Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Patan: A lesson in Buddhism

** In light of everything going on in Nepal, I have decided to post some of my recaps to remember the beautiful country and think about all the history and lives destroyed in past days. Many of the beautiful landmarks and historical sites in this post have crumbled into rubble **

With my program in Nepal we went on a tour of Patan, a small city center outside Kathmandu that is known for it's buddhism and temples.

Buddhism has been extremely alluring to me as a religious practice. The lessons in Buddhism we learned were too great to explain just here. But a few choice lessons need to be expressed.

People who are depressed live in the past. People who are anxious live in the future. And people living in the present are at peace. 

The first skill in Buddhism is giving because emptiness in knowledge. 

Peacocks are seen on many Buddhist statues because peacocks take negative things away and give back color, something positive.

When you have no more illusions in life you will be fearless. Illusions are made up of material things. 

Be formless, without attachment 

Who is the most important person: who you are with
What is the most important thing: the thing you are doing now

We were all enamored by his teachings, his practices, and the practices of those who followed him. Just being in the presence of a Buddhist community put us all in a peaceful place.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Round Up: Living in Amsterdam

I spent a month living/nannying in Amsterdam. Here are some of the awesome thing we got up to and did.

We did a few day trips:
There was Zaanse Schaanz- a touristy little town. Pretty well done.
We also did a few amazing days in Efteling- the oldest amusement part in Amsterdam.

There are some awesome parks in Amsterdam, including Amstel Park,  vondelpark, Amsterdam Bos,

Some great museums including Rembrandt and the Royal Place, the maritime museum,  houseboat museum and the nemo, Van Gogh museum,

And also just some days that were full of kiddos, love, and hard-working fun.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Love to Nepal

I woke up to my phone going off like crazy at 4am.

I answer to a frantic friend asking if I had heard anything from Nepal.

It took her about 20 seconds to fill me in the earthquake and all I felt was complete and utter fear.

Kathmandu is poorly built, like most of Nepal. The buildings are constructed fast, and they aren't secure. Having lived in Nepal I immediately new what a massive earthquake could mean.

I spent the early morning in terror- watching as the story unfolded. Calling my family in Nepal. Calling my friends in Nepal. Trying to talk to anyone who knew anything. Not getting any answers and rocking in bed in fear.

The morning broke. The death toll was rising. And people here in America starting sending me messages with a link to the news story. They were curious and they knew I had been to Nepal. But I didn't know anything and I didn't want to be reminded about that suffering. It was a news story to them and it was a city I am in love with, a country I call home, and so many people precious to me suffering. 

FLOODS of relief came at 8:12 when my brother finally responded to a message. He was okay. He was alive. All of my immediate family was okay. And alive and outside. The power had been cut in the city and so phone battery was precious. So once I got confirmation that all 9 were alive I let him go. They were spending the night outside.

Slowly news came in. My other friends families were okay, we heard from them one at a time. Houses had fallen down. They were stuck outside but they were okay and alive.

I went to work this morning, continually checking my phone and the computer- watching the death toll get higher and higher. It was a mix between continual relief when I learned another friend was okay, and horror as more and more bodies were uncovered.

Tonight the death toll is at 1,900. 1,900 people.

I know things like this happen all them time. Natural disasters or murders and people die. But it just hits so very close to home for me. This country is beautiful and the people are incredible.

 I feel helpless. On one hand I wish I could be there right now, do anything to help their pain. On the other hand, I.could.have.been.there!

So many emotions today. All that matters is that everyone is thinking of Nepal, the lives lost, and this strong loving generous and welcoming little country.

I'll see you in four weeks Nepal and I think about you every second until I come home. Stay strong and stay safe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Amsterdam Maritime Museum: Huge hit with the kids

This past summer, when I was a nanny in Amsterdam, we accidentally ended up taking all three kids to the Maritime museum.  Or original plan was to visit a castle that was a bit outside the city (maybe 45 minutes). We got into our Uber and started to go. However, our driver got things mixed up and didn't realize we were trying to go to a different city. At this point it was getting late, lunch and nap was encroaching, and we didn't want to make the long drive. As we were headed back to the highway, we saw the maritime museum, and just said let's stop and go there. 

We did no previous research as to whether it was child friendly, or what there was to do there. But we saw the big boat out back and figured, at the very least, we could climb around on that. We figured it would be a great museum because of the rich maritime history of the dutch and the dutch east indies trading company. 

Well I cannot believe this was not recommended as something to do with kids, because it was absolutely incredible for kids. I think it was our favorite museum we visited the whole trip.

We started instead with the story of the whale. It was an interactive exhibit for kids that talked about the myth of the whale into the reality. The kids loved it. You could climb in a whale, feel his teeth, and much more. There were videos, stories on the wall, and other interactive features. The four and eight year olds spent about 40 minutes going through this exhibit. 

As great as that exhibit was, it was out shined by the big boat out back. They had a giant boat that you could climb aboard docked out back. It was set up similar to how a boat would look back in the days of the Dutch East Indies trading company. The kids were all about this. There were hammocks inside that you could hang in, and nugget will tell you again and again that this was a favorite activity by far. 

On deck, you could check out the captains cabin, pull the sheets, turn the wheel, and enjoy the views from the giant deck. Anything that involves climbing and moving is a hit with my kids, so this did not disappoint.

Lastly, although I don't have any pictures, we went to the other children's exhibit. Yes, there are TWO in this museum. This exhibit was a huge dress up under the sea area where you could put on a fish hat, or a turtle body and run around. There was big sea-shells and pretend seaweed. After the dress-up portion there was a puppet show to watch which was about a whale and two fisherman.

If you are ever in Amsterdam with children, I could not recommend this more. It was such a great find and I am extremely glad we stumbled across it. What a treat!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Flashback Friday: De Efteling- Oldest theme park in Europe

This is the oldest theme park in Europe and it is perfect. It's a much more quaint, old fashioned, adorable, and commercial disney world. If you are ANYWHERE in Holland, Northern France, or Belgium with kids- get yourself to Efteling. 

The four realms, don't remember all of it. But here are the highlights. 

Dream flight: This was our favorite ride. It's low key so all the kids loved it. You go through all of these magical realms and see the fairies, their forest, their floating castles, etc. It was beautiful and magical. We rode it three times. 

Arabian nights:  

Fire and Ice Roller Coaster: 

Another smaller coaster that the little 4-year-old loved as well. I tried the python and while it was a good thrill, the fire-water ride was better- we rode that no less than 15 times. Such a hit. There were no pictures but the kids talked about the roller coasters all the time. 

Fairytale Forest:
My gosh this was great, so cute, and seemingly the only place I took photos. It's awesome.

Younger-kid rides: Cars, boats, swings, carousel. 
There was a whole area with these kind of rides and it was great for all of us to be able to do things!

The fountain show: this was GREAT and so so SO well done. I think it happens every night and I would suggest it 100%. 

TIP: Use the baby swap. If you have a baby this is great since you can trade places with another adult when you ride big coasters. It was great for us.

TIP: Get the app. Like Disney world it has an interactive map that tells you wait times for all of the different rides. Super helpful. 

Where we Stayed:

We rented a little cottage in the village area next to the park. It was a 5 minute walk to the bar entrance and an amazing place to stay! We had rooms for all the kids, a little kitchen, and a quiet area to relax. They had an indoor swimming pool- HUGE hit. And they had the sandman's castle, free breakfast and their own restaurant.  There were also cute little walking paths around the lake that I explored with Monkey a lot.