We are less than a week away from boarding our flight back to the US! We’re knee deep in boxes and half packed suitcases, but I came up for air to give a little glimpse of the last couple of weeks. Part of me is excited to see home, eager to hug our family members, and anticipating the enjoyment of some of the things we’ve missed most about life in the US. The other part of me is a puffy-eyed, emotional train wreck. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but we’ve had to start saying our goodbyes to friends we’ve made here and goodbyes are never easy.
The question we get most often right now is “Are you ready to go back?” or “Would you/Why don’t you stay longer?”. And I’d say to all those questions that the answer is complicated. We had to make our decision on whether to stay longer pretty early into our time here. I think it was in the midst of winter, terrible weather, and Covid lockdowns resulting in minimal contact with Melissa and new friends. At that time it was a resounding “yes” to return to “normal life” in Charleston in the summer. And while that is still the plan, I could see us staying here longer (of course with more frequent trips back to the US). Why? We love the ability to live mostly car-free here, using bikes or our feet to get us where we need to go. In 20 minutes we can walk to more restaurants than I can count, a handful of grocery stores, retail shops, parks, the train station – pretty much everything you need, in a city with the population size of Charleston (so it doesn’t take living in a huge, loud, over populated US city to have this proximity to these things). We love the challenge of learning a new language, of meeting people from all over the world, the ease of travel to entirely different countries and cultures. We feel safe here, at school, and on the roads (you see your tax dollars at work on well maintained paths and roads, for example). We love being close to Melissa who tries harder than anyone I know to squeeze in as much time with us as possible. We love the new friends we’ve made. Caleb especially has some pretty strong friendships here and expressed interest in staying longer, but that’s a pretty recent development and not something we could make happen on such short notice. The last day of school for him was quite emotional as most of the friends left for vacation the next day. All this being said, nowhere is perfect, right? We miss a lot about home in South Carolina, and when we feel super sad about leaving we start thinking on those things – I know it will be a happy reunion when we’re back.
In the last month we’ve had our first visitors from the US (better late than never!). Josh’s brother, Matt, came in mid June and then Josh’s Auntie Val and cousin Alison (“Buzzy”) visited us in early July. It was so special for us to get to show them our life here and the beautiful areas in and around Maastricht. I’ll definitely post on that later in more detail, but suffice it to say – we had a blast. Well…mostly. I did catch Covid about the time Val and Buzzy arrived so my time with them was very limited. But Josh took the tour guide gig seriously and executed all the plans we’d made like a pro. Maastricht is not a typical city for Americans to put on their bucket list, but we knew if we could get them here they’d love it. Mission accomplished.
A little over a week ago, Caleb had his Primary School “graduation” ceremony, and last week the boys had their last day of school. I am incredibly proud that they made the most of this year and seemed to thrive in the UWC environment. From day one, Caleb seemed to get along with most of his classmates and came out smiling from all the new connections he’d made. Several of his friends challenged him intellectually and he pushed himself to join extra groups, like a newspaper team, in order to be around them more. Mason, was a little slower to jump into new friendships, but he could remember every name of every student and where they were from. He would recognize classmates in the grocery store or restaurants and tell us or say hello to them. He was quick to learn a computer program that helped students with math concepts and when others needed assistance with it, the teacher usually asked Mason to help them. The school environment was interesting for us as parents and I hope to write more on that later. I will say, though, that I think this school was really great for this transition we made and I’m glad they went there.
We tried cramming in as many play dates and picnics as we could before school ended because everyone was planning summer vacation trips and most have left town at this point. We are so lucky that the boys made wonderful friends who also have really nice and fun parents, so Josh and I benefited greatly from these school friendships.
The boys finished up their baseball season this past weekend, which was a very cool experience for them. We’ve really enjoyed being a part of this team. Most of the kids are Dutch, so the boys have had to work a little harder at communicating with these kids and their coaches. This is the first team they’ve played on where Josh and Uncle Chris were not coaching them, and I know they are excited to play again back home with their cousins.
In these last few days in Maastricht we are squeezing in as much time with our awesome neighbor friends (Tina & Georg, Luna & Luca, and their kiddos), and with Melissa and Flo, along with last minute Maastricht-y things like going to the sweet bowling alley here, taking the boys to the movie theater, hopefully climbing the St. Janskerk tower, walking on the barefoot trail in Brunssom, and an Andre Reiu concert on our last night in town.
We recently hosted our neighbors and introduced them to my version of shrimp and grits, a traditional Charleston recipe that I typically make for holidays or special occasions. A friend of mine back home sent me a care package a while back that included a bag of grits so I decided to have these Austrian and Italian friends try them out. Overall, they were a hit! Luna also made homemade focaccia bread, and Tina made a french toast that we all devoured.
There’s a heat wave across Europe as well this week making us second guess anything outside, but since air conditioning is less common here, we also have to be strategic about where we go! We joke that this weather is preparing us for our return to hot weather in Charleston.
On the immigration front, we have quite a bit more to do with regards to closing accounts, selling items, deregistering with the local government, etc. I think the checklist to leave is about as long as it was to move here! We have a bit more confidence in the process, though, than we did we when arrived. I have much more I want to write about the places we explored with our visitors, the cycling life here, what I would do differently if I could go back in time to when we planned our move to the Netherlands, the school experience, etc. Our days are flying by, though and my time to write is pretty minimal – so who knows when the posts will be published. But if you’re on the edge of your seating waiting, just know we are trying to live it up these last few days in this great city and the posts will come later. Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing this experience.