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Adventures in Holland

Last week, for the first time in 20 years together, Dave & I went away for five whole days without any children.  It was the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden, and Dave jumped as part of the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.

On Saturday we woke, way too early before five in the morning, to heavy fog.  The planes were grounded and the planned jumps into Ginkel Heath were delayed.  Eventually only half the jumps were rescheduled and we found ourselves with the luxury of wandering through the events, displays and ceremonies.  The actual DZ (drop zone) was located in the middle of nowhere, Holland.  The jumps that day planned to re-act the same jumps 70 years earlier, in the exact same location. We parked our van as close as we could, then joined the crowd hiking in. Soon we were surrounded by not just walkers, but also hundreds of bike riders.

Halfway to the DZ I heard a low rumbling, steadily getting louder and deeper.  At first I looked up, expecting the planes to be rolling in despite the lingering mist, then I realized it was coming from the ground right as the first half-track (part tank, part truck) came careening around the corner aiming straight for me.

Thankfully Dave pulled me to the side, and after five minutes of watching the British retreat (they were due for different ceremonies over in Nijmegen), I remembered my camera and pulled it out to quickly snap some photo’s.  More half-tracks passed, a troop transport, medical vehicles, motorcycles and scout bikes (comically small motorcycles dropped with the parachutists), and jeeps.  Lots and lots of old, lovingly restored WWII era jeeps.

Walking through the woods of my childhood that day was surreal.  A mix of modern and an era before my time, as bikes rode past and jeeps kicked up dust, while half-tracks and troop transports had me dodging behind trees.  I could almost feel the fear, and the elation, of my forefathers as vehicle after vehicle passed by.

When we finally reached the DZ, looking surprisingly like the practice DZs back at Ft. Bragg, I was overwhelmed to see thousands of people gathered for the commemoration events (news reports put it at 40,000).  It was at least a 6 kilometer hike in, and yet it felt like half my country was there to honor the Americans, Poles, Brits, French, Italian, Belgian soldiers who fought to liberate us 70 years ago. Operation Market Garden

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We have 1-2 years left in Germany.  I can’t believe how fast our time here has gone. I can’t believe how much my kids have grown.  I really can’t believe how much of my bucket list I haven’t seen!

I love travel.  I love new places, new sights, new smells, new foods!  When I realized my passport expired in July, I also sadly realized we couldn’t go to Slovenia or Norway this summer but we were once again headed to Holland.  We were all a little sad.  Thankfully, Holland is so awesome that once we were there the sadness just washed away and we revelled in her awesomeness.

We had never been to Texel, and it was only the kids second visit to Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is just gorgeous.  I am in love with this city. If I had to live in a city, this would be the one.  Despite the hustle & bustle, there is a small town feel.  And yet, unlike my small town, there is a different culture, a different food, a different smell on every corner.

Out of all my photo’s, this one got the most oooooh’s & aaaaah’s from my friends.  So Amsterdam. So quiet, and yet right around the corner is the Anne Frank Huis, and the historic Westerkerk with the best tower to climb & see the city below.  I could spend weeks, months, probably years in Amsterdam and still not see or experience everything.  One day was definitely not enough.

Thankfully I get to go back next month. Because.  When I went to go get my passport renewed, the passport agent took all my papers, my renewal application, our military orders, my certified German papers and my old passport.  My biometric passport with my 10 fingerprints, eye print, vial of blood, hair of the dog, and she said:

“Mevrouw? U bestaat niet?” or; “M’am? You don’t exist?”

Panic.  Complete question of my existence.  Worry over where I could possibly be buried should I die.  Anxiety.  The bottomline? I have no birth certificate. The Dutch government now requires a birth certificate with passport renewal. I was born at home in the late sixties.  Soon after my parents bundled me up, walked to the Gemeentehuis (government house) and careful wrote my name in The Big Book.  Done.

Except now, 40+ years later, I don’t exist. I stared at the passport agent with big deer-in-the-headlights eyes.  She tried to get my hometown on the phone, login to their database over the internet, but they weren’t on line yet.  They weren’t answering the phone. I continued to not exist and I left Amsterdam with no passport in hand.

Yesterday, a week and a half later, she called me. Joy in her voice:

“Mevrouw? Ik heb uw geboorteakte in my hand.” or; “DUDE! YOU EXIST!”

Amsterdam

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I have decided I am now 90% German.  Living here for five years, it’s just seeped into my being. I blame osmosis.  We finally went on vacation-vacation last week.  For one week.  I totally get why Germans take such long vacations (Germans have on average 34 paid vacation days).  It took me till Sunday to really feel relaxed.

Because I needed a new passport.  Because Schiphol (airport by Amsterdam) offered the quickest turnaround.  We went to Holland again.  This time up to North Holland, at the north end of the small island of Texel.  There was some protest that it was Holland again.  There was some protest that there were boats involved, the only way to get onto Texel.  I was stubborn. We went. And while there is no passport, we had a fabulous family-bonding week.

I have more memories I love than I can fit in this space.  Since I am sharing our family photo, I am also sharing that memory.  One of my goals was to take lots & lots of photo’s. Not just of us, but also of my beautiful country.  Lighthouses, animals, countryside, sunsets.  Dave had gifted me my first tripod & I was beyond excited to try it out!

Our third day, late in the day, we finally had some time to go take my new toy for a test drive.  We drove the couple of kilometers to the lighthouse and excitedly pushed our way out of the van & to the beach. I couldn’t wait to get some stunning sunset shots!

Um.  The beach. Was. Long.  Wide?  The sand went on for miles. Not just to my left & right, but straight ahead to the ocean.  We had parked just over the dunes, and when we crossed the last one to finally see the ocean, we all stopped in our tracks.  Low tide on Texel is not the same as low tide in California.  The end of the sand, and the beginning of the sea, was literally on the horizon.

At first we slowly walked towards the ocean, me stopping occasionally for photo’s, the kids stopping frequently for shells.  As it slowly dawned on me that we weren’t really getting an closer, that the beach was not meters wide, but kilometers wide, we sped up our pace.  Now I was getting anxious I’d miss the sunset!  Out of breath, with the sun touching the water, we finally reached the edge a good 45 minutes after leaving the van.

I quickly set up my tripod, bossed my family into group photo position, and then ran to get in the shot!  I need a remote. It is on my list for my birthday next month.

27AUG14

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My Oma

by Toiny Westberry 9 October 2013
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Every time I see my Oma again, I burst into tears.  I steel myself before. I tell myself to be brave. I tell myself to be strong, none of it works.  I see her and I melt. It is just love.  It is my guilt at being so far. It is my sadness at how […]

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Lekker Vlaai

by Toiny Westberry 27 July 2013

One of the best parts of any visit up to Holland is visiting with family.  This time we stayed with my cousin Leny, in Schin op Geul, right outside of Valkenburg.  Anyone lucky enough to visit Holland, I highly recommend a trip to the “south” to see the beautiful rolling hills, farm country, Maastricht, cathedrals […]

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One of those phone calls

by Toiny Westberry 24 July 2013
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As you open this newsletter, I’m in my VW bus driving my dad to France.  I know, I know, poor me.  But I’m dreading it all the same.  This past week has been such an incredible whirlwind, I think life always is, but this week has been extra whirlwind-y. It started with one of those phone […]

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Kikeriki!

by Toiny Westberry 16 January 2013
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This morning I spied a little bit of light peeking around the houses & the trees as we left the house. I couldn’t capture it in my early morning photo, but it is there!  I promise.  The shortest day of the year is almost a month past, and it finally is showing up in our […]

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Sinterklaas

by Toiny Westberry 5 December 2012
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We celebrated St. Nicholas day (aka Sinterklaas in Dutch) on Sunday with the Dutch/German club here in Stuttgart.  It was a very international affair with not just Dutch & German folks, but also Greek, American & Turkish people.  Despite all our differences, we were there to really celebrate Sinterklaas and have a fabulous time.  Dutch […]

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My Oma

by Toiny Westberry 14 November 2012
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We squeezed in a trip to Holland before the snows gets deep.  I’m not a fan of zooming down the autobahn at 80-90 miles an hour with ice so I mostly skip winter visits.  I needed some St. Nicholas supplies (chocolate letters are much loved here) and I missed my family.  Especially my Oma.  It […]

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The American Cemetery in Margraten

by Toiny Westberry 30 May 2012
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I had a hard time writing this today, my hand notwithstanding.  I try to keep politics out of the store, and have it be a welcoming place for everyone.  But I am a soldiers wife.  I am soon to be a soldiers mother.  It is because of the military I am in Germany.  Politics are […]

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