The Recession and what it means to me.
What the hell is this depressive and finance-strapped situation we've all found ourselves in? The bankers have screwed us, the governments are offering us pointless platitudes and we're floundering about like mud-skippers trying to gasp air to survive. My precious and hard-working husband had the misfortune of having to retire at the ripe young age of 65 after immigrating into Holland 10 years ago - setting our kids up with education and careers and finding adequate accomodation to see us through to retirement just as the recession kicked in to Europe. My husband is, to me and several other people, an amazing paragon - in the aviation world in Africa, at one stage, he was the most experienced aircraft engineer, as it was called then, in Africa. He had no fancy degrees, so pointless and overated in his field and, was living the life he'd always dreamed of. His uncle had spent time in Indonesia with the Dutch airforce just after the war working on aircraft and this inspired him to his future. These amazing aircraft technicians built their own tools to repair the engines and I, working as admin in the reservations department of the national airline, remember sticking sellotape over the name of the airline ticket stamps to conceal where the ticket was issued as we were well under the grip of so called UDI - unilateral declaration of independance (sanctions) and anything from our country was not accepted anywhere in the rest of the world. We lived through a nasty war, losing precious sons and daughters from both sides, surviving day to day only to realise that the future for our children was elsewhere as the usual cruel nation - destroying dictatorship finally took control and yet another African nation was doomed and it's white paltry remaining community left trying to decide whether to go or stay. Well, ten years ago, we took, what we honestly believed, was the owl run and decided to gap it north - to the land of my husband's birth and have sincerely not ever regretted it until now. The "slipping between the cracks" syndrome has severely hit us and after ten exciting and new discovery years, we are left scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.
My husband is so uniquely experienced in his field that he found work here easily and enjoyed a ten year career that survived bankrupt companies, takeovers, corruption and the like without falter. He believed in himself and was brilliant at what he did. An experience I will never forget was when my kids were toddlers was when we went to UK to buy them Xmas gifts one year and on our return had to land in Kano, Nigeria for eight hours. We had sustained an fire alarm and automatically, the fire cylinders are released, so the craft must land to replace them ,or it is unserviceable, The Govt of Nigeria had just sustained a bloodless coup and to every three passengers there was a fezzed, kaftaned AK47 - armed member of whatever army took over at that time present. It was terrorising for us coming from a peaceful democratic African country and we had had to pass around the hat to pay our way out. Our passports were confiscated and a tractor placed in the middle of the runway until payment was made. The first thing my husband did as we excited the aircraft, was to make his way to inspect the engines and offer his capable assistence to the crew and the on - site, resident engineer present. My 14 month old daughter picked up a tummy bug contracted from poultry faeces during this episode and it took doctors 9 months to resolve this problem. On landing at Kano airport, the one thing that struck me as it was daylight was the land was desert with trees. Lined up on the side of the runway were hundreds of jet fighter aircraft that were unserviceable and according to the resident engineer, they managed to crash at least one a week there. The money provided for these aircraft was all aid donated by many countries all over the world including those such as India etc. This was, at that time, one of the richest black African countries in Africa with oil, gold diamonds etc and I found this fact so sad - what about feeding the people?
We came to Holland with no great aspirations but just the ability to work and retire in the comparative safety of a country that wants us and is not intent on destroying us due to the colour of our skin! As ten years is not a long time in terms of pension saving and there is no pension emanating from the land we left after 32 loyal, hardworking years, we are finding life really stressful as is the rest of the world and are left wondering what to do next. One thing though, our kids are safe and have found good, solid jobs and, hopefully, a secure future to look forward to.
We spend our lives challenging waste like electricity, gas and water usage and laugh at the experience we gleaned in an African country riddled with electricity, water and food shortages as well as petrol rationing etc that has stood us in good stead for life under the clouds of recession in Europe! Our marriage is now stronger than it has ever been and we are determined to face each day and the new challenges it brings with the stoic stubborness that made us what we are now and learned in Africa. I have developed a surprising sense of humour and manage to keep my man from depression and ergo prevent the destructive fights and disagreements that sometimes destroy even the strongest of marriages in similar situations. My family have rallied around with constructive advice and together we are going to beat this thing whatever the outcome. Strength to you all!
TO BE CONTINUED.....................!
I, due to a vituperative parent, had a difficult upbringing and have become the eternal hippyish - rebelious, freespirited - liking everyone and trusting or listening to no-one, totally in control of my own destiny - person. I developed, at an early age, the ability to switch off and pretend it was happening to someone else and deal with the psychological consequences later. This may seem wierd to some, but it has enabled me to compartmentalise my problems and deal with the situation with a clear mind. I find this gives me more power over making sensable decisions with an unemotional input and then privately sorting out my feelings afterwards.I have managed to get through tremendous emotional upheaval with this attitude and feel I have come out the other side a stronger person.I deal with the most important problems first and the rest follow in order of urgency which invariably interact with each other and before you know it, I have found myself over the rough patches and surprisingly intact as a human being!
We came to Holland as our crumbling country had no social system at all and the day an old black lady said she could not afford the bus fare to go to collect her social security anymore was enough for us. We noticed, in the eighties, both partners in their 50's having to go back to work due to their pensions not covering even the basics in life and this put up serious red flags for us. Holland being a first world country, has social systems in place and now is the time to bury our pride and avail ourselves of these systems, or at least, see what's out there. I look upon this task as a challenge because if you don't have a ticket in the lottery then you don't have a chance at the jackpot also if the light is out in the tunnel then it's up to you to stride right back down there and turn the damn thing on! I think my biggest dream, after getting the kids on solid ground was to buy a small place with enough garden space to grow a few things, throw the ball for my dog and enjoy a bit of sun in summer before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
TO BE CONTINUED.................!
We, after much in-depth and healthy debate, have decided to take some of our capital and venture into the territory of home-owners (again!) and have decided to invest in a totally different and exciting way of life here in The Netherlands.That is to buy and live in a houseboat. Crazy - totally but after much research into the cheapest way of owning our own home, have discovered that albeit due to the recession, some of these babies are becoming more and more affordable as time goes by in that their prices are dropping surprisingly and they are truly amazingly appointed here in Holland. They usually have a small parcel of land that you either pay a minimal rent for or buy and have all the amenities connected - gas, electricity, water and sewerage etc, so we have been to see quite a few and at the moment are closely following a rather gorgeous ship - style houseboat with enough land required for our needs as well as being situated in the rural, peaceful farmland area up north, close to the German border. This little ship, as it once was, has loads of character, is in pristine condition and has plenty of space for storage as well as being situated on a quiet canal with only six other boats! I will keep you posted as to the progress of this latest project of ours and really hope you will all pray for a positive outcome for us and all others in a similar predicament!
TO BE CONTINUED......................!
Well, now that we had decided to invest in a little houseboat, just perfect for us, we, just before putting in a final offer, had the sense to revisit the boat, to make sure all was well and the decision we had made was the right one for us! Thank the Good Lord! The neighbours, given the task of repairing the roof and maintaining the boat until it was sold, had decided to take their frustration out on the poor thing due to a disagreement over payment for the task and destroy the beautiful ceiling in the main lounge/dining-room section. The guy screwed the roof tiles on with, what I calculated to be, six inch long screws RIGHT THROUGH KNOTTY PINE CEILING, totally destroying it, cracking some of the pine panels totally in half and rendering it unsaleable! We walked out devastated and had to start out all over again, searching for a new place to buy. The desire to invest in a houseboat was still strong, pretty much up until last winter, when we experienced the first heavy snowfall winter for many years. Two or three houseboats sank before householders were able to retrieve their belongings and this was due to the weight of snow on the roof, weighing them down. I also wondered if concrete hulls might crack due to the temperatures dropping so low at this time of the year and this gave us pause for thought over the houseboat idea! We found out that, albeit rarely, you can live permanently in recreation parks in this country, but, as I said this is not common. So, a new concept in living and the hunt started to see what this possible lifestyle was all about!
We first came across wooden, shed-like structures with their own surrounding gardens and situated in beautiful forests or on water areas. These beautifully maintained little homes were lovely but really "jumped-up" sheds with low ceilings and very little storage space inside. Nice, to holiday in but permanent living? - no. I don't think so! Then we upped the price slightly and saw some really nice, permanently liveable bungalows but, I wanted perfection! On water AND with a forest for long walks, fresh air, healthy living etc. As this country has amazingly different life-styles on offer, it didn't take us long to happenstance across our dream home! Modern, 3 bedrooms, seperate kitchen, sky-lights, BIG entertainment patio for barbeques, over-looking a pristine lake (no motorboats so water wildlife galore!) and with a huge forest on our back doorstep! How lucky was that! My husband and I now firmly believe we have many Angels on our shoulders and just today, received the date we take ownership! We noticed this little bungalow, perfect for two people, plenty of storage and cupboard space,as well as an outdoor shed, had been on the market for nearly a year so we started of with a very low offer and arrived at, what the buyer and we both believed to be a fair offer for all concerned. Our offer was accepted after Christmas and, so far, is the best Christmas present ever! We will be moving in when the weather starts warming up and I have, over the years, collected a lot of plants that I've kept in their pots and so, as my son's partner jokingly commented, "so you'll be taking the 'portable garden' with, then?" The property is maintained by the people who own the park and a yearly fee is paid to cover costs but the garden is open and we have a view of manicured lawn to the water's edge and forest right outside the back! There are two restaurants and a launderette in the park grounds as well as a white-sanded lakeshore beach and tennis courts, mini golf, electric waterskiing, bush trails, absailing and a heated swimming pool. Our bungalow is linked in with two others and only two are for permanent residence so we've met the neighbours who also own a small dog and seemed to be of similar age and lovely people. We are situated well away from the activity areas but not remote so we feel very blessed at finding this little home that ticks all the boxes! I will keep you up to date with the move and how we're saving on moving costs etc as the recession still has a firm grip on life at the moment. We feel we've bought low, price-wise as the recession could be bottoming out now but this property will only appreciate in value and be and added asset to be inherited by the kids eventually.
Well, the packing has started in earnest and it's sometimes wonderful and sometimes sad to wade through all your stuff, bringing to the surface old memories! I will take with me all the items I need to be me to move forward and throw out all the stuff holding me back.
I have decided to invest in plastic storage boxes to transport my clothing etc and use them to store precious ornaments etc safely once there. One good tip to save a bit of money is to keep all your junk mail to wrap glasses, ornaments etc, as it's free and such a waste to buy paper that's just going to be thrown away at the end of the move. Experience has taught me that newspaper is the best wrapping for glassware and fragile ornaments as opposed to that thin tissue-like wrapping they usually provide with cardboard house removal boxes. It gives more protection and padding and is generally free! Don't pack durable items in valuable boxes, just carry them and I tend to keep a lot of the original boxes, certain purchases came in which is invaluable when moving again! Saves money to! I must admit, I've managed to throw out a lot of old clothes and shoes, no longer in fashion or wearable and it REALLY is a liberating feeling! It's times like these that you appreciate having all your precious mementos to choose from and really sympathise with poor folk who lose or have lost all their belongings due to a natural disaster like fire or flooding and the like. Must be devastating.
The late, breaking news on our new project is that my son and his partner have offered to pay for and lay, new flooring in our new bungalow. This was such a shock to me that it has only just sunk in now when they have almost finished the task! We were both so blown away at this offer as the current flooring had faded to a much lighter colour due to age but that did not phase me as I was just delighted to have found a lovely little place of our own and was prepared to either cover, with mats or just live with the flooring as was! (minor hiccup) This new development will completely change the aspect of the house and our lives and make it brand new to us as flooring is such a big thing in your main living area and is so important that I'm still reeling at the offer! We chose a rather nice grey oak colour (almost a taupe), which just happened to be on discount, and even the new neighbours popped in, whilst it was being laid, and commented on the fact it made the place look great and we haven't even seen it laid yet! I'm just about finished with the mammoth task of sorting, tossing and packing and many tears have been shed when uncovering old treasures, long forgotten and deciding whether to discard or retain - really difficult but a job that has to be done! My son laid his own floor and that of his best mate's so he's become a bit of an expert at the task and I trust him totally as he did such a good job of his own house!
We have signed and taken ownership of our new future now and I will keep you all up to date on the eventual move, pitfalls, warts and all but right now, I'm going through utter exhaustion which I believe is due to the release of the stress I have carried for the last two years since my hubby's retirement and what this recession had brought to us. I know we're not out of the woods yet but we've turned on our own light at the end of our tunnel and it's beginning to shine brighter for us, every day! I really hope anyone going through what we have, has the courage to do the same thing for themselves and not allow themselves to drown in this overwhelming time we are all being faced with and if so, I wish you the very best and hang in there - there IS a silver lining to every cloud, you just have to look for it and claim it for yourself!
Well Everyone, we've made it at last! When I first laid eyes on this tiny, perfect little "retirement/recession" (R&R) bungalow, I never realised just how it would change our lives, I just knew it was were I wanted to be, where WE needed to be. It just exuded peace, joy and serenity and after just over a month here, that has proved to be so,so right. It is a small community of mixed age/ sex / marital statuses and a few other foreigners thrown in for good measure - just to balance things out perfectly! We're over the initial crazyness of getting our 36 year old marriage and all the co-related paraphernalia into our tiny, new home - binning what is holding me back and keeping what is driving me forward into our new phase (3) of our lives. No-body cares what or who you are here, they just get on with life, helping where they can and being really good human beings. We have made more friends here in the last month than we ever made in before in ten years and there is always a helping hand when you need it as most newcomers usually do until they get to know the ropes and stand on their own two feet. Things like recycling, garden refuse removal and where to go to get supplies (food, wine and beer - necessities for the journey!) etc to survive the turmoil of moving and settling in! I have brought with my beloved plants and when I came to this country, I managed to bring in two tiny cuttings of my most precious plants I had back in Africa. I have not seen this particular plant here and ended up with three of the one flower ( a shlumbergera with a cerise/orange flower!) and a miniature pink schlumbergera. Since I've lived here, I've been unable to grow cuttings that throw the original orange and cerise colour but have ended up with loads of cuttings. Well, they've all started blooming and have come out in the original colour some I'm rather delighted and take that as a good sign! There is no garden refuse removal here but we've just got to know the guy who works on the grounds and he's offered to help remove garden stuff as it has to go off the park and to the local refuse dump - a real education here in Holland as they are so well organised compered to what I'm used to in Africa! He is a Godsend - a true angel and his partner, a gorgeous Dutch girl who has spent time in Canada, told me that this place has spiritual connections and it explained everything for me - why I felt so at home from the beginning! We needed to remove a huge bed of ivy to give space to plant my plants brought with and after being quoted E500 by a rather sweet but ambitious gardener, we did the lot ourselves and our new found friend helped us remove the resulting piles of unwanted ivy (grows wild in European forests) and all my lovely plants have now found their resting place and seem to be happy and doing well! The sunsets here are breathtaking and I've taken many pictures which I will download and show you as they are all so beautiful - There is a God and he is good and don't ever give up as he will step up to the plate and show you they way you just have to be patient and look for him!