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Vacation in Holland

The past week I spent in The Netherlands with my family for a short vacation (we’ll be back in China this weekend). Work has been quite intense over the past couple of months and I felt I really needed to be away from the office for a while. I therefore decided to take it really easy this week and not travel all around the country like I normally do on holidays in my home country. Except for a day trip to Gent (Belgium) and a trip to the zoo in Arnhem we stayed at my parents place the whole vacation.

The trip started off with a 4 hour delay. The daytime KLM flight from Shanghai to Amsterdam is always delayed, but normally just 1-2 hours. Luckily the KLM called me a few hours before departure so we went to the airport a bit later (they only called a few people I found out, we were the only ones at check-in 2 hours before departure! Thanks KLM). The flight itself was not easy, taking care of 2 small kids on a 12 hour flight is quite a task. I was very happy when we were finally at my parents place. The kid’s jet lags didn’t make the first days easy either, they were sleepy (or not sleepy at all) at the wrong times.

I read a lot, among others the book Nina, about Dutch business woman Nina Brink. She is the former CEO of World Online which listing at the stock exchange was a disaster and that lost many people tons of money. Not many people seem to like her and now I understand why: if only 10% of the book is true I would stay away from her as far as possible in business. The book describes her as a billionaire criminal in business disguise who sues everybody that she doesn’t like. Scary. The book is in Dutch, so most of your won’t be able to read it, but this is the link to the book.

I also read The Passage by Justin Cronin (Amazon site, official site for the book). I wasn’t sure whether I would like this kind of book (I never read, nor like, horror or SF) but bought it as an ebook for my Kindle a few weeks ago because it was chosen as one of Amazon’s books of the month. It’s a huge book (784 pages in the print version) but for me it was worth every page of it – and when I finished it I found out that this is only part one of a future trilogy! I am not going to review it here (over 600 people already did that on Amazon) but I loved it, once I started reading it I couldn’t stop.

Of course I also did a bit of work, but I tried to reduce it to max. 2-3 hours a day (my wife had to work a lot harder than I did this time…). One day I tried to keep my laptop off the whole day but I realized I felt less relaxed than when I would check my mails every 2 hours or so. I guess that’s the curse of modern business life, but I don’t feel it impacted this vacation as much as some other vacations over the past years. I feel I am almost stress free after a week here and can start next week relaxed and with some new business (strategy) ideas, but without hundreds of unread emails.

I am happy that I could spend a lot of time with the kids over the past days. I walked a lot with Elaine in and around the house (she loves to walk barefoot on the grass) and she lost her fear for walking on her own. She could already walk alone, but she felt much safer if somebody would hold her hand. Now she just gets up and walks off, so we have to watch her a lot more.

Scott changed his language completely from Chinese to Dutch in a few days. Even in his dreams he is now talking in Dutch! He can translate well now, if I tell him a word in Dutch he translates it for me into Chinese. And Elaine now answers in Chinese if you ask her something in Chinese (saying simple things like ? or ?), and in Dutch if you speak Dutch to her. A week ago she only understood Chinese!

We took the kids to Burgers Zoo in Arnhem one day. I had not been there in about 25 years and it had completely changed, it’s a great zoo. I am not a big fan of zoos, but if you design a zoo this is the kind of zoo you should build. No cages but open air areas for most animals and huge domes to simulate a tropical rainforest, a desert and the ocean. The kids really enjoyed it, especially Scott who knew most of the animals by name in Dutch, English and Chinese. After the zoo we went to my sister’s new house close to Sonsbeek Park in Arnhem for a late lunch and a bottle of wine.

Tuesday I went to Ghent (Gent in Dutch) in Belgium with my dad, where we had dinner and drinks with friends. I had never been to Ghent, so we left home a bit earlier to do some sightseeing. Ghent is a beautiful old city, it was much nicer than I had expected. The atmosphere is one of enjoying life: people wear nice clothes and everybody seemed to be relaxing with beer and wine on one of the many outdoor terraces in the city. I felt at home right away!

Today we made a ‘cruise’ on the river Vecht in Ommen with the family. Although my grandparents had lived in Ommen since long before I was born and my parents lived here since 1995 (and I lived here for a while during my high school years) I had never taken this cruise. For some reason some things you just don’t do when you live somewhere. It was a very nice boat ride, not just for the kids but also for us. From the water a place always looks different. Among others I took a last look at my grandparents house (not visible from the road, but visible from the river). My grandma passed away last year and the house has now been sold, so I will never go there anymore.

This vacation was very different from the ones we had before the kids were born. Less relaxing than our former tropical beach holidays or vacations in Southern Europe (also because of work I suppose) but more rewarding as well. Spending more time with our kids is something I would like to do more regularly, it’s so nice to see how they develop and to have real conversations with them. It was also nice to be at my parents place, to drink good wines and eat good food. All in all an enjoyable week with good memories.

As usual I took a lot of pictures, you can see many of them here.

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  1. I look at those riverside snaps of Gent, and I think of Werner Herzog’s Murnau remake of Nosferatu shot in Nijmegen…glad to know you got some downtime. Also giggled a bit how you described your every 2-hour email withdrawal symptoms. But totally right — it cuts down on the overload when you get back to the lovely grind. 🙂