I guess to some degree, it comes as no surprise that we have overstayed our welcome with my in-laws. How long did it last? 20 days? I kinda knew this would happen, when you are stuck in a house with 4 adults and 2 kids, and two of those adults are used to being left to their own devices, no interruptions, no changes in routine, its going to get stressful for someone, and so it has, so in the most awkward conversation on earth, akin to one I have had only once before in my life when I was 19, our family have decided to find paid living quarters somewhere else in this tiny Dutch town, so that we salvage whats left of our dignity and stay sane together as a family.
So now we have bought a car, a small, second hand that was owned by someones grandmother, with low mileage on it, it will do. And come the 5th day of January we will move into some sort of holiday home on the banks of a river, or lake, I am not sure, the pictures make it look fantastic, and hope to make an honest go of feeling at home for the few months before we get the boat, fix it up and then say our goodbyes to these here lands held captive by dykes!
In order to ensure we have the right to stay here, and more so that I have the right to come back here once I return from Hong Kong, we have had to register ourselves as residents in Holland. The problem is that although I am a Japanese citizen and enjoy certain privlileges such as not having to take an exam if I were to emigrate to Holland, as a visitor who doesn't need a visa, I get only 90 days of visa free status. This applies to the whole of Europe then, and so if we plan to sail Europe, I am going to need more than just 90 days. The other issue is also for me leaving Holland to return to Hong Kong in a time of Covid19. Not only is it going to be a shitfight to get into Hong Kong, a battle I have half won purely by being a permanent resident of Hong Kong and hence the only kind of accepted traveler into the country, its likely going to be a shitfight for me to get back into Holland unless I have some sort of paperwork proving I have rights to live here in Holland.
So today, we registered our family at the local City Hall. The only bummer about that decision is that home schooling is illegal in Holland. So until we can be sure that we check ourselves out of Holland, we will need to send our kids to an actual brick and mortar Dutch school where they will receive all instructions in Dutch!
That is correct, my sons who are 7.5 and 9 years old respectively and who have not spoken Dutch since they were babbling 2 year olds, are going to have to go to a local school, learn everything from Science to Mathematics in Dutch! That should be a fun experience! My husband says its no big deal, after all, he did it when he was 13 when his family moved him back to Holland from Australia, and his sisters did it too when they were 9 and returning from Australia after having only spoken English up to that point...and yet, I am scared to death about the shock my sons are going to have.
The one hope I do have is that after 6 months of immersion, my boys will finally speak fluent Dutch and that will be a beautiful thing for my husband, even if may end up being a lonely experience for me. I know my husband misses being able to speak his language, but its not the most important thing in his universe. I grew up speaking Japanese, but then I went to boarding school and I forgot it all. Well, I didn't forget it ALL, but I certainly lost my motivation to communicate in Japanese, so every time my mother spoke to me in Japanese, I would respond in English. I think to this day, I still do that. The only time I speak Japanese with my mother is when we are actively excluding someone from a conversation, like a rude stranger or some such.
I can comprehend Dutch, for the most part, much the same way I can comprehend Cantonese, its all situational, I can't watch the news and know for sure what the talking head is saying, but I could get a pretty decent grip of the basics of what is being said. When I read Dutch, that is much easier for me to comprehend, much the same that reading Spanish or French is easy to comprehend. I have studied so many languages in the past, and yet I am the master of none.
Anyway, the reason I am writing today is because one comment I got was egging me on into writing more, and technically I really ought to write more, its so therapeutic, it beats trying to find someplace I can buy weed in a time of Covid-19 in a country where its legal but its all been shut down with the lockdown! Writing is so much more relaxing, wouldn't you say?
There is one thing I am not sure I mentioned prior, that we brought our cats with us to Holland. They, Mittens & Meow Meow, flew to Holland with us on the same flight, albeit in cargo. They have been here at my in-laws place with us these past 20 days, but today we dropped them off at my husbands Aunts home for the time being as it was no longer feasible to keep them in this house, and even once we move to our temporary holiday home by the water, its unlikely we will be permitted to keep pets. So for now, they are in good hands until we are ready to set sail, at which point we will take them on board with us.
For now they are with my husbands Aunt who has two old cats and a nearly blind old dog. She's a lovely woman who lives on a large canal boat, and the cats, much to my surprise, settled right into her place without any anxiety or hiding behind standing furniture or book cases! So strange! I guess they must have felt the calm in that space. My son started to cry when we were leaving her home, even though she was reassuring him that we can come visit anytime and that this was only a temporary arrangement until we could leave to sail around the world with the cats, still, he's only nine, and he's so attached to the cats. Poor guy, but hey, he will be happy when he sees them again later this week, no doubt.
Holland is in strict lockdown, so we are just lucky we were able to visit her being as we are 2 adults and somehow "kids don't count"! It is strange here, the rate of infection is through the roof and its likely because they have rules like, "kids below 13 don't need to wear masks" when we are kinda in awe that they don't know that those are the super spreaders! I mean, if kids are out there carrying the virus around without masks, what the hell kind of chance has grandma got to protect herself from those walking petridishes?
We are ensuring our kids keep their masks on. None of that will be happening for us. Complete and utter nonsense, honestly. Even for my sister-in-law who recently lost her sense of smell and taste, eventually getting tested and being confirmed with Covid-19, the national health service told her to stay home for a week and that as long as she didn't have any symptoms, she could straight away head on out there as if nothing happened! And you wonder why Hong Kong has a 21 day quarantine policy upon arrival, even after one tests negative for Covid-19 on arrival, then negative again on day 10, and then negative again on day 19! Am I crazy to think that they aren't handling this well at all? And I am certainly not crazy to think Hong Kong is also over the top with the 21 days! Personally I think they are doing this forced quarantine in a Hotel you need to pay for, all to help boost the hotels income! Some of the room rates for the approved hotels were absolutely ridiculously high!
Its going to cost me nearly USD2000 for this horrible prison stay, and I have yet to figure out how I will get to eat or if anyone will actually clean my room! I am dreading the whole prospect and I hope against hope that the 21 days will be reduced to 14 days by the time I actually hop on that flight.
No point worrying about this, all I know is that once I return to Holland after closing the shop in March, my husband and my father-in-law will head to Sweden and they will sail the boat to Holland. That will be the point at which they begin working together on the boat and then we hope to meet up with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) that will be coming this way from Plymouth, so that to some degree we feel that we will have safety in numbers. That should be somewhere early June of 2021, so for me, its just a matter of waiting until then.
Time...give me patience.
We arrived in Holland nearly 20 days ago. I have been managing what little I can for the team, remotely. I have been fortunate enough that my team is more than capable and that I have trained them well enough to manage the day to day operations without my constant presence to reassure them. They know this is a necessity, as my family had to relocate, they also know I will come back for the final month of our lease, to tie up all the loose ends before we hand over the shop to the landlord.
Its about a month or so before I get back on a flight to Hong Kong, and much to my dismay I have found that the government has upped the quarantine period to 21 days. This will mean 21 days that I sit in one room in a hotel, without being permitted to leave! I have been struggling to deal with the anxiety already creeping in purely from me thinking about being trapped in a room for 21 days.
How am I going to cope? How will I keep myself from going nuts? I mean, lets face it, Netflix ran out of anything good to watch after the first 4 months of the pandemic, and we are heading up to a year now! I know, these are completely minor first world complaints, but I am seriously worried I will get extremely panicked being stuck alone for 21 days without any change of scenery!
Anyway, its because of the 21 day quarantine that I have had to return to Hong Kong earlier than I had originally planned. There are so many issues with coming back, not the least of which is that Cathay only has one singular flight to Hong Kong from Amsterdam a week! Used to be one flight a day! Now its one a week.
This Covid19 pandemic has just been the ultimate spanking for everyone, hasn't it? Not just my business, but my family, our life, our security. Oh well. Can't go whining about stuff I can't change, all we can do is look to the future.
I feel optimistic about the future, I just wish it would get here sooner! So many things I want to get out of the way and so many things I have no clue how we will cope with, and yet, its just a matter of time and us being able to handle ourselves through the years of pandemic ahead of us.
What is the deal with the vaccine? If we got it, would travel become easier? If we got it, how long does it remain effective? So many questions and as yet, no one has any concrete answers.
My mother-in-law has been slated to be one of the first few to receive the vaccine as she is front line staff, working in a care facility for elderly patients with AD (Alzheimer's disease), she is also in a high risk category as she has MS. So although we are waiting for her to be able to get protected from Covid-19, we are also anxious about the widely discussed side effects and also about the efficacy of the vaccine, not to mention that we have no idea what the prognosis is in the long term. She has had allergic reactions to the common flu vaccine in the past, so we are concerned about how it will go with this vaccine. On top of that, many at her work are becoming concerned and having second thoughts on whether or not they will get the vaccine because they are unsure of the safety aspect of the vaccine.
So do I want to get vaccinated? No. I have never been one for the flu vaccine either. I am not an anti-vaccination nitwit, as I have mentioned previously, I have been vaccinated in my youth for all childhood diseases and I never got a single one, so my immune system actually received the vaccinations well and protected me. My children are all up to date on their vaccines too. The only issue I have is that this vaccine has been rushed to production and I honestly am no expert, but I wouldn't be willing to take it except if it made my life easier from a travel standpoint.
As we have seen time and again, many sailing families have ended up stranded off shore as countries refuse to allow them to set foot on land in a time of Covid-19 fear. Its understandable, but its also of great concern that we don't end up experiencing the same, unable to restock on supplies or being quarantined at sea.
We have bought a boat, a second hand sailing vessel, in Sweden, and we need to wait until the end of winter and the beginning of spring before we can get the boat from the yard there and into the water for all the final checks to ensure its ready for voyage through Sweden and Norway down to Holland. We have chosen this route because its likely the safer bet than sailing down to Holland via the North Sea, which will be rough and unforgiving at that time of the year.
I say "we" but really when it comes to the pick up of the boat and the subsequent sail down to Holland, I will be absent from the journey, it will be my husband, my father-in-law and some random third person they hope to join them, who will make the 7-10 day journey back, bringing our mono hull to Holland.
We have decided to name the vessel a Japanese name, Kokoro.
It was a tough decision, mainly one because we had initially thought we would name the vessel, "Confusion" after the shop and to just keep that dream alive, but after my first week in Holland, and a minor hiccup of my sister having a bit of a breakdown on the other side of the world, I came to the conclusion that the meaning of the name runs deeper than just two Spanish words pushed together and I didn't want that feeling following us around into the future.
Its a long story, maybe one I can go into at some point in the future, but for now, what I can share is that our boat will be named Kokoro. Kokoro is a hard term to translate, but it essentially means "heart, mind, spirit", its a very Japanese concept of being. It looks good in Kanji (Chinese alphabet) as well as Katakana (Japanese alphabet), so much as Confusion has a place in our history, we will not be naming the boat the same.
Our sailing vessel is a 52 foot yacht, a custom build from the 90's that has already done a few ocean crossings. Its a sturdy vessel with fully wood interior, 5 cabins and once we are done with fixing her up, will be kitted out with solar, lithium batteries big enough to run an air conditioning unit on, and with a water maker to make water that is drinkable, from the ocean around us.
Come summer of 2021, we will set sail to the Mediterranean and then sail around the Med for 2 years, home schooling our kids, creating video content about the world we see and our life lesson of sustainable living that we hope to share with others, as well as cooking videos that are creative and plant based, from our journey to farmers markets every port we call into.
But first, I have to come back to Hong Kong, quarantine for 21 days alone in some hotel room, then I have to get down to clearing out all the excess stock and equipment from the shop, one day at a time, one piece at a time, before we go through the process of breaking the shop back down to what they call "bare shell condition" which means no plaster on the walls, no furniture, no built in cupboards, no toilet bowl or doors, nothing...
Feels nuts to think that in just a few months, our little piece of home will be reduced to nothing but rubble and dust.
And so the story goes, maybe one day I can open another Confusion in the Netherlands...
I would like that very much.
But first...I want to travel the world, show my sons the beauty all around them before its too late.
Wishing you all well in the year ahead. And see you all soon.
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.