K is for Kind

For some, India is an acronym for I will never do it again.

For others, India is an acronym for I need to do it again.

Despite a few rough moments (here and here and here) I loved being in India and have been planning my return forever.

Why? Because despite the bad press India receives sometimes, the country is full of incredibly kind people who will go out of their way to help you, even if the “help” looks and feels a lot different than you are used to 🙂

Expect the unexpected. No where is this more true than India.

Want to feel like a star? Hand out some autographs? Become pen pals with the world? Go to India.

Me, the glamorous tourist (NOT) handing out autographs.

Me, the glamorous tourist (NOT) handing out autographs.

Want to be kindly told what to do? Go to India.

Want to kindly help put out a fire? Good luck and go to India.

2015-04-02 11.42.19However, if India feels like too much too soon, then I highly recommend Cambodia, which for me, has some of the kindest people in the world.

For example, are you married? Did you invite a heap of strangers to your wedding? Didn’t think so.

However, Cambodians are so kind that they do invited strangers to their wedding; this time, being me, over and over. I even had to have a wedding wardrobe sewn to keep up!

At one of many Cambodian weddings. The bride is in the background!

At one of many Cambodian weddings. The bride is in the background!

And what about The Netherlands? A kind Dutch family wrote on their bench.  Please Take A Seat …but don’t smoke any weed or other funny stuff. Our kids are a bit too young to get stoned… Enjoy the best bench in Town!

1238710_10151856460972390_1854675771_nThe kindness of strangers.

Just like you who stop by to read, yet, we haven’t officially met.

Thank you for being so K for kind from the Family C on their path to A to Z.

Who are some of the kindest people you have met on your travels?

Pete and Repeat – The Amsterdam Version

It is no secret that I love Holland. Always did.

I lived in Zwolle for a year on a Rotary Exchange. I went to school  where I was placed in Grade 1 for Dutch class and Grade 12 for English class. That is until the English teacher heard me talk with my Canadian accent and then I was told to no longer speak in class. Apparently I was corrupting the class. Regardless, I learned to be a little Dutch and became a more outspoken, liberal and scarf wearing version of my previous self.

When I returned to Canada, I was officially hooked on Dutch cheese, poffertjes,stroopwafels, dropjes (black kind of licorice) and pannekoeken. So it was no surprise that these foods were introduced to Jade early on. In fact, Santa regularly brought some each Christmas. Having a bit of a sweet tooth like her mother, Jade began to dream of the day she would go to Holland.

And when her dream came true, Holland did not disappoint.

Jade roamed Amsterdam like a Dutch girl (well at least after she went the market and bought herself some European clothes to fit more in). She is tall, blonde, liberal and yes, a tad outspoken like her mother. She draws the line however at scarves.

It was like watching myself a million years ago. Amsterdam was again, love at first sight. And really… who can blame us? It really is a great place to be.

Learning Dutch The Embarrassing Way

When I first moved to Zwolle, The Netherlands, I needed to learn Dutch. I was living with a Dutch family and going to high school. It was pretty tiring in the beginning so some words were more important than others. “Tired” being one of them as I was always tired; especially from the language.

However… here is the kicker…instead of saying I am tired though I kept saying to everyone that I was pretty. So my nightly sentence was “I am pretty so I need to go to sleep.” It was awhile until I learned my mistake and I was so embarrassed.

Mooi – pretty

Moe – tired

Not the same. Oh well. I did learn to speak Dutch and I loved it! I also learned how to ride a bike in all kinds of weather; including snow and ice. When I recently returned to Amsterdam, I realized sadly that I probably had lost both skills, Dutch and my skilled bike riding. Maybe another reason to return and stay longer next time?

Why Imperfect Trumps When Travelling

It started a long time ago for me and has continued now that I travel with my family. I am a “buck the traditional” kind of woman (“maiden name” – ridiculous words… but I still have mine; quit “traditional” law the minute I became a lawyer; had one daughter and ended up with four daughters (happily); changed careers many times and probably will once more. So needless to say, it is not a huge surprise that my favourite cities are NOT Paris and London as I much prefer grittier Amsterdam. When choosing Spanish language schools in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango beat out perfect Antigua so it was not too shocking that as a family we preferred Lake Atitlan villages again over Antigua, the “jewel” of Guatemala. After visiting Mexico, Chris declared Patzcuaro over San Miguel de Allende, another “expat haven” which is “perfectly aesthetic” but less us, I guess. Hands down we loved Essaouria over Marrakech and Fez in Morocco, strangely for some but again that is how we roll. I do have to admit that I love Bangkok but not for its touristy temples or other “must see” items. I prefer to wander, explore, people watch and get lost. Phnom Penh is my idea of perfectly “imperfect” but that was years ago, and I fear that it might have changed; as most places do. And I know I am very odd… but Cape Town was not a favourite for me; it was beautiful but not me. I much preferred the wild scenery of Lesotho, Swaziland and parts of Kwazulu Natal. When I look at my pictures, I gravitate to the regular, to the gritty side of life. Maybe that is why I am so obsessed with India because it has both; perfect and imperfect; all at the same time. Soon two of our blended family may be headed to a new city (one that when we tell people, the response is usually… umm) so granted to say, it is no Paris, no Vienna, no Florence, no Singapore. But because it will most likely be “perfectly imperfect” , we are not worried, we will be content and of course, find things to love.

Bringing Books To Life Through Travelling

I never forgot reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom when I was a teen.

It simply haunted me thinking about people hiding from the Nazis and those who risked their lives to save them.

I wanted my girls to read this when they got older. Fortunately..so fortunately Jade and I made it to Haarlem in Holland to visit the actual home/store where the events actually took place. We even stepped into the hiding place to get a sense of what it might have been like. I was shocked at how small the space was and how scary it seemed to go through the bottom of the linen closet to reach it.

Most people know of Anne Frank’s diary and her hiding place in Amsterdam… which of course is a must see but if you are looking for a similar but different experience, read The Hiding Place and visit Haarlem as well. You won’t regret doing so.