Four Years Later

Four years ago this month, we visited Delft for the first time. It had snowed, which I now know is unusual. It was Carnival, and there were adults in strange costumes, and we couldn’t find too many options for breakfast on a Sunday morning (these things are usual—Carnival is just one of many excuses for adult costume-wear).

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I remember thinking: I could live here.

The day my husband had his interview, I walked all around the city by myself and sat in the same café I’ve sat in probably two hundred times since. I watched bicycle after bicycle slide by in the slush. I was fascinated, and happy.

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We took touristy photos of the Stadhuis, and the Delftware shops, and the view up Oude Delft toward the Old Church. Someone in this relationship likes to quantify things, and I remember having a discussion about how we were already “80% certain” we would move here.

Take a set of vacation photos that you love, and then imagine if you went back and spent four years in that place. Yes, some of the gloss would disappear. But for me, most of the shine really hasn’t. I’ve never regretted that we came here. Every time I cross the Markt, I feel like I should take out a camera. I never get over the beauty.

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Three years, we said when Tim accepted his postdoc position. It was a relatively easy commitment to make, all told: a postdoc isn’t meant to be permanent, or even long-term. We wanted a change. We wanted to see the world. And we did. And we still do.

In April things will change, and we’ll be moving back to the US: to Massachusetts, specifically, which is where we left off before. Tim accepted the job that will be the next step in his career in early January, but I’ve resisted blogging about the news, or posting it on Facebook. In part, that’s because it feels surreal. I’ve barely set foot in Boston in years, and as much as I loved it before, it is foggy when I picture dropping back in to stay. You might have noticed: I love Europe.

I’ve been making little notes about things to look forward to when we go back. They range from giant freezers to American bookstores to the possibility of finally attending my family’s Christmas party. Most of the important things in the plus column have to do with family.

When I look at the photos from that first visit, I can’t help thinking: we look young. Really. (Is the moral of this story that being an expat ages you prematurely? The verdict may still be out…) I didn’t know a single Dutch word. I couldn’t convert Fahrenheit oven temperatures to Celsius. I’d never been to Italy, or Paris, and I don’t think I’d ever even had a Belgian beer. In Belgium.  I didn’t know so many people who I now call my friends.

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I remember when all of this was new.

And I hope I never forget it.

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8 Comments

Filed under Our Dutch Adventure

8 responses to “Four Years Later

  1. Linda

    Alas, we will be visiting the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary on a whirlwind river cruise in 2015. We just couldn’t get by on vicarious European travel any more. We will have to meet up before, rather than during, our trip to collect your “must see” advice.

    And welcome back. America will try to go easy on you.

  2. angela

    Congratulations on Tim’s new job! Try not be too sad about your move- remember from the East Coast to Europe it is only a ~ 6-9 hrs flight…..how far away is California again? What I realized over the years as an expat (New Zealand, London (UK) and the US) is that it’s not so much about where you actually live but where your loved ones are. In the end, Boston, Berlin or London…. they are all the same to me (and I love them all for different reasons) what really counts is enjoying every single moment of it and realizing how lucky one can be to be able to experience so many cities and countries! In fact, that is one of the main reasons why I decided on a career in science: it gives one the opportunity to move to and experience so many different places and meet people from all over the world…would you have asked me 10 years ago…I could have never imaged that I would ever work in a Nobel Laureate’s lab with labmates from Spain, Japan and Greece, that my best friend here is from China and most importantly that half of my family is American and that our little girl will probably be more fluent in American English than in German….so what’s going to happen in the next 10 years? Maybe we’ll all move to New Zealand or…or…or…at some point! So what I realized is that life is a journey and it does not matter so much on the country you live in- more what you make out of it. Enjoy your last weeks/months in Europe!

  3. Congratulations to both of you. I realize this is, like so much of life, bittersweet. The good news, from Boston you are but a short flight away. (And I am hoping expat life does not age you!!)…. julie

  4. Alice

    Just found your blog, and thank you for this post. We visited the Netherlands for the first time last week, and just a few hours ago, my husband accepted a 2nd postdoc position in Leiden! I am very excited for the adventure but scared too! It will be a big adjustment, especially since we also have an almost 3-year-old. It’s good to hear from others who have enjoyed the experience!

    • unquiettime

      Hi Alice! I’m glad the blog was encouraging. We have had a wonderful experience here, and a postdoc was a great opportunity to live abroad for a few years. I hope your transition is smooth! Let me know if we can give any advice!

  5. Kent Morsch

    So glad you got to have that ex-pat experience and that you were willing to share it via blog. Laurel and I have loved our vicarious experience through your eyes and words and will miss it, too.

    On the plus side, I hope we will see you back in the Grace orchestra soon. It will be great to have you back.

  6. We moved to and lived in Buenos Aires Argentina, ( because we wanted to) for 6 years. Everything about it was wonderful and while things were happening at “home”, and we were missing people … it was still very hard to pack up and move back to the US. I would have been happy to be living there and visiting here but that was not meant to be. And I guess it worked out for the best as something sad happened when we returned home and it worked out better to be back in the US than alone in Argentina.
    If you can always go back for visits, it is much easier to leave ..If you have your love with you, you can live anywhere, really.
    I will keep reading and enjoying your blog .. we moved to NY state, very close to Egremont, Ma :) We are practically neighbors lol

    • unquiettime

      Candice, thank you so much for the note… I understand your feelings about it being hard to pack up and go back, even though important things are happening there, things you want or need to be present for. I hope NY is treating you well! :)

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