On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


Man that poop stinks!

I feel terrible. I've done a very bad, yet very Dutch thing.

I let the my dog poop on the sidewalk, and I didn't pick it up. It's not because I didn't want to. In fact, I even vowed that I would not lower myself to leaving dog waste all over my neighborhood. But the truth is, my little roll of poop bags ran out last night and I forgot to reload. The guilt will probably consume me, and I'll run out and clean it up anyway.

But let's talk about this poop thing for a moment. The Dutch have a reputation for cleanliness in their crowded cities, but I have to call them on it.

First of all, there are little green plots of grass all over the place so that one's dog can take care of business in a tranquil and exclusive area. They even have garbage cans nearby especially for poop bags. Yet, there are hundreds of landmines all over the sidewalks. Each afternoon we find big, steamy presents in front of our stoop.

I really don't get it. It's downright nasty and unhealthy. I read somewhere that the government knows there's a problem. Instead of fining people for not picking up after their dogs, however, they encourage owners to have their dogs go in the gutter instead. What???

What's worse is that they employ guys to drive around atop vacuum cleaners, sucking the poop up off the sidewalks. I get the desire to clean it up, but where's the incentive for people to take care of their own mess if Meneer Pooperschooper will do the job for them?

It's gross, and I won't stand for it. I'm going to go clean my pile.



Oil Balls! Yum!

Mmmmm olie bollen (oil balls), the Dutch New Year's Eve donuts.

Like many European cultures, the Dutch have a number of holiday season customs beyond just giving each other presents. The festivities start mid-November and run up to the New Year.

A perennial favorite is the custom of eating oil balls to ring in the New Year. Olie bollen stands popped up at shopping malls and plazas all around town a couple of weeks ago. Our neighborhood olie bollen stand (below) seems to be manned by slackers who can't be bothered to make them fresh. They've also discontinued serving other seasonal treats such as chocolate-dipped waffles and fruit-filled pastries.

Olie bollen come in a number of flavors - plain, raisin, apple and my favorite almond, or amendel bol. These deep-fried delicacies are nothing but oily.

As the precursor to the modern-day donut, this 17th-century goodie is most definitely unhealthy. Though it does make a nice lip balm.



Indo Pop

This falls into the category of "Cool things about the Netherlands."

The other day I bought a clock radio from Blokker. With no clue about radio stations in the Hague, I did the logical thing and started at the beginning of the dial, trolling around for a suitable station to wake up to each morning. Long about 99.8 I found the one:

Haagstad Radio - India's finest!

We seem to be living in Suriname central, I mean centraal. On a practical level this means that down the street is a suweeet Surinamese grocery store (for very un-Dutch spices, Chinese noodles and Ayurvedic soap), and around the corner are Bollywood video and Bollywood fashion.

I have a not-so secret penchant for Bollywood movies - the more singing and dancing the better. So now I can properly outfit myself as I shimmy along. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

Click here to find out what Suriname, India and the Netherlands have to do with one another.




Days since I've seen the sun: 0

The sun is attempting to break through this morning! Time to buy a bike.


Nic Fit

Found this lovely artifact in the bathroom.



Days since I've seen the sun: 5

I've decided to keep track of how many days I've been deprived of sunshine. This way, when my seasonal affected disorder kicks in, I can better monitor its severity. Not that I've ever had SAD, but normally I get to look forward to snow and snow sports. We'll see how I go.

Maybe it isn't fair to penalize NL for the two days of crap weather we had in DC, but nevertheless they contribute to the tally.


Tales of IND

On paper, the Netherlands has a really liberal immigration policy. If you can support yourself and pay for your own healthcare, they'll ostensibly let you in. Instead of legislating sound immigration policy, however, they prefer to filter prospective newcomers by attempting to break their will.

In the legal forums on Exaptica.com, you'll find hundreds of posts from pour souls stuck in immigration limbo. It's enough to make a grown man weep like an Italian widow.

Relatively speaking, our application has been going smoothly. All we get is the run around: you need to go to this office, no that office, back to the first office. No one seems to know anything, but they'll happily dish out misinformation.

The long and short of it is, we're barely legal - get your mind out of the gutter! Our attorney has contacted the immigration office (IND) several times and each time they tell us that we'll get our approval this week. We're coming up on week three since they started this mantra.

The upside is that we have a sticker in our passport that allows us to hang out in the country while they make things up as they go along.

The down side is that we can't get tax ID numbers, which we need to open a bank account. We need a bank account so we can get a 'pinpass' card because no one takes our US credit cards.

I feel a little like we're on the lam.


Seriously Bad Weather

I knew that it would be gray and gloomy in the Netherlands, but no one ever mentioned the wind.

To say that it was merely windy last night would be an understatement. With the rain and sleet, it was more like some freakish winter hurricane. Throughout the night, we woke to the sound of ice pebbles smacking into our 8-foot windows. You can imagine how they feel blowing into your face.

This morning is no better. About every ten minutes the rain and sleet subside and the wind howls. I feel like a moronic little pig defending a glass house against the big bad wolf.

The weather is apparently unpredictable. Forecasts for the weekend range from snow to clear skies. Needless to say, it's impossible to plan around the weather.

I can't decide if it's better to expect the worst or hope for the best. For now, it appears to be clearing.



Move-In Day

What can I say - I'm here. It seems strange to spend a whole day traveling with too much luggage and a dog, and still feel like nothing big has happened. Sure my neighborhood is different and I can't read a blessed thing, but nevertheless I still have the same to-do list that I've always had.

Much like any move-in day, I spent most of my time yesterday wandering aimlessly through piles of luggage and boxes wondering how I'll ever clean it all up. For the last three weeks, B- had been busy buying necessities - coffee maker, blender, vacuum cleaner and such - but hasn't had much time to organize or clean.

We started small, as in the smallest room in the house - the bathroom. For now, it is my haven.

B's boss and husband are coming by tonight. I need the courage of a thousand warriors and perhaps the strength of ten giants to pull off the monumental task of getting the house ready for the boss. No nose twinkle for me - I'm heading to Blokker.



Dr. Evil "marries" in The Netherlands

This isn't new news, but nevertheless I came across this today.

Husband and wife chatroom trawlers manage to hook a second wife that looks like first one!

Of course most critics are distracted by the horror of polygamy, siting the predictable slippery-slope argument. What amazes me is that the trio managed to get all the paperwork filed properly with their gemeente (municipality).


Seven days to go

Pros and Cons of moving to The Netherlands

-- Yummy cheese
-- Bicycle commuting
-- Cool, old neighborhoods
-- Proximity to the rest of Europe
-- Can take dogs everywhere
-- Charging for throw-away grocery bags

-- Legendary bureaucracy
-- A language that's impossible to pronounce
-- Refusal of the Dutch to stand in line
-- No closets
-- Bad modern architecture (see Rotterdam's cubes and pencil above)
-- Average of only 3 hours of a sunshine a day