For the last few months, Home in Leiden has been in the more than capable hands of Alice, while I went through the heaven and hell of renovating and moving house. We're finally settled, and I'm happy to feel at home again. It's a long time since I moved here, but it reminded me of the excitement and fear experienced by everyone who moves country to set up a new life. In a way, being in an international relationship and/or moving country enables one to set up a 'bubble' - an identity as a family or as a couple, where you can decide your own rules about who speaks which language(s) to whom, what values you take from each culture, what influences you use in your home decorating, cooking etc. It is incredibly exciting, and makes everything special, but also means that everything involves a choice, a compromise and a decision. It puts a lot of pressure on relationships, so it's not surprising that international relationships require a certain amount of work to navigate successfully. And, the unpalatable truth is that if international relationships break up, the repercussions are particularly complicated. I had never really thought about this, but the separation of two families close to us brought it home to me, as it became clear that for a parent to 'move back home' with the children is nigh-on impossible. Reading an article about 'child abduction' (awful term for a parent leaving a country with a child without the other parent's permission, but legally that's what it's called), made me realise that the international community should be better informed and better supported, so that these relationships can flourish and so that if things do go wrong the fallout is less severe and less surprising. It sounds a depressing topic but I mean it in the most positive way.
It's easy to feel that there's no support in your own language out there, and that it's not worth trying to get relationship counselling because it'll be in Dutch. However, there are many options. For English-speaking counselling on many subjects you can try the Access service http://www.access-nl.org/about-access/what-we-do/counselling-service-network.aspx - you ring the number on the website and either leave a message or talk to the person on duty. The first consultation is free, and thereafter depends on the type of support you need. There are also many very nice individual counsellors - recently I met a lovely woman called Paula Portegies who offers all types of couple and family therapy in Dutch, French and English. A book that is extremely useful in helping couples to understand each other is The 5 Love Languages. It all sounds a bit mushy but it's actually an extremely practical guide to communicating in relationships. The website has a quiz you can do that's quite enlightening. If things have already gone pear-shaped, then the book Family Breakdown by Penelope Leach is a good place to start for working out how to continue to parent well even if you aren't together.
It was this article http://www.expatcentreleiden.nl/news/news_item/t/child_abduction that made me realise how little most of us actually know about the laws surrounding international families. Unfortunately, the fallout of a relationship breakdown can come as a complete surprise to families. Ideally, I think there should be more information given to couples about the consequences of, for instance, not being registered as 'samenwonend' when you have children, or of buying a house together. The last thing I mean is that we should all be signing pre-nups and planning our divorce before we get married, but it does make sense to at least know, before buying a house ('habitual residence'), that you need to consider whether if you have children you would be happy staying here indefinitely in the case of divorce. Or to be aware of each of your rights and obligations if you have children together but are not officially registered as a couple. It seems that there is very little information available, and even once a crisis occurs many lawyers don't seem to be well informed. I'm hoping to try and get the Expat Centre Leiden involved in getting some more information available to internationals here - if you have any advice, questions, ideas or would like to be involved, please contact me at harriet@homeinleiden.
With Koningsdag nearly upon us, I hope you are all ready for the crazed orange fun that it involves. I've actually been organised enough to get a spot for my commercially-minded children to sell stuff in the kindervrijmarkt on Breestraat (10.00-16.00), but I'm hoping to have plenty of time to rummage for bargains. Don't miss the antique market on the Nieuwe Rijn, the Caribbean festival with another lovely 'Original Market' on Pieterskerkplein, and look out for great buurtfeesten in your area (the Professorenwijk one is particularly nice.
Hello Mamas & Papas!
Great news! New Sing'nRoll classes are about to start! Come with your 1- 4year old toddler and join the Happy Pinguins in Leiden.
Every Monday and Friday morning we have a 45min long fun session where we sing and sing more and dance&roll. It is an interactive class, in English, for toddlers and their mamas and papas together ;-)
Venue: Leiden, Vogelwijk Speeltuin (inside).
Our try-out classes start on the 1st May. May classes are for a special price of €2.50 each (full price €9).
Interested? To sign up or for more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0646745387.
The Handwerk Studio Leiden is back in a wonderful new location, ready to teach another group of students the ways of upcycling clothing, sewing, knitting, crocheting, book binding, stamp making - in other words, how to be creative! There is an English-speaking basic sewing class on Tuesdays, but everyone is welcome in all other courses and workshops. Drop by our Studio on the Vollergracht 14 to take a look - we are open for visitors Mondays 12-14 and Friday 10-12. Classes are starting again soon and we will have intensive sewing courses during the summer for both adults and children too. See www.handwerkstudioleiden.com for more information.
I've been meaning to write for a while about the amazing silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewellers we are lucky enough to have in Leiden. One favourite is Isabelle Riffon, who you will probably remember from her lovely competition to design jewellery based on Leiden themes during Kunstroute last year. You can see her beautiful interpretations of some of the winning entries on her
website www.isabelle-riffon.com . She also makes stunning contemporary jewellery of all different kinds in her charming little shop on Pieterskerkchoorsteeg 17. She takes commissions too - definitely worth visiting for gorgeous presents for yourself or someone else!
A lovely client of mine, Alette Vink, has opened the most gorgeous shop on PIeterskerkchoorsteeg, called De Winkel van Leiden. She sells beautiful, unusual crockery, gorgeous blankets, all sorts of stuff for children's rooms, some brocante pieces - and prints by me. A lovely place to rootle around in - I'd happily buy the whole shop, in fact. Take a look at https://www.facebook.com/pages/De-Winkel-in-Leiden/1407519466228729?sk=photos_stream.
Let's face it, we're surrounded by water! Are you despairing of the swimming diplomas? Or trying to find swimming courses in English for children or adults? This new swimming school has just opened in Zoeterwoude, offering intensive swimming courses and a boost-your-child's-level Summer Splash Course. Take a look at their website.
Ok, it's a long way off but it sounds fascinating! More information available here.