We’re back in Texas for Christmas and although right now we’re dealing with a raging case of jet lag, it’s great to be back.  Door-to-door the whole trip took about 20 hours.  We got to Will’s parents’ house about 9 last night and after sleeping from 10 to 8, Will is conked out next to me and my blinks take way longer than usual.

I stared at the sunlight coming through the window in disbelief this morning because for the past 6 weeks or so in the Netherlands, it doesn’t even begin to get light outside until 9.  Then you get a few hours of dim light through the clouds and it gets dark again around 4:30.  That adjustment has been rough on us and my friends who are also from places closer to the equator agree.

I’m curious as to what we’ll make of being back in our own culture after spending almost five months with the Dutch.  My goal is not to lose too much Dutch language while we’re here, so I’ll try to write something in Dutch every day. I finished beginner level Dutch classes, and the day after we get back (probably with an even more raging case of jet lag) I start intermediate classes.  I believe I have two sets of classes to take before I take a government exam that, if passed, shows I am fit to work in Dutch.

My interview last month with the music school went well, and if I were to work there I would go out into the public primary schools (none of which have a music teacher on staff) and teach general music and/or beginning clarinet/flute classes.  I had a good impression of the organization, but before I can go further in the recruitment process, I must be able to manage a class of kids in Dutch.  They say the best way to learn a language is to have a need for it, right?

I observed some classes to see how they work and pick up more vocabulary.  I found out really fast that children yelling in Dutch are very hard to understand.  Also, the approach to instruction and classroom management is a lot different than what I’ve done, especially from my job last year.

Some observations:

  • At both schools I went to, I was able to walk right in the open front doors and when I told them I was there to watch music classes, they said they knew that from an email and sent me to the classrooms.  No asking for my name, no showing of ID, no sign-in, no visitor sticker.
  • 11-year-old boys swaying with pretend lighters over their heads while singing is a universal phenomenon.
  • I suddenly found myself helping 4th-grade-aged kids put clarinets together for the first time, but at the time I didn’t know enough Dutch to say anything but “Other way around” or “This way.” At the end of the class, one girl came up to me, and in perfect English, said, “Thank you very much!”  Exposed!
  • The general music teacher I was with introduced me to all the classes, and in a second grade equivalent class, she had me say something in English to them.  One kid told me in Dutch that one time, he went to Aruba.
  • A third grade equivalent class sang a song called, “Zeven Hecksen,” which is about seven witches.  They are making a soup and each witch adds a new ingredient.  The kids came up with a few to sing in the song, including “poep” (is and sounds exactly like poop) and “spin” (spider).  Then they proceeded to say and clap those words in a ti-ti ta rhythm.  I thought I was going to have to leave the room laughing when they very excitedly said and clapped, “POEP EN SPIN! POEP EN SPIN! POEP EN SPIN!”

We got our holographic residence permits and now I’m clearly legal to live in the Netherlands for the next year.  With the permit I can now apply for the international schools, so I’ve sent applications and letters to the 20 or so that are a reasonable commute from home.  Since it’s the middle of the school year, they’re mostly just in need of subs.  That’s fine for now because subbing actually pays very well at some schools, and then I can learn how the different schools work.  After Christmas I hope to see more postings.

I’m really looking forward to having a job with a physical place where I GO.  This was my first semester not attending or working in a school full-time since I was 5.  And also my first time not having a packed schedule since…I don’t even know.  Will and I are both learning that I feel happier when I have more places to go and things to do.  I like to interact with groups of people and be physically active at work.

Right now I’m reanalyzing, rewording, and reorganizing clarinet-tips, which is taking much longer than I thought and has less visible results than I would like at this point.  And actually, I’ve had to constantly adjust my view of how long everything I’ve been doing should take.  Before coming here I had the expectation that we’d get here, get residence permits within a month (actual time: 4 months) and I’d have to beat off international schools with a stick while getting EVERYTHING I want to be on clarinet-tips published.  I gave God a good laugh this year.

But, since I’m starting to see light at the end of the job tunnel and I don’t know when the next not-busy time will be after I start going to work again, I’ve decided to appreciate it.  When else would I learn Dutch, make bread from scratch, and cook my way through the Smitten Kitchen and Homesick Texan blogs?

Will just woke up and said, “I went to sleep and then sun was up.  I got up four hours later and the sun was STILL up.  It’s the Winter of Eternal Sunshine…It IS the end of the world!”

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