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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Living in Exile


May 1952 Opa and Oma travelled from the Netherlands to Australia not knowing that they wouldn't return. Well a couple of quick trips 'home' don't really count. L and K are excited to be travelling 'back' to their birthplace to spend some time with R-V family.
Some places we are also hoping to visit are:
the Rijksmuseum, Annefrankhuis, Delft, Leiden, Voorburg, Den Haag...
K is obsessed with decorative vegetable gardens and is dreaming of visiting Castle Villandry in France. L is interested in Oxford and some other Harry Potter inspired places in the four days in England.

A friend and I (K) were talking recently about how language forms so much of our identity. I know that in speaking Japanese there are things I can say more powerfully than in English. Occasionally I am stuck for words in English because there is a better idiom or phrase capturing how I feel in Japanese. Dad spoke Dutch to his parents all their lives - I wonder how much I didn't know them because of the loss in translation! I am looking forward to learning a little more of them in the journey.

This week I have been reading the story of Daniel and what it was like to be a person whose identity was constantly challenged in an exilic setting. Nebuchadnezzar tried to seduce Daniel to assimilate and to forget home with fine wine and a royal diet. But Daniel still knew who he was. I don't think Oma and Opa experienced royal life in Australia, in fact I think Oma in particular lived in culture shock for much of her life, but they did maintain a strong sense of Dutch identity with their food, living arrangements (yes, persian rugs on every table) and language.


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