Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Life After High School

1 Jul

Yesterday afternoon, I attended my niece’s high school graduation. It was a  well run ceremony for the 178 grads. They did a couple of things I’d never seen done before. The program not only listed each grad’s name, but their plans for the next phase in their life and the awards, if any they were receiving. Here’s my niece’s page.


I realize you can’t read the text, but I wanted you to see her space. She is the first name on the page and won a lot of awards. The phone call from the high school said she was winning “an award” so it was a surprise to everyone, my niece and her parents, that she won so many. She was also one of three who delivered the valedictory address. I was a proud auntie! I only cried once. As I read over her awards, one of them stood out to me: the Unity Masonic Lodge Award for the Social Sciences. I couldn’t help but thinking how proud my dad, her grandpa, a lifelong Freemason, would have been to see that.

Not everyone in her graduating class are of to a post secondary experience. Some are entering apprenticeship programs. Some are going straight into work. Some will be traveling and others are returning for a victory lap.

Hanneke , the main character in The Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse, doesn’t attend university after high school as she had planned.


It is 1943 and the Germans have occupied Amsterdam. Rather than pursuing higher education, which seems pointless to Hanneke in such a mad world, she gets a job that leads her into becoming a black marketeer.

Publisher’s Summary:Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.
This is the book I read, cover to cover as I flew from Portland to Toronto earlier this week.  I highly recommend it.


A day, a year: Denmark, Paris, Amsterdam

28 May

In 1982, at the age of 17, I left Canada to spend a year in Denmark as a Rotary exchange student. I lived  with three families in Rudkøbing, Nordenbro  and Tryggelev on the island of Langeland. It was an amazing year lived in a truly idyllic countryside. I started with my first family on a large, traditional farm, Nordenbrogård.

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Here’s a picture I found of my “counselor’s”farm and one of my friend Else’s family home & orchard.

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My last house was in Tryggelev, just south of Humble.

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My bus to school, crossed over three bridges and went past the place where Elvira Madigan  is buried on Tåsinge.


I had other exchange student friends in Odense (home of Hans Christian Andersen) that I visited often. Because they didn’t want us getting Eurail passes and traveling on our own, the Danish Rotary club arranged an end of the year bus tour of Europe for us. We looped down through Germany and Austria, went across Italy Into France, then drove up to Paris, from which we went to Brussels & Amsterdam before retiring “home”. I have very fond memories of that year and that trip. Our “leaders”, Annie & Tommy, pretty much let us go where we wanted when a group activity was not planned,  and trusted us to make reasonable decisions.They were nothing like Ms. Foley, the leader of Allyson’s trip in Gayle Forman’s  Just One Day.


I loved so much about this book.  It was like reliving my youth to some extent and I had actual pictures from my memory as Allyson went places with Willem, and looking for Willem. Forman creates a great story that captures the two characters and the places they visit.I must admit I read this in one day, I was so obsessed with the story.

The first half of the book tells about Allyson, who  is on the final leg of her graduation present from her parents; a teen tour of Europe. She is a careful girl, never deviating from the program, on this trip as well as in life. But everything changes in London. She meets a young man who convinces her to go to Paris where they share an amazing day. and then he leaves her. Devastated. How she rises from the devastation is the subject of the second half of the book.And I was right there with her all the way. To Paris & Amsterdam, all over again.

If you liked John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (especially because of the trip to Amsterdam), or  the movie Before Sunrise, saw Before Sunset and plan to see  Before Midnight, just out now, you will love this book.

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