Happy New Year from The Netherlands!

I'll probably butcher this - but to you and yours, dear readers:

Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar van Nederland!

Today is Day II of my dutch expat experience.

My adventures in Europe began a week early...the husband has job-related training in Germany, so I'll begin the new year blogging from Deutschland.

I touched down in Rotterdam Saturday morning after a 7 hour nonstop from Dulles (IAD).

It was quite the adventure bringing my dachshund Oskar van der Whee along for the ride. Let's just say he was NOT thrilled with turbulence, fellow passengers crying, or our beef dinner selection.

Here's my creative problem solving, sanity-saving travel tip for those of you flying with dogs small enough to be brought on board as 'carry on' luggage: bring a familiar blanket and if your pet has anxiety issues on the plane, take brief break periods in the restroom, where you can give the pet 'stretch' breaks.

I won't say how long we spent in the restroom (ok, at LEAST half of the 7 hour flight) - but if it saves your fellow passengers from hours of continuous howling it's worth camping out in there.

I'd heard sometimes flight attendants will let you remove your pet from the carryon bag IF the flight is relatively empty (there wasn't a spare seat on our plane) once the lights are turned out; however, our flight attendants insisted Oskar not only stay in his carrier, but that his head be zipped in at all times.

Although not ideal, with a bit of distance (and time to forget the flight) I can say this was eminently reasonable as we had a seatmate from Georgia (former USSR), several toddler-aged children onboard, and the flight was packed - safety first!

Also, swallow any spare modicum of pride and bring doggie diapers and a spare change of clothes (at least one). Hope I don't have to explain the reasoning behind that one...

As for my new home country...

From what I've seen thus far (on foot and via auto) Rotterdam is a cosmopolitan city with wonderful architecture and amenities...the metro system is clean, safe, and efficient. At gas stations along the highways you can buy chocolate that beats Godiva and some of the most beautiful flower arrangements I've ever seen for under 10USD.

It's also extremely dog-friendly...I've seen well-behaved canine companions on the metro, in shops, supermarkets-all about town.

Our canal-side neighborhood of Delfshaven is picturesque (this B&B is right up the canal), with some older homes dating from the 17th century (including ours, which was once a blacksmiths shop), a historic windmill at the end of our haven, galleries, shoppettes, and small 'creative services' businesses (architects, decorators, antiques shops, etc).

I've begun a crash-course in Dutch, a beautiful language that melds some of the gutteral germanic sounds and some more fluent hooting long vowels. It is engaging to learn and a nice change from English/Spanish used in our system.

The people are warm, friendly, and extremely understanding of our linguistic limitations.

I've been grocery shopping, used public transit, shopped for home electronics, and eaten at a wonderful restaurant. The Dutch speak (for the most part) fluent English...as one friend who has lived in Zuid-Holland for a year puts it, "their English will always be better than your Dutch."

New Year's Eve is a holiday for many Dutch residents, who are spending time with their families, out shopping, or preparing for tonight's festivities.

Many of my new neighbors are already celebrating New Year's with fireworks that, from the sound of them, rival a 21-gun salute.

To those of you working this holiday, may the New Year bring health and happiness for you (and your patients and customers) - more from Nederlands in 2008!

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