It’s been almost five years since I stepped out of North America and moved to China. With every destination I attempt to recruit visitors from home, partially for the company and familiarly of friends and family, and partially in my selfish attempt to pull people out of their comfort zone and experience something unknown. I say it’s a selfish attempt because for me personally travel has taught me an intangible amount about myself, others and the ways of this world. More than anything I thrive on learning – in any form that may take. I love having visitors because it’s a way to give them a tangible example of why I love experiencing life as an expat, and an opportunity to see how travel can be an amazing teacher and to learn from it.
On a typical overcast morning in Leiden in April we set off in down jackets to the airport to pick up my parents flying in from Seattle via Iceland. Now every time someone tells me they’re coming to visit us abroad I say, “Awesome!” and give them encouraging advice and tips. I begin mapping out an itinerary in anticipation of their visit, but I never really
believe they’ll be arriving until they’re on the plane. I guess in part this is because so many want to come visit but very few are able to make that happen, and not to discredit them, often times its for very legitimate reasons. But my parents were on the plane. And then they arrived and I waved to them through the giant glass windows as they waited for their luggage to appear. Choking back tears as I waved, all I could think of was, “Holy crap! I got my parents to come visit me in the Netherlands!”
We had a great time during their 10 days in the Netherlands. We toured museums in Amsterdam including the newly reopened Rijksmuseum which was impressive and as we learned, easy to get lost in. We went to Keukenhof which is the Disneyland of gardens and was one of the most impressive things I saw in the Netherlands. We got out the North Sea on a sunny day to enjoy some gelato, toured the small streets of Leiden, saw the inner workings of a grain mill and celebrated my 28th birthday together.
Having my parents around was great. Simple things like showing
them where we live, where we go to school, where we buy food were rewarding to give them a picture to go with places I always talk about. More rewarding was introducing them to some of the wonderful friends we met in Leiden. In a mellow birthday celebration, some friends came over for birthday wine, cheese and cake. I think my parents breathed a little easier after realizing we were in good company while living abroad in Leiden.
Soon after their departure we celebrated the last Queen’s Day in the Netherlands - at least for a while since the throne was handed to her son this year, King Willem-Alexander. Queen’s day consisted of dressing up in red, white, blue and/or orange and walking around the thousands of people in the streets. Sounds simple and a bit dull but it’s anything but that.
The semester ended soon after that and we attended the graduation ceremony to cheer on our smart friends who are now masters of international relations. Studying abroad means family can’t always be present for stuff like birthdays, holidays and graduation ceremonies but since all of us students are in the same boat, we do a great
job of filling in. For example Easter consisted of a massive pot-luck at our apartment with amazing food followed by an Easter egg hunt that was actually candy wrapped in aluminum foil. So it’s not brunch and church with immediate family, but it’s a great substitute. On graduation day we stood in for Christie's parents cheering her on and taking her out to a nice steak dinner afterward except we made her pay for her own steak, dropping the ball on being good parents.
The following week we packed up our things, said a tearful goodbye to Leiden and a hello to the humidity of Bangkok. We spent a week in Bangkok dethawing from "spring" in the Netherlands and then headed to the beach spending a week with my Kindle, a hammock, the warm ocean and watching M*A*S*H under a mosquito net at night.
A lively highlight was the shower on the island. We stay in basic bungalows with a shared bathroom up the hill from the beach. Two walls of the outdoor shower are actually a rock face from the hill behind the resort. Usually there's a small gecko or two in the shower getting a drink
of water. I like watching geckos zip around so they're welcomed visitors in the shower. But one special day I walked in to find a new visitor - a scorpion hanging out on the rock wall. Whoa this was not a small gecko. I delayed my shower, heading down to hill to tell Bob to come look at the scorpion in the shower. The shower was huge so the wall the scorpion had claimed was pretty far from the shower head which led me to convince myself I could still take a shower with the scorpion hanging out a few feet away. I stood there for probably a minute while I played out in my head what showering with a scorpion would be like. I envisioned turning on the water, then the water spraying the scorpion, then the scorpion flipping out and running at my feet, then me freaking out and running out of the shower. After that, I quickly lost the courage to shower with a scorpion nearby and went to the shower on the other side of the resort. Island life at it's finest.
Bangkok has been a wonderful time, as always, filled with friends, amazing food,
You know you're in Asia when...
You get a hand-written boarding pass
shopping and a whole lot of sweating. But tomorrow we say goodbye and head to Japan for a month of running around the neighborhoods of Tokyo. We just can't stay away. Something about Japan is addicting. After a month of that we're heading to Oahu to help see Bob's sister off to her studies at the University of Hawaii. It has nothing to do with the lure of the beach, poke and palm trees and everything to do with the need to help her unpack and set up her dorm room. It's imperative we help. After that we're heading home to Seattle! It's time to see the Pacific Northwest during the summer and fall season and reconnect with family and friends. And finish our master's degrees!
Most of the photos are courtesy of my dad!
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