I’ve always been close to my mom. Typical Asian family, you’d say. What might make our relationship special is that she underwent a heart transplantation when I was 9, blood cancer when I was 16 and leiomyoma removal surgery when I was 20. She takes about 10 types of medicine everyday at the moment, including antidepressants, has migraines, sleeping problems and back problems.
So naturally, she was always home with me because she was not able to work anymore. At the age of 9, I had no idea what are the consequences of a heart transplantation. All I knew was that I could no longer have a pet because my mom’s immunity system was weakened. As I got older and taller, my mom seemed to get smaller and smaller. I slowly started realising that my mom is a little fragile human and that she could pass away any day. I was trying to suppress that thought. And I was good at it.
I never told any of my friends about my mom’s condition. I would start crying whenever I started talking about it. Heck, I’m even crying now as I type this. However, not so long ago I’ve learned it’s a crucial part of me that I need to stop avoiding.
So, my mom was home every day. I got used to that quickly. I’m naturally a quiet person just like my mom. Our typical conversation wouldn’t last longer than 10 minutes. It was very silent at our home, especially when she had headaches. We knew we loved each other, don’t get me wrong. But somehow I started taking her presence for granted. There was not so much to talk about. And right now, I just I wish we talked more about the little things.
Fast forward, I was going abroad for my exchange semester. I was used to not seeing my mom for a month or so and 5 months is not forever. Right now it has been 2,5 months of my exchange. We chat, whatsapp or skype with my parents about three to four times a week. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes, sometimes it’s 30 minutes. And I realised something. Of course, long-distance couldn’t break us. Nothing break Asian family’s bounds. But I did not expect the distance to make our relationships stronger. We actually talk now. About the little things. I told them how I set my boyfriend’s kitchen on fire, how I bought new raincoat or even how my butt is getting firmer from biking. They tell me how they feel, what they are working on right now. That’s the things we would not discuss if we were living in the same household.
Sometimes it’s good to take a break from each other. Look at things from distance.
Does the same apply for romantic relationships? It’s funny, but even though me and my boyfriend are together for almost 5 years, I can’t say for sure. Ironically, sometimes it’s short-distance that breaks people, not long-distance.
On August 17th I flew to the Netherlands as a part of my exchange programme within CEMS – International Management. We could pick 8 schools we would like to do our exchange at – of course Rotterdam was my first choice. I was quite lucky to get the spot, one of my friends ended up in a school he did not list at all.
Of course, first thing I got myself was a bike. I got it even before I found my room, which is a bit crazy. There is a huge demand for bikes, but even bigger for rooms. I love my bike! It really is the most convenient way of transporting yourself in Holland. I’m thinking of getting myself a bike in Prague too… my butt is getting extra firm, haha!
Many people told me Rotterdam is an ugly city… and it is true. But what really drives me crazy is the weather here. Since I arrived, there is no week without rain. Sometimes it would rain for 5 minutes and then get sunny for 5 minutes, on repeat. Once it caught me when I started biking to school and because I live 4 kms away, I had little pools in my converse shoes and my sweater was dripping. Worst day ever!
On the other hand, when it gets sunny, it has some charm to it. I love watching/walking/biking the Erasmus Bridge. Although there is a little hill and I always get ridiculously exhausted and I breath like an asthmatic there. There’s just something awesome about bridges – Golden Gate Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, Charles Bridge..
When in Holland – visit Belgium! I can’t stress that enough. I have visited The Netherlands many times – Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, Breda. And probably my favorite place is the city lying at the border with the Netherlands – Antwerp. We went there one sunny weekend with my boyfriend and his papa en mama. They think it’s gezellig and I love shopping. My favorite shops there are definitely Brandy Melville, Jutka&Riska and a second-hand called Think Twice.
Also, they have the best waffles in the world.
Back to Rotterdam, eventually, I found myself a room. I was really lucky, found a great roommate and the location of the place was perfect. What was my surprise when 3rd day, after I moved in, someone put a letter underneath my door. It was addressed to a previous tenant. Apparently, this woman owed someone 2000 euros and they wanted it back. On the letter it stated: “We’ll come with police and a lock-man and we’ll take your stuff.” Signed by those Hollywood-like gorillas. It scared the crap out of me. Especially because the previous tenant was a Chinese woman and you know, if they come and see me, another Asian, they will just assume it’s her! I was really worried.
I ordered my boyfriend (who doesn’t like bothering people even though it’s their job to be bothered) to call those gorillas. The woman on the phone was pretty pissed. Apparently, this debt goes back to 2012 and she has been sending the letters for at least a year. However, the people who lived here before me, just kept ignoring them and were throwing them away because at that time, there were no threats written on the envelopes. They told me to call my rental agency. So my BF called them. They told me it’s not their job and to sort it out myself (in case you are wondering, it’s Stadswonen). They kindly told me to go to a city hall of Rotterdam and announce there that miss Xu no longer lives at my apartment. So my boyfriend had to call the city hall. There they said: “You have to get a BSN number first to get an appointment to start an investigation. BSN’s a citizen number. But we are full for those appointments, sorry.” So we decided to go to Breda (1 hour away by train), where we knew officers in city hall basically have all the time to think of meaning of the life and whatsoever. The woman there was really nice. She calmed me down and told me to send back the letters I have received with “return to the sender” written on it. Also she gave me my BSN number.
So with a BSN number, we set up an appointment in Rotterdam city hall. I had to wait for a week. And every single day I was worried that when I come home from school, there might not be anything in my room anymore. I mean, I know there wasn’t much but there was my pineapple lamp I was emotionally attached to and also my awesome Jeffrey Campbell shoes. Do they take such stuff? Anyway, on the day D, I finally arrived to the city hall of Rotterdam to start the address investigation. I was happy that finally we’re getting somewhere. The woman at the desk looked superbored. She stared at me, at my BF, at my BSN number and then slowly whispered: “Where’s your registration?” MY WHAT????!!!! “She’s here only for four months, she doesn’t need it.” Thanks, Spike! “Ja, but without registration, we cannot start the investigation.” I was THIS close to exploding. Then we decided to fuck this shit.
Eventually, the city hall started the investigation itself so now I’m safe. But man, those few days of stress and errands were challenging.
To balance this a bit – I witnessed an awesome fireworks by the Erasmusbrug. It was part of Port World Days festival in Rotterdam and it was beautiful! Also, there was a live orchestra playing from a boat. I love how there is always something happening in The Netherlands. I’m afraid I’m missing out so much because of school, haha!
Speaking of missing out, this place is a must! I have been 5 times to De Ijssalon: probably the best ice cream store in Holland. It’s crazy good and relatively cheap! About 2euro per scoop. My personal favourites are “grandma’s apple pie” and “white chocolate”. Yum!
Another favourite of the month: Ter Marsch & Co. burgers. I first heard of this place from my American teacher who said “this is the best burger I have ever eaten in my life”. And he is American, right? It must be amazing, I thought. And I can confirm as well – the meat was super juicy and real deal. What I liked about those burgers the most: you can actually see they cut it so that the bun on the bottom is thicker. That is because usually the bottom bun gets soaked and it’s not that good anymore. This is such a simple yet brilliant thing. BIG LOVE.
And yeah, I’m enjoying it here with my CEMS schoolmates! Rotterdam is starting to grow on me.