Last Week in Europe… #cultureshock #travel #Japan #Europe #Backpacking

Haarlem feels so comfortable and so familiar after three weeks and a bit, that it feels strange to be having to leave in less than six days.  We had always thought it would be amazing to buy an apartment in Amsterdam one day, but now I have to say that Haarlem is much better for us.  We travelled into Amsterdam yesterday for probably the last time before we leave.  It’s so beautiful, especially at night.  There is nothing more I love than to walk around the canals and peer into the perfect “gezellig” homes, with their lovely lighting, exposed wooden beams and little narrow staircases.  

My mind is turning eastwardly these days, thinking about our flight and arrival in Tokyo and wondering what it will be like.  Will it be familiar, like an old home? Or will there be some major culture shock.  I am predicting a bit of culture shock as it’s just so completely different from here.  Here, I can get by with my zero-level Dutch, speaking in English as everyone is near fluent.  In Tokyo I have to rely on my shitty speaking and reading abilities.  I’ve already been studying as a refresher and as a move to improve my Japanese abilities, but it’s not the easiest language to pick up quickly! That being said, I love the language, so it’s a pleasure for me to study it. 

I’m happy we have a room reserved in Tokyo and a place to get our bearings.  It’s within walking distance to my favourite neighbourhood: Shimokitazawa and I’m so looking forward to walking around the crazy bustling jungle. 

I look forward to sharing my photos and experiences here, with all my blogging friends as well as my friends and family from back home. 

During my last week here so far I’ve been soaking it all in in attempt to take a million snapshot memories with my eyes.  No matter how hard I stare at things and for how long, I can’t help but wonder if the feeling I have here will be hard to grasp at once I leave.  And yet, I don’t want to.  I look forward to moving on to new sights and experiences and “here” is not going anywhere.  I can come back to Europe any time (should funds allow) and where I am headed is pretty amazing too:

   Source: flickr.com via VIPsAccess on Pinterest

And did I mention I am so looking forward to Cherry Blossom Season??

Source: Uploaded by user via Myriam on Pinterest

But for now, in these last days here I want to walk around and soak things in, eat olliebollen and pannekoken and bread and cheese and feed the ducks and bask in the sun on a bench alongside the canal and breathe it all in until it becomes part of me.  I’m pretty sure it now is.

A fascinating diary I found online from a soldier in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders during WWII. My grandfather was also in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and he survives today. This brings an intimate perspective to an event I don’t get to hear much about from my grandfather. Since I’m in Holland, I’ve been thinking about him a lot…

Willy's WWII Journal

This blog is based on the World War II journal of William Henry Smith, a Private in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.  Willy’s journal relates a fascinating and compelling story that has all of the elements of a classic literary piece relating how the horrors of the war cause the rapid maturation of a boy from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – all told in simple, straightforward, evocative, first-person prose.  

The postings are a word-for-word copy of his hand-written journal which covers the period from July 21, 1941 to July 7, 1944.  During this period Willy (as you will see he comes to be known), wrote 80 entries into his journal.  Also in the journal were some scraps of what must have been important items to Willy together with some pictures that were all loosely placed in the pages of the journal.  I have added scans of these photos and other items and fit them into the journal narrative where I thought would…

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Bloemendaal An Zee…

The other day we walked from our place in Haarlem to Bloemendaal An Zee, (aka-the beach).  We had heard that there is a huge national park next to the ocean that is covered in dunes.  It was very windy and cold but one of the rare non-rainy days lately, so we were glad to get to check it out.  The dunes were covered in grass and scrub and reminded me a lot of Saskatchewan, actually.