It’s easy to mistake the thick frost along the riverfront terraces for a dusting of snow. It’s certainly more like January in Maastricht than in Cambridge, but still nothing like the snow and ice of years past. The river is running a bit high and fast, but no sign of the water that topped dikes in Groningen earlier this week. Indeed, friends tell me that the snow pack in the Ardennes, to the south, is lighter than usual.
The Christmas lights are still up, although the city is starting to turn towards Carnival, Feb 19-21 this year. The fraternal organizations are already marching between the Wijk and the Vrijthof, kilts and brass instruments, members shaking hands with local officials on the steps of the City Hall in Markt Square. “Vasteloavend in Mestreech” doesn’t really get going for a few weeks yet, but the yellow, red, and green lights and bunting are starting to appear.
I’ve settled in to make a determined catch-up on my Dutch. Insego had a really good series of articles on the NT2 language and social Inburgering exams this week, and I’d determined to get a an early start on the 2012 goal of passing the tests. The Welkom in Nederland textbook was, curiously, not available in Selexyz Dominicanen, my go-to bookstore in the city, so I had to order for UK delivery. Otherwise, I’ve been putting in a solid 2-3 hours a day of reading newspapers, working the lessons, talking with neighbors, and generally getting my head back around my Dutch.
The car needed it’s 40K service, an engine light had started flickering and I had lingering concern about the blowout in Dover a month ago, but the dealer gave everything a thumbs-up. The bike park has instituted a 0.50p / day fee for dropoffs, I’ll have to start leaving mine in the outdoor park or fees will quickly outstrip its value.
Even with the cold, it’s nice to be mobile on the bike again: YouTube has a short documentary on How the Dutch got their Cycle Paths, which is pretty good if you’ve ever wondered.
I’ve also returned to daily exercise, the Health club blocked my codes with the New Year so that they could be sure that I would check in with an instructor (of course, none were available). It reminded me that my postage stamps (postzegels) might also be out of date (kapot).
Dutch postage stamps come in three varieties: Nederland, Europa, and Wereld: you put zone stamp on up to 20g and 2 stamps up to 50g for wherever your letter is going. It’s a pretty simple system, but with all of my stamps dated “2010”, I was concerned that I might need a supplement. No worries, though: if the stamp has the number 1 in the corner, they can be used any time.
I hit the Jumbo and AH for a quick grocery shopping (boodschappen), picked up a bottle of wine for a dinner invitation tomorrow, gave some TLC to my Olive tree. ‘funny how quickly (yet another) familiar routine settles in. I’m feeling a bit sad that several expat friends repatriated this winter; it leaves a gap in my thin social fabric as I reconnect with friends this weekend.
Still, it’s been good catching up with the rest, sharing holiday stories and making plans for the coming months. ‘taking an easy weekend, koffie, vlaai, gesprek: Life’s good.