Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Celebrating 3 years of living in Tulip Land

Yesterday my son turned 12. It also happens to be the day we landed in The Netherlands. We arrived here 3 years ago with our life crammed into 3 large suitcases. I was scared beyond belief. Here I was,stepping foot inside a country I didn't know one thing about, and wondering how in the world I was going to build a life up here..

I'm a small town girl from Oregon. I've lived in towns so small that they only required one set of traffic lights. I've lived out in the middle of nowhere and my neighbors were the local deer,raccoon,elk, and coyote. I never went to college. I became a mother at the age of 23 and had my second by 25. I worked both from home and in various other places. All I wanted was a home of my own on land that would support my constant need to fill it with every type of animal I could get my hands on. I still want that house on land.

Looking back on my 3 years here,it's hard to say if it's for the better or not. I have no illusions that we will be going home. I often think of my time here as a marriage of convenience. You continue your life as best and you can but you always keep your eye out for the time when you can break free and move on to something else. I'm forever stuck. I have lost touch with everything and everyone back home. It's no one's fault. I'm between 7-9 hours ahead of everyone and they can no more relate to me anymore than I can to them. I try my hardest to share what I see and do over here..but I know things are tough back home and everyone is struggeling to keep one foot infront of the other...but still..I feel left out.

Life as an Expat is a tricky one. Everyone moves to different countries for various reasons. It might be for work or school..but eventually they go home. For those of us who move here for love and starting over is very different. I'm not going home..not anytime soon. Thats not to say that at some point we couldn't go home, but in the larger picture, we are 100% better off here. When it comes to raising my two sons and giving them a secure future.. hands down, The Netherlands provides that. So I keep those things in mind as time goes by. 

My first two years were pretty bad ones. The boys and I suffered from cultural shock and it was hard to come to grips with. Everything was the same but very different. The culture is different. The way people deal with you over here is not the same. I find myself being judged before anyone has ever met me. They say to me "You're an American" with distain in their voice. Everyone has an opinion on us and they can't wait to share it. At first I was really happy to meet people but have since then shrank back alot...not everyone is like that of course but even my husband agrees that in the larger picture, Americans are by far the most friendly when it comes to general contact. We smile,we chat,we laugh,we help,we're curious.

So 3 years on and I still do not have friends here...but I don't actively search them out It's selfish to say but I really don't feel like peeling the layers away for someone to think about giving me a shot. I'm not, nor will I ever be, ashamed to be an American, and I'm not changing my life and outlook to suit anyone other than myself.

So here is what I do know..I'm stronger than I ever thought possible. I'm more openminded than I ever thought I would be. I now think of what it must me like for an immigrant moving to the U.S. because we aren't always nice to those who are different..and I get that same exact treatment here. I get those impatient stares,the rolling of the eyes,the general disregard for being an educated person who comes from a fully functioning country. I'm happier than I was 3 years ago and I'm positive I will be even happier one year from today. I'm starting to love my life. I love going on long drives and seeing new things. My relationship with my husband and two sons are rock solid. I still miss home. I'm always going to miss home and I hope I reach that point where this move won't be a marriage of convenience, but something I want to stay in for the rest of my life.