Monday, April 26, 2010

It's So Much More Than Wooden Shoes...

I went to the land of windmills. I went to the land of tulips. I went to the land of wooden shoes... and only saw one person actually wearing them - a boy walking from a gas station. I laughed to myself about that.

In the land of tulips and windmills, I saw a million tulips (no exaggeration!) and hundreds of windmills. However, most of them were modern windmills and not the ones you see in old school film - these ones are hardcore metal.

I went to The Netherlands (Holland to many outside the country) with my mind on seeing those things and learned that there is SO much more to the country. Yes, the tulips WERE phenomenal and the windmills quite breathtaking in their number, but I also had the opportunity to spend time and meet family I had never even known about... other members of the Struiksma clan, if you will. Haha!

I was ecstatic when my "cousin," (we'll go by that because I'm not sure what we actually are - 2nd or 3rd... something), Klaas, called and invited me to actually come and stay with him, and offered to pick me up from Bonn. There was worry on both sides that it might be a little awkward with a three hour car ride to and from Bonn to Sneek, but it was great. It was like catching-up with distant family - which is precisely what it was. We laughed and jokes and had serious conversations about faith, politics, ambitions, and our lives... It was just great conversation.

Anyway, Klaas picked me up on Friday night and we headed to Sneek. It was dusk by the time we got into The Netherlands, so I could barely see anything sight-wise, but I was just so thrilled to be there I didn't care. Haha! When we got to the apartment, we checked on the kids -he has a seven year old girl and a three year old boy - and then visited awhile before heading to bed. The next morning we headed first thing to Struiksma Bakery! I know - the name thing again... Why do I get SO excited about seeing my name somewhere. Perahps it's celebrity syndrome (I have always wanted to be an actress/singer), but I think it's more than that. I feel excited that I have heritage somewhere and that there's history behind my name (all three parts) in the form of people. When I was at Struiksma Bakery I got to talk for a few moments with Klaas dad and step-mom, and see a portion of how they live - SO stellar! Needless to say, the trip to the bakery was fabulous... and the croissants & jam weren't bad either. Haha!

Klaas, the kids, and I headed off to the Keukenhof tulip (and other flowers) festival afterwards, and found it to be rather crowded and busy... It happened to be the day of the HUGE flower parade throughout a chunk of the country, and it was cutting through Keukenhof that afternoon. Thus, everyone was there to see that... It was still REALLY beautiful and nice to walk along the flowered walkways... It certainly smelled like heaven. Mmm... Haha! The tulips were great and the parade was fabulous... We totally jumped a fence to get out of the park and away from the crowd - everyone was watching and it was pretty classic... :) It was a good time overall! The crowds were excessive, but it happens that way sometimes... (Pictures of the flowers and parade are on a slideshow at the bottom!)

Before heading back to Sneek, Klaas took us over to a beach so I could see the coast there! I hadn't even thought of that, but it was cool. I picked up some shells to take to the boys and my parents, and then walked along the beach for a short time before heading to grab some dinner and then drive back to Sneek - about an hour North of The Keukenhof. We drove back through the cities and I saw a little bit of Amsterdam, however not a lot. I'll just have to plan another trip up to see that, I guess! Haha...

Sunday I went to church with Klaas, which was a cool experience. They had a lady there to translate for me, who happened to be the preacher's wife. She was a GREAT translator and huge sweetheart. The sermon was on Job and his trials in life... I thought it was a great depiction on the meaning behind the story. I enjoyed the singing and rockin' out a bit during their meeting, but it was definitely different than my own church. I liked it though - I mean, I like learning about other religions and it was a good opportunity for me to learn about Klaas's beliefs, as well as to talk with him about my own - way cool discussion.

Afterward, we headed with the kids over to their grandparents house for a BBQ and so we could get to know each other. I wasn't sure what to expect because of the language barrier and just being different ages and such, but it was great. The dad, Jacob, and I were able to visit quite a bit and I just loved the family. He was super kind too and invited my parents and I back to stay when they were visiting from America... apparently that's not a common thing either, so I guess I came across positively. Haha! They kept saying I reminded them of Klaas sister in personality, but also looks - funny! I guess I really am a Struiksma! Haha...

Sidenote: Jacob, being the amazing baker and cook he is, made this AMAZING potato and such salad... When he walked with it I died laughing, because it said STRUIKSMA in Ketchup on top - haha! So classic for the family, yet again! Oh, and it seriously was the best salad ever... I said that he needed to teach me his mad cooking skills so I could come back to Bonn and impress the family here - haha!

We headed out a bit after three to drop the kids off to be with their mom and start the journey to take me back to Bonn. I was quite tired for some reason, but we spent the trip chatting a lot and laughing a lot... Our family sense of humor carries overseas in a lot of ways - haha! Klaas reminded me of a more Dutch version of Derek - haha! It was seriously so nice chatting and jamming out on the car ride back from Sneek... and it was SO great of him to drive me so out of his way - way cool of him. Haha!

We stopped in Bonn to get a drink before he headed out and we had a funny experience... There was this medical man who had just put up a cone on the road to block the street off and two seconds later this car, who clearly saw the cone, came barreling around the corner and took out the cone. Haha! Funnier still was the medical man yelling at the guy to halt and come back - yea... right. Haha! I shouldn't laugh, but it was pretty classic.... After that the guy stood behind the cone and waved off like thirty cars before we left... Hm. Sad job for him that night - haha!

Anyway, the trip was great! The country is FABULOUS and I'm glad to have my ancestry there - my new goal is to learn even more about that. I want to know dates and more genealogy dating back to Holland and the family I had there. It's going to be exciting to learn more about... It was such a great trip - wow... Just SO good to reunite a family after almost a century. Plus, who would have thought that I could be used as a link for that someday? It was stellar.

Next adventure...? Norway & Sweden is the plan for May, but I still need to plan that and make sure that's gonna happen. I'll keep y'all posted!

Song of the Day: I discovered this song while in The Netherlands, and am LOVING on Cheryl Cole lately. She is super! The song is by Snow Patrol, Featuring Cheryl Cole... Here's Set The Fire To The Third Bar. I love them together - Enjoy! (Also, Cheryl Cole's song, Fight For This Love is great!)


a sunlit dreaming tree said...

congrats on a successful trip to the netherlands!! :) so excited for you. keep the updates coming! <3 all my love!

Mindy said...

I kinda felt like I was watching The Best Two Years. :) I want to go there some day ... So gorgeous!

David said...

You look like you're having a lot of fun! I'm jealous. I didn't have time to leave Amsterdam when I was in the Netherlands.

Ash and Matt said...

You look so pretty in your new blog header picture! And that picture of the tulips with the windmills is just too perfect. Oh, I'm so jealous!

And what a neat thing to be able to reconnect your family like that. I'm so glad you had such an amazing time!