As most children in the Netherlands prepare to celebrate the period of Sinterklaas, some of us expats can be left overwhelmed with this uniquely Dutch tradition, without understanding the history behind it. Some aspects might be shocking (blackface), others might be endearing (leaving carrots in shoes for Sint’s horse). Join us as Delft MaMa Anitha Raj, hailing from India, shares a little background on Sinterklaas followed by her observations of this annual tradition.
Guest Post by Nina Bogerd and Maya Levi
Although she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) fifteen years ago, Maya Levi has never let it determine her life. She is always full of energy, always optimistic. Even now, as the disease starts to profoundly limit her life physically, she is discovering new spiritual and physical pathways within life’s limitations.
MS is a disease that affects central nervous systems, thus the brain and the spine. Immune cells attack the myelin layer around the nerve cells, resulting in damage to neural functions and an impaired electric signal. The wide range of symptoms—e.g., balance problems, muscle weakness, blindness—vary from person to person, depending on the specific location that is damaged in the brain or spinal cord. The common prognosis, though, is the worsening condition over time. Maya’s symptoms have always included balance problems—but in the last year, the signaling to the legs has been so far damaged that walking has become extremely difficult.
However, the point of Maya’s story is not to focus on her disabilities caused by MS. The focus is on enabling her still existing abilities, thus strengthening her body and soul.
Raising funds to enable Maya
On the GoFundMe campaign started by her friend Lidia Bernabei, Maya tells us that although using a wheelchair might become inevitable, she wants to explore new opportunities to do as much as she physically can, to empower herself. She invites us to financially support the activities that she would like to do, but otherwise cannot afford.
In September, Lidia ran a half-marathon (20 km) in Rome to raise not only funds for Maya but also awareness for MS. Delft MaMa Nina Bogerd ran in Ljubljana, Slovenia in October, and Andrea Ortenzi ran in New York in November. These runs are steadily raising awareness for MS. Maya is currently training at the gym (weights) and on an indoor hand bike as a part of her physiotherapy and hopes to participate in a half-marathon with the hand bike in Rome in September 2019. If you plan to run somewhere the coming year, you can also dedicate your run to this campaign.
Funded: From disable to enable
The funds raised so far has enabled Maya, among other things, to start taking horseback riding lessons. These lessons have had an extensive impact on her body, mind and soul. But more specifically to her MS, the horseback riding forces Maya’s core muscles to stabilize her body. The lessons are taking place in Madurodam Manege, that specializes in horseback riding for people with disabilities. In addition to horseback riding, Maya has been able go wind sailing again, and plans to continue that next year thanks to Sailwise, a foundation that organizes adapted sailing activities for people with physical challenges.
Funds needed: Access to better mobility aids
At this moment Maya is unable to leave the house independently with the kids—she is dependent on her husband, ‘Regio Taxi’ (Municipality Taxi’s), and friends as she only has a manual (borrowed) wheelchair. A mobility scooter has been approved in September by the municipality but is not yet in place. Maya would like to have an electric folding wheelchair for traveling with her family. She would also like to have a hand bike with exchangeable wheels that can be connected to a wheelchair. This would allow Maya, a biologist, to go outdoors and enjoy nature. These are expensive products that can improve Maya’s quality of life.
Delft MaMa High Tea
Maya should not be alone in her struggle. To help Maya further, we are organizing a High Tea on the 9th of December, 2018, at Lunch Café Leonidas Delft. Money collected will go to Maya’s GoFundMe campaign. You are cordially invited to an afternoon dedicated to supporting one of our heroic mothers.
Thanks to Nina Bogerd and Maya Levi for contributing to this post.
The Origins of Halloween
Although Halloween celebrations are very popular in The United States, its origin comes far from the American continent. History dates Halloween celebrations as a Celtic festival, Samhain, commemorated with bonfires and animal costumes on the day before their new year, which used to be the 1st of November.
This celebration marked the end of the summer and the start of the cold and dark winter, a period associated with death and agricultural difficulties. The Celts believed that on October 31st, the spirits came back to Earth and the lost souls could cause trouble; therefore the bonfires, rituals and costumes helped repel the intentions of bad ghosts.
Later on, the Christians celebrated “All Saints Day/All-Hallows Day” on the 1st of November, which was the reason why the Celtic commemoration on the 31st of October became known as “All-Hallows Eve,” and later, “Halloween”.
Halloween in the United States
The Irish and English people brought the Halloween traditions with them during the mass migrations to the United States in the 19th Century, where it became a popular holiday.
It lost its religious and ghostly nature and became a celebration to bring together the community through games, food and costumes. The famous game “trick or treat” then became a fun way of sharing food. Despite the efforts of some community leaders to remove the scary tone of Halloween, this holiday still holds mystery and superstition, especially in the United States.
Halloween in Colombia
In Colombia, many efforts have been made in the last 15 years to diminish the creepy feeling of Halloween. In fact, it is now called, “Kid’s Day.” Schools and community centres promote the celebration of this day by hosting carnivals and kid-oriented shows, such as puppet theatre and magic shows. It is very common in Colombia to see kids wearing a costume to school on the 31st of October.
Funny enough, we don’t have seasons like those in the United States or UK, so pumpkins and spiders are not common at all at this time of the year. And yet, we still use those items for decoration. At the end of the day, kids go from house to house singing something that would translate as, “trick or treat Halloween, I want candy only for me, your nose will grow if you don’t give candy to me.” It might sound aggressive, but it is not taken in a bad way at all. It might refer to the Pinocchio story, were his nose grew longer because of lying. So telling a kid you don’t have candy to share might be considered a lie. My own interpretation!
Halloween in the Netherlands
Not a Dutch tradition?
In the 9 years I’ve been living in the Netherlands, no one has come to my door asking for candy on the 31st Of October. However, when my son was born, I decided I was not going to let this day pass unnoticed. At the time, I was living in Wageningen, a very international town in the east of The Netherlands. That year, I sent my son to daycare dressed as a polar bear and although moms and leaders thought it was cute, they also thought it was a bit weird.
I had also asked around among other expats and found out there was a newly built neighbourhood where many expats lived, and many had decorated their houses for Halloween. We decided to go in the evening with our kids and sing our Spanish Halloween songs, going from door to door to ask for candy. To our delight, we were very well received, even by the Dutch families! Perhaps this might be the only neighbourhood in Wageningen where kids can get candy on the 31st of October.
… how you can celebrate Halloween, Dutch style!
However, more than asking for candy, I wanted my son to enjoy Halloween in the way kids do in Colombia, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Therefore I have been doing my research and I am very happy to share this info with you:
Halloween shopping night
(Prinses Beatrixlaan, 2284 BK Rijswijk)
Thursday 25th October, from 18:00 – 21:00: dance performances for kids and face painting in de Bogaard Shopping Centre.
Halloween at the Delft Botanical Gardens
(Poortlandplein 6, 2628 BM Delft)
Friday 26th October, from 17:00 – 21:00: Ghost greenhouse, face painting, colouring, pumpkin carving, scary photo booth (DIY), marshmallows roasting at the bonfire, ghostly treasure hunt. You must pay for the entrance and for €2, kids get a stampcard for the various activities.
Halloween at the Stadsboerderij BuytenDelft
(Korftlaan 3a, 2616 LJ Delft)
Saturday 27th October, from 13:00 – 20:00: for kids between 3 and 6 years there are several activities throughout the day, such as pumpkin carving, decorating Halloween cupcakes, making popcorn in the fire pit, face painting, storytelling and a ghost tour through the water playground. See here for more information about the timetable of activities and costs.
Halloween in the Wippolder
(Wippolder, 2628 GC Delft)
Saturday 27th October, from 18:00 – 20:00: this has been a big and succesful Trick or Treat walk to the houses along a planned map route. Kids and parents wearing a costume are welcome to join this fun walk. The route to follow can be found on their Facebook page.
Delft MaMa Halloween Party
(Speeltuin Geerweg, Kleine Boogerd 16, 2611 WC Delft)
Sunday 28th October, from 14:00: Hosted by Delft MaMa, there are costume contests for both the kids and the adults. There’s a Pot Luck (bring a dish!) for food, but drinks will be available at the venue. The fee is €12,50 per family, Pay online via Tikkie. Follow the Facebook event here.
Halloween in de Trees!
(Laan van NOI 104, 2593 BX Den Haag)
Wednesday 31st October, from 13:00 – 17:00: Face painting, treasure hunt, trick or treat, surprise activities at the Zorg voor Party Feestwinkel.
Halloween in de Reinkenstraat
(Reinkenstraat, 2517 CS Den Haag)
Wednesday 31st October, from 16:00 – 18:00: This is a very cosy shopping street in the Hague. Children are invited to go dressed with costumes to sing Trick or Treat. There will also be several children’s activities in the street, such as a spooky ghost tunnel, a candy festival and face painting.
Halloween at Duivenvoorde Castle
(Laan van Duivenvoorde 4, 2252 AK Voorschoten)
Wednesday 31st October, from 16:00 – 17:30 for kids from 4 to 8 years old; from 17:30 to 19:00 for kids from 8 to 12 years old. Activities for both age groups include walking through the ancient castle rooms, a super-scary ghost tour, short storytelling in the attic, face painting, Halloween crafts and roasting marshmallows over the campfire.
Have a spooktacular time!
In See you at DULI, we met easy-going Carolina Nesi of DULI, a place where you can find international/multilingual books for children and adults, as well as workshops and courses aimed at both children and adults. Carolina has a passion for books and it shows in the book-filled interior of the small shop. The centerpiece of the shop, however, is a long table that can seat children and/or adults for courses and workshops. This piece focuses on one series of workshops for parents: the Parents’ Evenings at DULI.
Engaging topics made accessible
Sitting with Carolina over a cup of coffee, she described how she started to feel suffocated by the lack of adult stimulation in the daily grind of raising young children (sound familiar?). This was her biggest motivation in setting up Parents’ Evenings at DULI. Held in the shop after-hours, these evenings create a space for parents to participate in a discussion, usually of a philosophical nature, led by an expert in the field.
Carolina admits that English is not a strong language for her, and she was committed to ensuring the workshops would be accessible to a diverse group. To facilitate the accessibility, group sizes are limited, with an expert giving a presentation to no more than 10 people seated around the table. The presentation is interspersed with opportunities for questions and discussions. In fact, as a deaf person who normally struggles with lipreading and following conversations in a group environment, I found it easy to follow along with everyone in this format.
Starting last spring, the Parents’ Evenings covered topics ranging from happiness to internet safety and international childhood. When asked how she chose the topics, Carolina replied that she simply asked people what they were curious about. She then looked around for experts that best fit the topics. While the coordination of it all can be quite daunting at times, Carolina maintains a ‘learn-by-doing’ attitude as she plans more Parents’ Evenings in the coming months. [From the editor: there’s a sneak peek at the autumn Parents’ Evenings schedule at the end of this article!]
So, what are these Parents’ Evenings like? Last April I joined one; let’s take a look!
A first-hand look at Parents’ Evening at DULI
“Raising a Child of the World”—held at DULI last April—was led by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold of Ute’s International Lounge. Ute was perfectly suited to lead this talk both personally and professionally. Her research focuses on multilingualism and international families, and she herself grew up as an expat and is raising her expat family in the Netherlands.
The description of her talk referred to “third culture kids” – children who grow up in a country/culture different from that of their parents (first defined by Ruth Hill Useem). I’d read a bit of Pollock and van Reken’s Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, so I was curious to see what Ute would bring to the table (no pun intended).
There were six of us in attendance, all of us representing different nationalities and language backgrounds. After starting with introductions, we learned about collective experiences of international children growing up outside their parents’ home culture.
Ute likened our international kids to plants in pots—a plant in a pot is much more mobile than a plant in the ground. However, it needs special nurturing in order to thrive. Depending where that plant-in-a-pot is located, different kinds of nurturing is needed. When transitioning to a new place, our kids also need different kinds of special nurturing to ensure that they can adjust well and thrive in the new environment.
Throughout Ute’s talk, we had opportunities to ask questions and share our own observations. Ute’s personable approach made us feel that our input was valuable to the discussion. The setting of the talk created a feeling of information-sharing rather than being lectured at by an expert. I left feeling empowered with more tools in my mama toolkit to help my daughter thrive as a multilingual and multicultural child.
Parents’ Evenings at DULI in a nutshell
Parents’ Evenings give us the opportunity to explore engaging topics in an accessible format, and allows us to bring up burning questions with an expert in the field. On top of that, it is a chance to have stimulating and eye-opening conversations with a dynamic group of people. All in all, a fabulous night out.
I look forward to seeing the new talks Carolina arranges next. On my wish list is a talk about balancing personal goals with the responsibilities of parenthood. What kinds of topics are on your wish list?
Ute’s International Lounge – The homepage of Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold, showcasing her work and current offerings—including, consultancy, book club meetings, and courses.
TCK World: The official home of Third Culture Kids – describes Ruth Hill Useem’s research in this area and provides some useful links for networking with other TCKs.
Third Culture Kids: Growing up among worlds, written by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken (sends you to Amazon.de page)
From the editor:
Curious about upcoming Parents’ Evenings at DULI?
Thursday, 13 September | Elegance of Living – Introduction to Access Bars. Aimed at creating a world of consciousness and oneness, where everything exists and nothing is judged, Access Bars is a gentle hands-on technique that quiets the mind.
Thursday, 18 October | The Science of Happiness—led by Mrs. Anna Blasiak—introduces us to scientific facts about happiness; and we discuss the role of our actions and attitude on attaining happiness.
Thursday, 22 November | Book discussion of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. And Listen So Kids Will Talk.
[Editor’s note: 22 November has been changed to 8 November.]
For more information, contact DULI. Happy discussing!
Blackberries and Memories
Yesterday, I took my daughters blackberry picking. To someone else this may sound like just another day out, but for me it was special. It was special because it enabled me to re-live one of my favourite childhood memories and to share it with my own children.
When I think of it now, it seems a little strange, a teenage girl voluntarily taking her little brother out to pick blackberries. Remember though that this was in the time before iPads, and we had two months of summer holidays to fill!
This particular memory takes place towards the end of the summer break when we had already spent days at the beach, in the park, hung out with friends, set out crab traps, wandered around the house doing nothing in particular and were feeling rested, relaxed, and superbly content. Suddenly it was the end of August, and what had started as an endless vacation was *gasp* almost over. The race was on to make the most of those last sun filled days. I grabbed a few buckets and shouted to my little brother, “come on! We are going blackberry picking.”
Vancouver Island, where we lived, is a magical island of spectacular natural beauty (but that’s another story). It is also covered with wild blackberry bushes that ripen in late summer. Out we walked into the hot sun carrying our buckets like little soldiers on a mission to the nearest patch. After sizing up the bushes to find the juiciest specimens we dropped our buckets and started picking. We worked in companionable silence broken only by the occasional “ouch!” as one of us scratched ourselves or ‘mmmm’ when we were unable to resist a taste. Occasionally, disaster would strike in the form of accidentally kicking over a nearly full bucket or, particularly painful, falling into the bushes. Much to the hilarity of the other sibling.
If I let my mind travel back there now I can still smell the warm, ripe berry smell, part fermented fruit and part earthy leaves that would soon be turning brown. The hot sun burning the back of my neck, the scratches on my hands and the relaxing monotony of picking. Concentrated as we were on our efforts to find the biggest, juiciest berries, we lost all track of time.
Buckets finally full we trudged home with the fruits of our labour. Tired and hot we competed to see who had the most scratches or whose fingers were the purplest, stained from the dark juice.
Back in the kitchen, I made the pastry and, together with my little brother, we rolled it out to fit the pie tins. Then we cooked the berries, adding lots and lots of sugar. By the time we’d assembled the pies and baked them in the oven, the kitchen was a disaster of flour and squashed berries. At about this time, my Mum arrived home from work to find two children who had made a disaster of her kitchen proudly displaying fresh blackberry pies.
The childhood experiences that my daughters have in Holland are very different from my own back in rural Canada. Sometimes this is part of the fun. We get to experience things for the first time together. But other times it can make it hard to relate to each other. Memories that friends back home hold on to because they are triggered by their familiar surroundings have faded into the recesses of my memory. It’s amazing how a simple activity like this can bring those memories rushing back, filling my heart with a warm glow.
Vancouver Island is too far and too expensive to travel back to regularly. However, I am doing my best to bring a little bit of my life in Canada here to share with my family. When I do and when it works, the distance between here and home closes just a little and the effort is so very worth it.
I would love to hear about traditions from home that you are sharing here with your children?
And of course about any good spots for blackberry picking!
Every year, Delft MaMa organizes a summer potluck event for local families together with food, fun, and friendship.
The 2017 edition was even more special, as it marked the first in a series of celebrations of Delft MaMa’s ten year anniversary. More than 50 adults and even more children joined us for last Sunday for this event.
Over a dozen nationalities were represented from Argentina to Australia and back again. The resulting cuisine was much more impressive than your usual picnic fare.
There was a tasty rice salad from Italy prepared by Delft MaMa Luisa prepared an Italian rice salad with boiled rice, cheese cubes, tuna fish, boiled eggs, grilled courgette and other mixed grilled veggies, and olive oil for dressing.
Delft PaPa Eelco provided a Dutch touch with his herring salad. To recreate this dish at home, you need smoked herring, pickled onions, small pickled cucumbers, peas, roasted paprika and dressing (mayonnaise, kwark, orange juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, sambal).
Delft MaMa Zsofia and Delft PaPa Anish made a Middle Eastern couscous salad of bulgur, fresh herbs, chopped vegetables and buttery chickpeas. You can find the full recipe here.
Delft MaMa Zsofia added, “every year we enjoy taking part in DelftMaMa’s summer event. It is a great opportunity to catch up with Delft MaMa families we know and even meet new ones. From a culinary point of view, we do learn and get to taste lovely dishes of different cultures.”
In addition to the delicious fare, the picnic included fun activities for the entire family. The children took advantage of the sunny weather at the Bomenwijk playground. There were also games and the opportunity to contribute to the ten year mosaic project.
Delft MaMa Nan hosted a special edition of the mosaic workshop! Participants worked on small tree designs and Delft blue detail pieces that will add a bit of sparkle to the final product. As Delft MaMa Shadi shows in the following photos, making a mosaic is an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
According to Nan, “the workshops for the mosaics have been mainly attended by Delft MaMas, so the picnic was a chance for the children to participate. They made small sections of mosaic for the arching base of the bridge in blue and white. Delft blue shards are definitely a MUST this mural since it features very Dutch scenery. The children were enthusiastic about leaving a beautiful mark on Delft!”
Hosting such a successful picnic was only possible thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers.
Delft MaMa Hellen headed the project, and her hard work and leadership skills were much appreciated. She was supported by Delft MaMas Shadi, Luisa and Tatjana. Delft MaMa heartily thanks these ladies and all our volunteers for their time and efforts.
For Delft MaMa Hellen, “it was really nice to share a wonderful day with some of the Delft MaMa’s members, especially the one I’d never met before. Despite our different cultural backgrounds, we just blended in and enjoyed the lovely atmosphere. Both parents and children seem to have a good time. I’m also very happy to have been given an opportunity to organise the event. I’m looking forward to attending more events in the future.”
We look forward to welcoming everyone to the 2018 picnic, but, in the meantime, be on the lookout for upcoming events that will bring together the Delft MaMa community. As always, the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday playgroups will welcome the youngest members of our community and their parents.
On September 12th, Delft MaMa Nareen will host the next edition of our monthly Mom’s Night Out. September 17th will be the second annual Delft MaMa Walk at Delftse Hout. All members of our community are welcomed to walk together to keep keep Delft MaMa running.
There will also be mosaic making sessions regularly throughout the month of September on the following days:
Tuesdays 19:30 – 5, 12, 19, 26
Thursdays 19:30 – 7, 14, 21, 28
Saturdays 10:00 – 9, 16, 23, 30
We will start with the installation of the mosaic at the Achtertuin Playgroup towards the end of September. More updates will be announced soon on the Delft MaMa blog. Depending on the weather, the unveiling ceremony will take place on October 21st or 28th. Please mark your calendars for this momentous (all pun intended) occasion.
Delft MaMa also hosts an annual Halloween Party, but are actively looking for one or two volunteers for this event on October 29. If you are interesting in helping to make this event possible, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then it will be on to our fall and winter events. If you are an early planner, you can even put a reminder on your calendar for the 2018 summer picnic, who knows what weekend will bring the sun and fun needed for the picnic.
The Womanhood Studio in Delft is moving to a new location and will be filling a hole in Delft’s current offerings for families. Tami, the Womanhood Studio’s creator and owner, has been serving women in the Delft community as a doula. She opened the Womanhood Studio two years ago, expanding her services to offer massages and classes for pregnant women and new moms. Now Tami’s moving her studio to a new home at 28 Schoolstraat in Delft, bringing the studio closer to Delft’s public transportation connections.
The Womanhood Studio was a centerpoint for my pregnancy in Delft. I was able to enjoy several massages with Tami and discuss the best way to alleviate my aches and pains. Tami was there for me when I was overdue, worrying about an induction. Once my little one arrived, we returned to the Womanhood Studio for baby massage classes. The studio also offers baby sign language classes. At the previous small space on Vlamingstraat, the studio services often ended there – then came news that Tami had found a new, larger location and would be able to expand her offerings.
My experience is not unique. Jules, who used Tami as her doula had wonderful things to say about her experience. “The Womanhood Studio is a unique concept that celebrates women ,and I feel fortunate that I had the support and care of Tami during my pregnancy and labour. Tami was our doula – her calm spirit, cheerful personality, positive affirmations and can-do attitude gave us a lot of confidence as first-time parents. My birth was filled with laughter and Tami’s presence really empowered me to have the birthing experience that I had dreamed of. I am so excited to see that the Womanhood team under Tami’s guidance is going from strength to strength and moving to a bigger historic Delft location. Tami’s big smile and hospitality will welcome you. Make sure you check out the Womanhood Studio. You won’t regret it.”
If you have never been lucky enough to meet Tami, you should rectify that right away. Her mere presence puts you at ease. She has a particular soft spot for expat parents and classes at the studio are often taught in English. (I can promise you she will make sure you feel comfortable no matter what your language or home country.) She encourages everyone to stop in and say hello to see what the Womanhood Studio has to offer for you! I am lucky enough to be Tami’s neighbor. I invited her over for tea to chat all about the exciting changes and what it means for families in Delft.
The name Womanhood Studio came from her desire to serve women in the community at all stages. Although many classes focus on children or pregnancy, the studio is designed to be welcoming to all. The new studio space will even enable Tami to offer Pilates classes for men or mixed classes.
All the classes at the Womanhood Studio are small, usually under 10 participants, so that they can have an intimate feel. These gatherings are designed to provide community and connection. Tami encourages participants to come early and hang around afterwards to chat up with her and other participants.
Photo Credit: Womanhood Studio
The new space means an expanded range of options. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises she has planned, but Tami was off to be certified to teach Arial Yoga after our chat. She’s also ordered some lovely swings for a special class for children and plans to offer other classes that help older children with body, mind and emotional connections. I cannot wait to have my kids try out these classes. Previously you would have needed to head to Rotterdam or The Hague for offerings like these, but now they will be available in Delft center.
If you still think the Womanhood Studio has nothing to offer stop by, meet Tami and let her know what you would like to see. The Womanhood Studio is a service to the community and wants to be responsive to the community’s needs. Feedback on classes, be it times or format, is heard and adjustments are made. If you have a group that is looking for something specific, say Pilates for moms with young babies, stop by and she will see if she can make it work. Since classes are small, it’s often feasible to start a class with enough interest.
The studio will also be available for other gatherings. If your group is looking for a place to gather and meets the mission of the studio, get in touch with Tami. This lovely new space can be a gathering place for the community.
…I tried starting a gang once, it turned into a book club…
Book clubs turn an insular hobby into a more social one. They foster camaraderie, debate and can inspire us to try new authors and genres. Reading is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Books provide adventure in an armchair and fire up the imagination. In a world of increasing electronic distractions, where serious debate is limited by twitter and expressions reduced to emojis, reading can discipline the mind to concentrate and consider new viewpoints. We should be required to read a book for every 10 selfies we take.
What makes a good book? The answers are as varied and numerous as there are books. Characters that you fall in love with and root for until the end, electrifying stories that you can’t put down or inspiration to get you through a bad patch. It depends on moods, your time of life and background. The book club has introduced me to writers I had never even heard of, which I have enjoyed immensely, and introduced me to a whole range of useful topics like free libraries, which now also serve as the home for my pre-loved books.
Good books never really end; they stay with you for ages and float in your imagination, with quotes that inspire you. You can lose yourself in a good book and find yourself as well. Bad books should be flung across a room ( for closure) or if thick enough should be used as door stops. And with bad books, unlike with people who annoy you, you can just shut them and move on.
We all read for different reasons, for pleasure, escapism, inspiration and edification. Reading can fit into the crevices of your day. I only found the time and energy to start reading again once my daughter started school and began sleeping through the night. I find myself drawn to short books. Do thick books tell better stories or are they just verbose and a waste of time? Shortest Booker prize winner – “The Sense of an Ending “at 163 pages by Julian Barnes and the longest “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton at a whopping 832. I do have that book, and yes, I use it as a door stop.
Short stories are often an underrated medium, but are great when you don’t have much time or just need a break. A bit like speed dating, writers sometimes use them as a precursor to a novel, yet others use them as their sole medium. The best ones are neat and compact, do not rely on literary devices and can cover the shortest period and yet be profound. I have discovered some good ones, but am still looking for the great one.
At the book club, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We all have different opinions about the book we’ve read and that’s great. No two people ever read the same book. Our views are coloured by our experiences, our history and our personalities. There is no judgment, just listening and consideration and yes, debate. There appear to be a few arbitrary rules: no romance novels, no serious classics (the stuff you had to read in school), also no mysteries and no vampire/ zombie books. The rest is fair game.
We come from different backgrounds, countries, professions and all have our own stories (which perhaps are more interesting than the ones we read about). So if you ever find yourself on a certain Saturday afternoon looking for inspiring conversation about books and reading, you are more than welcome to join our band of readers – we are on facebook (Delft Bookclub) and have an email group too.
Free libraries in Delft:
- Ones around Hof Van Delft:
- Adriaan Pauwstraat 74
- Laan Van Overvest 44
- Dirklangenstraat 40
And also a couple here
and one here:
Fiction and literary essays online / literary magazines
www.newyorker.com (but with a monthly limit)
The Guardian weekly book review email – bookmarks
www.goodreads.com – for reviews and ratings of books
And don’t forget that the DOK library in Delft also has a good selection of adult fiction in English.
Amanda lives in Delft and when not hanging out with her 5 year old, tends to her balcony garden and continues her quest for the perfect short story (and the perfect chocolate cake).
With warm weather (hopefully) just around the corner and the school summer holiday fast approaching, I’m busy working on my summer holiday bucket list. In addition to being a list of things I’d like to do with my two girls aged 7 and 5 while they are off school, it’s also a list of places to cool off when it’s hot. I love the beaches at Monster and Ter Heide, but being a redhead I miss the shade. We thus often opt for a local lake where we are more likely to find trees for me to hide under. If any of you, like me, start to wilt like fresh spinach in a pan when the thermometer rises above 25˚C, you may enjoy one of the options below.
The Prinsenbos is one of my favourite places to go with the kids. Given that we live in Naaldwijk, it is very close by. It also just makes a lovely day out.
There is a small lake for swimming with a sandy beach and grass to sunbathe in. There is playground equipment and a small nature playground with a water pump on the other side of the parking area. There is nowhere to buy refreshments, but there are picnic tables to use and the ice cream man is often parked at the entrance.
If you get tired of swimming, you can take a walk on the path around the lake, which is buggy and wheelchair friendly. The walk takes about 15 minutes at adult walking speed.
Madestein (between Monster and Den Haag, gemeente Den Haag)
The Madestein is a large park and recreational area in between Den Haag and Monster. There are a few entrances, but I normally enter and park on the Madepolderweg side, which is also where the restaurant ’t Brasserietje is. There is a large grassy area in front of the lake where you often see families gathering for BBQ picnics.
Wollebrand (Honselersdijk – off the Veilingroute N222)
The Wollebrand may be located directly behind a provincial highway, but once you are in the park you would never know. There is a sandy beach surrounding the swimming area with a grassy field behind where you can stretch out on a blanket and daydream an afternoon away. If you fancy a walk, there is a tree filled park behind the lake with walking trails.
Directly on the beach is a modern restaurant with good food and a big deck overlooking the lake called the Wollebrand. If you are feeling adventurous, there is a cable water ski/wakeboard track on the lake.
Krabbeplas (gemeente Vlaardingen)
The Krabbeplas is a great lake for swimming and surfing located in a huge recreational park between Maassluis and Vlaardingen. There is playground equipment, a sandy beach, and a large grassy area for relaxing or picnicking. On the beach is a restaurant called the Krabbeplas. While it is a little outdated, it’s still a decent option if you don’t feel like cooking after a long day of playing in the water.
Grote Plas Delftse Hout (gemeente Delft)
What’s not to love about the Delftse Hout? There are several options for swimming in the Delftse Hout, but the Grote Plas is the largest swimming lake in the park. With lots of sand to play in, shady trees to hide under, and grass to picnic in, it’s easy to while away a summer day.
There are two options for restaurants in the Delftse Hout, Knus and Het Rieten Dak. For families, Knus is great. It is overlooking the lake further along from the beach and has a nice playground to keep the kids occupied while you enjoy a cool drink. Although the beach is not as nice as the Grote Plas, you can jump into the water right from the restaurant. They also offer waterbike and rowboat rentals by the hour.
These last three lakes I haven’t visited yet but definitely plan to this summer. Maybe you have been and can tell us about it?
Zwemvijver Wilhelminapark (gemeente Rijswijk)
Put Te Werve (gemeente Rijswijk)
Dobbeplas (Nootdorp, gemeente Pijnacker-Nootdorp)
If you enjoy swimming outside but prefer the comforts of a swimming pool, there are two swimming pools that I know of that also have an outdoor pool which is open in the summer:
Zwembad de Waterman in Wateringen
Zwembad de Hoge Bomen in Naaldwijk
Waterspeeltuin Tanthof (gemeente Delft)
A lovely and very shady place to spend an afternoon playing with water. There is a man-made creek with running water to float a toy boat down and go chasing after it. The stream ends in a small pool just deep enough to splash around in. There is playground equipment in the park and a petting zoo close by. Although there is enough to do for a family of all ages, I would say this is a particularly good option for toddlers simply because the water is very shallow.
Waterspeeltuin Delftse Hout (gemeente Delft)
And here we are back in the Delftse Hout for the water park. You can find the entrance close to the petting zoo. There is a small entrance fee, but personally I think it is well worth it. The park is kept clean, and there are toilets and a small café on the premises. Since there are so many options here for playground equipment, water fun, and sandcastle building, it is easy to spend the whole day.
Burying your sibling in the sand is optional.
Waterpeelplaats Tubasingel (gemeente Rijswijk)
I haven’t been here yet but can’t wait to explore it or hear all about it from a Delft Mama.
Unfortunately, a lot of the smaller lakes become infested with Blue Algae in the warm weather. The local government tests the water regularly and does make efforts to clean the water, but they are not always successful. If you want to make sure your lake of choice is safe to swim in before you go, see www.zwemwater.nl for the latest information.
In the summer of 2016 my family and I moved from the sunny Costa del Sol to the not-so-sunny town of Delft, and I wasn’t sure if we’d made the right decision. I knew that my husband’s work opportunities would be better, my children’s schooling would be a LOT better and that I wouldn’t have any trouble continuing my writing. I also figured that living in such a creative town, and close to other business hubs like The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, my career could only ever progress. But Holland? Could I be happy there?
Yes I like cheese, clogs are funny and tulips are pretty – but what did I know about The Netherlands? What could the country offer me?
Well actually, it turns out that ten months into our three year placement here it’s taught me a lot. I now understand why everyone thinks it’s so cool and I know (freezing winters aside) I will be happy here. Here are ten things that living in The Netherlands has taught me…
You don’t need to have good weather to have fun
I’m half Spanish so sunshine runs through my veins…closely followed by mojitos. When I look back at the best times of my life there’s always been a blue sky. Yet living in The Netherlands has taught me that it’s fine to go outside. Even if it’s a bit drizzly and cold. Once I’d invested in a decent winter coat, thermals and thick boots I was ready to explore the amazing scenery. We’ve trekked through fields of tulips, woodlands and farms, canal boat rides, city walks and plenty of food markets – and although it’s been cold it’s also been lots of fun. And as for going out with friends in the evening, I just swap my sangria for gluhwein and it’s all good!
You don’t need a car
In Spain we had a car – in fact we had two! Then we moved to the tiny cobbled streets of Delft, with its multitude of bicycles and parallel parking beside canals and we changed our minds. And you know what? I love not having a car now. I walk over an hour a day and my backside is pert and round. I get fresh air (maybe too fresh) and I get to see the beauty of the town. The trains, buses and trams are (mostly) on time and reasonably priced and best of all I don’t have MOTs and insurance to worry about. I’m sure life will get even better once I get myself a bike…but one step at a time. Literally.
Kids should be given freedom
To be fair, my kids have always had freedom because I practise the parenting art of ‘do the least possible and tell everyone you are making your children independent’! But in Holland that is a thing. It’s actually their way of life and it’s encouraged for parents to let their children do as much as they can by themselves. Cycling to school, going to the park, going shopping…you see children as young as six years old going about their daily business alone and it’s fine. It feels safe here and you know your children are respected; in fact kids are given as much importance as adults. Apparently children here are also the happiest in the world (they don’t get homework in their pre-teen years, which I’m sure also helps). Take a look at the book ‘The Happiest Kids in the World’ if you don’t believe me!
A home looks better when you fill it with flowers
You know what makes me happy (apart from chocolate and silence)? Fresh flowers. And the best thing about The Netherlands is that flowers are cheap. If you go to the market before they close you can buy a bunch for as little as a Euro! I’ve quickly realised that the dustiest of houses look pristine if you fill them with enough tulips and roses. It also smells better too!
I’m lucky to have English as my mother tongue
Have you ever tried to speak Dutch? Well luckily you don’t need to, as the clever buggers all speak about five languages and feel so sorry for you as you splutter your way clumsily through every sentence that they insist that you speak English. Even the films on TV and in the cinema are in English – lucky us!
You can eat crap and still be slim
Dutch people are not fat. Dutch people love their beer, waffles, pancakes, bitterballen, bread and cheese. It must be all that cycling and lack of driving that keep them trim!
Beaches are not just for the Med
I was shocked that The Netherlands had such great beaches (OK, so my geography isn’t great). Although it’s standing room only when the sun makes a rare appearance, places such as The Hague’s Scheveningen is a Hipster paradise full of cool beach bars, restaurants and sand finer and more golden than anything the Costa del Sol has to offer. I wouldn’t bother bringing your snorkel, or getting in the freezing sea in general, but you can still get a mean cocktail or two.
Women are a force to be reckoned with
Being an expat (or ‘trailing wife’…don’t you just love that term?) it’s rare for me to move to a country because of my husband’s work and get asked what I do. It’s a sad fact of life that when you are a mother, and married to a businessman who travels a lot, people rarely expect you to have your own career as well. Except in The Netherlands. How refreshing to be asked if I was here for my studies or my own business. How wonderful to have the opportunity to tour universities and schools talking about my books, host panels at literary events and get to discuss gender politics, entrepreneurships and business opportunities while surrounded by like-minded working mothers. Hurray, an expat location with an advanced mindset.
You can be rude and still have manners
Just ask the Dutch. So friendly, so helpful, so smart…yet so direct!
Europe is actually one big playground
And the best thing about living in The Netherlands? We are at the centre of Europe. We are a short train ride away from Belgium, France and Germany. We can hire a camper van and drive to Italy via Switzerland. Or we can be in the UK in 40 mins by plane. Weekends have just got a lot more fun. So who cares that the weather is cold, the language tricky and the food a bit stodgy? It’s a magnificent country with great people and loads to do…and if you get bored of it you are just a few hours away from other amazing countries. Yes I miss my siestas and balmy nights of sunny Spain – but pancakes on a Dutch beach in an anorak isn’t so bad either. I might even treat myself to some cheap flowers on the way home.
Natali Drake is a published author and freelance Marketing consultant. You can attend her FREE talk about the Rise of Young Adult fiction and its place in today’s society at the American Book Centre in The Hague on 1st June 6.30pm, where she will be also answering questions and signing copies of ‘The Path Keeper’ – her first book from her thrilling fantasy romance series.