donderdag 26 april 2012

The expat toddler years: part I The Netherlands

The day E. was born, my parents sat at the bus stop waiting for us to come home. To distract me from cuddling my newborn (read: to prise the baby out of my hands) my mum handed me a photo album. It was the one in which she'd recorded the first year of my life, including a journal of her confinement period (the GP still made housecalls back then!). Gripping stuff and very reassuring, because in those days they did everything different and my mum still managed to raise four healthy children.

When I moved to Singapore with 11 month old E. grandmother Tamtam handed me the next album, the one in which I move to Hong Kong (8 months old) and later to Singapore (2.5 years old). So, inspired by these guys, who wrote about being six years old in Singapore and being six years old in Boston, I'll write about being a 2.5 year old expat shuttling between Singapore and the Netherlands. And to cover the educational angle, I'll stick in pictures of E. so you lot can compare the past and the present.

Obviously, the first thing everybody will ask about is the heat. I don't remember the heat in Singapore at all. However, I do remember the Netherlands being REALLY cold and that I got to wear a ski suit! I enjoyed the snug warmth so much. Also, I remember being dressed in tights and a woollen dress, which was lovely and again, snugly warm. So I suppose the heat didn't register because that was "normal", whereas the cold was special.

Also, we went to feed the ducks. Another REALLY COOL thing, which we didn't get to do in Singapore on account of there not being ducks. (There still aren't.) However, in Singapore we'd have the excitement of snakes sneaking into our house every once in a while.


My mum and me at my grandparents house, 1981


Feeding the ducks living opposite my grandparents place, 1981


E. watching the fish at Mount Faber Park, accompanied by uncle W., S. and grandfather Tamtam, 2012


The Netherlands was mandarin country. I stuffed myself with mandarins. I gorged on mandarins. I adored mandarins. And let me tell you that E. has followed in her mothers footsteps - to Granddad D.'s horror when he saw me peeling-feeding-peeling-feeding-peeling-feeding until all ten mandarins were gone. But let me ease his worry by saying that the lovely little mandarins have disappeared from the stores after Chinese New Year, so E.'s back on a diet of tiny bananas (of which she usually gets three, this to my mind being equal to one big banana). Recently we've succesfully added rambutan to our arsenal of weird looking local fruit.

And guess what? I also remember rambutan. Another one of those things like red bean paste - I thought it was lychees I remembered and reckoned that they tasted sort of different because they were not fresh but out of a tin, but no! It's because the taste I remembered was actually rambutan and not lychee at all.

A funny thing I remember about the Netherlands: being inside a lot. This contrasted with life in Singapore, where I'd basically spend my waking hours in the garden, semi- or fully naked. We'd always be playing with water in some way or another, or I'd be drawing. I loved drawing. (Later on, I also loved treating my younger siblings like puppets, dressing them up and making them act out stuff, like get married or go to school, but that's another album.)

Our house, as seen from the back yard, 1981 


My birthday party (December) in our garden, 1981 


My dad coaxing me into the water at the Hollandse Club, 1981


E.'s life is not the same. We live in an apartment and have no garden. My parents told me that after they moved in, the prices in their area went up and they couldn't have afforded the house had they arrived a few months later. So nothing new there. Still, E. loves water and Singapore offers generous play grounds for kids to run wild in, both paid (such as at the zoo, which has an amazing water playground including a castle and loads of fountains) and unpaid (such as at the Jacob Ballas garden or at a number of shopping malls).


Our balcony, november 2012



Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, march 2012


E. went swimming with her grandparents in our pool, march 2012


While the memories of home visits and grandparents visiting have acquired a golden glow in retrospect, my memories of our helpers (we had several in slow succession) are dim to non-existent. I mean, they were there, I can sort of see them in my mind chopping stuff in the kitchen, but I can't remember them holding me, playing with me or comforting me - and they did all those things, according to my mum. In fact, my grandmother told me that I spoke enough Filipino to ask them for stuff like milk from the fridge. But I have more memories of my father than of the helpers, even though he worked long hours and travelled a lot.

Someone who did manage to leave a lasting impression in my early childhood days: Woody Woodpecker. My father worked at Philips, so we'd get all this groovy technology stuff, such as a video recorder with several three hour tapes filled with Woody Woodpecker cartoons (this is my memory. This might not be factual). The TV was in the parental bedroom and I'd bounce up and down on their bed while watching.

Next week part II: expat toddler life in Singapore.

6 opmerkingen:

  1. Reacties
    1. I thought you might like it :) Next week we're getting my Big Hospital Visit, where I discovered another one of the important tastes of my childhood, one which we subsequently had to import from the US and thus became a Very Special Treat. I loved your story of your childhood too, and I could so relate to the discovery of books :)

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  2. What a lovely post. Loved when you talked about rambutans :)

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    1. Thank you! It's been interesting to try "new" food here, since I never quite know if I might not stumble across a former favourite, such as rambutans. Oh, they are lovely, aren't they! But in the department of weird looking local fruit, dragonfruit is still my top contender. I just love the fiery look of it and then the black and white when it's cut open. It's just wonderful!

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  3. Such a great post. Thank you for sharing your childhood with us ;-)

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    1. Thank you for posting the first one written by Bookjunkie on White as Milk! It's such a great idea to have baby stuff delivered to your house, especially during those first months/year or if you have several children! It just really cuts down on harassed shopping time. These kind of things are not possible in the Netherlands, but make life in Singapore just that bit more comfortable :)

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