Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where to Live???

So right now our plan is to focus on an area called Almere which is about 20 minutes east of Amsterdam.  It's not 100% sure yet since we haven't seen any properties in person there yet, but this is where we are leaning.  While we have truly enjoyed city living, a first for all 4 of us, the time has come to move back towards the burbs.  Primarily because the kids' school is in this town and as there is no bus system, they will be taken to school by yours truly...hence living in the same town as school.  

When the name of Almere has come up around locals, Josh has said he kind of gets the impression that it's just not all that.  But it's not because it's not a good area.  It's just new.  Like literally didn't exist before the 1970s.  You see, the Dutch are famous for their ability to reclaim land from the sea.  They have been doing it for centuries.  And Almere is a prime example.  It did not exist until they reclaimed it.  And so nothing in the town is more than 40 years old.  

For the Dutch this takes away an important element - history.  Much of the Netherlands is filled with historic, old buildings.  And for something to be only 40 years old with no architectural significance is well... boring.  But for Josh, the kids and I, we're ok with boring.  Sure it would be nice to have a nice old world Dutch home.  But I can guarantee that old world home won't have double paned windows to keep the chill of winter out (not to mention lower utility bills), or a yard for the kids to play in.  We will hopefully have both.  And with that, we're good.  We can always take the train 20 minutes into Amsterdam for our taste of history and beautiful architecture.  

Josh went to visit the school today for the first time.  It went way better than I expected.  I don't know why I didn't expect much because the people at the school have been nothing but lovely.  I truly think it's the name of the school (Letterland) that keeps putting me off.  It's poor marketing but that does not mean it's a poor school.  If anything, Josh said they are very up to date on technology in the classrooms with students having laptops, every classroom having smart boards and much of their homework will be available online.  In addition, the classes are small.  With only 140 kids in the school (pre k-grade 5), there is only one section per grade and often 20 or less kids in a class.  That means a lot of hands on attention with the kids.  It also means that they won't have a lot of choice when it comes to who they want to hang around with but that might not be a bad thing.  

Josh also said that as he took the train along the countryside that it's all very green, beautiful and somehow reminiscent of New Hampshire without the mountains.  So I'm very interested to see what that's like.  Apparently there are bike trails everywhere which will be important since I think we are going to have to ease into this biking thing.  It's not that we don't know how to bike, but kind of like the motos here in Barcelona, the Dutch take their biking very seriously and VERY aggressively.  We need to "train" the kids on how to ride their bikes correctly on a path, bike lane and eventually, in the city. Hell, I think Josh and I need to train ourselves too!!

We're off for our house hunting trip in just a few weeks and while I'm still quite nervous about all that needs to be done in the next 5 weeks, I'm also excited to see what this new home (as in town, not just the house) will look like.  Will it remind us of being home in Boston?  Will we be in more of a neighborhood where the kids can run outside and play?  Or will we find ourselves in an apartment near a park instead?  Will we be able to bike to school each day?  

All I know is that this move is going to be night and day compared to Barcelona.  Not just because we've done this before and have some expectations of how things will proceed from here.  But also because it's going to be such a different culture from Spain and from the US.  We have to learn all about the good, the bad and the ugly of a whole new place.  It's exciting and daunting but I think we are all starting to look forward to the next steps.  Even Aidan has been on board in the last few days mentioning that he's spoken to a few friends at school that are from the Netherlands and they were telling him about some traditional Dutch food.  He's excited to go the International Food Fair tomorrow night at school and check out the Dutch table.  I'm proud of him for taking the bull by the horns and investigate on his own, utilizing the resources he has at his fingertips at school.

So the countdown is on.  There are going to be a ton of posts coming at you in the next weeks and months.  I've got to finish up these Barcelona ones before we leave (and keep getting distracted by these Netherlands ones!)!!


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