A Canadian in Waalre

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Canadian-Dutch Paul Scholey spent the first sixteen years of his life in Canada. “I was born in Toronto in 1971. My brother Marc followed two years later. In 1974, our family moved to a farm in Owen Sound, two-hundred kilometers north of Toronto. When I was eight my family moved west in search of work. There we lived in Lloydminster, a small town straddling the provincial border of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Finally, in 1987 when I was sixteen, we emigrated to the Netherlands.” Dutch lullabies So, you are half Dutch? “Yes, my mother was Dutch. She emigrated to Canada in 1958, as many Dutch people did in the fifties. She was 23 years old at the time. When she arrived in Toronto, she found work as a librarian. My father and mother met in a yoga class in 1969. Even though my mother was Dutch, I was brought up very Canadian. My mother used to sing us Dutch lullabies. That’s all the Dutch I was familiar with. And of course words like ‘lekker’ and ‘dank je wel.’” Why did your family ‘cross the pond’ in 1987? “Well, my mom got homesick. I was 15 at the time. I remember her asking me if I wanted to go. For me it was clear. Without a blink, I said: ‘Let’s go. Long live the adventure.’” Karate lessons at Dynamo What was your first impression of the Netherlands? “Like stepping into the past. In the train, I would watch the green fields and Holstein cows rush pass my window. It seemed like a picture book. We settled in Venray, which is a small town in Northern Limburg. Especially in those days, Limburg was provincial. Nothing like the Randstad or Eindhoven. Frankly, I was suddenly rather exotic. Kids my age loved meeting up to try out their English on me. To this day, I love Limburg. Even now, I still say “hija”, as they do in Venray. Though I must confess that I say “houdoe” more and more, as one does here in Brabant. During the week, my brother and I would get on the train at 7.00 AM and head off to Eindhoven where we attended the International School of Eindhoven (ISSE). My fellow classmates were mostly children of Dutch expats. One of my best experiences during my time in secondary school was attending karate lessons at the Dynamo. What an awesome place. As an expat, if you want to get into Dutch culture, go to the Dynamo. I went there three times a week. I still remember my karate teacher. Kenneth was his name. After graduating from the ISSE, I decided to enlist for Dutch military service. I figured I could learn Dutch that way. Ironically, I was rejected due to poor language ability…. For lack of better, I went to Delft to live at my uncle’s place. That was a rough time. I couldn’t enroll in a Dutch university. Even to study English, one needed to pass a Dutch exam. Just for simple work, Dutch was pretty much required. Without Dutch, I found myself in limbo. Eventually, I did start Dutch lessons in a class where most of my fellow students were asylum seekers. I know how it feels. Anyway, my Dutch improved rapidly. And in August 1990, I was drafted into Dutch military service.” Refinding lost Catholic Faith And then? “In 1991, My life took an unexpected turn. I rediscovered my Catholic faith. I happened to visit Paray le Monial, which is a place of pilgrimage in the region of Burgundy in France. I was inspired by the young people I saw there. I stayed on, attending a school of Catholic faith. After spending two years in France, I returned to the Netherlands to study English and history at the University of Nijmegen. Throughout my student years, I seriously considered a calling to the priesthood. But around 2003, I fell in love with Sandra, who is now my wife. I must confess that we had both known each other for quite some time. Fifteen years previously, I had namely met Sandra for the first time at a Catholic youth weekend organized by the Community of Emmanuel. In 2005, we married, and
now have two beautiful children, Caitlin (2007) and Elliot (2012). I am deeply thankful for having received so much. A beautiful family and beloved friends in a country I have also come to love!” Advice What is your advice to newcomers? “Learn Dutch! Build up relationships, both expat and local. Although expat community friendships are much easier to make, they are less stable. If you really intend to stay here, put in that extra time to cultivate Dutch friendships. Join clubs. Do volunteer work. If you’re young, do sports at the Dynamo in Eindhoven. And if your heart longs for more, my tip is to find an (English speaking) church community where you feel at home.” Will you stay here forever? “Yes. This is truly home. And besides – Holland is an underrated country. Dutch people ask me: ‘You come from Canada? Why did you come here?’ But the truth is that Holland is a lovely place. And the Dutch are trustworthy, and frank. They get things done, they like to talk things through, and they are approachable. Of course, my wife is Dutch, so I confess that I am biased here. But I kid you not. Having become a Dutch citizen, I studied here for free. The Dutch have the best healthcare in the world. I am happy to pay my taxes with the money I earn as an English teacher. My kids can bike on bike paths instead of the street. In terms of diet, the Dutch actually eat fresh vegetables. At affordable prices. And even when it comes to the weather, it rains far less than we like to complain it does. What can I say? I am really thankful to live here. It costs effort to set down roots here. But it is certainly worth it.”
Text: Joost Pool Photos: Eddie Mol
Possible streamers: ‘In Venray I was rather exotic’ ‘Let’s go to the Netherlands, long live the adventure!’ ‘I think Holland is an underrated country’ ‘Dutch taxes are well spent’



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