23 July 2012
We made it back safely and the return trip, although long, was uneventful. It's been a busy 10 days since we've been back, but I did want to have some final reflections on the trip or thoughts that didn't get included before I get immersed in work in California.
1. Education is very different in Europe. Homeschooling isn't an option in the Netherlands, for one. It was not very common in England. Uncle Nico has been in a 2 year process to open what we would call a charter school in his area. In England, it's called a "free" school. All education is "free" in cost, but this is an alternative to the main system. In England a "public" school is actually a "private" school in the US. In the Netherlands, you can start what we would call a public school that fits your beliefs and what you want to teach and the government will pay for it and provide a building, etc.
2. I've mentioned this before, but it is very comfortable for me to be in both the Netherlands and in England. They are both like "going home" with the great friends and relatives there. It was great to reconnect with aunts, uncles, and cousins and I really felt, for the most part, that I was going as an "adult" and not as the little kid that had been there before. When I took Dutch in college, one of my goals was to be able to have conversations with relatives. While there are limits to my vocabulary, I didn't feel as overwhelmed with the language as I have in the past. I'm glad I've spent the time on it that I have.
I also like the connecting with the cousins. I don't think we'll end up doing any sort of cousin's reunion, but it is always cool to see similarities and differences. Gestures, phrases, expressions, and humor can all be family traits. It's also interesting to see the various ideas and ways of life. It's good to connect with our history to have a clearer understanding of our future.
3. I'm feeling incredibly grateful and blessed to have been able to travel with my mother. She's a pretty amazing woman and I recognize some of my strengths from her, though I'm pretty sure she is a nice person, in general, than I am;-)
I'm constantly amazed at how "even-keeled" she is--very few things faze her or ruffle her feathers. She doesn't get frustated or upset when the plans change. She loves going out and meeting new people and she has an amazing memory for details. She can tell great stories with the best of them. She is gracious to others and kind. She is constantly thinking about others and always has a kind gesture for her friends and the people she cares about. I was amazed by her thinking about those back in MI and remembering to send postcards to people, just to let them know she was/is thinking about them. It was fun to go to church with her the past 2 Sundays and see how grateful people were that she had thought about them.
It was fun to hear stories as we went through towns about "When I was in high school..." or "When I was growing up..." or "When I was little we..." I'm also realizing how young she was when she left the Netherlands. She was 20 years old and then created a new life in a new country. She went to school, met my dad, got married, and shifted to a language she did not grow up with. There are now 50 more years of words and terminology that did not exsist when she left. How do you explain things that weren't there? Switching back and forth is probably the only way and Mom did a lot of that on this trip.
I'm hoping that Mom has many more trips back to the Netherlands and that other relatives come to visit here, but life is fragile and we can't count on things that haven't yet come to pass. I'm grateful for the opportunity to travel together and grateful that, for the most part, I acted like a grownup;-) It was fun to have a great travel companion that made the travel more fun. We do travel well together and I'm also grateful for that.
I'm also grateful to Aunt Alice who made 4 trips to Grand Rapids in the past 4 weeks, just to help with the transportation. It was wonderfully generous and very appreciated.
The past several trips I've been on have been an adventure in the way that Indiana Jones has adventures. This was an adventure that was part refreshment and connection and part preparing me with tools and energy for the journey ahead. The school and much work await, but I'm feeling recharged and ready for the tasks and adventures that are waiting back in Pasadena.