We continued to Amsterdam early the next morning with only one glitch: they were even more strict about the weight limits. Once again, we were scrambling to redistribute the weight among various bags, and our gear, so carefully organized for a five-month odyssey, was now in a state of near-total entropy. We decided to purchase a sturdy duffle bag once we got to Amsterdam, as we still had an additional bag allowance on most of our flights.
Meanwhile, I was noticing other telltale signs that this trip was pushing our limits just a little too hard. Normally, travel with Karel goes perfectly smoothly. He’s an excellent planner and, of course, is the master of technology. There is no detail or reservation he can’t find, and handle, on the Internet. Power supplies, adapters, batteries, cables, hard drives, memory cards — he’s got it. When, where, and what’s next? He knows it. Between us, we can check into a hotel and order a meal in any of six languages, and both of us are willing to point to something on the menu at random, if need be, and eat whatever arrives. We rarely lose, break, or forget our stuff. We may forget which pocket it’s in (like the time Karel couldn’t find his umbrella in his pocket vest), but we know it’s in a pocket, somewhere.
Maybe it was the last-minute change in plans to go to the Netherlands, adding a few days and a bunch of complicated arrangements to a trip that was already the longest we’ve ever done. We had to overnight in Iceland, rent a car, collect and then re-check our bags. In the Netherlands we had to rent another car as well as re-pack and re-group after our airport ordeals. Then we had to drive to Munich (which can be done in one long day, but is safer to do in two, especially when you’re jet-lagged), drop off the rental car, and replace the broken camera. We forgot to change currency to Euros, which resulted in our getting trapped in the parking garage at the hospital when the machine didn’t like our credit cards; we were constantly losing track of items and forgetting important details; we made stupid mistakes. These mistakes would then have consequences that led to further glitches, and I started thinking, maybe this is all just a bit too much.
We arrived at Karel’s parents’ house in the early evening with just enough time to pick up Jopie (my mother-in-law) for a quick trip to the hospital to see Bé (Karel’s father). I say quick, but it was actually pretty far, about a half-hour drive. It takes Jopie an hour each way by bus, every day.
Bé seemed weak and tired when we arrived, but happy to see us. Meanwhile, I noticed some striking differences between the Dutch and American styles of hospital care. I’ve been in a couple of different hospitals in Colorado recently, including newer facilities featuring the latest ideas about holistic care. Modern American hospitals resemble nice hotels, with cozy, tastefully appointed waiting rooms featuring fireplaces and nice-but-bland art. You may hear soothing music, and pleasant aromas waft through the air. The ambience is subdued, but busy. Very busy. There are people everywhere. The patient rooms are crammed with equipment, flowers, balloons, get well cards, and a seemingly endless parade of nurses, aides, and specialists, asking questions, checking equipment, and marking charts. You probably won’t be there for long, either. The expense of a hospital stay is so high, and insurance companies are so recalcitrant about paying for it, that doctors tend to send their patients home just as soon as they feel confident that doing so won’t result in death.
I’ve seen only one hospital in the Netherlands but, according to Karel, it is fairly typical. The colors were cheerfully, obnoxiously garish. The corridor outside of Be’s room, for example, was a strident, blinding orange. The smells were appalling. Although we were in the surgery recovery ward (the appropriate ward being full), I didn’t see any waiting areas for family and friends. The lobby was quite busy and adorned with quirky, sometimes hilarious, works of art, but the other hallways were nearly empty. Bé’s room was devoid of both decoration and equipment, except an IV stand and a walker, and nice, big windows. Bé was sharing his room, by the way, with a middle-aged woman recovering from surgery. Karel told me the norm in Dutch hospitals is to assign rooms without regard to gender or age. Healthcare is relatively inexpensive (compared to the USA) and Bé could stay indefinitely, for as long as his condition is not manageable at home.
We returned early the following afternoon to find Bé looking and feeling much stronger. A medical team had analyzed the resistant strain of pneumonia causing his illness and come up with a cocktail of antibiotics they thought would work. We left feeling very happy about our decision to add a few days at the beginning of our trip to spend time with the family.
We went straight from the hospital to Dineke and Martin’s house. By pure coincidence, it was Bianca and Sander’s third anniversary, and everyone had the day off and was coming over for a family get together. Karel and I handed out gifts for everyone, especially Amanda and Jan Jaap’s new baby, Julian, and little Sarah, now two. It was like Christmas, which seemed perfectly appropriate, as the next time we’ll be back is at the end of our Africa trip, just in time for the arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands.
Dineke has promised a special treat when we’ll return to the Netherlands: a stamppot buffet (stamppot is a type of traditional Dutch comfort food). We look forward to it, and to having Bé at the table with us!This entry was posted in Vacation 2016: East/South Africa