Tag Archives: life

Dark, wet and cold

The last few days of January seem to be such a misery. It is bitterly cold, annoyingly wet and depressingly dark outside.

Another birthday has passed by my window. After the excitement of birthday presents burned out like candles on a birthday cake, a plus-one in my age is all that  was left behind.

Consciously I retraced my twenty-eight’s footsteps. What have I done that are worth counting for the never-to-return time? There were a few.

I came home, and got myself an exciting job. I was absorbed.

I was there to hold my nephew when he was a few hour old. I felt my family’s hope rising in his cries. Like most babies, he cried quite a bit. We did not even mind that much.

For the first time in 10 years, I was in the same city with my best friend for a period longer than a holiday. We went to have junk food talking about our life battles. We were not drama queens. We just sought differences in life. We went clothes shopping giggling like teenagers again. We visited places.

But I could have seen her more often. I could have visited more old friends with whom I had lost regular contact for three years or more. Many of them have kids now. I didn’t go to see the little ones either. Sadly, there seemed to be a lot that I didn’t do. And the time has passed.

When regrets conquer, vulnerability creeps in. Outside, it is still dark, wet and cold. Yet the worst is to come in February. At the end of each day, I hurriedly tug my feet under a thick blanket, wait patiently. I still work, run, crochet, cook, learn and love. But I am desperately long for spring to come. 

A search for Dutch border

When I was at school, I learned about a beautiful country in Europe sharing borders with Germany and Belgium. There were a lot of tulips, wind mills and dams. All girls looked like ones on Dutch Lady milk packages. In English class, I was told that the Dutch Lady lived in a country called H.O.L.L.A.N.D as in Hope Our Love Long And Never Die. It’s a romance.

Years later, I find myself in Amsterdam realizing that there is no Holland. There are a North Holland and a South Holland as two of the 12 provinces in the Netherlands. Here are the rest: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, Overijssel, Zeeland, and Ultrecht. Each province has its own flag and capital city. Haarlem won the title to be the capital city of North Holland but its neighbouring city Amsterdam won the country’s prize. Amsterdam is the official capital city of the Netherlands but it doesn’t host the government, the Netherlands’ monarch, parliament and supreme court. They all seat in Den Hagg (The Hague).

The Netherland’s border actually reaches outside Europe to three islands in the Caribbean. Boniare, Sint Eustatius, Saba islands are three cities of the Netherlands but do not belong to any of the 12 provinces. People of the three islands are Dutch and vote in election with the Dutch government. However, they don’t buy things in euros. They use dollars.

The Netherlands herself is daughter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Her siblings are another three islands in the Caribbean: Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten. The four siblings don’t share flags, currencies or governments even though their people all share a Dutch citizenship.

There are tulips, wind mills and dams in Amsterdam. However, the Dutch girls I have seen look awfully unlike ones on the Dutch Lady milk packages in my memory. I suspect the ones in the Caribbean do too. I don’t know whether it is that the milk company’s advertising and packaging departments screwed it up or simply that stereotypes are normally wrong. By the same token, there are much more about the Netherlands than the stereotypical romance of a not-even-exiting Holland.

It’s a beautiful day

the park in a nice day

The sun comes out shining in the park. Wet grass of yesterday rain sparkles in the sunlight. The indulgent warmth from the sun lures quite a few people to the park in a Friday morning.

A little boy in his blue rain boots jumps up and down in a puddle. He stops to stare curiously at me when I run past waving him. A little cutie. As I heard Sarah Kay’s Spoken Word Poem “B” yesterday, the rain boots make me think of silliness and broken hearts. He still has plenty of time to enjoy the puddle fun before some can possibly break his heart. The little cutie.

At the entrance of the park, there is a drinking water fountain for thirsty wanderers. Today a man uses it to wash his clothes. Three plastic bags are full of clothes. He patiently put one after one under the tiny flow of water to soak them clean. I wonder how long it would him to wash them all. He is there when I get in and still there when I get out. What is his story? What goes through his mind when he does his laundry in a park among many passers-by?

What is the story of a guy who mediate in the park under the sun. I envy him. My head occupies with worries and anxieties. I find it hard to set them aside to sit still enjoying the warmth and the beauty of a sunny day. I choose to run until I am out of breath, and until my eyes water from the cold and the exhaustion. That is how I clear my mind of the bad stuff, and fill it with the good. I know it’s a beautiful day.

On my own

The situation is that I am in the Netherlands while my boyfriend is in Bulgaria. Needless to say that my family and my BFF live in Hanoi as well as Vietnam and the UK have the rest of my friends. In the whole of Amsterdam, I sort-of know three girls whose flat we stayed in when we first arrived. I do not even have their numbers because my boyfriend was the contact point. Except for the time I solo traveled Southern UK, I have never been so on my own.

I went out for a walk in the city centre. I got myself lost – which was foreseeable. My phone came to the rescue with its temperamental 3G connection. I was checking Google map when a family stopped nearby to take photos. It was cute. The son tried to snap moments  either when his parents were not moving or there were no picture-spoilers, like me, in the background. I grinned, and felt like missing my folk a bit. Then I heard the mother said something like Mùa này không phải mùa hoa tulip nhỉ” – which means ”It is not tulip’s season, right?” in Vietnamese. Another grin on my face. It was nice to hear Vietnamese even though I was too shy to talk to them.

I walked past a pub where it sounded like all the Scottish living in Amsterdam or nearby were drinking outside (I found out later that Celtic were playing here today). They sang loudly. They reminded me of the Geordies of Newcastle for the similarity in accent thickness and public drinking and singing. Perhaps I miss Newcastle quite a bit. The Toon holds a piece in my heart always.

I went for a run in the rain. It rained half of the time since I start running here. As if we had relocated back to Newcastle by mistake. Once I came to support my friend Van in his Great North Run in the rain. He told me he found running easier then. I hid under my umbrella and secretly considered him as being nuts. Now either that I understand how he felt or that I turned nuts as well. If the latter were true, it would not be because of me being on my own. It is good to be all alone sometimes.