My first Dutch birthday

Yes, that’s right: vandaag is het mijn verjaardag.  (I’m not sure about that “het” and if it’s necessary…my Dutch is elementary, at best.)  But this is my first birthday here in the Netherlands! Today I have an all-day off-site meeting with a large group of colleagues, and then an evening event that involves dinner and glow-golf. All of this was planned independently from my birthday, but I have to admit it will be nice to have something fun to do, and I like my coworkers very much. So maybe not how I would have chosen to spend the day, but I’m looking forward to it just the same.

Yesterday I met my obligation to bring sweets for my colleagues. I finally figured out the right baking setting on my weird combi-oven and managed to make a delicious chocolate bundt cake and a couple of batches of chocolate chip cookies. Several people asked me for the recipe for the cookies, which I found funny, since every American knows exactly where to find the recipe for Nestle Toll-House cookies. (Birthday confession: I am eating the leftover cookies for breakfast as I type this. But hey, it’s my birthday, and I get to do what I want. Just for today.)

One of the many opportunities that birthdays give us is the chance to look around at the life we’ve built (and are building) and, more importantly, at the relationships that sustain and enrich that life. I woke up this morning to birthday greetings from Australia, Pakistan and Malaysia. It’s a wonder to me that my circle could ever have spread that far, and I am amazed and grateful for the people that I count among my friends.

Soon I’ll head off to the day’s meeting, and I’ll be greeted with the traditional Dutch birthday congratulations and the sometimes-awkward three kisses. I will do my best to pay attention and make sure that I remember this birthday, my first in my adopted home town. As far as I may be from home, I am never far from friends.

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