Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wassenaar, Netheralnds

The purpose of my 5 day visit to my birth country is technically a sad one but has ended in a happy one. As I had mentioned before my Oma ( grandmother) passed away this month at the age of 85. Born in Indonesia ( dutch colony at the time) in 1926 to a wealthy family with a family tree from the 1500's. During WW2, her father was killed by the german border by accident by an American bomb in 1944. This left 3 orphaned van den Elshout's with their mother in  a horrible time in history. During this time the Germans had isolated the west of Holland completely, no communication, no trade and worse, no food. They were also going door to door looking for young able men to work in their factories, called Arbeitseinsatz and  Omi (great grandmother) was hiding her nephew a long with her daughters. As they knocked on the door she would say "drei maedelhause" ( 3 ladies house) and they would go away.  This time was called the Hunger Winter of '44/'45 and Omi had to sell her pieces of jewelry just to get a loaf of bread in the black market.(I'm assuming some where like $20 a loaf.) 
When my Oma married my grandfather, a mining engineer, at 19/20 yrs old it was a grand relief for Omi as she had one less mouth to feed. My grandfather worked for a company named Billiton, but after the 2nd child arrived he was denied a raise and so was on the move. He was then offered to work for metaBol in Bolivia where he stayed for about 8 yrs until Billiton begged him to come back, which he did. Oma was very happy in Bolivia and till her last days would always sing "que sera sera". 
As he worked through the ranks he ended up as Senior Vice President in The Hague. Oma didn't like the over poshness so they moved to Wassenaar, the town where I've always known it to be home and where I was born. 
They had a happy life their. Opa passed away 7yrs ago this month too, so I'm happy they they are in heaven together. She will be missed but never forgotten. 

Now as I pack up my grandmothers tea sets and try on her old coats I remember all those amazing moments we shared together. I always liked coming to Holland. I think its bc I felt like I was more alike this side of my family then my mothers side. I mean really? Who has my height and cheek bones in the Ariza household.  
Spending time in this small old village of Holland, I was shocked too see all these new things I had never noticed. First of all is the super market. When you go to Albert Hijn ( vons) you pick up a scanner and as u shop, u scan and put the things in ur bag.   They also offer u free coffee and tea while shopping. This isn't very dutch being so splendid. When you're done gazing through yumminess u check out by loading the scanner, swipe your card and off u go. All on the honor code!! So cool! With all this modernity people actually still go the cheese shop for their cheese, and respectfully with meats, breads, sweets and booze. Everything is closed on sundays even though no one is religious. Very Calvanistic of them.

Let's talk food and their Pea Soup. Maybe as a kid I didn't like veggies but anyone coming to Pays Bas must try this concoction of hearty goodness . So Yum!  I didn't know I liked peas so much. Although they love herring and I can't stand it, their selection of smoked salmons competes with Caviar House in London. I think I had it every day. Another funny anecdote was my wanting to go to Amsterdam for the day. To any person who I'd mention this the reply was "why? Why do u want to go to Amsterdam?" I didn't understand till I went. After being in such a friendly, green open space, upscale town, why would u go to a busting traffic infused with ppl who dress ugly with spiky hair. Well it does has it charm either way. With its old buildings side y side and built on a slant ( I guess engineering wasn't like the egyptians back in the day) along these canals, what's not to like. The southwest part of town very posh with the fancy hotels and beautiful houses . The center with the rembrandt museum, heineken brewery and the famed Anne Franke's house. Let's not forget the sex shops. Its a city of old and new full of what other dutch call "peaceful anarchist.". 

The trip was great. I met cousins, second cousins, great aunts and old college friends of my parents. Everyone remembering the good ol times it was sad to have to leave it again. Till the next time my beloved Wassenaar :)