A trip filled with memories and gratitude.

You might remember I went on a long-anticipated holiday to the Netherlands to spend time with family and friends from my previous blog. And the journey in early September was quite the adventure already, yet nothing compared to my trip back home to Dominica. I will get to that later, though. Now that I am back home, I look back on a trip filled with memories and gratitude.

Warning upfront before you continue reading. It is a longer read than usual, and lots of food-related pictures in this Blog:0).

My awesome wheels
My awesome wheels
A walk on the moors with my friend
A walk on the moors with my friend
My Dutch guilty pleasure, 'broodje kroket'.
My Dutch guilty pleasure, ‘broodje kroket’.

Glass fusing and a singing lesson.

Too many memories to share, so I will randomly name some. The glass fusing workshop is in my top 3. During the workshop, I made a glass bowl with the logo of the Breadfruit House in the center. Even though I have not seen the end product yet, I know it will look so beautiful in my home. As many of you know, through my Breadfruit House Dominica Foundation, I work with children, and in our program, we use creativity to empower them. As a young girl, maybe 7 years old, I was sent home by a nun who conducted the children’s choir. She told me you better go home because you cannot sing. That stuck with me; her words had convinced me I could not sing. I mean, I sing in my car, and in the shower, when I am sure nobody listens.

I needed more confidence to sing with the children, as singing is an easy way to feel happy and be in the moment. In the Netherlands, I had the pleasure of getting a singing lesson from Nina Perumal from Intune vocal coaching. And it was fun, insightful, and above all, I now know I can sing, and I don’t have to feel embarrassed anymore. Words are so powerful, in general, but especially while working with children.

Marieke making a glass object
Working on the glass bowl with the logo.
A wooden deck in the sun
The sunny deck of my tiny house.
Specific Dutch treat, a cream filled bun
Another really nice Dutch treat ‘pudding broodjes’

Live is better with family and friends.

Moving to another country means you leave family and friends behind and only get to meet them now and then. I packed enough sunshine and warm temperatures to have at least four weeks of nice weather. Because of that, I  enjoyed lunch and dinner outside multiple times. Which is not always evident in the Netherlands. Hence the many food pictures.

I am grateful for the friends who invited me to stay with them, picked me up from the airport, and dropped me off at the hotel before returning home. I also appreciate the compliments I received that my life in Dominica suits me well, and I look relaxed and happy. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear that. 

I had lunch with some classmates from primary school, spent a day with a new friend, went shopping with one of my cousins, and visited others. I had dinner with family, and afterward, we looked at old family pictures; that was so much fun. It all added to my trip, filled with memories and gratitude.

Sadnwich with goat cheese
Goat cheese, bacon, walnuts and honey. Need I say more?
Picture of Marieke with a swollen cheek
When you wake up like this……
2 hardcover children's books
While shopping could not resist these.

Random acts of kindness.

More and more, I find myself noticing random acts of kindness. And all these, what I call little miracles, made it a trip filled with memories and gratitude.

These are some of those acts, in no particular order. A lovely walk on the moors with a long-time friend; having coffee and Dutch apple pie outside in the sun; an unexpected pedicure; an impromptu full body massage from a very dear friend; eating a Dutch treat called ‘pudding broodjes’ with that same friend.

A lady at the security check in London whispering to me, ‘do you know you are wearing your top insight out? A plug borrowed to keep my phone charged at the airport; an incredible upgrade on my rental car; a delightful Zoom call with a friend because I could not visit her.

And last but not least, my charming tiny house with a great sunny deck. It may not seem much, to me, it makes a difference every day. And kindness seems to multiply the more you notice it.

Tiny Dutch pancakes
More Dutch goodies, poffertjes!
A plug with a phone charger cable
This borrowed plug saved me from falling apart.
The intriguing painting in my dentist' waiting room.
The intriguing painting in my dentist’ waiting room.

How one visit to my dentist turned into many more.

Every time I am in the Netherlands, I make an appointment to have my eyes checked and see my dentist. Those two are usually the first appointments I make. My eye appointment was the first one, and it went well. My eye pressure turned out to be perfect; I always have that checked as my dad suffered from it. You won’t feel anything, but you might lose your eyesight.

And then it was time to see the dentist. I thought my crown was loosening for some time, but that wasn’t the case when he checked it. He did find a significant bump on my jaw, one that I had not noticed. To make sure what it was, he took an X-ray, which confirmed his suspicion of an infection. With no time to lose, he started cleaning the root canals.

I was shocked when I looked in the mirror.

One day I woke up with a big swollen cheek because the infection tried to find a way out through my jaw. Even though I did not check, I am sure I had a fever for two days because I was shivering heavily, and all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and sleep.With great care and patience, my dentist cleaned the root canals every single day, without damaging the crown. He also opened up my jaw in order to get the infection out.

He did his utmost to get me in shape to travel back to Dominica, and with success. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that. My last visit was close to 2 hours in the chair, and when I left,  I was travel-ready. 

Yellow in-transit wristband
In transit in Barbados.
Some snacks
The kind snacks to prevent me from fainting.
View of the ocean from the table
Breakfast with a view and the sound of crashing waves.

Almost time to go back home to Dominica. 

With my traveling date coming closer, I started to make the necessary arrangements. I booked an appointment for a PCR test, and paid online for my antigen test upon arrival in Dominica. I began to pack, as I always over-pack regarding the accepted weight.

On my last evening, my family invited me to a traditional Dutch dish for dinner. And all of a sudden, it was the day of my PCR test and returning my rental car. My friend picked me up, and together we drove to Amsterdam. I had booked a hotel, as my flight left early the next day. Upon arrival, we had lunch together, and I checked in when the room was ready.

We just chilled and talked for a while, and I was interviewed for a Dutch online magazine. For the link to the interview, which is in Dutch, please click here. And by then, it was time to have dinner at the Cockpit restaurant. We had such a lovely time, the food was excellent, the view amazing, and we always have fun together. Even though saying goodbye is never easy, spending time together definitely added to my trip filled with memories and gratitude.

The day of my trip.

My negative result came in at 11.45 pm. That was the time I could start all the paperwork I needed to travel. With the help of friends in Dominica, the time difference was a blessing; I could upload everything. I emailed the reception desk to assist with printing everything the following day.

I got up at 4.30 am because my taxi would pick me up at 5.45 am to be at the customs desk at 6 am to arrange my VAT refund. The check-in was next. The line looked endless, no online check-in was allowed, as the airline checked everyone’s papers before allowing them on the board.

Finally on my way home.

The flight went smoothly, and once in London, I had over 3 hours to change flights. Because I had arranged airport assistance, I reported to their desk. I had planned to do some shopping, so I asked if they could get me through security earlier. I also needed to eat something, as I had skipped breakfast altogether. This lady was so kind; while arranging everything, she brought me some snacks. In her words, she did not want me to faint while I was waiting.

I got my time to shop a little and have a sandwich and something to drink. As a bonus, I got to ride in some awesome cart, all the way through the catacombs of Heathrow airport. Sadly, while waiting for the flight to Barbados, it became apparent our flight was delayed.

In the end, for close to 1,5 hours. We only had 2 hours in Barbados to change planes, so I did not expect us to make it. Even though the British Airways crew told us they would wait for us. Yet, I decided not to worry and enjoy my very comfortable seat for the next eight or so hours.

In the catacombs of Heathrow airport
The catacombs @ Heathrow airport.
Marieke with face mask on an airplane
On my way to Barbados.
Waiting area at Barbados airport
Dominica, almost home!

When things go wrong, just appreciate what went right.

After excellent food, several movies, and some shut-eye, we started to approach Barbados, and I began to feel a little less sure things would work out. Once on the ground, there was no wheelchair, even though both airlines had promised there would be one.

The agent on the ground told the ‘Dominica’ group, 5 of us in total, to wait. Eventually, she told us to enter the building and try and get through as quickly as possible. I managed to skip the line and got the anticipated yellow ‘in transit’ wrist band. Once I arrived at the luggage belt, it took at least 45 minutes before our suitcases arrived. By that time, we knew we had missed the flight and would be spending the night in a hotel, all expenses paid.

The hotel was old but acceptable. The food, the view, and the bed were great. I enjoyed my dinner and breakfast the following day while hearing waves crashing in the distance. The bus driver picked us up at 8 am for the 11 am flight. To my utter despair, I was the only one in the group that did not get rebooked.

Totally defeated for a little while.

I felt like crying, and the lady from the airline did not offer any help whatsoever. I took all my luggage and just sat down, seeing the others walk to catch the flight. I felt defeated for a while and needed time think about what to do.

I had managed to borrow a plug from someone to keep my phones charged. And suddenly, I thought of someone in Barbados who works as a travel agent. I called her and asked her to book me a flight to Dominica. The departure time was 5.30 pm, the same as the day before. It was only 9.30 am, so I had 8 hours to spend at the airport, with all my luggage. I planted myself in a spot where I could feel the breeze. A few hours later, I started to feel hungry and wasn’t sure what to do. I mean two suitcases, a backpack, and my handbag; I had no idea how to go and buy food somewhere.

How food can make everything better.

All of a sudden I remembered a former coworker who lives in Barbados, so I contacted him and asked him could he please purchase and bring me lunch. And he did; I was so grateful, and while I was eating, we caught up. It was nice to have company for a while. Eventually, it was time to check-in, go through security, and onward to the gate. Trust me; I made sure I was on the flight, wheelchair or not.

After a short touchdown in St. Lucia, we finally landed in Dominica. When I was good to go with a negative antigen test, I was the last person to pick up my suitcases. My taxi was there to drive me home safely. He was even  kind enough to hook up my gas cylinder again

All in all, a trip filled with memories and gratitude. I am happy to be back home,

Signature Marieke

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