing her bed tonight for a little hello-farewell sleepover) I was so stirred to see the card I wrote her last year pinned centre stage of her “special” noticeboard.

Dennis told me all his football friends were excited I was back and gutted when he said I wasn’t here for the weekend, with handsome Glenn saying he would’ve flown back from Greece for a Saturday night. Him and I (Dennis, not handsome Glenn) went to Uuuuumboh and got some ice creams for everyone after dinner, and he told me he would go to Base Camp first and put a jar of appelmoes every two km to keep me going when I get there in October.

I love Dennis. He is truly my Dutch Brother James. They even look alike; not necessarily crazily similar, but just some expressions and the hair and sometimes the way the face goes. And he has that cheeky Wortman thing going on; what we’ve now termed “The Naught Wort”, apparently my Opa, his favourite sister Will, Uncle Frans, Dennis, James and myself have it. Just a real mischievous streak and “naughty” demeanour. (I’m so glad I’ve made the cut and been included in this grouping).

Sharon told me Anneleis (her mother, sorry if this is getting ultra confusing) said of me coming to stay, “It’s like another of my children coming home”. I was so touched to hear she thought of me in such a regard (then hoped she meant it in a good way – sometimes “It’s like another of my children coming home” can mean quite the polar).

Some more cousins and aunties arrived (I’m not going to name, there’s enough characters in the mix already) and we had a lovely few hours just hanging. Yvette did my nails with gel (a shimmery pink hue, they look sick) (as in rad, not nauseating) and they all departed just after 1am.

I loved it; upon going out to the autos and being rather wine-amped up, all were a bit loud. On crazy Aunt Yvonne being shushed to simmer down, she proclaimed to the neighbouring homes, “Oh fuck off! It’s my niece from Nieuw Zeeland, I’ll be loud.”

My God how I laughed.

Then 4.5 hours sleep and a 6.27am arisel for Schipol Airport.

Last time I left Holland I felt a huge chunk of my heart was being wrenched out. After a month, it was home. And only being here 1.5days this time there’s a definite pang on leaving again. But it’s not so gutting; I am hellbent on coming back again next year (we actually fabricated a big plan on The Pedaller and myself coming back and the cousins all coming to help us move in, be it Spain, Belgium or Holland itself. Might have got a bit carried away with inviting them all to stay with us in an apartment that does not exist and may not actually eventuate, but what the hell).

(Don’t worry; this yarn is almost done if you’re still with me).

It was a swift run at the airport; I was a bit worried about lines with it being holiday season, but I was second in for bag drop off and first through customs.

The staff manning security were so lovely and jovial; one commented on how I was “so so happy!” I replied, “I’m a happy girl!” To which he asked, “Hippie or happy?” Fearful he might decide if it was the former they might frisk me for a rogue doobie, I enthusiastically said, “Happy! NOT hippie!”, blatantly a bit of a lie to the element of bohemian in me. (The lady in charge of the stand-in-screen machine obviously clocked my Indian bejewelled yoga mat bag, Nepalese crotchet headband and somewhat psychedelic-patterned luggage and made me get in for a scan).

I roamed the airport for a bit (got Opa a sick – once again, rad sense not nauseating – wall hanging clog filled with – wooden – tulips; upon The Pedaller calling and me informing him of my urge to go and buy myself one, he said “NO! You really don’t need it”. Obviously witnessing me attempting to cram all the shit in my bag and trying-to-be-casual-but-desperately asking if he could possibly also take another two tapestries with him had him take note), searching the shops (another typ-Pop moment when I saw a soap shop and went for a whiff; the lady asked if she could aid me and I said I just really wanted to come over and smell the clean scent, upon when I clocked it was actually a chocolate shop and the “soaps” were chunks of milk and white) and purchasing a banana with my last euro coin.

When lining up to board, the announcement came that the flight was fully booked so they were going to be very strict on carry on, one per person; I managed to quicksmart hot foot in with my very crammed laptop bag, yoga mat, very-borderline-if-acceptable-sized duffle and shoulder bag, shunting it in the overheadlockers and sitting before they worked out it was all mine (nailed it).

And here I am literally about to take off. (On the wing again. I swear out of the zillion flights I’ve been on in my 22 years, only about three have had me not winging it).

I think the lack of sleep is keeping the sadness at bay. As is the fact I’ll be relocating to live here next year and will come to Dutch football club parties every weekend (apparently; wish I hadn’t pinkie sworn on that one). The thought of once again being in a separate continent to The Pedaller is churning my tum a little, but how quickly the time apart went the first time round and how so certain I feel about us after this past month has me on the ok. (And I had just prepared to leave the same ground when I realised my layover in Zurich means we’re still on the same land for a wee bit longer).

Two things to sign off:

1. Taught a cool life hack (well, if you can call it that). To remember what days of the month have 31 days, whack your clenched hands together and count along from the first as January; all the knuckles are those with 31, with the valleys being the months with 30 (28/29 in the case of Feb).

2. I love how the Dutch say they will “make a picture” when taking a photo. Because, really, that’s what it is, isn’t it?

3. Greatest delight that Schipol is right next to the motorway; the runway is literally just next to you as you drive. The plane-watching-lover in me just fizzes, especially when big planes cross the overbridge above as you pass under.

Doei Europe; thanks for facilitating one of the best and happiest months of my life.

I’ll be back.

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