Tomorrow I will get on a plane in Holland, stopover in Iceland, then come to NYC. The travel time is about 11 hours, though I arrive in NY only 6 hours after I leave here. In this past week I connected with women I met earlier in this trip, which gave me 3 windows into different Dutch lives.
First I stayed with Mariel, whom I met in Mongolia. She lives in student housing and is very close to finishing her graduate degree. I was able to really rest and unwind at her place after a whirlwind of sightseeing in Amsterdam. We had a fun afternoon and evening cooking a fancy (and somewhat experimental) Indian meal for 2 of her friends. The 4 of us filled the cozy kitchen, and the conversation nicely complimented the food (they were kind enough to converse in English so I could join in).
Next I stayed with Bianca and her partner Antoinette. Antoinette is a military physician and Bianca is a physician’s assistant. I met Bianca in Chomrung (Nepal) while trekking. We had kept in touch some as I traveled and she and her partner were kind to open their home to me for 3 days. They live in an upscale neighborhood with neat gardens and tidy postage stamp yards. They are avid cyclists and usually commute by bike to work. They are both world travelers and their beautiful home is decorated with sculpture, lighting fixtures, and gorgeous photographs from their adventures.
Bianca took me to see the town of Elburg, where the Van Den Bergs come from. It looked a heck of a lot like all the other little medieval villages I have been seeing since I visited Cesky Krumlov. It felt a little too spruced up for the benefit of the tourists who come from primarily Germany and Amsterdam. Like a Disney set of a village, rather than a place people really live. The highlight was seeing a man making rope in the traditional way. He was wearing wooden clogs and twisting and stretching long multi-strand jute cords. I kicked myself later for not going and talking to him about what he was doing. Felt I had somewhere more important to go, but that was the best thing and I didn’t know it until later.
We had a relaxing Sunday, with summer sunny weather. Bianca and I took an easy bike ride along the canals near her house. Antoinette is quite tall and her bike fit me really well. Caught a bug or two in my teeth because I was smiling so much as I rode. Felt free to be zipping along the waterways and farmlands. We walked around Utrecht which is now my favorite European city. It is compact, and much easier to navigate than Amsterdam. It feels like people really live and work there, using the cobblestone streets and old houses along the canal. Next trip to Europe I hope to have more time there. The next day we drove to see Kinderdike, a UNESCO heritage site of older windmills. One of them was open to see inside, and the whirling blades of the mill set all sizes of wooden cranks and gears inside in motion. Sails on each arm caught the ample breeze and it was going quite fast, making creaks and groans like an old ship. Every level of the living quarters had moving parts that were connecting the blades with the water wheel below. To my annoyance, this made me quite seasick, and I couldn’t stay inside long. Once out in the fresh air, the open green landscape dotted with windmills set me right again.
The last person I visited was Marjolein. I met her on the Nepal trek. She is a quiet beautiful woman with lively curious eyes. We share many interests, including Buddhism and nature. She and her daughter live in a home that feels like a beach house, complete with shells, beach glass, and other objects that Marjolein finds at the seaside. We reconnected as we walked through Amsterdam, and as we shared a couple of tasty meals and cups of tea at her place north of the city. I enjoyed bringing the threads from Nepal and Mongolia all the way to my last stop via these new friends. (Thanks Mariel, Bianca, Antoinette, and Marjolein!)
It feels strange to say I am coming back to the States tomorrow. I have been on my own timeline, independent of life Back Home. I will be stepping back into a “program already in progress.” Catching up with people and places I hold dear. Working on the next stage of this trip, which is writing about it, giving presentations, and working on a book. I end this entry with gratitude. Thanks to all of you that have traveled with me through my writings. Thanks to Spirit for a safe journey full of lessons but devoid of serious mishaps or injuries. I give thanks for being able to complete what I set out to do. These and more are the gifts I bring home in my backpack. Tomorrow. (And as I post this, tomorrow has become TODAY.)