One month, one week and one day

It has been an intensely busy season in our lives. I kept meaning to sit down and write up a post, but it seemed like something was always pulling me away. Now I’m holed up at my cabin and finally have a moment to breathe!

In the past one month, one week and one day (this post was supposed to talk about the past month, and then I got sidetracked yet again with blogging):

We ran the Blenheim Palace half marathon in Woodstock, England. It was our slowest half marathon to date, but the course was stunning, the sun was shining and we got to check England off our list of countries we’ve run a half marathon on. The race was pretty stressful at the start, thanks to delayed public transportation and our late arrival at the course!

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We packed up and moved from England to The Netherlands. We agreed that it was, without a doubt, our worst day of travel ever–shrieking babies, excess baggage fees, my credit card got frozen, Joost’s debit card got frozen, delayed flight, broken suitcase, missed train… and the icing on the cake: pulling up at Joost’s family’s front door at 1 am, only to find out that the cab driver didn’t take credit cards. We had to turn around, go back into town and find an ATM. Overall, it took us 20 hours door-to-door. For the record, it’s about 250 miles in a straight shot from where we started to where we ended. Next time, I’ll swim/walk, thank you!

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We ran the Amsterdam Marathon. This was our first full marathon and the months of training paid off; we finished! It was a long day, but one that we will never forget–except for miles 16-22. I seem to have blocked most of those from my memory. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would recommend this marathon. With the exception of a couple kilometers on each end, we didn’t actually get to run in the city itself. There’s not a lot of crowd support and the race organizers seemed to be overwhelmed with how many runners they had this year. No matter what, though, WE RAN A MARATHON!

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We played tour guide for my parents, who flew into Holland for a long weekend. We saw the Rijksmusem, which recently reopened after an extensive, 10 year renovation. It was gorgeous, but very crowded. Be prepared to stand in a lot of long lines. They had a beautiful library, in addition to the famous Night Watch and the very strange coffin made to look like a vagina (entitled ‘Womb tomb’). I’m not going to pretend to understand that one. We also walked around Amsterdam, toured the inside of a private windmill and had our engagement party!

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Joost’s parents hosted a wonderful engagement party for us in Holland while we were there. About 80 of Joost’s friends and family were able to attend, which was such a blessing, as many of them will not be able to fly to America for our wedding in May. It was fun catching up with friends and meeting new people, even though I can’t pronounce about half of their Dutch names. I had been a little worried how my parents would fit into Holland, but my fears were unwarranted; I had obviously forgotten that my dad is capable of making conversation with a blank wall and my mom is nearly just as social! The party was held in a little restaurant, decorated by pictures of us from around the world that Joost’s parents had surprised us with by blowing up and hanging. The food was incredible. There was a legit cornucopia on the buffet table. Need I say more?

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We celebrated our three year anniversary with a night out in Amsterdam. Man, meeting in Australia feels like forever ago! We went for a run around Vondelpark, checked out the real estate and then had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Fondue Fondue. It was, in case you hadn’t yet guessed, a fondue restaurant. Highly recommend.

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We said goodbye. I swear, if I had a penny for every tear I’ve shed at the Amsterdam airport, I’d be a bajillionaire. Joost and I are back to being in a long distance relationship until his visa paperwork clears. We’re hoping that he’ll be able to come to America at the end of March or beginning of April. We are both suffering from the severe re-acquisition of what I call the ‘LDR humpback,’ which is permanently and painfully slouched shoulders resulting from leaning over a computer screen or phone screen for so long. Ah, nothing like dating a pixelated face a few thousand miles away. Luckily, he’ll be in the US for Christmas and then we’ll only have three more months of long distance to go.

Joost took the GRE, a standardized test required for PhD applications in the US. He scored within the range of all the universities he’s applying to and I am so, so proud of him! Ironically, as a non-native English speaker who is almost done with his masters degree in applied mathematics, he scored higher on the verbal section than the math section. Go figure.

I moved back home to America. After ten months abroad, everything seems very large and very loud and very fast-paced. I’ve been home for a bit over a week now and still cannot bring myself to unpack.

I said yes to a dress! My first week at home was crammed with doctors appointments and wedding dress boutique appointments. We went to three shops and I tried on probably 25+ dresses before I found one, but I love it and can’t wait to wear it. I never thought I’d be the kind of gal who gets excited about poufy white dresses, but apparently all things are possible. My grandma was able to accompany my mom and me to the last appointment, and the fun girls day ended with champagne for all of us!

The holiday season is going to be busy for both of us. Joost is finishing and presenting his Masters thesis at the start of December. I’m working holiday retail at the mall (PSA: BE NICE TO MALL EMPLOYEES!), which is sure to keep me busy, although most likely on the brink of insanity. The Europe/America time difference is much harder for us than the Europe/Australia time difference was, so we’re trying hard to squeeze in Skype dates when possible, but it’s definitely been a challenge having to re-tether ourselves to technology. If we don’t get around to updating soon, we wish all the Americans a happy Thanksgiving, all the Dutchies a happy Sinterklaas (say hi to the black slaves for me) and everyone a happy holiday season!

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A Look Back

It’s hard to believe, but as of today, we only have one week left in England. The past six months have gone by so quickly. Oh, who am I kidding? The past year has gone by so quickly!

It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in front of a computer screen in Australia and Joost was sitting in front of a computer screen in the Netherlands and we were discussing the possibility of traveling and being on the move for a year. At the time, we laughed, thinking that surely, surely it was impossible. Visas and finances and jobs and timing–it was too much. But somehow, everything came together, and in the past 12 months, we’ve lived in New York, Minnesota, Tanzania and England. We’ve taken trips to Missouri, an impromptu vacation to Memphis (thanks Sandy), Holland, Zanzibar and Scotland. We got engaged. We traveled; we ate; we loved; we ran; we challenged; we saw; we met; we learned; we adventured. It has been one of the most interesting, wonderful years of both of our lives.

It’s hard to write a recap of the past year. So much has happened–I could fill books with our experiences (oh hey, maybe I should get on that). So, we decided to go list form for this post. Joost’s up first.

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6 Words to describe the year: 

Unconditionally. Gezellig. Adventurous. Mouthwatering. Heartwarming.

5 Favorite memories: 

The overwhelming experience of Times Square on a Saturday night. Hiking the upstate New York mountains during fall and taking a nap at the summit. Giving and receiving happiness while opening the school library in Tanzania. Proposing to Katie in Christchurch Meadows, Oxford, and promising to spend the rest of my life with her. Eating Katie’s delicious meals!

4 Greatest struggles:

Being away from friends and family. Adapting to the pace of life in Tanzania, and saying goodbye to the kids. Tying all the financial ends together–spare change jars for the win. Trying to avoid a perpetual hunchback at my work desk.

3 Greatest achievements:

Working towards my career in mathematics. Running the Kilimanjaro half marathon. Creating a happy home and life in general for me and Katie in the UK.

2 Favorite places: 

Comfy chair on our balcony in Tanzania, overlooking Kilimanjaro.

Our kitchen in England, where Katie’s cooking magic happens.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

In marrying Katie, I’m a lucky man.

KATIE

6 Words to describe the year:

Blessing. Seek. Love. Change. Awe. Gratitude.

5 Favorite memories:

I can’t believe that I included this, because it’s so hard! I’m cheating a little completely and including multiple favorite memories from some of the places we were.

New York: Times Square. Discovering the Highline. Roommate dinner nights. Hiking in upstate New York during fall (gorgeous). Lion King on Broadway. Wafels & dinges food truck. Passenger concert. Apple picking.

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Tanzania: Opening the library. Singing Rihanna songs with the girls. Seeing our kids kick butt at the running races. Coloring for hours. Laughing as the kids patted their full, distended bellies after pilau day. The Kilimanjaro half marathon. Long runs on dirt roads alongside fields of sunflowers, small villages and baboons. Date nights in town. Avocados the size of my head. Cooking for the staff. Giving kids books. Trips to the markets with Teddy and Inno. Running with Jordan. Hanging out with Adam and Terry and the Stella Maris staff. Going to a party with a bunch of other expats and volunteers in the area, sitting on the roof under a brilliantly starry sky with a beer in hand while someone played guitar and being overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude.

 

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Zanzibar: SCUBA diving. Eating fresh seafood on the beach. Sunsets.

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Europe: Edinburgh half marathon. Long runs along the Thames. Ben’s Cookies. Visits from friends and family. Joost proposing. 20 miler in Lake District. Roadtripping in Ronald’s adorable classic mini cooper. Joost surprising me with a bike. Date nights. Cooking for Joost.

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4 Greatest struggles: 

Visas. It seems like we are in a constant state of waiting for visa approvals to be processed!

Navigating cultural differences in response to our engagement.

Finances. I will be pleased when we are both allowed to work in the same country! One intern salary is pretty tough for two people to live off of in England.

Isolation. Being on the move can be lonely; it can also make it hard to relate to friends from home and vice versa. We have also been living in a very small, very isolated, very weird, not particularly friendly town here in England, which made it difficult to make friends. I am an extrovert, so all this alone time has been a challenge!

3 Greatest achievements:

Running races around the world and sticking with training for the Amsterdam marathon.

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Designing, painting and opening the library in Tanzania. Those of you who have been reading our blog for a while may remember the glacial pace at which things moved in Moshi, so finishing it felt amazing.

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Learning how to cook and teaching myself (and Joost) about food. People who have known me for years are pretty shocked to know that I can actually do more than just boil water in a kitchen now! I’ve filleted entire trout on our kitchen counter, baked bagels from scratch and acquired a hefty stash of herbs and spices. I have to be honest–I’m pretty chuffed with myself! I never thought I’d see the day that I had both the skills and ingredients on hand to whip up freshly baked honey lavender bread (topped with goat cheese, lemon curd and a sprig of fresh rosemary) or make turkey sloppy joes from scratch, loaded with veggies and spices. We made a conscious effort to eat as much fresh, local, in season food as possible, which was difficult on our budget, but attainable thanks to how many free hours I had to price compare between different grocery stores and find coupons. Grocery shopping involved careful counting, hours devoted to wandering the aisles finding the cheapest, healthiest ingredients and constantly having to google, “what do British people call _________” Almost everything we ate here was made from scratch by yours truly, including pasta sauces, salad dressings and dips. We avoided salt and preservatives as much as possible. I think we can both agree that this is the healthiest and best we’ve ever eaten!

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2 favorite places: 

Bottom of the Indian Ocean while we were SCUBA diving in Zanzibar.

Anywhere I’m with Joost. It sounds cheesy, but after 22 months of being in a long distance relationship, and knowing that we’re gearing up to go back to an LDR while we wait for Joost’s USA visa paperwork to be processed, waking up to his 3D, HD face is incredible.

1 Thing you’ve learned:

We are so blessed to have the privilege of having a place in this beautiful world, filled with beautiful, quirky, imaginative, inspiring people.

Culture Shock

It is hard to believe that two weeks ago, we were leaving Africa. Life has changed so drastically and quickly that we’re just trying to keep our heads above water as we prepare to move to England tomorrow morning! Joost has been busy with meetings and readings for his new job in England; I have been busy seeing friends, eating a lot of cheese, doing some exploring and making endless to-do lists. I think that I have missed Africa more than Joost has, due in part to the fact that I have more time to miss it and also the fact that coming to the Netherlands isn’t quite the same as going home. 

Despite all of the time we’ve spent preparing for our move (there’s nothing like a power shopping trip to Ikea to get your blood pressure up), we’ve still been trying to enjoy nearly everything the Netherlands has to offer–prostitutes and pot excluded.

We’ve seen friends. We hosted a dinner party with some of Joost’s friends from home, spent time with his friends from his math faculty and saw some of my nearest and dearest friends. We were extremely lucky in that a few friends that we made in Australia happened to be in Holland (<–that is so much easier to type than the Netherlands) during our time here. My friend Thomas, from Germany, and my friend Dee, from Malaysia, were in Holland visiting another Dutch friend. We had a couple of Australia reunions, which were such a blessing. As much as I love seeing new places and meeting new people, it’s nice to be with your people, you know? It was so nice to have people who knew me and who got me, even in this somewhat bizarre, tiny country. We hung out with them on our first day back in Europe, ate at an all-you-can-eat taco restaurant and spent some time exploring Delft.

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We ate a lot. Stroopwafels, cheese, chocolate sprinkles… all of the Dutch delicacies. We had amazing all-you-can-eat sushi, tacos, Turkish food, pasta, falafel, pancakes, QUINOA (#swoon), tapas and an embarrassing amount of bread. Oh, and about 328462 lattes. Our gastrointestinal systems have had an equally jarring transition back into civilization.

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We went into Amsterdam. Our intentions were educational and culturally enlightened–a trip to the Anne Frank museum. However, once we arrived in the rainy, gloomy city, we decided that the last thing we needed was a sad museum, so instead we wandered and did some shopping. Amsterdam was as classy as ever!

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We ran some miles. This morning, we ran the Rotterdam 10k with 10000 other people. The course was pretty boring and way too crowded. Dutch cobblestone streets are not meant to accommodate even close to that many people, so there was a lot of elbowing and claustrophobia. Joost PRed and I came within 34 seconds of doing the same–all of our training at altitude paid off!

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We went to the Keukenhof. When you see pictures of the beautiful Dutch tulip fields, they’re probably taken at the Keukenhof. Unfortunately for us, it isn’t quite tulip season yet, so the fields were just plots of mud. However, they had big greenhouses filled with exquisite displays of flowers. It was Dutch folklore day, which also meant we got to witness traditional Dutch dancing, see wooden shoe carvers and climb a windmill. Joost wanted to make sure that I was fully inundated by Dutch culture. His parents accompanied us and it was nice to spend some time with them!

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We are feeling a bit overwhelmed but excited for our big move tomorrow! We’ve managed to fit some sheets and towels, clothing and toiletries into four massive suitcases. Joost’s parents will drive over via ferry in two weeks to bring the rest of our clothes and some of the things we can live without until then. When we arrive, we’ll have a partially furnished apartment, but no kitchen supplies, no phones, no internet, no car, no bikes and foreign bank accounts–it’s going to be an interesting couple of days. We will try to update as soon as we can!

Bye Netherlands!

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