Friday, September 25, 2009

Mom Time!

My Mom got here today! Yay! Nothing feels more homey than when parents come to visit.

I added some pictures to my previous post on Paris. Go check em out (they're on the next page).

I'll hopefully post about Liane's visit and Normandy soon.

That is all. Have a good weekend!

Mums and I drunk in Mexico,
trying to demonstrate what we would look like with eye lifts

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I deserve a reward.

Yesterday I bought a sewing machine.

I was eying this one I found at a second hand store (Het Goed, it's called) for 12.50 euro. It was old, but seemed to be in good condition, had all it's parts, and a four week guarantee from the store. So I figured why not. I got Dana to fashion some elastic bands to the flat part of my bike over the rear tire and made my way over there.

I was pleased to find that the sewing machine was still there so I promptly purchased it, and hobbled out the door trying to carry the thing. I'm guessing it was at least 30lbs. I had a really hard time carrying it. I also loaded up on cheap fabric, a print of some birds, and two small flower pots that occupied all the available space in my messenger bag.

So I get to my bike, and realize there is no way the bungee/elastic cord things will fit over the entire sewing maching and it's respective case. So I take out the machine, remove the guiding foot and needle, and slide the flat part of the machine under the elastic. I had my over stuff bag slung over my right shoulder and resting on my left hip, and the case of the sewing machine in my right hand (and somehow I was still able to have both hands on the handle bars).

This is probably no big deal to any Dutch person that's probably moved furniture with their bikes, but holy, that was a difficult ride home. I nearly crashed in the middle of an intersection in front Het Goed, but after some adjusting and picking up momentum I did alright. I dreaded any corners or red lights, as everything would start to wobble.

But alas, about 20 minutes later, I arrived at home. Sweaty and a little shaken, but unscathed.

If living in the Netherlands was like Girl Guides, I think I would have a new badge for my sash.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

weekend of bluh.

On I think Wednesday night, something tripped a breaker in the middle of the night so we woke up with no power. That problem was easily solved with a call to the landlord (aka Mr Jacobs/Jacobs/architect man).

Fast forward to Friday when Dana and I are making sandwiches for lunch using whatever was leftover in the fridge (a chicken breast and a pork chop). Dana heads off to school, I start doing whatever. About an hour later I get a serious case of stomach cramps and upon texting Dana, discover he has them too. Some fresh mint tea seemed to calm mine down, but I still had a nagging headache. So I popped an anti-inflammatory and went about my evening of making pasta salad and headed off to a friend's birthday bbq. Lots of fun, but I was still visited by the occasional stomach cramp.

Saturday I eventually manage to pull a hurting Dana out of bed and over to Emmaus (second hand sale that's open on Saturdays) and the Polish Market to look for a couch. We found a neat ornate cabinet (with carved owls and fish and skeleton keys to open the doors) for 40 euro to go in the living room, and lucked out at Polish with a 27 euro leather couch (but broke one of the legs getting it into the elevator). By about this time my headache had returned with avengance, and no matter how many pills I popped it would not go away. So to make myself feel a bit better (and soothe Dana's hangover) we made homemade macaroni and cheese, and watched a movie, taking advantage of our new couch and temporary coffee table made of wooden crates*.

Throughout the afternoon my headache progressed into the back of my neck, the stomache cramps returned and brought along a fever. Dana had pretty much the same thing, and let's just say I'm glad we have two bathrooms in the place. We're not exactly sure what brought all this on, but I'm suspecting the food left in the fridge when the power went out, the same food we put into our sandwiches a couple days after. I have no idea how long it was off for, but that's the only thing I could think of.

Today the digestive stuff is better, but instead have those lovely monthly cramps that make me wish I wasn't female. Dana's mostly better too, but we still have fevers and I still have a headache. We're pretty irritable at each other right now, but we managed to (mostly) successfully make our first Dutch pannekoeken (thin, crepe-like pancakes), and some "hammekoeken" (our name for pannekoeken with ham in it). The mix was some cheap "Euro Shopper" brand mix, but it was still pretty tasty. Although I must say I miss maple syrup. The 'traditional' syrup here tastes like molassas.

I think Dana's trying to configure the living room furniture right now, and normally I would go help to save the floor from being scratched, but I'm lying in bed and lazy and comfortable so I'll let that go.

The churches outside (there are five I can see from our roof terrace) are going nuts right now. Bells a ringin'. Such is a Sunday in the Netherlands.


*Dana found two wooden crates outside a store in the city centre, and my plan is to make a coffee table out of them. That will be done once we make it to Praxis (the Dutch Home Depot)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things are coming together

Yesterday I had my appointment with the IND (Immigration and Naturalization) to register as a citizen of the Netherlands. I had all my proper forms, passport photo, and copy of my return ticket. I was nervous as the whole work visa process up until now has been nothing but delays, miscommunications and frustration. But yesterday, aside from waiting for about half an hour, went very well. The woman I dealt with was incredibly friendly, spoke excellent English, and was very knowledgeable. I walked out of there with a sticker on my passport permitting me to work, and a huge smile on my face.

I finally got a mobile as well. It's the Samsung E1120 and cost me 25 euro, plus 20 euro on a prepaid plan. It is so budget. No customizable options and the most annoying automatic keypad lock. But it makes up for it in cheesy ringtones, most with names with drug references, like "get happy", "flying high", "secret life", and the more blatent "tripping".

My mom's coming for a visit in a week! She'll be here for 2 1/2 weeks which will be nice. We have plans to go to Paris for her birthday (the last weekend she's here).

Life is good.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Paris, the Expat Blues, and some chairs

After the whirlwind of last week, scrambling the basics of an apartment together, we hopped on a bus and traveled six hours to Paris. And I'm happy to say that I still love Paris. First off, I love the food (for the most part, we had an entire day of food mishaps, which I'll talk about later). We had a fabulous dinner on Friday night at L'Ebauchoir, eating to the edge of discomfort and intoxication.

This was tasty

One the way back to our hostel we walked along the Seine a bit, discovering groups of people gathering and dancing to music, practicing Capoeira, or juggling fire. It was so amazing to see such a variety of stuff happening in a public space. I really think that the quality of a city can be seen in the amount of activities it's residents engage in outside the home, with each other, in public areas.

Capoeira circle

Saturday we visited the Pompidou for some modern art goodness and checked out their female artist exhibition. We grabbed a falafel for lunch and did some shopping in the Jewish Quarter, where there are a few excellent and cheap vintage clothing shops.

Le Centre Pompidou (Mon musee prefere du Paris)

That's me! With Dana's design! In a book! In the Pompidou!

Headed back to the hostel, we sat out on the patio, drank beers and chatted. We had noticed that we were a bit older than the majority of the other hostel guests, and after a bit of sluething we figured out that it was orientation week for the American University of Paris. And we were the only non-university people there. It was strange, but made for great people-watching.
Several beers deep we headed out to Rock en Seine (the music festival that originally brought us to Paris that weekend) to catch Faith No More (that being one of their more laid-back songs) and Birdy Nam Nam. All I can say is wow, I've seen Faith No More live, and it was fabulous. Mike Patton's voice can melt me into a puddle of goodness.
I then fell asleep on the metro home.

Sunday we woke up too late for the hostel breakfast, so we grabbed a baguette, some proscuitto, cheese, and a tomato to eat on the hostel patio. The baguette was good, but both the meat and cheese were rancid. Gross. So to supplement our bread, we each bought this veggie and sausage dish from the hostel cafeteria. The vegetables were soggy, and barely resembled vegetables, and the sausage tasted like it was made purely of salt. A few bites in and we were done, and returned to the room to nap. We set out again to get a meal in us before heading to Rock en Seine again, and since it was about 4pm no restaurants were serving dinner, just drinks and coffee. And we are famished. We walked for a good 20-30 minutes before finding a restaurant that served food, and we dove into greasy plates of roasted chicken smothered in gravy with a side of fries.

At the festival we saw Eagles of Death Metal, MGMT, and the Prodigy. We had seen the Prodigy a few years back in Spain at a festival, and it was a less than stellar performance. They seemed disinterested in the crowd (and vice versa), played for 45 minutes then left without an encore. This performance, however, was incredible. The played all great songs, and even had little remixes inbetween some of them. And two encores. At one point they got the crowd to make a circle and someone set off a flare, which was (incredibly dangerous, but) so cool. I'm not sure if it was someone from the Prodigy, or just a random crowd member. Looking at that video, the crowd was HUGE. We were on the other side of the flare and back a bit, and we were only about a third of the way back in the crowd.
The dust at the festival was out of control. Some people were wearing masks, and when it all ended you could barely see through the thick air. Everyone was coughing and covering their faces with their shirts. Later that night and the next day, both Dana and I got nosebleeds.

Monday we visited the Pantheon, visited the crypts beneath it, then bussed it back home.

Expat Blues
The emotional rollar coaster I'm riding. On the bus to Paris I started feeling homesick. I wanted so bad to return to my easy, English speaking country with a familiar and comfortable bed to sleep in. I want to call up some friends and hang out. I miss my parents and my cat so much. I was tired of feeling like the only one setting up the place while Dana layed around being all jet-lagged (which I was too), feeling like both a housewife and a mom. I was frustrated with the fact that I had to register at city hall and report to immegration, fill out forms and make an appointment to get a residency card. In Canada I just lived. It was easy. I had an annoying and frustrating couple of days in Paris while I worked all of this out with Dana, letting him know what was upsetting me and why and how to deal with all of this.
Going to Paris and experiencing a new wave of culture shock made Eindhoven feel more like home. At least I had something somewhat familiar to return to, my place where I have clothing in drawers and a place for my toothbrush.
Then I remembered why I moved here. I wanted a different life, something out of the ordinary. I didn't want to have everything to be easy. I made my bed and have to sleep in it. So I decided to just roll with it, and learn to love the adventure of living in Europe with all it's quirks and cultural differences. It might be difficult at times, but at least it's not boring. I'm still in awe sometimes that I'm here, making this happen. I now have my residency forms filled out and the appointment made. Things are fitting together.

My close friend Liane is coming to visit tomorrow, which is so exciting, seeing a familiar face from home. She just moved to Edinburgh for school, so I'm sure she's going through a similar shock to the system. It'll be a great week hanging out with her and showing her around!

Yesterday we went to the 'Polish Market' to look for furniture and other household things. We got some small stuff, like floor mats, garbage can, mugs, etc, but the only furniture we could agree on were these chairs. And they are perfect. They are a great aesthetic jumping off point and has given us some ideas on what else we'd like. Dana and I are both so in love with them.

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First few days of Eindhoven

(the following was copied from an email I sent a bunch of people... just in case it seemed a little familiar)

The flight over was good, beside Frankfurt airport was ridiculous. It was hot and muggy, long lines, customs closed the desk we were lined up for (which was a full line up) creating mass chaos and annoyance for everyone. Then we walked across the airport to security, which was another long line, then redirected to another security desk where they did a very thorough search of our bags and electronics, then walked downstairs, across the terminal, upstairs, then started running for our plane. All this while we're carrying two heavy bags each. We were pouring sweat by the time we made it to the airport.

When we got into Eindhoven we dropped by to see the apartment we were interested in, and it was amazing! So we signed the papers and moved in the next day. We have all our bags (mostly my stuff however) unpacked and we bought most of the basic necessities besides furniture. Last two days we've been sleeping on an air mattress and eating while sitting on the floor, looking out of the window at the traffic below (there's floor to ceiling windows across the whole place).

Here's the current state of the living room... that's our air mattress in place of a couch or anything else. It's really the only comfortable thing in the apartment. I'm making one of the many lists of stuff you have to do when you move to a foreign country and own nothing but clothes. We've done nothing but shop and start the registration process for me since we've gotten here. My feet are tired from all the walking.
Those black squares are solar panels that generate electricity for the geothermal in floor heating and water systems. The building is pretty energy neutral and we don't have to pay for water or gas heating like most other places.

Our kitchen. From left to right there's a microwave-oven combo, below it a small fridge, then a steam oven with a dishwasher below. Then a flat ceramic cook top, corain (sp?) countertop that flows into the double (but still small) sink.
We used the steam oven today for some chicken and veggies and it's awesome.

Our room, which is messy. That white door leads to a walk in closet.

The main bathroom. We also have a half bathroom next to the kitchen.

Here's the view from our window. It's a busier street but our place is really quiet inside. We also have a balcony near the front door, and a roof terrace. The only other tenants in the building are the architecture firm that built it (the key arch lived in our apartment for three years and moved out for a bigger place), and a flooring company. So after 6pm we have the building all to ourselves.

So like I said we're off to Paris tomorrow for a music festival and back on Monday, and I'm really looking forward to it! When we come back we'll be getting a proper bed and some other furniture so it should feel more like home soon.