Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Artsy Day

On Tuesday we took three busses through the countryside to make our way to a museum tucked inside the National Park.  It's in the part of Holland known as the Veluwe--a lovely forested area.  The bus dropped us at the entrance to the park and we picked up three of the white bikes-to-borrow that are available at various stations.

We rode the bikes into the park to the Kroller-Muller museum.

The paintings in this museum were owned by Helene Kroller-Muller (1869-1939) until economic difficulties in the 1930s.  Rather than selling off the art, Helene donated it to the Dutch State with the condition that the pieces be kept together and that a museum be built for public viewing.

Helene's favorite painter was Vincent Van Gogh and the museum has the largest collection of his works with the exception of the Van Gogh family collection.

Van Gogh: Women Digging Up Potatoes

Van Gogh: Bridge at Arles
Most of the other paintings are modern including several Picassos. 

The girls enjoyed seeing the different styles of art--they were even surprised that some of the modern paintings were famous art work--"They look like scribbles--I think I can paint that!"

Ana did like this one:

There are a variety of sculptures on the lawn of the museum.  Some of them were really modern and made us wonder who left the construction tools out on the lawn.

Our favorite was the floating duck.

It was a good field trip to see some really famous art work.
And some of the art work was huggable.

We took the bikes back out of the park and found our way back to Nijkerk by bus. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Playing Monopoly

The girls and I are enjoying some nights of playing Monopoly together.  We're learning as we play since this is the Dutch version.

The properties are famous sites in Holland..

  • I own Schipol Airport and Amsterdam Central Station--costing the kids a whopping €500,000 in rent when they land on either one.
  • Mia just bought the Dom tower in Utrecht--the one we climbed yesterday--for €1.8 million.  She already owned the highest rental property: Dam Square in Amsterdam.  It costs us €500,000 to land there--and that is without any apartments or hotels.
  • Ana owns the Internet, several properties in Haarlem and a piece of Madurodam--both places we hope to visit in coming weeks.

The kids love the electronic device that keeps track of our money on our Visa debit cards.  I think it is ironic that the ONLY place that Visa is welcome in Holland is on a Monopoly board.

It has been one of the few frustrations of this trip to discover that Holland has its own banking system--involving their own chip cards--and hardly any shops accept international credit cards.  I can't even buy train tickets with my Visa.

Today, I saw this sign at the Kroller-Muller museum--a popular tourist site--and just had to take a picture since it was the first place in all of Holland to accept my Visa.

The other fun part of playing Monopoly in Dutch is that we can't read the "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards.  So we have the computer open to Google translate and have to type in all the cards to find out what they say.
We're learning that je krijgt means "you get,"
betaal means "pay," and
Ga direct near de gevangenis.  Ga niet langs "start." Je krijgt been €2 milioen means, "Go directly to jail.  Do not pass "go," You do not get €2 million.
Yes, the new annual salary of Monopoly is €2 million!
That's US$ 2.8 million.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The View From Up Here

The Netherlands is a relatively flat country, so if you can find a way to get up above the rooftops, you can see for miles on a clear day.  Today was a clear day --and we found the highest point around--the Dom Tower in the city of Utrecht.
After a morning train ride, we met up with a friend of Koekoes (now a friend to us too!)
Corine showed us around town on another warm and sunny day.

Together we climbed the 465 steps to the top of the 111 meter tower.

Yeah!  We made it to the top!

Construction on the Dom Church began in 1280 and stopped in the mid 1500s.  Toward the end of the construction, there wasn't much money for building, so they cut a few corners in the construction of the nave by not doubling the walls and by deleting the buttresses that were commonly used to hold up the enormously high walls.
Notice the secure and ornate buttresses on this wall.
In 1654, a hurricane hit this part of Holland, tearing through the church.  When the wind died down, the tower and the main church remained, but the nave had been completely destroyed. Now there is an open square between the walls of the church and the church's own tower.  From above you can see where they were once connected.

Some of the largest bells in the tower date back to medieval times.  Their tones are accurate to the "do, re, mi" in the musical scale.  Somehow, they had the understanding back then on how large and thick to cast the bell to ring at just the right tone.  The bells are enormous and weigh a ton (actually the largest one is over 9 tons!)  It is named Salvator and 4 trained and fit people have to work together in order to ring it.

Ana and Mia got to be the "ding-a-lings" of our group and ring some smaller bells.

From the top of the tower, we had a postcard view of the city and surrounding area.

 At the end of a long day, it was nice to sit on the train and think about another great day in Holland.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mia learns to bike in Holland

There's really no excuse for us to not have taught Mia to bike sooner, but it's been hard to find time and the right (safe!) place near our house.  What better way to learn than to show up in the one place in the world where everyone rides a bike and even the cars have to give way to the "tweeweilers."

Mia on her bike
We decided to rent bikes for the whole month so we can get around town and go out to see the countryside.  We picked up the bikes at noon and walked them down the block to the local gradeschool that was out for the day.  We had the playground to practice.  Mia got the hang of riding pretty quickly.  Turning corners was a little harder.  After a few minor crashes she figured it out.  But riding in an open lot is a different story than riding alongside the cars on the road--even if you do supposedly have "right of way."

Narrow street in Nijkerk
For first time riders it is hard to stay in that narrow bike-lane on the already narrow streets.  So we walked the bikes back to the apartment and gave it a rest for a few hours.  That evening, Marike came to lead us on bikes from our apartment to her house--through Nijkerk traffic!  Mia did great until the "big hill."  That steep slope scared her into walking the bike for a bit.

The next day we were on the train in the morning and then biked back to the apartment with no problems.  So--the next day--less than 48 hours after Mia learned to ride a bike--we decided to go on a serious ride... (see blog on Spakenburg.)

Bike trip to Spakenburg

Once Mia was an experienced biker--all of 48 hours, we decide to take our bikes 10K from Nijkerk to Spakenburg--over the highway and then out in the open field on the great bike paths of Holland.

Countryside view along the path from Nijkerk to Spakenburg

notice the wide paved bike path separate from the road!
Along the way we stopped to pet a horse.  Couldn't stop for all of the horses, but this one was really handsome!

Stopping to pet the horse on the way to Spakenburg
Spakenburg is an old city that used to be along the sea until the Dutch built the big dike and then reclaimed more land from the water.  Now, there is a canal along the city, allowing the boats to get out--but not right onto the open water.  In this city, some of the local women wear traditional clothing everyday.  We saw only one woman in her full set of skirts and capes, but didn't think it was polite to take a picture, so here's a doll with the traditional clothing.   
Spakenburg traditional clothing
We had already seen a lady dressed like this in Nijkerk.   She had biked from Spakenburg to our town wearing the full traditional outfit!  

Along the canal in Spakenburg

In Spakenburg, we saw our first molen "windmill."  It is no longer in operation, but there was a yummy restaurant off the back side and, since it was my sister's birthday, we decided to have a saucijsebroodje (lit. "sausage bread"--a true 'pig in the blanket') in her honor.  Happy Birthday, Cheryl!

Everyone knows if you ride 10K out, you have to ride 10K to get back home.  Yes, we were tired, and pretty proud of ourselves that we made it (and didn't get too lost along the way.)  

Now, Mia and Ana are all over center of Nijkerk on their bikes--they know their way around--most importantly--the way to get home.

Welkom bij Holland

Yes, we are in the Netherlands!  One week ago, we arrived, tired and weary of long travel from hot southern Africa to the cool dampness of the Netherlands.   The sun followed us and we've had a beautiful week of sunshine and relatively warm weather--still feels cool to us after the heat of Africa but we're not complaining!

We have had an adventurous week--some highs and some hard times too.  But the best way to summarize our time so far is with the word 


We have been so blessed throughout our trip by the generous hospitality of gracious people--our guides in China worked hard to make us comfortable, our dear friends in Botswana opened their homes and their friends became our friends. 

And now--when we had no idea what to expect--when all our other plans fell through and we didn't know where to turn or whom to lean on--God sent even more people to demonstrate his loving care toward us. I'm already melting into a little puddle as I write this.  I thought a week's perspective might make me less weepy, but everyday I am overwhelmed by the welcome that we have been given in this place--and by people who have only known us for 7 days.  

Last fall, my dad went to Nigeria on behalf of the Christian Reformed Church in North America for the 100 year anniversary of the Tiv church.  There he met Marike Blok, who was representing the Dutch church at that same anniversary.  They got to talking and my dad mentioned that I was coming to the Netherlands in March.  Marike graciously gave him her email and said I could contact her.  Marike became my life-line!  She has been our WELKOM!

When all our other contacts and plans started to fall through and I was sitting in Botswana with limited email connections, Marike read between the lines and understood the stress of our upcoming arrival in Holland.  Not only did she secure a place for us to stay for a few nights, she insisted that no one should arrive at the airport without being greeted by a live person!   She drove over an hour from Nijkerk to Schipol on a Sunday morning (her husband is a pastor, so Sundays are busy days in her household!) to meet us--3 lonely travelers whom she had never met before.   That's WELKOM BIJ HOLLAND! 

Marike arranged for us to stay a few nights with the Lanting family of their church.  Jan and Marina have a lovely apartment in their backyard.  It's part of their entire life-system of hospitality.  They store their silverware in buckets--a bucket for the forks, a bucket for the spoons, etc.  They have 2 dishwashers, extra tables are stashed along the wall, the doors of the apartment open out to yet another table on the porch, --everything about this place exudes an expectation that a party is about to begin.  And Jan is the life of the party, while Marina is the heart of the gathering! 

Front of the Lanting's home

Last Sunday evening we spent with Marike Blok and her husband,  Thijs and sons Daan and Niek.  Thijs looked at us and said, "please treat this like your home while you are here."  Every moment that we have been with them, they have helped us to feel every bit at home!    

Ana and Mia with Nick Blok and his cousin Pelle

I feel like I've known these people all my life!  God willing, I will know them all the rest of my life!  And I pray that not only will God bless these people for their faithful acts of hospitality, but that the Lord will shape my own heart into a more generous expression of WELKOM to others.  
Inside the Apartment

Our bedroom

Our backdoor (left) and the Lanting's back porch

Down the block from "our" place--the church in the center of Nijkerk
 Jan and Marina have agreed to allow us to rent this apartment for the whole month.  As it turns out--Nijkerk is in the middle of Holland, easily accessible by train, so we can come and go from here!  And on the days in between, we'll just soak up the welcome of Holland right in our own backyard!

Tour of Amsterdam

On Saturday, we were invited to join a small group of Dutch and German Rotarians and their children on a tour of Amsterdam.  After a canal boat ride together, the kids went to the science museum NeMo where they learned scientific things like how to make a gigantic bubble and what happens when you kiss.  I still haven't gotten an answer from them on what really happens--they just giggle when I ask.
I enjoyed a walking tour of the old, seeing the houses and churches from the 15th-17th centuries and seeing some of the more colorful places in this city famous for its tolerance of everything.

The sites were great, but our favorite part of the day was meeting new people--kids and adult--and making new friends quickly.  These people certain lived out the values of Rotary International in their kind and hospitable inclusion of us.  We were again overwhelmed by the open arms of people.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Language Study

Match this  list of names with the pictures that follow
alarm clock
retired zebras
long drop
baakie  (I think I spelled it “buckey” before)
local U-haul