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My Repatriation To Do List

Our return to the United States has been slowly sneaking up on us and I’ve been handling it the same way I handle most stressful events. Somewhat poorly; and with lists. Here’s my “big picture” to-do list for our move.

1. Give Notice at Work: In our case this was straight forward since our various and sundry contracts are up at the end of December. But if you are leaving before your contract is up (or have something more steady), certainly giving appropriate notice is important. Another thing we’re doing is making sure we understand our rights regarding the Dutch pension system; not an issue for me, but possibly something Dan can benefit from.

2. Provide Notice to the Landlord: We had to give between 1-3 months notice and opted to give about 3. We’re hoping he’s willing to purchase some of our furniture; particularly the washer and dryer.

3. Line up a Mover: This took a while since we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we have finally decied to go with a British moving company. They will be packing and moving the things we’re keeping to our new location in the states. On the downside we’re still nailing down the pick up date so we can plan the rest of our travel.

4. Book Plane Tickets: We haven’t done this yet, although we know what flight we wants. We need to nail down all the dates for the movers, etc. before we can decide what day to fly. I expect we’ll be traveling via KLM to ensure a direct flight to Boston for the cats.

5. Prepare the Cats: Speaking of cats, we’ll be arranging a pair of vet visits for them to get a wellness check and rabies shots. These two appointments are actually required by the airline rather than by the United States. On that frontwe need to have the cats checked for health upon arrival. There will be no quarintine unless one of them exhibits symptoms for something that humans can catch.

6. Sell Off Items: We are leaving a lot of things in the Netherlands include about half our furniture. I’ll have a list up soon in case anyone reading this is interested. With luck the new renters will want to keep some of it and then we won’t have t worry about removing it.

7. Donate the Leftovers: If no one else wants the remains of our items, we’ll be donating the leftovers to a secondhand store (Mattie’s probably. I like them). The books we’re leaving behind will probably be donated to Books4Life.

8. Get Medical Records: Getting our medical and dental records is quite straight forward since everything  is digital. I do wonder if we’ll need to get some of it translated to make the records usable by our new doctors in the US.

9. Cancel Utilities and Cellphones: Cancelling utilities needs to be done at least a month ahead of time, but may need to be longer. I’ve checked with most of our utilities and they ask for a one month notice. That means I’ll be making some calls very soon.

10. Dealing with Bank Accounts: I spoke to Rabobank and they said they prefer that people close accounts that don’t have regular income. Fortunately they allow accounts to be closed by email (rather than face-to-face), so we’ll be able to pay everything offer and then close our accounts once we’re back in the US.

11. Packing: Before and after the movers pick up our things we’ll need to pack what we want to fly with: lots of winter clothing and probably the xBox 360 (if I know my husband).

12. Saying Good-bye: We’ve met a lot of great people here and I’ve emailed with even more. We’ll miss you.

Bikes, Books, and Haircuts

Did I say I wouldn’t be writing about Maastricht anymore? Oh well. I lied. A few things have come up that I thought you all might be interested in. So here goes.

Bike Lessons

If you’re like me  you knew how to ride a bike when you came to the Netherlands, but you didn’t know the first thing about Dutch traffic rules or bike repair. Assume you’re on board with that comparison you also just jumped on your bike and muddled your way through new traffic signs, bike paths, and odd right-of-way situations while wondering what sort of illegal things you were doing on your daily commute. Enter the Maastricht Bike School. Just started up, Stuart is teaching a 3 part workshop about 1) How to ride a bike safely, 2) The rules of the road, and 3) Bike repair. Had this been around when we moved here, I would have signed up immediately.

I haven’t taken the workshops, but I know the owners and their great people. The courses are taught in English so if you’re new in town there is no reason not to get up to speed.

Books 4 Life

I recently got the heads up about another second-hand bookstore in Maastricht: Books 4 Life. Run by volunteers out of the basement of a UM building, they sell all sorts of second hand books (and will take donations too). The proceeds are donated to OxFam, Amnesty International and other charitable organizations. I haven’t been in person, but if you’re looking for some English language books for cheap it may be worth a trip.

(Free!) Haircut

This is probably of only limited value, but for a little longer you can get a free haircut at Toni & Guy as they train their newest stylist, Charlie. I went on Wednesday and am very pleased with the result. Charlie is currently training on short women’s haircuts (classic bob and shorter), so if that sounds up your alley, give the shop a call and arrange an appointment. If you have long hair or want a male haircut, Charlie told me she might need more models for those areas in the future. The number for Tony & Guy is 043 32 33 433 and they are located at Boschstraat 90 in Maastricht (generally in the area of Markt Square).

Hair Styling photo by ansik on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons-By Attribution license.

A Long Good-bye: Starting the Road to Repatriation

How long as that wrong logo been there? Clearly I’m not spending enough time on the blog these days. Well it’s fixed now and hopefully I’ll be up and moving about on the old blog a bit more as we move into a new phase of our expat lives. In a word: repatriation.

Boxes from the "Out of Storage" exhibition in Maastricht

In a lot more words, Dan and I have decided to move back to the United States. Where? We’re not quite sure yet. It will depend a lot on where we can find jobs and if we can find a city or town that feels like a good fit. (Write me if you know of a good job opportunity. ;-))When? Our various employment contracts wrap up in December so we’ll probably arrange for the actual move to take place in January so we have a bit of time to handle last minute issues and don’t have to move in the middle of the winter holiday season.

Decision Time

Coming to the decision to move back to the US was a long one and it’s one I’ve been struggling with and feeling guilty about for a while. Many of the wonderful people we’ve met as expats are long-term expats, so it was only naturally I would start thinking about our stay in the same way. As a result, it’s hard for me to shake the feeling that we’ve somehow “failed” despite 2 years of personal growth and an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Even the hard bits that I really haven’t talked about here.  The fact is that I like living in Europe and have enjoyed Maastricht to the extent that I’ve engaged with the city and region. And there are many things I will miss. All other excuses aside, it ultimately comes down to two things:

1) I want to work in my field: Library preservation and archives. I could do that here, but it is astronomically more difficult given not only my citizenship but also my poor language skills. Frankly, I’m not willing to put my career on hold any longer than I have to just to get caught up on the basics. The Netherlands doesn’t exactly having a librarian shortage. Both part-time jobs I have now are good jobs, but it took me two years of struggling to get those lined up. Dan is also in a transitionary place in his career and we believe he’ll have more success in the United States as well.

2) I’m not happy. I’ve often complained (mostly to myself) that people who really hate on living in the Netherlands ought to move. I don’t hate it here (far from it), but ultimately I am not happy and haven’t been for a long time. So to put my money where my mouth is, we’re moving. Hopefully we’ll find the place that is right for us.

Why the USA?

Since we don’t have jobs lined up yet, isn’t a move back the the United States a poor career move too? Maybe, but the country you are a citizen of is always the easiest fallback option. I’d actually be interested in moving within the European Union, but currently countries all over seem to be battening down the hatches on expatriates; particularly non-EU ones within the EU. We’d only be interested in moves for jobs we could do in English as well, so if we see something: awesome. If not, we’ve got a long life ahead of us and I won’t rule out another expat adventure in our future.

In the Mean Time

Of course in the mean time I’m not really going anywhere for a while. Now that I feel free to write about our decision to move (I’ve informed everyone who needs to know expect our landlord), I hope to write more about our process. Coming here we had a lot of help from the University but on our way back, it’s all us. Repatriation isn’t glamorous, but it is part and parcel of the experience of many expats so it deserves to get written up. I hope you find it interesting.

Other things to watch out for:

  • We’ll be selling and giving away a lot of our stuff since most things don’t need to move with us. If you live in the region, keep an eye on the blog since I’ll be posting about it here.
  • I’m developing a “Maastricht Minutiae” digital archive project which I hope will take the place of this blog once we’ve moved. The archive will be a collection of our three years in Maastricht and will essentially be the same thing as the Maastricht Minutiae blog with more pictures.

Bonnefanten’s Art Loan program

This article was originally published at Maastricht Region: to Live.

Want something special to hang over your fireplace (or big screen TV)? The Bonnefanten Art Museum in Maastricht has an interesting art lease program that will lead you something perfect for your space.

The first space I saw loaned Bonnefanten art was in my office building at the University of Maastricht. Some of the pieces were from an exhibit I visited at the museum last year, so it was interesting to see the pieces in a very different context. The artwork also really dresses the building up. The fact that I like modern art doesn’t hurt either.

The Art Loan program at the museum is based on a monthly membership automatically debited from your account. The level of membership you have determines how many works you may borrow at any given time and the total value of those items. Surprisingly these fees start at 5 euros per month; actually a reasonable rate for even the average contemporary art fan. All artwork is insured by the museum, so borrowers are only responsible for damage due to negligence.

You can learn more about the Art Loan program at the museum on their website or visit one of their Art Lease locations if you’re interested in getting a subscription yourself.

A Barefoot Walk in the Woods

This article was originally published at Maastricht Region: to Live.

I love being barefoot. In the summer I minimize my footwear as much as possible, and even in cold weather I’d rather be out of my boots than in them. So when my colleagues and I were surprised with a Blotevoetenpark visit as our Dag Uit activity, I admit I was pretty excited.

A “Barefoot Park” is more or less exactly what it sounds like. It is a natural space where you take off your shoes and hike simple trails through a variety of substances to enjoy being more connected to nature. Being barefoot is suppose to be quite good for your health (with some explanations more believable than others), and some people even run Marathons barefoot. Personally I like the feeling of mud swishing between my toes, so any activity that includes that already rates high on my list. It turns out that these parks are all over the place, so let me tell you a bit about the one in Brunssum.

The park in Brunssum features 4000 meters of trails featuring a variety of obstacles. Some of these are simply boxes filled with different types of stones or mulch.  Others are shallow(ish) pits filled with muddy water. Many were poles and posts of wood you were meant to walk on as you wandered through the woods. To keep things a bit fanciful, wooden faces and fairy dolls were scattered through the trees.

The most challenging part of the park was a series of posts you could use to cross a small pond from one side to the other. I suspect it was designed for people taller than myself, but we all made it across without any spills.

If you visit the Blotevoetenpark in Brunssum as normal visitors, you can expect a 1.5 hour visit on average with coffee/tea and snacks available when you’re done. If you go with a group, you also get a variety of trust-building exercises and a longish lecture on foot palmistry. If I were you, I’d forgo the lecture.

Personally, I’m ready to go back and will happily pay my 6 euros for the chance to wander barefoot in a natural setting again.

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