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Back in Hilversum

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve arrived in Hilversum, my hometown – the place where I grew up until I reached the age of 10. I’ve always come back about three or four times per year to see my dad.

But this time I’m back for a little bit. It feels like the first time in a long time that I don’t have a return ticket yet. Partly because I’m not sure where to “return” to. I currently have my residency in St. Barths but I don’t really plan on living there. It’s a great and beautiful place, and I’m happy my mom lives there because it means I can come back there any time. But I want to find a place to call my own. And before I do that I want to see some more of the world – travel to New Zealand, Australia, Patagonia, Bolivia, India, to name just a few locations off of my lengthy list.

The other reason as to why I don’t have a return ticket yet is because I don’t know what the future holds regarding my dad’s timeline. Which at the moment isn’t super great. In September he got a nine-month diagnosis, and it feels like that is indeed the maximum time left. If not less.

I know that I want to travel the last third of this year, but a lot of my personal ideas currently depend on how the world moves under COVID-19 and what will become possibile. I’m going to stay optimistic and try to, by the end of the year, have travelled to New Zealand and Australia. But for now Hilversum, The Netherlands, will be home, just like it was 12 years ago.

Taking a walk with my sister (left) and dad in the heathland of Hilversum.

This first week back in The Netherlands has been really great; even while I’m at home almost all the time. The whole week I have enjoyed beautiful weather – blue skies and at least 20ºC everyday, which feels much warmer when soaking up the sun. Luckily my dad has a little balcony with three chairs (one for each of us), and when we need a work break we take advantage of the space outside. Occasionally, my dad will pass by the bio to-go coffee place called Koffie en Jij while my sister and I will prepare (read: cut) a piece of apple pie, and we enjoy our own little “café” moment outside. During coffee time, we mainly sit on the bench in front of our house, watching as people pass by.

It feels strange. I know so many countries, like Italy and Spain that are on full lockdown, but here they enjoy a “smart-lockdown” or so that’s what they call it. But it feels too relaxed. There are so many people walking around the city center, going here, going there, visiting the still-open stores. I observe this from the bench in front of my dad’s house, or from the living room window; his house is right in the city center. I feel somewhat hypocritical, as I do enjoy some daily fresh air and sunshine from the bench outside. But I also know I have zero contact with anyone else. Either way, I do believe people need some outside air to stay sane.

Very rarely, we take a walk on the Hei, a heathland nearby our house. Here we can stretch the legs some more and keep a more-than-safe distance from any other person also going for a walk.

Besides enjoying occasional walks and a lot of sunshine, my days have been spent working inside on both work-related things and personal things. The first two days getting up was tough and it took me a bit to start up with my workday. Monday morning when the alarm went off at 07:45AM and my sister easily hopped out of bed, I couldn’t help but fall asleep again. At 9AM she came to check on me and I decided I really should get up if I were to avoid being jet-lagged for too long. After crawling out of bed I somehow managed to put on my running clothes, and tried to kickstart the rest of my morning in an active way.

Struggling to get out of bed… the covers are so cozy!

The rest of my Monday I decided to take the day off and enjoy some me-time. Even after my run I didn’t feel like doing anything, so I did exactly that – nothing. Just some sitting around on the balcony, drinking tea, and when I felt like it I would read or write a bit.

Tuesday morning went somewhat similar to Monday, except that I was able to crawl out of bed by 8AM, followed by a jog. Once dressed and ready, I got into work mode. I’ve been fortunate to not have my workday compromised due to the pandemic, as a laptop and reliable internet are the most necessary aspects of my job. For my sister, it is the same, and it’s been motivating to have her work in front of me.

Working at the dinner table, which serves as our office during the day. Occasionally we are tempted by the sunshine on our balcony visible in the background.

The rest of the week passed by smoothly, as it was a mix of sitting at our inside office, enjoying sun on the balcony, a coffee break, and some exercise.

By the time it was Saturday, we decided to go visit my other sister in the south of the Netherlands. We talked it over and felt this was okay, as we wouldn’t be going anywhere outside; it’d be just us, and we’d be staying in their house. We both hadn’t really had any contact with the outside world either, besides for groceries.

We spend the day enjoying the sun in their backyard, drinking rosé and having a barbecue. The afternoon filled itself with good conversations, some egg-searching, and just enjoying each other’s presence. I also got to meet the new family member, my sister’s 2-month-old baby girl (not pictured due to privacy).

Sunday morning I woke up to my dad having prepared a tasty-looking Easter breakfast. We played “eitje-tik” a typical dutch game where one person gets to hit their hard-boiled egg against that of another. Whoever’s egg doesn’t crack wins. My dad added a somewhat forgotten traditional twist to the game:

After breakfast we enjoyed some downtime before heading to Blaricum, where we walked on the Hei. After a nice moment soaking in sunshine, we headed back home and sat on our usual bench enjoying our to-go coffee and apple pie, enjoying the silence of an empty square on a Sunday afternoon.

The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing. Reading a bit in the sun, following along to some yoga videos (Yoga with Adriene), and doing some writing. My dad made one of his all-time favourite meals (which is normally a Christmas tradition but who cares?!): K’nien in ‘t zuur – which translates to “rabbit in the sour”. It’s a dish that needs a couple of days of preparation, as it has to soak in the sour liquid for about 24 hours before you can cook it. This was accompanied by white asparagus, covered in a special sauce and ham (you can add a hard-boiled egg too but we forgot). I get hungry just thinking about it again.

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