Discovering ‘Royal Roots’ one sandwich at a time


I’m a planner! I plan everything very carefully…..especially our vacations. I spend hours upon hours researching, making notes, and compiling every interesting fact. I then put them into a binder and as we travel to each historical tourist site I read all of my notes aloud so that Pastor Pete can be mentally ready to view this site. As an educator, I want my “student” (this usually being Pastor Pete) ready to devour all of the knowledge and “connect all of the historical facts.”

Last March, we began our trip of a lifetime: three weeks in the Netherlands “discovering our roots.” Well….not really “our” roots because Pastor Pete was born in the Netherlands and was already very familiar with the culture; but I, being first generation, had a great desire to learn “why I do what I do.”

You see, I have some habits that seem very normal to me and my family, but strange to the rest of the world.

For example, not using napkins at the dinner table but passing around a wet dish cloth for everyone to use after dinner was finished seems very normal to me. It was “the way my family rolled.” But, as a teenager, when I was having dinner at the home of a “new friend” and I asked for the “dokie,” I learned that this habit might be a bit unacceptable in the “English–speaking world.”

Then there’s my very strange habit of eating chocolate sandwiches. During my teaching career, my colleagues totally understood peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches, but “chocolate sandwiches?” This spurred quite a lively discussion in the teacher’s lounge.

I’m very interested to learn why I love pickled herring. I learned two years ago that it’s raw fish! I don’t like raw fish!

With these questions in mind and adventure in our Dutch hearts, we began our 21-day trip to the Netherlands.

The first 9 days were totally awesome! We were on a river cruise and our ship brought us to ports where we were able to learn about the culture, tour the towns, and speak with the locals. The highlight of each day was discovering the local bakery so that I could have my needed “Dutch treat” each day. I was “eating my way around the Netherlands.”

We accepted the challenge of “bicycle dodging” with class. We looked Dutch so the natives had very little sympathy for us when found ourselves in the direct path of a bicycle. We soon learned that the bicycles didn’t have brakes…..they used tourists!

However, on the ninth day of the trip, I discovered a totally different way to really experience the culture of the Netherlands. I suddenly had an opportunity to take part in the medical atmosphere of this “my homeland.”

As I was about to enter the Kerkenof Gardens with camera in hand, I blacked out and the next thing I remember was waking up as they were lifting me into an ambulance for a rapid trip to a hospital. This was not in my plan! I didn’t set aside even five minutes for a “hospital experience,” but being a positive person, I was quickly preparing how this event could bring excitement to my trip.

The next five days, I found myself 100 percent immerged into the Dutch medical culture and found it very interesting. Do you know that they don’t use hospital gowns in the Netherlands? At least I never saw one. Everyone wore their own clothing which I found better than “open air gowns.”

I also discovered that all ambulance drivers are also “want-to-be tour guides.” I traveled in four different ambulances as they would take me from hospital to hospital for the various tests. From the two by two inch inch window on the left side, I saw the exterior of the window that is next to Vermeer’s painting of “The Girl with the Earring.” I also saw the roof and gutters of the building that houses the king’s gold carriage and the tops of the trees that surround the current home of the king and queen. One driver pointed out that “if there were windows on the right side of the ambulance, you could see the parliament building, but there isn’t any windows on the right side so you can’t see it.”

I learned that sarcastic Dutch humor is everywhere!

I learned that they have a “Royal Hospital.” That’s where all of the “Royal Children” were born. Where all the “Royals” go to have any type of procedure done. It’s all occurs in Brovono Hospital and Brovono Hospital is where I spent most of my five days. I now have proof that I’m “Royal!” I have my Brovono patient wrist band. But my name on it is “v. Dijk, p.” For some reason, they decided that I had to go back to the original spelling of my last name.

I am now convinced that I was in the bed in which the queen rested before the birth of her children. They just moved it from the OB/GYN floor to the Cardiac Care Unit. I’m sure that the king actually ate off of the plates on which they placed my dinner every evening. If only they had hospital gowns. I know I would have been given the one that the king used before his annual check-up!

Seeing the windmills was exciting, searching for bakeries was challenging, dodging bicycles was invigorating, but nothing beats sitting in the bed of a queen, eating chocolate sandwiches for breakfast! Yes, this was my “trip of a lifetime!”


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Pat Van Dyke