Two Halves Make


I’m in a brewpub called Hopster’s for the second day in a row, during working hours (but I’m working… see?). The banners out front instruct me to “Keep Calm and Watch the World Cup Here”— two pieces of advice that I am completely ready to heed. It’s a slice of Europe in here during a match— because it’s true: the average American is only peripherally interested in the sporting event that large portions of the globe are completely fixated upon. Cynically, I think it’s because America gets disinterested in stuff it’s not predicted to win. If the US gets out of their group, we’re going to see a whole lot of front-runners.

When I wandered in here yesterday, a strong UK contingent were expressing themselves at a center table. I met an Irishman who figures he’ll root for USA, with Ireland out of the mix. One of the cool things about this establishment is that it’s less than 10 minutes (by car, Europeans) from our new apartment—where tonight we are actually going to sleep for the first time.

Wait on that: we have not slept in our own place since April 23. We have stayed with family, friends, and in a sublet, but we have not had a home since that time. I guess it’s gone as well as it could go, and we are incredibly grateful to those who hosted us—in particular to the family who has put up with us in their basement for nearly [GOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!] four weeks. We love them more than a blog is equipped to express.

Sidenote: I didn’t think there were many NL fans here (aside from the bartender, who’s got his KNVB shirt on) but this place just went NUTS. If they’re not pro-Dutch, they’re at least anti-Spain. 

Last weekend Tim got a U-haul and hauled to Massachusetts the items we stored when we went to Delft in 2010. Most of this had been at my grandmother’s house, and my grandmother was going to give us a dresser (ladekast). “I don’t think the dresser’s going to fit,” Tim said when he called.

“Won’t fit?” I replied. Echt? 

When the truck (sans dresser) rolled up and they opened the back door, I could not believe how many boxes were jammed in that truck. I immediately reprimanded my 2010 self: What’s wrong with you? What can possibly be in those boxes that you haven’t needed in four years, yet currently need? [That part of the reprimand was anachronistic.]

I discovered the answers this week: Wedding albums. Kitchen appliances. An alarming number of CDs. Boxes and boxes of my old journals… notebooks… albums… papers. (Plus all of Tim’s: Lab books. Files. Sheet music.) I’ve tried to plow through these boxes day by day because tomorrow, the second half arrives. At a warehouse in Chelsea, Boston, our Netherlands shipment has been cleared by customs for release. If seeing our stuff from four years ago was weird, seeing the stuff from our Dutch apartment, here, is going to be equally surreal. I remember so clearly how when our American shipment showed up in Delft, the reality hit me: We live here. We’re not going home. 


When we unpack those verhuisdozen and add them to the garage-worn US boxes, when we put those two halves in one home, what will they equal? I can be very sentimental, but my sentimentality for things has an expiration date. Things that I obviously felt sentimental about in 2010 (framed photos from camping trips, cards from an old birthday) now seem unimportant, in comparison to the photos from our trips to Italy, or the mementos of Delft and our home there. Something in me twinges as I can’t help but wonder: Someday will these things all seem trivial, too? What, then, can really be important?

We moved to Delft during the World Cup finals in 2010, so I know the madness unfolding in Holland right now, as the Dutch just scored for the second time against the team that defeated them that year. I Skyped earlier today with a friend on that side, and she assured me that the country was ready. Every establishment she’d seen was setting up their outdoor screen; everyone was gearing up for the match that began at 9 PM local time.

Somewhere, my friends are cheering, with the possible exception of those from Spain, who may be doing some exhorting. Hup, Holland! And on to the boxes, again.



Filed under Moving Back to the US, Our Dutch Adventure

4 responses to “Two Halves Make

  1. Alice

    As someone who is just starting the expat adventure, it’s really interesting to read about your thoughts on the other side. The movers will be coming to our house in a few days to ship our stuff to Holland, and we are getting ready to spend our weekend sorting through what items we will either ship over or store with family. Is there anything you wish you would have brought with you, or wish that you didn’t bother storing? Any advice as we (2 adults, 1 preschooler, and 2 cats) begin our journey? We are definitely at a high stress level at the moment, trying desperately to remind ourselves that this will all be worth it!

    • unquiettime

      Hi Alice! I do have thoughts but I suppose some of the relevant factors have to do with who’s paying, and for how long you plan to live in Holland. Our move to Holland was paid for, but we packed conservatively because we feared that our return move might not be paid for (and it only partially was, so that was practical). I wish I’d brought TO Holland more personal items. Christmas decorations. Photos of my family. We packed very light, and so our apartment felt very sterile at first, which was sad. Here are a couple grocery store items: Pack DayQuil/NyQuil or whatever your preferred cold medicine is!! This is prescription in the NL and you will be happy you have it when you need it. We probably could have sold ours on some American black market when we moved. Also, good ZipLock bags. Weird, I know. Storing: same thing: are you paying for it, and how long. Our US storage was free, with a relative. We stored all our electrical appliances (otherwise you have to convert them). We stored things like photo albums and journals and sentimental stuff (no reason to bring all that). We stored books. Opening those boxes now, the stuff that no longer interests me is mainly decorative (candle holders, photo frames, that kind of stuff) — your tastes change over time. And mugs. Please email me if you have any questions with which I can help!

  2. Mike T

    From someone who is a bit older, some suggestions. Rip the CDs into MP3s at a good bitrate (160 or higher) and donate them to a library. Make a pair of backup copies onto DVDs and put the DVDs in a safe place (bank safe deposit is good since you’ll always know where to find them, won’t accidentally throw them away).

    Alton Brown of Good Eats had a rule that if he didn’t use a kitchen appliance or tool within a certain time he would get rid of it (I think it was 3 months, not sure). But you’ve seen first-hand that you can get by without those appliances.

    Which brings up a related point. I walk around my neighborhood and most people have their $40K+ cars sitting out in the elements because their garages are stuffed with boxes of stuff they haven’t used in years but can’t bear to discard. Many people pay thousands over the years to keep things in storage when it would have been cheaper to donate the items to charity and buy new the handful of things they will ever actually use out of their storage.

    • unquiettime

      Hi Mike, thanks for the tips. I have no desire to stuff my house with things I never use! I love cooking and use almost everything in my kitchen very regularly– we stored our US appliances when we went to Europe because of the power conversion difference. We bought European appliances and then sold them when we moved back. So having our “old” US coffee maker, crock pot, blender, etc. now is a huge help compared to having to buy them all new! If we’d had to pay for storage, though, maybe we’d have chosen differently.

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