Monday, November 11, 2013

In Which Hedgehogs Make Me Feel More Whole

Last Tuesday, Nadine and I went to Amsterdam to pick up my new passport and hang out in the city. It was such a good time. We had lunch at a cafe in the Museumplein area, and of course they had a cafe cat. Picking up my passport was a piece of cake, since I was aware enough to not bring my phone with me (Nadine held it). The woman behind the desk of the passport office was a little shocked that my hair was so different than the picture in my new passport. But she said it looked "very French," so that was nice of her. Can you believe the difference? Nearly 10 years: 

After the passport business was done, we went to the Stedelijk Museum, which houses modern and contemporary art and design. It was definitely our kind of museum...

There was a large exhibit on Kazimir Malevich, an artist I had never heard of, but became most impressed by. He seemed to have tried a little bit of everything in the early 20th century art world. A lot of his work resembled styles of artists that I'm more familiar with such as Chagall, Mondrian, and Kadinsky. He was certainly a jack-of-all-trades. 

Despite it being a rainy day, it was a really nice visit. In the evening we explored a part of the city I hadn't been to yet, which was a little less touristy, with lots of cute shops. We had beers and fries in a smoky corner pub to end our day.

On Wednesday, I decided to bike out to the Egelopvang (translation: Hedgehog Society). Ever since moving here, I've wanted to volunteer with animals in some way, but unfortunately the main animal shelter of the city basically rejected me on all counts. They didn't want me as a volunteer because I can't speak or read Dutch, and they don't accept first-year volunteers anyway for foster care of cats. I'm pretty sad about it, but luckily the Hedgehog Society welcomed me warmly. I arrived at their little shack by the beach dunes, and Doreen, a British expat who's been volunteering there for 17 years, took me under her wing and let me get started right away. It was a fun morning, even though all I did was clean out cages and wash dishes. But I did get to hold a few hedgehogs. We weigh them to see if they're healthy enough to return to the outdoors. The hedgehogs have names like Daisy, Wil, Weslie, and Stokie. Doreen gave me a bunch of reading materials to take home and get educated.... Here's a few tidbits of knowledge I've retained from reading:

-Female hedgehogs are "hedgies" and males are "frosties"
-Gestation period is 30 to 40 days; mothers give birth to a litter of 1 to 6
-They eat insects like snails, slugs, and beetles (but we serve them cat food at the shelter)
-They hibernate in the winters, making little burrows
-They really don't like humans; they're very solitary creatures, and nocturnal

The hedgehogs that come in are either young orphans, injured, or sick. So we try to nurse them back to health and give them a second chance by placing them in hedgehog-friendly gardens around the city. I'm just volunteering once every week, but it really has made a difference already in my life here.

The weekend was very laid back. I did lots of domestic things, painted, started watching Call the Midwife, and Josh and I walked to the nearby petting zoo/farm:

Today is Sint-Maarten Day in the Netherlands. It's a day sort of similar to Halloween, when children walk around the neighborhood, singing songs, carrying lanterns, and you're supposed to give them sweets. I guess Saint Martin was a patron saint of children. It also signifies the beginning of winter, and the end of the harvest season. So I need to run out and get a bag of candy. I'll try to take pictures!

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