Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Land of Orange

I am in Holland this week, visiting family and making plenty of mental notes for future blog topics. I arrived Saturday, Sept. 5, and the weather was mildly sunny, and it felt nice to be back in my grandmother's little apartment, but also strange because it's been three years since I last visited. I had a bad case of jetlag, for some reason, perhaps because of the cold I picked up just before I left, and I am still fighting feelings of fatigue several days later.

Holland has changed. At least, the part of Holland where I am now. Or, perhaps I have changed. In the last three years, it seems that I have become more attached to my home in the U.S. and have begun disconnecting from what always felt like home here in Holland. Maybe that's because I bought my first house in the U.S. Maybe it's because I am turning thirty in a week and, in turning over the page to a new decade in my life, I am also leaving behind some of my childhood attachments to this place.

However, I have enjoyed some very nice, familiar things on this trip so far. The beautiful September sun. The cute, bricked roads. The flowers everywhere -- on restaurant tables, in shops, on tour boats, even. My grandmother and aunts and cousins. The incredibly bucolic Delfland just around the corner from my grandmother's apartment, with pastures, farms, horses, sheeps, cows and neat rows of trees lining walking paths.

But, for the first time, I do not feel completely safe walking or riding a bike from my grandmother's to my aunt's apartment -- a journey that literally takes about a minute and a half on the bike. There are suddenly "hang jeugd" -- or "hanging out youth" -- loitering around my grandmother's building where before I do not remember ever feeling unsafe. On the news there are stories of armed robberies, teenagers caught in crossfire, and women being pushed off their bikes and attacked.

As a virtual foreigner in my own land, it's entirely possible that I am letting a tiny feeling of nervousness turn unnecessarily into paranoia . . . but for the first time since I moved away from Holland I find myself yearning for the boring small town I used to live in near the coast. Today I spoke to an old friend of mine who still lives in that town, and I asked him if things had changed there. He said, no, not one bit. I felt a great sense of relief where before I may have felt a tinge of disdain.

On Friday I will go and visit my friend in that town, and I will see for myself if it has changed. But as I am idealizing it, it would behoove me to remember that when we lived there, aggressive pubescents also took pleasure in terrorizing other kids. Perhaps then the fear was of bullies. Now it's of bullies with guns.

Regardless of how Holland has or has not changed, I stil love it, just as I love my home in the U.S. It is interesting to be from two places at once. It's a feeling I can't quite describe -- its not like a having a split personality but rather having double personalities. Two in one.

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