Same but Different

I’ve read the books.

I know how important it is to try and do the things that made you happy in one place into your new location. I always feel sorry for passionate mountain-climbers when they move to the Netherlands.

Luckily my loves are not too hard to recreate:

  1. Writers’ Circle. Check, started that one last week. Got 6-10 members already. Double check.
  2. Find a source of fresh fruit, veg and fish. Check. Louise and Emma took me to TTDI a couple of weeks ago and my new personal trainer (ahem) told me of a market that is even closer. Check again.
  3. Get my office set up with working wifi,  install printer and a good Skype connection. Check. Did that the day we moved in.
  4. Find someone to go for a walk, outside, somewhere green, for about an hour, once a week, without needing to get in my car. I did this in The Hague, with Kathy, in the beautiful Zorgvliet Park and today I can only imagine how stunning the autumn colours must look there.

Now that was a trickier one. One of the reasons, back in the days of the rose-coloured spectacles, that we’d picked this condo, was its proximity to the Botanical Gardens. In fact, the header image of this blog was taken there. The gardens are, literally, over the road.

Only… when a crack appeared in those rosy specs I realised that doing so would mean I had to leave the safe haven of the gated community, walk beside the motorway for a few yards, cross over the road using the pedestrian overpass, and then turn left under a busy flyover, where there was a big pillar someone could hide behind. After that it was past the bus stop and over another road, through a construction site where they are building a new tube station (metro, or subway station if you need a translation), through a brightly painted tunnel (it’s still a tunnel, right?) and into the lovely gardens.

And so I thought that fourth must-have on my list would never happen. Oh, and I needed a friend to go with too. You see, walking and talking are what is required to fulfil my fourth need.

But then Ian introduced me to some new folk just in town and so we invited them for a drink. They, like most of the people I have met here, are German. Like us, they are new to empty-nesting. Like us, they came here from Holland. Like us they have lived in Brunei. The good news is that a) we like them and b) Karin likes walking and c) they are staying in the Hilton, which is also, er ‘over the road’.

Last week we went for the first time and brave Karin drove over here to my place so we could walk together. Today, she suggested we both walk and that we meet in the middle, on either side of the pedestrian overpass. I agreed though I may have gulped.

And so, today, I put the pepper-spray in one pocket of my shorts and the whistle that my other German friend, Katrin, gave me in the other, left all my cash at home and headed out. I have to admit that I paused for a second to put on my ‘cloak of mirrors’ that my Shamanic healer friend Niamh advises we wear in order to deflect unwanted nasties.

I put my shoulders back and went for it. At the bottom of our lane I moved out of sight of our guards. I looked left and right. No one on the path. Traffic was coming towards me, which is always the best way, so I did as it said in the safety sheets Ian brought home and looked everyone on a moped in the eye. No one on the bridge, so I went over, leaping up the steps. Karin was on the other side. I’d done it. Such a silly small achievement but I was inordinately proud of myself. After all, I can only do something for the first time, once. Next time will be easier.

The gardens, apart from more construction going on right at the entrance that needed to be dodged, we had a lovely flower-filled hour’s walk.


anyone know what this is? I call it Lovelorn
anyone know what this is? I call it Lovelorn
cannonball flower
cannonball flower

After the walk, Karin left me at the foot of the pedestrian overpass. Luckily, she is patient with my current patheticness.

A car was lingering beside the road and I was going to need to pass it. Instead, I waited, saw a small boy get out and have a wee, then get back in. So I ran up the steps, across the overpass and down the other side, sprinted to the lane and back into the view of the guards. I’d made it! Good job I got a personal trainer and do that yoga! Of course, I recognise that I am overreacting right now, because I am a newbie, and that things will get better with practice.

Next time it will be so much easier. Shame Karin is moving from the Hilton in three weeks.


5 thoughts on “Same but Different

  1. Never pathetic Jo, don’t downgrade your apprehension – today was a huge achievement and each time you make that same walk it will be a little easier. Tahniah…. congratulaitons!


    1. Exactly, Apple. I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway and, like you say, people steal handbags everywhere. And Barcelona, which I did not consider scary even though I knew about the crime, is one of the worst places! I am going to beat this fear! Stay on my guard, of course, but walk tall.


  2. Jo, here in the wilderness I take a small foghorn, uses compressed air. Scares the be-jesus out of anything and anyone with decent hearing, and I mainly have it for cougar or bear encounters. I shall be walking past your lovely home in the Bankastraat in 2 weeks time, one of my original expat friends has just moved into number 74 and I am going to pay her a visit. Shame I can’t pop in for one of your famous herbal teas.


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