On October 19, 2010 I moved from the US to The Netherlands. This is a love story many years in the making.

Blinden paden en marihuana…

Carel is in the habit of taking a walk every day, and has determined that I will be accompanying him on these walks. I always take my camera because every time I turn around there is something that is either beautiful or strange or both. Thankfully he’s a photographer too and has patience with me always saying “Wait a moment?”

Tonight we walked to the park that’s across the highway from his house. Along the way I stopped in my tracks and started giggling – there was a marijuana plant growing in the gutter of the street, right next to a dandelion. No-one seems to have noticed or cared. I am definitely not in the United States!

The park is not what one thinks of as a “city park” (there are some of those, elsewhere) with lawns, open air, sunshine, playgrounds, etc . This one looks like a American miniature national park – not tended and groomed, it’s just a tangle of big trees, undergrowth, and paths. It’s lovely, and it makes my heart happy.

At the entrance is a Dutch nicety that pretty much typifies this country to me, and is one of the answers to the constant question I get of  “…but why are you moving to The Netherlands?” The reasons are myriad, but one of them is that they’re a kind and thoughtful people. Here’s an example:  all over the place are “blindengeleidenpaden” which are “guidance paths for the blind”. It’s a textured white strip which the blind run their canes over from side to side and as long as they follow it, they will be assured of not running into anything (there is a very long one in the train station, along the tracks). When it gets to a curb, the strip ends in a black swatch of rubber, which feels different under the foot and provides warning that there is a street immediately in front of one.

Also, when we had walked into the park, we happened across een rode eekhoorn (a red squirrel) with a broken back. He was dragging himself along on his front legs and just looked heartbreakingly sad. I stopped, horrified, at a total loss as to what to do. Carel pulls out his cell phone and says “I must call the animal ambulance.” (!) I would have thought he was joking if not for the gravity of the situation, and sure enough he rang someone up and explained about the squirrel. He was told that it had been called in previously (see what I mean about kind?) but had been lost up a tree. We were asked to try and catch it, but we failed and again lost it up a tree, so he called back to let them know the status of the problem, and we unhappily walked on.

On the other side of the park, we wandered up next to the new office building they’re constructing. It’s a very modern thing and looks to me much like a sort of giant cruise ship. Every time I see it I come up with a new name for it. Tonight it was the HMS Magellan, as it looks more than large enough to go around the world.

Apparently it is replacing three existing 30 year old buildings, which will be removed. The fact they plan to remove the old ones was startling enough to my American sensibilities. They’re going to spend money to take down and remove THREE large buildings just because they’re older, ugly, and not energy efficient. Really?! He went on to explain that it was built specifically to minimize the shadow’s footprint on the nearby park as much as possible, and also that the angled protrusions were calculated with the movement of the sun to reflect the heat away from the building in summer, and into it during the winter, and … at this point I was just standing there gaping at him in disbelief…and that they had figured out how to pump water through the exterior of the building, heat it using the solar energy and then somehow store it to help heat the building in winter, and then use the cooled water to reduce the temperatures in the summer.

Buh.  Really?


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