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A blog for Maya and Nila

to help them remember…

Maya’s 13th birthday party – at just the right time

In March it didn’t really feel right, didn’t fit, but now, shortly before the end of school it was perfect – Maya’s 13th birthday party with some of her best friends, a mix of some she met new, and some she has known for a long time. A super group, I have to say myself – we all had so much fun, so many laughs. Cool!

It was the same party as Nila’s, with all kids relatively clean before…

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…and not so clean after…

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…with lots of happy moments in between – all to see (as photos and video) in our smugmug gallery.

Happy birthday, Maya!

Maya’s school trip to Luxemburg

One week in Luxemburg with friends was a big success. Maya loved it and took lots of pics. Amongst them these and more in our gallery:

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11 in 4 weeks, but party first :-)

Nila’s birthday being always after the end of school, we have gotten used to celebrating with her friends upfront. This year, Nila wanted to go all out… and muddy. She definitely succeeded in that and says “it was my best party ever”.

See here for yourself!

Nila’s last Junior School sports day

… was sunny, fun and sad too, because of the good byes Nila had to say to her best friend Camilla (who is moving schools) and to her PE teacher Mr Lowe (who is also moving schools…).

My attempts at sport photography are here.

Nila on stage

There is truly nothing that excites Nila more than performing on a stage. Don’t ask me, who she has got this from, but for her, the nerves that come with it are definitely part of the thrill. She’s done jazz dance lessons with Regina for two years now and loves them. I have posted films on our gallery before, being pretty impressed by the hard work (coordination and fitness) that these require and this bi-annual big performance they put on was an amazing display of all that hard work.

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Nila had just returned from the Ardennes on Friday, when I had to drive her directly from school to Zoetermeer for the general rehearsal. This was then followed by 4 shows in 2 days, each of them being 3 hours long! A real marathon for Nila and even Maya and me were in a sort of theater trance, driving back and forth from Zoetermeer and watching the show twice. But it was worth it!

Take a look for yourself here!

Life before and after COBIS

Although Nila’s COBIS trials and training seemed to dominate our lives for a few weeks before and after the actual Games in Athens, our normal lives continued and there were lots of little special events that I don’t want to forget in my blog for my girls.

We spent a lovely Easter Sunday with Niriti, Rajeev and Vrishin in Den Haag – link to gallery.

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Maya was awarded an price for “outstanding achievement”

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Nila had WWII day at school, this year’s replacement for Victorian day – I think they have to reconsider the title… but it was fun:

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Next was a lucky day for all, as it was the King’s birthday, meaning no school or work and lots of orange celebrations on the street. Nila refuses to wear orange, by they way, as she is strongly anti-monarchy :-) – more pics here.

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We also had some super relaxing afternoons and weekends, full of sunshine, good food, nature and each other. And every time, we decide we must do that kind of “activity” much more often… only to be carried away into the madness yet again – link here and here.

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And so we were back to the swimming pool quite shortly after Nila’s return from COBIS, for Maya and Nila to each swim 8 races over 3 days in the north of Holland. We stayed overnight at Niriti’s, which was great fun too and even included the kids witnessing the arrest of some criminals by police – what can yo ask more from a weekend? Well, there were also medals and new PRs… – see more here.

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In the half-term holidays, Maya and Nila went with Raj to work at THNK for a day – link.

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We also visited the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam – first time for me, ever – cool pics here.

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… and to Drievliet with friends for a good adrenaline rush – proof here.

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Nila then left Maya and me home alone – Raj was travelling the world in the meantime – to go on her Year 6 Ardennes adventure, which she loved as much as Maya did hers previously:

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And this is it for my summary post. The other highlights, for which I am behind, will get their own post :-)

NILA, COBIS, ATHENS

With Greece in the news so much lately, I am constantly reminded of my recent trip to Athens together with Nila.

After months and months of trialling at school, Nila qualified for a team of seven boys and seven girls from all junior schools to represent the BSN at the COBIS (Council of British International Schools) Games in Athens. That in itself was a huge achievement and we were thrilled for Nila that she was given that kind of opportunity.

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Maya unfortunately had to stay behind in The Hague because of a GCSE exam, but was well looked after by my parents and Raj. So, with Nila travelling and staying mainly with her team and me only tagging along as supporting mum, it was a great opportunity to see Kostas and Maria. We had just met again in Easter after years and years of no visits, so it felt so good to also spend time with them in Athens. And they were the perfect hosts as always – I felt like home. I stayed at their office right at the foot of the Acropolis, which was a brilliant starting point for my daily trips to the Olympic stadium and other sports venues.

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And what an intense time it was. There was a huge group of BSN parents and they had spirit. Nothing compared to the Nigerian or Abu Dhabi teams, but we tried. My voice failed after day one, so I left the cheering to the others, but it was so exciting following Nila and the team.

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And it started off well on day 1 with swimming. Nila and many of her team reached the finals, which meant a lot of points collected despite no medals. On day 2, it was athletics at the Olympic stadium. Nila did javelin and came 7th and also ran the 800m, a distance which had terrified her immensely and was not her choice to run. But she came 22nd and loved the experience. And with all points collected by the team, they won 3rd place overall of the day. What do you want more :-)

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Day 3 was all about football. The kids did super well and when time came around for the final results, they were thrilled to find out that they were 3rd for the day, which earned them each a medal – you cannot imagine the happiness on their faces. And overall, not forgetting how much the swimming points mattered after all, the BSN Juniors came 3rd – wow!

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It took me weeks to recover my voice, but hey, these experiences don’t present themselves often and I am super proud that both Maya and Nila got that chance once.

Now I can only hope that all will be well with Kostas and Maria in Greece!

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Spring life, mud walks, CPC, disco, swimming, COBIS

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Rome, eternally beautiful

It was a first for me, Maya and Nila. But even for Raj, these four days we just spent in Rome revealed new sides of this beautiful city. Everyone told us before that we’d love it and sometimes, I get a bit worried that my high expectations would lead to disappointment. Not this time around. It really was unique, just so special and it’s hard to say why.

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Of course, there is the obvious beauty of ancient monuments, the wonderful simplicity of the food and the Romans themselves, but it’s hard to pinpoint why walking around this city just feels so familiar, so welcoming. And walking we did – a lot! But we were happy to have that exercise, to excuse the 3rd gelato in a day or the 2nd pizza.

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We’ll be back, no doubt! Soon!

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In the meantime, browse our huge Rome gallery online, mostly credit to our family photographer Nila.

Happy 13th birthday, Maya!

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With love, forever,

Mami, Papi, Nila and Chita

Year 6 final production – Nila’s real good bye to Junior School

It was a performance month for Nila, no doubt. But next to the Rabarber production, this Year 6 production was giant. Four Year 6 classes getting together to perform “The Arrival” on two evenings. It was soooo cooool. Just right. Very professional, moving, funny. Simply brilliant.

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Films and more pictures of the performance are totally worth watching – click here.

Nila’s first Rabarber performance

Rabarber is a huge theater school in Den Haag, which also offers English classes, so Nila gave it a go this year and concluded the term with the performance of “Cinderella” by Roald Dahl, something quite different from the classic story.

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Here’s the beginning:

I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
just to keep the children happy.

Keep on reading it here, if you like.

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And take a peek at Nila’s performance of it too, here.

Maya’s first ISST

Gathering the energy to go to the BSN swim training late on Thursday afternoon after an early morning swim training and a long day at school hasn’t always been easy for the girls, but Maya’s first ISST competition showed how worth it was. From year 8, the kids can be selected for a team in their sport to compete with different international schools from all over Europe and the world. Last year, the swim team went to the Olympic Aquatics center in London, this year the event was hosted here in Holland, by the BSN and the American school.

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So, instead of travel, we got to host two swimmers from Zurich – interesting experience – and Maya competed as one of the youngest in a team with kids all the way up to year 13. A a little intimated at first, it turned out to be a wonderful milestone-experience for Maya, with an amazing team atmosphere, great individual races for Maya – she made it into a few finals – and a second place overall for the team. We were so happy for Maya and so glad for her to see and feel that sport is not only endless tough trainings, but that it also opens doors to new experiences, new friends. Even Nila was part of this as medal girl on one day.

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Dubai

March was a big month for us – two birthdays, two holidays, reports and so much more. It began with a sunny break in Dubai, perhaps our last chance of visiting Aparna, Rana and Ankit there. We were so lucky with the weather, because our first day there was apparently the first clear day after days of sandstorm. We enjoyed it to the full, with lots of swimming in pool and sea, hanging out with Momo and lots of yummy food in the malls.

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February

Seems like regular blogging it getting tougher, so I’ll do another month summary here. Feb too was busy. Nila had her last international day at junior school – who knows when we can wear our beautiful Indian clothes now? Petra came over on Valentines Day for Rothko and sushi. And all the early morning swim trainings paid off for Maya with some big PBs at the Grand Prix.

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Car photography

With so much of our time spent in the car going to and from school, swimming, football, competitions, etc and both Maya and Nila now fully equipped with the latest gadgets, a new art form has been developing: art photography with a big focus on selfies. See – and judge – for yourself! I think they rock!

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January

January has been a good month. We were well rested after the Christmas holidays and everything just feel back into place again when school started. We managed to return to our early time schedule for the swim trainings, Maya did well in school with lots of tests and exams, Nila was excited to continue the COBIS trials as part of the pre-selection team. We were also all super happy to return to healthy living after completely stuffing ourselves in Germany. I joined a gym, which has been surprisingly fun. Only tricky bit continues to be the times that Raj is away travelling. He’s loving his job, but it’s hard when he’s away for anything between 7 and 14 days at a time. Well done though to THNK’s big milestone for opening their Vancouver office!

Nila and her friend Julie before dance lessons:

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Car selfie Maya:

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Swimming competition at the Hofbad:

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Nerves and expectations at the COBIS trials:

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Raj helps open THNK Vancouver:

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My dad visits for a day and we go see the new Market Hall in Rotterdam, which has the most amazing ceiling:

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Camilla having Sunday pancakes with us after a sleepover with Nila:

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Now onto February! We are ready! More swimming competitions, the selection of the final COBIS team and one week in Dubai with Rana and Aparna during the half term. Let’s see, if I manage to update this blog without too much delay…

Christmas with the family

Usually, we do Christmas in Weimar with my parents and sister and New Year in London with Raj’s family. That is always super nice, but also tiring. So, this year, we just combined it. Raj’s parents and sister’s family all came to Weimar for Christmas. What a great reunion. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

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All other pictures are here. 

5 months since summer…

Is it really the 2nd of February 2015? I still remember writing my summer blog post like it was yesterday, but apparently, that is now 5 months ago. Oh guilt! And disbelief. Where has the time gone? Did nothing noteworthy enough happen to trigger my “must put that on the blog” action? Or were there just too many of those daily, weekly special moments that I thought, I can better combine them all in one big summary blog. That’s it! That’s what it is going to be – a summary blog post of 5 months since summer.

Autumn for us has definitely a season filled with, above all, sports. Starting with me and Maya doing the 5km peace run, it continued with the girls doing their first competitions as official Albion swimmers.

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We switched to the new club just before the summer and were as excited about their trainings as we are still today, 5 months later. The trainings are all in the morning, so 3 days a week we wake up around 5 to head first to the pool and then to school. It’s a shock to the system at first, but once the biological clock is reset a little, it actually works out far better, because it results in… free afternoons. Of course, we added a few other afternoon activities too – football for Maya, dancing for Nila – but it still means we have lots of afternoons off for homework and relaxing. Not bad.

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So, back to the competitions. The girls have been swimming the most amazing PBs (personal bests) since then. Nila in particular is taking off chunks of seconds in her races and Maya too is making huge improvements with her already sharp times. A wonderful reward for the effort they put in. And we even got to go to Aachen in Germany, where Maya competed in the same event as Dutch world record holder Ranomi Kromowidjojo – impressive and intimidating at the same time.

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Meanwhile, we had lots of fun starting to make Christmas presents for family – what a fun thing sock teddy making can be – going to a coding workshop, trick-or-treating with friends in Wassenaar, and going to school parties with fireworks.

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Lots of time was spent in car rides taking selfies:

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And Nila entered the trials for the COBIS Junior Games, which will be held in Athens this May. Fingers crossed – we’ll find out soon, if she makes the final team. In any case, she looks great on the pictures:

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Maya also competed for the school, going to London to swim with a group of very senior kids – ahhh. It’s a whole new world for her, but she loves to finally meet new people through her swimming. The big ISST championships will me in The Netherlands in March. Can’t wait to cheer…. and host some foreign swimmers at our place.

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It was time again for school photos, school assemblies, Christmas concerts etc:
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FILMS AND MANY MORE PHOTOS OF OUR ACTIVE AUTUMN ARE HERE.

And now comes my Christmas report…

Summer Holiday – one of our best ever!

With autumn firmly settling in The Hague and Christmas plans being finalised, I thought it was high time to close the gaps in this blog by reporting back just a little bit from our summer holiday. This is particularly important given that it was one of our best family holidays ever although it involved no long-distance flights or five-star-hotels or infinity pools. It also did not involve any iPads or much TV at that. And for some reason, I believe that this absence of screen-time-escape made this holiday so special. We communicated more, saw more, discussed more, had more fun, played more, rested more, enjoyed more.

Of course, it was also the wonderful mix of places we visited, starting with a day at Europapark with our good friends Moegi, Iwao and Misaki. Nila and Maya love that place and I find it a lot more tolerable than Disneyland ever was. It’s down-to-earth, authentic fun with rides and I am still blessed to be able to stay with Nila, who is not at all into all the crazy rides – phew.

From there, we drove to Italy, spending a week in the Dolomites – our first Italian hiking holiday. Despite a bit of rain, we found it to be truly beautiful there, quite different to the French Alps, again a bit simpler somehow and with some very different, quite spectacular rock formations. It’s become a kind of addiction for me and Raj and the kids too – that one week in the mountains, the best way of all to switch off and relax, to literally see this world from a different perspective. I love the peace, the crisp air, the sense of strength you feel up there. It’s magical.

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Just two hours drive from that scenery was Venice, a first for the girls and a great place to return to civilisation, pizza and ice cream. We walked and walked and walked, from our little hotel right next to St. Marks square to the Guggenheim Collection, through the Jewish quarter, across uncountable bridges, through narrow alleyways and past lots of little markets, millions of shops, massive cruise ships and… tourists. And we ended up buying some laser souvenir on St. Marks on the last evening – amazingly enough, it’s still Nila’s favourite toy.

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While this had already been a rich and relaxing break, it was even more wonderful to realise that we were only half-way through. From Venice we headed to Croatia, driving hours along an amazing coastline – it really is quite special! – and finally locating our little apartement in a pretty remote bay just north of Split. Villa Lavanda was a beautiful find, we had the most amazing view from our balcony. For a whole week, we simply enjoyed the views, the sea – the water was spectacularly warm and clear – the towns and the sunshine. Although the girls are swimmers, the open sea is quite a different experience and it took a little while for them to feel comfortable in the deep, amongst fish and sea urchins and algae. One thing is for sure, as holiday near the sea, this was our best ever. I guess, it was just so relaxing to not have to worry about big waves and currents…

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After a week of maximum chilling, we drove to Germany. It was a long trip, but as with all our trips up to then, we kept ourselves entertained with audio books, endless talking, singing, drawing, quizzes and games – it was fun! We stopped over in Landshut for a few nights with Angelika and family and for Raj, sadly, the holiday was over and he headed back to The Hague. The girls enjoyed playing with other kids again and we loved cycling and spending our time with friends in between delicious German food. A few hours of driving later, we arrived in Weimar, spent one night washing our laundry and stepped in the car again – this time with my parents – in the direction of Berlin, where we were going to be for a week visiting friends and my grandmother. This time, the weather was less favourable, it was actually cold, so the plan of spending days at the lakes didn’t really work out. Still, we walked and ate and walked and ate and took a dip in the water and ate again and enjoyed memories and stories from different generations of my family. Oh, I almost forgot: we also went to see the European swimming championships, a super important experience in the run-up to our upcoming new life with Albion.

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As you can imagine, we took hundreds of pictures of this fantastic holiday – you can see a selection of them here, in our smugmug gallery. Enjoy!

End of school

Already one week into our holidays, just a memory of the last school day and a mention of the girls fantastic reports this year.

Maya and Nila, you did so well in Year 5 and Year 7!

Enjoy your break, so you’ll be all re-energized for Year 6 and Year 8!

Lots of love from Mama and Papa

PS: more pics here.

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Nila turns 10 – unbelievable!

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That was my facebook entry and it sums it all up. We celebrated our Nila with a lasergame party and a trip to Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam – perfect!

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More party pictures.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NILA!

 

 

Sports and more

The last weeks of school are always packed – this year even more so, with the Football World Cup. We loved it all!

Click on the pictures below for more.

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Hello SV Wassenaar

Following our step to commit to Albion swim club from September, we also reviewed our other activities and as a result, spontaneously decided to move to a different football club too. Main reason was that their training times are more in tune with our swim schedule to be, plus the girls know a lot of kids there too.

So, thanks for everything, ABF.

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And hello SV Wassenaar! We are all excited!

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Nila loves dancing…

… so not only swimming, but dancing too. This is going to be very short: Nila had her last dance lesson for the season, parents were invited to watch, and I was stunned! Had no idea, what they were doing during the lessons. Well, at least now how much they had learned. I was so amazed, I filmed them all.

So, click here or the image below and you’ll go right to the videos.

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Albion

In October, I posted our last real swim update, not knowing at that time, how things would turn out for that sport in our family. There was no swim club for us till Christmas while Maya tried to settle at the Senior School and both of them experimented with different sports. But being members of the BSN swim club still, they did do one swim competition for the school, which was fun. Above all, though, it was clear, how much both Maya and Nila still liked the sport, to race in the water. So, we started to talk again, and talked and talked.

And agreed to try again, just a little bit, just to feel. For that, we turned to WZK, a more recreational club in Wassenaar, where the girls were warmly welcomed and where we had all flexibility to train, even just once a week for an hour each. And that’s what we did, for a couple of months. The girls did a couple of competitions too, all quite heavy with mixed emotions. And we realised, that swimming was fun – yes – but to really enjoy it and to really progress, we’d need more in terms of training.

So, the search began again, and we also turned back to try Racing Club for a session. But then we found: Albion. A totally different idea of swim club. A club run by a couple, with four official members (two of which are the couple’s sons, who swim at national and even European level) and a few guest swimmers. And those trainings were great! Just perfect! Very individualised, very tough, inspired by US and UK approaches to training and all about preparing for competitions. The girls loved it! I loved it! And Albion welcomed them both. We are so happy! We thanked and left WZK, joined Albion and are now training 3 to 4 times a week in the mornings – yes, 5am wakeup. It means adjusting our bedtimes a little, but also means free afternoons, more playtime, more rest, more time for homework. Perfect!

So, we are going into the next swim season all motivated and excited!

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The little things in life…

… are definitely still worth mentioning. After all, this blog is a diary for Maya and Nila, something to revisit when they are older, to help them remember. So, life has been busy, and lots of fun, and here are some bits and pieces:

Nila’s lost two teeth:

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Maya still loves climbing:

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Nila went to school camp and still practises piano:

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Both Maya and Nila finished their football season and are big Worldcup 2014 fans – luckily, we still have DE and NL to cheer for:

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Nila loves birthday parties, while Maya went to school camp too:

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The whole set, as always, in our gallery.

 

Feeling old… feeling young…

So, straight after my post about the good old childhood times, of memories and nostalgia, follows this one about being totally (well, a little bit) up to date with what my girls like and about us girls going to see boyband One Direction in concert in Amsterdam. It was fun, I had a great time, I screamed, I danced, I clapped. I felt young, ha!

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If you want to see more and hear a bit too, click here!

 

 

 

The Weimar Reunion, finally

Now that the girls are getting older, understanding more about the world around them, I find myself talking with them more about my past, my childhood and how I met Raj. It’s funny, how far behind that time feels now. In fact, I have lived more of my life abroad now than I have been home in Germany. And it is also strange, how little mention there now is of EAST Germany. When I meet new people, one of the first questions is “where are you from?”. And my answer usually is: “I am German”. I never say “EAST German” and so, noone asks further. After all, there is a Germany now, people know it, have been there. And usually, I don’t think twice about it either. I don’t feel the urge to correct it, to specify, to say that my Germany was VERY different from what it is now, that that Germany is gone, is history.

But sometimes, it does come up, and it always surprises people. And it surprises me. Hearing myself talk about the GDR, my childhood, does sometimes sound unreal. But it is good not to forget. And I haven’t. In fact, I always say first how wonderful my childhood was, despite or because of it’s strange political status. I have beautiful memories of growing up in Weimar, going to school on my own at 6:30 in the morning in smog and pollution – Maya and Nila are driven to school in clean silent cars around 8:30 in the morning. I remember finishing school after lunch and playing with my friends on the streets for hours – my girls get home around 16:30 on good days and much later after activities. And there are lots more contrasting examples like that. That’s life…

Of course, there was the political dimension. Too much to go into now, but this blog entry is dedicated to a reunion we finally held in Weimar, with families that were a close part of my childhood memories and whom I had not seen for decades now. And the reason that these people were in Weimar in the 1970s and 80s was political, had all to do with the cold war times, with socialism vs capitalism, with East vs West. But to me then, there were just close friends, they were family. And in May this year, we finally managed to fly them all in, for a reunion in Weimar.

It was great to see you all again, Kostas, Maria, Leli, Walter, Darima, Natalie, Niki and all those still closer to home! It was really special!

The pictures are here!

 

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Discovering the beach

Coming from the mountains and forests of Thuringia, I have never felt particularly enthusiastic about beaches, found it all too sticky, too sandy, too windy, too full. But in the spring half-term, I somehow befriended Scheveningen, as I took the girls there a couple of times, for surfing, just playing, having fun with friends. It was a super holiday and did make us feel like there was really no need to go away.

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But we also did more than surfing. There was football and lush lunches in the city and lots of chilling and hanging at home too.

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And Dadu and Dida came over for a couple of days, watching us run in the Royal Ten and catching up on family news.

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Take a look at it all in our gallery.

COBIS Games Istanbul 2014

The COBIS Games will be something that Maya will remember forever. First her happy surprise, when she heard in December that she had made it into the pre-selection and then her complete disbelief that she was actually picked for the final team. She could hardly contain herself, couldn’t believe that she would be representing her school and her countries (!) in Istanbul in May. Well, it happened, she had a great time and deserved every medal and trophy she helped win for her team. But this experience was so much more than prices, it was all about making new friends, boys and girls from year 7 and 8, whom she had never even met before and whom she now feels so connected with. COBIS has thus also given a whole new meaning to school for her and for that, I am so grateful.

Just a few facts. COBIS is the Council of British International Schools. They have been organising sports competitions amongst British Schools from outside the UK for the Juniors for a while, but Maya never joined those trials before. This time was the first Games for Senior School students and it implied that teams of 7 girls and 7 boys from 12 schools competed in Istanbul in three sports: athletics, football and swimming. Swimming was, of course, Maya’s strong sport, football too. So, she was even more surprised to find out that she actually managed to win a bronze medal in the javelin too. This helped the team to come second overall in athletics. Football was a tougher day for the BSN, with the girls working themselves to 5th place and the boys to 9th. And then it all came together on the last day, the swimming. The team got so many medals, it was hard to keep track, and came 2nd for swimming as a team. All that finally added up to 2nd place overall – an amazing result, which we still have to celebrate properly.

There are loads of pictures on our gallery – PLEASE CLICK HERE – but these below will give a first impression of our super time in Istanbul. 

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Easter holidays in France – farm, ski and friends

We had a fantastic holiday this Easter, perhaps one of our best. It was simply the right mix of discovering new places, doing different things and meeting good friends.

A lunch in Paris with Astrid was followed by a reunion with our “yogababies” friends, who emigrated from Holland four years ago to the middle of France, where they turned a chateau into a holiday destination – check out Le Mas d’en Haut. There, we had the best time away from it all, no screens, no gadgets, wood oven, open countryside, the kids running around outside all day and… delicious French food, of course. In fact, Raj even helped to cook venison for a few Dutch families, who had come to help our friends Willem and Paula get ready for the summer season.

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We then headed to the French Alps, up to 2500m and were happy to discover that there was indeed… snow! Skiing in Easter is wonderful: the pistes are quiet, the weather great, conditions still good enough for great skiing. And we were lucky. Sunshine most days and no injuries – phew!

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Heading back to Amsterdam, we stopped over in Luxemburg to visit Moegi, Iwao and Misaki who had recently moved there. Felt like family. Have you noticed that selfies are the latest hit with us too?

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Go to our gallery to see ALL our photos.

Everyday stuff

I have so many pictures of special little moments in our everyday life, that sometimes I don’t know where to put them, so here again a little collection of the little events in the past weeks: Maya’s football team became champion in their league; Nila celebrated Kings’ Day at school and created a piece of art, we went to a fun fair in Den Haag, Nila went on her school trip to Drenthe, and I got flowers for mothers day.

Click on the picture below, if you want to see it all.

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It’s not good bye, Moegi, Iwao and Misaki! Just see you soon!

Maya met Misaki at the age of 3 in Amsterdam, where both went to the British School nursery together. Even though we moved to Den Haag after a couple of years, Misaki and Maya have been BFFs – Best Friends Forever – since. And so have Moegi and me. And now, after all these years, they have started a new adventure in Luxemburg. We didn’t say good bye. It might just take a little more effort to see each other now. Good luck and see you soon!

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Maya turns 12

Maya is 12 years old! I cannot believe it! My baby, all grown up, almost my height, a friend and most wonderful daughter. I love you Maya! We love you! You are just perfect!

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Maya’s morning birthday table. Thanks to the Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag on that day, schools were closed and we got to stay home – bliss!

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And the party with her best friends…

LOTS OF PICTURES IN OUR GALLERY.

My birthday

March is birthday time. First it was my turn, but I decided to celebrate small this year, just with Raj and my girls. I loved it. A big party again next year!

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Click here for pictures of my day and evening :-)

The CPC again… with even more marshmallows

The City-Pier-City run in Den Haag is great fun. This year, only the girls ran 2,5km – more a sprint or slalom than a jog due to the huge number of participants – and after that we had friends over for pancakes, all followed by the obligatory marshmallow handing-out session during the half marathon. Great fun! Our marshmallow station was in huge demand. Raj and Asif had to restock two times to not disappoint the more desperate runners at the end of the field.

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Family, Friends and Fun

Too much has been happening to dedicate a post to each event, so here a little summary compilation:

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First swimming competitions, for the BSN club, but also for WZK – our new club for the time being…

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Lots of homework, all the time…

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Raj still improving his pizza making skills, which all us girls cannot get enough of…

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Nila’s international day at school. Maya no longer has that…

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A cool selfie….

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Maya’s football team… a nice, fun group…

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Sabine bringing Lola to Den Haag for the first time, together with Opa and Oma… and a strange dog…

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The girls totally loving their Friday late evening run training….

COBIS

COBIS = Council Of British International Schools

As of this year, there exist a Senior School COBIS Games, a sports competition between a number of participating British International Schools that has already taken place a number of times for Junior Schools. Maya never participated in trials before, but this year she did and to her total surprise, she made it not only through the pre-selection, but also into the final team. She was speechless, in total disbelief. And we were so happy for her, happy that she had been allowed that special feeling.

Congratulations, Maya!

COBIS Games BSN Senior Team

This means that from 14th till 18th May, she will travel to Istanbul with her team to compete in swimming (yes!), football (yes!) and athletics (ok…). I will join her, but stay in different hotels with other parents. Let’s hope, the political situation in Turkey will be calm enough…

And London can’t be beaten for New Years Eve

With our new big shiny Citroen C4, all four of us and my parents then left Weimar for London via Den Haag. It was a super feeling being able to all travel in one car, or better little bus. And it was good to see everyone in London again and help dispel the sadness with the usual holiday distractions. Maya and Nila had a great time with Mina and Elam, we played tourists in London and visited some places for the first time, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre for instance. We also went to Hampton Court, rented DVDs of the various King Georges, watched Les Miserables at Shaftesbury Avenue and climbed the dome of St Pauls. I love London and so do the girls. It’s full of memories too, which we refreshed with a walk around my old flat and UCL – funny, how far that life now seems.

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See our full gallery here.

 

Christmas is best in Weimar

It was comforting being in Weimar, when the news of Deema’s passing away reached us. It was good to be surrounded by family, lots of kids – big and small – and by good food. It was wonderful seeing everyone again, Lola of course being the star with her unbelievably cute and smart dialogues and monologues. We slept, walked, ate, puzzled, enjoyed presents, watched moves, ate and slept again.

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Click here for many more pictures.

Good bye Deema – Bara

This year, as last, we planned to spend the holidays with our families, Christmas in Germany with the Zimmermann-Atze’s and New Year with the Ball family in London.

On Monday of the last school week, we heard that Deema (Rajiv’s grandmother) – Maya and Nila call her Bara – was admitted to hospital for an emergency operation. She had been quite fragile throughout the past year, so we were worried. On Tuesday, we got the news that her kidney’s had failed and that she was not well. As Rajiv was driving back home late that night, we booked tickets, packed our bags and were off the next morning with the girls to London. And it was exactly the right thing to do at the right time. Deema was weak, could not communicate, but still, we felt clearly that she recognized us, that she was happy we were there. It was also a great relief for Rajiv’s parents to have everyone around, especially since the children offered and welcome distraction. Deema’s situation deterioated day by day, but it was hard to forespell the future. So, we decided to go to Germany as planned originally and give the girls their Christmas.

On Christmas eve, 24th December 2013, we got the sad news that Deema – Bara had passed away. She was a wonderful person, with an amazing aura. We will miss her dearly and Maya will carry on her name in hers – Anima.

Good bye, Deema!

Good bye Bara!

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Our house, refreshed…

We love changing around the house, moving furniture, re-arranging, cleaning up. Above all, though, it’s a great feeling of renewal. This time, we did the girls’ rooms and garden and remembered to take a couple of pictures. I have to admit though that at the time of writing this, things have already been moved again…

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Nikolaus, not Sinterklaas

As in the years before, it is Nikolaus for us, not Sinterklaas. Just a beautiful simple tradition. The children clean their shoes and put them outside the house door on the night of 5th december, just to find them filled with sweets and suprises the next morning. I can still remember that feeling of predictable surprise at opening the doors on those dark morning, seeing colourful things shining in my shoe – beautiful.

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School photographs

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Happy birthday, daddy Rajiv!

Amidst the stress of daily life, we did manage to celebrate Rajiv’s birthday after all. Happy birthday, dear hubby and daddy! Wishing you all the best for the year ahead!

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Autumn life and holidays

Thus… with fewer hours in the pool, we spent more outside, doing other fun stuff. Weekend walks in the park, tennis as a family, making good food. Then, the holidays came along and we spent them at home. Misaki and Moegi came to visit for three days, so I took the girls to make cartoons in Museum Meermanno, to do silk screen printing in town, we went to the movies, the park, the climbing wall.

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We also spent a whole day in Amsterdam, discovering those places around Vondelpark, where the girls were born, went to creche and played. A beautiful, emotional trip.

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And we concluded the holidays with a new discovery: the wavepool at the Hotel van Oranje in Noordwijk, right next to the beach – gorgeous!

Swim update

The start of school usually also means the start of our usual after school routines and we were all quite looking forward to it. I was so happy to have finalised my puzzle just in time for it to work and thought that things could just get started as usual. But within a couple of weeks, all of that feel to pieces and nothing worked as planned.

With Maya having started Senior School and being moved up to the Juniors in swimming, we no longer enjoyed the benefit to both girls to the same school and same swim trainings. Maya’s days were longer and more intense – luckily also a lot of fun – and thus, swimming on the same level as before became impossible. We knew that we were going to be faced with making some sort of decision regarding the swimming sooner or later. We just didn’t expect it to come so soon. In any case, with the first half-term finished, Nila has stopped swimming with Racing Club and Maya is on a very reduced training schedule and that works out quite fine for us. Instead of specialising, the girls are now diversifying – ha :-) Both are taking tennis lessons, which they love. Nila is doing jazzdance and a couple of school clubs and Maya will try out for the COBIS games.

Still, there were a few competitions with some great photos that I cannot not post.

Who knows, how many more swim photos we will get in the future…

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Link to our online gallery for lots more photos and films

http://zimmermannball.smugmug.com/Family

California – The Hague – Weimar – The Hague – Back to school

The summer has passed and I am writing this while it is cold and very wet outside. Time for reflecting on a very special summer. California for us was not only a holiday destination, but our way to see if there is a place outside Holland and The Hague which could tempt us to leave. And in so many ways, the San Francisco Bay could be exactly that – an excitingly varied and yet somewhat familiar place. We utterly enjoyed speaking English. Especially the girls loved the freedom of moving around a country where it is easy to understand and be understood. We were speechless at times about the warm friendliness of the people we met. We loved the lightness of daily life in a place where service was a culture and not a duty. And we were stunned by the natural grandeur of the forests, mountains and costs we saw.

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And yet, despite it’s beauty, California somehow is not going to work out for us, at least not now. There were simply too many practical and economic challenges for us, too many unpredictables. And it didn’t help, of course, that The Hague on our return to Holland was baking in the sun and people appeared to have been transformed. Everyone was smiling and helpful. The beach was gorgeous, the parks even more. We loved returning to our house, our neighbours, and realised – yet again – how much NL has to offer, how much there is to enjoy there and how deep our roots have already gone here. But still, we had no regrets about our exploration. Through that, we saw clearer, felt lighter and have again learned to appreciate what we have, instead of looking to the greener grass on the other side. Phew…

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To conclude our summer, we headed to Germany. The girls went ahead with Oma and Opa to visit their Uroma in Berlin and to enjoy the gorgeous lakes there between eating cake and sausages. When I then met up with them all in Weimar, it was again a confirmation that the decision pro Europe was right for us. The history of the place is so rich, so deep. That would definitely something I’d miss in the US. Lola was the star of that trip, all culminating in her birthday celebration with the entire family at the zoo.

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Upon our return home, we were blessed with visits from friends: Emma came from Buenos Aires, Lisa & family from Houston and Misaki stayed with us while Moegi started work. So much fun!

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And while the beautiful weather still lingered, the girls went back to school. Year 5 for our little big Nila and Year 7 and first year at the Senior School for our little big Maya. But about that adventure, I will tell in my coming blogs.

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