Friday, May 3, 2013

What's new

Okay, I admit it -- I have been very, very slack about updating the blog. I blame it on Facebook -- it is so much easier just to post little snippets instead of writing entire blog posts. I didn't even join Facebook until a year ago -- I resisted as long as I could. But I do appreciate the ability to reconnect with people I haven't heard from in years thanks to FB.

Kukenhof Gardens, Holland
I also have been negligent in updating the blog, because I spent 3-1/2 months at home in the U.S. from early December to the end of March -- all because I just couldn't face spending another winter in Finland. The cold temperatures and the snow didn't bother me so much -- it was the dark days and the icy sidewalks that were so depressing -- and dangerous for me, as I had a few bad falls!  A visit with my doctor revealed I also had a Vitamin D deficiency -- yes, we all need some sunlight every day. I know many people here in Finland buy the special lights to help with that during the long winter months, but I was not one of those people. While I appreciate
many things about living temporarily in Europe -- making wonderful friends from different places, the ability to travel so easily throughout Europe -- living abroad certainly does make you appreciate life in the U.S. much more.

It also turned out to be a good thing I was home during the winter, as my daughter accepted a job offer in Atlanta in January, and I was so glad I could help her move there from Washington, as well as spend time visiting with my son in Raleigh and my family in Hickory, N.C.

And now, our time in Finland is rapidly drawing to a close. I have mixed feelings, as I do love the friends I have made here; I like the healthier lifestyle -- walking and biking everywhere, eating less fast food and processed food, and, of course, the travel opportunities. But moving back to the U.S. this summer will just be a new chapter in our ongoing adventure, wherever it takes us. In the meantime, I plan to squeeze in a few more trips -- back to Stockholm, although this time by cruise through the popular Aland Islands; an early June visit to northern Italy, and a final trip to Rome and Tuscany.

Many other expats also are being sent home or to other locations. We have been to a number of farewell parties, and it really makes me sad. I think this is just a sign of the times. People travel more for work than ever before, and our more mobile society is rapidly becoming the norm.
One of Amsterdam's many beautiful canals

I recently went to Amsterdam with a friend, primarily to see the tulips and other flowers at the Kukenhof gardens in Lisse. It was everything I hoped for -- the gardens are only open two months every year, and draw visitors from around the world. While in Amsterdam, we saw Anne Frank's house, took a boat ride through Amsterdam's famous canals, visited a wooden shoe-making factory, a cheese factory and even saw a stand-up comedy performance by Seth Meyers from "Saturday Night Live." Amsterdam has a bit of a reputation because of its lax drug laws and the Red Light District, but there is much to appreciate about the city, especially the fabulous art at the newly-renovated Rijksmuseum. I also loved the Van Gogh paintings which were temporarily housed at the Hermitage museum while the Van Gogh Museum completed its own renovations. We did walk through the Red Light District one evening (after a bottle of wine and a nice Italian dinner), and seeing the women advertising their "assets" in the store-front windows actually was very sad to me. But at least they do get health care, regulation and assistance.

The weather here in southwestern Finland hasn't welcomed spring just yet, but the forecast looks promising. I returned here April 1 hoping for warmer temperatures, but the chill and especially, the wind, have been quite annoying. We travel home next week to attend our son's university graduation, and I hope when we return to Finland, it will at least be warm enough to put away the down parka, scarves and gloves!

 Here is the link to the Amsterdam pictures. The beautiful flowers will brighten your day!

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