Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My mental clock isn't in the Netherlands' time zone.



For the first 22 years of my life, I lived in the US where the annual calendar looked something like this:

September was the beginning of the school year.
October was mostly school with Halloween at the end.
November meant Thanksgiving break and leaf motifs.
December was red and green and a countdown to Christmas and semester finals, usually with many sunny days.
January was back to school in the cold after time with family and a nice long break.
February was hearts and Black History Month and a good time to ski.
March had a week-long school vacation and the hints of nicer weather to come.
April meant final papers, cherry blossom trees, and Regional Bible Quizzing.
May included semester finals and the occasional welcome hot day.
June meant K-12 schools were wrapping up and summer was really here to make you sweat (literally).
July was hot summer days with thunderstorm nights, my birthday halfway through the month, and beginning to coast back down to the start of the school year.
August was a month of last hurrahs, packing for returns to Ukraine, county fair, and looking for an end to the sweaty days outside of a/c.

This calendar influenced (or was influenced by) the consumer culture, Hallmark, TV, etc.  Shopping discounts, TV shows, references in conversations, and community events all integrated into this general scheme.

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As you can see, I think based on the school calendar.  I'm a teacher by trade.  (Conveniently, to figure out how old I was in a particular school year, I also only needed to add 5 to the grade number - and that's how old I was no matter what the school calendar was that year.)  Besides that, the seasons were pretty distinct in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Ukraine.

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Ukraine's autumns meant school beginning, kvas tanks everywhere, leaves falling, temperature slowly dropping, Fall Festival at the school.

Ukraine's winters meant not seeing the sidewalk until springtime, slipping and sliding to catch the bus, bundling up from head to toe, glimpsing sunshine meant it was below freezing outside, living in a drab gray environment. BUT Christmas! 

Springtime in Ukraine - lilacs, chestnut blooms, green everywhere! There are more colors to be seen!

And I wasn't there often for the summer, but I remember the late sunsets, early sunrises, sunshine all the time, warm days, sometimes too warm.

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But living here in the Netherlands is really messing with my internal clock.

School in our city isn't done until the 8th of July this year.
It's been raining and dreary lately.  We've had one day where it's been above 80*F, I think.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day (the picnicking and Tea Party Festival kind), and Independence Day are not elements of the calendar here.
Most Christmas decorations don't appear till at least December 7.
I don't think we saw snow here this winter at all. 
The 4 seasons in the Netherlands are hot and sunny, cloudy, raining, and cold.  Sometimes all within the week - which makes it hard to get laundry done and dried within a day or so.

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"What do you miss about living in the US?" people frequently ask me.

I think my answer right now is -

Hot summers that begin by the beginning or middle of June
Summer camps/activities for kids (since here everyone skedaddles once school lets out)
Cookouts with hot dogs and hamburgers
Grassy yards to set up a sprinkler for our munchkin to cool off in
Being able to go swimming outside or at the beach by now

In other words, a time for everything and everything at the "normal" time.

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When living overseas, the surrounding culture operates on a different timetable, and that's really disorienting.  Especially thanks to Facebook and blogs reminding me of my "normal" clock.  My friends in the US are already going on vacations with their families, kids are having grandma/grandpa camp, and "last day of school" photos/posts have long faded away.  Money-saving blogs advertise summer clothing discounts but by the time I could get them, summer here would be over.

I can't trust my own mind to tell me how long ago something was.

I don't have a feeling for which part of the year it is.

There's plenty of time until June, right? It's still May, right? WHAT?!? It's almost July???

It doesn't feel like my birthday is coming in just over 2 weeks.

Just when I'm getting into the rhythm of leaving the house more and finding activities to join, they shut down for the summer.

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How do I steady myself from this disorientation?  I could avoid all American contact whatsoever (maybe not a bad idea in this election year), to eliminate the reminders of an alternate paradigm.  Or I could get a job in the expat world working with Americans and insist that our family plans around my holiday schedule.

Nope - those are lose-lose situations.

But I've got no other ideas except to continue floundering in the waters of culture stress and to hope for the best.

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What have you done to help mesh your two (or more) clocks together?  How do you minimize this disorientation? Tips appreciated!