Thursday, February 28, 2008

Middelburg's Grote Abele & The Great Library Expedition

Leaving Oudelande yesterday, I noticed that the main street leading out of town was suddenly lined with trees covered in pretty white flowers. Like the Christmas lights lining most American streets, it seemed to happen overnight, as if someone had stayed up all night decorating trees for tomorrow's passer-byes. Surely they weren't covered in white the day before? Is it possible that the dismal weather of late distracted me from such beauty? Suddenly, the sun shines for a day, and it's Spring here in Zeeland. Don't blink, you might miss it!

In a wandering mood, I explored the outskirts of Middelburg in the afternoon, biding time while waiting for Lukas to fall asleep. What I found was a tiny little settlement between Middelburg and Vlissingen, something along the lines of "Grote Abele". It was so quaint. Once Lukas dozed off, I parked along its cobblestone streets and flipped through a travel magazine, watching bicyclists pass by the dozens, and a mother stroll by with her severely handicapped child.

Afterwards we went to meet some other expat Moms (and tots), and let the kids play and paint for a bit before taking off for our next adventure. The next mission: find our local library, get a membership, and check out some books.

The closest major library to us is in Goes, just next to the "Aldi" at Oostwal 34. It was Lukas' first time at a library, and, although he was pretty excited, he was no where near as psyched as Mama.

My mom used to always bring us to the Orlando library, where my sisters and I would spend afternoons down in the huge Children's section in the basement, listening to stories and picking out books. But since Lukas was born, all I've done is buy books... tons and tons of books. And yet, there's just nothing like time spent in a library. It's all about the books. There are no distractions - no cappuccinos (although the modern American libraries now have cafés), no TV, no music - just you and the words. And there's something even more remarkable about foreign libraries. They're full of books written in another language - not just any language, but a language that you hope to one day understand. And with the help of the library's language books and CD-Roms, maybe someday you will.

The only let down? Unlike the U.S. library system, which was created so that even the poor and homeless could borrow books, it appears as though many European library systems are privatized or for-profit. I paid €30 yesterday for an annual membership - just for me! According to the librarian, there are no family memberships here in The Netherlands. If my husband would like to check out books, he must decide between the 10-book-a-year membership at €7.50 or the €30 membership, which includes 60 books per year. Fortunately, my son's membership is free.

Well, to put in perspective, I could easily spend €30 on a single book here, so I'm sure it was worth the small investment. But there must be some sort of government assistance for those who can't afford it - wouldn't you think?

And for the "poor" soles who (like us) have just migrated here and are clueless on the whereabouts of the closest library, it's called "Bibliotheek", and, in Zeeland, you can find them on the Internet at: (for locations and hours of operation, click on the 3rd link down - "Bibliotheken & Openingstijden").

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Dutch to learn...

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Just a tip for you Liz, if you borrow english/french/german books from the zeeuwse libraries they don't count towards your limit - so borrow as many of those you like and if Tobi or Lukas need books - just use the one card - we do....and have never had a problem!!

Tip 2 - Middelburg library is fab for foreign books (i.e. english & german)

See ya soon!!!