Friday, December 30, 2016

Getting around; the good, the bad and the terrifying!

We have been driving 4 1/2 months now.  Although it's not anything like driving in Manila, Philippines, it is different and we are older!

 The good....we are to the point that we can get some places without Miss GPS.  It's nice to be able to drive without being on high alert every minute! 
            We have figured out the detour system when there is road construction.  Miss GPS doesn’t know when a road is temporarily closed due to construction and just keeps “re-calculating route” right back to the closed road!  They have an alphabet system of detour signs.  So if you come to some road construction, look for the letter and follow those signs….for instance this “B”.  There might be other letters but you ignore them and follow your letter bread crumb trail! 

We have grown used to having a traffic light for every lane.  If the intersection is traffic light controlled, each and every lane has it’s own light, including the bus lane, the pedestrian lane and the bike lane.  It is easy to miss your light as you approach and see this wide array of lights!       This picture is too small for you to see the bike and pedestrian lights on the right.  We are getting better at zeroing in on our lane!

The good and the bad….
            If you are a bicyclist, the little bike traffic lights are wonderful!  Green bike you go, red bike you stop. Also if you are a car…you know who has the right of way.  In all instances the bike has the right of way if there is an incident…green light or no. 

The bad is on a dark, rainy night the bicyclists are still out and it is so very hard to see them!  We are both on high alert on those nights! 

This is one of the intersections in downtown Zeist.  The motorbike on the right has a blue license plate so can drive on the bike path, not the road.  Watch out for them buzzing past you!  We are always watching for bikes, buses, other cars, people and motorized wheelchairs as we drive around town.  For that reason, if we leave Zeist we drive, if we do errands around Zeist we bike.  Much easier; less stressful, takes about the same amount of time, no cost and hassle finding a parking place and great exercise! 

The roads here are perfectly paved.  We hadn’t seen a single crack or pothole in a road until we got to a parking lot last week and the parking lot was full of potholes.  A first here for us.  Most of the bike paths are equally smooth.   There is only one place between here and our nearest grocery store that if we’re not careful bumping over the crack in the bike path we find an egg
or two cracked when we get home! 

This is the first dirt road we’ve seen.  We laughed at the 60 km/hr speed limit!  Around towns the speed limit is always 30 km/hr, maybe 50 km/hr if you are on the outskirts of town.  Very slow…We didn’t try 60 on this road : ) 

The terrifying; driving in the downtown of any size town or city is terrifying! (youtube "biking in Utrecht centrum!)The roads are narrow, the bike paths are the  same size, signs are confusing and there is so many cars, bikes and people it’s crazy!  We go to great lengths to avoid driving in the city centrums!  In Utrecht we either park outside the city centrum and walk 15-20 min. in or we ride the bus from just outside our front door. 

We were checking missionary apartments last month.  One of our assigned apartments is above the McDonalds (yea for me!!) right on the city centrum plaza in Almere.  We had googled it, put Miss GPS on it, talked to others who had been there and headed into town.  We ended up in an alley by a market.  That wasn’t right.  We headed back down the alley and saw a little underground pass.  Someone had told us we needed to go through an underpass.  (all this time Miss GPS was repeating over and over “you have reached your destination”, which we clearly hadn’t!).  Remember we are in the city centrum, there are people, bikes, buses, and cars everywhere. So we headed into the underpass.  I could see a parking garage but no entrance. Just into the underpass (by now we are both pretty stressed out) I said with amazement “Wow, here we are in the city centrum and there’s NO traffic”!  10 seconds later Joe says with just a bit of panic “we’re in the bus lane”!  Indeed, I had driven down under the city centrum bus terminal into the bus garage area!  Bus lanes here are sacred and no one ever drives in them!  We  drove for 3 blocks like scared rabbits until we came out on the other side of the centrum.  We turned on the first side street we could find and parked.  We called the missionaries, told them we would be late and googled mapped it from our car to their apartment.  We happily walked the 20 minutes to the apartment!  We have now been there 4 times and finally found the close, cheap parking lot near the apartment.  

We go some places with ease, we have had only 1 speeding ticket and 2 parking tickets (a good mission record apparently!), and know where to avoid if at all possible!  Not bad for oldies in a new place!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What's not to love about missionaries?

   Our missionary activities started early in Dec. with our Zone Conference.  This time we had a visiting General Authority, Elder Johnson.  Three zones met together so we fed 90 people for lunch.  Elder Van Der Put asked me to be in charge of the lunch (me? The non-food soul?!)  I called my go-to-Sister Senior missionary, Zuster Hill and she worked it out with me.  (what will I do when she goes home in March? : ( ! 

We are the tiny couple in the middle of the back row! This is half of the mission!  President and Zuster Bunnell are 2nd and 3rd from the left, front row. 

 The song we sing to celebrate birthdays at Zone Conference....think our very own "haka" dance!  

 We had a district p-day ice skating activity.  In our town of Zeist, they put up a very small rectangular ice rink on the plaza in the centrum.  It had been quite cold but warmed up a little that day… lots of fun!

For the first time we had district meeting at our house instead of meeting at the chapel in Gouda. It was so nice to cook and serve from my own kitchen!  

It’s transfer week next week….we will miss the missionaries moving on.  We come to love them so much as we work and learn together.  

With the missionaries moving from time to time, their mail needs to go to the mission office.  It is distributed at zone conferences.  Because it’s Christmas, lots of packages and mail arrived after our zone conference on the 8th.  So the senior couples went to Leiden to become Santa’s elfs!  The office elders helped us stuff it all into our car!  All of the senior couples have 7-8 missionary apartments they inspect quarterly.  We took the packages for our eight apartments.  We delivered to Almere, Hilversum, Amersfoorte, Gouda (2), Utrecht, Nieuwegein, and Den Bosch.  Including our trip to Leiden to pick it up, we drove 548 kilometers! Or 340 miles! The missionaries were so happy to get their Christmas from home that it was worth all the hours on the road! 

While in Leiden all the senior couples had lunch at our favorite pannekoekenhuis….lekker! (yummy!).  They are very large crepes that have sweet or savory toppings.  You cut them up or roll them, whichever you like. 

Our whole group, including the mission President in front of our favorite windmill in Leiden centrum.

The best part of Christmas was the beautiful Christmas program we had in the Utrecht Ward on Christmas Day and having 4 of our missionaries over for Christmas dinner and Skyping with their families.  Between our 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and 2 iPhones, all 5 of us were able to talk to our families at the same time! 
When I think of how hard it was to call home when we moved to Asia in 1999 I am so very grateful for the advancement of technology!  We talked to our kids and Mom several times each over the course of 24 hours!

It was hard to be far away from our families but these missionaries we love, both young and old, made it warm and a lot less lonely! 

(rear view mirrors for our bikes....we aren't Dutch...we need them!)  And Christmas love and jammies from home!

Christmas is.........

Christmas is BIG in America….and not so big in the Netherlands.  It was mid-Dec. before we saw a Kerstbomen (Christmas tree) lot.  We were fortunate, our dear friends the Oostveens had an extra tree complete with lights that they offered to let us use.  Also the use of their darling daughter Julia to decorate the house for us while I cooked for our YSA party!

 We missed the Den Bosch ward Christmas party due to Joe’s being sick and the Utrecht ward didn’t have a party.  The English speaking ward in Zoetermeer joined with another ward and had a wonderful Christmas program on Sunday evening the 11th.  There was a large choir, strings, piano and vocalists….the Christmas hymns in Dutch and English along with the Christmas story narrative. It was the real kick off for Christmas for us.  I’m sorry I didn’t take any pictures! 

One of the highlights of our Christmas season was the open house we hosted for our neighbors!  We decided we needed to get to know the so created an invitation to take around.  It was hard to go out in the dark to knock on the doors of strangers.  (think missionary work every single day!)  To our surprise everyone who answered the door was enthusiastic and excited!  One neighbor commented that it was too bad it took Americans to move in to get the neighborhood together!  It turns out almost all of the neighbors didn’t know one another!

 So I prepared Dutch treats (snoepjies), went to our local cheese store and got a cheese tray, made mini banana muffins and hot spiced apple cider.  We had no idea if everyone (we invited 20 households) or no one would come!

We had 25 of the kindest, warmest neighbors come!  They were so excited to meet each other.  One family brought 2 children.  I had made play dough and set up a kids table to entertain any children who came.  The kids loved the play dough!  The adults stood around the table, visited and ate for an hour and a

We played a Tabernacle Choir Christmas program on our TV as background music. 

They viewed it more as a “housewarming” and all brought presents!  Mostly beautiful flowers. 

We didn’t RSVP on the invitations but we received lovely notes from some of those who couldn’t come.  It was so sweet. They all want to do it again so we will organize another social in the spring.   It turned out to be a wonderful evening and hopefully the neighbors have had a positive experience with Latter Day Saints! 

We also got in an hour or so of Christmas shopping in the Gouda Centrum.  We delivered Christmas packages to the elders there and it looked so enticing we decided to stay and shop!  And of course I need those hot, yummy “frites” (fries) they sell on the plazas : ) ! 

Although we missed our family this season, between our neighbors, missionaries, YSA’s and the warm greetings from home we felt the love of the Savior and our Heavenly Father : )  

Friday, December 16, 2016

What do you do when your companion is sick and you have to stay in?!

To those who know me, this needs no explanation!

It's been a couple very slow days stuck in the house.  I have a new appreciation for missionaries when their companions are too sick to work.  

We found this puzzle while shopping in a bookstore.  This week was the perfect time to get it out!  It kept me sane while allowing me to enjoy one of our Christmas traditions from home.  win-win.....