But I Like it Here

We had been living in Hanover, New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College, for three years. I was working at DTSS, a small software development company that was a Dartmouth spinoff. I didn’t miss international corporate life; I liked working where I could really make a difference. I would have liked it a lot more if the company was making money. Aware of the (lack) of cash flow, I secured a job offer from Shell International Petroleum in The Hague. It was the end of summer, 1989, and it seemed like a good time to break the news to the family.
We were in the midst of a major home renovation. The kitchen was in a shambles, with a twelve-foot hole exposed to the elements and a layer of dust growing by the day. We couldn’t find the refrigerator, but carpenter ants, unearthed in the demolition phase, had found us. To top it all off, it had been the hottest and most humid summer on record in northern New England. The builder told us it would be done in “two weeks.” He had been saying “two weeks” since the project began in April. Tempers were short and everyone was frustrated. I seized my chance and called a family meeting.
The first item on the agenda was the renovation. We wondered whether it would ever be finished. Nazy and I were stunned at the children’s cheerful attitude, which didn’t make the next agenda point—relocation—easier. Melika made things even more complicated.
“You know, Daddy,” she said, “I’m sooo glad we’re fixing up the house.”
“Why is that, Melika?”
“Because we’ve finally found a place to stay and live. Nobody would do all this work and then move. That would be really stupid, wouldn’t it?”
“Why do you want to stay in Hanover?”
“I like Hanover. I have friends in Hanover. And I’m tired of moving.”

“What about living in an exciting new place? Would you like that?”
“Exciting? You’re the one who said Houston would be exciting.”
“Anyone can make a mistake, dear. What would you think of Holland?”
“Holland? Wooden shoes? Yuck!”

And so the idea was introduced. The family didn’t know much about Holland, but Darius knew it was in Europe. Darius knew that Amsterdam was 3,542 miles away. He knew about the Dutch capitol confusion between Amsterdam and The Hague. He could provide its latitude and longitude. He knew it used to have windmills. He also knew it didn’t have ski slopes—and that was his way to quash the idea.
“We can’t move there, Dad. No hills. We’d have to do cross-country skiing. It’s out of the question.”
“I think they have a few mountains in Europe, Darius.”
“That’s right, but they’re all in other countries. Holland is unthinkable. They even speak Dutch.”
“Yes, Dutch. We’d have to learn Dutch. Nobody speaks Dutch.”
“They speak Dutch in the Netherlands.”
“They also speak it in Suriname, but who cares? Pick someplace like France or Switzerland. Holland? Impossible.”
“Unfortunately, the job offer is in Holland.”
“Job offer?”
“Precisely. Job offer!”
Mitra, who had been quietly gluing glitter to her sneakers, looked up. “We’re moving to Europe? Wow! What a neat idea. That’s great. When do we go?”
“Thank you, Mitra
,” I thought silently as I looked to Nazy for help.
“Your Dad and I think living in Europe would be exciting for the whole family. Besides, it’s a really good job opportunity for Daddy. It will be exciting.”
Melika was unimpressed. “Exciting? Huh? It’s exciting living here. It’s exciting looking for the refrigerator. The kitchen isn’t even finished. What are we going to do? Stay here until everything is finished and
then move? Boy, is that dumb!”
Unfortunately, Melika had a point. If we’d known we were going to move, we wouldn’t have started the renovation. On the other hand, the renovation was over budget and behind schedule. If it had been on schedule, it would have already been completed, and if it was within budget, the financial glories of the job with Shell wouldn’t have seemed so important.
“We’re not going to sell the house,” I told the children. “We’ll rent it. We plan to come back to Hanover in two or three years.”
Melika was disgusted and silent.
Darius dashed off to the computer to compose a contract under which his parents would pledge, promise, commit, vow, guarantee, agree, attest, affirm, vouch, and warrant that the family would return in two years. (I am convinced that he used the built-in thesaurus.)
Mitra, the only family member with European experience—she had spent three weeks in Geneva—was ecstatic. (Although she hadn’t listened to Darius’s geography proclamation and thought Holland’s topography was just like the Swiss Alps.)

The preparatory weeks passed quickly. Melika and Darius continued a rear-guard action. They liked Hanover. Perhaps we could just visit Europe. Did we really want to go?
Meanwhile, Nazy and I equitably divided the moving tasks. I agreed to forward the mail. Nazy negotiated with the movers and potential tenants. We all struggled through the sophisticated, comprehensive medical examinations required by Shell International Petroleum Maatschappij, BV, my new employer. (Melika’s hope that the medical exam would detect rocks in my head was dashed.)
Our feelings were decidedly mixed as moving day approached. Typically, I had to leave before anyone else. I
had to establish a beachhead in The Hague. I was supposed to find a place to live, locate adequate schools, open a bank account, and make a good impression at work.
Nazy, ever cheerful, stayed to push the contractors to completion and deal with the international movers. The children, somewhat less cheerful but by now resigned, stayed with her.
“When will we come to Holland, Daddy?” Melika asked as I was leaving.
“About two weeks.”
“Yeah, right.”
The adventure was about to begin.