Saturday, May 26, 2012

Laura, Pettie, Dalai!

Thursday my friends Laura, Andrew and I went on a great adventure. There was; lattes, kiwi's, dribblers, smiles, grapevines, loving kindness, underwear flags, irish jigs, popcicles, and smiles from ear to ear.
We went to see the Dalai Lama! Our adventure started with a 9:30am meeting at coffeelovers so Laura and I could cafinate in preparation for the big day. We took our lattes to go and made our way to the train station to make our way to Huy, Belgium. Laura and I are hard core planners but we through caution to the wind and only planned things on a minor level ;) We hopped on the train in Maastricht and when we arrived in Liege we choreographed a flash mob dance routine including grapevines, jigs and shuffles. A few New Zealanders heard us speaking English on the platform and introduced themselves, Henry and ????? Laura help me out! They were on their way to see the Dalai Lama as well. If you think of every stereotype possible about kiwi's it was embodied in these two characters. We only needed to strap sheep to their backs :) Conversation lead to them asking how old we were and when we said "thirty" they both said "wow, that's old...and quickly followed up with you don't look that old". That's a good thing, right? When we got to Huy we saw signs to catch a shuttle bus to take us to the temple the Dalai Lama was blessing and where he would be making his talk on "Loving Kindness". We had a bit of time so we followed the Kiwi's until they found a group of 4-girls and started kissing. They told us we had to kiss them too because it is not polite not to kiss people in this culture. I thought that we should take this opportunity to do our own thing, Laura agreed and Andrew was quickly convinced, we didn't want the rest of the trip to go "cock up". The kiwi's introduced me to this term. Thanks Henry and ?????
It was a really hot day (26+ degrees) and for some reason Andrew decided to wear his thermal underwear. As we made our way to the bus Andrew thought it would be the smartest choice to remove his thermal underwear or risk hyperthermia. He ran off to the bathroom and shortly after the bus pulled up to the curb. Laura and I stood in the door of the bus hoping to buy time for Andrew. It was a close call but we made it. When they dropped us off at the entrance to the grounds and we had to walk through the surrounding community and across beautiful parks to find a spot on the grass in front of where the Dalai Lama would be speaking. We found a great spot in the shade and grabbed some lunch. Andrew decided to do some exploring and said he would wave his underwear, as a flag when he found something cool. Then he actually did it! Oh, Andrew! The Dalai Lama was amazing when he spoke. He was funny, happy, smiling and his message was simple. He spoke about all of us being human beings. No one better or more important then anyone else. He spoke about many of the positive things that different religious groups have done for their fellow man. He said that no religion is above another but that we must focus on the future, confidence, the education of children about morals and ethics and the power of taking action in conjunction with prayer. I thought he was wonderful!!! At the end their was a question period and I think the most memorable thing he said for me was when he was asked if he remembers his previous life and where he would like to be born again. He said "...sometimes I don't remember yesterday...and he would like to be born where he can be of service to his fellow man". It was brilliant because it was simple and he made himself very relatable. I really appreciated the experience.
We decided to walk back to the train instead of taking the buses. We weren't sure of the way back but Laura's "spidy" senses kicked in, I hadn't even loaned her my costume :) We got the best popsicles ever and caught the train home. The dribbler made an appearance at the train further comment and we shared an amaze-balls ride home :) Thank you to my wonderful friends and for this perfect adventure!

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Obsessed with TED Talks

After the first few days of being ill and being confined to my bed I started to get stir crazy. I had watched every episode of the Kardashians and Fashion Police and felt like I had almost no viable brain cells left. With my last few surviving brain cells I thought to myself - I should be learning and engaging what is left of my sickness ravaged self. Did I mention I am a huge wimp when I get sick???? I didn't feel like reading my text books, they are so heavy and I couldn't muster the strength to hold them up, so I decided I should check out some TED talks and see if there was anything of interest. In the past some friends had posted lectures or said I had to watch one they had seen but I never really got into it. Good thing, because once I got started, I couldn't stop! I watched TED talks for the better part of a day. One right after the other. I laughed, I cried, I said "you're right" and "I never thought of it that way" out loud by myself. Can you say weirdo!?!!?! I blame it on the fever :) I watched talks about politics, about the environment, about life, about cancer, about feminism. The topics were diverse, engaging, some profound and some really hit home. I couldn't get over how much great information is out there; inspiration, motivation, education, different perspectives and talks that tugged on my heart strings. I thought to myself - this freedom of information is so wonderful. I would never have had the opportunity to hear these original lectures or to see these speakers if not for TED. I love you TED talks! Please see attached a few of my favorite TED Talks. These are three that really spoke to me at this time in my life. I hope you enjoy them too :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mom and Char Visit the Netherlands :)

Well, they have come and gone and I've finally found the time to write about it. April was a crazy month! I wrapped up the Fitter Together Program, my step father in law was here for a week and my mom and sister were here for 10-days and 3-days ago I got sick. This flu is really kicking my butt! I didn't even get out of bed yesterday and those who know me know how difficult it is for me to sit for very long :( I'm hoping that tomorrow I am up and around again.
The Fitter Together program went really well. It was an employee health and fitness promotion program that I developed for Maastricht University. It was the first time this program has ever run and we had over 130-employees participate in the 1-month program. I had great support from my colleague at UM Sport, Netty. She was awesome and really helped my vision to become a reality.
Harold, Nick's step dad, visited us for a week and we showed him the sites. We visited Amsterdam, Valkenburg and Maastricht. He was a walking machine. I think he really enjoyed his visit and he was a wonderful guest.  The day that it was just Harold and I, we went on a boat cruise of the Meuse River and a walking tour of the St Pietersberg caves. The boat cruise was relaxing, except for all the smoking teens, and the caves were amazing. We carried a lantern, heard the history, and saw the art that depicted that time in history. Very cool!!!!
On April 25th my mom and sister came to visit for 10-days. I was so excited I was pacing around our apartment all morning. This is the longest/ furthest flight that they have ever taken and my mom has COPD so I was nervous about how it would go. They arrived safe and sound and it was wonderful to see them. My mom had a really difficult time with all the walking. The walking in the airport, the walk up the stairs to our apartment (4 flights), the walk to get anywhere we need to go. Here we use three modes of transport; walking, biking or taking the train. It was hard for me to see how much she struggled with this. I think it really showed my mom what she is capable of and what she needs to do. In North America it is really easy to avoid physical activity and active living really is a choice. We definitely saw improvements in mom's walking over the 10-days and I think it has inspired her to get more active which is all I can hope for. I showed them Maastricht; the bakery, the market square, the Vijhof square, a boat tour of the Meuse, they tried stroop waffles, vlaai and a waffle from Pinky's in the city centre. We celebrated the Queens Birthday and checked out the city wide flea market. Char and I took a day and went to Paris. We got up bright and early and took the train, first class - oops! We were there for 10-hours and it was a crazy 10-hours. We saw everything. Char really enjoyed Paris and I think she will try to get there again at some point. The next day we went to Amsterdam and did the boat tour of the Canals, what a great way to see the city. We stayed at a really funky boutique hotel and then took the train to Alkmaar to visit my 87-year old, great Aunt Teny. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with her. She showed us pictures and told us stories about the family and the war. Nick and I will definitely try to get back to visit her. The 10-days flew by, there were tears shed on their arrival and tears on their last day. It is so hard to be so far from family. I don't know what I would do without email and skype. My Auntie Lana is right when she says "All guests start to get old after 3-days". I think my mom and Char were thinking the same thing about the hostess ;) It was difficult because we have such a small space which allows for zero privacy but we got through it and overall we had a wonderful visit.
I think May will be a busy month as well. We have three visitors coming. Nick's friend Andy, our friend Pettit and my older sister Leigh at the end of the month. We are so blessed to have people who are willing to fly across the world to see us :)