At the beginning of last year I moved from my student house with 11 men in the always pleasant Utrecht to a tiny village near Gouda. It was a very big decision for me and my boyfriend to buy, but we bought a beautiful house that had so much added value compared to the prices in the city.
The first months we lived there I was still busy writing my master's thesis, but when I finished in October I noticed that I often felt alone. My boyfriend is a sailor and is therefore often away. He is often 3 weeks at sea and 3 weeks at home. I didn't know anyone in the village yet, my family lives in Leiden, in-laws in Zeeland and my friends flew all over the Netherlands after my student days.
I felt alone, but I didn't feel needy. I thought: 'there are people who really need help' or 'I am healthy so I can help'. I didn't feel like I could see myself as a victim so I signed up to volunteer in the area. I started working at De Zonnebloem so that I could at least have an outing for myself every now and then. I helped lonely elderly people, got to know the village, made house calls and helped with activities. That went really well. I immediately got to know two super nice ladies with whom I can chat and regularly do things with. Some elderly people and fellow volunteers have lived in the village for 50 years, were born and raised here and can tell me a lot about the village, which is always very nice!
In January I got a job and my life became a bit fuller again. I helped out at the Zonnebloem in my spare time and was busy with my new job 40 hours a week. But then the corona crisis quickly came into play. I suddenly had to work from home, all activities with the elderly of De Zonnebloem were cancelled, my friend could work as usual so was away a lot, and there I was again: alone at home.
Then I became a chat buddy of a Syrian girl my age. I myself studied cultural anthropology and thought: 'why not?' I think it's really nice to get to know other cultures and lifestyles and to hear more about what she has experienced. She is currently working on her procedure to get a residence permit and I am helping her with that. Every now and then we practice the language, sometimes we talk about how she fled and what that was like for her, other times I send her hair salon and stew dishes via the app. You will always find something to talk about. She's getting married next year, and so am I. So we're talking about our dresses or rings.
We're talking about our wedding dresses and rings
I've been living in my new house for a year and a half now and it's still slow to get to know new people. We do have a community center in the village, but it has quite an image problem. It partly serves as day care for the elderly and young people are therefore not to be found there.
We don't really talk about these things with my friends. I really don't know why. Everyone just goes their own way. I find it a bit exciting to talk about it and often think what other people should not think of me? But I would recommend everyone to volunteer and take that threshold of "exciting" anyway. I have never been badly received and even though all the volunteers are 60+, they are certainly happy with the extra help. So now and then I run into people I know in the supermarket and we recently had a neighborhood BBQ. Hopefully I will get to know more people from the neighborhood soon.
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