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Tag Archives: Living in Holland

French Tongue Twister, Scottish Poetry and Scat

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.03.33 PMPerhaps elementary school performances have changed drastically where I lived as a child, and you might hear French tongue twisters, Scottish poetry and Scat at the entertainments in an American public school. I’ve never seen the like except in the International School our sons attend here in Holland.

The event was the 3rd and 4th Grade Art Show & Concert. One piece of art by each child was displayed on black felt walls or tables organized by medium and classroom. You were welcome to enjoy a hot beverage and little sweet dainties as you pondered the various works of small hands such as aluminum reliefs, color dial experiments, “my life” tile works (so appropriate to The Netherlands, land of Delft tiles), and birds both in chalk as well as 3D versions which my children now think is what doctors do with their casting supplies when not setting a broken bone.

After the art show, you made your way to the theater for a multinational musical concert. Set to music were a traditional Indian poem, a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, a Japanese text by Rofu Miki, and the French tongue twister “Ton Thé.” The children sang from memory not only in the aforementioned languages but also Nigerian, Swahili, Spanish, Tamil, and an entire number in scat. They closed with their school theme song; another item missing from my childhood. (Do you have any interest in the song list? Comment.)

When did you first travel abroad? I was in my twenties. My children, however, go to a school where over 80 countries are represented. I am so grateful. If the school were the only benefit of our short years as expats in The Netherlands, it would all be worth it. As we enter the home stretch and continue to post about Living in Holland, you can expect more mentions about the International School experience.

Meanwhile we continue to work on a project in east Congo where the children have so few educational advantages. Do you have fond memories of summer camp or vacation Bible school? The friends you made, the activities, and memories of a lifetime? You can give a Congolese child that sort of experience this summer. For a limited time your gift is doubled! Visit our crowdfunding project today.

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Kristin King is an insecure writer who wishes she could harness the robust energy of her childhood, of singing loud without a care in the world, of dancing with abandon, and apply that to her next novel.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Living in Holland

 

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At the King’s Ball

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima of The Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima of The Netherlands

An invite to the King’s Ball means something even to an American like me who never lived under a king till moving to Europe. As an expat in The Netherlands, though, my invitation finally arrived.

Cinderella gets made over for each generation from Disney’s animated classic to Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, to Ella Enchanted. A girl in less than enviable circumstances receives an invite to the King’s Ball, dances with Prince Charming and arrives, after various adventures, at happily ever after. Don’t most girls dream of this?

I was not dismayed to discover that various organizations in Holland host a number balls in honor of King Willem-Allexander’s birthday. Some are massive street parties, but mine was a formal event in keeping with the childhood fantasy.

“Don’t expect too much,” one past attendee warned. Held in a utilitarian headquarters building rather than a castle (though castles are available here), this location made perfect sense in a frugal Dutch way. Why pay for extravagance? Have a space? Will wine, dine, dance and toast the King. My husband and I did just that. The balloon archway might recall prom, but I enjoyed sipping my beverage from a champagne flute, mixing with good company, and dancing till I disliked my shoes.

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What the movies and books tend to skip right over was one of the best parts of the evening—the food. A DJ took requests till the buffet dinner was served, and oh, my, what food. I will gladly give up the linens at a 10-person round top at any formal for the marvelous herbed shrimp, green beans with Hollandaise, white fish in sauce, tender barbeque pork, scalloped potatoes, grilled chicken with sliced watermelon, crab salad, Italian pasta salad, beef and broccoli with goulash type spices. Wonderful flavors not hurt at all by the stand-to-eat tables.

After deserts (mostly various whipped or creamed items), champagne came ’round, because it was time to toast the King. The toast to which we raised our glasses was in Dutch which I do not speak. Even so, it was hard not to moved by the robust singing that followed. Was that the national anthem? The two grand piano players with their mics, electric keyboards, and drum-set accompaniment got everyone back out on the dance floor.

The invite to the King’s Ball did not change the course of my life. After dancing much of the night away, my Prince Charming escorted me home where we checked on our four sleeping sons. A mundane end? Maybe. Perhaps your happily ever after comes again and again like ours does…in those moments when we remember to take note of the upside, see the silver lining, count our blessings and are filled with joy as we kiss a loved one goodnight.

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Kristin King is an author currently living the expat life in Holland. Behind a partition beyond the toilets at the King’s Ball she found a Foosball table and had to take advantage of the opportunity to play while in formal attire.

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Living in Holland

 

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The Refugees in My Town

The Dutch building a camp for 3K refugees near Nijmegen.

The Dutch building a camp for 3K refugees near Nijmegen.

Several friends and family members have asked after the refugee situation here in Holland. They have heard all the worst incidents in the EU from news reports back home. Before my blog moves to a month focused on Historical Treasure during the A to Z Blog Challenge, I wanted to address the refugee issue from a personal point of view.

In the Netherlands, organization and compassion seem to prevail when dealing with this new influx of residents. The refugee camp near our home is quiet and a curfew is enforced. The Dutch Red Cross, and the Salvation Army offer support and local church groups host classes and activities. Every few days I see another call in local media outlets for ways we can all help out. The newspaper, the weekly school forum, even my husband’s work newsletter keeps us updated on what is needed for these strangers in a strange land. Earlier the call was for socks, men’s small and medium pants, underwear, winter coats and sportswear for them to take part in local athletic activities. The camp near us is all men on their own. Not all are single, but all are here without family.

My friend H. volunteers at a refugee camp for families not too far away. The calls there go out for baby items, strollers, pre-school children’s clothes. She has stacks of donated clothes in her garage that she sorts through to take what is needed most to the camp for distribution. I heard recently a group donated 20 bicycles, new and refurbished, to the camp. I thought how wonderful especially in a country where bikes are a passport to freedom of travel and integrating into life here. People are coming together with support and kindness.

There was an old joke that said, “How do you recognize an American tourist in Europe?” The answer said, “By their brand new white tennis shoes.” In my neighborhood something similar could be said for spotting refugees.

Needing a bit of fresh air, a writer friend and I took a quick walk near her down town home. Beneath the tower of the church, two men with bright new shoes approached and asked in slightly broken English where the church school was. We weren’t sure, but she said where she thought which happened to be the way we were walking. For a block, my curious friend peppered these refugees with questions.

What is your first language? How did you learn English? How is it going in the camp? How is the food?

The name of their first language was one I recognized due to some familiarity with the area of Ethiopia. They were from Eritrea, took English there and moved here. It was good in the camp, they said. Food was good. They said they were “well satisfied” with it all.

We wished them well at the next intersection. I was grateful my outgoing friend with such an inquisitive nature took a walk with me. I had naively pictured Syrian refugees and not realized the flood of immigrants comprised such diverse peoples from so many countries. Between January and October 2015 more than 45.000 people sought asylum in the Netherlands. The majority were Syrians, followed by people from Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

As I reflect on the refugee presence in The Netherlands, at least how I have experienced it, there is much to inspire hope. The refugees’ needs pull diverse people together to lend aid, offer resources, and teach classes on many subjects. A friend asked me, “How have the refugees changed your Dutch experience?” Well, it gives me great admiration for this country where the world comes together not only in terms of residents from around the globe, but also in terms of the 20+ international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice that are headquartered in The Hague alone.

Have I heard nothing bad? A Dutch reporter was attacked, and other isolated incidents are easy to find online. But near us there was only one item. A woman on a locals Facebook group was walking her dogs on the beach and was confronted by a man walking towards her exposing himself in an…active manner. The man was described as “Middle Eastern” looking and nothing like this was ever reported before the camp opened. Women were urged to be cautious walking alone and to report anything unsavory to the police.

On a practical level, though, my day-to-day expat experience has changed in only one significant way. I am now extra cautious when driving a car through roundabouts. Bikes have the right of way, but they are supposed to follow the order of traffic proceeding around the circles to the right. Since the camp opened I have seen bicyclers going the wrong way more often, coming from the unexpected direction into the intersection I was entering by car. Two of these incidents appeared to involve men in those tell-tale bright tennies. With such a large percentage of expats living in our community though, who is to say? These sighting are more common in the summer moving season as well.

Yes, there are refugees and camps near us in Europe. What do I tell friends and family members who ask about the situation? I am not a person who gets into political debates. Instead, I tell them about the charitable persons, orderly opportunities, and how I see refugees experiencing this country as I did for the 1st time not so long ago. I suspect if a member of the press happens across my blog, the only item to show up in their report would be the negative one. My hope is that you now have a bit more insight beyond what hits the front pages. I can only speak for my little corner of the world where the news is overwhelmingly good and lacking sensationalized material.

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Kristin King is the president of an NGO, a speaker, author, mother, dog lover, US Army wife and citizen of the world currently living the expat life in Holland. She will not be addressing the US Presidential election in any of her upcoming blogs.

 

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in In The News, Living in Holland

 

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Golly Good Grocer (Holland Expat)

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 1.22.49 PMPerhaps you have fond memories of going up and down the isles of Target with the laser gun adding items to a registry for your baby shower, wedding, or anniversary. Grocery shopping in The Netherlands calls that experience to mind.

For the expat with limited Dutch, using the laser scanner for each food item, bagging it right at that moment in your cart (since you have to bag yourself anyway), and paying at a self-check out is quite fun. My children vie for the power of the scanner which takes tops over pushing the cart any day. This is an Albert Heijn experience.

Not too long ago, I was distracted by my explanation to Lil’ Man for why we were buying the cheaper store brand frozen pizza instead of the expensive one labeled “American Pizza.” Thus, I neglected to scan my last purchase.

As providence would have it, my cart was chosen for the random scan test by a cashier. I was so embarrassed that I had neglected to ring an item up. I chattered with my children about distracting Mommy (totally not their fault  which I also told them) while the woman re-scanned every item and found the missing frozen pizza.

Only wishing to get away from the shameful experience, I high-tailed it out the door—having left one large bag of groceries (equivalent to at least 2 US-sized paper bags full) behind. Because the family unloads the car and we all put items away together, the lost bag wasn’t noted till 2 days later.

When I returned to the grocery service desk and explained, the woman behind the counter (a different one, thank goodness) knew exactly what had happened. They had returned every item to the shelves, carefully made a handwritten note of each brand, size, etc. This lady procured my actual bag (an unusual one I purchased in England) from a closet and took it through the store essentially re-doing my shopping for me with the handwritten list.

They were all so kind and understanding about everything from the initial incident to handing over my bulging sack. I knew I had to blog about my golly good Dutch grocery.

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Kristin King is an author, speaker and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa. For the record, Kristin has never tried to steal something from a store since she was five years old and was caught red-handed with one piece of bubble gum and then forced to return it with an apology to the store keeper who gave her the gum anyway.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Living in Holland

 

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Our Kids’ Vacation Dreams (Living in Holland)

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 1.07.20 PMWe know our time living in Europe is limited, so we decided to ask our sons where they would like to vacation. We brought them in one by one in solitude and simply asked, “Where would you like to visit?”

China (3 votes)

Japan (3 votes)

Also mentioned: Korea, Kentucky, New York City and Vienna.

I think either our kids need a lessons in Geography or attending private school has given them inflated ideas about the “typical” family’s travel budget.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in Living in Holland, Travel

 

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Hit By a Car (Holland Expat)

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.46.16 AMAt my son’s sporting events one of my common shouts is “No injuries!” Today I’m very thankful to announce I sustained no injuries when hit by a car.

Have you ever complained on the highway about how dangerous a vehicle going too slow is? In The Netherlands there’s an unwritten rule of life that you should “Act Normal”. Today I learned how dangerous being the odd-vehicle-out can be.

This could have been me:

The red-haired boy was riding his black bicycle home from school on the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2009. He was pedaling along the bike lane of First Station Street, when a truck made a right turn, into the bicycle’s path.

The boy was snagged by the truck’s rear axle and dragged for a few feet before the driver noticed the mangled bicycle in his sideview mirror. Twelve-year-old Hananja Konijn was pronounced dead the next morning.

Five days later, investigators closed the intersection.

Along with clipboards and cameras and measuring tape, they brought with them an 18-wheeler and a child-sized bicycle. Over and over, they maneuvered the two around the corner, recreating the all-too-common “right hook” accident in slow motion, each time adjusting the truck’s mirrors or the angle at which it struck the bike.

Biking is a huge part of our lives in Holland, so I’ve blogged about the rules, my bike wrecks and such. When I escorted our younger sons by bike this morning, I only saw them through the bad round-about. From there they have a straight shot on wide bike paths all the way to their school bike parking lot.

The thing is, 99.9% of the bike traffic on that circle in the morning is going straight, that is rounding across the intersection to continue straight (the 2nd exit) out of the circle. Not me. I gave the signal to cross the straight car path where vehicles are required to watch for bikers and yield right of way. But because my move was unexpected at this time of day, and because the driver of the little blue car was not even looking for a bike coming from that direction, I was headed into the road where a car was barreling through to their morning destination.

Almost in slow motion, I saw the driver’s blond hair, her huge sunglasses, and the fact that she wasn’t slowing down one bit as my front wheel entered the road. If she had been going slower, things would have been ugly.

I turned my front wheel just enough and watched as her bright blue back bumper knocked my wheel farther to right. My forward motion carried me off the bike path and up onto the curb of the sidewalk. The oblivious driver barreled on down the road.

Heart tight in my chest, I stopped to check my bicycle–amazingly the front tire was not bent out of whack. My only issue is the way my back tightened as I braced for probable impact. Might be a little sore–thank God for physical therapy exercises already in my toolbox.

Note to self: Doing something different? Apply extra caution.

Wish I always wore a Go-Pro so you could see the video of the glancing blow to my tire–it sure keeps playing over and over in my head.

Extra grateful to God today.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher, mother of 4 sons, army wife, president of a nonprofit, and American expat living in Holland. She is still shaking her head over this mornings biking incident. Her first book is now being released chapter by chapter on Wattpad.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Living in Holland

 

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E.R. Weight Limits (Life in Holland)

Chair with weight limit sticker in Dutch emergency room.

Chair with weight limit sticker in Dutch emergency room.

My husband and I divide and conquer when it comes to routine E.R. visits. Yes, we have four boys so the words “routine” and “emergency room” go together. For our last appointment (yes, you make an appointment for the E.R. in The Netherlands – more here on that), I took broken-finger boy and hubby stayed home with the other 3 children.

The Dutch do things differently. The whole family comes to the emergency room with. Families of four, six, an apparent dinner party of people young and old came traipsing into the E.R. waiting area and greeted those already seated.

Behind curtain number one though, where the nurse cleans my son’s wound and prepares the finger splint, there is only one chair for the injured person’s driver, and that chair has a weight limit clearly displayed on a large sticker.

Don’t take that seat if you weigh over 220 lbs (i.e. 100 kg).

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 Kristin King is an author, publisher, mother of 4 sons, president of a nonprofit, and American expat living in Holland. She readily sat in the pictured chair and is contemplating losing some weight anyway. Her first book series, Begotten Bloods (BB), is paranormal romance/suspense.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Living in Holland, Travel

 

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