Sunday, January 7, 2018

What is the best part of the Netherlands?

The bicycles!!  There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people, they produce more bicycles than any other country in Europe, and one of the biggest commuting problems is bike parking.  Utrecht is building an underground bike parking shelter at the Central Train Station.  It will park 12,000 bikes!  By 2020 Amsterdam is planning to have the ability to park 40,000 bikes in above and undergound shelters near their Central Train station.  Biking is great here due to the fact that the country is flat and there are so many accommodations for bicyclists.  There are 35,000 kilometers of dedicated bike paths plus their own lights at intersections.
  We bought bikes soon after we arrived and have loved biking around Zeist to do our errands and around the countryside on p-day.   It is one of our favorite things about the Netherlands. 

It’s Grandma’s day to babysit but that doesn’t keep her from her errands : )

A few bikers waiting at the intersection, including a very dressed up office worker.

He’s been to the golf course, with his bike pulling his golf bag!

A mom and her three kids arrived for an ice cream cone on this single bike with a back seat and front bucket.  We see lots of these bike buckets. 

Their version of walking your kids to school.

These yellow and blue bikes are for rent for a few euros at every train station.  They travel by train, rent a bike a pedal to their meeting and return it when they go home.  It’s so very convenient. 

Speaking of commuting, we see these “commuter” bikes that ride like a normal bike but fold up to the size of a large briefcase when you board the train.  I always wanted to try riding one!

The delivers by bike!  This happened to be a sunny day but they are out in every kind of weather, delivering mail on their bikes.

This is what going to school looks like….literally dozens of kids of every age pedaling toward school, often in groups.   

Just an ordinary street….always lined with parked bikes.

  We have “trail a bikes” at home…here they just pop the kid’s front tire in a rack and suddenly it’s a tandem with 3 wheels.

Very few bikers wear helmets, even kids.  And we have seen them riding everywhere possible on the bike, including quite a few standing on the back : )

This mom did her grocery shopping and biked off with the all the groceries plus 3 kids on her bike! 


This bike bucket is outfitted for rainy weather and has the umbrella stroller attached on the back for when they arrive at the store.  They carry literally anything you can think of on a bike. 

This is the Gouda train station.  It’s a comparatively small station.  We watched this man get his bike off the rack. 

After kids learn to ride their bikes, the parents are often seen pedaling beside them with one hand on their backs.  It helps them learn to ride straight and go faster!  They learn to ride so close to each other.  Joe and I tried riding side by side but gave it up very fast!

We enjoyed biking with the kids when they visited : )

Joe has fixed missionary bikes…and they are always so grateful! 

We needed a picnic cooler and were able to get it home in my bike basket….we must be Dutch!

This is the bike I want to take home...not a tandem but a triple seater! 

We will miss Dutch biking when we go home!  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Call it talent, genius, ingenuity, or inspiration, the Dutch have it!

As we have explored the Netherlands, we have been so amazed by the things we have seen.  Let’s start with the Eise Eisinga planetarium in Friesland.  In the little town of Franeker, in 1770’s lived a wool carder.  He built this unbelievable solar system in the ceiling of his little living room.  He lowered the ceiling, so he could build the complex system that runs it in the attic above the living room.  Yes, I said “runs” because it is still working!  It is the oldest working model of the solar system in the world.  He had no schooling, but the man was clearly brilliant and inspired. 

The living room…you can see the closet bed that was common at that time.  Very tiny..they slept sitting up! 

Much of the Netherlands is below sea level and has been subject to flooding.  After the terrible storm of 1953 that breached the dikes and caused much loss of life and property damage, the country began a system of water control projects that protect them from storm surges in the North Sea. 

We visited the Delta Works in Neeltje Jan, where there is a huge, man-made dike, 9 kilometers long (5.5 miles) with giant “garage-like” doors that they can shut against a storm surge.  Otherwise, they stay open and allow the natural eco habitat to continue to flourish.  It is an amazing piece of engineering.  This is a model of the dike….the big black garage doors shut when needed and the road is on top.

Much earlier they developed a system of water management that entails the use of windmills to pump water away from the land and out to the sea.  Kinderdijk is a beautiful example of this.  The world comes to the Dutch for expertise in water management. 

Because of all this water, at one time most Dutch people wore klompen (wooden clogs).  (disclaimer…the French invented the clog :) They are made of poplar or willow wood and keep feet warm and dry.  There were klompen for all purposes…ice klompen, farmer and seaman klompen to name a few.  They also had beautiful bridal klompen, klompen for horses and smuggler klompen (the soles make

your footprint look like you went the opposite way!).  Nowadays klompen are for tourists and take many forms.  These are the ones I covet : )  Red cowboy boot klompen! 

The Dutch are inventers. More patent applications are submitted by the Dutch than any other nation!   From the Netherlands came the technology for Bluetooth.  And Philips, headquartered in Eindhoven,….who hasn’t bought a Philips lightbulb?!  They produced a lightbulb in 1891 and from there proceeded to light the world with reliable and affordable lighting.  They light the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building and the New Year’s Eve party in Times Square! 

One of our unforgettable experiences was attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.  Acoustically it is consistently ranked in the top three concert halls in the world, along with the Musikverein, Vienna, Austria and Symphony Hall, Boston, USA.  It was divine!  The 16 voice choir and 12 piece chamber group sounded like a full choir and orchestra.  It was so beautiful. 


This is a short list…we have had so much fun exploring this tiny country and learning about it’s contributions to the world!  

Friday, December 8, 2017


We have had the privilege of serving with the same 7 missionaries for 2 transfers (12 weeks- 3 months).  This is so unusual!  The first transfer there were three elders in Nieuwegein, Elder Lewis, Elder Derochie, and Elder Diaz.  There was a companionship of sisters in Utrecht, Sister Lechtenberg and Sister Hardy.  In Amersfoort there were Sister Gillespie and Sister Williams.  We began our transfer together in early Sept.

  On October 18, the next transfer day, none of the missionaries got transferred!  President Bunnell added a greenie, Elder Thomas, to the 3-man, making it a 4-man. 


The Elders decided we should all have matching t-shirts for our Zone P-day “turkey bowl”.  They designed them, found the materials and organized the project at our district p-day. 
 We love the shirts!  Go team!!

After Zone Conference last month, the missionaries grabbed a bite to eat and headed home on the train.  It was rush hour and crowded.  None of them could get a seat together so they spread out in the train car.  After a long day, it would have been understandable if they had relaxed and taken a quick nap.  But they didn’t….as they traveled home, each began to talk to their seat mate.  Elder Derochie told us he looked around, and saw every one of them in conversation.  All were doing the work they were called here to do.  At that moment he said he felt such unity.  As they discussed it later they each said they too noticed and expressed their joy in their unity of the work.

We have played together, studied together, eaten together, served one another, and done missionary work together. We have all grown close.  It has been a unique time in our mission that we will cherish. 

Shortly after this, the Assistants to the President in the weekly letter to the missionaries, asked each companionship to take 10 minutes and evaluate the day and then have companion prayer and give an accounting to the Lord.  They promised “this will build comp unity”. 

I got to thinking about unity.  Does working toward the same goals define unity?  Can you be working on the same goals and not feel unity?  Elder Derochie and Elder Diaz went with us to Den Bosch to institute.  On the long drive there I asked them about unity.  They felt it meant not only working toward the same things, but it required a “connection” to the others.  Caring, tolerance, appreciation, sacrifice and service were attitudes they felt created unity. 

We just celebrated Thanksgiving and our children decided they had to get together (at our house : ) That meant Andrew and family made the trip from California, Russ and boys drove from Washington and Emily and Dona Missy planned and organized the weekend. Of course, Grandma Cusick was there, supporting them, helping with dinner and love.   Without us there, everyone pitched in and covered for us.  The kids all expressed their joy in being together.  (and that they could and did get together without us orchestrating it!) 

This is unity…caring, tolerance, appreciation, sacrifice and service.  We aren’t just 21 people on parallel tracks heading in the same direction.  We are tightly knit in our love and devotion to each other. 

Monday, December 4, 2017


November was a crazy busy month!  (I had forgotten it was exactly the same last year : )  We had Zone Conferences, YSA Fall Camp, missionary apartment checks, Joe’s birthday,  zone p-day turkey bowl, a missionary blitz in Amersfoort, dinner/institute classes, Christmas decorating, dinner with friends, made matching district t-shirts, celebrated Thanksgiving, took a trip to the Amersfoort zoo,  and attended the usual weekly missionary district meetings.

 Joe’s birthday was special…Elder Lewis made him a cake that was so delicious!

We were invited to dinner in Den Bosch at Hiromi’s home.  There was a wonderful, peaceful feeling in her home that was much needed in the midst of so much busyness.  (Her husband plays cello and was at orchestra practice).

Collin and Ellen Stomps also invited us to dinner. They live in Tiel and their son Jeremy, a returned missionary, was one of our institute students last year.  He is in Germany this year at university. We miss his energetic contributions! 

Zone Conference in November is the yearly temple trip.  Antwerp and Eindhoven zone meets Tuesday, Apeldoorn and Amsterdam zone on Wednesday and Den Haag and Rotterdam zone on Thursday.   The missionaries attend the temple in the morning then have lunch and conference meetings at the Zoetermeer chapel.  They love getting to the temple!

 Our responsibility this time was to be at the temple early Tues. and Wednesday to hand out temple clothes to missionaries, then go to the church to set up lunch.  They order pizza for this lunch so we just set tables, make green salad, serve and clean up.  Tuesday we went to Leiden after lunch to get our car serviced, then back to Zoetermeer for dinner with all the senior couples.  Because we needed to be to the temple early and the traffic is so unpredictable, the mission had us stay in a hotel.  It was so nice not to have to drive back and forth every day!  On Thursday it was our zone’s day.  We handed out clothes then attended an endowment session.  Another couple handled the lunch so it was like we were guests!

The meetings were wonderful.  It was fun to be there all three days because we saw all the missionaries in the mission!  We know so many of them now and don’t often see them once they get transferred out of our zone.


In the midst of all this, Sister Lechtenberg and Sister Hardy offered to help put up our Christmas decorations and I didn’t refuse the help! 


We finally met Sister Daryl Hoole’s sister-in-law, Marijke Hoole and two of her daughters.  We had a lovely Sunday afternoon visiting her in Zwolle, hearing wonderful stories of faith, conversion, and Dutch life. 

We saw our first “gas station laundromat”.  We pulled into this gas station and there were 2 large washers, one dryer and a dog washing station!  There aren’t any one stop shopping stores here like Target or Walmart  but this??  We laughed all the way home :) 

  I spent a long morning making 5 dozen cinnamon rolls.  They provided brunch for district meeting and dessert for all three nights of institute.  I think they are everyone’s favorite dessert.  They request them oftener than I have time to make them : ) 

District meeting:  Chocomel, cinnamon rolls and fruit…lekker!

l to r; E. Lewis, S. Williams, E. Thomas, E. Derochie, S. Gillespie, E. Diaz. 

Our district consists of 4 elders and 2 sisters in the Utrecht area and a pair of sisters in Amersfoort.  On p-day we often see the missionaries in the Utrecht area.  We have been feeling like the Amersfoort sisters were left out so we decided so spend a p-day with them.  We decided to go to the zoo!  It was perfect weather, there were no crowds and the animals were all outside and active.  Can you see that little baby elephant?  He was so adorable 😉!
Sisters Williams and Gillespie.

We have been running on high speed for a month and hope things slow down just a little!