Our trip to Europe was wonderfully eventful, a fact we especially appreciate after learning of planes that spent the night on the runway due to the freak storm in NY...where we flew out from just a few hours early!
No upgrade to business class on this flight, but we did have an extra seat next to us because the plane wasn't full. It was like our own little pilates class trying to find a comfortable way to sleep. Not totally successful, but Niels and I did both get a couple good hours of sleep. I passed most of my waking hours watching Joe Somebody and practicing my Dutch.
We actually arrived quite early in Cologne, Germany. We got through customs in just a few minutes and found our luggage in record time. I figured I'd have some time to freshen up before meeting Niels' dad, but he was quite early as well. When I saw him walking towards us with a big beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips, I'm completely fumbled my well-practiced greeting, "Aangenaam kennis met u te maken," which means "Pleased to meet you." I'm sure I sounded like a five year old. I think he appreciated the thought anyway.
Niels is quite the world traveler (as it turns out that I am becoming!), so he planned a full day for us. Our bodies told us it was 2am, but it was a bright new day. Niels did a great job describing our day on his blog, so I'll let you read his description.
Today was a much more relaxing day. I was able to sleep in til 1pm!!! Then Niels made me get up. After showering and checking our email, we walked to the neighborhood supermarket. It's been fun taking this trip so soon after my trip to China because I think I'm more able to appreciate the world's diversity. I've been very blessed that both these trips (and my quick trip to Canada last month) have revolved around being with friends and not simply tourist trips. One of my favorite things to do is go to the everyday life places--supermarkets, pharmacies, and of course, book stores! I had a lot of fun today pointing at the different things in the stores and I think Niels had a lot of fun explaining the quirks and curiosities of Dutch culture.
A few observations of my trip so far:
- Niels' family is great! They have made me so welcome. In addition to the flowers, Niels' dad worked with a jeweler friend to design a Chinese necklace for me. It's beautiful and the thought that went into it makes my heart smile.
- Tonight we had an amazing dinner with Niels' parents, Oma (grandma), sister and sister's boyfriend. It was kinda of like fondue, but not really. At the center of the table sat a grill sort of thing, with six mini-frying pans on it. Then, all around the table were plates of chopped food: beef, chicken (kip), pork, gyro meat, peppers, potatoes, pancake mix (yes, pancake mix), eggs, etc. Each person used the little pan in front of them to cook their own food. It was really, really good!
- In the grocery store, eggs and milk are found in the regular aisles, not the refrigerated section because "everyone knows you refrigerate them after you open them."
- Most stores have almost a whole aisle of just licorice, and pretty sizable potato sections as well.
- "American" food isn't necessarily something an American might know of. For example, in Belgium, we stopped for a snack. I had pomme frites (French Fries). The owner asked if I wanted American sauce with my fries. American sauce? I tried it, but still not sure exactly what to call it...maybe mayo meets ketchup meets chili sauce! With pizza, "American" means thick crust, and there's a brand of pizza that has names like "Texas," "Hawaii," "Boston" and my favorite, "New State." Several brands offer "four season" pizza, which has four different types of pizza toppings, each on their own quadrant. Good idea, actually!
- It's not a good idea to have the TV on after 11pm or so.
- Paprika is by far the most popular potato chip flavor.
- The Dutch like their roads to have curves--right and left and round and round
- The toilets took a little getting used to. In China, my friends had one bathroom for #1 and another for #2. Here in Holland, you flush #1 with the little button and #2 with the big button.
- In addition to their fondness for cheese slicers, the Dutch have quite a few kitchen gadgets, like cute little teaspoons--they call American teaspoons something else-- and a "jelly spoon" which is a teaspoon with a little hook so it can hang of the side of the jelly jar without falling in.
- Niels' dad took us to his shop tonight. He's a very talented photographer. We had a great time looking at pictures he's taken. He also took passport pictures of us and lent us a video camera for our trip. But the best part was seeing the sign he posted in the front window stating that the store will be closed all week for family affairs. It makes me feel so special to know that he values time with us over potential sales at his store.