Groningen Christmas Boats & Markets

Hey peeps,

Another exam season, another wildly late post. What’s it been, almost a month now? How’s life treating you beautiful people?

It’s been cold here. Not the teeth-numbing, bone-chilling cold that we often get up in Canada. This is more of a windy, wet cold. It rains every single day here in the Netherlands at this time of year. I don’t mind it anymore, though it took some getting used to. Where a ‘nice day out’ used to mean sunshine and a few fluffy white clouds, now it means a bit of mist and only light rain, no hail. It’s lovely to walk in, and Will doesn’t get sunburned every time we step outside, so that’s a plus! I’m starting to love the misty days. I drink orange juice every morning because it tastes like sunshine and keeps me cheerful. I like to drink it while watching the sun rise through the haze at 8:30am.

The church bells have taken to playing Christmas carols at all hours of the day. It’s a bit fairy-tale-esque, somehow. The streets are crowded full of shoppers on bikes, this being one of the biggest cities in the northern part of the Netherlands. It’s cold enough now that they’re all bundled up properly, kids in fat little jumpsuits balanced on bikes, two or three at a time. It actually snowed for a few days. The man at the corner who always plays the piano for change lugged his piano inside the nearby Italian restaurant and now plays there every evening instead. These simple things feel so peaceful.

The Christmas boats arrived for the weekend! We should have Christmas boats everywhere in the world, I think. These ones are old and barrel shaped, but in perfect sea-worthy condition. They’re so round, they don’t look like they belong on the wild Atlantic. Maybe they’re built that way to avoid easily capsizing? I suspect they don’t have much in the way of a keel, since they can sail right into the shallow waters of the canals with ease. Now they’ve lined one major canal a few steps from my front door and are decked out in strings of lights, with the captains waiting to give tours and share drinks with passerby. A merry little Christmas market popped up along the canal as well, with little glowing booths full of handmade gifts for sale. I bought a 4 euro bratwurst and wandered the canal in awe, taking in the lights and the smells of cinnamon and smoked meat and a hint of the sea brought in by the massive sailboats. Amazing.

My little home is cozy this time of year. I found a denim rug to keep the floor warm and a 5 euro Christmas tree for my table. Tomorrow I’ll finish up my last exam and then it’s off to Germany to spend the holidays with Will’s family. Christmas markets, here I come!

 

Trigger warning: suicide, war, ugly stuff & crummy thoughts

But despite all the beauty and Christmas joy and festivity around me, I’ve been feeling depressed as heck lately. I’m torn between my responsibility as a world citizen to stay informed and this feeling of overwhelmed anxiety. I’ve had Cambodia on my mind for some reason. And death. And terrible governments. There’s video footage of Nazi’s marching in the square around the corner from my apartment and there’s video footage of modern-day slavery in Africa. Genocide and government crime on all continents. It’s been hard for me to see the good in the world when there’s so much overwhelming evil and heartbreak as well. It’s almost harder to look at the peaceful, homely state of the Netherlands, knowing that others are hurting.

I’ve been taking on my friends’ problems and pain, as well as staying aware of our history and our current state. Sometimes it feels like it’s too much to bear and I end up laying awake at night thinking about the people I care about and the people I’ll never meet. A year ago, right after Christmas, a complete stranger committed suicide in front of me and he’s been haunting me lately. In fact, he’s probably the root source of all these other thoughts. I’m actively trying to seek out actions of hope in the world, but it can be hard, can’t it? I wish I could save people. I feel like I’m mourning humanity, though it sounds dramatic to say it out loud.

But still. I’m looking forward to Christmas, to being with family, and to taking a bit of a break from it all. Traveling, baking, music, and friends make me feel that much better about the world. There will always be evil out there, but there will also always be good. That’s what this holiday season feels like.

 

2 Replies to “Groningen Christmas Boats & Markets”

  1. Many years ago a Christmas spent whilst living in India ruined me – I sobbed. They were tears for the children without parents. Tears for the parents without means to look after their children. Tears for the futility of such a huge country with so many needs that went unknown and unmet. But the worst tears, the ones that stung my eyes sore and filled my heart with deep cold sorrow, they were the tears about me.

    All these years later I have made a bit of peace with myself about those really painful tears – the ones that are for me, of me. I have reconciled what I can do for the world, what I can change, what I can endure. It was no fun to get there, but there I finally am. At least for now.

    Maybe ignorance is bliss, but not for me. I want to look at the injustice, the misery, the pain. I want to know it. Then I can really celebrate and find joy in the good stuff.

    Open your heart to love you know. Feel the power of the kindness of strangers. Rejoice in the good.

    Read some Dickens. Listen to some Dylan/Cohen.

    Look at the wondrous things people make and do.

    Find the good.

    Have a wonderful Christmas x

    1. This is amazing. Thank you! Perhaps it’s a learning curve that I should be going through. I’ll roll with it.

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