Reflections #14: This Month I Experienced Every Expat’s Nightmare

selfie in Braga Portugal

Once a month I always look back on what I’ve been up to in the past weeks. What were my personal highlights? What films and series did I watch? What exhibitions did I visit and which countries did I travel to? Find the answers in my Reflections on October.

When there’s a family emergency, expat life isn’t that fun and exciting anymore

Early this month I returned to the UK after having spent two weeks with my family in the Netherlands. All was fine when I said goodbye to my parents. As I probably wouldn’t see them until Christmas again, I gave them extra big hugs. But then everything changed dramatically when I woke up to worrying WhatsApp messages in the morning.

Paste-up by artist My Dog Sighs around Brick Lane in East London

My mum wrote us that my dad had suddenly fallen seriously ill in the night and that he had been brought to hospital by ambulance. The photos she sent of him froze my heart. He looked truly awful. The situation was alarming and that first day was even critical. I hadn’t unpacked my suitcase from my last trip yet and I was already looking into plane tickets to fly back home again. I could barely contain my emotions. Was that hug I gave my dad the day before going to be the last one?

Thankfully the situation improved and my return to the Netherlands wasn’t that imminent anymore. And thus I could afford to meet some urgent work deadlines (which I can’t believe I managed to fulfil!) and fly back home a few days later.

It was only recently I wrote a special blog post in celebration of my sweet and fun dad. It’s in Dutch, but you can automatically translate it into English by putting the URL in Google Translate: The Dutch Girl Tales #16: Nog even over Vaderdag.

Warning: have a tissue at hand!

Samen met mijn vader op zijn 70e verjaardag

Subsequently I spent most of this last month in the Netherlands

As I wrote in my personal review of September, my 2-week long trip to the Netherlands started late last month. In that blog post I already discussed in detail my visit to the engaging contemporary art museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar and my visit to the hideous ‘museum’ Moco in Amsterdam.

If you need a reminder, here’s the link to that article: Reflections #13: If You Don’t Hear From Me Again After this Message, Call for Help.

Amsterdam canals with a typical Dutch bike in the foreground

I also announced I was going to the immersive art maze Doloris in the city of Tilburg, my old hometown. However, I hadn’t shared with you yet how that visit went! As I mentioned in that blog post I was quite nervous about it as the only things I knew about the maze was that you enter it individually, without a phone or even watch, and initially even blindfolded. I also knew it entails a lot of climbing and crawling and finding your way ’round claustrophobic spaces. I’m okay with small spaces, but this description did make me go *gulp*.

But you know what? It was amazing and so much fun! If you get the chance to visit, do make the effort!

Besides spending quality time with friends and family, one of the reasons for my trip was to see metal band Machine Head play live in 013, an amazing music venue in Tilburg. Although I don’t listen to metal that much anymore, Machine Head’s album Burn My Eyes is still one of my favourites.

Machine Head live at 013 in Tilburg, October 2019
Can you spot me in the audience? Hint: look for the yellow circle!

In celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary, the band is doing a special tour this year. During the show I realised I barely knew other songs besides from that classic album so I was thrilled when they played it in full, with the original line-up, during the second half of the concert. It’s funny to think that I was 17 when I first saw Machine Head live. Although I’m quite happy my teenage years are well in the past, I’m sure my 17-year old self would’ve been better at coping with the 3-hour long gig! (Which was on a Monday night by the way…)

But at the moment I’m in Braga, Portugal

I’ve been spending these last days in wonderful Braga in Portugal. I had never heard of this city before but I fell completely in love with it on day 1! It’s so quiet here, the people are super friendly and the city is blessed with the typical picturesque streets you’d imagine to find in Portugal. Again, a full report will follow on my travel blog but in the meantime you can see my Braga Stories in my Instagram Highlights: @dutchgirlinlondon.

holding a pastel de nata in front of a sign of Braga
Just one of the (too) many pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) devoured during this trip

Hubby and I are here courtesy of Semibreve, a 3-day electronic music festival where hubby will be performing tonight. So far everything’s been terrific. The organisation is amazing and we are looked after so well in every possible way. And all the other artists have been really cool to hang out with too so I’m definitely taking away many great memories from Braga with me!

Travel tip: Visit the Roman Baths in Bath

Imagine what it’s like to be able to walk around an old Roman bathhouse that lay buried underneath the city for hundreds of years. On my bilingual travel blog Miss Travel Clogs I wrote about my visit to the Roman Baths in Bath and shared tips to help you plan your own visit.

My travel story about Bath is available both in English and Dutch:

Visit the Roman baths in Bath

My October watchlist: film recommendations

October’s been a great cinema month. I saw three of the five films I had listed in my previous blog post, 5 Films to Look Forward to this Autumn. Absolute winner was Joker, as I expected (or at least hoped for).

Not in the list of aforementioned blog post, but a surprisingly touching film was Judy, starring Renée Zellweger in a brilliant role. Chronicling her concert series in London a few months before her death, the film gives a moving portrayal of Judy Garland’s dramatic life.

The Netflix mini series Unbelievable and When They See Us deserve a special mention here too. They’re both extremely grim and especially the latter one will leave you rather depressed and frustrated with the injustice in the world. (I sound like such a fun person, don’t I?!)

Here’s an overview of all the series and films I’ve seen this month. I’ve indicated my recommendations with a * in the list below.

In the cinema

  • *Joker
  • *Judy
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • *Zombieland: Double Tap

Films (re)watched at home

  • Brightburn
  • El Camino (Netflix)
  • Spider-Man Homecoming
  • Zombieland


  • *Las chicas de cables SE04 (Netflix)
  • *Parks and Recreation SE06 (Amazon)
  • *Unbelievable (Netflix mini series)
  • *When They See Us (Netflix mini series)

In October I wrote the following blog posts

Dutch Girl in London blog screenshots September 2019

My London art tips for this month

  • Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life @ Tate Modern (until 5 January 2020)

Olafur Eliasson art installation at Tate Modern, London

  • Shepard Fairey: Facing The Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent @ StolenSpace Gallery & The Beats By Dr Dre Residency (until 31 October 2019, FREE)

Shepard Fairey mural on two sides of a building in Shoreditch, London

That’s it for my personal Reflections on the last month.
Tell me, what have you been up to in October?
Best, Zarina xx

8 thoughts on “Reflections #14: This Month I Experienced Every Expat’s Nightmare

  1. Glad your pop is doing ok! so you had good seats to the concert did ya? I love that image for so many reasons!

  2. Another busy month with a lot of stress and sorrow for you but also a month that ends much better with your visit to Braga. I can sort of relate to it since my father was in hospital as wel lthis month, although your father was much more seriously ill. I was happy to hear he was allowed to go home again. Situations like these are not the ones you are waiting for to happen.
    So, my month was filled with a lot of trips to Haarlem, to see my dad. I am very happy he is recovering well from his operation although he will have some pain and discomfort for the upcoming year, the surgeon said.
    I had a birthday for which I crocheted a little bear bag for a 3-yr old, two rememberances of friends that passed away 2 yrs ago, a visit to the dentist (all is fine!), a visit to my former neighbour who lives in an appartment inside a care home. She celebrated her 92th birthday this month so this was worth a visit and some very delicious chocolates for her! Also I received a very nice belated birthday present! 😉
    My sister from France was here for a few days, she visited a concert (Sisters of Mercy), we visited my dad together and had lunch together the day after.
    At the moment I am having a cold, which always is a problem for me since I don’t really profit from my oxygen with a stuffed up nose. But luckily it does/did not expand to my lungs so I’ll be fine in a few days. And I should be for I am closing this month with a new adventure! I am travelling to Rotterdam the 31st with a Valys taxi, by myself, to visit the Nederlands Fotomuseum to see the exhibition of Ed van der Elsken “Lust for Life”. All by myself !!! \o/
    Of course I have to take my stroller with me. I wanted to go earlier this year with a good friend but both our agendas were quite full. He left for a month, a holiday to Indonesia, so I had to let it pass unfortunately. Until I noticed this last Sunday that they extended the exbibition to November 6th. I did not really had someone to go with me so I thougt: “What the h*ll, I go by myself”. I have not done something like this alone since I am chronically ill but I am sure I will manage these days. Exciting!

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