We are in Switzerland with our Swiss family as we write this, and we have no big news to report. We still love living in Amsterdam and are grateful every day for our lives, our health, our friends and loved ones, and our 20-pound cat, Mr. Spaghetti, who seems to be happy growing old with us. We are slowing down a bit but still able to cycle and travel and keep our lives busy and interesting.
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In January we spent a week at Juicy Oasis in Portugal. This was Sharene’s second visit; her first made such a positive impact that she convinced Harrison to go with her this year. The inspirational founder Jason Vale was there again for part of our week. We posted this link last year and it’s worth posting again: Jason’s Juice Tube channel on YouTube. We both had wonderful experiences and felt so good after our week there that we will repeat the experience in 2024.
Juicy Oasis attracts a wide variety of people including a bunch of British celebrities, but our favorite participant this year was a woman in her 30s who had just taken her very first international flight, coming from all the way from California to Portugal to spend a full month at Juicy Oasis. The most interesting part of her story was that she left nine children behind for her husband to take care of! She needed to get herself healthy so she could get her kids healthy. What a story!
Living in Amsterdam, one of the world’s greatest cities, is such a gift and privilege. But it does lose its magic around February after months of gray skies and cold, windy, rainy days. We considered taking a sun break to Hawaii, our former home, but we decided instead to try someplace new — Thailand. We began with a quick stop in Singapore to see friends Doxie & Poh Bee, then it was on to Khao Lak, Thailand, where we stayed in a resort recommended by Berlin friends Regina & Uwe and had two perfect weeks of sunshine, beautiful ocean, fabulous food, long walks on the beach, and an overall wonderful experience. Add to that the genuine charm of the Thai people and throw in a daily massage and the overall affordability and, well, we’ve been converted. We had such a great time that we’re going back to Thailand in 2024.
Spring Events and Travel
We had a busy spring with many visitors and other events, ending with our first trip to Ireland to see family and friends and experience how green Ireland really is. It has lots of those rolling, emerald-green hills it’s famous for, but it also has the scariest, narrow, winding roads we have ever driven on! It was great to have the people (and alpaca!) connections there, because in the end, it’s people that can make a trip special.
Summer is our favorite time in Holland so we try not to go too far. We did make some nice bike trips here and there including a wonderful girls bike trip for Sharene. And we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary in July by going to the Rolling Stones exhibition in Groningen and seeing our friends Eeco, Suzette, and Fokko in the northeastern part of the country.
Harrison’s Trip to the States
While Sharene was out with her girlfriends, Harrison made a trip to Georgia and Florida for his cousin Phil’s 80th birthday. It was the first time all living Lindner cousins (Harrison’s cousins on his mother’s side who are like brothers and sisters) assembled in one place for something other than a funeral, so it was a joyful and memorable event. He then flew to Wisconsin to reconnect with a mother and daughter who were dear friends when he lived in Seattle in the 1970s. After losing touch for over 40 years, they all got back in touch via social media a year or so ago, and coming to America made it possible to reconnect in person. The mother is now a great-grandmother and the daughter is now a grandmother, and they are still the extraordinary women Harrison remembers from decades ago.
Sharene’s New Hip and a Quiet Autumn
Sharene had her 70th birthday in October and her gift was a new right hip — and a performance of Happy Birthday by our talented musician friends Stephanie and Paolo. Harrison was a wonderful post-hip-surgery caregiver, and after a few months she’s feeling well. Sadly, she had to cancel her annual Girls Trip (planned for New York City this year), but her friends were very understanding. Seems odd not to have them in our annual letter. Sharene will be back on her bike after the new year, and it hasn’t kept her from enjoying life with our friends, including Martin’s birthday and Thanksgiving at Monica’s.
Christmas in Switzerland
Our Christmas visits to Switzerland are always full, visiting lots of friends and spending time with our Swiss family — not to mention great food including fabulous cheese and chocolate that no place does better than this country. Special thanks Isabel and Martin for the brunch and the raclette dinner in their new home with their charming boys, and to Mick for Christmas dinner with his amazing adult children. As we have said many times before, there is your biological family and your ‘logical’ family, and we are so happy to be part of their lives.
We had heard about Ted Lasso and finally watched all seasons this past year. It has become our favorite TV series since The West Wing 20 years ago — a much-needed positive story with brilliant writing and acting. But we want to recommend just one film for 2023, and it’s a short documentary: The Last Repair Shop. Our musician and music teacher friend Pete (he played the flute in our Christmas letter last year) discovered it during a stay in Los Angeles. It’s about the LA City Schools musical instrument repair shop. That sounds boring, but it turned out to be a fantastic film, with amazing stories, production quality, and music. Sharene and I highly recommend it to everyone, but if you’re a musician, music teacher, or both, it will be especially meaningful. And it’s free on YouTube:
As we close another year that has been wonderful for us, we would simply like to wish you a healthy and joyful new year. But we can’t ignore all the tragedies that are happening around the world and the lasting impact they will have. For our generation growing up in the United States, World War II was something we learned about in school as history — it had almost no presence in our daily lives. Living in Europe has dramatically changed that perception because we still see the aftermath of World War II every day. Among many reminders, you’ll encounter little brass plaques in the sidewalk commemorating individuals and sometimes entire families who were forced from their homes to endure the horrors of concentration camps. Our close friends’ parents survived 17 of them. The impact of war isn’t just a history lesson here, it’s a part of our current experience, and it touches people we know affected by the wars in Ukraine and Israel.
Wishing for world peace might sound naive, but we do hope future generations will learn to be less judgmental, more compassionate, and open-minded about different cultures and religions. Power and greed serve no purpose in this world. We long for a future where understanding and kindness triumph over division and self-interest.
And we do indeed wish you a healthy and joyful 2024.
Love, liefs, and aloha,
Sharene & Harrison