Just a few days bring a lot of changes up in these woods (suburbs). We also bought a bike for Sterling, out of another questionable storage unit from a man who speaks marginal Dutch. Joe bought a bike up in Leiden and looked at a Tomos 'brommer" moped, which we picked up this morning. Some things are simpler here in Holland, but others are plane ridiculous. For example, the brommer store told us that you are not allowed to own a brommer until you have been registered in Holland for at least 6 months, or until you get a Dutch driver's license. Since neither of those pertain to us, they told us the other, slightly less legal, way to do it. Just put it into someone elses name, like my dad's, and insure it in his name as well, and then just drive it. Hopefully Joe doesn't get pulled over to put this theory to the test. Today is Joe's first day at the University, for orienation. Driving the car is out of the question, with the huge parking fees. Public transport scares Joe too much. Biking is just a bit too far. Which leaves the brommer. Joe's knowledge of Dutch traffic laws are very limited, so you can imagine my nervous excitement when I saw my little baby bird Joe drive away. He came equiped with a TomTom, written instructions, and of course road signs, but still I was more nervous for him to make it home than myself.
Turns out I should have been a little bit more occupied with getting myself home. Wednesdays are half-days for the kids school. This is the standard in all of Holland, and I remember really loving this for playdates when I was in elementary school. Trying to get Joe's brommer purchased, and making my home without a GPS turned out to take a little longer than expected. By the time I made it home, I had to book it on my bike to the school. Oh yeah... I still need to write about the school too.. Like I said, many things have happened since Monday.
Like I wrote before, I decided to sign the kids up for the school that is a little bit further away. Yesterday was the kids' first day of school. Without an alarm clock, I tried to be innovative by setting an alarm on my computer. It turns out that a Mac doesn't usually funtion as an alarm clock. Either it totally didn't work, or I was zo zonked out that I slept right through it. Either way, I didn't wake up until 8.55am, and I had an 8.45am appointment with the principle for a tour of the school and introduction of the kids. So much for making a good first impression! Despite all the kids plees to bike to school, the car was still the fastest option.
Sterling's first reaction was to be combative, and say he wouldn't go to school, that he hated the school, and saying no to everything. When threats didn't work, I switched to a promise of a reward. Why hadn't that crossed my mind earlier? He has really come to love Stroopwafels, which are a typical Dutch treat, so I offered 2 stroopwafels for good behaviour. That immediately caught his attention. From past experience we have found that Sterling just doesn't like to be in the spotlight. I assured the principle and the teacher that as soon as he would be in the classroom, he would mellow down, and behave better.
As soon as Ginger to into class, 2 little girls took her by the hands, and started giving her a tour of the classroom. The teacher wanted to make sure I said goodbye to her before I left, but she could have cared less. Winter was also accepted with open arms, and ended up in a grade higher. Another English girl is also starting this week, so the principle wanted to put them in the same class. If it turns out to be too hard, we can always hold her back again.
After school all the kids raved about all the new friends they made, and how they got to do fun games while the other kids has to read (presumably to help them learn the language). This morning, with alarm clocks, the bikes came out of the shed. The kids were super excited! It took us almost 20 minutes to get there, but my prediction is that this time will get shorter soon, and take us closer to 15 in the future. So fast forward to today again, I got home 7 minutes before school was supposed to get out. It's fairly cold outside (around freezing), but my whole body except my nose and cheeks were hot. And of course my lungs were burning, but that was a combination of the cold and the super high exursion. Somehow I made it in time.
Our first bike outing as a family happened last night. Whenever you move to a new town in Holland, you have to register at the city hall. Downtown Zoetermeer is about 2.5 miles away, I didn't know the best directions, but after asking a few strangers we made it there in time. Turns out we didn't bring the right paperwork, but I would say it was a successfull trip nevertheless. Ginger crashed about 20 times. Winter and Sterling about 6 times. We all had front and rear lights, and had to be reminded to keep on the right side of the road. Holland is probably the most bike friendly country in the world. Most roads either have complete seperate bike paths, or at least a red section on the side that is designated for bikes. Bike paths go over dikes, over little bridges, under roads, and in tunnels.
Yesterday our good friends Evelien and Emiel came to visit. Evelien went to high school with me, and we have known each other for over 18 years. While I lived in America, she was the only one of my friends who came to visit me regularly. They helped us buy household items at the store, find Joe's bike, and inform us of anything Dutch I have forgotten over the years.
The only internet we have is on my dad's little notebook, so I can't post pictures yet. As soon as we get our permanent internet (sometime early next week) I'll try to post pictures of the house, bikes, and general area.
5 weeks ago