Expat Corner #4

Dona Nobis Pacem

Neighbors, I apologize that the expat corner has gone quiet since the summer. I haven’t felt very inspired or participatory. I’ve learned some hard lessons about running your own business in the Netherlands  and the delicacy of  “tween” children transitions. 

I knew I needed to pull myself together, so while working from home, I challenged myself to go ultra-local and realized that it’s quite possible to join a gym, enroll in violin lessons, get some extra tutoring for the CITOs and order a sumptuous turkey all within a few blocks. I smiled proudly when the holiday lights blinked on at the Fred and learned the joys of kids who can now be trusted to scooter safely to the grocery store and buy that essential ingredient you forgot for dinner. 

I also left on short business travels to warm(er) places just as the temperatures plummeted and the rain started…and never stopped. This made the darkness significantly more bearable and what I recommend to anyone who might be at risk of falling into winter sadness. Just get out of town, even for a little while. 

Simultaneously, national politics and discouraging global events reached a new level of fervor. More locally, I felt myself disheartened by a few complaints about “foreigners” on the neighborhood survey. And so I want to recommit my commitment on this page, to the here and now of the neighborhood that we live in. That the Statenkwartier is lovely and unique because of its history and walkable streets, but also because it’s a beautiful tossed salad; that everyone is welcome here and has something to contribute. As we continue into winter, we must remember this feeling…before we inadvertently speak harshly to a stranger…and that we live into this philosophy even if it’s just with small acts, like letting pedestrians and bicycles go first on our newly paved streets or when we thank the shop keeper and the teachers or by joining the WhatsApp group on your street and helping a neighbor. To paraphrase a line from our school’s director in her letter about ‘Purple Friday’: ‘Door op een positieve manier aandacht te besteden aan diversiteit leren kinderen dat zij er mogen zijn, maar vooral ook anderen te respecteren om wie zij zijn.…’ (By positively focusing on diversity, children learn that they are allowed to be themselves and, more importantly, to respect others for who they are.) let’s commit to this. 

And so, neighbors, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year. My gift to you is this poem from Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 –1892): 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

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