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Another way for you to make a difference…

Art news from our nonprofit. So proud of our students and staff. Click through to see the artwork!

Future Hope Africa Blog

Our in country director, Bintu, is always on the lookout for ways to improve the education of children, youth and adults in Bukavu, DR Congo. When she visited our home in Holland last year, we took her on a tour of the first-class international school our sons attend. Most of the decor in the school is student art blown up on huge canvases or framed originals. An idea was born.

An American artist friend here heard about our education center and asked, “What about art supplies? Could you use those?”

“Yes!” A generous gift of two stacks of stretched canvases went into my suitcase my next Congo visit, and now you can see some of the results. Small but delightful, these pieces are featured at our center to tell the world how proud we are of our students, the team that supports them, and how a little goes a long…

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Return to Refugees in Holland #Expat

Photo from Wittenborg-Online.com with "Faces of Change" Professor Saskia Harkema

Photo from Wittenborg-Online.com with “Faces of Change” Professor Saskia Harkema

When I wrote about The Refugees in My Town, I hoped to give you some insight about how things are in The Netherlands. My friend I mentioned continues her volunteer work collecting items for these folks to use as they settle into new housing around our area of the country. She posted on Facebook, and I asked if I might share her up close and personal experience with you. It’s the news behind the news that you’ll never hear otherwise.  Thanks, Friend. –Kristin

(Anonymous Post)

Just wanted to share a quick refugee update since I haven’t done so in a while. Today I spent this glorious sunshine filled day with some wonderful people. I volunteered at the refugee clothing center in the am and was greeted by smiles, hugs, and kisses. Some of these folks I have now known for 6 months. I got to hear people share their stories and both good and bad news of their lives.

A young Syrian man, who a friend donated new soccer cleats last year, shared great news about finally being accepted by a Dutch competitive club. This is wonderful for him because 3 weeks ago he was sharing that his current local team was not being kind or helpful to him and he didn’t feel like “part” of the team and was thinking of quitting. At that time I encouraged him not to let this bad experience stop him for doing what he loved. Today he was beaming to finally have teammates who encouraged him and he is hoping to continue to play with them even when he gets status and has to move out of the camp.

Photo credit dutchnews.nl

Photo credit dutchnews.nl

I met and assisted another man find a stroller and clothes for his newborn son and the pride in his eyes and excitement for the future was so moving. Finally I spent the afternoon with a mother and her 14-year-old son who recently got status and gave them a ride to their new home to check it out before moving in next week and brought them donations of household items. Their home is 45 km from camp and it is very expensive by train and bus for them to go. Our language in common was basic HS French which was so fun to muddle through with her. We picked up her brother and wife, who have lived in NL for three years, and they shared with us they think they may be expecting a baby and can’t wait to find out if is true. The brother speaks great English and we had an enlightened discussion about tolerance, finding commonalities, diversity, and the funny, and sometimes aggravating, aspects of living in a country that is not your birth country.

How lucky am I? It humbles me to be able to assist in some small way. I thank our amazing expat group for the donations. You make so many people feel at home in their new country. These are some of the bravest, sincere, and hopeful people I have ever met. Makes me want to be a better person. Now I have to go make dinner for the family I am lucky enough to spend time with. There are so many of these refugees missing people at their dinner table each and every night…Much love…

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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in In The News, Living in Holland

 

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A Bite of History on Spain Vacation

(Guest Blog by Ryan King)

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Cartegena Spain’s Roman Theater

Long before Hispania became a Roman province, it was an overseas possession of Carthage. It was rich in silver and Iberian Celt mercenaries. This was where Hannibal prepared for his war on Rome and where the second climatic conflict, The Second Punic War began.

I’ve been interested in history for as long as I can remember. I still recall when I was twelve years old and I somehow ended up with a book called ‘War Through the Ages’ by the historian Lynn Montross. In those pages for the first time, I heard about the titanic wars between Rome and Carthage that lasted over a century. I learned of the brilliant genius, Hannibal, his crossing of the Alps with elephants, and his incredible battlefield victories. I also learned of a civilization that was the mightiest in the Mediterranean for several hundred years but was subsequently wiped from the face of the earth.

This time and this story have fascinated me since then. This was one reason, when I obtained my master’s degree in history, I focused on the Punic Wars period. It is also why I’ve taken every opportunity while living in Europe to visit those relevant historical locations and see them for myself. This was also, at least partially, why my family and I traveled to Spain on vacation.

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

The capital of Carthaginian Spain was Cartegena or ‘New Carthage.’ The location of this ancient city was how my wife narrowed down her hunt for a flat to accommodate the six of us. Even after Kristin broke her foot and had to be left behind, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take my fours sons to this place with so much history.

I’ve learned to moderate my expectations when visiting historical sites. It has been over two thousand years after all, yet Cartegena surprised me. First of all, the harbor itself was magnificent and is recognized as the finest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were, before everything else, seafaring Phoenicians originally from Tyre who understood trade.

The city boasts a Punic Museum with an original section of the Punic wall that encircled the city as well as a crypt with dozens of sealed remains inside. The large Roman theater is still spectacular, and you don’t want to miss the Roman baths or reconstructed Roman villa. IMG_9943

The highlight for me, however, was the magnificent palace/fortress on the giant hill overlooking the harbor and the city. This magnificent structure has stood through the centuries seeing the occupation of Romans, Celts, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and Spaniards, yet it was originally constructed by Hasdrubal the Fair who was Hannibal’s brother-in-law. Hasdrubal was credited with making Cartegena a great city after he assumed command of Spain at the death of his father-in-law, Hannibal’s father, Hamiclar.

The fortress is well situated on a giant sheer rock, and we had to take an elevator ride to the top. As my sons and I walked along the walls it was a surreal moment knowing that Hannibal and Hasdrubal had lived in this place and walked along the same paths several millennium before. The visit was reminiscent to one over a decade ago when my wife and I visited Carthage, Tunisia. I was mesmerized.

IMG_0042How could I not contemplate my writing? How I wanted to revisit the scenes I’ve already written of my historic fictional trilogy about the Punic Wars, the rise and fall of Carthage, and the conflicts  that forced Rome to greatness.

Yet, my sons were tired and hungry and wanted to go back to the pool at our condo. So we said farewell to Cartegena, that ancient city of numerous hills with a superb harbor continuously filled with ships. We went back to the Spanish resort for Spaniards, La Manga, and said farewell to history…at least for now.

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Ryan King is the author of numerous post-apocalyptic books. He writes nonfiction under Charles R. King and enjoys teaching history to his four sons as the family treks about the world. Ryan’s first novel, Glimmer of Hope, is free for a limited time on Amazon.

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Doctor Aghast in the Dutch E.R.

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Hypodermics loaded ready to go.

Coming home from Spain with a cast and spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal was less of a hassle than expected. Acquiring an airport wheelchair, no problem. Assignment of extra legroom seat with items stacked to keep my foot up, no problem.

Cast causing pain on heel…problem. Terrible bed-sore type skin injuries can occur when a cast rubs. Known as pressure sores or ulcers, you don’t take a chance of reaching stage 2, much less stage 4. The images online were too horrid to add one to the blog.

I didn’t think of a cast doing this. I only knew my heel was hurting more than my broken bone. On the advice of our medical insurance hotline, we dragged into Holland at bedtime, left the lil’ guys in the care of their older brothers, and headed to the Dutch E.R.

In contrast to the Spanish E.R., everyone spoke English to me. The doctor’s orders were to take paracetamol (similar to Tylenol) as opposed to ibuprofen. Although the replacement cast was plaster, it didn’t do a full wrap around my foot which left space for the ups and downs of daily swelling. Rather than being plain white with a tiny red line in the wrap, the top wrap was now blue. “To match your scarf,” the attendant said. “It is heavy now but lighter as it dries. Drying takes 48 hours.”

The doctor was aghast and told every staff member who happened by as shifts were changing, that my leg was put in a full cast and then, oh my get ready for it, I was allowed to fly. Considering my age, medical history, lower extremity injury, and such, the doctor was adamant that in The Netherlands I would not have been permitted to fly.

The doctors thoughts seemed to be, Were they trying to give me a blood clot in Spain? Unbelievable.

Well, not so unbelievable when you consider the Spanish doctor was unable to give me any after care directions in English. I told the Dutch doc as much, but she shook her head and pointed toward Schipol, “Our airlines would not let you board with this.”

Wow. Honestly, it made me glad we’d flown out of Spain.  Don’t break a leg in The Netherlands, folks. You might be stuck for awhile.

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Blood pooling away from break not uncommon. (Break is between pinky toe and ankle.)

Now was the time for yet another first in my life. In the Spanish E.R. I got my first cast. In the Holland E.R. I got my first self-administered shot in the stomach. In The Netherlands it is standard operating procedure to take daily meds preventing blood clots while your limb is immobilized. “An ounce of prevention…” could be a Dutch Calvinist saying.

Several times the staff told me the shots would do nothing for a clot if my body had already formed one while I was traveling. Then they would mutter disapprovingly to each other again about my day’s travel.

A linebacker like tall, wide, intimidating nurse demonstrated what to do and then stood over me, bearing down with narrowed eyes, till I plunged the needle into my soft belly skin. Growing up with a diabetic friend, I watched her to do this countless times. That didn’t make it any less foreign an experience to have to do it to myself.

I did have to. My husband was leaving town the next day, or he’d have given me the shots. One of the children later offered to do it. I declined. The thing is, they were really tiny needles. Still, my chest tightened each time. Once I didn’t jab hard enough, the needle was only half in. I started over only to learn later I could have kept on. Once the needle went in at an angle instead of nicely perpendicular to my flesh. That’s when I learned why my mother had so much bruising with self-administered injections. In The Netherlands I was given my own bio-hazard box to dispose of used needles. In Spain, a friend told me, you just throw them in the trash. I remembered my diabetic friend bending each used needle to prevent unauthorized reuse.

I learned all sorts of things and could continue to blog about them. Did you know the pinky bone of your foot gets so little blood flow that healing times range from 8 to 19 weeks on average rather than the typical 6-8 weeks? Rebreaks are so common the doctor recommends you continue to wear the support boot till all pain is gone. At least two of my friends had rebreaks that took surgery and 3+ months to heal. In Sweden the boot would have been fitted to my foot rather than my shoe, so I wouldn’t be hobbling around with one leg a couple inches longer.img_1871

In the U.S. surgery for my break might have been the first recommended course of action from day one because the gap between bones was wide (in mm). Your foot builds up enough dead skin under a cast that even after a second bath the skin might look as if leprosy is settling in. I recommend several applications of an exfoliating scrub. Did you know it’s not uncommon to wake up to your healthy leg being a different color than than the one nurturing healing? It might be lighter or darker pink depending. And diagnosing blog clots in the leg? Don’t get me started.

But enough about pain and weird or scary medical conditions. Wouldn’t you rather hear more about fabulous, historical Spain? I would.

Up Next —A Bite of History in Cartegena, Spain, Guest Blog by Ryan King

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Kristin King continues to limp around and have a surprising (to her anyway) amount of pain seven weeks after breaking her foot. She misses riding her bike in the recent, unseasonably sunny Dutch days.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Living in Holland, Travel

 

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Foreign Emergency Room – Spain Edition

img_1727No hablo español, and it turns out my son’s two years of middle school Spanish was not very helpful in a Catalan influenced ER. We soon realized we were on equal footing with the hospital staff since none of them spoke English. What amazes me though is how we all got by with only two real issues to speak of.

The receptionist in the ER wanted the typical information. I’ve had enough experience in emergency rooms to be able to guess the drill. I passed over ID, insurance card, passport, and pretty much anything else I could think of she might want to check.

She asked a long question out of which my son was able to translate one word, “pain.” “Left foot” meant nothing to her, so from my wheel-chair seat I brought my foot up over my head where she could see it through the glass partition. She nodded and wrote notes on the computer.

We frowned over her next question and she started google translate when memory clicked-in. How was I injured? I stood two fingers on the opposite palm and showed my little-hand person falling down, which, by the way, is actually the American Sign Language for “fall.” ASL can be quite helpful, as can vast practice with hand motions in general.

The Spanish hospital in east Cartegena was quite modern. We took a number and the six of us waited for the intake exam while watching a split screen of number calls and what might have been football (i.e. soccer) stats. Our crew tends to spread and took up about half the small waiting area. I think that’s why my number came up before other prior arrivals.

The intake nurse repeated the words that meant nothing to my brain. Pointing at my foot and signing “fall” let him fill in his computer page. His exam consisted of poking the bruise on my foot so I shrieked in pain.”Radiología,” he said. Common Latin roots are helpful in medical situations. Armed with a wristband for my name and number, our family of six was directed to a large waiting area at the front of the hospital where huge glass windows framed the pink, sand, and dusty green of morning sunshine on the mountainous terrain outside. Even at the hospital, Spain’s Alicante region took my breath away.

img_1661Other folks who’d waited longer were helpful when my number came up early with a room designation we could not locate. My eldest son pushed me where directed till an orderly took over and pointed him back. I think he was relieved to be relieved of his translation duties.

Neither this male orderly, who parked me blocking the hall for a while, nor the female orderly, who wove me through narrow passages to radiology and back, spoke any English. They were both chipper about it all, spoke to everyone in passing, and were even calling me by name.

The wider hall outside x-ray was half the size of my living room with eight of us waiting, two in their rolling hospital beds. Tight quarters by any measure, I was again left blocking what might have served as a thoroughfare. One person went in the far x-ray, and remarkably my foot took second place.

The attendant didn’t bother to talk after learning my lack of language skills. Unlike the US custom, she did not offer me a lead bib for protection, although there was one (was that dust?) hanging in the corner. She lowered the x-ray table and pulled out a pocket extension from the side of it whereby the x-ray could be taken with me still seated in the wheelchair. Terrific. I’d never seen the like, although I’ve been privy to three hospitals in two other countries for five x-rays in as many years. (I mentioned I have four sons, right?)

“Kristine-a” the orderly greeted as she wheeled me back to my family in the large picturesque room. Seats were fast filling. In my Dutch E.R. post I mentioned how entire families with grandma and grandpa, both parents and all the siblings were not uncommon in The Netherlands emergency areas. Spain was more like America in that only the one necessary driver appeared to accompany the injured. Our English-speaking, mixed-race family had become an island of word-game playing folk in a for-business space. This was the longest wait of day, and I loved how my husband turned this down-time into fun time for the children who were missing out on pool, beach, and ball play because their mom is a clutz.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

The language barrier only became an issue in two areas. First, the casting room staff would not tell me what to do very well and were reluctant to cause me pain by situating my foot properly. This first cast shocked me. The expected cool, wet strips of casting net were placed from top of calf to tippy-toe on layers that quickly turned warm. Soon my lower leg relaxed in its heating-pad encasement. Ahh.

The second language issue was that I was given no after-care instructions, no way to get crutches, nada. We only had a photocopy of the break with the hospital info and “ibenprofeno” near the bottom. My husband wheeled me to the car wondering how we’d get around for the rest of week. Climbing into the car, I struggled to twist and lift the 20 pounds of lead on my calf.

“Maybe we can just get a cane,” I said.

“Maybe,” my husband frowned.

He got one alright. That’s when we discovered the awkward angle of my foot made it impossible to walk on that leg. Soon the plastic deck chair was back under my knee helping me hobble around for the rest of the week. My kids missed some playtime time with Mommy and sand castle building, but mostly I did what was normal. I lounged in the sun listening to the surf, watching my children play, and reading great ebooks.

Padded chair

Padded chair

There was an unexpected blessing as well. Unable to get a chair in the rental car, we still went out for the long-awaited paella I’d promised the boys ever since first raving about it on my writing trips to Majorca. We chose a restaurant next to a large beach/souvenir shop, and what do you think we found? A nicely padded wooden chair sat by the dumpster waiting to provide the assistance I needed. “Thank you, Jesus,” I said. My five guys saw the Punic Wall, Roman Theater, and other incredible sites of the port of Cartegena without me, but I truly believe our sons had great guy-time with dad they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

“Better me than one of the children,” I’ve said repeatedly since breaking my foot. It is so true.

Next up…Doctor Aghast in the Dutch E.R.

Related Posts:

E.R. Weight Limits (Life in Holland)

Holland Expat – Emergency Room Gate Keepers

Spain for Six – History in a Day

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Kristin King is an author and US expat living in The Netherlands. She got her first cast in Spain, her second in the Dutch ER four days later, and her third four days after that. Kristin sincerely hopes she is done with casts and broken bones for good.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Travel, Unexpected Blessings

 

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Spain Vacation Goes Sideways

After a fabulous two days (History in a Day), our Spain family vacation went sideways. We’d driven through the Alicante region following mountains along a scenic road reminiscent of those in the high desert in Arizona and California  to La Manga. We carried all our bags and goodies into the condo, sorted out room preferences for the week, and began to unpack.

In the kitchen I’d finished emptying one of those big reusable grocery bags and wandered up the one stair to check out the view from the breakfast table. Ah, the yacht club and a restaurant I thought might make a convenient spot for a romantic getaway when neither of us is willing to leave our four kids on their own in a foreign country for long.
Smiling I turned from the view and was wrestling to fold the bag and walking at the same time. Apparently I can’t do these two things at once. I didn’t even see that one pesky step as my foot rolled sideways taking my entire body on a plunge from top of foot to ankle, ankle to knee, knee to hip, hip to arm and shoulder. There was this terrific sound effect as well. I lay on the cold tile trying to convince myself and my love, who had come running (Did I scream?), that perhaps I’d only twisted my ankle…again. Maybe the rapid bubble wrap crackling I’d heard was only toe knuckles bending further than usual. My eldest pops his knuckles all the time. Could be? Right? Wishful thinking.

My second son walked in, stood towering over me and said, “I heard it crack from the living room, Mom. It’s definitely broken.” He should know. He’s had more broken bones than anyone else in our household.

IMG_0179I refused to go to the emergency room on our first day poolside. The boys had already been cooped up in the car for the three hours, and the huge pool, soccer pitch, and basketball goals awaited, enticing them to rush their unpacking jobs. Soon the boys were playing, Dad was headed off to do all the shopping, and Mom was practicing R.I.C.E. which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. It’s standard operating procedure for twisted ankles and worked well for a couple of days of a broken foot. Except I skipped the compression part since the lightest touch sent a paroxysm of pain up my foot and out my mouth.

Improvising, I used a hunter green plastic deck chair as my assistance device, walking with my knee in the chair dragging the thing everywhere for the next two days. I dragged it to the deck for our family meals. I dragged it to the elevator and then plopped down to sit in it for the ride down nine floors. I dragged it to the pool. When my knee got sore, I added a pillow and towel to the seat. I probably sound stubborn, but the bruising wasn’t that bad. I thought with a few days rest I would be hobbling around fine.

Silly me.

All it took was a trial effort to walk three steps. The pain smacked me upside the head and said, “It’s time to go to the E.R. Woman.” The boys were having a blast and playing with each other like they never did at home. Reluctantly we announced to the children that our next day’s adventure would be to a foreign hospital. They took the news with good grace.

That particular family outing requires a post all its own.

NEXT UP – Foreign Emergency Room – The Spain Edition

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and US expat living in The Netherlands. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven.” To peruse her novels and author information visit this link.

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Travel

 

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Turkish Sword Sausage – #Foodie #Friday

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Driving last week in Belgium, I drove past an old Turkish restaurant I always enjoyed. Since it was early in the day, I could not tell if the place was deserted or awaiting staff to begin meal preparations. I was reminded of the gregarious host who always welcomed each guest with a stage ready voice and wide arm gestures. Located near a NATO base, the front wall was decorated with money bills from all around the world, many I’d never seen before. He made one feel truly his guest. My favorite dish to order with visiting friends was the hand-patted lamb kofta (i.e. kebab) drenched with peppery tomato sauce over a bed of garlic yogurt to sooth the tongue. Our most excellent host would remove the sword like kebab with a waving flourish not soon forgotten. Accompanying each savory dish was a fluffy rice pilav, sweet carrot salad, and lightly drizzled veggies with plump olives.

The delights of foods from around the world were not common to my rural American childhood, but I’ve tried to make up for any lack during these years abroad. Food can be such an adventure if we’re willing to set our feet in new directions.

–Kristin

 

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Food, Travel

 

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