A visit to Holland
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On May 17th JW’s father celebrated his 90th birthday; for us a great occasion to visit Holland again. The flight from Paramaribo to Holland is disreputable for cocaine smuggling, so we were met at the gate by an observation team of 20 customs officers and welcomed by a big drugs dog. Subsequently we passed three check points and a screened off baggage claim, unpacked one bag but... breathed in the fresh Dutch air (24°C) within thirty minutes. We were extremely lucky with the weather and enjoyed Holland looking at its best with all those trees in spring blossom. Unfortunately one week later temperatures dropped to 11° so we had to wear fleece sweaters and real shoes instead of slippers and in the unsettled weather JW went down with a bad flu.

We wanted to visit as many friends as possible – quite a few were added because we made many new friends underway and in Surinam. We had about fifty appointments in all, and we also had to arrange a lot of administrative things and buy gear for the boat. To be able to do all this in an efficient way, we put together some routes and proposed dates, hoping that these would suit everybody. And yes, everyone replied immediately and enthousiastically and there was almost no rearranging to be done! This made us feel very welcome in the land we left behind such a long time ago, and our slight reluctance about our return was immediately switched to a very positive attitude.
But we really had to get used to the Dutch customs again. For instance the fact that life in Holland is based upon agenda's and appointments. In Surinam you just pop in and it is always a good time tfor a drink or a meal. And the climate... But we did not have a lot to complain, as it rained in Surinam when we left.
Generally we were not as disappointed as we were three years ago when we returned from the Canary islands to Holland. May be because we were at that time in the middle of the process of designing our new life; seeking to rectify your choice it is easy to condemn your  “old” environment. But now we have found ourselves a spot and our lives are stabilised, so we probably look more mildly at the world.

We experienced Holland as tourists: with admiration and sometimes a bit surprised. It is all so extremely tidy: meadows neatly trimmed, cows in a row, toy villages with mills and churches with chimes, shiny cars on smart roads with neat stripes and signs telling where you are and what you are allowed to do and more: what not. We even saw people operating vacuum-cleaners on the streets; but if a country can afford things like this, why not?

It were especially the little things that were strange to us. Wearing street shoes at home! (In Suriname this is not done because of sand, mud and cockroaches.) Was tap water always that cold? Did people talk so quickly four years ago and were cars driving so slowly (in Surinam it is the other way round). And did everybody have a different outfit for every activity? The smoking pole! Alcohol tests! (Wish we had those in Surinam.) Packaging tax! Especially in shops we sometimes felt like visitors from an other planet: you can't buy only one stamp anymore and we were flabbergasted by the dog's buggy.
While touring we recognised many things we haven't seen in years: trams, windmills, fly-overs, camera’s for speed control, convertibles,  traffic jams, horse-trailers, caravans carrying bikes on the back, shiny Harley Davidsons with trailers and rough drivers who will wear their suit-jacket next day again, the amount of ATV’s in terms of percentage the same as in Surinam but here functioning as a blond's shopper, on her way to the supermarket where we had difficulties finding something natural between all those seasoned and special tasting products. But we really enjoyed the “normal” Dutch things: salted herring, strawberries, asparagus, mushrooms, a croquette roll, old cheese and endives mash with crispy bacon.

The welcome and reunion with friends was very affectionate and hospitable. Lex picked us up at the airport (and also took back there again), we were everywhere invited to stay overnight and in between we stayed in JW's parents' little garden house.

Anne-Marie and Jos even lent us a car! We chose “the small one”, an enormous car excelling in interfering. Beeps at slightest provocation and if it doesn't get its way quick enough it beeps louder or hoots its horn unreasonably. But the driving was very comfortable, hands-free with cruise control which was great as we drove 2900 km in those four weeks.
Everyone tried to please us. Dolf and Riek served champagne every day and they were not the only ones, Susan introduced the party wok, Richard took as for a tour on Amsterdam's IJ, Leo and Ronny lighted a wood fire for us, Geert and Marijke tought us the miller's profession (see the film!) followed by a boat trip through picturesque Holland, in short we were terribly spoilt. Talking about spoiling, we stayed at the most beautiful locations with obviously Marijke and Geert's mill as the biggest highlight. And thanks to Richard and Zoë we are now completely up to date with the latest trends in bathrooms with computer-controlled showers spraying, spurting and steaming from ten different shower heads at the same time, and heated walls as an absolute must to prevent the steam from condensating.

We had a long list of wannahaves (mostly for the boat) and we also got shopping lists from many Surinamese friends. Printer-cartridges were hot items, Dutch syrup wafers, papadews, ginger in syrup, pesto and pine nuts.
And last but not least: our dearest things that we could not take along on the boat! Before we left Holland four years ago, we filled ten carton boxes and a blanket chest with our most precious belongings and put them up with friends who wanted to look after them “for indefinite time”.  Unpacking the boxes was a party in itself and everything is already as seaborne freight on its way to Suriname. Box keepers, thanks again and if you miss your boxes too much you can always come to visit the content in Suriname!

Geert teaches JW the miller's profession (film 12.5 Mb)

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