Hello again, all ye friends and family far and wide! This is the beginning of a new era in Epics, as you may have noticed from the title. I am now in the Netherlands and thus need a new theme. Diggin’ in the Dirt it is!
So! Last you heard from me I’d graduated from my program in Belgium and hit the trail for the Netherlands. I got here without any real hitches and started working almost without a chance to stop and catch my breath. Now it is a weekend, and I’m relaxing with great enthusiasm!
The house I am living in is different from the one I lived in last time I was here. It’s located along the river dike on the opposite side of the river from Nijmegen proper. The area is mostly rural – lots of sheep nearby – but is scheduled to be turned into a zillion new houses in the next few years, which is a pity.
The house is huge, and for an excavation house, it’s really first class. We are currently five occupants: Mareika, native Dutchwoman and permanent (for now) resident; Americans Angela and David (“Desert Storm”) who are both from Iowa; and Kinga, from Poland. Mareika is nice, but we don’t see much of her. Angela is a master’s student at the U of Iowa, and is VERY gung-ho about archaeology and all things ancient. David is the eternally returning volunteer, and he earned his nickname by wearing the same pair of camouflage pants to work every day. I don’t know much about Kinga yet, as she just moved in a couple days ago. She seems nice enough.
The other warm bodies worth mentioning around here include Henry, who lives in the little house that’s not quite attached to our house, the ducks, and the frogs. The ducks (plus two geese and one pheasant) show up twice a day in a great throng in order to be fed. They follow Henry around until he passes out the grain, then they do battle with each other to make sure no one gets an unfair share of the best grain bits.
Personally, I like the frogs better. There is a little garden to the side of the house where Henry, Mareika, and a few other people keep veggie patches. Also in this garden is a pool. It used to be a swimming pool, I understand, but it either proved too much work to maintain, or the frogs just took over and there was nothing to be done about it. In either case, the previous owners decided to just let the frogs have their victory. They turned the pool into a Frog Heaven, complete with lily pads, mossy patches, and a fountain. It’s really lovely. If you go out and sit nearby, the frogs eventually forget you’re there and creep up the sides to sit in the sun.
And the work! I went to work first thing on Wednesday morning. The site where we are excavating is directly in the center of the old part of Nijmegen, in what used to be a parking lot and will soon be new houses (sense a theme here?). It’s a big site, covering everything from 16th century to medieval to Roman, depending how deep you dig. It’s also an important site, since it apparently proves the ancient-ness of the city. Why is that important, you may ask? Because this year, Nijmegen is celebrating its 2000th Anniversary. It’s hard to say your city is 2000 years old without proof, and apparently, we’ve just started digging up the proof. That was an awfully fine coincidence, considering the fact that the party was already planned before the dig had even begun!
As for what I’m doing there? So far, I’ve dug up a lot of post holes, done a few layer drawings, and managed not to get sunburned, which is really my biggest accomplishment. It’s been quite warm (high 20s/mid 80s) but the temperature doesn’t matter much when there isn’t a shadow in sight. I’ll let you know if things get more interesting.
And the final bit of news is the impending party. The Four Days March (and accompanying Four Days Festival which actually lasts a whole week) began yesterday. The March itself begins on Tuesday, but of course, it’s no good to do all that marching without a little good partying first. Last night, David, Angela, Kinga and I went into town to observe the first evening of festivities. All things said and done, it was still pretty calm, although things should pick up through the week. We had a couple beers, rode the ferris wheel, and checked out all the bandstands. I’m sure I’ll go back later in the week, and will thus be able to report on the increasing frenzy. It’s certainly a spectacle, if nothing else.
So far done a lousy job getting to the local Kingdom Hall. I made a very noble effort today, only to discover that the train schedule is apparently arranged specifically with the intention of preventing me from getting where I’m going. It may be easier on Wednesday, since the trains run more frequently than they do on Sunday. The tough part will be getting home from work, getting clean, and getting where I’m going on time. Maybe by then I’ll have a bike so it will take less than an hour to come and go from work.
Okay, well, this email is approaching long-enough, so I’ll try to wrap up for now. A few of you are new to my list – welcome, oh Belgian Buddies! If my epics are more than you think you can handle (I send them about once a week) just let me know and I’ll take you off the list. Otherwise, no obligations to reply – I just like to continually let people know that I’m still alive.
So for now, many hugs and much love from the Netherlands!