Artikel overgenomen uit De Colve XI – 2006: Rocking Down Under

familie kolff

Door Lennard A. Kolff van Oosterwijk (CCA XIXy)

I never knew the places that rocks could end up taking me. But 9 years out of university and seven countries later… here I am, recently married to a beautiful Australian wife and living in country New South Wales, Australia.

It all started with collecting fossils on the south coast of England with my father, Leo Kolff van Oosterwijk. Several years later I graduated in Economic Geology from the Royal School of Mines in London and was working as an Exploration Geologist for Rio Tinto in southern Spain. This quickly led to several overseas postings mainly in Africa and in particular Guinea. I loved it; I was getting paid to travel around the world looking for copper, diamonds, iron ore and gold, as well as visiting fascinating places and meeting remarkable people… and a few crazy ones too. I was in my element.

One day my boss said, “Len, how would you like to go to Australia for a while?” I quickly accepted the offer and was on a plane bound for Sydney in January 2001. I remember leaving Schiphol in sub-zero temperatures and arriving at my destination in Parkes, NSW in a sweltering 45° heat! This was Australia.

My trip was made more memorable by the fact that at the time an Australian film called ‘The Dish’ had just been released and was screening on the flight. Just to put you in the picture, this film is set in Parkes and tells the story of Australia’s involvement in transmitting the first images of man walking on the moon through a massive radio telescope aka ‘The Dish’. The film was a success and as with all things big in Australia, the Dish instantly became a tourist destination. Here I was, sitting in a plane at 30,000ft reading an article about The Dish and Parkes thinking that I was going to be living in Australia’s version of Hollywood. After four years of bush camps, tents, generators and suitcases this was going to be paradise! Little did I know!

I ended up living in Parkes for two years; about 500km west of Sydney. It’s a small friendly country town of 10,000 that survives on farming, transport and the mine. As with a lot of country towns you could not get a decent coffee in town other than Nescafe or International Roast. Often I would drive the 100km to Orange (a bigger town of 40,000) to cross the ‘latte line’ -an imaginary line west of Sydney where you can get ‘real’ coffee. As well as the lure of good coffee it was also an excuse to meet women!It was during this time that I met my future wife, Melissa Williamson. She was working as a Geologist in Orange (incidentally named after Prince Willem van Oranje). The 1-hour trip to the latte line soon became a weekend pilgrimage as we spent more time with each other. This became a standing joke at work as the ‘Orange Dash’ or the ‘Flying Dutchman’.

After two years in Parkes I decided that it was time to expand my horizons and move with Melissa to Hobart, Tasmania to do a Masters degree in Geology. We spent one and a half wonderful years in Hobart after which I got my Masters degree and we got engaged. I also thought it was about time to get Melissa over to NL to introduce her to the Kolff van Oosterwijk clan. We put stickers all over the apartment with Dutch translations of everyday objects, complete with phonetic translations. Kopje koffie always stands out as a memorable sticker and Mel can still rattle off a list of highly useful Dutch words. Met Kerst 2003 we went to NL and Mum and Pap (Edith & Leo KvO) organised a meet Mel party at home in Den Ham. This was a hit and everybody loved my girlfriend from Down-Under. Soon after our return we got engaged and set a date for our wedding.

On the 8th January 2005 we were married in Guyra, NSW. There were 80 people at the ceremony and reception. All my direct family were there as well as Ronald, Joyce en Marenne de Ruuk and lots of friends from all over the world. All the KvO family ended up staying under the Williamson roof for a week or so before the wedding, helping with final preparations. My sisters, Barbara and Gwen, had rented camper vans to do some touring around the state with their families. Both vans were parked in the Williamson’s back garden alongside the dog kennels and plugged into the shed for electricity! They had to endure hot days and freezing cold nights whilst sleeping in their camper vans. The wedding day went fantastically and by 8pm everyone was dancing and drinking in the marquee to keep warm. I remember I was wearing Opa Ale’s Hertel cufflinks that Oma gave to me when we were in Holland. And we used Opa van Kempen’s cavalry sword to chop the wedding cake.

After our honeymoon it was back to the real world of work. I accepted a permanent role as an Exploration Geologist at the mine site and we bought a house in Parkes. The last few months we have been renovating the house and enjoying our first year of marriage. Extreme domesticity has been quite a change from my previous lifestyle and a welcome one. However, we both miss the adventure of travel, which brings me to the last part of my story.

Being closer to Asia and within the same time zone we decided it would was a good opportunity to see Barbara and her family in Hong Kong. As luck would have it Oma KvO was also planning a trip to her over klein kinderen so we made sure that our travel dates coincided.

In October 2005 Melissa and I made our way to Hong Kong and were greeted by Barbara and her family as well as Oma KvO and Joyce de Ruuk at the airport. I was so happy to see my family and especially Oma whom I had not seen since December 2003! It was a memorable reunion in the Orient and good to see Oma fighting fit and walking strongly. I remember Melissa saying how impressed she was that Oma walked everywhere that we did and ate everything that we did! We even took Oma to the late night party strip of Hong Kong and all ate a huge Häagen Dazs ice cream each. It was sad to say good-bye to family when we returned home but the memories are strong and I can’t wait to see my family again soon.

Now we are back in Parkes and we are already planning our next adventure to Holland for Nina de Ruuk’s wedding in June 2006 and a visit to Mum and Pap KvO’s mansion in Turkey. This brings me to the end of my story and how a passion for rocks can so change your life. What are our plans? I don’t know, we will have to see where life takes us next!