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Be Thankful Wherever You Are

Thanksgiving Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! You guys are making me so jealous on facebook with all your yummy goodness! Around here, Loek and I hosted a group of friends for a "Friendsgiving" on Saturday. I was the only American in attendance, but it still turned out great, and I loved bringing Thanksgiving to other cultures. While I don't particularly love the historical reasoning for Thanksgiving,I do think a day sharing what you are thankful for surrounded by people you love is always a good idea. I love my friends so much for not scoffing when I told them that we had to go around the table and say what we were thankful for. 

Here are just a few things I am thankful for this year:

  • Technology: Sometimes being away from friends and family is really hard, but having the technology to talk to them whenever I wish helps enormously. Plus without technology I wouldn't know my love.
  • My love: Seriously, I have a really good one. He never loses his temper, he makes me laugh, he thinks I am hilarious which is just as important. I love you babe and our life here.
  • My mom: I'm not saying that my mom is better than your mom, but she is pretty awesome. My mom is my best friend and is always supportive of me no matter what.
  • My friends: It is really humbling when you go back to where you grew up and people come from all around to see you because they miss you. You guys are the best. And I don't want to forget my new friends either, you guys have shown me so much about how different the world can be, thank you for teaching me.

 

What are you thankful for this year?

 

Until next time,

 

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Will I Ever Write a Post Again? Yes! Weekly Wishes Vol 6

I slept until 3pm today. Am I ashamed of this fact, not really as I have a wicked head cold with a migraine to match. Then I ordered my groceries to be delivered, because I am a woman on leisure, because I don't have a car and I am cooking for 11 on Saturday. Needless to say, not a very productive start to the week.

What I am proud of though is I completed all of my weekly wishes for last week. I think I have found my fig, or what I want to be when I grow up. But plans aren't finalized and there are some logistics to look into. I also finalized the menu for Thanksgiving and I found a place in Utrecht to order a turkey. Turns out, you need a poelier which is kind of like a wild game butcher. The turkey is to be picked up on Thursday morning for brining. I love that I can say missions accomplished.

This week, my plans are as follows:

  1. Write and schedule some blog posts. I miss you guys! I just haven't found any inspiration.
  2. Pull of this Thanksgiving. The verlo and I have never hosted a dinner party in our two years living together. I have never hosted one in the Netherlands. Somehow we are going to cram 11 people into our euro sized apartment. Luckily, I have pretty great friends who won't judge for the lack of a gravy boat or even proper chairs.
  3. Take care of myself and my home. Of course there is still some company cleaning to be done, but I would like to get around to hanging some art before people come and I need to be healthy!

What are you going to do this week? 

Until next time,

 

The Nectar Collective

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Are You There Blog? It's Me Kaitlin

Oh my dears, I have missed you so much! I now know why people schedule guest posts when they travel, it is just too darn hard to find the time to post when you are not home. There is so much I want to tell you! I feel like my I've been going non-stop for the last month. I have some big things on the horizon like posting more regularly and finding my blogging passion again. I mean, I have to tell you guys about the States right?

I love you guys for sticking around, and if you are new, welcome I do actually post here. 

What have I missed in your lives? 

P.S Don't you guys love my hat, I stole it from my Nana. 

 

Until next time!

 

 

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You are my Joy!

Happiness project, being happy as an expat, living abroad, living in holland

Hello dearies! 

I hope you are all having an amazing week! It is my last week of school, so I am knee deep in projects, papers, and exams. But I really missed you guys! One of my final assignments of the year is a reflection report of the year and whether or not I met my goals for the school year. At first, I thought this was a weird assignment, but now I kind of love it. It has inspired me to look at other areas of my life and realize how amazingly blessed I am. 

One of my favorite quotes is "Comparison is the thief of joy" I have seen this quote credited to both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, it was on the internet so it really could have been said by Willy Nelson for all I know. (Completely off topic, I just watched Our Idiot Brother, and the dog is named Willy Nelson, best dog name ever!) Anyways, I think the saying is really true and something that I hold dear to my heart. After all, we all think the grass is greener on the other side, even when it is not. Which is why I am instead trying to think of the things that are amazing on my life, and holding them close. Such as:

I finally feel like I am home. It is kind of weird isn't it? I feel like I am exactly where I was meant to be and I am incredibly happy in a place so far from where I was born, and where I am still not entirely fluent in the language. Sure, I have had my fair share of wow this is strange, how am I going to adapt? moments that everyone has when they move to a new place. And I miss certain foods and traditions that I grew up with, and of course friends and family, but I have never felt really homesick, because I am home. 

I have amazing friends. From my blogger girls, to my amazingly funny colleagues, to my close group of school chums, to those friends back in the States who have been great about keeping in touch, and of course my readers. You guys are great! I learned long ago not to involve myself with people who love and create drama, and this is working out pretty great for me. Seriously, you don't need people in your life who give you a bad time or who make you feel bad about yourself. 

It is finally feeling like spring! Honestly, I don't mind the winter here that much. I mean it is cold and all, and having it get dark at 4pm can bum anyone out a bit. But the trade off is that it is light out from 6am until 11 during the spring and summer! It is finally warm enough for picnics, and reading outside, and my favorite thing of all going on long walks. Plus as a special bonus, it is baby bird season. Seriously, nothing makes me as instantly insanely happy as seeing ducklings, cygnet or goslings. (Did you know that a cygnet is a baby swan? Yeah, me either!) You can think it is weird that I get so happy about something so simple, but it really does work. 

My family is so supportive. When I told my family that I was moving abroad, they were nothing but supportive of my dreams. In fact most of them said they knew this day would come. So, even though I had keep my long distance love a secret while I figured things out, telling them I was moving abroad was not hard at all. I knew they would be behind me, like they have been behind me my whole life. 

I try not to gush about the verlo too much on here, but really I am incredibly lucky. I have someone who makes me laugh, finds me funny, and who is so supportive. He is incredibly calm and mellow, which helps me to be calm and mellow. This is a huge thing, I've been compared to Monica from friends a lot in my life and I am uber type A. And since I told the truth about how much my shoulder has actually been bothering me for the last year, he has stepped up incredibly. From making dinner, to chores and grocery shopping. He even has put my hair up in a ponytail for me a few times when I want it up, because I can't right now. Honey, I know you are going to read this and I love you. I'm also sure you are going to point out my grammar mistakes in this post, and I love you for that too. 

While it can be incredibly easy for me to focus on the less than perfect things in my life: I wish I had more money, worked less, and lost weight faster. This doesn't really help anyone.  After reflecting on some of the small things that bring my joy, I came to the realization, which was quite stunning. I am happy! 

What are some of the things in your life that are great? Share them here and pass the love!

Until next time!

look at that cute baby face hiding there!

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Our First Blogger Brunch

Yesterday it was finally time for our Expat Blogger Brunch. Honestly, we could not have planned a better day weather wise. In the end, there were 9 of us girls. It was a great brunch, okay maybe the food could have been a bit better, but the conversations and fellowships that developed were right on par with what Lily and I were hoping. Sometimes it is just so great to be surrounded with other people that you can relate to in a city that you love. 

expat blogger brunch Utrecht

After brunch, a smaller group of us went for a walk around the city. The sun was shining, there were dance events and it is the 300th anniversary of the Peach of Utrecht. We wandered around the city in the sunshine. Don't let that coat in the picture up there fool you, it was soon time that I regretted the fact that I had any sleeves on at all. Which for those of you who don't live or visit the Netherlands often, you can't realize how big of a deal this is in the rainy often cold country I call home.

The day ended at least for me, with drinks at the Louis Hartlooper Complex. I had the Maximus Brutus  beer from a local brewery here in Utrecht that I didn't even know existed. Turns out, it is actually right by my house, anyone down for a brewery tour? 

To the ladies who came, thank you so much! You made my Sunday awesome and I hope you also had a great time. For those of you who couldn't make it, Lily and I have already started planning for next month, we will keep you posted with more info when we have it.

 

Check back in on Friday where I will have my first ever link up and share the blogs of our April attendees. 

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11 Things I Love About My New Home After 9 Months

I landed nine months ago. Nine months! That is long enough to have carried and given birth to a baby. Not that I'm pregnant or even thinking about having a baby for years, I mean I'm about to be in school for the next 4 years, but to give you an idea of the time I've been here, I chose that analogy. This post could not have come at a better time, I feel like I haven't really been present or sociable the last few weeks. I always do this, I have a lot to look forward to in August and July, so I forget to live in the present. I'm sorry, my friends, I am going to try to do better. But in the meantime, here are the 11 things I love about The Netherlands after 9 months!

1. I love how international it actually is here. Since I have been here, I have met so many people with so many different backgrounds. Where I grew up in The States, there were people from different backgrounds, but most of them are 3rd and 4th generation. It is really awesome to meet so many people who come from all over world. It is important to note that this isn't the case all over the country, mostly just in the larger cities to the west. 

2. I can actually stomach the milk. For those of you who know me well, you know how disgusting I find milk. I actually inherited this from my mother, even though she would think it in front of me when I was little because she thought it was important that I get the calcium I needed. It was years before I would even eat ice cream. While there is no way I would ever reach for milk as a beverage, the milk here does taste differently and I can stand to have it in my cereal and will even chug it when I have heartburn. I know, crazy talk!

3. Even though the weather in the summer is unpredictable and I haven't yet put away my jacket, I'm the tannest I have ever been. Okay, so this is probably only a Kaitlin thing. I have extremely sensitive skin, it burns extremely fast. Because of this, I tend to be an inside girl. Seriously, Nicole Kidman is my beauty icon. But, because the sun is less extreme here than in Georgia, I am definitely outside more. I'm probably three shades darker than normal.

4. Even though I complained the whole time, I know feel more at ease in communicating in Nederlands after inburgering. My last inburgering class for a month and a half, was a week ago. Even though I still don't really like the system, I do recognize that I am much more willing to try and communicate in Nederlands than I was before my classes started. I am also continuing my learning alone, because I have to switch into the evening class.

5. I'm totally obsessed with the baby birds. If you read the blog regularly you know this already, but seriously, they are so cute. Oh and the bunnies! I see wild bunnies at least once a week.

6. I'm becoming more thrifty. Going out is more expensive here, clothes are more expensive, pretty much everything but booze is more expensive here. I actually think this is a good thing, as it is ridding me of the disposable lifestyle many Americans have. Now when something breaks, I do the Dutch thing and see if I can fix it. Except for those shoes from a few posts ago, those things are toast!

7. It rains all the time. I know again this is probably a personal thing, but in coming from a place that is perpetually in a drought, the fact that I am frequently caught in afternoon is actually a great thing. 

8. The view on marriage here. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same sex marriage. This makes me incredibly proud of my newly adopted country. In order to stay with The Verlo-, I actually don't ever have to get married. To be clear, we are engaged, but there is not the societal pressure or contingency of my visa to walk down the aisle. 

9. I love the countryside. I am a big city girl, but I do love that just a little bit outside the major cities the country is ripe with cows, goats, sheep, and horses. Seriously look out the window next time you are on an Intercity.

10. I can't believe I have not mentioned this one before, but I love the bikes. I'm still amazed by all that people can do while on their bikes. I doubt that I will ever reach the level of mastery required to talk on the phone, or transport a tv on my handlebars while cycling, but it is nice to have a goal.

11. I feel really safe here. I'm not naive enough to believe that there is no crime here, however, it is night and day between sketch parts of The Netherlands and sketch parts of The States.

Want a recap of the other things I love here? Check out:

What do you love about where you live?

 

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When Your Friends Leave, Reality in Expat Friendships.

Looking at the friends I have made so far in The Netherlands, most of them are fellow Americans. This was never my intention, but it makes sense, my only passable language at the moment is English, and we are all going through a lot of the same things. However, having your main friend group tied to another country besides the one you are planning to live in long term presents its a whole new set of problems. Being an expat for many is a very transient period, it is something they are trying on and eventually, most will probably move on. Either back to their home country or the will move elsewhere abroad. 

A few weeks ago, I had my first of what I am sure is many goodbyes to a friend who moved back to The States. To be fair, when I met her she told me that her and her husband were not looking to stay here long term. Neither of us expected her to leave as soon as she did. I am very thankful for the warning because I feel like I knew going in that the living in the same country part of our friendship had an expiration date. Not our friendship itself, just the both living in Utrecht part. I miss you Amanda!

Knowing that your friends might leave is just part of the living life abroad. Sure it is painful, but does that mean that you shouldn't make friends with anyone? My advice is to cherish the relationships you are able to make at any point in your life. If a friend does end up leaving, do your best to keep in touch, and look forward to the places you will now get to go visit. Speaking of keeping in touch, I owe some people some skype dates. Let's make them happen people!

Have you had friends leave? How did you deal with it?

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Fluidity of Goals as an Expat

To do list

Preceding a big move, chances are you are going to have certain expectations about what life will be like in your new home. These are important to have because they allow you to start forming goals about your new life. After you land, you will probably find that some of your ideas of how life would go are just not plausible in your new place or, they are going to require a lot more effort than you originally thought. I am of a firm belief that goals and dreams should be fluid as different circumstances change. You can probably surmise that after living here for half a year, I have very different goals and expectations for my new life here than before I moved. Below I am going to illustrate some old goals and how they have now changed, since I am actually living here. 

 

Career: I had this idea that since I worked in a growing field in The States, I would have no problem translating that into a job here. Well, six months later and I haven't had so much as an interview. This is for a variety of reasons: I don't speak Dutch, and even though I have work experience that is solid for a 25 year old, I didn't finish University and that is a huge deal here. ( I mean, tuition is less than 2,000 Euros a year, and students get grants as long as they are under 30, so everyone holds a degree of some kind). A funny thing happened though after being unemployed and receiving several not nice rejection letters, I realized how much I don't want to work in the field I was in for the long term. So instead of wallowing on my limited career prospects, I am taking advantage of this life changing time and I am currently looking into my Higher Education options here, which is why I haven't written a post in a week. More on this later. 

Dutch: I have written before about how my old job told me that they couldn't keep me a week before I moved here. Because of this, I am of course not in the financial situation I had imagined. The good news is that I might get to freelance for them, so hopefully this will improve slightly. But, before I was planning on being able to pay for Dutch lessons. I was going to take a super expensive and intensive Dutch class at the University here so I could get a head start. This hasn't worked out, but I am currently waiting on the results of my Inburgering Placement Exam, so hopefully I will begin classes soon! 

Fitness:  I thought that sans car, the pounds would fly off of me. This was partially true, I have lost two pants sizes! But I also thought I would pick up bike riding again with ease. This was not the case, I found that I was quite uncomfortable on the old spare bike that we had, and I am the Queen of freaking myself out! The seat has since been lowered and after being pushed to ride in Amsterdam by my dear friend, I am now much more comfortable on my own bike. Although, I am still really slow. This week, I kept thinking that I would go for a long walk, but the weather has not been cooperating. I have given myself a firm goal of health and a deadline, as opposed to leaving it open ended and I have a support system. 

Apartment: It is going to take some time to get it perfect. It feels like home, but it isn't gezellig yet. We need some art! And pictures of friends! Oh and we should probably do something about the cursed wall that is now terrible looking. 

Friends: This is actually going better than expected, I have had an explosion in this category and couldn't be happier! 

The Verlo-: Honestly, they don't come better than what I got. 

 

The point is, being an expat is really hard. If you hold on to your preconceived notions about what life is going to be like, you miss out on the good stuff it actually has to offer! You should always be in flux, because life is anything but constant. That's my little piece of advice to those who venture out into the unknown.

What goals of yours have you changed?

 

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Volunteering Abroad: Soepbus Utrecht

"The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." Mark Twain

One thing you can never prepare yourself for as an expat is how lonely it can be. With no job, your significant other at work, and all your friends being an ocean away, you can feel pretty helpless and lonely. Which is why finding something to do with your time can be invaluable. This is why I decided to get involved and spend some time volunteering for some local organizations in my new home.

With this in mind, I signed up for Utrecht Cares, it is an organization that matches volunteers with projects. Basically, you check their calendar and sign yourself up for what you want to do. I was a little nervous at first, as I speak very limited Dutch. But, I found a project I was interested in and one of the coordinators at Utrecht Cares was kind enough to ask the organizers if it would be okay if I came, although I can’t speak in Dutch. They said I was welcome to come. So, with that, I volunteered to work with Soepbus Utrecht.

Soepbus Utrecht is really a labor of love for Wan-Ho and his wife Yuen. They started this project completely on their own and have been feeding the homeless of my fair city since December. The Soepbus is actually their car and you can find them almost every week day, from 7pm to 9pm distributing soup, sandwiches, coffee, and tea to those who need it. While the project is still small, (it takes a long time to build trust in the homeless community) it is rapidly growing.

When I first arrived, I was greeted by Wan-Ho and Yuen and they then explained to me about the organization and what inspired them to get started. They saw a need and worked hard to make it happen. There are a lot of hoops they had to jump through, but they did and now the organization is running on about 50% donations. Which is huge for a start-up charity organization.

I was unsure in what I would find in the people who come to Soepbus for help. I was nervous that because of my lack of language skills,I would not be able to do any good. I was wrong in that everyone was able to speak English, even those who could not speak Dutch as good. Everyone was really nice and you could definitely feel the sense of Community the Soepbus Utrecht has created. People are often in need for a variety of different reasons, but it is hardly ever because they are lazy. The people who came: some of them have jobs and plans for the future, some of them aren’t quite there yet. You see, life happens to everyone and it deals us all different cards. With people like the Groenstein’s in the world, I am not so worried for humanity anymore.

I choose Soepbus Utrecht for a very specific reason. The last time I saw my biological father, I was 12 years old. He had always had some mental problems, and I guess one day it just got to much for him and he disappeared. I think he, was too ashamed to ask for help. I worry about him every single day and I can only hope that there are people where he is who are willing to help.

While at first I was nervous about my ability to help out, every time I volunteer, I know I am doing good and I hope that I can inspire some of my readers to go out and do good in their own communities. It will make you feel great, I promise.
What are some of the ways you are volunteering in your Community? I would love to hear about them!
Image from Soepbus Utrecht

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26 Things Before I'm 26 Revisted- Halfway There.

Sure, today is Valentine’s Day, but it is also my half-birthday so, I will let you judge which one is more important. In honor of this, I thought I would revisit one of my most popular blog posts, 26 Things Before I am 26, to see where I am halfway through the year.

1. Move to Utrecht. Done!
2. Be able to communicate in Dutch. This one I am still working on, but I am able to understand and converse with a lot more people then when I first moved here. But, I am still not as far along as I would like.
3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump.We are actually waiting until May of 2013 to do this. There is no rush for us and since I don’t have job here yet, it is going to be awhile.
4. Take up ballet again. When I made this list, I was expecting to still have my old job because I was told it would be no problem. No extra spending money means no ballet lessons.
5. Find a core group of friends in my new country. I still need to work on this. I have hung out with one person who isn’t Loek since I have moved here, I need more friends.
6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly. Again, this is hard with no money. But I have been using Pinterest for when I do have cash again.
7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen. Done and Done! Recipes coming soon to a blog near you.
8. Start my tour guide business. No progress has been made on this at all.
9. Learn to sew. I hemmed my curtains, it’s a start!
10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time)Again with the no money!
11. Write letters to my friends back home. I sent them Christmas Cards, it made me feel good.
12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame. Two pants sizes lost. But still want to lose more.
13. Read 100 new books, including some classics. I am on track for this and with my Good Reads account, I can track the books I read this year with their reading challenge.
14. Start making metal jewelry again. I really need a job!
15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding. Since we aren’t getting married this year, this is a non-issue.
16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child. I think I am doing better at this, although it is a work in progress.
17. Become an expert bike rider. Haha, yeah right! Riding my bike around expert Dutchies still scares the crap out of me. Maybe, I will do better when it is warmer.
18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week. Not yet, but I have high hopes.
19. Knit a sweater. Maybe I should master the scarf first?
20. Learn the art of light layers. Hey, I think I am finally getting this!
21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet. Not eating out has helped this a lot. But we do need to cut out the fried foods. Darn those Dutch and their snack bars.
22. Start bringing in money again. Have I mentioned I am available for hire?
23. Continue adding to the retirement fund. I did until the end of September, I will once I bring in money again.
24. Laugh more. Loek makes me laugh every single day!
25. Get over my fear of boats. I walked on a frozen canal, I think that is some headway!
26. Stick to my plans. I could do better with this as well.

In conclusion, I made this list when I thought I would still be able to continue my employment across the sea. When you find yourself suddenly find yourself without a fall back plan in a country where you don’t speak the language, applying for a job can be difficult. But I better get on it if I want to make my goals.

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