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Happy first Peaker anniversary

Happy first Peaker anniversary

I’ve got you under my skin
I have got you, deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me
I’ve got you under my skin
                                                                                        -Frank Sinatra-

IMG_6350

If your motto in life is “celebrate love and life”, then a first-year anniversary is definitely something to celebrate.
Anniversaries are all about confetti, balloons, streamers, birthday cake and drinking a nice glass of wine. As soon as my words hit the paper however, I realize it looks a bit awkward to celebrate one’s first year anniversary of a membership. I don’t think I have ever celebrated a first year anniversary of any kind of membership. So why should I celebrate this one?
Because being a member of My Peak Challenge is different. It’s something that gets under your skin the moment you start. It becomes a part of you, even to a down to earth woman like myself.

Looking back on this first year of my MPC membership, I can assure you my life didn’t look the least bit like what it is today. For those of you who read my blogs regularly, you will have noticed the change in this past year.
Looking back also made me wonder if the founder of this community, Sam Heughan, would ever have imagined what the effect would be when he started MPC? A global community with more then 10,000 members, mostly women, all over the world. People with different kinds of race, religion, political preference etc, all with one believe that they can effect a positive change in their lives while helping others.
Would Sam ever have imagined that all over the world activities are organized to raise money for the organizations MPC supports?
Or that he could inspire over 10,000 members to change their lives, doing things they never have done before if it wasn’t for MPC ( or should I say Sam?) Or that MPC members would challenge themselves and maybe their partners and friends to do things they never have been able to do?

I told you at the beginning of this year that one of my challenges for this year would be walking through all 12 regions of the Netherlands. I know now that I won’t achieve my challenge this year because I keep walking in my own backyard, Flevoland. I was born and raised in this part of the Netherlands that once was called “the new country”. I went to school here, I made friends here, took my first job at the local drugstore, went to the local pub, met my love her but clearly wasn’t able to see the true beauty of it until now.

Everytime I see it from a different angle, and I am surprised by the beauty of it. Where was I these last 50 years? I must have been walking around with my eyes closed!
If it wasn’t for MPC I would never have walked as much as I do now. I see trees, bushes, flowers, birds etc. without DSCN0310knowing their names. When I come home I show pictures to the people who do know and learn from it.DSCN0309
During my college time (when I studied to become a teacher), I had a professor in biology who used to laugh and say to me, “how can you become a teacher if you can’t distinguish a dandelion from a daisy…?” I told him that I had other skills.
But today I do know the difference and it pleases me. My professor would be proud of me.
If it wasn’t for MPC, I would never have discovered the true beauty of the region I live in. And even today, and every other day, I see different parts of it, and it still amazes me.
This walking doesn’t only make me see the beauty around me but it also clears my head and gives me space to think about new plans, ideas, sometimes even new blogs!

So you see my MPC membership has brought me a lot this first year. I also met a lot of new people. Not only here in the Netherlands but all over the world.
I met some really nice Dutch Peakers, at a time where I tought I was the only one! Together we did some awesome and crazy things this past year. I even had one of them taken pictures from me for my new business website. Over 200 pictures were taken of me. I don’t think there are that many pictures of me in my whole life!
I met a really nice Russian Peaker who was here on a holliday. We spent a day together in Amsterdam. We wandered the streets of the city, talking about a lot of subjects.IMG_5449 (Edited)
If you read this blog post, it has already been to America, Texas, where a really nice American Peaker corrects it. If you thought my English was that good, it’s all because of her.
I wonder Sam, if you would have ever imagined that your global community would bring together so many people? Honestly ?
You see, that’s why I celebrate today my first anniversary with MPC. I made it through, a positive change, and therefore I’m able to help others around me. It really gets under my skin, especially when I was raised and brought up in this belief that you can be a better person by helping others. Somewhere along the road I seemed to have forgotten it a little bit until I became a member of MPC.
Slàinte Sam, (and all those who work behind the scenes, who make this community to what it is; challenging and global), to my first year as an MPC member and hopefully many more to come.

1 Universe
9 Planets
204 Countries
809 Islands
7 seas
And I had the privelege of meeting you (MPC)

Big Dutch Peaker Meeting

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything’s allright

Elton John- Friends

I woke up this morning with a nervous feeling in my stomach and I asked myself: “what’s so special about today that I wake up with this feeling?” And then it slowly hit me; today I was going to my first Big Dutch Peaker Meeting. It felt almost as if I were going on a schooltrip: the nervous feeling, hardly any patience for waiting, looking every five minutes at the clock etc. Although I am a grown up now and able to get my nervous feeling under control, I will not deny I was looking forward to it.
In the past week there had been some, or should I say a lot of, anticipation on social media and in the app about this day We had messages about how everybody was looking forward to this day, arrangements to travel together by car or train, the dress code for the anual photo, etc.

I decided to go by train. I like traveling by train. It gives me a chance to listen to some music, read a bit on my e-reader or, like today, write something in my notebook.
It is the second time I have taken my notebook and pen with me, to write on location. Luckily you can’t see my shaky handwriting, for writing in a moving train isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. On the other hand I have a rather nice penmanship, so if it’s a bit shaky, you would still be able to read it.

The Big Dutch Peaker Meeting was held in Utrecht and on my way there I wondered how many of us would attend, who was new, who would be there that I had already met before, and last but not least, who would be missed? I knew that some where on a vacation, some had to work and others had different obligations.
The meeting had an early start at the railway station where I met a group of Peakers who also travelled by train and one who came by car but met us at the station.
There was a lot a hugging, kissing and shaking hands and then we went to the given location in the city.
Utrecht is well known for all its nice bars and restaurants at the low lying docks of the canal. In the old days basements were used to store the goods that were brought there by boats. Nowadays many of the town’s bars and restaurants are located in these basements.
On this day in June it was rather busy at the terraces. The temperature was OK, but the sun didn’t show up.
Several groups of people circled through the canals, some celebrating a bachelor party, some on a family reunion and some just because it’s nice to circle through the canals.
In one of these basements we Peakers got together. You have to know that these basements have a very low ceiling and when you put about a 40 Dutch Peakers in it, I can guarantee you that makes a hell of a noise. Something like party time in the henhouse!
There were so many wonderful connections to make at our gathering. I met a Peaker sister who had also spent a day with one of our Russian Peaker sisters in Amsterdam. We hadn’t met before and had only spoken to each other on social media.
I also met a Peaker Sister who did a part of her study last year in Scotland. When I read her story on social media I was immediately interested. During my visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh last year, I paid a visit to the universities, sat down on a bench outside the buildings, and wished I had the chance to study there. When I read she did, I was almost a little bit jealous. She told me that she had to hand in her paper next Monday for the first time and hopes to get it back by Friday so she can correct it finally turn it in to finish her master in history. I’m certain it will be al right. Good luck to my Peaker sister!
I spoke to Peakers I’ve met before, and I spoke to those I haven’t met before but it felt like I had, like one big family. It struck me when I looked into the room that although most of us know each other from social media and the app group, or sometimes from other meetings, there is so much bonding between us.
Somehow, though, all good things comes an end, including this Big Dutch Peaker Meeting. Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbuy.

When I travel by train I never take the last train but always the next to last one. Should I miss my train, there is always the chance of taking another one.
This evening was no exception. Together with another Peaker we reserved the next to last one. As we arrived at the railwaystation there was enough time to grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks. As we entered the shop there was another Peaker waiting for her train. Too afraid to miss our trains we went to the platforms in time and then it went wrong……….

I couldn’t help it. I opened the app of the Dutch Peakers and one message after another came in, all telling how wonderful the day had been and how nice it was to meet each other. A lot of reactions of the new Peakers told us how welcome they felt ( gladly and I should say, of course, because thats how I felt the first time I met my Dutch Peaker sisters). Can you imagine that I once thought I was the the only Peaker in the Netherlands?
There were comments about how fun the restaurant where we had eaten was ( It seemed there was a lot of broken glass, something with Greek plates!), how they thought we were too loud ( you provide group arrangements and then tell you, you make too much noise?) and so much more.

And while I was reading all these reactions, I saw, just before my eyes, my train leaving the station without me! Blimey, did I really missed it? Yes you did!
That’s why I never take the last train, although it never happend to me before, there has to be a first time for everything.
I looked at the timetable on my phone, saw I had to go to another platform to take the last train and called my love I was coming home a little bit later. I told my Peaker sisters I missed my train and wouldn’t look at my phone again until I was sitting in the train.
I caught the last train home, didn’t have to sleep under a bridge, and went to bed with a big smile on my face, knowing this was a very special day, my first Big Dutch Peaker Meeting. One I will never forget!

Springwalk in Flevoland

Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party!
-Robin Williams-

Springwalk in Flevoland

It’s almost summer and for the very first time I have written a great part of this blog on location. How funny is that? Until now I always wrote my blogs when I got home, or even some of them a few days after I walked.
Today is different. Today I was a volunteer for a very large association in the Netherlands, called the ANWB. In English it is called the Royal Dutch Touring Club. They started way back ( I believe it’s already 130 years old) and nowadays they describe themselves an association that looks after the interests of its members regarding travel, mobility, holidays and spare time. If you’re interested you should look them up. There are similar associations in a lot of other countries, I believe in England they are called AA and in America AAA!
On a beautiful day in May they organized “Springwalks”, in every region of the Netherlands. When they came up with the idea of organizing these walks they couldn’t have imagined it would be almost 30°C (86°F). It felt more like a Summerwalk!

A couple of months ago I decided to sign up as a volunteer for this event. Not totaly to my surprise I was sent to Natuurpark Lelystad, another beautiful location in my own backyard, and a part of Flevoland I hadn’t been for a very long time.
The Park was created in 1972 and allows visitors to view a lot of animals in their natural environement ( on 371 ha). You can spot wild pigs, red deers, storks, otters, horses,and so much more. As I mentioned, it has been a long time since I was here and the first thing that I noticed was that the appearence of the area was so much more natural then it was fifteen years ago.
I was surprised by the park’s beauty.

The high temperatures made it a bit difficult to spot all the animals because manywere hidden in the shadows of the trees or bushes. Some of the deer stood in the water.
But you won’t hear me complaining about the weather. I love the warm weather! I often say bring me this kind of weather until christmas, then two days of snow and then back to nice warm weather.

My job as a volunteer was to welcome the people who came to walk,hand them the route (5,10 or 15 km), and after they finished the walk give them a nice goody bag.
We also gave everybody a bottle of water to take with them because of the high temperatures.
We were with 4 volunteers and one employee of the ANWB.
It was the first time I volunteered for something like this. How nice is to combine the two things you love most; walking and meeting other people.

In the afernoon I was lucky enough to get the chance to walk one of the routes by myself. So I chose to walk the 10km route. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable, because I know that walking 10km means being gone for almost two hours. On the other hand, there were enough volunteers to do the job.

As soon as I was gone I realised that it has been quite a while back since I walked all by myself;
mostly I walk with my friend or my love. But sometimes it’s good to do a walk by yourself. I took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air of trees, bushes and flowers, and then I walked.
I had already gone some distance when I ran into one of the park rangers and told him I was surprised by how this park had developed itself. It all looked so natural. He was glad to hear it because that was (is) their intention, to keep it natural.
Further along the walk,I had to stop now and then, for I thought I saw something moving between the trees or behind the bushes. But it was hard to catch a glimpse of the animals.

I crossed a cattle grid and saw a bench that I decided would be a lovely spot to write something down. The view from where I sat was amazing.
I looked across a large lawn with a couple of high and mighty trees, and behind them a pool of water. At first all was peaceful and quiet. At the time I wrote that previous sentence, however, a couple of young people loudly opened a fence that encloses the area where the deer are living.
The distraction almost made me forgot where I was and what I was doing. I enjoyed every minute of sitting there, and I had to encourage myself to walk on.

Somewhere further down the road I passed the area where the wild pigs live. When the term “wild pigs” is mentioned in our family we always have a bit of a laugh.
A couple of years ago one of my friends wanted to see wild pigs, because she had never seen them, and decided to go with her family to a forrest where they should be. I believe there was even somebody who told them if they would go tot hat particular spot they should see them. They waited and waited but never saw a wild pig.
I was lucky on my walk, though, because there were a few wild pigs by the gate. I saw them but they didn’t give me one look. They were busy sticking their noses into the ground, hoping to find something to eat.

Although it was already later in the afternoon it was still very warm.
There were few people walking and cycling past me, and the only other thing I heard were the birds. There were so many of them, and they all sang a different song. It’s almost like an orchestra without a conductor.

When I came back the other volunteers had already cleaned up the place.
As I drove home, I felt satisfied. I had seen another piece of my own backyard and came to the conclusion that living below sealevel has a magic of it’s own….. a magic you should come, see and feel for yourself.

A Dutch Peaker Tulip walk

A Dutch Peaker Tulip Walk

In the garden
Tulips grow
Straight and golden
In a row.
Each one holds its
Empty cup
Drinking rain
And sunshine up

-V.W. Lachicotte

Tulips and I have always had some sort of love-hate relationship.

There isn’t a season I don’t love, but when winter is coming to an end, the early spring sun warms the day a little and all the spring flowers come crawling out of the black fields, I long for the summer to come. The variety of colours displace the last bit of winter’s darkness and let you know that it will only get better every day from this moment on. Days grow longer, the sun gets stronger and nature awakens. To bring this feeling of early spring into my house, I buy tulips; mostly red ones, but also yellow, pink or purple ones.

The hate part of the relationship is based on me putting these lovely flowers into the wrong vase, cutting them off in the wrong way, or putting them in the wrong temperature of water. I am no florist. Within no time my tulips are hanging down, and the original beauty of the flower is gone. Over the years I have learned more about caring for my tulips, and so my love for this flower grew.

Whenever I walk, cycle or drive through Flevoland in these days I see thousands and thousands of tulips everywhere I look. Flevoland has over 5000 acres of tulips. That’s about half of the tulips in the Netherlands! Knowing that, I couldn’t leave this subject unwritten.

Most of my stories pop in my head by seeing something, such as a phrase in a book, a line of a song or just a word from a friend. This time my story began in January when my love and I were walking in Egmond at Sea, a village in another region of the Netherlands. He pointed out the tulip fields that the area was well known for. We discussed that our region also has a lot of tulip fields. Just few weeks later as I was walking with a friend, she told me that there was a walk called The Tulpenbollenroute. That’s when my new blog was born (in my head).

The coincidences got a little bit creepy because another few days later when I told somebody at my job I was going to write about the tulips, she gave me an invitation to a workshop painting tulips. Although I’m far from an artist and my drawings look like those from a toddler, I spontaneously signed up for it, and so another story was born.

A little bit of history
Did you know that the word tulip comes from “tulipa”, meaning the flower that looks like a turban? Men in the Middle Ages wore turbans in Turkey, and that’s exactly where our tulips originally descend from (Hortus Botanicus).
Tulips were brought to the Netherlands in the late 1500s from the Ottoman Empire and planted in the botanical gardens at the University of Leiden. The trading of tulips began when the tulips were stolen from the garden. Up until a hundred years ago, tulips were rare and expensive.

Every year in October and November, the tulips are planted. Tulips require specific growing conditions. They will never bloom if they haven’t had a cold winter and after that a little bit of warmth. Originally they were planted in a sandy soil, because it was very difficult to harvest them from clay soil. Nowadays they do come from clay soil because it produces better tulips and makes the bulb stronger.

For the farmers in Flevoland, the flower on its own is not very interesting; it’s the bulbs that matter. By Kingsday, at the end of April (if the weather is on our side), the tulips are in full bloom and that’s exactly the time for the farmers to cut the flowers from the bulbs. Cutting the flowers off directs all the energy and nutrition into the bulb, which is important. These bulbs are reaped by the end of summer, layed out to dry and thereafter peeled. Almost every teenager in Flevoland has done that as a side job. It’s a horrible job, and your fingers get very ugly from doing it, and it doesn’t pay off that well.

Walk through the fields of tulips
With the sun high up on the sky and knowing that it’s almost the end of April, I walked through Flevoland with a couple of my friends to enjoy the beauty of the tulips. I couldn’t have picked a better day! If I had done this one week before, I can assure you that there would not have been a flower to been seen. It has been cold for a long period and, as I mentioned, the tulip needs warmth and sunshine to open up. You might think, “Don’t we all?” Yes as a matter of fact we do; at least I do. I also think that somebody in the universe knew that I was eager to show you more of the beauty of my backyard, because for the whole week it has been beautiful weather with high temperatures.

We started our walk in the area called Rivierduinengebied, an area north of Lelystad and Swifterbant. When this area was created they stumbled upon an prehistoric landscape. An old calf barn has been transformed into an educational centre where you can learn about this area and its creation. The farmyard also has beautiful and creative hotels for insects and bees. As we walked through the fields of thousands and thousands of tulips, we got an added treat. We passed a farm where they invited us to come and look at their cows and calves. We were lucky: just ten minutes before we arrived a calf was born!

Back at the barn we enjoyed our cup of coffee and moved on to our next stop: the Shortgolf (Swifterbant). We ate lunch and watched other people playing golf on the green. I’m not a golfer myself, but on this course you can play without having a license to play. Maybe I should go back one day and try it.

After a nice lunch we continued on for the surprise of the day: painting our own tulips. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone and do things you thought you were never able to do. A lady taught us how to make a landscape of tulips. In the instructor’s painting there was an old mill, but since there are no old mills in my region, I included one of those modern windmills. It was there and then, sitting in a livestock stable with the smell of cows all around me under the watch of a cow who was about to give birth, my love-hate relationship with our national pride became more and more a relation of true love.

Under the Sea (2)

Life under the sea is better
Than anything they got up there
-From the movie: Little Mermaid-

A couple of weeks ago I bought a book by Cameron McNeish. It is a beautiful book, mostly worth reading. It also made me think: This man has so much passion and love for his native country of Scotland, as well as for all the walking and climbing he has done during the past forty years. He calls his book There’s Always the Hills. I have lived almost all of my life in Flevoland, the region in the Netherlands that lies beneath sea level. It feels like there is no greater difference between those two things, up the hills and below sea level, and maybe that’s what attracts me most about Scotland. Isn’t that what they say: opposites attract?

But anyway, in my last post I promised you another story about my backyard, Flevoland, the region I have been living in for over 49 years. Hey, that calls for a celebration next year! Flevoland is not a very large region, encompassing 1419 km2. In comparison, Scotland, for example, is 77,933 km2 and Edinburgh is 264 km2. Despite its smaller size, I am continually surprised by the beautiful spots this region has in store for me. Walking through Flevoland is like walking in my backyard. There are hardly any great distances, and that’s an additional advantage for someone who may not always have that much time to go on walk far away from home.

Oostvaardersplassen
This area is over 6000 acres and was created at the end of the 1960s as a polder, meaning that part of the sea was enclosed in dikes so that land could be reclaimed. Originally, Oostvaardersplassen was meant to be an industrial area, but large pools of water remained standing in the new polder. As a result, the builders decided to plant reeds and leave the wetland for what it was. Soon many types of birds found their way to this part of Flevoland and settled down. The Graylag Goose made the continued development of this natural area possible. They keep the reeds in check by eating them, which assures the Oostvaardersplassen can provide a home to a variety of birds and plants.
In addition to the Graylag Goose, there are many more birds to be seen in the Oostvaardersplassen. So take with you your binoculars to see starlings, lapwings, several types of ducks, wading birds, and many more. And don’t forget your camera!

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t know enough to name all the species of birds as they fly over.
At those moments, I regret not having paid more attention in biology class. I am sure my teacher back then thought the same thing when I couldn’t distinguish a daisy from a dandelion. I do know the difference between a duck and a goose, and I do know a woodpecker, but that’s mostly it. As I have been walking more and more, however, I have learned a lot.

On one morning during an early walk, I snapped this photo of a tree full of birds, so numerous that you could hardly see the branches. I am sorry I can’t tell you what kind of birds they were (for they were not ducks, goose or woodpeckers), but I do know it was a wonderful view and for a moment, Hitchcock’s movie The Birds came to my mind.

All these beautiful birds attract flocks of birdwatchers. I have never seen so many fancy cameras and telephoto lenses, at least not in a place where there are no celebrities. But maybe, in a way, these birds are some sort of celebrities to these birdwatchers! Maybe the photographers are the bird paparazzi.

 

As we walked on we had to take a meandering course. We didn’t lose track; the road was blocked with horses. In the 1980s about eighty Konik horses were released into the nature area, and now there are over 900 of them. Signs warn you that these horses can be unpredictable and that you best stay at a distance of 25 meters. If you do want to pass them, do not go through the herd! Since I am a rule follower, we decided to take a detour around the horses. Before doing so, however, we stood still and observed these wonderful creatures from a distance. The wild horses looked back at us with no interest at all, for we were only some of the many who pass by them each day.Oostvaardersplassen is a place that inspires discussion. Some say that there are far too many animals, and that the horses don’t belong there. Others want the area to remain as it is. I recently signed a petition to connect this area and other natural areas so the animals can travel and have more space.

Roggebotzand
Another place I love to walk is Roggebotzand. This wooded area is situated in the northern part of Flevoland along the lake called Vossemeer. The soil is sandy, and therefore there are a lot of conifers in the forest. It’s a really nice walking wood, and whenever I have little time but need to go for a walk, I take my car and drive for about 15 minutes to reach it. I have several routes I walk, and every time I discover new places, new routes, and new views. It never gets boring around there.

Roggebotzand is an active place. There are a lot of runners and mountain bikers in this wood. The mountain bikers have made a nice path through parts of the forest. In April of this year I’m planning on going over there to do some mountain biking with the Dutch Peakers.

The little ones will find that the “Goblinwood” area is especially exciting. Goblins guide the children along their trek, which ends with eating pancakes in a beautiful goblin house. Pets also enjoy Roggebotzand. Up until October of last year we had Bernese Mountain dogs, and walking with them in this wood was a weekly habit. We even scattered the ash of our first dog in this peaceful area.
Another special thing about Roggebotzand is that part of it is a memorial. In 1999, people started planting trees in memory of people who died of cancer. We planted a tree in this memorial wood for my mother who died of cancer in 2006. As of today, more than 25,000 trees have been planted.

I know that I haven’t told you everything about my backyard, but I hope my two posts give you a nice portrait of the beauty of Flevoland. For you see, “Living under the sea is better, than anything they got up there…” Perhaps for my next walk, I will find some hills that Cameron McNeish would enjoy.

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