#jongmasjourney began with a cracking party in early December where I had the chance to say goodbye to all my incredibly good mates. I’m going to miss you all and while everything changes this year, nothing has the ability to diminish the amazing achievements we have all shared during the last 18 years.
That weekend I also had to say goodbye to my family, and while I will miss them greatly it was an opportunity for me to reflect on the huge amount of support they have given me over my entire life. I want to say thank you to all my extended family for being around but particularly Dad, Mum, Lucy, Ellie, Daniel, Grandpa, Grandma, Pete, Bec, Abby and Cam for their persistence in maintaining that I was not completely crazy but just needed some fine tuning.
That being said I was extremely excited to advance forward into my first solo travel experience. I jumped on the plane to Amsterdam after tears from Mum and landed in the early (and freezing) morning of December 9. Being very lucky meant I had the fortune of staying with my Dads best mate and his family about 5 minutes from the city centre. The purpose of my travel was to compete in the Amsterdam Swim Cup, the selection meet for the 2015 European Championships and an opportunity for me to experience a large open category competition. Under the Barker Aquatics cap I swam in 6 events all of which I was very happy with the results.
During my week in Amsterdam alongside swimming I was able to see most of the major tourist attractions. The great thing about the city is that I was able to cycle diagonally across the map in about 15 minutes, so it was easy to go anywhere with very little effort. On Wednesday the 9th I saw the Rijk Museum, which is full of paintings of huge cultural significance and historically relevant artefacts to give insight into the history of The Netherlands. Another tourist hotspot I definitely recommend is the Anne Frank Huis. Read the diary and if you ever get the opportunity it has the power to absolutely open your world view, particularly for a sheltered white bread suburban boy like me.
At the Amsterdam Cup I was able to meet a whole bunch of Dutch athletes and if you are not interested in sporting culture, skip this paragraph. The sporting culture of the Netherlands is an interesting comparison to Australia. At least for swimming, the number of participants in Aus is so high that there are so many pools and so many coaches with different philosophies and ideas that we think the joining of those teams will create success, and to a large extent it does. However in Holland the lack of millions of participants has meant there is only really one or two clubs in each major city. This has meant the best swimmers are all in the one place, pushing each other and competing in training as well as racing. The swimming success in Holland is developed though the vastly superior training teams in one location. The comparison of this structure is something I have taken away from the experience alongside having varied coaches observe my technique and will attempt to implement the best of both cultures in both my training and coaching next year.
Sport rant over.
Once the swimming was finished I was able to meet and catch up with all of my Dutch rellies. I went up to Assen in Drenthe (Northern part of the Netherlands) and stayed with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins. They were heaps of fun and I got to experience local life and switch off for a few days. For the two weeks I was in Assen I enjoyed a few days of Netflix and my books (I needed it after a month of work and training) before returning to reality of some sort. I was able to visit the schools of my cousins and experience a very different educational culture to Australia. I won’t rant on my comparisons but instead mention that ballroom dancing is much more important in Holland. I had the opportunity to teach ukulele to some 12 year olds and meet the classes of each of my cousins during their Winter Formal or Christmas Breakfast.
Christmas came around with the Dutch family and after doing the classic tree shopping and decorating I enjoyed a lovely dinner with my extended family at Oma and Opa’s house including my other two aunts and uncles and three more cousins! Since my Aunt would not let me contribute to dinner I retaliated by using the ensued budget surplus to buy Nerf Guns for the young men of the household! I was not the favourite nephew for a few days after that! With the standard food baby post grandparent visit I managed to get around to the student town of Groningen where an awesome family friend Miriam showed me around the area. I visited a planetarium built 200 years ago and still in working order and saw the strangest alien looking art I could imagine.
With my older cousins I braved the cold and wind to visit a national park called Appelscha (correct the spelling there please!). The rain was kindly avoiding our path and I met some friendly sheep as my shoes got to know the taste of their faeces… We reached a lookout which gave an incredibly breathtaking view from all angles. The thing about the Netherlands is that there are no hills anywhere, so the view stretched for miles.
Now at this point in the post I’m sure you the reader is a bit bored with a mindless recount, but I will continue anyway. During the time in Assen I was heavily focused on spending time with my Dutch family and I’ll amalgamate all the dinners, bowling, movies, sightseeing trips, museums and coffee breaks into this paragraph. Family is an odd thing because every person is so different but the connection between people we barely know is so strong. In Sydney I have taken that for granted considering it as the fact we have all grown up around each other. Here in Holland I have not seen most of these people in 10 years but the kindness and generosity of each person has varied my perspective on what a family connection means, even when we speak totally different languages. I think its important for me to review how I see my family context and in slightly doing so I have a much greater appreciation for the gift of family.
So wrapping up the Christmas time I have left Assen to return to Amsterdam with my Dad’s best mates family. I feel quite at home here and the generosity of the whole family to deal with me in super prep mode for racing and now in my super chill holiday mode is huge. So if any of you guys are reading this, thanks heaps!
NYE is up tonight in Amsterdam and I’m still no sure what the plan is so I will leave that update until later!
In a few days I begin my induction training and work in Cheltenham, England at my school and home for the next year. It’s a little bit scarier now that I realise I’m leaving all family and friends behind and that nothing I have done before counts for anything when I get there. Over the past six years of high school I’ve been able to work on building relationships with friends and family that are incredibly strong and I value those immensely, and to be starting a clean slate is daunting and exciting. I’m praying that I can be a positive example to the kids I’m leading and the other staff I am involved with. If you do pray and would like to pray that I settle in well next week that would be mighty helpful and encouraging.
#jongmasjourney has begun and I’m incredibly excited for the next chapter. I will hopefully be posting on this blog every few weeks with updates on my year so stay tuned! As always if you have any questions, or suggestions do not hesitate to send me an email or message!
As Grandma’s friend Laurie always says, “Love all around”