Stroop Therapie (Dutch translation = Syrup Therapy)
An Evolutionarily series chronicling the moments that left their mark during a time of self discovery and renovation.
It just occurred to me that I have no recollection of the twelve days between the return from Hawaii and my departure to Holland.
Part of me was still numb and just rolling with the tide created by choosing to travel. Thankfully I had enough sense at the time to internalize Hawaii’s culture and beauty rather than just ooh and ahh over it.
If the memories written in my journal were the only thing I took away from that vacation, they are only words. The feelings that arise from reading my journal and looking at the photos remind me it was so much more.
Traveling to Hawaii taught me that when the basic norms of society are out of reach (grow up, get married and have a family–bada-bing, bada-bang, bada-boom), there needs to be something other than those norms to define you.
It proved to me that even when someone thinks you’re crazy for believing in your own dreams, you should follow them. If you don’t, you’re following that someone else’s dream and, frankly, respect may be lost for each other and yourselves. This…THIS is the lesson that would be repeated again and again in moments that followed. Moments that only came in the pursuit of a dream.
(My favorite photo from my days walking among the Dutch.)
When I was a Senior in high school, the Copinga family (near and dear friends to my own family) took in a foreign exchange student from Holland. They specifically requested a student from the land of windmills and tulips because, at age 11, Pa Copinga migrated from Holland to the U.S. with his family. The Copingas followed many of the Dutch traditions and were proud of their heritage. They wanted to perpetuate that heritage further by infusing their family with a modern Dutch daughter (a boy was out of the question since they had two teenage girls still at home).
This Dutch daughter’s name (for they called her daughter/sister) is Barbara.
Barbara and I became good friends and my Senior year at Emery High was doubly great because of her. Over the next 13 years, we would keep in touch through letters, cards and email. And Barbara would continue to invite me for a visit. For a few years I fully believed I would take her up on that offer. Then there were many years when I believed it was a ridiculous notion.
My guess is that the average American’s first choice of which European country to visit would be Italy. England second. They were at the top of my long list, right under Ireland. I considered them and even watched several episodes of Rick Steves Europe. When the reality of choosing came, I immediately thought of Barbara.
I had never formally promised Barbara I would visit her in Holland, but it began to feel like a promise was about to be fulfilled. A promise to her and a promise to myself.
The more important question to ask is, “Why Holland in February?” And that Barbara did. She warned me that it was cold and too early for tulips to be in bloom. I just knew that if I put it off, I might talk myself out of traveling at all by the time Summer came.
Ten days below sea level. In February.
You see those coats and scarves above? I was also wearing gloves and two pairs of socks…and boots…and leggings under my pants. I don’t recommend visiting in February, but I HIGHLY recommend visiting Holland. For two reasons.
(1) Nearly everyone understands English which makes it really easy to get around without a guide or translator.
(2) Judging by the handful of places I visited in 10 days, the country is never lacking for the fullest of the European experience.
After arriving in Holland, I told Barbara that I wanted her to teach me as much about her culture as I could take in. She was a great teacher. Now it’s my turn to be your teacher.
First is the difference between “Holland” and “Netherlands”. In basic explanation, Holland is what the entire country used to be called, but after a time in history the formal name was changed to the Netherlands. Now, North Holland and South Holland are provinces, like North Carolina and South Carolina are states. Calling the entire country Holland just stuck.
Second, in case you missed the link on how to pronounce Stroop, it’s “strope” only you trill your “r”. Like so. If you’ve been pronouncing it “strupe”, beware of my correcting you if ever you are caught.
And finally, finding the tasty stroopwafel in the U.S. can be a challenge. I first discovered them in a Dutch shop while traveling through Port Angeles, WA. Later, I found them in imported food stores like World Market. BUT just last week, my mom found them in (get this)… WalMart! There they were, labeled “Dutch Caramel Cookies” (which is just wrong) right in the specialty cookies, on the cookie isle. They are much smaller than those off the street in Amsterdam, more like an average cookie size. The best way to eat them is heated in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, but I prefer this method because my first ever was hot off the iron.
Or, (I just found) you can order them online here. Made fresh daily? That’s as close as you can get to the real thing!
To get you psyched for the continuation of My First-Evers journey, here’s a little map to illustrate where Holland/the Netherlands/Nederland is located in the European scheme of things.England to the West; Belgium and France to the Southwest; Germany to the East; Denmark to the Northeast. Pa Copinga came from that farthest Northeast dot in the blue circle, Groningen.
Now, let’s all go buy some to Stroopwafels to eat while I recount my journey in the Lowlands.
Todays Syrupy Moment: The Fall-turning-to-Winter weather seeping into my room prompted me to layer my clothing, which then prompted a feeling of below sea level. Good times!