Homes sweet homes – Part 1: Rotterdam-The Hague
Many of you already know this but for those who don’t, I am what is called an ATCK, or Adult Third Culture Child (TCK). TCKs are children who have spent a significant part of their development years in a culture that is different from their home culture. They thus develop a “third culture” which is a mix of the two (or sometimes more). TCKs typically speak various languages fluently, like to travel (what a surprise...), adapt easily to new places but feel a little rootless. One of the most difficult questions to ask such a child is “where are you from?” or “where is home?”.
If you asked me where I am from, I would say that I am officially from the Netherlands but have almost never lived in my “passport country”. Your next question would then typically be “where have you lived then?” to which I would answer: Poland (I moved there when I was 3 years old), USA (several times), Switzerland, Netherlands, Mexico, France and Argentina. Then you follow up with “which country do you like best?” or “which country feels most like home” and I would try to change the subject…
In fact, I feel at home in many places but not really in my “passport country”. I do feel at home though in my parents house in The Hague, which is where we headed on May 28th, to celebrate my mothers 85th birthday.
The closest airport is Rotterdam-The Hague (EHRD), and after calling the Cirrus training center there because I also wanted to take a flying lesson in my own country, I was put in contact with Vlieg ClubRotterdam who helped us with the arrival formalities (they arranged an appointment on their premises at ETA with police, who checked passports and GenDec) and where we would be able to park the plane. For all general aviation pilots reading this: the Rotterdam Vliegclub welcomes non-commercial airplanes with a wingspan under 14 meters (ours is 12m, phew), are very friendly and have very clear explanations of the whole arrival procedure on their website. www.vliegclubrotterdam.nl. They also have a bar😊
During the 2 hour flight from Cardiff to Rotterdam we wore our life jackets of course, but not the immersion suits because we calculated that the stretch over water was shorter, meaning land was almost within gliding distance at all times, the water was probably not as cold in this latitude and we still had the life rafts to keep us out of it….it’s all about probabilities😊 Speaking of probabilities, we encountered icing at 9000 feet which had not been foreseen by the weather report, so Alex promptly filed a PIREP (Pilot Report) to alert others. We knew we were close to London when our screen started showing lots of traffic and approaching the Netherlands we saw windmills, albeit of the large metal windfarm type and large ships around Rotterdam harbor.
I must admit that despite my long ramble above about not having roots etc…, I was quite happy to land in my birth city, as you will appreciate on the picture:
After tying the plane down and putting on its cover (we like to call it its pajamas), we went straight to my parents’ house for THE celebration. When we got there my aunt Judith was waiting for us. On that date, May 28th, the Covid-19 rules in the Netherlands were that you could not have more than 2 visitors in your house at the same time, but Judith really wanted to say hello so there were three visitors for about 10 minutes… I hope no one saw us😊 But we had a good excuse: it was my mother’s 85th birthday and her daughter had come to visit with her husband, ALL the way from Argentina!
We spent two wonderful days with my parents who I hadn’t seen for over 2 years, reconnecting, refueling, sharing all our adventures, walking around in “my childhood neighborhood” (I have spent a full 3 years of my life there…), eating delicious meals including kroketten en friet from the snackbar -an absolute must-, drinking French wine etc .…My brother Floor and his wife Sasha joined us one afternoon (oops 4 guests but they didn’t stay very long and we left the doors open because the weather allowed it)….Paradise again! And to top it all, Alex got to ride in the bucket of Sasha’s bakfiets which is normally reserved for their dog Monty.
We hadn’t been locked up in Rotterdam airport, but we had another interesting story to tell. An hour or so after arrival at my parents’ house, I got several messages via this blog from a plane spotter located in Rotterdam who wanted to know all kinds of things about us and more importantly when we would leave because he and many other plane-spotter friends wanted to take pictures of the plane without its pajamas! Neither Alex or I had a clear picture of what plane-spotting was but they explained: “people whose hobby is to go to airports and make pictures or videos of the most rare and/or beautifully colored airplanes. An airplane with an Argentina call-sign is very unusual in the Netherlands”. They then post the pictures on plane-spotter websites. When he shared the link, we saw that we had also been spotted in Cardiff!
When we left, at the exact time we had promised, there was a whole group of spotters with their cameras ready and we felt like celebrities being chased by paparazzi. In addition, when we asked Rotterdam tower for the clearance to our next destination, the controller inquired “do you want clearance round the world, or just for your next flight?”. Dutch humor 😊
Initially we had planned to stay 3 days in The Hague but we found out that France was going to be more strict with people who had been in the UK starting Monday May 31st at midnight, so even though we were coming from the Netherlands, we preferred to leave on Sunday afternoon to be on the safe side. Thanks to the plane spotters, we had been reminded that when you travel in a small airplane, you do not enjoy a lot of privacy, everyone can find out where you are and have been via various websites including Flight Aware.
Luckily, I still had time to take the long Covid-postponed flying lesson in my own country which I had originally hoped to do in March 2020. You might wonder why I needed a lesson since I fly with Alex all the time. There are various reasons: 1. Alex does most of the flying because I trust him more as a pilot than myself, 2. Flying next to your husband is like driving next to him: when you are alone you manage quite well, but with him watching you always mess up your parallel parking maneuver and 3. Dale (the Cirrus instructor) knew the area much better.
With Dale and the school plane D-ECCD, I went to Midden Zeeland airport (EHMZ), a very flat grass strip with a nice restaurant and terrace, piloting from the left seat (which is where students typically sit when taking lessons) and after a short break I flew on the other side, my usual co-pilot seat, to return to Rotterdam. Flying on the right is a little awkward, but since it’s my spot it makes more sense that I get used to maneuvering from that side. It was a great experience: we did all kinds of exercises, slow flight, stalls, touch and go’s with and without instruments, we flew over sailboats and all the bridges of Rotterdam including the van Brienenoordbrug which is right next to the apartment in which I was born and one of my first memories.
Van Brienenoord bridge
Piloting from the right...( not my best performance)
When we left Rotterdam a few hours later, in front of the plane spotters behind the gate, we rode past Dale who was standing by the side of taxiway Lima, waving us goodbye.
After this stop in “home #1” we were headed to France, “home #2”, and more specifically to Laval (LFOV), the airport closest to where Nina, Sophie and Tobias were living at that time.
If the Netherlands are my passport country, France is my “adoptive country”: I attended French schools since I was 5 (they seduced my parents thanks to their reputation of being strict and very consistent for children who moved around the world), relocated to France to study when I was 18, lived there for over 20 years and 3 of my children were born in Paris. Just like there is “comfort food”, France is a “comfort country” for me. And it was waiting for me, on the other side of Belgium, only a short flight away, plus some formalities of course: we had contacted the Aeroclub de La Mayenne, the LFOV airport AFIS and the “douanes” in Le Mans who needed to give us a special authorization to land in Covid-times.
Fortunately, our experience in most places has been that when you have an “LV” tail number and come all the way from Argentina, you are a rarity and people tend to be intrigued.