Oudejaarsavond

The sky above the Markt just after midnight.

The sky above the Markt just after midnight.

No better day than New Year’s Eve (or “Old Year’s Evening,” as the Dutch call it) to break our long-standing radio silence. The last three months have been a particular type of busy -- nothing like the business of our first two weeks in the country, when everything was a whirlwind -- and nothing like the weeks we had back in New York when the combination of work, school, and keeping up with chores made it feel as if there was no time left in the day.

No, the past three months have been about the slow, steady, time-consuming process of making Holland feel like home. And five months after arriving, our life here is starting to feel as if it is taking shape. Slowly but surely, we’ve discovered the best places in town to buy groceries, plotted the beer selection against bartender friendliness for most of the bars in town, found favorite stalls in the market, and gotten to know the shopkeepers at a bunch of small businesses in town. We can taste the difference between oude and jonge kaas; a dubbel and a tripel; traded pumpkin ales for herfstbok.

We filed our first health insurance claims and are coming to understand what life actually costs here, which has meant throwing out the budget we made back in the States. Navigating trains, trams, and buses across different cities is becoming routine -- as is the expectation that a rush hour train going anywhere will arrive five minutes late if it’s raining. (We dread the day we need a train in the snow.)

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And then there’s the pleasure of all the new things we’ve taken to since the move. Ten kilometer bike rides have become humdrum affairs, as are days when our iPhones tell us we’re pushing 30,000 steps. Both of us have six hours of Dutch lessons a week; Matt is learning the ins and outs of the canal system with the De Delftsche Sport rowing club and becoming something of an expert chef; Ryan took up bouldering and picked up his squash racket for the first time since Colgate.

Our first visitors trickled in this fall -- a colleague of Matt’s dropped in for a day during a trans-European trek and on two occasions, an old friend of Ryan’s spent a day in Delft during a trip to Amsterdam and Paris.

We ventured outside of Delft, but not as often as we thought we would. In October, Ryan made a whirlwind four-day trip back to the States for work. The verdict: a delight to see old friends, colleagues, and even better to see his family. Being back in New York was oddly overwhelming: a barrage of English (understanding everything happening around you again is disorienting), the infuriating traffic of the BQE, the sheer expanse of a city of 8 million people.

Matt saw the UK for the first time at Thanksgiving, as a colleague of Ryan’s generously opened her family’s home in Surrey to us for a feast fit for royalty. After packing in all of London’s big sites in a day, we returned to Schiphol exhausted, and with Matt feeling some of the same big-city hangover Ryan did after returning from New York.

The back garden at Marres, the Center for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht

The back garden at Marres, the Center for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht

Inside the country, we picked Maastricht as our destination for a quick post-Christmas getaway. After a charming cross-country train trip (post to come soon!), the city blew us away with its ancient architecture, boutiques tucked into winding lanes, and exceptional food and drink. Groningen, the “jewel of the north,” was a charming contrast to the congestion of the Randstad. Amsterdam is quickly becoming our go-to spot when we’re craving luxury: we have a stall of places to turn to for a great dinner or a tasty cocktail, with each trip taking us further from the old center. Our favorite spots are now dotted all over the city, from restaurants and boutiques in the Old West to breweries east of the canal belt. Rotterdam continues to reveal itself as our Brooklyn stand-in: each trip to Witte de Withstraat or the Katengracht draws comparisons to Williamsburg and Red Hook.

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This time last year, Matt and I were driving east on I-80 through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ryan was getting over a cold that Matt would succumb to by the end of the night. We were polishing off (finally) the last episodes of the first season of Serial. Ryan’s application for his current job had just been rejected. Matt was still a semester away from his M.S. Between us, we had two salaries and no rent, money in the bank but no free time or energy to enjoy it. We weren’t yet engaged.

The past twelve months have been a blur -- a year-long test of cooperation, communication and compromise, which we haven’t always passed. But as we walked Markt Square for one final time this year, we remarked that we were so happy that things turned out the way they had.

And the next twelve months? Few things, apart from visits from our families, are certain. This time next year we could be in our own house, or setting of our own fireworks, or writing this in Dutch, or back home with our families on the east coast.

Whatever happens, we do pledge to keep you along for the ride.