At home

Observant, Maastricht

I was less than enthusiastic about spending my summer in Australia. True, I’d get to see family – that’s a plus. But summer here means winter there. My parents figured it’d still be warm enough to go on a whale-watching cruise near my hometown. While my husband saw a humpback whale and a pod of dolphins, I became closely acquainted with the inside of a sick bag. Boats don’t agree with me, it turns out.

My sister, meanwhile, lives in Canberra. Like Pretoria and Wellington, Canberra is one of those unsung world capitals, the kind of place that, when you tell people you plan on visiting, they tend to respond, ‘What for?’ I have a nine-month-old nephew I’d never met, which seemed like as good a reason as any. Until he sneezed right in my mouth, that is, and I came down with something closely resembling Ebola.

Meanwhile, an immunologist friend from Cambridge was busy in Sierra Leone, battling both the real Ebola and a variety of unidentifiable wildlife that had made her tent home. In Australia, disappointingly, the most dangerous creature we came across was said nephew. Despite my previous lack of experience with the species, he turned out to be almost cute enough – almost – for me to revise my long-held opinion that having a baby is, short of voluntarily working with infectious diseases, the worst idea a person could entertain.

Still, we were keen to come back to the Netherlands to see how our own ‘baby’ was getting along. That is, a one-metre-square patch of dirt that serves as our garden. My standards on what constitutes a garden have fallen drastically in the decade since I left Australia, where everyone has a lawn the size of a football pitch. Before leaving, we’d sown a few thousand seeds’ worth of Wunder-Rasen (thank you, It lived up to its name: we came home to a blooming, thick swathe of green.

I think of myself as a lot like that grass. Not green, you understand – unless I’m on a boat – but I came via Germany to be rooted in Dutch soil. So bring me some stroopwafels and put the Journaal on – it’s good to be home!


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