11 December 2011

Farewell to Haarlem

Posted in Talking about . . .

It’s time to say goodbye to our life in Haarlem, but first I’d like to review my life as a local.

Living like a local

I really do feel like I’ve lived like a local here. I’m on first-name terms with my neighbours and lots of the people I come into regular contact with (my hairdresser – Igeo; the woman who owns the bakery – Mya; the woman who runs the Spare Rib Express place – Jo; the man who fixes bicycle-tyre punctures – Jan); at least on familiar, smiling, hello-how-are-you terms with the people in the supermarket, the pharmacy, the organic butcher, the flower-sellers, the laundry, the clothing repairers and many more.

My Dutch has greatly improved, and I can pretty much make myself understood everywhere. I’ve learned to use the Dutch pronounciation instead of the Afrikaans, and it’s made a big difference. I’ve noticed that the older people understand Afrikaans better than the younger people, while the younger people speak better English tan the older people.

One of the things that I haven’t mentioned before is the very efficient garbage disposal system here. In every street, at regular intervals, is a solid, fairly unobtrusive-looking, dark grey, metal box. It is the entry point for an underground garbage container. We have a swipe card that opens it and we put our garbage into the hopper and pull the door shut. Every Monday, the garbage truck comes around and the driver gets out and, with remote controls, lifts the entire system out of the ground, opens the bottom of the container and the garbage empties into his truck. Very smooth!

I love Adriaan’s Mill so much that I took Alex and Rob there. We had a different guide who was just as passionate and one-eyed about Haarlem - I loved listening to him expound about mills and their machinations. I feel like I love the place like a local! I also found more idioms on the walls:

Die in de molen komt, word licht bestoven
Literal translation: If you go into the mill, you’ll get dusted with flour
English version: If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas

Amptelijke molens maal laangsaam
Literal translation: Official mills grind slowly
Meaning: Bureaucracy works slowly

Hij heeft een klap van de molen beet
Literal translation: He’s been hit by the mill
Meaning: He’s behaving unwisely – as though he’s been hit on the head by the sail of the mill

It tickles me to think that we have such similar lives around the world that the idiomatic expressions here refer to familiar aspects of my life!

I’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather because I don’t have a car so everything is done on my bike or on foot. I gather that Haarlem has had the warmest and driest November since 1906, and the mildest autumn ever. It’s only in the last 7 days that the weather has turned bad. The temperature has dropped considerably and we’ve had driving rain, sleet and howling winds every day. On some days there are breaks of up to an hour when the dark clouds part and the sun peeks through or the wind dies down, but it’s really unpredictable. As soon as there is a break in the weather, I throw on my running shoes and head off, or get on my bike and make a dash to the supermarket. I went out by bike on Saturday to do some chores and came back exhausted after a wet and wild ride.

The wind is really strong, and I understand now why people ride their bikes with such a vengeance – even when the weather is glorious. I gather that they are used to pedaling against the wind from childhood, so it’s pretty much a habit to ride vigorously at all times. And you can tell the “dijkers” (people who have grown up riding across the dykes where the winds are really strong) – they go like the clappers!

The central heating is now cranked up – water-filled radiators that stand flat against the walls. They are effective, but there is always a slightly cool feel to the wooden floors. I’m so pleased that we put in under-carpet heating at home last year – it makes a huge difference to have the warmth underfoot and rising up past your lower body.

Here is my parting shot from this lovely place with its wonderful people and places - a photo-essay of living like a local in Haarlem.

The Daily Shopping Mother's Little Helper Off to the Laundromat

From Left to Right: The daily shopping, Mother's little helper, Off to the laundromat

Dry Cleaner and Clothing Repair Laundry

Dry Cleaner and clothing repair, and Laundry

Pharmacy Post Office

Pharmacy and Post Office

Organic butcher and groceries Bakery

Organic butcher and grocer, and Bakery

Fish shop Liquor store

Fish shop and Liquor store

Fav flower stall Typical indoor plants

Fav flower stall, Typical indoor plants

Supermarket Recycling bins near supermarket

Local supermarket and nearby recycling bins

Clever garbage system Clever garbage system

Smart Garbage System

Brians gym BDH in gym

Brian's gym and (just to prove it) BDH in Brian's gym

My hairdresser pretending it's summer Marzipan Lollies

From Left to Right: My hairdresser pretending it's summer, Marzipan lollies

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Comments (2)

  • Tish
    Tish
    12 December 2011 at 20:43 |

    Everything looks so clean and tidy, and efficient!! Can't believe you have been away for ?6 months already.

  • Sue Waldron
    Sue Waldron
    18 December 2011 at 07:12 |

    Hello Fran and Brian
    You will now be in South Africa! Your trip and times sound amazing. Thank you for the post card and Christmas wishes. It was good to get a re-fresher as to how to access your Blog Fran. I did attempt to earlier in the time you were away but to no avail.
    Nearly at the end of another year and this time around I must say really looking forward to a break. We haven't major plans at this stage. Gareth will be home over Xmas and New Year and Vanessa I think will be in Dunedin for some of the time.
    Wondered how Rebecca was - is her baby due closer to Christmas or I may be incorrect with times and she may well have another little person already??

    Have a lovely Christmas - we may catch up in the New Year at some stage.
    Love Sue, Shane and family

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