Vacation in The Netherlands

This weekend I returned from a two week vacation in The Netherlands with my family. I really enjoyed it, and finally managed to relax a bit after an extremely busy and stressful summer at work. The trip started off with an exhausting flight from Shanghai to Amsterdam. Almost 12 hours with a 3-month old baby and a 20-month old toddler is not something I’d recommend. We managed, but I have not often been so tired after a flight. Normally I read several papers or books and I work for a couple of hours on these intercontinental flights, but this time I managed to read only 30 pages in a novel and I did not touch a paper nor my laptop. I only spent time with my kids, for example making walks with Scott through the plane: especially the stairs from the business class down to economy class were his favorite: I think we walked up and down at least 20 times. We occupied the first row in business class, so Scott had a lot of room to play and Elaine had a cradle to sleep. I honestly cannot imagine doing this kind of flights in economy class with 2 kids below 2 years old. Hopefully it will get a bit easier when they are 1-2 years older.

In Holland we mainly stayed with my parents, so my wife and I could relax a bit. They helped us to take care of the kids, so I could finally read a couple of books. But of course I also spent a lot of time with my babies, something I normally don’t have much time for (I generally leave home around 8 AM and normally don’t get back until 12 hours later, meaning that I’m just in time to see them waking up and putting them to sleep at night). I played a lot with Scott in my parents garden, where my dad had built a sandbox for Scott and even set up a tent for him to play in. And I changed more diapers and gave more bottles during the past 2 weeks than in the past 20 months, even though my wife and parents still did the majority of this work. It was fun to spend so much time with Scott and Elaine, and I realize I should probably try to spend more time with them. They are only young once and they grow up so quickly.

During the 2 weeks I tried to keep work to a minimum, meaning I spent about 2-3 hours per day behind my computer or on the phone. There were a lot of issues in China, and I did not feel at ease if I would not spend at least some time every day checking my emails and reacting to urgent things. I originally had the idea to put a vacation notice in my email (lots of people in Holland seem to do that nowadays, but in China it’s not very common), but I decided I would check my mail anyway and might as well answer the most urgent ones. The good thing was that there was no pile of 100’s or even 1000’s of emails waiting for me upon return, and today I could start with meetings right away.

During the holiday I visited several friends, for example my high school classmate Almar and his partner Sylvia in Heemstede. We had a nice day there, among others we went to the beach in Zandvoort, walked around on the Kopje van Bloemendaal (a high dune), and did some shopping plus dinner & drinks in Haarlem. It was my first time to visit Haarlem; for some reason I had never visited the city, despite the fact that it’s only 15 km from Amsterdam. I’ll for sure go back there again. 

We also took Scott one day to the Openluchtmuseum (Open Air Museum) in Arnhem. A very nice place in the woods north of the city, where traditional houses and buildings from all over Holland were (re)built and where you can learn a thing or two about life in Holland during the late 1800’s and 1900’s. Scott liked the historical tram best, and also the poffertjes kraam (a place that sells Dutch style small sweet pancakes) he loved a lot. After visiting the museum we had a drink with race car driver Ho-Pin Tung before driving back to my parents house. I even went sailing for a day with Peter Driessen, Spil Games co-founder and CEO, on the IJsselmeer. We sailed from Muiderzand to Volendam and back, a nice one-day trip with a breeze of wind force 4-5. Very enjoyable, and I got quite a sun tan during the trip!

Of course we also showed our 2 kids to my 92-year old grandmother, she was very happy to see them (she had seen Scott already once last year). And also several other friends and family members came to visit during our time in Holland. Always nice to catch up with everybody, during my short business trips to Holland I normally do not manage to see many of them. <

Other activitie
s during the week were drinking lots of good wine (my dad has a nice wine cellar) and eating excellent food. In order to compensate for the additional calories I regularly went for runs with my dad, and after 2 weeks I am in a much better shape than before we left China. I hope to keep up the shape and even improve it over the next weeks. As usual I also bought quite some clothes. Interesting is that most Dutch people visiting China buy their clothes here (especially on the fake markets), but over the years I have become the opposite and buy almost all my clothes in Holland. The quality is normally a lot better and I don’t feel very comfortable in fake clothes, even if they are no different from the original. 

All in all a very nice and relaxed 2 weeks. Different from the tropical island or Tuscany road trip vacations we used to have before our kids were born, but just as enjoyable. Now that I am back in China I realize that I am much more relaxed than before and I approach problems in a much easier way. I guess a vacation every now and then is important to recharge one’s batteries, and mine are certainly much fuller than they were 2 weeks ago.

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  1. Marc, as per usual I thoroughly enjoyed this dispatch — probably one the more poignant and heartwarming entries at your blog, if you ask me. It really adds a flavour and depth to the more technical stuff you usually have on offer…shall we call it a real smorgasbord? ::: The only thing I found problematic was the smaller font you've chosen…on my PC it's a little bit of a harder read, I think it's the sans serif font. :::

    I bet with the change in air quality between SHA and the crisp fresh breezes blowing off the Atlantic in The Netherlands, it was a true change of scenery.

    I have a theory…most expatriate Dutch would experience tremendous difficulty working in cities which don't have sea access…I mean, there are indeed examples to the contrary: I have Dutch friends living here in landlocked, man-made-lake-d Ceska Lipa in a wholly-Dutch expat community in the Czech Republic (due to the population density explosion in The NL), and then there's my friend Iepe Rubingh — the Frieslander — who lives in Berlin and speaks sensational German ( Then there's you're in Shanghai, so it kind of all makes sense…

    Glad to know you got some well-deserved R&R, and I've got that AMS-SHA flight coming up in a month's time — in dreaded economy — so I'll have some feedback for you on the journey once I touch down.


  2. Some years ago you told me about buying clothes in Holland while living in China. I was sceptic about this, as most is made somewhere in Asia anyway, but after a few years in China i do the same thing. Besides quality, right shape and size are difficult to get in China, not only for clothes but definitely also for shoes. Welcome back in Shanghai

  3. @Adam Reason for the different font is that I am now using a different laptop (my HDD crashed, see next blog post) and Safari instead of Firefox. It seems that the default font changed because of this. After my computer has been repaired I will repost and hopefully the font issue should be solved.

    BTW, Shanghai is directly on the sea (mouth of Yangtze river), but I would not recommend anybody to swim here.

  4. @Marc, very sorry to hear the data recovery company still dinged you, "taxation without representation" style. 🙁 I know of such situations all too well from my four years living in the post-Communist world (soon coming to an end).

    In general: it's not that it's impossible to do it, it's that there's a hugely underdeveloped responsible work ethic of just chipping away at the mass of the problem until it's fully resolved.

    Your people likely ran the standard diagnostics and when those didn't render the expected outputs, ceased their forensics and claimed it was DOA. Problem for them — hehe — is that they didn't know who they were dealing with…

    Another thing — and I dislike thinking in this neo-Machiavellian manner, but I'm well-keen to it after dwelling in the former Eastern Bloc after all this time — is that they very likely recovered your data, cherry-picked the finest bytes of it for themselves, devil-may-come with the possible legal ramifications for them for infringing on your privacy, and then "re-corrupted" it in order to claim that nothing could be done to fix it. Classic bait and switch deal — Commie-style — and I wouldn't put it past them for a second. Again, I'm presuming a whole heck of a lot here, and you likely did your due diligence and used a reputable service firm, but just in case you hadn't thought of that angle…

    Would your wizard at Spil have been able to discern this by looking deeper into your drive's access logs? ::: This is where my expertise totally bogs down like in the Ardennes Forest…I'm not that technical, but my "inner-Columbo" was going off when I'd read your 17.09 update. :::