"You're from Volendam??" their voice sounded incredulous. Like they couldn't believe they were staring at a real-life museum-piece. "Yep." I laugh awkwardly and nod to affirm. "Wow. You can't even hear it." "Thank you." I've always found that a pleasure to hear. As if I've passed the test of normal humanhood. "So if everyone really married to their cousin there?" They laugh, amused by their most amusing joke. The first in a short list that's made by almost every single Dutch person I've met in my whole life who've heard where I'm from originally. "Hah, well no. That's not really a thing." I smile, a little more awkwardly and a little less amused. As usual. "So does everyone really do a lot of drugs over there??" "Not any more than they do here!" I assure them. "So you know any of those famous singers?" "Hmhm. A bit." "Really?!" "Yup." Now through with the defaults they lean back and calm down a bit. Almost apologetically they add "You know I've never been." "Why would you?" I joke, waving away their awkwardness over apparently feeling ashamed over never having visited one of the top tourist places in the country. "It's just a town. Just like any other really." "Yeah, I guess you're right." Relieved now, the conversation leads to it's final conclusion. "Do you ever think of moving back there?" They ask me, now curious. "NEVER in my life!" I laugh, louder than I really need to.
I can't even count the times I've had this conversation and yet, here I am. Back in my home town. And if I'm entirely truthful.. So far it's great! To be fair, we can't experience much of the town since everything is in lockdown, but everything we have has been just perfect. After having spent a decade with a clear wish to never return, I'm almost afraid to admit that! Part of me keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like at some point something will go very wrong and it'll be my fault for bringing us here. But I've got to look at the evidence.
- We moved in with a fridge stocked up with the best things the town has to offer. The good stuff, not the supermarket stuff. My mom knows all the best places.
- The first weekend here my mom brought over fresh nuts from the market, still warm from the roasting. They were SO good.
- The neighbours have been nothing if not nice. On one side is an elderly couple (and the house next to that is also an elderly couple) and on the other side a young family. The boy screams sometimes, but whenever he sees us he's enthralled and polite as can be. I'll never forget him standing outside, yelling at his mom "Mom! Mooom! They have TWO guitars!! Did you see that?!" Oh boy, you have no idea.
- Despite the houses not being as well isolated as I'd hoped, it still feels so much quieter and calmer here.
- We're still waiting on some final things to be done on the house, one of which being a bit annoying; the windows don't close well meaning there is some wind coming through. But somehow we're both quite calm about it. Neither of us is really getting frustrated or angry about it. Which is amazing.
- I went for a walk and I didn't constantly bump into people! There was grass and trees and it was calm and sunny and lovely!
- Last but not least; the Chinese place 2 minutes away is SO GOOD guys. It's the perfect example of Dutch Chinese cuisine. Not to be mistaken for authentic Chinese food. But it's the BEST kind of Dutch Cantonese Chinese. Full sauces full of flavours. Normal prices and good portions. Dimitri & I both have a love of this food (him from where he grew up on the other side of the country and me from this specific restaurant) and we spent years looking for a favourite place in Amsterdam, but we never found it! By the end, we'd both be craving Chinese food, but unwilling to try yet another place, only to be disappointed after spending so much money on so little food. I was nervous when we went to try it last week but we both loved it!
Every time something turns out well like this Dimitri is so delighted he cries out "We're never moving! This place is awesome!" and I have to admit, that kind of excitement is contagious. How could it not be? I'm slowly beginning to love it here! Who'd have thought?