Hobbies: Why and How I Started a Book Group

     The leisure activities we choose shape us. They should be important because they stimulate our spirit and are a revealing trait of our personality. 

The Importance of Hobbies
     There is a very good article that includes, in my opinion, interesting and well-explained reasons about the significance of hobbies. It is called "Why Hobbies Are Important", published by David and Daniela Naidu on the website Skilled At Life. I invite you to go ahead and read it.  They list 11 reasons, and I agree with all of them. In fact, we can also see how helpful they are when moving abroad. Check Daniela and David's list (I have underlined the ones that most apply when making a fresh start): 
  1. "It makes you more interesting."
  2. "It helps to relieve stress by keeping you engaged in something you enjoy."
  3. "Hobbies help you become more patient."
  4. "Having a hobby can help your social life and create a bond with others."
  5. "It increases your confidence and self-esteem."
  6. "Hobbies help reduce or eradicate boredom."
  7. "It helps you develop new skills."
  8. "It increases your knowledge."
  9. "It enriches your life and gives you a different perspective on things."
  10. "It challenges you."
  11. "It helps prevent bad habits and wasting time."
     I wish I could pick a favorite from the list. Unfortunately, I might never will. I believe in all and every one of them. Now the question is, which is the hobby one wishes to pursue? In my personal case, reading and sharing the experience with someone else. Thus, to begin my integration in my new homeland, I had to make it happen.   

The Book Group

     In October 2016, I came to The Netherlands to be with my sweetheart for three months, waiting for my Inburgering results. During that time, I decided to start a book group in Eindhoven, just as I had previously done in Boston and Mexico City. I knew I needed to begin a community with people who shared interests and stimulated my mind. Therefore, and using the Meetup app, Eindhoven E-Readers Book Club Meetup was born.  

     Was it easy? Well, no one RSVP for the first reunion. Obviously, I was disappointed and thought of how to find someone who would like to join. At that time I was attending Speaking Dutch, a Daytime Class at The Hub Eindhoven for Expats, and there was someone I had seen there regularly and with whom I knew I had some shared interests (like music and books). When I told her about the meetup, she told me it was a nice idea since she had also belonged to a book group before moving to here. On January 5th, 2017, our first book group meetup with two members took place, her and I. The book was Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I was ecstatic!

     In mid-January, I went back to Mexico and this lovely woman kept the group reading and growing. Now, thirteen months after this adventure began, we are three co-organizers who have had nine fulfilling exchanges. We have met people from different countries, backgrounds, and ages. We are like a reading buddies' squad: a kleine community exchanging information, thoughts, points of view, and a little bit of ourselves while indulging in our passion.

     If there is a hobby you would like to share, Meetup is an easy starting point. You can begin your own group from scratch or look for people who have your interests. It is a matter of taking the first step by choosing the hobby you wish to cultivate. ;-)

Me Cooking. My Butcher. With Wine.

What happened to me? Did it happen to you too?
     I must confess. My darling is not hallucinating or imagining things. Yes, I used to cook more often and sometimes even sophisticated meals. Then, reality sank in. You might wonder what I mean, or maybe you know EXACTLY what I am trying to say, as in "been there, done that." It started feeling like an obligation, a must, a chore that couldn't be skipped. I asked myself, what can I do to like cooking again?

     Not much. It has never been my strength. Even so, I have looked for ways to enjoy it more: Share a meal with a friend; enjoy when I am invited over and someone else does the cooking; have fun when preparing a meal. When alone, never say always but close, I listen to a nice podcast and have a glass of wine. Then my honey comes home and says home cooking is better than anything else. I don't agree, but I try to feel flattered. Do you see what I mean?  

What have I been cooking lately?

     Every weekday I need to make sure there are 4 different options to fill the 4 containers of my honey's lunchbox. So whatever I cook, there should always be enough in the fridge for the next day. An appliance that has been very helpful is the Crock Pot or slow cooker. It was my sweetheart's idea. I can cook something overnight and have enough for the week's lunchbox (one container...the smallest). 

     My menu looks something like this:
  • Rice 
  • Soups
  • Pastas
  • Salads
  • Potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Tortilla Española
  • Crockpot recipes
  • Carnitas 
  • Barbacoa
  • Pozole (just 2 times I am afraid)
Something I would like to try:
  • Stamppot
  • Pannenkoeken
Do I recommend a butcher in Eindhoven?
     Absolutely. Slagerij Lelieveld is where I have been buying for some months now. My friend Maria agrees with me that everything they sell is of high quality and excellent flavor. 

What have I learned?
     Attitude is everything. On one hand, I don't want to have to cook. On the other, it is one of the acts of service my loved one appreciates more. With this information, you can grasp what I am working on and my struggle with it. All I can do is to remind myself I moved here for love. So if I should learn to enjoy cooking...let's open that bottle of wine and get started!


If you have a recipe for stamppot, pannenkoeken or the slow cooker, please share!

Friendship Is An Art


     Friendship is an art. Through life, one hopes to learn, practice, and honor it. It is like any other trade: You understand the skills, put them into practice, ruin hopefully not too many friendships, and then, one day, you look around and realize how friends are stars that illuminate your sky. That is something worth living for to see.

     When I decided to move abroad for love, I knew that some friendships back home would continue as strong as they could be, other would weaken, and some forgotten. Also, I was aware new ones needed to be built, worked on, sculptured. To have a real friend is a serious private matter. This new person will meet you in a vulnerable state because you are trying to adapt to your new world. You are needy, too many areas to work on. Of course it can be scary! It is too intimate. But you know what? Like my new friends have told me, we are all in the same boat. Call it life or love, we are all on a journey and in this moment we are riding in the same wagon. And when we let these others see us just as we are, without pretending to be strong or to have it all figured it out, it is only then that something is achieved. 

     I am grateful, so very grateful, to have found new friends. It is not only about hanging out, it is about love and comprehension. The good and bad, beauty and...beauty with an inner beast! It is about encouraging the other to shine, even when he/she is scared of doing it. If we would tell our partners everything that we feel, fear, love, and hate, we run the risk of being misunderstood, or to overwhelm without meaning to. With friends, it is something different, unique. A sisterhood. 

     Thank you, my old friends, for showing me how to care for others. I hope I can be as good as you still are. And to my new friends, thanks for the gift of having the opportunity of writing stories, in our lives, together. 

Tot straks!

*The bracelet I am wearing in the photo was given to me by an old friend. Luckily for me, she is still close and I keep learning from her all the time. 

**Yes, we could talk about the meaning of tattoos another time.

Finding Balance: Proud of Delivering the Mail

Next week it will be three months since I started working at PostNL. I have gone from this will never happen and this is killing me to feeling proud and having fun while at it. 

What is there to be proud of?

  • Having a job in a new country (You know what it was like!)
  • Working in a respectable organization
  • Improving my performance
  • Speaking Dutch with my colleagues
  • Saving money for the first time ever
  • Being a candidate for pension
What is fun about it?
  • Exercising and losing weight (Just ask my darling about it!)
  • Being part of "the gang" (This totally deserves its own post!)
  • Riding the bike 500 m to get to work (I know, nothing to miss from Mexico there...)
  • Chatting with colleagues (especially when we need to wait for the mail)
  • Seeing people thankful for delivering their mail or package (Yes, I speak with people, but sometimes I just smile and nod because I don't get what they say! No time to stop to chat either!)

How does it all look like? 
If you have time, watch the videos. You will see a little bit of what I mean. ;-) 


Distance and Family

     When deciding to move abroad, one topic to consider is family. Different situations can influence your position. I can think of some but do please help me with your comments because I am probably leaving many more unmentioned. 

     Closeness, attachment, and health are some of the elements I consider to be important when making the decision. In my case, it wasn't difficult. I had lived abroad for more than 15 years, I am very independent and sometimes too detached, and everyone in my family was healthy.

     Until today.

     Today is Friday. I am home. My father is in the hospital, under observation. My family is taking turns to be with him at all times, day and night. He seems fine, but this morning the doctors have said his heart has not been doing well.

     Thanks to WhatsApp, I can hear and see him, I can send recordings of music I know he loves. I can be in touch. 

     What is weighing me down is this helplessness, the waiting. Trying to hold myself together so they don't worry about me. To know he has a ticket to come in December. 

     He so much wants to come, and I so much need him in my life.   




Depression, Priorities, and Van Gogh

"Ik doe al mijn best er kracht achter te zetten want ik verlang er zoo sterk naar mooie dingen te maken.– Maar mooie dingen kosten moeite – en teleurstelling en volhouden." 
 Vincent Van Gogh to Theo Van Gogh*
     Recently, I have been collecting material about Van Gogh. Reading one of his letters got me thinking about beauty and happiness, and the struggle sometimes they require.  

     Late September, I made an appointment with my huisarts (physician) to discuss my mild depression and what could be done so it wouldn't become a serious health issue. We had an interesting talk pointing out how I was out of balance trying to learn how to live with someone, take care of a house, and at the same time finding out who I would become. This was being very difficult since I was feeling lonely and alone. We agreed it would be helpful to have some sessions with a "prajtijkondersteuner". For those not familiar with the term, a prajtijkondersteuner is a kind of nurse specialized in mental health. He/she works hand in hand with the artshuis. So far, I have had 2 sessions and it has been great. If you or someone you know is feeling depressed, and live in The Netherlands, I totally advise you to reach out to your artshuis and talk about it. Remember the winter is coming, and for some people, it can be harder when the days get shorter and darker.

     Between my artshuis and prajtijkondersteuner's first appointment, I dedicated myself to try figuring out how to approach the situation. While researching on the internet, I found a super helpful article about priorities, A SIMPLE EXERCISE FOR GETTING YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT: FORGET ABOUT WORK AND RELATIONSHIPS by Sarah Todd. The main idea was: Write down 4 priorities, leaving out work and relationships. This was an opportunity to see everything from a different angle, under a new light. If I could focus only on getting stronger again without worrying about the job or my darling, maybe I could figure out my way up again. And so, among the changes I began to make, I started journaling. A month later, the blog Dutch in Translation was born. How am I feeling? I think you can tell. I am me again. I love it!

     Van Gogh.
     As the quote says, beautiful things don't come easy. Oh, but how good it feels when everything starts falling into place. Thank you for taking the time to read me. It gives me strength to know that someone, somewhere, can in some way relate to my story.


*Sources. Quote: The Hague, September 9, 1882, to Theo van Gogh. Retrieved from http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let261/letter.html. Image: By rawpixel.com. Retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/alphabets-camera-card-desk-407294/

Things I Love About the Netherlands: #1 Swimming and the Journey In-Between

     As I have mentioned before, I am working on building a healthy routine for my mind and body. What do I mean? I am trying to put together moments that uplift my soul and make everything brighter. Like what? Like the joy I feel when, while swimming, I see the air bubbles under the water, small crystal pearls mapping a sparkling trail along the way. 

     So far, Mondays are one of my favorite days. I wake up early, get ready and go downstairs to brew coffee. Then, I spend some time writing or reading while waiting for my darling to wake up. Once he does, I go downstairs to prepare his lunchbox (he says it's the best gift ever), coffee and toast. We talk for about half an hour and then we leave: He goes to work and I go swimming. 

     Today, I would like to share with you a little bit of what I see on my way to the Peter de Hoogenband Stadion. I wish I could show you what I see under the water, but since I can't, I hope you can enjoy biking to the pool because it is one of the things I love most about The Netherlands!

Tot volgende keer!

Finding A Job In The Netherlands: PostNL and I

     Let's start with a question. Is it easy to find a job in The Netherlands? If you ask some people, they will say no. If you ask me, I will say yes. Of course, we are not talking about a specific job, but just a job. Any job. Maybe you are thinking about a job like the one you used to have. As for me, that isn't possible. I went to law school but had spent years being an elementary school teacher without a teaching degree. In The Netherlands, I can't teach in a school if I don't have a diploma on education. End of tale. So let us go back the "any job" story.

What did I do first in order to find a job?
     I uploaded my CV to indeed.nl. Why did I do this if I was not looking for a job? Well, I wanted to have the sensation that sooner or later I would receive in my mail an opening for a great and wonderful job that I would adore to apply to. 

How was the process of applying for PostNL? 
     One sunny summer Friday afternoon, and after cleaning the house, I received an email from indeed.nl, which included a job opening at POSTNL. I could apply online and so, I decided to give it a try. What could go wrong? I was not going to get the job anyway, and I could learn a lot from the experience.

How did I end up with a job at PostNL?
Let me explain.
  1. Friday, July 7. I applied online. It took 5 minutes. The multiple choice questions were answered with the help of Google Translate.
  2. Same Friday. Got an SMS saying I would have a phone interview in the next hour. I was ready for a heart attack. (Talking on the phone in Dutch is the most stressing thing ever!) I thought, they will notice I am not ready and this will be a fun experience to tell at parties later!
  3. Still same Friday. I had the phone interview. I spoke to a very polite woman. At one point she asked, "Kun je nummers en adressen lezen?" I think I answered, "Natuurlijk!"
  4. Friday, July 14. I had an appointment for an interview at a PostNL office. I showed up. They offered coffee. I had coffee and waited in their cafeteria. No one came. I went back to ask about my interview. It turned out the interviewer was not working that day, or so I understood because you can't use Google Translate when you are talking to people, at least not when you are there asking for a job. Jammer! I went back home, disappointed. My partner suggested I send an email to POSTNL. I did, using my Google Translate thank goodness. 
  5. Thursday, July 20. New interview. I biked 9 km to the location. We were 3 candidates. We had a presentation about the job and time for questions. Yes, this means we were having a group interview. I tried to nod at the right time and for the right reasons. Lucky me, at the end there were individual interviews. I thought, "Wow! This will really be a good story to tell at parties!"
  6. Monday, July 24. I got an email. I had the job. Ups.
  7. Tuesday, July 25. The contract was in my hands. Isn't the Dutch postal service fast?!
  8. Tuesday, August 15. This, ladies and gentlemen, was my first working day at my first job in The Netherlands. It had been three months since I had arrived. 
What did I learn from this?
     In my case, finding a job was the easy part of moving here. Enjoying my job was something I had to give myself the chance to do. Nevertheless, there are many other things I need to figure out that are way more challenging than this. Don't we all?


Esther Perel and the Shaping of Time

     I have been thinking about how I can show you who I was before moving to The Netherlands for love. I think that if I can accomplish that, then you can better understand the challenges that starting over imply. 

     A typical day for me was:
5:20 a.m.                            Get up and go swimming or running
7:15 a.m.                            Drive to school
7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.         Enjoy the love and attention of my more than 200 hundred students     
7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.         Work on inspiring my students to learn, think, and understand
3:00 p.m.                            Drive to a friend or student's house for lunch
4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.         Give English private lessons
8:00 p.m.                            Go home or have dinner with friends

     In the six months I have lived in The Netherlands, my routine has gone through many changes, and it still does. There were the weeks where all I could think of was cleaning, and others were I wanted to go to every store in the city. Then, days came when it was difficult to get out of bed: It was overwhelming to feel and think who would I become.

     Today, while listening to Esther Perel's podcast which I had been waiting for with much anticipation, I paid attention to a phrase. I actually had to stop what I was doing (making the bed if you want to know). In Episode 1 of "Where Should We Begin?", Esther Perel says,
"Time never exists on its own. It's what happens in it. You have to give it meaning, you have to shape it." 
      After I reflected on this, I realized that it was a perfect way of describing what one needs to do in order to have a meaningful existence.  Is it easy? Sometimes it is. I am a cheerful, optimistic, and fun person (most of the time), and that makes it easier. Other times, one needs to seek professional help, especially after you cry in the mornings, you lose your bike, and your very good and smart friend asks you what are you waiting for. It shouldn't be a taboo, should it? Oh, and I almost forget! My essential oils help too. Bless my sister!  

     As for now, what is a day like? A little bit of everything. I am trying to find balance in my routine. For example, time to be with my partner, learn, swim, work, clean, cook, be a good friend, stay close to my loved ones back in Mexico, study Dutch, listen to music, write, read, teach, knit, feel loved, laugh, get stronger...I guess, again, I need to work on slowing down as well.

Fijn weekend!

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be careful what you wish for because you will get it. Be even more careful what you work for because you will get it even more quickly. 

Colin Cunningham

     Since I first arrived in The Netherlands, people kept talking about how difficult it was to find a job. See, what you used to do in your country of origin might not be an option in your new place. This is usually the case for the partner that leaves everything behind to be with their loved one.

     Some things that worry us:

  • Speaking the language
  • Knowing where to look
  • Fitting in the workplace
  • Getting a decent salary
  • Appropriate schedule
  • Running out of hope

     If you know me, you won't be surprised by what I am about to say. If you don't know me, read carefully. I will explain how I ended up with a job. 

  • Month 1: So happy I don't need a job!
  • Month 2.1: For full integration, I want a job.
  • Month 2.2: I don't have to get a job! 
  • Month 3: I have a job. How the hell did this happen?!
  • Month 4: I am miserable! Should I quit?
  • Month 5: My colleagues notice me. I kind of like my job.
  • Month 6: I love going to work, even in the rain! 

     To sum it up, it was not difficult to find a job. As a matter of fact, it was way too easy, almost a piece of cake. The lesson here is, be careful with what you wish for. You might not be ready for the outcome. On the other hand, are we ever ready? 

     Tot volgende keer!


As Steven Tyler sings: I Make My Own Sunshine

I say hey, let's make a rainbow
Look for a pot of gold
I'll show you how to keep it nice and easy
And even if a cloud comes forming on my love today
There's nothing (nothing), no, nothing that could stand in my way

It don't matter if it's raining
Nothing can phase me
I make my own sunshine
And if

Have you listened to the song "I Make My Own Sunshine"? Let me help you. Watch and listen:

     When one moves abroad, and for love, there are days when it is difficult to keep it all together. I wish I could say, "It's been easy, like a holiday!" Or maybe, "It's as wonderful as a dream come true!" Truth to be told, my friends, is that some days you have to make your own sunshine.

     Now, there are days when someone comes and brightens it. For me, Monday was that day. Why? Because on Monday, Olga Koltsova's article about me was published! And you know what? It was a gift, a much-needed one. The reason being? Olga's article inspired me to share my story. Some might say, Who would want to read you?! (Yes, someone really told me that.) On the other hand, some might enjoy what I have to share. Better, you be the judge on that. I'll leave you with Olga Koltsova's article Take a kǔkske – instead of a koekje*. Before you go and read it, I must add that I feel so grateful towards her for taking the time to understand some of what I have gone through, and also to have the sensibility to notice who I am and what I have to give. To Olga: I wish you a 2018 where you can find different channels for your voice and many stages to present all the stories you have to tell. Olga, make your own sunshine.

   Goede nacht!

*When you read the article, please note that Asly, my Tandem Project partner, is not from Noord Brabant, but from Wijk bij Duurstede in Utrecht.