City of Ducks

It’s not just a pair of ducks. It’s a city of ducks. Multidox.

Our family regularly speaks in paradox — particularly through the illustration of a pair o’ ducks, which we learned in the first month after moving from the Netherlands to Ohio in 2012. And it’s become a very helpful tool for navigating transition and culture stress.

paradox is “a statement or proposition seemingly self-contradictory or absurd, and yet expressing a truth.” Emotional experiences, like a pair of ducks, can be drastically different and yet equally present, swimming in the same waters at the same time. The “Yay Duck” and the “Yuck Duck,” in fact, are always together. One may be more obvious in a given moment, but the second is always within paddling distance.

So, even though I could have picked any number of beautiful scenes from the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam or the seascape from Zandvoort aan Zee to serve as my “Photo of the Day,” the above image from a tourist shop on the Nieuwendijk seemed to be the most appropriate. (I’m not sure exactly why, but in the years since we left Amsterdam, the city has become home to not just one rubber duck shop — but four!!!!).

I’ve experienced a strange swirl of emotions with our family’s return to the Netherlands. There are warm feelings and a fluttering sense of nostalgia in revisiting our old neighborhood. But there are also echoes of the queasiness… the confusion… the culture shock / stress… and the overwhelming insecurity that characterized early parenthood, my first years of being a pastor, and the awkwardness of adjusting to a new culture.

So, it’s definitely a paradox. But even more than usual, it feels like a “multidox.”

I’m really glad we’ve been able to process our Amsterdam years together on the trip. I’m glad to talk about things with our kids closer to the ages that Marci and I were when we first moved to the city. Our Amsterdam years were a challenging season of life. They stretched us painfully, but they also allowed us to grow. We can’t just be syrupy-sweet, sappy, and sentimental about revisiting Amsterdam. But I wouldn’t really want it that way, anyway.

We’re still experiencing some angst about our decision to avoid social engagements throughout this week. Are we robbing ourselves of joy? Are we fostering an unhealthy sort of escapism? Are we missing an opportunity for better closure and understanding? I’m honestly not sure. I just know that almost any of our Amsterdam50 (church) relationships would feel like ministry, whereas the express purpose of this trip is family vacation. We are trying to relax and enjoy each other’s company, just the five of us, before the kids get into their careers and relationships and families and such. And it seems like a bunch of scheduled meet-ups just wouldn’t mesh well with those priorities.

Anyway, even with all of the complicated emotions, I’m glad that we came to visit Amsterdam. We hope to keep processing our feelings further in the coming days here in this City of Ducks.

This entry was posted in Amsterdam, Amsterdam50, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, European Missions, Family, God, Home, Introspection, Photography, Recreation, The Netherlands, Transition, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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