Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in The Netherlands doesn't mean much unless you live near Leiden, the city where the Pilgrims lived for 15 years before they decided to venture to the New World.  And of course Thanksgiving means something to the kids at the American School because they get Thursday and Friday off and no other school does.

Each year there is a service in the Pieterskerk (shown above), the church where the Pilgrims worshipped and where John Robinson, their leader, is buried.  Grant's high school choir sang, the boy scouts led us in the Pledge of Allegiance (which was totally new to the non-Americans) and a Dutch descendant of one of the Pilgrims spoke.  This person was Dutch because the father of the family left on the Speedwell, made a connection to the Mayflower in England, braved the Atlantic crossing to the New World and then died.  His family who had planned to join him later, wisely decided to stay in Holland.

Grant's Choir

The Mayor of Leiden addressing the service

This guy was watching me the entire service

The Leiden canals. 

What a great reflection

Christmas and Heineken; what a great combination. 

Grant & his friend, Arnold -- Men in Black.  

Since there were only two of us there was no Thanksgiving Turkey.  Instead we had tacos.  Plus a pumpkin pie and cheesecake from the NHS at school.  So while the menu was slightly unorthodox, the result was still the same -- Grant ate too much.  

Happy 18th Birthday Grant!

Grant turned 18 this month.  In The Netherlands that means he can legally drink and obtain a drivers license, two activities that he has very little interest in.  So it wasn't that big of a deal for him.   He did receive a letter from the Dutch government that Google translated to "you are now mature".  Once again Google translate is not always accurate. The rest of the letter informed him that he had to get his own health insurance now (it's free for children under 18 in Holland) and that his parents would no longer receive the quarterly payment for raising a child (it was never compensated for all the stress anyway).

Grant is also at that age where his wish list is pretty limited.  However, we managed to come up with a few gifts.  But as you can see in the picture our wrapping was pretty pathetic....little boy paper with cars and trucks and a Lululemon bag.  We did deliver on a delicious cake -- tres leches -- for the third year in a row.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Company, Lousy Weather

My brothers, Tom & Dave, were in town recently.  It was great to be together, but I have to admit the weather was pretty bad.  Lots of November wind, rain and cold.  It limited our outdoor sightseeing agenda but as you can see we still managed to enjoy the Dutch national pastime -- cycling.

Tom came for a week, so he & I cycled to Den Haag to visit the Mauritshuis, an appropriately sized art museum.  It's set in a beautiful 1600's home and you can view all the paintings in about an hour -- perfect.  Of course one of the most famous paintings is the Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring".  As you can see, unlike the Louvre, at the Mauritshuis you can get quite close to the art.

We visited the Leiden market where Tom & Dave could witness raw herring preparation first-hand.  After a walking tour of the city we warmed up with another Dutch tradition, pannekoeken.

Pannekoeken -- large thin pancakes with ham, cheese or fruit.  
Graber loved having visitors.  He got two walks every day.  

But he was sad when all the people left.  

When the weather was bad I taught them how to play cribbage.  Dave won every time.  
On Sunday Sinter Klaas came to town with Zwarte Piet.  

Grant spent most of the weekend in London which worked out well -- it gave us enough beds.  
This was Dave's first visit to see "residential Holland" so he took many more photo's than I did.  Many are of things I now consider "everyday" but were new for him.  When I saw the photo's I said "these are great shots.  I'll include them in the Blog".  So here they are.

Dutch Limousine:  Tandem bicycle for mother and child plus a child seat in the back and a shopping basket in the front.  Note the Mother steers from the back.  Given that an eight year old is up front that seems like a good idea. 

A wooden bicycle.  For real.  

Site of the first V-2 Rocket fired at England in September 1944.  Located right here in Wassenaar about 2 km from my house.  

The stairway to our top floor.  

Most of the time I find cooking things I need in the Dutch grocery stores.  But when I can't (Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce) this is where I go.  A box of Life Cereal is 8 euros ($9).  

The shopping street in Wassenaar - butcher, baker, cheese shop, nut shop, fish shop, chicken shop, wine shop, green grocer plus a grocery store.  

A great tree swing

Second choice after the pannekoeken house.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Marathon Man

To celebrate my 55th birthday I ran my first full marathon.  I chose the Den Haag Peace Marathon, a small (less than 2000 participants) run that is held in conjunction with Peace Week. In case you don't have time to read this entire post, I'll skip to the punch line -- I made it.  Not very fast, but I made it.  

I've included some photos of the race, which will be plenty for most of you.  However, if you really want to relive the experience I saw two runners wearing Go Pro Cameras.  Can you imagine watching a multi-hour film taken from someone's chest as they run?  

I have to admit that I was kind of nervous before the race.  I had never run 42 km before.  In preparation for the run my longest was 32 km.  One of my colleagues who has completed several marathons told me that "all the excitement begins after 32 km".  Boy was he right.

At the starting line everyone has their hand on their GPS watches, ready to push the button for go.  The guy on the left with the yellow/green shirt won the half marathon.  The guy next to him in the orange shirt won the full marathon.  No, you don't see me in the picture.  I know better than to be up there; I was hanging around in the back.

Here's a photo from early in the race.  You can see my head above the lady in the front.  In case you're wondering, yes I did pass her.  
Later on, things start to spread out.  Not quite as congested.  I think maybe I need to brighten up my running attire.  The classic white on black looks pretty dull.  All the advice says to wear your most comfortable clothing.  My white Bix Run shirt is my favorite.  

Here you can see the group running by the Peace Palace.  It was built in 1913 to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration whose objective was to end all wars by having countries resolve disputes in court.  Good objective, but unfortunately in less than a year Europe was into WWI.  The building was financed largely by Andrew Carnegie.  It currently houses the International Court of Justice.  

We started in the center of the city and ran towards the North Sea Beach.  

I hadn't realized there were so many bunkers from the Nazi's Atlantic Wall on the beach near Den Haag.  There must have been almost 10 like the one shown above.  
About every 5 km there were volunteers serving water and sports drink.  At the half way point, they had Twix and Snickers.  I passed.  I didn't think my stomach could handle that.  
I did eat a banana at one of the stands.  Don't those look yummy?  
Luckily I didn't need these guys. 
I thought this was a nice picture.  Too bad I'm not in it.  We ran about 15 km total on the beach.  Luckily it was low tide and hard packed sand.   There were several "streams" of water flowing from tidal pools to the sea.  I'd run up and try to jump over the water, but no jumping occurred.  There was absolutely no spring in my legs.  So I ran with wet shoes.  
Approaching the end of the beach run
I always want to get a good picture of me running so I can post it.  Looks like I'll have to keep running because this picture certainly isn't worth posting.  

Safe at home after the run.  

I saw this couple before the race and wondered "Are they really going to run barefoot".  Here they are at the finish.  They ran the half marathon (13 miles) barefoot.  Ouch.  

The Den Haag skyline.