Friday, December 27, 2013

Fa La La La La, La La La Laaaaaa...

I meant to come on here sooner and wish you a Merry Christmas, but I kind of failed at that.  Sorry!  So Merry belated Christmas.  Hope it was everything you needed and you were bestowed with the blessings that you deserve.

This Christmas was an awkward one.  No familiar faces, weather or traditions. I'll give you a 2-second background.  The Netherlands, as a whole, doesn't celebrate Christmas in any way like we do; there isn't the commercialism like we have back home (which I'm thankful for).  Christmas is for Christians and for going to church.  As far as I understand it, not about presents or things like that (as a rule; but not every house is like this. Some do celebrate and have gatherings!).  So no matter what we did, it didn't feel right.  Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy myself, but just different, y'know?  We opened our presents Christmas Eve evening (I got an mp3 player! It'll help a lot at the gym!) because Christmas Day we got up and out the door for Mass.  Then his parents picked us up at the church and we spent the day with them.  They even added to my snowman collection :)  Best of all, they got us a new toy.  Okay, it was addressed to us, but really it's for me ;)


A Philips (his dad works there) 3-in-1 food processor/blender/grinder.  I was speechless.  I needed these products *so bad*.  In fact, I even hugged the box (they've got a pic of that, conveniently).  I've even contemplated giving it a name.....

Well, not much else to say today.  I've got some organizing to do.  I might start slowly taking decorations off the tree.  We're hosting a brunch Sunday so I have to plan for that to shop for it tomorrow *and* head to IKEA to exchange under-the-cupboard lights.  I swear, we should have stocks in that company by now for the amount of times we're there.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  I met with Father from church (the meeting I mentioned before) and it went well!  In fact, he emailed the choir director introducing me; I wrote her back... and it looks like I'm now in the St. B choir.  Eek!  Next rehersal is Jan 9th, I think.  I asked her if she saw any problems with my low Dutch vocabulary to which I got the response, "Well, learn it!" (So Dutch.)  And I am... but since I've been learning general vocab and food vocab, I now have to learn music vocab.  She said she has an Italian with her and she does fine, so I should be okay.  And it's funny how I'm approaching it; I am resisting change so much and so worried about how I'm not going to understand things and figure I'll get overwhelmed and lose track and.. and... and I never stop to think that maybe people will be patient and understanding and it won't be such a difficult transition after all.  So I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

Cultural Differences: to note (before Christmas is REALLY over); Christmas trees - are (9 times out of 10) decorated with white lights, not Multi-coloured.  Heaven forbid you decorate your tree with coloured lights ("it's not as pretty") or - gasp - twinkling lights.  lol.  Hearing some of their comments make me giggle (though I do like white lights...).   There is your random information of the day.

Up and moving I go!  Hope you're having a great week!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

There Are Good Days, and Then There Are Bad...

I went to the gym yesterday to meet up with a new friend.  Found her, chatted a bit and started on my workout.  Yesterday was just cardio so I hit the treadmill for a half an hour.  There were two women to my left who seemed to know each other and were talking.  After warming up, I increased my speed and started running for a few minutes.  They seemed amazed (?), said something to each other, then the lady closest to me looked over and said something Friesian with a smile.  I said in response (also with a smile), "Sorry, I only speak English." So she nods, turns around and starts talking to her friend again as if I didn't exist.  I received no acknowledgement at all. 

*blank stare*

Wtf just happened?  I was more put off by her rudeness not acknowledging me, than by her refusal to speak English.  This is what I face here sometimes.  When I say they don't speak English here... THEY DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH HERE. 

When I detach my emotions from the situation, I can tell you she was startled at the English as it's not regularly encountered, probably felt too timid to try and it was just easier to not talk at all (at least, I hope this is it).  Was it rude?  Yes.  Is it a common response?  Not entirely.  When I ask people to say what they said in English, they get put off by it and don't repeat it at all, but at least most continue some form of conversation.  Also, if I step back, I could have approached the situation differently and responded in a way that was more open, and not perhaps closing off the conversation.

By the time I'd gathered myself together and thought of a proper, friendly response, they were done and had walked away.  Fail.

If I put my emotion back into it (like I did last night), I felt shunned, tiny, distant from a place I'm trying to connect, insignificant, like a jerk, wonder why I bother... I could make a list.  It also was a straw that broke the camels back and it felt 10 times worse than the situation actually was. It was another reminder that I'm the minority, this isn't my original home turf and I am of course the one that has to keep adapting, not necessarily them (at least I feel, more so).

My lack of response bothered me.  The past few years and the move especially, I've become this person who doesn't say anything, tries to be the nice guy and let's things just smooth over.  Anyone who knows me knows that's not who I am.  I don't get walked over.  I stand up for moments when I feel I'm being disrespected.  I give my opinion.  I'm a very passionate person.  I'm not a little mouse in the corner, I'm a raging lion.  Only, I know the reactions to the raging lion weren't always great and I have indeed become the little mouse - and now I'm trying to find a happy medium between the two.  So many circumstances have come up lately that this has now become something that I can no longer ignore.  It's time to change. 

How do you see this behaviour when you expected more of yourself and are disappointed on so many levels... and still practice self-compassion?  Brené Brown suggests expressing this intention, "I will talk to myself the same way I talk to the people I love."  When your best friend or partner is beating on themselves for particular behaviour, do you say, "Yeah, you're being a jerk. You really shouldn't have done that. What were you thinking?"  No.  We approach them with love and kindness and give them the best empathetic response we can.  It doesn't make saying that to ourselves any more acceptable. 

I have to practice what I preach.  Which is not easy.

Y'know what?  It really sucks having to be a grown up sometimes.  The only thing I wanted last night was to shut off, escape somewhere where my problems ceased to exist.  I wanted to not make an effort.  I wanted my home, my city, my street, my cat, my friends.  I wanted the familiar.  I am building a (fantastic) friend base here, but it just didn't feel the same to reach out to them.  I wanted to call someone up from back home, go for a coffee and vent it off and go window shopping. 

Instead, I cried it off, called it a day, woke up and brushed myself off and am trying this thing called life integration again.  Hiccups will happen, I know that.  This just reminded me to keep my wits about me and to try and remain more open to those around me who might have a harder time at adjusting to conversation than I do. 

In the end I am thankful I get to learn about myself.  Onward and upward!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Getting There

For the first time in 5 months I experienced a less than perfect transportation system.  While trying to get to an app't in Groningen, the trains weren't running.  There was a bus giving a shuttle between towns, but that would have doubled my travel time and I would have been very late.  So I wrote and cancelled.  Then I tried going to English Mass tonight in Leeuwarden. The train was late and when I got there they were locking up because there was no one showed up.  Ack.  But then a saving grace...

A lady and I were trying to get in, not understanding why we couldn't when there was a scheduled Mass (this is when we noticed them locking up).  The priest actually came out of the offices and we got to talk for a few minutes.  He spoke English very well for a Frieslander and I asked if I made an app't with him sometime, if he could talk.  He was more than happy to make an app't on the spot, so we compared calendars and we are meeting next week.  We stood and spoke for a few minutes and I gave him a quick "This is where I'm from, this is what I'm doing" blurb.  He actually has family in Canada, so that explains his good English (I find this is common with natives - the good English being because of family in Canada).  Oddly it's always Canada and not the U.S.  Heh.  Go Canada!  I walked away feeling lighter and more at peace.  Happy.  I instantly felt better than I did with my interaction with the Groningen priest, so there is hope.  Despite it being cold, he was more than happy to give me some of his time to stand and talk a while. 

I casually walked through Leeuwarden, enjoying the lights and shops being open (I guess this Thurs evening was a late shopping day, but not normally so).  While there was no Mass, I thought about making a night of it while I was out.  Unfortunately I realized I was still a good walk away from some nicer shops, so I decided to head home. I caught the sneltrein (fast train) which got me home 20min faster than the stoptrein (even though it was 5 min late as well).

Cultural Difference: Shops will keep one or both doors open to give an inviting feel for you to walk in, even though it's 4 C out.  You wouldn't see that back home.  So, they choose higher heating bills (ironic, for a 'cheap' frugal culture) for a chance more people will feel easily welcomed into their store. 

Despite today's train interruptions, I'm home safe and warm.  I'm accepting the fact I wasn't supposed to be in certain places today, or if I was, late. And that's okay.  I made a hot chocolate, topped it with whipped cream and caught up on Facebook.  I've got Christmas music plays and I'm going to write a couple Christmas cards now and we'll see what else the night brings.  W. is working late so I have a couple hours to kill, yet. 

It's almost Friday, if that means anything for your schedule.  Hope your week is going well.  If you have snow, throw some this way.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas without a hint of snow.  I'm not sure Mother Nature heard my plea.

Tomorrow night is our town KerstMarkt (Christmas Market/Fair) and I'm really looking forward to it.  So happy it's just the next street over, so W. and I will walk over after dinner.  I'll see what I can do about getting pics. I'll close out with a couple of our tree...


I was hell bent on getting a real tree this year (for going without for so many years; and I mean many).  So off to the garden centre we went. W. wouldn't let me get a big tree, our apartment isn't that big, so we looked at small ones :)
 
 
 A small tree for a small apartment.  I like it, it's cute.  I'll give another picture as well, with it lit up.


 
 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Addendum to Cultural Differences

To note re: Mail: I get yet *another* (third) ring at my door.  It's our next-door neighbour coming to pick up his post.  See, in the housing complex we're in, if you're not home, the Post drops off your package to your neighbour (or neighbour 3 doors down; honestly, I think they just keep ringing people until they find someone home) hoping you're best friends and it's not a problem to retrieve it.  We (W. and I) don't exactly love this; who's to say we're on friendly terms (we are) with our neighbours or not.  Bah.  All in the name of efficiency *rolls eyes*.

Cultural Differences

Some more cultural differences to note :)

Mail.  Mail operates on a Saturday here, including deliveries.  There isn't a monopoly on the postal system; it's all private.  It's even possible to get more than one mail and/or delivery a day by different carriers (there are two main ones, plus delivery companies).  PostNL is the main carrier, though I can't remember the other one.  Apparently there is even Sunday pick-up to get ready for Monday (where you drop your letters off in the mailbox) but W. and I don't understand why as there's no delivery. The post here is incredibly efficient and fast; easy to get something within 1-2 days. 
(Prime example: we ordered a couple things online the other night. I've just received a second, separate delivery. They really like to ship things separately.)

Construction. Construction sites work a little differently here (i.e road work).  They were repairing the road behind the plaza in town (still using cobblestone - put in place by hand - so awesome) and it was probably the complete opposite of what you'd find in North America.  Nothing was baricaded off, no caution tape, no Roads Dept employees standing around telling you where to go.  No.  You approach the site cautiously and maneuver your way around the best you can.  The man operating the digger is actually really good at watching for people.  It's such a concept... let people use common sense when in such an area.  Loose kids?  Not an issue.  People seem to take responsibility for themselves and those around them.  There isn't a "I can sue you" mentality here.  And it's fabulous.

Cats.  Cats here are very funny.  There are a few outdoor cats in the neighbourhood and you could walk by them a hundred times and call them and they still won't pay attention to you. They really don't care!  They do their derisive.. hold their head up and pretend to ignore you as you walk by.  I don't know what it is with cats here.

Laundry.  Yes, laundry.  First, most homes hang their laundry, not use a washer and dryer. It's a very European thing to do (partly because they're cheap and like to save energy costs and partly to save the wear of the clothes).  I can get behind it and all, but dude.. hard, scratchy towels are not cool.  We both want a dryer for that reason, but until we find an economical used one, it'll have to wait (#firstworldproblems).  Also.. they like to use separate detergent for each load.  We have a bottle each for colours, whites and darks (very affordable around €2 each). Not all detergents do this, but the one I like that's an "all in one" isn't cheap, so I look for it on sale only. 

Marriage.  The big 'M' word.  Not something often talked about in this house... yet ;)  I learned something interesting, though. Apparently this is also Europe-wide (France I know also does this, but I can't confirm other countries).  You cannot get married in a church and have it be legal.  You need to have a civil ceremony first and then you can have your marriage in a church (for your own purposes, still not legally withstanding).  I guess anyone can register to marry you? but this is from a friend and I still need to confirm it's specifics.  What seems to be common if you have both is you have the civil ceremony first, which is very private and invite-only.  Then you have the church wedding later in the day..public and anyone can come, especially handy for those coming to the dinner later on.  Two weddings means two expenses!  Gah!  I have not yet found a parish to call home, so this isn't an issue for me - yet.  I do plan to marry here so I have to accept facts as they are.  What I WAS thinking, though, was to have the legal ceremony here (perhaps still something religiously symbolic in it?) but get church-married back home.  I always wanted to get married in COOL so that would make me happy.  I discussed it with W. and he was all for it.  He's always happy to do anything that makes me happy, for which I'm grateful.  We shall see.

I'll leave you with that for today :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Background

I've chosen a new background for the change of seasons and while this background is (conveniently) Dutch, it is not taken by me.  I hope moving forward to catch some decent area pics, but until then, I pull from the templates.

We have had absolutely no sign of snow yet - the opposite of what you're getting back home!  I miss snow.  Christmas isn't going to be the same without it.  Or winter, for that fact.  We've been in the single digits (below 10 but above 5 C) but it is still very cool; the air here is much more damp, usually with 90-100% humidity so I think it feels cooler than what it actually is. 

I am still asking for snow for Christmas :)

Shoe Shopping

I am alive.. and well!  Well, well enough.  Still regaining energy (happening at a snails pace) but otherwise on the mend.  Thank goodness!  That was just... hell.

So a couple days ago I went shoe shopping.  I'm going to join the gym next week (very affordable, compared to back home) and wanted to get suited up.  So I walk in and tell the guy I need new shoes.  He tells me they have a process, and in about a half hour I will have said shoes.  A process.  Okay.  He explained it briefly and while a little involved, otherwise painless and why not.. I had half an hour to kill. 

First you take off your shoes and socks and step on this plexiglass device, which underneath is lit in neon colours.  It tells you if you have high arches, fallen arches, etc etc.  It was kind of cool.  Then he gives you a shoe in approximate size and he watches you run (they actually have a test strip in the store) and you're vidoed (just at foot level); afterwards you review the tape together.  I knew I had a pronation when I walk, but when I run not so much; my ankle rolls slightly inward when I run, but not enough to need anything specific or fitted (I can have a shoe with a neutral heel).  So he brings out 3 pairs of shoes.  The first pair you try on both feet.  You run, he watches.  Then you replace one with another shoe.  Run again.  Then replace one with the lesser-liked shoe.  Run again (this final shoe was a definite no for me).  Then try both shoes of the same pair that you like and walk around/run again.  See?  Involved.  In the end, though, I did get a shoe I liked a lot (Psst.. CS.. they're part purple!).  I've never owned Acics before so I'll be interested to see how these hold up.  He recorded my information for next time which was also nice.  I got a 10% discount thanks to my health Insurance and off I went, shoes in hand.  I tested them out today.  They make me very happy :)

I have never experienced anything like this back home and I've had my fair share of running shoes.  Mind you, I would get them in the mall, and not in "special" stores for runners (where this was) so I don't know if we have those back home or not.  This experience was another example of how things are in the Netherlands (comparitavely); they take the time to do something right the first time and experience (ideally) lesser hassles in the future.  I'm sure it's safe to assume this store has less complaints and returns.

When I bought my winter boots (functional, yet fashionable) I was offered a spray.  Oh, not this again I thought; trying to sell you something you don't need and will never use.  But that's not how the Netherlands works.  They sell you what you need for the product you're buying, not in an attempt to gain more profit.  I discussed this with my (Dutch) friend at the time (my views, opinions etc) and yeah.. different mindset. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sick Leave

Sorry it's been quiet, folks. I'm now living in The House 'o the Plague..or.. The House of Germs. Whatever you like to call it, W. and I are both sick. I'm in Day 9 with a sore throat/bad cough that won't quit, despite cough syrup from the doctor. W. had a fever but it's been coming down and he hasn't been at work all week. The positive in all of this is that we found out we can be sick and tired and stuck with each other for a week and still love each other's company. I'd say that's a win.

So if this ever lifts, I'll be on the soapbox more. Until then, pray I don't go postal for lack of sleep.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Babble

It's overcast again today.  The weather is ubiquitous" with the region; rainy, as you hear it is.  I forget how many days it's rained in a row.  I've lost track.

Not much to write about today.  I'm still struggling with the thought process "admitting I'm overwhelmed is a sign of weakness" and I've been thinking more (conciously, if that makes sense) about the move and it's going quite well.  I'm "re"adjusting.  Or is that re-re-adjusting?  Anyways, I'm embracing the change one day at a time... and now... it's time to push through.  Next week I will be getting my feet wet and going with a friend to find out if I can volunteer with the retirement home in town. 

I need to generate an income as things are tight, so I've been looking into working from home and selling my baking.  Unlike back home, apparently you don't have to have a registered (Health & Safety) kitchen to do so (though I believe the rules change if you do catering).  This is nice to know.  I think I will need to register as a business, though, as I'll need to advertise, do electronic payments and declare my income.  What rules are attached to requirements of a business (min work hours per week, etc) still need to be further researched. 

I think importing maple syrup is not a wise business proposition.  This makes me a little sad.  I did a bit of research with expats and they all seem to know where to find maple syrup (usually from Canada; sometimes not), so I wouldn't have cornered the market like I thought I would.  I'm not laying the idea to rest yet, but I'm not sure now is the right time.

My energy has been beyond low lately; I don't feel like doing *anything*.  Haven't been very productive at home.  W. says he's been feeling the same, so I think we'll start taking Vit D supplements.  I know my B12 has not caught up yet (my doctor and I have agreed to disagree on his dosage recommendation) so I might take supplements for that as well.  Not feeling energetic/motivated has also dampened my desire to go to a gym.  If I don't have energy for things around the house, how am I supposed to find the energy to work out? ...despite the desire.  With the added weight, worsening body image and lack of desire, I'm going to head straight into a depression if I'm not careful. 

On that happy note, I think I might go make lunch.  Then after - cupcakes with buttercream icing!  Yum!  I've been putting this recipe off far too long so it's time. 

It's Wednesday, so we're almost there!  Hope the rest of the week goes smoothly for you!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thankful

Good morning!  Happy Monday!  How are you recovering from the weekend?  There was a lot going on I hear; house-warming parties, wine tours.  My goodness you're a social bunch ;) 

Yesterday I held my (late) Thanksgiving dinner for a party of 6.  I was of two minds about it after last week's post/breakdown; I wasn't sure if I was ready to be surrounded by a few people or if I wanted time by myself, and When we arrived at the butcher Friday to pick up the turkey we were surprised; we ordered a 3 kilo turkey.  We were presented with 6.9 kilos. That's over a 15 lb turkey! For 6 people!  (Woo! Leftovers!)  That was the smallest they could find and they did give us a fair deal, price wise.  So we lugged out turkey home and found room for it in the fridge. 

There was plenty of food on the table and everyone was quite sated.  Turkey, ciabatta pancetta and apple stuffing (I made the night before and it was a hit), carrots, mashed potatoes, buns, green beans.  For dessert there was a simple apple crisp and (homemade) Toblerone Semifreddo (semifreddo = 'half frozen', similar to ice cream).  I have to say they were a perfect combination.  Then tea and winding down. 

His parents were sweet and got me a couple of small Friesian-style gifts (welcoming me to the country, STILL, after almost being here 4 months).  Of the friends that came (a married couple), she gave me a food item (for my recipes) I've had a hard time locating.  I've definitely been blessed to be around such generous people.  It was a very 'gezellig' (cozy) evening. 

Part of me is still very hesitant to get close to these people.  I've just left my home base and I'm conscious enough to not want to fill the gaping void with just anyone.  These people aren't just anyone, but I think it's taking a while for my head to catch up with my heart.  All part of the adjustment.

Speaking of which, I've been making more of a mental conscious effort to acknowledge my move/change and it's going well.  Much better than before, actually.  I'm trying to remain more in the moment than in my head.  Success.

I still miss Babu.

We had a time change this weekend.  And guess what.. they do it on a *Saturday*, not a Sunday.  I always joke w/W. that they do everything backwards.  Not this one.  It would make getting to work at the proper time on a Monday morning go *much more* stress free!  They've got it right!

Very windy today (gail force winds up to 120+km/hr) but sunny, so I might just chance going out for a walk.  If you don't hear from me in a day, send out the search and rescue ;)

Have a great day!

Addendum

I wanted to write this post last week (a day after the last post, to be exact), but life got a little busy.  I still wanted to communicate a couple thoughts though, before moving on to the next post. 

The friend I spoke to after writing said email last week said to me that I was brave (moving here).  It's weird, but to me it's not a big deal/not something I feel 'brave' over, etc.  I never know how to respond to comments like that. I did what I wanted to do. 

What's brave to me is writing that last post.  Brave is baring all my emotions which could be open to judgement, ridicule or opinions I may or may not be ready to hear.  I was just thinking; it's funny.. in highschool I, okay, stood out a little (intentionally), but scholastically or emotionally I was never good enough, or I was always judged* and ended up hiding a lot of things I was feeling (which, in hindsight, lead to a period of heavy depression in my teens but I digress), where now I've evolved into a human who doesn't shy away from expressing my feelings and find it more freeing, than fearful. 

That day with the breakdown/breakthrough?  My day didn't end there.  I decided it was a good idea to spill soup on my boyfriend's computer.  That he uses for work.  That he's financially responsible for.  That had a large project due today.  I felt awful.  To say I panicked and freaked out, is an understatement. After a tearful text to a friend of his, he came over, pulled it all apart and we cleaned it up.  After reassembly, it's only the keyboard that doesn't work.  Phew.  I'll happily pay for a new keyboard replacement instead of a whole computer any day.  We have a plug-in keyboard for now.  Goodness; that day was just too much stress.

Now onto the next post!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Starting Over

There are a hundred titles I've thought of for this post...
"Overwhelm"
"Breaking Through"
"Guilt"
"Vulnerability"
"Courage"
"Honesty"

I can't decide.

With a bit of a breakdown this morning, I had a bit of a breakthrough (they go hand-in-hand, I think.  I'm also channelling my inner Brené Brown). What started as an email to a friend about a lack-lustre prayer life, ended up turning into a confessional.  Except not so much to them, as to myself.  I'd given a voice to what has been silently bothering me for the last 3 months.  With my lack of talking to friends (like, real conversations, I don't mean "how are you liking it there? or What's different? or How's the weather?")** or blogging, I've been keeping inside what (I think) makes me - me; expressing my vulnerability, really talking about life and it's meaning or impact on ourselves or each other or challenging ourselves.  Needless to say I've been stuck in my head a lot... and for whoever's been there... that's *not* a good thing.  After said email, I spoke to a friend who gave me things I needed to hear and helped raise some awareness.  So it's time for me to get honest.  Brutal truth, guys.  Brace yourselves (or maybe I should...) :/

I'm overwhelmed.
I feel stuck.
I shut off way too often (Facebook? Pinterest, anyone?).
I rush through situations that are uncomfortable (usually per language barriers).
I see my admitting overwhelm as a sign of weakness and it is attached with guilt (how can I feel overwhelmed? I'm not working a 50-hr week, have 5 projects on the go or involved with 3 clubs).
I've been using food as comfort (my ever-expanding waistline is a proving indication).
I've had much higher expectations of myself coming here than I was willing to admit (part inflicted by me, part inflicted by society and friends).
The kicker is I hide all of those points.  Even to W. sometimes (s'ok, you can judge). 

I have now been challenged to re-write what I see as 'overwhelm' and conversely, 'successful'. 

Overwhelm is not always having 50 things on the go. Sometimes overwhelm is having one major thing on the go, with maybe 5 baby things trailing behind it.  Overwhelm is being reminded *every minute* that I am in a situation that has no "quick fix" and that it will take a lot of time and effort to get to a point where I will be completely comfortable (like with the language, or not being able to find a job).  Overwhelm is trying to be okay with the fact that I have control issues and I am in a situation that in part, I have no control over.  Overwhelm is wanting to learn a language in 5 minutes so I can move on with life and not feel like an outsider.  Overwhelm is having my bf's mother encourage me to look into getting a Dutch drivers licence when I have (yet) no desire to drive.  Overwhelm is feeling happy in a life I wanted to be in with a man that loves me but feeling conflicted because I miss my friends, my town, the comfortable flow I had in my life, my sociability, my (let's get real)... safety zone.

Success is not always becoming CEO, or having lots of friends, or the biggest house on the block.  Success is moving to a new country, leaving everyone and everything familiar behind.  Success is, when you do have the nerve, to smile and say hello to your neighbour and comment on the weather - in your new language.  Success is admitting overwhelm.  Success is feeling like crap but seeing the positive anyways.  Success is being gentle with yourself.  Repeatedly.  Success is giving yourself permission to feel ovewhelmed, in any situation.  Success is after you think that by moving to a new country you're starting over, that three and a half months into said move, do you indeed need to state again that you are "starting over" (see explanation below).

It's hard to find a point of where to start (moving on, moving forward) since there's so much to do.  What's the indicator that tells you how and where to begin?  That's the hard part.  So, for today and moving forward, I will look at things with a fresh perspective.  This is a big deal.  There is a lot of effort involved.  It will take a lot of time.  I will need to make baby steps to get to the bigger things that I visualize in my head I see happening for me.  Now that I've given it a voice, I'm okay with it (instead of running away from it).  I'm okay with there having to be effort.  There is now a sort of peace (temporary, I'm sure).  Or maybe I should say.. I've reached a point now that I can relax a bit and let life come to me, instead of pushing through to get to it

On that note, I am going to make a late lunch and get out for a bike ride.  I hope you're having a fabulous week!


** Not to say I don't enjoy these conversations; I just find I need a bit more of the dig-deep, feeling-connected ones.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Utrecht

Last weekend we went to Utrecht on a whim.  We had no plans on the Sunday and felt like being adventurous.  Utrecht was one of the cities open so we went on a day trip.  We got a bit of a late start to the day, leaving just before noon (on a 2.5 hr train ride) but arrived just fine and enjoyed the city. 

We went to see the Domkerk (Dom church) first off.  The current building as it stands was built in the 1300's and the nave was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1600's.  So what exists now is the rear of the church (more details on Wiki) and the tower.  There's plenty of seating and they have a beautiful organ.  Any carvings or statues of saints (attached to the walls) are destroyed, usually in the face area, from the Reformation.  There are a couple tombs inside which is pretty cool.  Unfortunately I was unable to take pictures as they weren't allowed. 

After that we walked around, in and out of shops (I found a kitchen store to die for - they had everything - but unfortunately one of the few stores in the Netherlands that does not ship online).  We went for dinner at a restaurant (with horrible service, but good food) seated down on the water beside the canal.  It was a great spot.  A little cool; a scarf was required, but still enjoyable. 

They are much more fashionable in Utrecht.  They also had a laisez-faire attitude about the day, stopping and resting on marble steps, soaking in the sun.  Typical what you'd expect from the French, but not behaviour I'd associate with the Dutch.  It was nice to see and also experience.


Looking across from us when we were having dinner.  They've made use of the canal space below ground and created restaurant seating.

View from the table.  We also saw people in paddleboats or small motor boats go through the canal.  A wonderful way to tour the city and relax. Almost *every* boat had beer in it (Heineken), something, I told W., you would *not* see in Canada.

View of Domkerk in the street

Domkerk tower.

Small alleyway near Domkerk. I think this was attached to or very close to the church tower and there was a small area blocked off by a black iron gate that held the stone remains from the circular stairs that would have gone up. Meant to take a picture of that; sorry :/



Cultural Differences

I really don't know why I bother to say I'm taking a break, when I write 5 days later anyways.  I've gone longer than that without saying anything.  Okay.. so no more "I'm on a break" messages.  What I do have for you today is a list of cultural differences I've been noting.  Random, as listed..

Coffee.  It's much stronger here (note: I notice it in taste, not per caffeine as caffeine doesn't affect me).  When you go out for a coffee you can expect it to be at least twice as strong as coffee from back home, if not more.  So brace yourself.  Oh, and smaller.  Their coffees are in smaller doses (perhaps ammended per the stronger taste. I have no idea). 

Lemonade.  What they call lemonade and what we call lemonade are two totally different things.  First of all, what *we* call lemonade actually has lemon (or some form of) in it.  Here, lemonade can be any base syrup mixed with water (i.e grenadene and the like).  I just can't get on board with this yet.  Lemonade is LEMONade.  Gah.  *throws hands in air*

You can't order a drink with rye; they look at you funny.  It's whiskey.  Even scotch is known as and better translated as whiskey.  When I say I'd like a whiskey and Coke, they'll bring me something like Jameson, or.. strong like Glenlivet.  Not Canadian Club (it does exist in the stores!).  Beer is also served in a glass (usually), and by half pints.

Some of you have seen this already when I mentioned it on Facebook; doctor's waiting rooms.  I notice everyone says hello when entering the waiting room.  To complete strangers.  All the time.  I haven't gotten my head around this yet.  The North American mentality is go in, keep to yourself, don't talk to anyone and wait 30 minutes until you're called.  Here, you walk in, say hello (even if they walk by they say hi), la-dee-da kill time somehow until you're called, about 10-15 min later, if that.  They seem to have a sort of, "Well, we're all in this together," way about it.  While pleasant, it's taking me some time to get used to. 

You can buy anything online.  Anything.  And it ships in a day.  Food?  Sure.  Kitchen appliances?  No problem.  Anything.  I love the speed in which they deliver.  Your item can often arrive the next day.  Beat that, Canada.

Oh.. the supermarket.  It's pretty much the same layout as you'd expect.  When you go to cash out, it's a bit different.  I think I've mentioned the cashiers are always sitting; a good way to save your back (I don't know why we don't do this).  You also have to bag your own groceries, even at the nicer stores.  Quickly, btw, so the guy behind you's stuff doesn't get mixed in with yours.  No pressure.  While you're bagging (or putting back in the cart and boxing later at your bike/car etc) at marathon speeds, also pay and punch in your debit code.  Got 5 hands?  Okay, I exagerate slightly, but it is a bag-your-own and do-it-quickly situation.  Oh, I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but when paying and forgot something, or grabbed the wrong sale item, it's common to return back to the original spot - leaving 5 people behind you waiting, grab the correct item and hurry back.  My North American head screaming, "What the hell are you doing?! Can't you see I'm in a hurry here!!" went off pretty fast, but I kept my mouth shut.  Then I remembered where I was.  If they're not worried about it, then I won't be either.  I've got no place to go.  So I sit back and wait.   Look, I'm becoming a local already :P

Shoes.  People don't take them off when visiting at someone else's house.  This is not me and definitely not how I was raised.  It irks me slightly, but I keep to myself about it.  W is pretty good about it without me having to ask, but sometimes we'll come in with groceries and 20 min later he'll still have his shoes on.  I'll say, "Shoes" and he goes takes them off.  (What??  I just vaccuumed!) /OCD   I remember when we went to visit family friends the first day I was here.  I took my shoes off at the door and they looked at me funny, questioning what I was doing.  It was the strangest thing.

Well, that's it for now.  I'll keep trying to note more for you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brief Intermission

Sorry this blog has been a ghost town lately.  There's been a bit of the Crazy Train and now I'm trying to get involved in more things (not at all anxious)../sarcasm.

No one's wanted to hire me yet, so I'm going to look into volunteer opportunities. 

I'll update when I can! :)

Maple Syrup. Not.

I've been on a feverish lookout for maple syrup.  REAL maple syrup.  Turns out it doesn't exist here.. and if it does, it's very rare. 

I was browsing a (now favourite) health food store and low and behold - the gates of heaven opened.  There it was on the shelf, with the familiar-looking tin.  Real maple syrup.  From Canada.  Hell yeah.  I picked that sucker up.  €16 (500ml).

I came home and was all happy and excited and told W. of my purchase.  I made pancakes the following Sunday morning just to celebrate. 

With caution and intent, I placed one pancake on my plate, put on some butter, drizzled the syrup, cut into them and took my first bite.  First... I was content.  Happy.  A familiar taste.  But wait, what's that?  It tastes a bit different.  *Way* sweeter than I'm used to. 

Yeah.  I didn't entirely notice the front (I blame tunnel vision).  Grade: C+.  As in.. not the prime maple syrup you're used to buying from the store (most likely, in that area) or your market vendor.  It's the last pick of the season.  Probably over-boiled.  There's also a more sharp smell to it, if that makes any sense.  You can smell the sugar. 

So.. I'm sad.  I'm going to have to ask for Canadian Maple Syrup supplies just to live :P  I have a plan, though.  To import it, maybe make a little money and show the Dutch what *real* syrup is ;)  Doing research at the moment and we'll see what the process holds. 

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My New Best Friend



I was on a bike ride the other night, picking blackberries (they're by the dozens along the Streets and open for picking; we make jam out of them) while W. was working late.  Along one of the roads we frequent is a field with 3 horses.  Every time I stop to see them, every time they seem disinterested.  This time my persistence paid off!  One of the horses came by, said hello and we were inseperable.  I scratched her head, then she'd bend down and I scratched her ears (she really liked that)'.  It was really funny, cause she'd move so I could scratch a different part of her; her neck, her belly... even her be-hind.. lol.  Then she'd go back to the face again.  Spoiled.  I was probably there for about an hour.  I'd talk to her and I'm sure she didn't understand a thing I was saying but she didn't seem to mind.  She'd just move around so I could scratch different parts. 

A lady arrived with a young girl and they came to walk one of the smaller horses.  We spoke for a bit and seeing how well this horse and I got along, she suggested I check out the riding school down the street.  I thanked her for her suggestion, though I'm not sure I will (not having money, for one, and I don't have much of an interest in riding).  Would I like to volunteer with them and get involved with something?  For sure.  Anything to get me out of the house more, at this point.  The horse and I really got along, so I'm quite curious. 

Well, whatever happens, this is my new friend.  I'd tell you her name, but I'm not quite sure how to spell it :/

She didn't want to stop and pose for me.
 
I'll keep going by to see her and say hi, if she's around.  We'll see how this relationship progresses :)
 

 

Cultural Differences

First.. technical difficulties: Chrome isn't letting me log on to make a new post (ironic that Google isn't letting me log in to contribute to a Google blog.  Just sayin').  It's literally not giving me the option at the top of the page to create a new post.. so.. I've had to.. *gulp*.. resort to IE.  Excuse me while I shudder slightly.  *shudder*

Anyhoo... I've been wanting to write about cultural differences for a while but wanted enough to write about.  Where can I start?  Some things may be ones I've mentioned before, but only now shedding them in a different light.

Roads.  I'm getting used to them, especially cycling.  I'm learning the rules of their roads and say, how to proceed at an intersection (none of which have stop signs).  They also follow the rule "those to the right proceed" so that's easy.  I haven't gotten myself killed yet, so I put that in the 'win' column.  You REALLY have to keep your eyes open on their roads, there's so much going on; drivers (multiple), cyclists (multiple), the odd walker.  And it's true, everyone really does ride their bike here. 

Health.  W. and I were just discussing how he's going to a doctor's appointment next week and I asked him when the last time was he got a complete physical.  He looked at me funny.  They don't do that here.  Then I looked at him funny.  I said, "What?  You're not a medically-induced hypochondriac society?" :P  And they have some of the healthiest people world-wide.  They're doing something right, and I kind of like this mentality.  Physicals were never my favourite, anyways.  That's a rant saved for a later date. 

Food.  Local food (i.e desserts) is highly wheat-based, as you may have guessed.  Cakes are the top seller.  And I don't mean a round, icing-covered sugary goodness; I mean.. dense cakes, like loaf-pan shaped.  Oh, and in home baking, they're high on springform pans (it's kind of weird).  It's almost as if *everything* is baked in a springform pan.  Now, these cakes and desserts are found in grocery stores.  If you want something special, you will find it in a restaurant (as you've seen by some pics). 

Livestock.  You can't go half a mile without seeing horses, cows or sheep.  Less popular are goats.  Today on the train to Groningen I saw a field full of cows - all lying down, almost akin to how a cat sleeps.  I mean, they were just cuddled up and relaxed and sleeping.  It still weirds me out.  I find it fantastic that the animals are so relaxed.  It shows me they're being treated well.

Stairs.  It's true; they are more narrow than back home.  It really took me back when I first arrived here but have quickly gotten used to it.

People.  People are so much happier and at ease here.  As much as G. was a fairly laid-back town, this is even more so, if that was even possible.  And they're.. *gasp*.. happy.  You can see it when you're cycling around town; everyone's smiling, they say hi to you as you go by.  It's really weird (when you're not used to it).  If they worry about anything, they don't let on about it.  I'm still adjusting to the pace, but it's a very welcomed one.

Well, that's all I can think of for today.  I'll try and write back again with more :)



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Heerenveen

Wow.  I hadn't realized it's been so long since I last wrote.  I've just sort of been living life; trying to get a bike, for one (obtained!) and trying to figure life out (what to do next, etc).  The bike needs a name (right, AR?).  I should take a picture of it today and show you.  I was going to get W. to take a pic with me and the bike, but he's a bit busy these days, so there's low opportunity.  No matter.

Last weekend we went to Heerenveen to their museum.  The city was 'closed' as it was a Sunday and not their Sunday to be open, so it was pretty desolate.  Seemed pretty, though, and would like to go back sometime.  Sorry, this'll be a repeat for those who've seen on Facebook.  As usual, click to enlarge.


We're not sure what this building was, but it serves as a restaurant now (and possiblly hotel? I don't know what's upstairs).  Date on the building is 1640.


Church.  Unknown name or faith (though I'm guessing Catholic or Anglican as it had a rectory attached (not shown)).  





Walking through town waiting to catch the train.. and bam.. there's a windmill.  It used to mill grain (grind into flour).  It's out of commission now.  


Beautiful flower-covered bridges.  

It continues down the street and on other bridges.


Even the pigeons are relaxed.  This place cracks me up.



At the museum we learned about Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846-1919).  A very interesting man who stood out very much in his time.  A Lutheran preacher-turned socialist-turned anarchist, he lost the faith, started fighting for workers rights and then started fighting everything else (he was an anti-militarist and didn't believe in war and even openly discouraged giving kids war toys -guns, etc).  He was the very first Dutch socialist elected into Parliament, wrote in various papers, published a book and the museum had his entire library contained; it was so fabulous.  Books on psychology, anarchy, literature (even in English!), religious works (Bible, New Testament, etc).  It was so extensive.  To be that close to books that old... oh boy did I want to get my hands on them.  They'd be priceless.  (If you're unsure what I'm referencing, I collect old books of a certain nature, pre-1940).  He seemed like a really interesting, full-character sort of man.  If people agreed with him or not (there was even a copy of a note of insulting terms against him, someone who did NOT like him at all), his funeral brought about an entire town.  Hundreds of the working class came out to pay tribute to a man who fought for 8 hour days, breaks, needed rest, etc.  He had a good heart.

I got my health insurance card!  Go me!  So now I can go see a GP, chiropractor and I thought about seeing an accupunturist.  My parents are seeing one and can't say enough good about it.  The sky's the limit (or that.. whatever my card will cover for the remainder of the year).

Well, W's slowly starting to wake up and I should get moving and start the day.  Sorry it's a long post.  Hope everyone's having a good week!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Introductions, Dining and Franeker

Well, Amsterdam didn't happen.  Once we started mapping out the day, it would have taken us 3 hours to get there, to spend 6, to travel 3 more home, to get in at a good time (he works today).  We were sad about it, but it just wasn't realistic.  Amsterdam is a place that when you travel, you need to spend it overnight.  At least for us.  Or, have a car, drive part way to a city centre then take the train the rest of the way in.  Having no car, we'll have to go with option #1.

So, we made different plans.  Having events change in the morning, we spent part of the day with his kids & ex.  I got to meet everyone all at once for the first time.  Yaaaaaaay.  *cough*  Well, with 3 kids it can be very tiring, but it was a good visit.  They took to me very well; especially his oldest.  That was nice.

After that visit, we went to Franeker where there is the Eise Eisinga Planetarium museum (linked in English).  Quick history: this planeterium is the oldest working planeterium in the world.  Very small as it's based out of the man's house (or what would have been his house at the time).  He understood how the stars and planets worked, and when people were in fear of the world ending (as was thought at the time), he actually built a working solar system in his living room to show people that it wasn't - and why/how.  He cared about calming the masses and we thought that was a pretty special trait to have.  All the little cogs in the working solar system were made by hand, all hand-forged nails (10,000 to be exact).  Wiki shows you a couple pictures, but I went to the museum's website and it showed on more of the inner workings of the cog/weight system (if you view it in Dutch it shows even more pictures, not sure why. P. S - Google Chrome is your friend).

After getting some rich history, I started to feel ill and needed to eat.  W. asked the woman if she could advise any places in the area.  We ended up going to an inn just down the street.  I really enjoyed this place and would like to go back.

This view was was side of the footbridge we crossed to get to the inn.  Note the steep banks on the left, which would have been defence mechanisms for the town from the canals. 

This is the inn, the view on the other side of the footbridge.  Their seating area goes right down to the water (to the right) - and that's where we got to sit!  

This dining experience was absolutely lovely.  Dining in Europe is way different than back home.  Back home it's.... come in, get addressed within 30 seconds (on a good day), order, eat, leave so the next people can come in.  It's all about turnover.  Here.. it's sit, relax for a few minutes.  A minute or two later your server comes to ask if you'd like anything to drink, if you're there to eat (if you want a menu).  Menu is brought, we look it over and eventually order. They really leave you to relax and enjoy the entire meal.  If you're not expecting this, to a North American, it could seem as very slow service.   First we were brought tapas (if we'd known they were bringing this, we wouldn't have ordered appetizers).

Sorry, I took the picture after we started eating it :/  Note my glass of lemon water (holy lemons, batman. That's what I call service) to the right.  It comes with a stick, which apparently quite common.  At the end of the stick is a flat peice TO GET MORE JUICE OUT OF YOUR LEMON WITHOUT HAVING TO TOUCH IT.  Also, to keep it at the bottom when you drink, if you so choose.  Y'all in North American need to get on that.  If they exist, I haven't once seen where.  And I order a lot of water. 

Apps and dinner were perfectly times apart (we got the house steak) and were very good. Then came dessert.  Sweet holy Jesus.  They didn't have anything on the menu I could have (dairy-free) so I got a coffee.  He got strawberry tiramisu.  

This was our dessert spread.  My coffee came with various sugars and bon-bons.  There's another tiramisu above my coffee that we didn't order but weren't sure if it was part of the whole "comes with bon-bons" thing.  We ate it anyways :P

Check out the layering of that coffee.  Impressive.  

W.'s tiramisu, strawberries, (real) whipped cream and a strawberry liqeur.  Yum.

The sun was out that afternoon and it was hot, though there was a cool breeze (it was perfect).  While the sun was very hot, the UV index was only... 1.  I'm not even lying.  We were there for almost 2.5 hours and I didn't even turn pink.  If we'd done that back home, I would have been walking home with 2nd degree burns.  

More than pleasantly sated (we were stuffed), we headed home after a very long day.  Let's just say we slept very well last night. 



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Baking

I haven't baked anything this week yet and I was starting to go through withdrawal.  Thing is, I wanted something simple to keep movement, etc low with the heat.  Enter kruid ("krowd") cake.


Kruid cake is a staple in Dutch homes.  I'm not sure how do describe the taste; sort of.. cinnamony.  I got this mix out of a Homecoming gift basket I got from a friend when I arrived....



I was pretty blown away.  She knows I love to bake and got me started in my new kitchen and it's helping me get familiar with some of their products.  

Anyways.. I'm making the kruid cake, but I'm going to touch it up a notch with maybe some whipped cream or vla.  Oh.. I haven't talked about vla yet.  

I have a new love.  And it is called vla ("fla").  

Vla is like a custard-type pudding.  I eat the non-dairy soy kind and it is FAB0U-LOUS.  W. has some "slagroom vla" (whipped cream vla) in the fridge, but I like mine better.  Oooh... maybe I'll put some of that with my kruid cake. 

The Dutch, btw, believe in having dessert after dinner.  Every.  Single.  Day.  While my tastebuds delight, my waistline does not.  This is going to be a challenge. Be forewarned if you ever visit; you WILL be stuffed with some sort of sugary-goodness post-feast :P

It won't let me upload pic of finished kruid cake, so it'll have to wait.  Sorry :)

I gotta get outta the heat.  

Ciao.




Leeuwarden

So we seem to be taken to travelling on weekends.  I've already talked about Groningen, and last weekend we went to Leeuwarden.  It's a very interesting city.  Very old!  I was taken aback by it's architecture; we were walking amidst streets and beside buildings you only read about in history books.  It's breathtaking.. and humbling.  It's weird to feel so... insignificant... beside a large building (inanimate object) but it's entirely possible.  It was there before you were even thought of, or before your great-great-grandparents were thought of!  I was blown away and speechless.

We walked almost 10km that day, but you don't notice it being surrounded by such atmosphere.  When we walked from the train station (side tangent: some public pay-for toilets...are scary.  I think I got traumatized after that. It was clean, don't get me wrong, but it was like a fucking vault.  I've never been in such an intrusive...washroom facilities. But more on this later..) for about 5 minutes and we quickly entered the picturesque parts of the city; it was like walking in the middle of a postcard.  The tall, thin buildings by the canals.. just like in pictures.  Regrettably, I forgot my phone at home so couldn't take any pictures.

The highlight of the trip was coming across St. Boniface cathedral.  Take a look at that picture.  We took a tour and went to the top of the tower!!  I forget how many, but something crazy like under 200 steps (it puts the walk to COOL from street-level to church to shame).  At the top, we even got to stand outside and look over the city.  Absolutely amazing.  You could almost see straight to the islands.  Their choir loft is much higher than ours by home (I hope you're not afraid of heights!), but they had pews/kneelers which was nice.  Small-ish organ.  Not sure of how many pipes (the man didn't know). When we walked up the tower, it was very steep (circular stairs) and entirely in brick.  The fascinating thing about this church was that it was built in 2 years.  Two years!  And unless I'm mistaken, the same age as COOL.  Amazing how they can look so different (esp on the inside).  They still use the same baptismal as they did when they opened in 1884 (in pictures/link).  We liked the church in Groningen better (not as dark), but it was still very beautiful.

We're thinking of going to Amsterdam this weekend, so I'll try and see if we can hit a church or two there.  I'm already scouting places to eat ;)  It's almost a city that's far enough (and large enough) that you should stay the night, but we're really trying to conserve money, so I'm not sure it's an option.  We'll see!

Hope y'all are enjoying the nicer weather.  This is our hot week and I can't wait for it to be over (Sunday).    

Friday, July 19, 2013

Discouraged, Pt. II

It gets worse.

After talking to a couple people yesterday about said events, it turns out it's true about the age thing.  Apparently there are different pay scales per age, and since I'm not, say, 19, they can't get away with paying me minimum wage; there are different pay scales for someone who's 19, 30 or even 40.

Okay.. let's just try to wrap our heads around that for a minute.

They technically aren't allowed to ask me for my age, but they have to in order to know what to pay me?

What?

W. told me it's original intention when it came out (why it was changed to this), but I forget what it is.  When he got home last night, I got the sweet, "Honeeeey, I'm hooome." and he walks in the kitchen where I've got a scowl on my face and I said a brief, "Hello." "What happened?" he instantly asks.  "Oh, fine country you live in!" and I start yelling.  Poor chap.  He let me vent and then he made me put the dishes down (that I was subsiquently throwing around with my anger) and took me in his arms for a hug... and I cried.  It was all too much to process.  So... now I have to prove myself harder in a country that doesn't know me nor is familiar with the places I've worked?  No pressure. AND they want me to just be okay with this process, put aside my principles and bend over and take it up the ass because that's what everyone else does?  Oh hell no.

It's a good thing I work better under pressure, cause right now I'm just pissed.  For a country that touts equality, this is very unequal of them.  I'm sure there's a positive in here somewhere, I'm just not sure where it is yet.  So this is how it's going to go:  I'll apply for jobs and if I get asked again for my age I'll bite my tongue from saying, "What the f*** business is it of yours?" and politely ask them if they're interested in my skills or not.  If they evade the question, I move on.  I'm not compromising.

In reality, they're not allowed to ask me that; it's still age discrimination (and I could have reported them), but because it's been changed, they're using that to their advantage... and trying to get away with it.  They're supposed to hire you on your abilities, and the formalities (pay scale per age) come later, with the paperwork.  The sad thing is, it was a measly dishwashing position, but I would have put a lot of hard work and experience into their kithen, hoping to slowly move up the ranks.  Instead, they're sacrificing experience for cheap labour, choosing to hire inexperienced young'uns in their kitchen.  A foolish business mistake, if you ask me, when you're trying to open a new restaurant.  I have a right mind to call her back and tell her what a fool she's being.  But what do I know.

That's enough for today.  I'm going to try to keep myself occupied until W. comes home, which won't be a moment too soon.  I'm feeling a little down-trodden.  I will however, enclose a picture of our balcony :)  It's still not exactly how I want it, but still it's cosy and a welcoming place to sit when the sun isn't high.

It's Friday!




Thursday, July 18, 2013

Discouraged

So.. there was an advertisement for jobs (dishwashing and waitressing) at this Italian fine-dining restaurant in Groningen (close to church, actually).  My eyes lit up as I peered through the windows onto the tables set with crisp white and beige linens, glass decanters for oil and shiny salt and pepper shakers (grind your own!).  I wanted that job.  I took a picture of the sign/contact information posted and .. did nothing with it.  I'm already having language barriers, how can I possibly jump into a job not yet being fluent in Dutch?

We were in Groningen last week and passed by it again on the way to Mass.  Again, I stuck my face to their window.  Again, not ready to make that call.

Today, almost 2 weeks later, I made the call.  It went something like this....

"Hoi, /name/?" (Hello, /name of contact/)
They said "Ja".  I said, "Do you speak English?" (which I could have easily asked in Dutch, but didn't).
"Nee, Nederlands." (no, Dutch) - which already tells you they understand English, btw.
I asked for the other contact that was posted.  She spoke English.  I told her I was interested in the dishwashing job.
"How old are you?"
Slightly taken aback (okay, a lot. I was in shock, actually, lets not lie. You'd get shit if you asked that of anyone in Canada), but told her.
"Oh, well, we already have enough dishwashers.  The day we put the sign up, we got like.. 10 people calling".
THEN TAKE DOWN THE FUCKING SIGN. *huff*
"Right. Well, I'll try and call back later. Thanks!"

Am I calling again?  HELLS no.  Why?  Age discrimination and.. I have a funny feeling language discrimination.  Which is crap, because everyone in Groningen speaks English to some degree.  They don't know my story.  They don't know my language abilities.  Did they ask either of those?  No.

So on one hand I think their insensitive jerks and if they're like that, I don't want to work for them anyways.  On the other, I'm heartbroken and getting a reality check on what it's going to be like looking for work.  Something so small and "insignificant" has made me so upset.  Do I need to start working right away?  No.  Will it help with things?  Most definitely.

So.. I take some time for myself, then I press on.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Baking

So today I'm going to bake a Normandy Apple Tea Cake.  I've taken a picture to show you what I have to work with.  It's an adjustment to get used to all their products (language aside).  For instance: they don't use baking soda.  Like, at all.  Baking powder yes, baking soda no.  They are favourable on self-rising flour (which I think I could get used to, so long as the price is ideal).  Packages are smaller.  Like.. I have not seen one bulk bag of flour.  At all.  How does anyone do mass amounts of baking around here?  Sugar is the same package.  I might need to look around online to see what I can find for flour.  Also?  Chocolate chips aren't common.  CHOCOLATE CHIPS.  What is this anarchy?!  Who doesn't regularly stock chocolate chips?!?!?!?  Had to go on a hunt for them and a friend here found them for me!  They're about a half-hour bike ride away.  Whenever I get a bike *sigh*  I wonder if I can order online..................

Anyhoo... I've included a picture for you today. Click to englarge.



From left to right: self-rising flour (€0,68, light brown sugar, eggs (-/+ €1 for 10), powdered sugar, castor sugar and butter (€0,99).  I'm leaving the butter and eggs out to get to room temperature and I later took out the powdered sugar; it's not needed in this recipe and I think I just got.. sugar happy.  

Ciao!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bicycles

Today I'm going to write about bicycles.  I thought maybe writing subject-specific posts would be easier and more time efficient.

I've test-driven a couple bikes now; one with a local guy in town and one at a bike shop in Groningen.  The store in Groningen is bigger and you'd think with bikes en masse, they would be cheaper than the independent local guy.  Not so.  Out of the hundreds of bikes they held, only a couple were in our price range with what I'm looking for.  We found one used one that was affordable, but I did NOT like the handlebars on it.

Now, I'm going to go into a small tangent.  North Americans... are doing bikes all wrong.  We really should take from the experts who have been doing it for as long as bikes have been around.  When I rode one from the local guy, the handlebars were spacious and wide apart, if that makes any sense and it actually makes the bike easier to control.  It was a very smooth ride.  I was able to sit up properly on the seat with good posture and the seat itself was very comfortable, too.

Now, they have gears on bikes, but maybe 3 at most (I had to laugh a little, when ours can go up to 10 or 15) and this particular one had pedal brakes, not hand brakes (which I prefer).  The bike I rode in the store in Groningen, the handlebars were closer together (less control, I was all over the place) and the seat had to be changed, which was minor.  For the changes I wanted on the second-hand bike, it would be just as logical to get the new one.  I don't feel like I need a new bike, though, because bicycle theft is so common here (which I find ironic, since everyone has one).  I'd hate to spend all that money on something new only for it to get stolen one day.  So we'll see.

The search continues.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lazy Sundays

Hoi!  Goeimiddag.  Het is zondag.  (Hi! Good day. It is Sunday.)

The extent of my Dutch doesn't go beyond that; I'm trying to learn Dutch in a Frisian-speaking town so it hinders my learning a bit.  I'm getting more anxious to learn, so perhaps we'll put the push on more.  Anyways.. that's that.

We spent a wonderful day in Groningen yesterday.  The weather was perfect, though it seems to be almost every day; cool in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon, then cooling back down around dinner time.  He took me to a French cafe (he knows me so well) where we each had an open-faced sandwich, fresh-squeezed orange juice and we shared pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant).  We sat outside and it couldn't have been more "European".  I'm definitely going back for more.


We went to Mass which is in English on a Saturday.  The church is beautiful, if you've seen my pictures on Facebook.  I have to say, though, I felt happier in the Dutch/Sunday Mass than I did Saturday.  Saturday is more low-key of course, so no big choir (just a couple people) and it's hard to get into things when they sing songs/hymns differently than you're used to, right down to the Allelujiah.  Now, in the Dutch Mass, they sang most Mass parts in Latin.  That was surprising, but nice.  All I could say at the time was, "Thank goodness COOL taught me how to sing Latin," but even those were sung to a different tune.  Anyways, they were all nice experiences.  I'm having a hard time finding a Dutch Missal, though.  I asked the priest last night but he seemed in a hurry to get somewhere and not too concerned to help me.  *shrug*

We passed a restaurant not yet open, on the way to Mass.  It's an Italian restaurant.  Fine dining.  I'm so tempted to apply.  I really should take some time to still integrate and get used to life here, but, I'm getting antsy :)  I'd really like to start working again, even if it's one day a week, I don't care.  I'm not sure they'll hire me, speaking mostly only English, so my chances are poor.  Anyways, we'll see, eh?

 It's a slower pace here, in the Netherlands.  On Sunday's, everything is closed (IMO how it should be) and it's a day to sun-bathe, do yard work, rest inside, whatever you like.  We were going to go to Leeuwarden today and hit up the city (or a museum or something), but with everything closed, we decided to stay home and save money (I want to see the city when everything's open).  Today, for us, is taking it easy, minor things around the house, create a grocery list for the coming week and maybe kick back with a movie or two.  Oh!  And go for a walk.  I'm making a (whole) chicken for dinner tonight.  Okay, chicken, btw, is WAY cheaper than back home.  We bought I think, 5 pieces of boneless/skinless chicken breast yesterday for just over 6 euros.  Back home, that nearly would have cost almost $20.  The whole chicken, free-range btw, was close to 7 euros.  Seven.  wtf?  And wine is cheaper, so I don't know if we're over-pricing or they're under-quality.  I've tasted the wine and it's quite nice, so.. I don't know.  

To show you how liberal the country is, we took a picture of a poster/advertisement of an exhibition at the Groningen Museum (contains language, sorry if this offends anyone).  For the fact I have to apologize that it contains language, shows how different our cultures are.  They're not apologetic and see it as every-day language, but don't mis-understand that it gets used often.  It doesn't.  Right, well, W. took it with his phone (I didn't have mine on me at the time) and hasn't shared it with me, so I'll just have to tell you.  Sorry :/  It's called "Fuck Off 2".  It's this HUGE poster, like, building-size.  It's crazy.  

Okay.. best I move on to other things.  Will try to write more through the week with the differences I've noticed.  I really should write things down.  Hope y'all are having a great week!  Tot ziens!



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting Settled

I started a blog post a couple days ago, but a) got tired (still, jet lag, even today) and b) overwhelmed.  How do I mention everything?  It's almost impossible.  I'm sitting in a zombie-like trance right now in the chair, but I need to keep occupied because I'm waiting for the delivery of our oven, so I thought I would try blogging again.

I've been here 5 days now.  I don't know if I've ever felt more at home somewhere.  The minute I saw Dutch soil out the plane window, I started to relax and feel....at ease; comfortable; at home.  (The flight was smooth, btw and the staff were fantastic.)  Jet lag sucks and I don't know how long it's supposed to last.  Every day I need to have a nap (from 20min-1hr).  The people here are very nice; most you pass by on the street will say hi to you.  There have been language barriers, but it all depends who you come across.  Today at the bakery, the girl (about my age?) didn't know any English, but spoke Frisian and Dutch.  It's times like that it's nice to have W. around (and he was), though I've gone out on my own and had to try to communicate.  Some know English, some don't (it's not often spoken around these parts).  We looked at bikes today (for me) and the guy spoke decent English, with some help, though him and W. conversed mostly in Frisian.

There have been a lot of differences, probably more than I can even think of to mention right now, but I'll try, in point form, to save time.....

- the cashiers sit at the cash, not stand.  All of them.
- there are no screens on the windows or doors.
- I haven't yet seen one mosquito *touch wood*
- it's a more relaxed pace of life here.
- the roads and traffic are crazy.  I don't know how they do it, but they have different rules than we do and smaller roads (in town), yet no one's been hit; they all seem to know how to maneover around each other (bikes, cars, pedestrians).  If there's one thing in this country that gives me anxiety, it's that.
- everyone bikes here.  Everyone.  Regardless of age (5 to 75) or even attire (business clothes, skirts, jeans, etc).
- the weather has been beautiful.  We've been getting a lot of sun (uncharacteristic, I'm told); it's cool at night, warm during the day, then cools down again.  Perfect.
- the Dutch have a reason for everything they do, in any context, and are usually quite efficient (though I found this out early when I was doing my paperwork).
- we walked on a path yesterday that was covered in shells.  Yes, beach shells.  It's easier for the bikes to cycle on, apparently, than say.. stones or gravel.  It was so neat.
- the countryside is beautiful. It is flat and you can see for miles.

Well, I have to cut this short because the delivery guys called ahead and they'll be here momentarily.  And they speak English! :)  Wish me luck.  I'm going to bat my eyes at them and ask them if they'll also install it (it's gas).

Dag!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Well Then

I'm very sorry about my freak out yesterday.  Not that I had it, but perhaps that I felt I needed to display it.  If W.'s not around, I don't have any other outlet; and you, my trusty friend, since this blog is about saying things that no one else will, get to see *all* parts of the process.

I almost resorted to old behaviour last night, that was neither productive nor healthy.  The testament that I'm sitting and writing to you about it today shows you me how much stronger I've become (since the years I adopted said behaviour).  I'm still having a meltdown, but I will do so more quietly and slowly, until I figure out what's going on and what I want to do next.

I came close to calling off my get-together last night.  People are completely missing the fact that it's an opportunity to say goodbye and that they're coming to see *me*, not so they can be here to turn it into a party and be with 50 other people.  I'm not saying that's not a nice side effect, I'm just saying it wasn't my intent.  So why would I want to plan something for someone else, and not what I originally wanted to do - for me?  I'm not trying to make it all about me, but you know what.. it's about me.  This also helps my grieving process and I have to accept the situation for what it is.  If people wanna come along for the ride, fantastic.  Hop on.  But don't say I didn't warn ya ;)

I have a hair appointment in just over an hour.  It will be a miracle if I make it dressed and out on time; I'm just sort of in sloth mode.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Need to Vent

K.. you have to understand I'm stressed out.  This is common knowledge, right?  Not only on top of that, but I'm now trying to organize a get-together that no one else was willing to hold for me, in lieu of said stress.  I CAN'T ORGANIZE PARTIES RIGHT NOW, but you know what, it seems like I have to.

I posted said get-together on Facebook as an event and listed it as Open House style - you come when you're able to come.  This is not a chance for me to list something from 7pm onwards and someone say to me, "I can't make it, I'm working that afternoon."  This encourages said person if they can't come in the evening, to stop by and say hi in the morning or early afternoon, or whenever.  Likewise, I have a friend who prefers to come when there's not so many people here, so earlier in the day.

An old co-worker/friend stopped by this morning to drop off a cooler for ice.  She said people are wondering what time to come.  I said, "It's open house style, they can come whenever."  She looked at me with a blank stare wondering wtf I'm talking about.  Now, she's younger than I am by several years, if not close to 10.  Does the concept or term "Open House" only apply to older folk?  Are we the only ones that know what this means?  Or do people not know how to fucking read?  Cause that wouldn't surprise me at all either.  But then another friend of mine posted on the event (who's the same age as me) wondering what time to come.  So I'm starting to think PEOPLE DON'T KNOW HOW TO FUCKING READ.  I get that parties and get-togethers are usually a set time and I get I'm branching OUT FROM THE NORM just so I can fucking see people before I leave.  Sue me.

Seriously?  This is making me want to cry?  THIS IS WHY I SHOULDN'T ORGANIZE MY OWN PARTY RIGHT NOW.

Sigh.

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