Well, I've been away from the United States for more than two months now, and I return in less than three weeks. In short, It's been a whirlwind. My steps into this trip were with almost no expectations, with the exception of a romanticized view of Europe. But alas, with development and globalization, I have found this world to be much smaller than I imagine, while at the same time my personal point of view grows bigger.
The trail I've left goes through Berlin, Bamberg, Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Zermatt, Lyon, Annecy, lots of places here and there between France and Switzerland, much of the Southern coast of France including Cannes, Marseilles, and Nice, Monaco, Aix-En-Provence, Paris, Amboise, Amsterdam, Dordrecht, and now I am in a small farming village called Heerhugoward in Nord Holland. Next is Hamburg and Copenhagen, maybe hitch hiking my way there via Amsterdam. Then a week in LA before home in Portland.
I've fallen in love with lots of places, but not like I have with Holland. With the changing of Portland (it moving away from the characteristics I initially adored from the inflation of new residents), I find myself dreading to go back more and more. And so, this entire trip has almost been a long journey to find somewhere new to settle and dig my roots into. I fell in love with Paris, but the hobbit in me fell even harder for Amsterdam, then even more so for the Dutch countryside.
The past couple days I've been staying in a Pipowagen, a small Dutch wagon, on a farm here in Heerhugoward owned by a husband and wife team. Kees, the husband, has been incredibly generous, providing an endless supply of fresh eggs and a tour of his homeland. He showed us the old windmills, and an area he grew up in as a child called the Realm of a Thousand Islands, Broek op Langedijk in North Holland. It was a place where the people dug out swamps in the earlier centuries, building literally a thousand islands. Canals are combed through the land, and in his day, they would travel by boat. Even garbage was picked up using boats. He talked about how the canals would freeze in the winter, and everybody, kids and elders, would ice skate on top of them (as we're told, the Dutch are ice skating people). Neighbors would provide hot chocolate and bread, he told us the Dutch name, but I forgot it already. It's changed a lot since he was a child some forty years ago. Several canals filled in to make roads and more land, there are bridges made of concrete instead of wood, and newer houses now line the street. It's a bit sad, and there's an appreciation of the "good ol' days", but it's also understood that these are necessary changes that need to happen with the growing world for the good of the people and for future generations. However, watching the sun set in such big sky behind a tree spotted valley as a young man rides a boat through a canal in the foreground leaving a ripple through the water, I felt there's still so much pureness and joy.
Today mon amour et moi went on a little bike ride through Kees' neighborhood. The area use to be a place of vegetable farmers, but in the past years the people have shifted to flowers, as there is not as much of a demand for vegetables from Holland as there use to be. I foraged some weeds among an area packed with industrial flower farms and greenhouses, then went back to the Pipowagen to play with them among bread, wine, and some rose petal jam I got from a grocery store in Paris. After spending almost two months in cities, my nature loving Oregonian heart was wanting just this, a little taste of home.
What does all of this mean for RUE? Well, I don't know. All I know is that Holland has won me over. The windmills, the clouds, the tulips, and cows, all of it. I'm already dreaming about returning here one day. Only time will tell.