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