Our current status (Narda and me) @ home – we arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River where we did our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. After fourteen days in quarantine plus sixty-six days in isolation, then semi-isolation then carefully following South Australia’s strict guidelines for wandering among the locals, with our daily walks, bike rides, protective shopping, and of course starting this week – 09 June, aqua Zumba and the gym. As of 14 June 2020, we feel good. Cheers. Updated Sunday 14/June/2020 8.47
WHAT ONE DOES @ HOME IN ISOLATION – Tie Challenge Day 66 updated updated 14/June/2020
The ties are due to needing to wear a tie when I was teaching in New York & China (2002 – 2014) – I started collecting ties from thrift shops etc. around the world for the next decade. Instead of tossing them out I am doing this dumb challenge as I am @ home and cannot visit you. I think there are over 100. Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia
February 20, 2020
This is our story of our stay in Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel which is between Gouda and Rotterdam. We took the train from Arnhem to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel on 29th of February two days after the first coronavirus case in the Netherlands. In those days, when we thought of it being primarily in China with a few cases in the States we did not take any extra precautions. How different the world would be a month later. Our trip was cut short by three weeks with us returning to Australia’s quarantine toward the end of March. Narda’s writing is in italics and mine whatever else. Starting with arriving at the train station in Arnhem. Our neighbour drove us to the train station as it was rainy that morning. It was a fifteen-minute walk with an already increased luggage amount six weeks which with we arrived in The Netherlands six weeks ago.
We have included a few of the photos we took (we took a couple of thousand to be exact, 30 – 40 I have used in my series ‘Thoughts in Travel 2020‘)
They wanted to build an e-hub, offering e-bikes and e-cars for rent. Two fresh faced young Dutchmen offered us free coffee in exchange for an interview.
“Your main concern?” (in impeccable English)
“We have ‘being wobbly’ issues if you offer e-scooters”
We were reassured and took the train to Arnhem Centraal. Today was a train carnival. We started, getting a lift from Eef, our kindly neighbour. A day pass from Actievandedag.nl, so plenty of time, between spits (my new Dutch word, meaning rush-hour). The next train (we did not plan ahead) took us straight back in the direction we had just come, heading for Breda via Nijmegen. A bit out of the way, but with little wait time. After an hour of lovely scenery came an announcement that this train would stop in Den Bosch. What the hell? I could not find it on the map. Turns out that this is the ‘local’ name for ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Not sure about the ‘s, but we knew it from Hans Albers, and our host, Fred as it has Jan de Groot’s Bakkerij selling ‘Bossche Bollen’. We have yet to try this. If it involves chocolate I will be there. Apparently long lines are the order of the day on weekends, it is THAT good!!!!
A couple of friendly girls helped me with my smartphone challenges and mapped out a good route to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel. So back again, this time headed for Woerden (near Utrecht) on the local train, stopping every 5-7 minutes. One more leg and we’re there. No Uber. Tried 3 times. Raining. We considered the bus but could not find our bus passes. A MAJOR CATASTROPHE. No not really. We hoofed it, took about ½ hour for a 17-minute walk. Not awful, though Terrell was a shining star insisting on taking the bulk of the weight. When will we learn to travel with less!!!! We woke up the next morning feeling rather sore.
Now we are settled, feeding our funny bunnies, who have residence here, once a day.
The coffee machine makes great coffee….I select ‘mild taste’ and add ½ cup of hot water. Dutchies are into spoon-standing-up-straight strong. We have ridden our very large Dutch bikes to Jumbo. I can sit completely upright; for me the mark of an excellent bike. We also drove to a hardware exactly the same as Home Depot (USA) or Bunnings (Australia) in search of face masks, which are sold out, as they are all over the world.
Covid-19 End of February
About 84,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and about 2,900 have died. A new element to our trip.
We cancelled our China Southern and Guangszhou o/night stay for the next trip in June; luckily a full refund. We bought a new non-stop flight from Perth-London. Less variables, I guess. The virus seems to be spreading pretty fast.
(bought ticket Perth to London on 27th February. Our flight is for the end of June 2020, not sure if that will happen.)
It rained the first four or five days at our new home so we only did short bike rides around our neighbourhood which consisted of two-three story attached houses with canals all over the place and dedicated bike paths giving us the illusion we could ride in safety as, like everyone else here, we don’t have helmets.
In Australia we get a $200 fine for not wearing one. Perhaps the bike riders here are deemed safer drivers or the fact that the bike rider is always right if there is an accident – the vehicle running you over, takes the blame no matter what the situation. The local shopping centre is Reigerhof (https://winkelcentrumreigerhof.nl/) with our favourite grocery store, Jumbo, and favourite bakery because they have fresh low-carb bread baked every day, Bakker Klootwijk, and Hema – a Dutch variety store-chain that we like; we even found one in Berlin a couple of years ago. There is a large Albert Heijn supermarket with more in it than Jumbo but generally more expensive and taking only cash or a European credit card which we don’t have. Jumbo and Hema were the only two stores taking our credit card, by mid-March no one was taking cash due to the virus, so our shopping became limited. The shops were quite early in the social distancing dance with tape on the floor six feet apart to wait in line in. Several shops had either glass or plastic in front of the checkout person, not for protection like in a New York City liquor shop where shop keepers are paranoid of robbers but to keep out sneezes and coughs. Though Narda, the ever-perseverer managed to get one shop keeper to take cash. This was in those days when the shop keepers did not only want the customer at quite the distance but only a European card could be swiped for a purchase. Narda wanted tape to wrap around something she was packing. The shop keeper said absolutely no cash only a European credit card. Needless to say, once Narda wants something, consider it hers. She left the change on the counter a good distance from the shop keeper and she cautiously scooped it into the cash register using a glove. Of course, I wanted to purchase a fridge magnet, offering cash…no deal. If only I were Narda.
We did go for a car drive to find a hardware store to get a tool to raise my bike seat. Fred and Chantel have the most wonderous car, with graffiti on the side. We get interesting looks from others. These two elderly people, obviously infected with something, driving this car. If they hear me talk, they quickly realize with my New York accent (which Narda says I have but I believe my accent is clearly Australian) we are being typical New Yorkers, and they no longer look quizzingly at us.
To Utrecht March 3rd
After 3 angry flashes from cars coming toward us, I decided to pull over and figure out how to turn off my high beam. I can’t blame the Dutch for everything! Terrell discovered the solution quickly and we headed off again, slowly as I go. Terrell keeps reminding me that I can drive up to 80 km/hr and am currently ‘only driving 55’. Thing is, we have this competition going. It’s called ‘String of Pearls’. It started in our big-beast-caravanning days, when we would see who could accumulate the most cars following very close behind us in a ‘string of pearls’. On this trip I made it to 12, which I think is my record. Then I pull over, they drive past angrily, and we start again.
Well on this trip, returning from Utrecht, choosing ‘no freeways’, and ‘no tolls’ we were hit with a short but very intense hailstorm. I pulled over again, and we had tomato soup with balletjes (me), without for him; a nice little pub. The last part of the trip was dark and hairy, roads had narrowed to single width with significant waters on either side. When a car came toward us, they would move to the side a bit, and I would pass them with a pounding heart.
Oom Piet and Oom Rienk helped us devour a significant amount of cake, apple pie, some sort of nut tart and a sugary mix of cream and custard. Licking our chops (it was a good stop to the bakery on the way) we chatted over coffee about Oom Piet’s war experiences; Terrell missing most of it as it was conducted in Dutch. Rienk smartly reminded his brother-in-law that ‘Terrell cannot understand you’. Piet lifted his game and continued in pretty good English. He’s a trooper.
The day was lovely. We had lunch with Hans and Jose and then together saw an art exhibition in the Central Museum, a local well-known surrealist painter named Moesman. Interesting is a mild way to describe it. Coffee afterward at the museum.
Now we are watching Biden take the lead. Hmm. Perhaps this will be a good thing. Folks just want Obama back and that’s the closest they can get to their beloved former president. We’ll see. All we have on TV is Super Tuesday and Covid-19. Even hand sanitiser is impossible to buy. Apparently, the Aussies have done a panic buy on toilet paper. Shelves empty! Pretty funny. Just wonder where they heard that they might need so much? Reminds me of one of my images from Jinshitan when we taught at Dalian American International School over there in China. I called it toilet paper bride – 2011.
Rotterdam March 4th
Yesterday I gorged myself on cake and apple pie with slagroom. So today I’m trying to make up for it and increased my fast to 18 hours. It was OK, not too hard, you just have to keep up the coffee intake.
A beautiful sunny cold day, not too windy, we headed off on the bikes in the direction of Rotterdam. We found a park called Hitland…not quite sure of the origins of that name! But despite our concerns it was lovely,lots of great bike paths and scenery.
I think we stopped in Capelle aan den Ijssell and walked up and down the shopping street in an unsuccessful quest for croquettes. A little bonus, we found another giant Kringloop (second-hand store) and bought a sugar spoon for Frasier.
Yes, we did find a good second-hand store; I had a couple of records in hand for Sacha, as I always get him some strange (to us) records when we travel; he has a large collection back in Melbourne. As we were riding bikes we only left with a coffee cup for me, choosing to come back later with the car to get another suitcase (all ours are full and we already have so much more crap to drag back) and the records. Unfortunately, when we did come back a couple of weeks later the second-hand store as well as most others were closed due to the virus, so we bought a new suitcase for way too much money at an empty shopping centre near us. We had a two-hour bike ride which I find extremely helpful in controlling diabetes, my sugars go from an unhealthy 9 to ten to a normal 5.5 or so. I found I can get the result from riding for less than an hour, sometimes even half an hour if riding into the wind. I never get such good results from walking, weightlifting, though back in Adelaide I was getting that kind of result from doing aqua Zumba. I spend a good part of the day in retirement mode.
Terrell’s new tour plan. We ride into the wind for as long as we can manage, then come back with ‘the wind in our sails’. A very nice plan. He has an impeccable sense of direction, and when we got back to our town, rode straight home. I would have taken many different turns, so luckily, he was in front! 😊
Next day the same criteria, heading north-west this time. Through some dodgy cow country, in the rain, along narrow roads which we had to share with cars, then following A20 to the turn off to Moordrecht. BONUS. A gorgeous ancient town, best of. I complemented a few random citizens on the beauty of their town, and they responded enthusiastically with anecdotes. Then the next bonus, was the River Ijssell, which we had not yet been able to locate, up to this point in time. We rode over the hill; these are extremely rare, and I suspect this one was merely a dyke, though there’s nothing ‘merely’ about a dyke, and found another Pont. For 1.25 EU each, we took our bikes to the other side of this very serious river.
And the third bonus, we finally found our croquettes! A day late, but good. Terrell had the bami-filled version, also good. The trip home was simple, follow the Ijssell River back to Nieuwerkerk aan den IJSSELL. Duh!
As one who doesn’t shy away from compliments, I am constantly lost, I just don’t tell Narda and power forward; she thinks I know where I am headed but I never do. We took more than an hour to get to Moordrecht, on the bike trail following the highway. I just made a lucky, ‘let’s go right here’ direction and we stumbled upon Moordrecht. I could easily live here; the old town is about three- or four-square blocks. It seems like a simple easy to live place with clean air and not far from Gouda, another half hour or couple of hours if you get lost like us, ride up the path. Another day we were off doing one of our random bike rides only to discover if we stay on a particular path from near our house, Moordrecht is exactly fifteen minutes away from our door riding a dyke, and what true-blue fellow doesn’t want to do that?
Rotterdam March 10th
Back to ‘against the wind’, we rode along the dyke with a 35km wind blowing at us. It was gorgeous, long stretches along the Ijssell River, fast flowing river on one side, and lowlands (below the river) with green waterlogged fields and many canals on the other. Then we would come across small towns, with the obligatory old church, and some lovely old houses. Some modern blocks of flats, three stories high with a room or two on each level looked attractive as a living option. There was always the view of the river and the community which is a nice combination.
I was getting pretty hungry. The plan was to stop at a café (like a fish and chip shop but with croquettes). Nothing open until 4pm. So we kept going and found the Zalm (Salmon) restaurant. Classy, no room except at the bar, which we took. An hour later, we were served some expensive stuff, which satisfied the hunger. Flashy place, nice to go to in the evening for a function I think, but not really our kind of place.
A halfway stop for apple pie and coffee and then we sailed home, fast and easy.
This was one of my favourite bike rides. We took a couple of hours to get to the restaurant though that was not our goal. We had no end game. The wind slowed us down so going home was ‘a breeze’; no, I didn’t say that. We rode around through some small village, probably a burb of Rotterdam, there was no place to eat open, so finding a place to eat by 2 in the afternoon was becoming the thing to do. Narda has been maintaining her fasting thingy of sixteen hours and that had passed by a couple of hours when we found this one place open. We spent fifty euros for a ten-dollar meal to sit amongst the trendy folks of Rotterdam who were not concerned with social distancing. We came close to walking out after an hour and fifteen minutes when we it was past three; my bloody sugars were upset, Narda’s fasting was no longer fun, but then our food came. We were unable to get a table, the place was booked full, so we languished at the bar. We had a glass of orange juice while we waited and were contemplating where such expensive and prized oranges would be from that they could charge ten euros when the food arrived.
The ride was great, aside of a strong wind shoving itself at us, the view along the river was specky. We came across a large lift bridge, the Hollandsche Ijsselkering, that had a lock beneath for barges and signs with stories about the area and the great floods of 1953 when thousands died (1800+ in The Netherlands). Because the dykes broke from a large storm from the North Sea, a Delta committee was appointed to repair the dykes, this bridge was the first result. Narda reads some of this in the video above. This bridge protects the lowest-lying part of the Netherlands and was the first of 13 to be completed.
We found the largest land based modern windmill in the world. Its wing tips can reach a speed of 350 Km per hour, it can fully support 16,000 households and its whooshing noise does not bother anyone.
(And does not cause cancer as trump claims)
This turned out to be a car day and we found Futureland quite easily. An interesting presentation of the latest extension to the Rotterdam Port. The new port, Maasvlakte 2 will be covering 20 square kms, and offering a port of 20 metres deep to accommodate the largest ships. The land is being reclaimed from the sea. We watched these purpose-built ships drawing sand from the seabed further out and pouring into place to build the new port.
Nice drive out there, no traffic and interesting industrial scenery.
FutureLand is the port at Maasvlakte 2 built out of reclaimed land. Watch our video. This is an amazing place. At the visitor’s centre not only are there many displays explaining it all but there are interaction virtual spaces; for example, to find what you are suitable at. Of course, I figured I should be a captain of a major ship but after going through the exercise I came off as best to work in the engine room doing what I am told – like being married.
Regardless of the less than anticipated results of employment opportunity I learned a lot about this area and how Holland reclaims land. In this ever-expanding port, huge ships pump out water and sand forming new land; the depth of the water is 30 – 40 metres, deep enough for the largest ships in the world to bob about in. As with everything in our life lately, we were lucky to have seen this as it was closed soon after our visit due to the virus.
On the next day, March 09, Narda’s lifelong friend from Hamburg, Mäu, came to visit. She stayed for a week and at that time there were not so many Germans with the virus. A couple of weeks later they were one of the most infected. We did two trips with Mäu; Rotterdam Centrum and Gouda.
Chipcards are complicated. You have to swipe in and remember to swipe out or you lose all your credit. So, armed with 2 of them, I went to collect Mäu from Rotterdam Centraal. Punctuality is paramount! The train arrived at platform 14, as promised at 5.25pm and we dashed off to platform 15 to take the Sprinter back to Nieuwerkerk.
Last night a walk through the bike paths of our area, Mäu style! Not another soul in site. It’s rainy, so we’ll just have to talk. 😊
We are not panic buying, but we wash our hands and sing ‘Happy birthday’ twice, as instructed. The online chemist has sold out of medical alcohol (there’s a joke there somewhere but I can’t make it) and so I have ordered 12 little 100ml bottles of the stuff. The predictions are that it will get much worse; the USA has only just begun. They are woefully under-prepared. We saw huge crowds (on TV) at airports where folks dashed back to the USA ahead of being banned from landing there. No sanitizers in sight, and people are crowded together.
We have decided to hunker down, only shop when the store is pretty empty and as little as possible. Bike rides are good but we will avoid visiting our relatives for now. Chris and Stu are looking at virtual church, and Bren in Pakistan cancelled his trip to Egypt, and could be teaching from home until the end of the school year. We have decided together with our exchange partners to stay put, and perhaps postpone going home. So we may be here a bit longer if the bloody Schengen zone lets us. I like the idea actually.
It was a nice few days; a trip to Gouda by bus 190, along the dykes. We wandered though the old town, checked out the beautiful town hall and tasted some stroop wafels from a place that claimed to make them from scratch. The bus ride back was hairy; a very competent driver with her pedal to the metal on a road designed for single rows of cars, and steep drops to water (River Ijssell) on one side and low country (lower than the water) on the other. Then another bus, driving the same way coming from the other direction. We thought we were in Cambodia!!! Better to keep your eyes closed, though I did not make that suggestion to the driver.
Mau enjoyed the Kunst Museum in Rotterdam. We were too tight and uncultured to go with her and ate apple pie instead. But together exploring the back blocks of downtown Rotterdam was fun. Nasi Goreng and Satay Chicken was yummy at a great little café overlooking the yacht harbour. You can see I don’t step out much, food wise. Mau got back to Germany just int time before the borders closed!!!!
Mau heading back to Germany on Friday only had her ticket to Rotterdam Centraal, so I went with her for the ride there, and then back. Nice coffee (Koffie verkeert, my new fav…lots of milk).
Then there was bike riding to Seven Houses, or Zevenhuizen as it is locally known. Following Terrell’s impeccable travel plan of always riding into the wind on the way up, we managed a 45 minutes ride over the wetlands, and a 20 minute ride home. The thing was we were riding INTO the wind the whole time. Not sure how that is even possible…unless the wind conspired and changed direction midway!!!
Sunday, March 15 was a strange day as we reviewed our situation. Discussing the possibility of extending our stay here until things improve. Fred and Chantal are also keen to lay low at our place. No one is going anywhere. The numbers are skyrocketing in Italy, the new epi-centre. On Monday March 16, Europe closed its borders. Today March 10 Spain is catching up to Italy in numbers and France has locked everything down. Folks have to fill out a form to go anywhere.
We did our Last shopping at Hema and Jumbo at Reigerhof Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel, taking the five pm train to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We booked an airport hotel – forget which one at the moment – took the shuttle to it only to discover that there were three with the same name and we were at the wrong one. We were already tense and stressed from the train ride and a bit grumpy. To make matters worse I put our luggage which had grown in size from since we left Australia to another suitcase and another bag onto a baggage cart which I got stuck in the revolving door. The girl at the desk was annoyed and had to get someone else to help move the door inch by inch to finally get it to move. I tried to be sorry and polite, but she was not impressed and chose to comment about why I couldn’t have figured out my crap would not fit into the revolving door. I am sure it had something to do with her thoughts about an elderly person on the loose. I noticed she had a run in her stockings which made me feel equal in inside thoughts we both harboured. And of course, she was a millennial which is one of my constant pet peeves. We did get another shuttle to the proper version of our hotel which was a crappy version of what we had seen online.
Next morning, we wandered through the empty airport and got our flight to Singapore. The flight was quite full, and the dozen hours went by OK. We did have one turn of fortune on the flight…my vegetarian meal – the alleged vegetarian meat balls were meat – I had my food taster tester sample it because it looked too much like meat to me and Narda gave the roadkill verdict. I called the flight attendants and pointed out their grievous error. It wasn’t their fault as the meals are made outside and they just warm it up and throw it at us the hapless passenger. I had at least four flight attendants apologize included some in charge type of person. I pointed out that I had been a vegetarian for about 55 years, and this was not vegetarian. As compensation along with a proper vegan type meal I was given a 75$ (Singaporean) coupon – about $50 USD – to purchase something from their inflight catalogue. I immediately found a watch I liked – one of the Citizen brands that cost about $1500USD. Realizing it was best to find something under $75 we found about two items in the whole catalogue. We needed a portable charger cube for phones and too many devices we cart around so we got one with interchangeable plugs we can use in travel for $50 bucks and that is our good news story.
We got to Singapore worried as usual. We had read that Singapore was closing the airport for all transit passengers at midnight, Sunday. Our flight is due to leave at 11:55.
We booked an airport hotel day room at the Aerotel Transit Hotel, Terminal 1. We are not allowed outside the airport unless we go into 14 days quarantine have visas and sing their national anthem. The airport itself was empty – we were there at 7 am and were to leave at 11.55 pm so finding our way to the Aerotel was easy. We had paid (too much, like $213 USD) for 12 hours; with that we got two meals and three-hours to use in the premium lounge after the 12 hours so all in all it was fine. The room didn’t have a window which was fine as we slept right away for hours after our overnight flight from Amsterdam and suspect meal. We were the only ones in the dining area, and we could look out at the many airplanes parked for who knows how long sitting on the runways. Which we find quite sad – this whole virus thing makes us sad. The Aerotel has a rooftop swimming pool but our swimming gear was in storage somewhere for the flight to Adelaide. The lounge was good too and we just ate our selves sick until our flight to Adelaide. We were concerned that the flight was about 75% full as it was one of the last flights to Australia at the time.
To Adelaide (Swan Reach)
Like they say on those dating sites (not that I know – read about them on some newsthingy) ‘it’s complicated’. We arrived at the Adelaide airport, got through all the checks. The checks are what has kept us tense: Amsterdam, Singapore, Adelaide – everyone taking temperatures all over the place. Singapore was particularly annoying as they had set up stations every 50 meters or so with testing and things being pointed at us. We were nervous we would get separated and sent off to some quarantine space for 14 days. We had read enough horror stories to keep us in a hyper psychotic state of mind, more than our usual hyper psychotic state of mind. Luckily, we survived it all. We got a taxi to Narda’s sister, where Narda’s ex-husband had left a ute for us and several family members had packed it with food. (We made a list and my list was different apparently to what people are used to; one sister said she would never ever go grocery shopping for me again and what is tempeh, spirulina, chia and about 30 other items anyway?) Apparently, she spent hours at a few places trying to get what was on my list…sorry.
Our house exchange people from our home in Rotterdam have our house and car as they are having issues getting to their next destination. We had hoped to stay in Holland, but the government would not renew our 90-day visa and we had the fear that if one of us became sick and hospitalized in Holland the other would be sent home which is quite nightmarish. So, we came home three weeks early. Meanwhile, Fred and Chantel were unable to get to their next house exchange. Narda’s son, Stu, put up on Facebook that we needed a place for a couple of weeks and a family member had a holiday house in Swan Reach they were not using and Narda’s ex, Peter, had an extra ute for us to take. It all worked out wonderfully and we had a great two weeks just chilling out in the Riverland.
We have ended our quarantine and are happy back in our home. Fred and Chantel are in northern Queensland – getting the last flight out of Adelaide. They will stay until the Dutch government flies them back.
In the future we will look back and see these guys in their apartment and in our house. We will remember them as a very special young (40ish) couple, dealing with a hell of a lot more than the average person, virus or no virus. She is permanently confined to her wheelchair, a victim of the horrible permanent disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and he is her full time, and I mean FULL time loving caregiver. They are full of courage and the spirit of adventure, and despite these setbacks, travel the world with enthusiasm and gusto. We feel privileged to have met them and to make our home exchanges with them. From both ends, our exchanges had to be cut short in this strange new world but we both plan to resume and complete them when all the drama is over. They have become our friends. Hey Fred and Chantal, we will see you again. If you have guests, we’ll just have croquettes with you and maybe some tomato soup.
We have no idea when we will travel again. We can’t even take the caravan out. We have a trip booked for July – September: UK, then Queen Mary II from Hamburg to NYC, DC and a house exchange for a month in Chicago. Looks like that will be postponed for a year as we won’t travel until we can have a vaccine. I update my homepage every day – https://neuage.org/
in the meantime
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Thoughts in Patterns 7