Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sunshine, You Are My Sunshine

Tulips at the Keukenhof
Sunshine, You are My Sunshine

  I’d like to say that my emotions are stronger than the weather.  I’d like to say that my thankfulness for being in Europe, of all places, would overwhelmingly conquer any negative feelings of frustration or depression that might come from days on end of cold, cloudy, rainy weather.  I’d like to say that the carrot I’ve been holding in front of my nose for almost a year now, the – it’s-never-going-to be-115-degrees-Fahrenheit-in-The-Netherlands-carrot, is pulling me through with a unblemished aura that rivals any Grace Kelly character.  Sad to say, but alas, this is not the case.  In my defense; however, I think I’ve done pretty dog-gone well for this Texas girl who is used to the sunshine and thought (previous to moving here, anyway) that anything under 70 degrees is cold.  Armed with my 6 long-sleeved Old Navy t-shirts and 4 sweaters from American Eagle, my wardrobe is pretty lacking when is comes to the old Girl Scout motto – Be Prepared.  Sure, I have suits, long sleeved blouses and funky fishnet hose that equipped me quite well in Corporate America, where we suffered ‘the elements’ from our parking garages to the elevator, but that hardly equipped me for being a stay-at-home mom who walks (or bikes) outside, everyday.  I was completely deceived when I arrived here in January – all the Dutch stores had already started stocking their shelves with fun short-sleeved shirts and jeans in rainbow of colors.  I thought, well, no time to buy winter clothes, now – spring will be here in just a few weeks, even the stores say so!     
   Last Saturday, I did the best I could.  Again, it was 40 degrees outside, cloudy, and obviously, cold.  This Texan just doesn’t even know what to do with this kind of weather.  Actually, I do – so I boiled a pot of wassail on the stove and watched Elf.  Regardless of the fact that it was Cinco de Mayo – this is how we celebrated.  Hopefully, this was the low point.  I was reminded of the international rotation orientation we attended last August.  E&Y hosted an informational session for all international rotation candidates.  There were the tax implication sessions, among others, but the one that stuck with me most was the more touchy-feely session.  It totally got me (not sure about the tax accountant on the back row).  He mentioned two very important points.  First related to your friends or family at home, he said: 
   You are at position A and you will become position B, after two or such years. 
   Your friends are at position C, and will become position D, after two or such years.
   When you return, the likely factor is that you will naturally think that they are still C and they will think that you are A, but in reality, you are both B and D which may not, necessarily mesh. 
    This is heavy stuff. 
   The second point he mentioned, was that him and his wife had lived in multiple international locations, throughout their long marriage.  He had a story – where after 5 or 6 months, he was laying on the couch watching T.V., on a Saturday morning, in Switzerland.  He was so beaten-down by everything – how to buy food, how to commute to work, where to buy whatever for his house. . . that he was just.  Done.  Depressed.  Exhausted.  Luckily, his wife snapped him out of his bad mood and made him get out of the house and climb a mountain or something and get to where the sun was shining.  Who knows, but the message was clear.  He was in the most beautiful country in the world but was still just. . . defeated. 
     Go back to Maslow or just write it all off to a Seattle-like environment, but it’s been a little challenging.    Last weekend, V and I decided, that no matter what, Sunday morning, we were going to Carpe Diem and go do something with kids.  If it was raining (again!) we’d head to a museum in town, if not. . .we’d go to the world-renowned botanical gardens nearby.  We were going to, Just Do It. Like the Nike slogan
   In all honesty, we had driven to Keukenhof Botanical Gardens a few weeks before, on my birthday.  We had even parked and started to unload the strollers but as the grey skies loomed above us, and after the wind whipped around the car as V and I pretended to enjoy the simple cheese sandwiches I had prepared for our picnic,  I had decided that there was no way.  We had visited the Efteling theme park for our daughter’s 2nd birthday in the 30-such degree weather and had visited Madurodam (the miniature version of Amsterdam) in the pouring rain over Easter weekend, but no.  I was not going to spend the time or money to experience the most beautiful display of tulips in the freezing-cold weather.  So we escaped like convicts, avoiding the parking fees, and found a tulip field nearby to take a few photos. 
  Luckily, the wait paid off and Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day.  With anxious anticipation, we headed out to the Keukenhof and were not disappointed.  Now, I’ve been fortunate to see quite a bit in my traveling days with AA and afterwards, but I have to tell you.  These gardens floored me.  I was completely taken aback with a feeling I had not anticipated.  Like the first time you see the Eiffel tower or the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, it took my breath away at the absolute and unspeakable beauty and the effort that must have gone into creating such a fantastic masterpiece.  The colors abounded.  Just like watching Wizard of Oz for the first time in Technicolor, it was beautiful, peaceful, and extraordinary.  We wandered the gardens for hours, just taking in the artistic palate and scent of spring.   Luckily, both of my children slept for a while in their strollers and to top it all off, they had a (very) random live Sesame Straat performance with Bert, Ernie, Elmo, and Pino (the purple Dutch version of Big Bird) on a small stage in the middle of the gardens.  My daughter watched the performance with eyes as wide as saucers and didn’t even know what to do with herself when she met Bert and he put her on his lap for a photo op.

UPDATE:  As I’m proof reading this, a few weeks after I originally wrote it and with a trip to Paris between then and now, I realize that patience may be a virtue I can only hope to obtain during this 2-year rotation overseas.  It’s been a gorgeous 70 degrees for three days in a row and while I’m still not completely convinced that it’s going to stay, a few days of short sleeves and sandals may be all I needed to get out of my funk.  Now I just need to update my summer wardrobe.  One of the natives who lives down the street already eyed my Old Navy flip flops suspiciously yesterday and asked if I had been to the beach.  (Sigh).    


  1. Are flip-flops not a Thing there? Huh.

    Hang in there! Crappy weather's a downer no matter where you live. I can predict a September funk with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY after 15 years in Texas. Bleh.


    They can take away your sunshine - but don't let them take away your flip flops! If I can rock them in Germany (and last summer in Sweden!) then you can rock them in The Netherlands. You owe it to your toes after months in the snow boots. I do find the Old Navy flip flops don't provide the necessary support on the cobblestones. Check out the link to the Teva's I wear all over the world. I even found them on a Netherlands website!
    I'm looking forward to seeing the Tulips with you next year. Thanks for posting the pictures. They're gorgeous!