I didn’t waste much time driving back to the Netherlands. Turned out I could work in the lab for 3 weeks. I had planned to be at my aunt on the 22nd of October, which then didn’t leave me that much time to socialise. When I exited the boat at Rostock to enter Germany, life immediately felt more crowded, busy and stressed. The peacefulness of Scandinavia was something I was already missing. At the same time, I was also looking forward to see everyone again. During my drive through the North of Germany I stopped over at the Luneburger Heide. A beautiful piece of heather land. As I was sitting in my van working on my laptop, a man came to my door. He started to speak to me in German and said he couldn’t speak English. Since I hadn’t been in Germany that long, my language switch hadn’t been flicked. I was struggling to understand what he was saying. Something about me parking where I did, which was allowed, but apparently there normally was someone else. I didn’t need to leave and he kept saying ‘ficken’. He’d already came into my van to explain himself better, since I was still looking a bit clueless. He touched my arm and accidentally (I thought) part of my breast. As he did it again, it finally dawned on me that he was asking me if I was a prostitute and available for work. I pushed his hand away and said that I wasn’t. He apologised and said he just wanted to ask to be sure and left. It left me feeling a bit shocked, since I really didn’t (and don’t) see myself looking like a prostitute. As I went for a walk and let the whole happening pass through my mind, I felt compassion for the man with his needs and was able to laugh about it. But then, after I had returned and again was working in my van, he came back, money in hand. I looked at him and kept saying no. He said he had figured to give it another try and felt it was such a shame that it wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, he left again, but I felt unsafe enough to leave as well. I also noticed afterwards that I felt more wary and distrusting of men, which I really didn’t like. Through all the tantra experiences I’ve had, I’ve seen how all my beliefs of how I thought men feel about women and women about men aren’t necessarily true. And here I was, feeling myself slip back into that old idea of ‘I can’t trust men, because they only want one thing from me’. It took some time for me to shake that feeling, showing me how persistent old believes and their accompanying feelings are.
Arriving back home felt good. I had a week of catching up with friends, enjoying the beautiful weather and spending some time at the beach, before going back to work in the lab. Being at the AMC, felt more like me visiting than me being back, this time. It was nice to see all my colleagues again and catch up. I’ve had such great laughs during my time there. My skills were still there and ready to be taught to a new PhD student.
One of my colleagues said; ‘some people work and go on holiday for three weeks, you’re doing it the other way around’. It made me realise how fortunate and grateful I am with being able to come back for a few weeks to work. I don’t really believe in people being irreplaceable, but apparently, I’ve specialized myself enough to have this option available to me for now. And I can definitely use the money, with all the repairs I’ve been having.
During the first week I was staying at a camping, which was great. I could cycle to work and would still have my comfi bed and vanlife feel when I came home. The only downside was the shower that was warmish and worked with coins.
The other two weeks I stayed in the guest room of the small community house of my Ängsbacka friend Mirte, in Amsterdam. It was a great experience to have. The people there were very mixed characters, but lovely. On the Saturday they had a big opening celebration of the community space, that is part of the building. The day was a big success with loads of activities. I gave a few short massages and helped out with silkscreen printing on clothes, which was great fun to do. During my time there, we shared some meals and conversations together and I got to experience the value of living together in a creative space. I admire all that they have built.
While I was staying there, my van got a new LPG tank installed. The idea was to have it serviced. Apparently everything was too old to be able to be approved, so it had to be replaced. As usual, that took a while longer than expected (so happy that I had a place I was staying), because the delivery of the new tank got messed up, turning it missing. But in the end, I have a shiny new tank!
The biggest worklife challenge was the alarmclock in the morning. It was too abrupt with shocking me out of my sleep. I haven’t had that in a long time and am used to enjoying the process of waking up and getting out of bed. In my van, getting out of bed usually takes about 2 hours, it’s just that comfi. After getting out, it takes about another hour to continue the morning ritual of meditation and having breakfast. A slow process, for which I had less time, while having to work. Also, it really amazed me how much time working fulltime takes. I felt I could barely create me-time. I’ve come to understand much better now why people have burn-outs and actually am surprised by how long people manage to keep going. Working fulltime, having a social life and doing what needs to be done doesn’t leave much not-doing time. It was interesting to experience this huge contrast. On the other hand, I got the same feeling I had had before. The feeling of how easy and comfortable it could be to go back to that ‘old’ life. Earning enough money, while doing work that I’m good at with lovely people. Not too many worries but less time. Feeling the urge to choose for comfort and ease over deeper joy (and more challenges, which comes with getting out of the comfort zone).
After my 3 weeks of work, I finished with teaching a restorative yoga workshop in Rotterdam. There were only 2 students there, not enough to cover the costs, but is was such a joy to do. I felt pretty tired from all the busyness beforehand, but we all felt more relaxed and in our bodies afterwards, including myself.
On October 8th my parents had their birthdays, so I had the day off. My dad was turning 65, which, in the Netherlands, is a thing. It used to be the age where you would get your pension and, sort of, be considered elderly (public transport discount and such). But nowadays the pension age is higher. My dad however has arranged it well for himself and is has been enjoying his retirement together with my stepmom for a while now. We’re living quite similar lives in that sense, except he has a more stable financial situation than I do :’)
My sister had come up with the idea of playing my dad a song for his birthday; the Dutch song ‘Mooi’ by Marco Borsato. When she said it, I really felt like “seriously, you really wanna do that, embarrass us in front of the family??”, but it was an original and brilliant idea somehow, so I reluctantly said ok.
Also, my dad has everything he needs, making it a challenge to come up with a good gift. Since we both don’t live in the Netherlands, us being there was already a gift, but it needed a bit extra. I’ve been playing guitar for a few years now (no rockstar, but I manage ;)) and she’d started taking piano and singing lessons. We had been practicing for about half a year, when we heard that my parents wanted to make the party a little less festive due to illness in the family (which happened about a month before). It felt inappropriate for them to have a big celebration. We decided to cancel our performance and stopped practicing.
My sister and me saw each other again on October 6th and decided to play together to see how it would go. Turned out it wasn’t all that bad. We practiced some more together and changed our mind into playing at the party after all. We couldn’t think of another opportunity to do something like this our dad in the near future. Luckily my little niece was going to play a bit of piano too, so a piano had been arranged and I had my van with my guitar with me. We arranged a beamer (which was quite the struggle to set up) so we had some visual support of the beautiful video that accompanies the original song, taking peoples’ eyes off of us too J.
We were both crazy nervous, but went for it. At the first notes we heard that my guitar was a bit off and my sister forgot to play a few of the chords, but the singing was awesome. Halfway through the song I got into it and decided that we were awesome anyway! I really enjoyed it even though I missed a few (false) notes. Everyone was really impressed by our performance and surprised by our musicality (which, to be honest, was mediocre). It was so amazing to see that it really touched some of the people, especially my dad. I know he’s proud of his two little girls, but this went much deeper. I am so happy we concurred our fears and did it anyway. Even though it was our gift, it felt like we had received a massive one too.
The time back was quite intense, with the shift to worklife, while still wanting to meet friends and family. It was a great pleasure again to be with the beautiful people, old and new, that are part of my life. Even if I don’t see some of them very often, it is beautiful to feel the connection that’s there.
Now I’m back in the van, accompanied by my aunt Em in the direction of the South of Spain!