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Hollandy: Part 4

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Adventures in Culture Shock

By: Sarah Aarssen

“It’s not all Holland, it’s not all Illinois, it’s just a little Holland-y”

According to www.dictionary.com, culture shock is “a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.”

That’s the sissy version of what culture shock is. To me, culture shock was letting off a long list of obscenities about the Netherlands and how I hated the country, the people, the food, the language, the roads, the weather, the _______ (insert just about anything) for the first two years of my life here any time something would go wrong. And plenty went wrong.

Being unable to ask the teller at the post office if they have Christmas stamps, led to a tirade about stupid Dutch language and their stupid spitty mouths and why can’t everybody speak English.

A job interview, went horribly wrong, brought on a rant of how everything in the U.S. is so much easier and I don’t understand why I am living in this stupid country with their stupid interviews for their stupid jobs!

I accidentally told the woman at the hospital that I was going to blow her up when I thought I was asking about parking clearly (true story) means I’m never, ever going to get this. I suck. I want to go home.

Moving to the Netherlands was one of the most exciting, tumultuous, extreme, trying, pressing, fun, emotionally charged “things” I have ever done in my entire life. I was starting a new adventure and man, was I ever naive. Just green as the grass. Completely unprepared for the jolt of Dutchness that I was about to embark on. I guess that’s not totally fair to myself because I did try to prepare for culture shock, but much like childbirth, until you’re actually in the position of gripping your husband’s head by his ears, screaming “God help me, I am dying, I can’t do this, I want my Mom, don’t freaking touch me you ignorant cow” (and I do quote) you really can’t prepare yourself for the emotional roller coaster ride of moving to a foreign country.

“Bewilderment” is going from a 28 year old sophomore in college who was supposed to be spending one semester in Wales to becoming an immigrant in the Netherlands who was now, suddenly, illiterate. I couldn’t read a street sign or a package in the grocery store or any piece of mail that came to the house.

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I couldn’t read a thing. I was a three year old searching for a picture to show me the way. That will knock you down a peg.

“Distress” is needing to go to the toilet while on a shopping trip and finding out that no stores have public toilets and when you finally find somebody nice enough to point you into the direction of the nearest place to relieve yourself you discover that you must have change to PAY TO PEE and all you have is your bank card so you’re stuck holding it. (Tears don’t work, I tried, but a big pregnant belly can sway even the toughest Dutch toilet trolls).

“Suddenly exposed” is: your loving fiance letting you drop him off at work so you can have the car when you’ve only been in the country for two weeks because he showed you the way home ONCE so you should be able to find your way back easy-peasy and when you drive down that first road and get mixed up and you knew you were doing it wrong but the cab driver scared you and you drive into the wrong exit ramp to which there is no spot to turn around and end up just driving for miles (or freaking kilometers!) on a street because you are too scared to stop and you can’t read the street signs because you’re illiterate and the signs are hiding on the buildings instead of at the intersection and you almost got hit by a tram because there are no trams in Gillespie and you just want to go home! Yes, it would suffice to say that I felt suddenly exposed.

Not all the culture shock was negative, don’t get me wrong. There were things that I really, really loved about my new life here but it really took just one little “thing” to make it all go downhill quickly. I had to really force myself not to jump on the “Hate Holland” bandwagon every time something didn’t go quite right and that is not fair to the Netherlands at all. It wasn’t a Dutch issue at hand, it was MY issue.

In all seriousness though, I have never shed so many tears in my life as I did those first two years here. Between missing my family and friends, friendships back home quickly slipping away, and Marco’s parents not speaking English, I felt isolated, stuck and very sad. Pitiful. Depressed. That’s a hard cycle to get yourself out of.

Neale Donald Walsch said “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (don’t worry, I had to Google him too). That was what saved me from my big, lonely depression of culture shock. I forced myself out of my sad little pity party and made myself do things that I wouldn’t normally do, here in Amsterdam or at “home” in Illinois. I joined an expatriate group on Yahoo and met up with a bunch of strangers, fellow expats., for evenings of fun and socialization. I started going to, and eventually participated in, open mic nights at a local cultural center, reading poetry which I wrote myself. I stumbled upon an English speaking radio show, sent in an email and eventually found myself as co-host of the morning show, twice. (Sidebar: the first things Mick, the radio host asked me, live on the air was “Sarah, what brought you to The English Breakfast morning show” and I replied with “I was always told I had a face for radio”. Laughter ensued and I believe I may have said one more sentence that day. The second show was much more eventful).

Once I stepped out of that comfort zone, that had held me all swaddled up warm for those first two years, I began to see what an opportunity I really had in front of me. It helped that I had found a job and loved the people that I worked with and had a bit of routine in my life finally, but it was those new adventures that were the most spirit altering for me. I discovered that my comfort zone wasn’t all that comfortable and I kind of liked wearing the coat of torture every now and again. It was exciting. It was liberating. It was that little flip of your stomach when you stepped out of the tram into this new street to meet up with people you have never spoken to in person for the very first time. It was offering a stranger on the bus one of your truffles just to see if you could make a new friend (that always works by the way). It was making eye contact, giving a compliment and starting a conversation. It was becoming more comfortable with the unknown in the world. It is something that I strive to do to this very day.

You know, I vividly remember all of the hubbub around Gillespie when the flashing four-way stoplight went up on main street. I was young, too young to even drive, but I remember how cool I thought that blinking red light was. We had an actual stop light in our little town! We were moving up in the world.

When I drove to work this morning I had to dodge pedestrians and parent’s on bikes loaded with one, two and sometimes three children (all on one bike!). I had to keep an eagle eye out for scooters and motorcycles, who seem to know an entirely different set of rules of the road than the rest of society. I had to give the right of way to buses and trams, lest be run over because, well, they just will. And heck, I drive under a runway at the airport, so let’s throw airplanes in there just for kicks. And that seemed perfectly normal.

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Dictionary.com says adventure is “an exciting or very unusual experience. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.” I simply have to agree.

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Domestic violence is prevalent in Macoupin County

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Dear Editor,

Domestic Violence within Macoupin County is prevalent. It is destructive and can be both physical and psychological. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. It may include behaviors meant to scare, physically harm, or control a partner. While every relationship is different – domestic violence generally involves an unequal power dynamic in which one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. The following statistics are all according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

We can see domestic violence inside the home: through the use and control of household pets. In one study, 85% of survivors who experienced co-occurring animal abuse reported that the behavior of their pets had changed. An even higher percentage of survivors who reported partners had harmed or killed their pet, have also reported their partner for domestic violence. We can also see an increase usage of firearms within the intimate partner violence home. A survey of contacts by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found (of those with access to firearms):  

  • 10% said their abusers had fired a gun during an argument.  
  • 67% believed their abusers were capable of killing them. 

We can see domestic violence inside our schools: as partner violence is not exclusive to the home. There are many instances of violence between dating partners that begin in high school. Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year. Within those relationships, 13.4% of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.  

We can see domestic violence inside our community: Macoupin County provides a specific set of needs for those victims and survivors of domestic violence. There are several complex concerns within a violent relationship that come to light once action has been taken. Safe Families sees a few main re-occurring concerns within the county:  

  • Survivors have fewer financial resources, making them more financially dependent on an abusive partner.  
  • The lack of rental units or other affordable housing options makes it more difficult for survivors to leave spouses or co-habiting abusers.  

The Macoupin County Safe Families program provides support for residents as they journey the emotional endeavors to leave behind domestic violence. As a contributor to that experience, we will be hosting a Domestic Violence Awareness Walk on October 7th on the Carlinville Square. An event shirt will be included with a ticket sale. The online tickets will close 09/29 at 5pm. Tickets will be sold at 9am day-of event at the Safe Families booth. More information about the Awareness Walk can be found on our website at mcphd@mcphd.net. We urge Macoupin County residents to join us and rally against domestic violence together.  

Juliet Wooldridge and Lilly Booth

Domestic Violence Advocate Coordinators
Community Health Worker
Macoupin County Safe Families

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: National Health Center Week is week of August 6

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Dear Editor,

Community Health Centers are the backbone of our nation’s primary health care system. We design innovative, integrated primary care based on what services communities need most — ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for over 30 million people. In addition to creating jobs and saving lives, collectively we save American taxpayers $24 billion a year in health care costs by preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Community Health Centers are not ordinary medical clinics; we are also problem-solvers who reach beyond the exam room to care for the whole person by providing access to necessities like food, transportation, and housing. Community Health Centers care for everyone, regardless of insurance status. Nationwide during hurricanes, floods, and fires, and locally during the pandemic, Community Health Centers are first on the scene and are vital to keeping America healthy.

The 2023 theme of National Health Center Week is ‘The Roadmap to a Stronger America.’ Community Health Centers serve as the beacon of strength, service, and care in their communities. In moments of pain and loss, we offer support and love. In moments of triumph, we offer hope and a vision for the future. This year’s National Health Center Week theme takes us on a virtual road trip across America, highlighting the achievements and amazing work being done at Community Health Centers in every state and territory. Celebrate the uniqueness of our community and get to know others as we journey across the U.S. together!

Each day of National Health Center Week is dedicated to a particular focus area. We will be working with community partners to recognize and celebrate each of the following focus groups in our community.

As part of National Health Center Week 2023, we invite you to support Macoupin Community Health Centers, Inc. to celebrate our mission and accomplishments.

Christy Blank
CEO/Public Health Administrator
Macoupin Community Health Centers, Inc.
Macoupin County Public Health Department

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Drobney family thanks the community

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To the great people of Macoupin County.

Although several months have past, the family of Bridget Drobney would like to extend their deepest gratitude for the overwhelming love and support that we received during the recent attempt to secure the release of one of Bridget’s rapist/murderers. We are truly grateful for the numerous letters that were written and sent to the Governor of our state, the Illinois Prison Review Board, and the personal outreach to our family; all of which demonstrated your unwavering love and support. Your efforts were instrumental in persuading the Governor and members of the Prison Review Board to deny clemency for Bridget’s murderer.

While it remains a possibility for the individuals involved in Bridget’s kidnapping, rape and murder to annually petition for clemency, The Drobney family takes solace in knowing that the exceptional people of Macoupin County will steadfastly oppose any such requests and stand ready to fight should the matter of clemency arise again. We are particularly grateful to retired Macoupin County State’s Attorney, Vincent Moreth, as well as the current members of the Macoupin County State’s Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of State Attorney, Jordan Garrison. Their unwavering dedication and support was evident as they traveled to Chicago to represent Bridget and the Drobney family during the clemency hearing.

Once again, we express our sincerest appreciation for your profound support and unwavering commitment to justice. Your solidarity has been a source of strength for us during these difficult years. We will keep you in our prayers and will be forever grateful to the people of Macoupin County.

Sincerely,
The Drobney Family

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