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


Some Heat Here, More Heat There

Breaking news update...

Mr. Quick came along quickly indeed. He also quickly got mad at us for not having the bathroom radiator open enough.

Seems that we fell victim to another instance of no Dutch, not so good English, and inadequate mime skills. The last time he was here, Mr. Quick kept telling B- something about the radiator in the bathroom. B understood it to be broken and that Mr. Quick would return to fix it. B- kept saying, "it's ok we don't use it anyway."

As it turns out, the bathroom radiator is fine. He was trying to explain that we have to keep all of the valves open. I *think* we need to avoid a build up of pressure in the system that causes the computer (who know there was a computer?) to shut the whole thing down. Mr. Quick will return in a couple of weeks to bypass the bathroom so we don't have to run it on high. We'll have a sauna for a few days I guess. He admitted that he has a vacation lined up already and won't return until March 10. To this point he conceded that he's not so quick.

Note: This is the first post where I've had no spelling errors. Hurrah!


No Heat

Some breaking news... for the second time in less than a week our heat has gone out. We have a modern version of a radiator system where hot water is pushed through pipes that run throughout the building. Somehow it's connected to the hot water, so that's out as well. Bugger! as B- would say. No showers for us.

In fact, it actually cut out late last night. We were powerless to do anything about it since we couldn't understand the message on the property manager's answering machine. We're flummoxed that our neighbors didn't call. It was new news when I got a hold of the landlord this morning. B- thinks it's typical Dutch complacency. Me, I think maybe they don't shower.

It's going on 12 hours with no heat. Brrrr!

The HI-larious thing is that the landlord, who knows I don't speak Dutch, asked me to call the heating guy to organize a time for him to come by. He speaks better English than some of the other guys who've been around, but still.

In any case, Mr. Quick (I'm not kidding, that's his name) should be on his way.



I often forget that The Hague is a beach town. A quick 15 minute bike ride due West and I could enjoy sun and surf any ole time I'd like - well maybe the surf part. This past Saturday was a gorgeous day, so we rounded up the pooch for his first trip to the strand (beach).

There are essentially two developed beach areas in The Hague, Scheveningen (pronounced "skev en ing uh") being the largest. With hotels, restaurants, a casino and shopping, Scheveningen is a favorite neighborhood of wealthy expats, particularly those on stipends. It's said that rents and housing prices in Scheveningen and the even nicer neighborhood of Wassenar are inflated due to corporate housing allowances. A Shell spouse in my Dutch class confessed that they receive 5,000EUR per month just for rent! With a use it or lose it policy, most tend to max out their allowance just because they can.

On this day we took Nigel down to the quieter Kijkduin (pronounced "kike down"), also ticking off his first tram ride. He's not the most carefree dog, but he seemed to do just fine. I think he's finally adjusting to city life, this one.

The beach was nicer than I expected - clean, white sand with a notable absence of dog poo in spite of the Winter-time "dogs allowed" policy. It was a great day out, and in the bright sunshine it wasn't too cold. We even enjoyed coffee and toasties (aka grilled-cheese sandwich) outside on the boardwalk.



Back in Action

Ok kids... I'm back.

I admit that when I realized I was going to have to redo all the graphics on my site... I had trouble mustering up the motivation to log in. It was just bumming me out too much.

Yet, I persevered and things are just about back in order. I still have to redo some photo archives from a couple months back, so just don't go to those pages. Ok? Ok.

We're friends again, Soo? Good, I thought so. ;) PeeKay?? Am I still in your link list?? Please don't cut me off - I'm not ready.

The other thing is that I felt like I was complaining too much, and that I needed a bit of a breather. There are nice things here, and I don't want to give the wrong impression.

In honor of my more positive outlook, I'll be posting at least one cool thing about Holland in each forthcoming blog entry.

Good Dutch Things: Long summer days. Already the sun is setting 3 hours later than when I first arrived. That's definitely a good thing.



Almost There... Stay on Target... Almost There

Huge HUGE leap forward in my immigration application today - I finally took possession of my residence card. Though I was officially allowed to be here as of a few weeks ago, now I can prove it. I'm actually not done as I still need to obtain the Dutch equivalent to a social security card, and then I need to sort out my tax mess. That should go a bit smoother as I'm sure their keen to get my money.

B- said that some people who read this blog are worried that I hate it here. Hate is way too strong a word, but I have been hanging around in limbo since October. Without written confirmation of my right to be here, I couldn't help but second guess every decision we've made up to this point. Did we move our belongings too soon? Will my career grind to a halt? Will I be able to make friends and build a new life here?

Funny thing about getting my card today. Unlike Bob who only had to show up at the town hall, I had to appear for an appointment with a social worker for the dreaded integration course interview. In my view, they were holding my residence card hostage.

For days I worried and searched for documents that would prove that I'm an educated, professional person, and oh yeah I have a job. All along, we were under the impression that because of the type of visa B- has, I'd automatically be excused from the course. It was worrisome that they called me for the interview anyway. No mention of the visa exemption in any of the documents pertaining to exemptions. I was in knots.

So, I gathered up my university diploma, resume, job contract, and a letter from my Dutch language school in an effort to prove that I can integrate fine on my own. I dug up my office clothes and heels as well. They were going to be bowled over by my career-woman stylings.

Of course I was running late. Of course I didn't know where to go when I found the office building. Of course I was disheveled and wrinkled. Of course the receptionist didn't speak English even though the whole point of that office is to support people who aren't Dutch. My mood was darkening fast like the Dutch sky.

And then lovely and wonderful Mevrouw P- said the magic words: "I need to ask you one question before we bother with all the details I need to explain. What type of visa does your partner have?" Oh sweet, sweet non-denominational religious figure, oh how you shined on me today!

"Why, he has a knowledge worker visa," I said as my mood began to change, also like the Dutch sky.

"Then, as you probably know, you are exempt from the course. You only need to sign for your residence card, and we're finished."

I spent the rest of my morning celebrating with a trip to the clearance sale racks. Nothing puts a spring in your step like purple pants.

PS: Some of my photos have gone missing since I accidentally let my .mac account lapse. While I was able to reinstate my account, they wiped all my data. *sigh* I'll have to put that back together later.



What am I, Chopped Liver?

I planned on blogging about the Winter Olympics today. For the second time in my life, I'm living in a ho-hum country during the Olympics. For the effort of broadening my horizons in 1996, I got to watch Canadian contenders go for the gold. In that year, I think the sport to watch for Canadian victory was rhythmic gymnastics. That's the one with the hula hoops and ribbons. Even as a former ballet dancer, I find that "sport" wussy.

However, I will give the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation mad props for their kind commentary during the opening ceremonies in Atlanta. As a Southerner myself (my parents actually honeymooned in Hotlanta), I couldn't help but cringe in horror as cheerleaders and big-wheeled trucks welcomed Olympians from around the world. CBC commentators, including the one that looks exactly like Peter Jennings, were oh-so-very gracious in the anthropological way that they described why there were cheerleaders and trucks in Olympic stadium. I'll never forget this line: "They represent a common pastime in the South, where young people enjoy driving around on Friday night." Yeehaw! How humiliating.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the US RULES at sports (yes Brits, there is an 's' at the end of that word when it's plural). We particularly rule at really fun and exciting sports like snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, hockey... the list goes on and on. There is really nothing better than being an American when the Olympics roll around.* For all the complaining about how we only get to see the events that Americans are good at, to you whiners I say, "shut the hell up." There is nothing worse than watching C-list sporting events during the Olympics. I've been there. It's lame. Fortunately I get the benefit of coverage on BBC, Dutch and German channels. Hopefully, I'll actually get to see my compatriots mop it up in the mountains of Italy. Bring it on, ya'll.

But I digress...

What I ultimately wanted to talk about today was an article I found on Expatica while looking for Olympic coverage schedules. Amsterdam hosts visit by 25 American bloggers.

Uhm, guys? I'm right here! Right here in The Hague. You can invite me, and I will write about Amsterdam. I write about Holland nearly everyday. I already have a link to your site. Ok Ok. Maybe I don't always say really flattering things about the Netherlands, but I can be persuaded to do so, you know, if I was shown a good time and stuff. Frankly, you haven't really welcomed me with open arms, but I'm willing to let that slide for free accommodations. I've been eyeing a trip to Friesland. I'll take lots of nice photos. I promise.

For what it's worth. B- and I actually stayed at the Lloyd back in August when we first came through for his job interview. It is a far, Far, FAR cry from 5 stars. I had to laugh out loud at that one. It's also not very well located. Suckahs!

*B- will contend that Australia is even better at sport (he only uses one 's') than the US. He's crazy, citing some silly statistic about how many medals Australians won in Sydney as compared to their miniscule population. Maybe there's something there with regard to SUMMER Olympics. But the Aussies only win Winter events when the rest of the competitors wipe out. Eh-hem. Obviously the US presents a much more well-rounded team.



My Old American Life

First, my apologies to the handful of people that regularly read my missives. As you may have forgotten, I was back across the blue, blue ocean enjoying a taste of my old American life. I was treated to unseasonably warm weather, which did wonders for my Dutch malaise. I'm happy to report that so far I have not relapsed.

It's been a slow week for culture shock. Dutch class was lekker makelijk (nice and easy), as the Dutch say. We ticked off the past tense of verbs, and thankfully zijn (to be) is the same as English - mostly anyway.

Catching back up to last week, I'll quickly comment on the Muhammad cartoon fiasco. I have no clue if Dutch press published the cartoon, but one feisty member of parliament posted it on his web site, ostensibly championing freedom of speech. Back home where we love "to run at the mouth" as my dad would say, taste won over proving that just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.

In the battle of personal freedoms, while I cherish the right to speak my mind, I think I value civil liberties much more - something that Europeans seem to give up readily. Take, for instance, yesterday's trip to the postkantoor where I was to pick up a package for B-. They denied my request b/c I failed to present my passport as ID. My Virginia driver's license wasn't enough - not because they thought it was fake, mind you. They wouldn't accept my license b/c they would be unable to enter it into their computer. The guy told me that the computer would contact the US embassy to verify my passport. I had to choke back a laugh at the prospect of the US Department of State being that organized.

This morning, I was successful, though a bit unnerved as I watched the clerk type my passport number into his computer. I wonder what the Dutch phrase is for "big brother." The irony is that B- signed the back of the post slip, authorizing me to pick up the package for him. No ID verification for that.

The moral of the story is that while Europeans sure like to mouth off, they apparently don't care if very mundane aspects of their lives are warehoused in data stores, accessed by God knows what disgruntled, low-level bureaucrats.