Saturday, December 25, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Water Fountain

I miss these!

Coming Home

It was so cool coming back home for the first time in 8 1/2 months.  Flying over New Jersey (on the way to Philly) was cool just because I was seeing America!

When we landed in Philly, the first English I heard was from two ghetto women who worked at the airport on the Jetway.  I was thinking to myself "I'm home!"

The line for security in Philly was crazy and I though I might miss my flight to Pittsburgh, but I ended up making it in enough time.  On the plane to Pittsburgh when I got my drink I was thinking, wow, this is really cold.  Then I realized, OMG, the cup is full of ice!  Once we were over Pittsburgh, it was almost magical seeing everything.  I had a huge smile on my face.  When I stepped into the airport I was so happy.  I ran down to baggage claim and saw my dad, it was a great feeling.

As we were driving back home I told him it almost feels like I never left.

This weekend I spent pretty much in Pittsburgh hanging out with my friends.  It was really nice to get to see them all.  The strange thing is more and more every day that I am home, it really feels like I never left.  Everything is almost just how I left it.  I feel right at home and already really disconnected from The Netherlands.  Strange, I was not expecting that, but o well, it's nice to feel at home and like I belong for a change.

I've been eating Mexican food, drinking good coffee, and ordering in English this whole time so far.  It's pretty great!  :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Dutch Club"



I think my theory about Dutch people not really liking you unless you speak Dutch gets stronger and stronger every day.  This is not to say that Dutch people hate you if you don't speak Dutch, they don't, but they are also very passive towards you.

Today I was at the datacenter and one of the guys that works there walked into the room.  This guys has maybe said two words to me the whole time I've ever been there besides when he had to ask me a question regarding PPG's business there.  Well today was totally different, he walked right up to me with a big smile on his face looking like he genuinely wanted to talk to me!  I was thinking to myself, WTF?  He came right up and was like hey, who's it going?  Are you learning Dutch!?  I was like ya...how did you know?  He said that he read one of the emails I wrote in Dutch to the workers at the datacenter.  (I usually try to do emails in Dutch but I can't really think fast enough to talk in Dutch yet.)

I was like I ya, I am learning and explained to him why I don't speak it to him.  He was like o wow, that's great, you will get it soon.  And then he went on and on talking to me, asking me questions, telling me about himself...I was like wow, this is crazy, as soon as someone finds out that I am trying to learn Dutch, all of a sudden they want to talk to me.

It kinda is strange that it has to be that way, but at the same time, cool!  I thought those people didn't really like me there.  But now that they know I am a member, or at least trying to become a member of the "Dutch Club," they will gladly talk to me.

I think it is going to be an interesting next 6 moths.  I wonder if I will be a member by then, or even by April after I've been here a whole year.  I guess only time shale tell.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Paris, Not as Planned

What a crazy trip so far...

Right now I am in Paris laying in bed tired as hell.  Yesterday, my train arrived at the station a little late.  It was about 10 o'clock at night.  I got in line for a taxi around 10:15.  The line was really long and there was only about one cab coming every 15 minutes.  I ended up waiting 3 and a half hours to finally get a cab.  It was pretty terrible.  I was wearing my book bag the entire time because the ground was all wet.  Everyone was miserable and upset.  I finally ended up getting a cab and got to my hotel around 2:10.  My toes were so cold that they were literally blue!  As they started to warm up in the shower they hurt really bad and I could not put any weight on the front of my foot.  I was a little nervous about frostbite, but it ended up being okay after a little while longer.

Today I arrived at the datacenter and met up with Amir and Christophe.  We were waiting for our shipment to arrive but we only got one box, the most unimportant of the two.  All it had in it was a printer.  So we called DHL and it ends up that the box is stuck in Belgium somewhere and whould not be in France until at least tomorrow.

So I went back to Amir and Christophe's office in Rueil and got some things done there.  So that means I had to stay in France one more night.  I almost didn't go into Paris because I was tired but decided to at the last minute.  I walked on the Champs-elyées and saw it all decorated for Christmas, it was very beautiful.  They also had Le Village de Noël which was a bunch of stands setup selling things.  I ended up getting some mulled spiced wine and some sweats, all was really good.  After that and dinner I was really not feeling like walking around any longer so I came back to the hotel.

Hopefully tomorrow goes better at the DC.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Parlez-vous français?




Non!

Unfortunately, I must say besides only remebering a few words and phrases here and there from my THREE YEARS of French in high school, I don't remember anything and thus must answer the question, "No, I do not speak French."

If only I knew back then that I would be living in Holland, have French friends, and actually be in France from time to time, maybe I would have paid attention.  I am sitting on the train right now on my way to Paris and I hear the French language everywhere.  It is very disappointing to me that I can't even pick up on a little bit of it.  Not that I want to be fluent in it, I don't live in a French speaking country after all, it would be nice though if I would have taken French more seriously in school and could use it at some level now.

Really though, I would like to seriously question my three years of French.  What did I really learn?  I could not even say anything at all in French while I was even in the classes.  I don't want to point fingers at the school or the teachers (I did have 2 really good teachers, 1 that sucked) but why don't I know anything??  I think I want to say it was a serious lake of motivation at the time.  Sure I knew enough to pass the tests, but that was about it, I could not have a conversation, shit, I could not even make simple sentences then...
I think language classes in the US should first point out how truly valuable it really is to know another language.  The students, I think, need to really want to learn the language first, and coming from the US, we (and ya I am including myself at the time) think that English in the whole whole..."why the hell should we learn another language, that is just stupid."  Also, during the course of study, the importance of languages should be reinforced.  If I could go back, knowing what I know now, you better believe my French would be better, and who knows, maybe I would have even took more than three years as well...  I just remember that I could not wait to be done with my third year so that I could fulfill the requirement that most colleges had in order to be accepted.  Get in, do the work, get out, that was my mindset, no wander I don't remember anything.  Man, I would kill for those kind of lessons right now in Dutch!

I realize that it is not to late for me to learn French now, but there are so many other possibilities at this point.  First of all, I'm not sure if it would be a great idea to learn to languages at once, and second of all, maybe there is another language I would like to learn instead.  Maybe even Italian, the language of my great grandparents.  For right now, I want to put all I have into learning Dutch, it is really starting to get interesting now that I can have actual conversations with people.  Though simple and awkward, conversations non the less, and I must say, that makes me really happy.

I knew this post would somehow start to sway towards Dutch, but I'm done talking about that now.  I think the next time I come to France, I am going to put a little bit of effort into learning some of the basics.  And who knows, maybe some of it will come back to me from school without much effort, hey, that would be nice!  :-)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Geeze

People told me it does not snow in the Netherlands like it does in
Pittsburgh...I say bullshit!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happiness

:-)  | :-(

From as far back as I can remember, I was never happy with who I was or what I had.  I always wanted to be someone else or have more things.  Still to this day I have issues with this.  It never seems to matter to me how successful I am or all of the good things that I have in my life, from time to time, I will just sit and dwell on what other people have and think about how much better other people are than me.  I hate feeling this way because deep down, I know I have a good life, filled with great memories and people who care for me, but I don't know, sometimes I feel like it's not enough and I am missing something.  I really don't want to get into a lot of details right now, but it is just strange, I am a happy, healthy, and successful person yet I always see other people as being better than me, I can never be good enough to be happy with myself.  There is always someone who I feel is better than me.  I guess this could be a good thing because I am always trying to make myself better because of it, but at the same time, it is really tiring.  I need to start being happy with who I am and not worry about everyone else, but at least for me, that is way easier said than done.  Even though it is going to be hard, I am going to try to make it a point not to worry about this stuff anymore.  Let's see how it goes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am Thankful


Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Unfortunately, I am writing this from work even though against popular American belief, (at least most who I've talked to) Thanksgiving is NOT celebrated outside of the US.  I know this is hard for most of you to belief, but alas, it is true.

I just wanted to take a quick moment to list some of the things that I am thankful for, because there is a lot this year.

I am thankful for:
  • Having this awesome opportunity to live and work in Europe and get to experience a bunch of new things and see the world from a totally new prospective.
  • Meeting wonderful new friends who have made this experience even better.
  • Traveling all around Europe and getting to see things that most Americans can only dream about for relatively cheep.
  • Having family and friends at home who still love me and support me.  I think about them often and can't wait to see them all in December.
  • Being successful in the fact that I can do pretty much whatever I want when I want to do it.  I am by no means rich, but am happy with the fact that I have what I need, and that is all that I want.
  • Being healthy.
On a side note, I will be cooking American Thanksgiving for my European friends next weekend.  That should be fun.

Now I want to know what you are thankful for.  Leave me some comments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fish Shoarma ?

Wander if this is any good.

Ups and Downs

Life has given me a lot of ups and downs recently.  More ups with is a good thing and of course I'm sure you all know the subject, Dutch!

I am still studying Dutch almost each and every night, all night.  I am doing a number of different things to help me, and I am pretty proud of myself so far.  I know a lot of words, and partially follow conversations pretty well now, and can get by at most stores/restaurants.  Just Wednesday, I went to my third Dutch meetup.com group where we speak pretty much exclusively in Dutch.  Everyone there says that I am doing pretty good for being here seven months.  There was even a Dutch teacher who showed up this past meeting who told me the same thing.  Made me feel pretty good.  Also, I even talked to someone at the datacenter where I often go for work.  He started talking to me in Dutch today (which surprised me!) but I went with it for a while and he also told me that I've come a long way since the last time he tried to speak Dutch with me.  There are also people at work and some friends who are impressed with what I know.

I am very happy to try and speak Dutch around the meetup group, at stores, and with fluent Dutch speaking individuals one-on-one.  But I am very uncomfortable speaking whenever there is a group of Dutch speaking individuals, it still makes me feel really dumb and I don't like doing that so much yet.

So now we get to the not so good part.  Even though I am really happy to see some progress with myself, there is still just so much more to learn.  I still can have "real" conversations with people which I still have such a strong desire for.  I know that the process takes a long time and things don't just happen overnight, but I wish there was a date or timeframe that I could be waiting for where I know that, after this point, I will be where I want to be.  I think that is the most frustrating part is not knowing when this will be coming.  I still get upset (though not as frequently) and thing to myself that it is never going to happen and that I am just wasting my time every night studying and studying and studying.  Sheesh, I though all this studying would be over after I graduated from CMU.  Guess it never ends.  I have piles and piles of flash cars stacked up here and and making more every day.  They have been pretty helpful in learning new words but I just can't help but wander, how many do I need to make in order to just be "normal" here and go on with everyday life?  How much longer will it take?  Is  all of this trouble worth it?  What if I finally learn this crazy language and then I decide to move back to the United States (or even some other non-Dutch speaking country!!) will this all have been in vein?  I sure hope not, but these and many others are the questions that run through my head each and every day.

I know I need to start speaking more for sure, but that is easier said than done.  It is quite embarrassing to speak with fluent Dutch speakers whenever your speech is really cumbersome and s-l-o-w.  But I HAVE TO get over this or else it is going to stay at this level forever, and that would be terrible!

So generally speaking I am happy with my progress but still really frustrated.  Either way, I am still, of course, going to continue with this and hopefully someday look back at this post and laugh.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Erin's Vistit

I had my first visitor from America last week!  Erin came to visit me for a week.  I went to go pick her up at the airport last Wednesday morning.  Unfortunately I had to work from home that whole day but she got to catch up on some sleep then.  That night we had dinner with Wouter and his girlfriend at Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam.  The pancakes there are really good and big, you can get pretty much anything on them.  Here is one I had another time Erin and I went.  It has cheese, basil, pesto, tomatoes, and onions...so good.  After that Erin wanted to see the Red Light District.  She was a little disappointed that the girls don't really do anything in the windows besides talk on their cell phones and smoke!  haha.

Thursday we drove to Brussels for the day.  It was a nice city but we really didn't know what all to do so we ended up walking around and around.  Finally at the end of the day we found Manneken Pis.  It was a lot smaller than we expected.

Friday we spent the day shopping in Haarlem and then went out that night there as well with Kris and Erik.  Sophie met us out too after a while.  It ended up being a really fun night.  We haven't had a chance to go out like that in a long time, I am really glad everyone made it out.

Saturday we went to Amsterdam but the only problem was there was maintenance on the tracks between Haarlem and Amsterdam Sloterdijk for the whole weekend.  We had to take an NS-bus from Haarlem to Amsterdam Sloterdijk and then continue on the train to Amsterdam Centraal.  That really sucked, it took about an hour when normal time is only 15 minutes.  While there we went to House of Bols which was pretty interesting.  Then we had to hurry home since it was going to take an hour, get ready, then go back again on the bus/train to go out in Amsterdam than night.

Sunday Erin was tired of walking so we ended up going to Zandvoort for lunch and she picked up some shells on the beach.  I can't believe how many people were on the beach with their jackets!  Thought we would be some of the only people there...I was wrong.  After that we went to the movies in Haarlem.  Erin got to experience her first movie with Dutch subtitles and an intermission!  haha.  After that we just hung out, ate pizza, and watched the EMAs.

Monday we went back to Amsterdam and went to Anne Frank House.  It was interesting to be in the house we her and some others were hiding from the Nazis.  My new goal once my Dutch is better it to read her diary in it's original language, Dutch.  Next we went to Heineken Experience which was really cool.  There was a lot to see and do and probably ended up being my favorite thing that we did the whole time.  I would recommend seeing this one to other visitors to Amsterdam.  Finally, we had dinner at the Hard Rock Café.  I can't believe how American everything was there!  It was crazy, almost like stepping out of Holland for a couple hours.  The people that worked there did not even know how to speak Dutch!  Nothing was in Dutch, everything English, all the people there were speaking English, they had Ranch dressing on the menu, and there was a tip line on the credit card receipt!  haha  Now I guess I know where to go in case Holland ever starts to get me down and I am home sick.

Tuesday I dropped Erin off at the airport before going to work and they were stopping everyone driving to departing flights checking for illegal weapons.  We both had to get out of the car and be searched.  They looked in the car too but did not even open the truck or look in Erin's luggage...kinda pointless.  O well.

I had a good week and was glad that Erin could come and visit.  It was nice to see an old friend again.  Anyone else who wants to come, just give me a call and let me know.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Random

Steelers shirt at a second hand store in Haarlem. Only €2,75! Haha

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hoi Hoi

So, what's been going on lately with me?  Nothing really too eventful this past week I guess.  It has been nice driving my own car to and from work, much better than the project van not to mention the feeling of independence it is giving me.

Yesterday I helped Kris with his house.  Did you know that they make a steamer machine to peel wallpaper off?  I really really wish that we rented one of those when I was a kid and we had to peel wallpaper off the hard way!  Also yesterday, I cleaned this place up for my American visitor who comes on Wednesday!

I am a little sad that I am going to miss the Dutch meetup group this week, but I will get over it because I'm sure Erin and I are going to be having some fun.  I'm still studying almost every night and am starting to see some improvement which is kinda nice.  I even got a complement from someone at work the other day witch was totally unexpected and nice to hear.  I'm still waiting for the moment where I can just jump right into conversations, but I think I am still a bit far away from that for now.  It is good that I (finally) realized myself that I am making some progress with Dutch.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dutch Speaking Meetup

Wow, I had the best time last night!  I joined a Dutch speaking meetup group that meets once a week in Amsterdam.  The group is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds who want to practice speaking Dutch.  Apparently there are even some Dutch members (though none were there last night.)  Let me tell you what, this was exactly what I needed!  I was a little nervous at first but I am now really really glad that I went.

Over the course of the evening I got to speak to a lot of people (some who were pretty good, and others who were not) in Dutch.  It was so nice to have people actually listen to what I was saying in Dutch and not just switch to English.  I found out that I know a lot more than I thought I knew.  It is just really hard for me to realize that otherwise since I am always around fluent Dutch speakers; it just always seams like I don't know anything around them.  But with these people it was different.  I was definitely the person who lived in the Netherlands the shortest period of time, but guess what?  I knew more than some of the people that have been living here for 2-3 years!  I got a lot of complements on what I knew for being here only six months (well now almost seven I guess.)  And that finally made me feel like I really accomplished something.  I was actually able to have some conversations IN DUTCH and help other people.  I got a lot of help from others there as well.

This all really made me feel welcome and like I was finally part of a group even though I hardly knew these people.  I am so tired of being the outsider, and this was really nice for a change.  Some things I really like about last night that differ from my normal experiences of speaking Dutch with Dutch people both at work and other places are:
  • People look directly at you while they are speaking in Dutch, not just look at everyone else at the table assuming that you won't undersand.
  • When I say "wat zei je?" (what did you say) because I did not hear someone, they will repeat in in Dutch, not just repeat it in English
  • The conversation continues in Dutch even if I or the other person make a slight mistake
  • People were happy to speak in Dutch with me
  • I did not feel intimidated at all
  • People did not speak super fast and are easy to understand
  • People did not try to teach me only swear or sex words or other things that would be funny for them to teach me.  We actually had meaningful conversations where I can used what I learned again.
  • I felt included the entire time, there were no side conversations with people speaking real fast in Dutch to each other
  • When I asked a question in Dutch, it was answered in Dutch, NOT ENGLISH!  (this is the one that pisses me off all the time at work.)
I wish it would be this easy and rewarding to speak in Dutch at work, but right now, I feel like it really is not.  People here switch to English so fast and it really makes me feel stupid.  I think maybe I will try to legitimately speak Dutch here again after a few good months of meetup.  Speaking Dutch at work would be so much nicer if I was not the only person who is not fluent.  Right now trying to speak it here just does not really work very well.  Everyone here does seem to have good intentions, but for me, I just don't think it is working right now.  It is hard to explain to someone that has known two or more languages their entire life what it feels like to be working here with them.  But, now after last nights meeting, I am much more optimistic that I may be able to fit in (even here at work) one day.

By the way, I got to check off one more of my Dutch goals!  :-)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Holy Shit, I got a Car!


Well here it is, a 2000 Peugeot 206.  On Friday Wouter gave me a website http://www.gaspedaal.nl/ so I took a look Friday night and found a car that looked good in Haarlem so I thought I would go take a look.  I got there and ended up liking the car and wanted to take it for a test drive.  Their website said test drives were no problem.  When I asked they got all upset and were like well...we just cleaned the car and it is rainy outside.  Can you come back next week?  WTF??!!  I was pissed.  So I said look I like the car and I am not coming back later next week, I might want to buy the car but there is no way I am going to do that without driving it first.  So they guy said OK and let me drive it.  It drove pretty well so I bought it.  Man is buying a car here easy, there is almost no paper work and there are no hidden fees, the price that is on the sign is the price you pay, tax included and everything.  Very nice way to sell cars.

Today I got the insurance and parking permit and picked it up today after transferring the title at the post office.  Now it is all mine and I finally am one step closer to feeling like I belong here.  The next and last step won't be so easy...Dutch!  :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Boring Night in NL

Well, tonight is my first boring night in NL.  Not bad for being here for 6.5 months.  I kinda wanted to do something tonight but everyone was busy so I ended up watching Boondock Saints 2.  The movie was okay, but not as good as the first.

Although this is the first night I've had like this for a long time, it still kinda sucks.  I hope this does not turn into a normal thing now.  I feel very strange right now, almost like something has changed here but I'm not exactly sure what.  Maybe it is just that the novelty of living in Europe is wearing off.  Don't get me wrong, I still like it here, but for some reason it is not the same anymore.  Maybe it is just that everyone is busy with other things right now (including myself,) but I just want to have a fun carefree night, not thinking about work, language, or anything else but having fun like we used to.

One thing I am really looking forward to is Erin coming.  That will be a nice change of pace.  It will be so nice to see a familiar face, and have someone come to visit me.  I might be more excited about her coming that she is about coming here.  We are talking about doing a lot of things so it should be a really fun week.

I'm sorry these last couple of posts have been kinda blahh, but I just feel like I am in the grind right now.  I need some excitement in my life again, or at least just some time to sit and hang out with friends.  Right now, I pretty much do the following: work, study Dutch, work, study Dutch, work, study Dutch, etc.

I am going to Karaoke tomorrow night and have been looking forward to that all week.  I'm hoping to go out and not worry about anything else.  Should be a good time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stamppot

My first attempt at Dutch cooking tonight.



Lekker!!

Kwak

Cool beer glasses.

It's Been a While

Hi!  Sorry I have not had much of  chance to write for a while.  It has been really crazy for me recently.  Work with the datacenter project in full swing has given me very little time to do much of anything.  The project has been very wearing on me and has not gone exactly as I would have liked it to.  I felt a bit uninvolved throughout the whole thing and that along with some other things has been putting me down a bit recently.  But I am over that now (or at least as much as I am going to be over it) and want to give some updates:

  • I was recently able to check off one of my Dutch goals.  I made it through 5 store while shopping only speaking in Dutch.  I was really excited about it but then the 6th store brought me right back down.  I ask a question in Dutch and was answered in English.  This just really killed the whole good feeling that I was having that day.  But looking back on it, I am still considering this a success.
  • I met Nate Green last week.  He is a blogger that I have been following for a while and he was taking a trip to Europe for a month.  He asked on his blog who lives in Europe and wanted to meet up.  I commented saying that I would.  It was pretty cool, I felt like I already knew him from reading his blog.  I even made it in his blog from the one place we had some beers.
  • I've been in Europe for over six months!!  Another post will be coming with reflections on this.
  • I've started stressing about Dutch again.  I feel like I know so much now especially with all the Americans from work who have been visiting that have been telling me so and from me teaching them things.  But, even with all of this, I still cannot function in a normal conversation and it is really starting to get with me.  I feel like I know a lot but when it comes down to it, I really don't and it's just so frustrating.  I really do need a break from all this and am really really looking forward to my trip home in December for two weeks where I will be surrounded by everything ENGLISH!  I am hoping to come back with a renewed desire for Holland and Dutch.
  • I bought a iMac today.  I am really happy :-)
  • I am really looking forward to Erin coming in a couple weeks.
  • Ate at Sumo with Alena for the first time on Tuesday without Uitbuiken!!
Life has been pretty blaaah right now with work, the Dutch language, and (believe it or not) a little bit of a feeling of home sickness.  I know I will overcome it, and have pretty much for the most part, but...I don't know...
Hope all is well with everyone.  Give me a call and let me know how YOU are doing.  I would love to hear from people back home.  I like getting calls from the US and wish `i would get them more often.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Give Up

Fuck it.  Looking for a car in this country is pointless.  When you do to car dealerships, no one wants to let you test drive, all they do is tell you about the stupid 3 month guarantee and and read you off the car's features that I already read myself both online and on the car itself.  Then they just look at you, what am I supposed to say?  I know if I ask for a test drive they will get all bent out of shape.  Then there are the used car websites.  They are incredibly unorganized and very unhelpful.  Then you run the risk of buying a car from a total stranger with no warrantee at all.

Maybe I am missing something, but I just don't know what to do.  What am I doing wrong?  Why is this so hard?

And you know what?  I AM OVER IT!!!!  I am done wasting my only free Saturdays looking around all day for cars only to come home totally disappointed and frustrated.  It's been 6 months and if I don't have one by now then what the fuck is the point to continue looking.  I'm done, it's over, no car for me, fine, whatever, who cares.

The only way I am going to buy a car now is if I happen to come across one that I want.  I am wasting no more time one this bullshit.  If one comes along, great, because I really do need one to get to and from work, but if one doesn't then I am not going to worry about it anymore, there is no point.  Let's face the facts, I am not getting a car, case closed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kraków Polska


Long overdue post about the beautiful city of Kraków Poland.  The above picture is a view into the main square in the city from the window of our apartment!  This picture just the square no justice...

What an amazing city, I love the way it is so centrally setup around the square and how old and cool the buildings all are.  It was also very cool that everything was so cheep!  It was weird seeing prices being so high for everything but their currency is the złoty which to get to Euros you need to divide by about 4.

After arriving, Justyna showed around a bit and took us for some awesome perogies.  We went out to the bars for a bit, but I guess everyone was a bit tired so not for too long.

The next day we went to Auschwitz.  This was something that was not really all that high on my priority list, but it was really amazing seeing everything there.  The Germans really had it down to a systematic way of killing people back during World War II.  It was pretty amazing to see this place and see how terribly people had to live and see to what how terrible humans can be towards each other.  They saved everything, for example they still have piles hair hair that they shaved off of women's heads, piles of prosthetics, piles of glasses, etc.  We were even able to go into the very gas chambers where all of these unfortunate people were forced to die.  It was really sad.
That night Erik and I went out but nothing too major.

The next day, Erik and I went to a huge mall that they have there.  It was strange being in a mall.  It felt very much like being back in the US.  Later on in the day we met up with Kris and Justyna to go to Katowice to go have drinks with some people we know from the European helpdesk.  It was a very fun night.

The next day, Kris, Erik, and I went to the Jewish quarter in the city and saw the castle as well.  That night we went out to the bars.

Finally on Sunday Erik and I pretty much relaxed for the day.  The sun was actually out and relatively warm so we sat at a terrace on the square and took in all the culture.  Sunday night ended up unfortunately being and early night.

All and all, I really liked Poland.  It was a place that I never really had much desire to visit, but I am not glad that I did.  Kraków was just beautiful.  The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was that we did not get to have any crazy nights out like we were all talking about having while being there.  I guess we will just have to try to have some in Holland now. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeling Okay

The last couple weeks have pretty much been a whirlwind.  People coming and going from the US, lots going on with the datacenter, trips to other countries, entertaining guests, it has been non-stop!

Tonight starts my vacation.  I leave for Poland tomorrow.  I have no idea what to expect, but am hoping for a good time.  This will be my first time in Eastern Europe and am looking forward to seeing what is different there.  So far are plans are to go to a party that the Cap helpdesk is having for us, see Auschwiz, possibly shoot AK-47s, eat pierogies and kielbasa, drink Polish vodka and beer, and who knows what else.  This will be a nice break from work, especially after finding out that the whole datacenter has to be ripped out and started over again...

When I return, it will be basically square one with the datacenter the same way it was when I returned from Tenerife.

Also tonight, I had to long overdue talk with a friend and feel much better.  My new goal is to not let shit build up over time and work things out immediately when they happen.  Probably easier said than done for me, but I'll give it a go.  Anyway I'm glad I had the talk and feel like I removed a big weight that's been on my shoulders for a little while.

So overall, I am feeling pretty okay tonight :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Hand Throwing" with Marisa



Yesterday, Marisa and I went to Antwerpen, Belgium for the day.  It is really cool to be able to go to places like that for just the day, a lot nicer than a day trip to Ohio for example.  :)

About the hand throwing.  When we were there, we found out that Antwerpen means hand throwing in Flemish (Dutch.)  [h]and = hand amd we[o instead of e]rpen = throwing.  It has to do with a legend about a giant cutting off peoples hands and throwing them into the river.

Anyway, the city was very nice and we got to do everything we wanted to do.  First we had Belgian waffles which were not exactly what we expected but still very good.  We saw the big church in the square (biggest church in the Lowlands,) and walked around the city checking different things out.  We also tried some fries since apparently Belgium is where "French" fries originated.  They were good.  We had them with mayonnaise and some kind of American sauce.  The American sauce (though we had no idea what it was,) was great.

We ducked into a café during a short downpour and drank some Belgian Beer, also very good.  After some more walking around we bought some Belgian chocolates.  Wow is about all I can say.  These chocolates were some of the best I've ever had.  Even though they were quite expensive, they were well worth it.  Also at the chocolate store, we bought a liquor called Elixir D'Anvers with is native to Antwerp.  The lady at the store let us try some and we both liked it.

Finally we had diner at and then drove back home.  It was a good day.  I need to start taking more of these day trips.

One interesting thing that I noticed was there was a lot of English signs outside but not much English inside stores and restaurants.  I was being a translator for Marisa and I was actually doing an alright job (I hope.)  Some of the waiters/waitresses were speaking to Marisa in English and me in Dutch!  That was a pretty cool feeling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mijn Nederlandse Blog

Just wandering, is anyone still reading (or trying to read) my Dutch Blog:

I haven't heard any feedback from anyone in a while and would like the help if anyone is still interested in reading it.

Ik zal heel blij zijn als je me helpen.  :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An American (along with Canadian, Dutchie, and 3 Frenchies) in Paris


Even though this past weekend did not turn out to be a"heel druk pub crawl," it was still pretty cool.  Although I was planning on going to Paris for the weekend, I actually got to go a bit earlier for work.  I found out on Wednesday and left on Thursday.  Kris, Dan, Justin, and I took the van to Paris, dropped our stuff off at the hotel and started to explore.  One of the first famous things that I saw was the Eiffel Tower.  Did you know that it shimmers?:

We had some beers and then called it a night.  We were hoping the datacenter work would be quick, the next day but it ended up taking all day until about 5.  After that we went back into the city, did some eating and then met up with the Frenchies.  We had some champagne on the Champs-Élysées and pretty much just hung out at one bar after that.  Kris and I ended up spending an extra night at the hotel because the Frenchies were not sure if they were going to make it into town or not.

The next day, Dan, Justin, Kris and I went to the Eiffel Tower before they took us to Julie's house in the burbs.  We did not end up making it back to Paris until about 4:30.  We saw some really cool sites and we returned to Julia's house later for a BBQ.  One thing that I really enjoyed over the course of the trip was all the bread I ate!

Sunday, we had another BBQ when Julia's parents returned and they made some really good food.  It was also kind of fun because they did not speak English so it was like a bit of a game to figure out what was going on.  Strangely enough, this was not frustrating at all to me.  I think because I knew they could not speak English.

One thing I will say is that it really was crazy being in a country where I didn't know any of the language.  It was kinda like how I felt when I first came to the Netherlands.  It really made me realize that I at least have come along at least a little bit with Dutch and that made me happy.

Sunday, Kris and I had to ride the Thalys (300km/h train) home since Dan and Justin took the van to Belgium on Saturday.  It was nice to ride on a fast train, it was my first time.  I would take this over flying any day!

Although I had a good time, it was much too short, there is so much to see in Paris and I definitely will be back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ouch!


Maybe I am getting a bit too aggressive on my bike now like all of the visiting Americans at work are saying about Dutch bikers.  Today I was riding to the library to return some books and in order to get to the library, you have to turn into a small passageway shown above.  I just turned the corner quickly as usual but this time there was someone else there on a bike coming out!  I slammed on the brakes and started wobbling.  I blurted out "pardon," and then fell to the ground scrapping the hell out of both legs (I was wearing shorts since the gym was my next stop.)  The girl was just looking at me like I was crazy then asked me if I was okay, I just mumbled "het is goed" and stumbled away.  Man that was embarrassing...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September, what? Whoaa...

Man, time is really flying by.  August changed into September while I was in Spain and wow, I looked today and September is already half way over!

Things have been really busy at work now that the datacenter project is in full swing.  We have visitors from the US, Europe, and Asia to help out with it.  We will be having people coming in and out for the next month or so (at least.)  I don't mind this though because it is nice to have a change from the normal day-to-day activities.

Tomorrow I go into work and leave straight from there to go to Paris.  Friday I will be working in the Clichy datacenter and from there will be going straight to Julia's with Kris for the Paris Pub Crawl Weekend.  I am really looking forward to this since Paris was on my list of places I had to go once moving to Europe.  We are going to be crawling the bars and night and seeing the sights during the day.  Even though it will be a quick trip, I think it will be a good one; a great location with really cool people.  Me, Kris, and Erik with three French girls :)

I'm still not sure if I will be going to Belgium or not next weekend, that is still to be seen.  But the week after that is our trip to Poland.  That should also be another fun one for sure.  And once I get back from Poland it will already be October!  Jeeze!!!!

This reminds me, I still need to book my tickets to Pittsburgh for December!  Maybe I will look into that again now...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Space Brownie Day

Sunday I made space brownies, and these ones worked way better than the ones we bought at Bulldog café.  The process was pretty easy.

  1. Buy weed
  2. Cook the weed in butter
  3. Strain the weed out of the butter (you now have weed butter)
  4. Make brownies as normal substituting weed butter for regular butter.
I was not sure if it was going to work because everyone said the butter was supposed to turn green mine did not.  The whole apartment did smell like a stoner's paradise though... And the butter smelled and tasted like weed as did the brownie batter when it was done.

I cooked the brownies and they were ready for everyone.  I decided I would eat two since nothing happened the last time we tired.

So we ate our brownies and had some coffee and then hung out for a while.  They were actually pretty good!  Everyone was like "ya I kinda feel something."  I thought I was feeling a little something after 15-20 minutes, but I also thought it could have been the placebo effect.  Then after about one hour, BAM, it hit me really fast!  I immediately knew they worked this time.  Then it hit some others as well.

I should have only eaten maybe 1 1/2 because I kept wandering if things were really happening or if I was just imagining them...it was really strange.  We would talk about something and literally right when we were done talking I would say, "Where we just talking about ___ or did I imagine that?"  So next time I know definitely not 2! Not that this is going to be something I do all the time, but hey, you gotta try it right?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vans


This week I've been driving a lot.  It's been kinda nice and makes me feel so much more independent.  First Kris let me use the bang bus while he was in Paris and also at the same time Jeroen let me use the datacenter project car (van) since I had to go to the data center so much.  I must say it was really nice to be driving again.  Only bad thing was that both cars I've been driving have been vans.  I can't wait to get back into a small car.

The car I wanted to test drive tomorrow has been sold so I am going to go around again and see what else I might want to buy.  I really want to get a car soon, especially now that I'm kinda used to having one again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Holiday in Tenerife

I'm Back!


Sorry to all of those who missed me, but I was having some fun in the sun and had very little time for blogging.

I last left you feeling terrible about Lowlands, Tenerife briefly started out bad, but I blame Lowlands.  The plane we took there was a charter plane from Amsterdam to Tenerife so everything was in Dutch.  At that point I had had enough with Dutch and was so pissed off every time I heard someone speak.  I convinced myself that I did not know anything they were saying.  When we landed I felt a bit better but still not great.  That night, Dutch was still on my mind, but luckily by the next day I was in vacation mode and forgot all about my bad experience.

The first day there was my first PADI lesson at Tenerife Dive.  Erik and Kris came along with me so they could do the review class since they haven't dove in a while.  The first day we were all in the pool.  I was suited up and ready to go.  Everything was going well with putting my face in the water and breathing though the regulator but then we were all had to sit on the bottom of the sallow end while breathing through the regulator and I was not liking it.  I did not panic or flip out but "this is not for me" kept running through my mind.  Then after about 1 or two minutes under the water I was fine!  I had to do a bunch skills that day in the pool and was able to do most of them with no problem.
The next day I went back on my own to go into the ocean for the first time and work on some more skills.  It was really cool being underwater in the ocean while looking at fish and volcanic rock formations.  When I got back to the dive center I had to take the written tests and I passed, but I was still not certified yet.
On our third day, I went back for my final day of training with Erik and Kris (who just dove.)  That day I got to see some huge rays which was really cool and by the end of the day, I was a certified open water diver!  I can now dive without an instructor pretty much anywhere in the world up to 18 meters underwater.

Friday I got to sleep in!!  We were all planning on having a relaxing day at a remote beach.  We got in the car, got out the map, and started driving.  We found a beach that looked pretty remote so we decided to go there.  We had to drive through these crazy mountain roads with twists and turns and huge drop-offs, this picture does not even do the roads justice.  It was very cool though with all of the sites along the way.  When we got to a certain point a road that was labeled on the map turned out to be a hiking trail.  There was a warning label saying that the hike would take three hours.  We said "fuck it, three hours?, that's for old people!"  All we had with us were our board shorts, flip flops, and about 1//2 liter water each.  The hike down was about 700 meters down over mountainous terrain.  The hike down was really nice, so much to see.  We ended up making it to the beach in two hours, take that three hour sign!  The beach was small but nice, it was a secluded black sand beach.  The only problem was, there were a ton of people who brought their boats to the beach!  We were pissed and felt like they cheated.  We hung out at the beach for not even an hour because we knew the hike up would be much longer.  We were already getting thirsty and of course there was no where to buy anything.  The climb up was terrible.  We were stopping every 15 minutes and eventually we had to stop every 5 steps (literally.)  We were so dehydrated.  I was probably the worst out of the group.  I never had the feeling in my body before where I could physically not walk.  When we finally made it to the top two hours and 45 minutes later, Erik went ahead to get water.  I could see him with the water and he was literally steps ahead of me but I had to sit in the middle of the road to build up energy to make it there.  Scary feeling and I'm so glad that's over.  Needless to say, we did not go out this night!

Saturday we finally did relax all day and it was great.

Sunday, Kris and I got massages.  It was soooo nice and much needed.

Monday we drove up to the volcano.  It is amazing how much the temperature changes and how all of the plant life changes as well.  When we got to the cable car that goes to the top we ended up not riding it because it was way too expensive.  But I did not mind, we saw some pretty cool sites along the way anyway.  After that we drove to Santa Cruz and were not impressed so we did not stay.

Tuesday we did some off road quading but it ended up being so intense and not fun that we cut it short.  There were no real open areas to go fast and the terrain was so dry and rocky that there was dust everywhere.

Wednesday we did two final dives.  On the first dive, we saw a big school of fish which was cool, but on the second dive I got to touch sting rays and a turtle!

Thursday was another day of relaxing and Friday we came home.

I had a great time on this holiday.  It was the first time that I got to take a real vacation (one at least a week long) in a very long time.  This was also the longest vacation I've ever been on (thanks European vacation time!)  Thanks Erik and Kris for an awesome and much needed holiday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lowlands


I just got back from Lowlands, which is the big three day music festival that Kris and I went to with Dirk from work and a bunch of his friends.  The weekend was both really awesome and pretty terrible all at the same time, I will explain:

Thursday after work, Kris and I headed out to Lowlands.  Thursday night was basically just to get your tent setup and hang out, there was not music that day.  When we got there, Dirk let me barrow a tent since I did not have one and I put it together.  After that, we all just sat around outside, had some drinks and talked in Dutch.  I of course could not really follow everything but was doing okay at listening.  It was actually kind of fun at first to practice.  The only bad part was I really could not respond to anything because by the time I would think of something to say, the opportunity was lost.  No big deal though, I would just reply in English.  Pretty much the only English spoke to me that night was people asking if they could have some of the wine I brought.  I brought it for everyone so of course I said yes.  I thought it was a little shitty though to just keep taking my wine and not even talking to me, but whatever, first night, and I didn't really know these people.  We called it and early night that night to get a good start on the concerts the next day.  It is very hard to sleep there though because there are tents of people very close together (as you can see from the picture above) and everyone wants to party.  I heard people talking later outside of my tent, but I did not feel like dealing with the Dutch so I just tried to go back to sleep, very frustrated.

Friday was the first day of concerts, but first more all Dutch conversation at camp...
When we walked into the actual festival grounds, it was really cool.  There were about 10 or so different venues each having an hour long show every other hour from 11:30 AM until 5:00 AM every day.  In between all of the concerts there were stores, food places, and other random stuff.  The whole setup was really cool.  For the most part that day, we just went to concerts and relaxed at the campground.  Also, that night we saw blink-182 which was really the only band I knew.
Later that night, after going to bed, the same thing happened were I was not tired in my tent, but really could not join the conversation outside so I just stayed in and tried to go to sleep.

Saturday was more concerts and campground.  By this time, I was starting to get really frustrated with the people not including me in anything.  I would literally just sit there starring into space, like I was sitting there by myself.  Every once in a while, someone would ask me a question, I would answer, and then would just continue on with the conversation in Dutch like I was never involved.  It thought by this point, I was around these people enough that they would at least want to talk to me a little.  I totally did not expect (or want) them to switch to an entirely English conversation for me (this is their country and there language, I am the outsider,) but including me just a little bit would have been nice.

(to be fair, I have to note that there were two people out of the group of about 15 who made the effort to speak slowly to me in Dutch or speak with me in English.  I really appreciated that and it would have made all the difference if the others would have done the same.)

By Saturday evening, I had enough, I did not want to be around people that had no interest in me.  I spent a lot of money to go to this festival and I wanted to enjoy myself so I just got up and left (I'm sure no one even noticed.)  I saw a couple shows on my own and actually had a pretty good time.  Later on, Kris called me and I met up with him to see some more shows.

Today was the last day at Lowlands.  The day started off by everyone excluding me again.  I think Kris started to realize this as well and asked me what was going on.  I told him basically how much I loved the festival and the concerts but was having the worst time ever with this group of people because I was totally bored and felt like I was pretty much by myself the whole time I was with them.  So pretty much for the entire day today Kris and I just went concert hooping on our own with out really hanging out at the campsite, and today was by far the best day I had.  We had a pretty awesome time seeing a lot of shows and I actually felt like my company was appreciated.  I hope that I did not ruin Kris's last day for him, but he definitely made mine.  I really owe him for sparing me today from having to be in a pretty terrible situation.

All and all, I had a good time at Lowlands and am glad I got to experience it but, I would never go again with all Dutch speaking people (until I can speak Dutch, but lest be honest, that's not going to be for a long time, if ever.)  I got to hear a lot of bands that I never heard before and discovered a lot of music that I really liked (and some I did not!)

The one lesson I think I learned from this is that I have not be practicing speaking enough.  I think after returning from holiday that I will make a point to have at least two or three conversations in Dutch each day and have the person I am speaking with help me with want I don't know.

I also just want to point out that for those of you who have never been in a situation like this, it is really difficult to explain what it feels like, so it may just sound like I'm being a bitch, but I'm really not.  I tried really hard to fit in and pay really close attention to what was happening, but you can only go so far without talking (actually coming up with something to say it much harder than just listening) for three days before you start to go crazy.  I also now truly know how it feels to be an outsider.  If I ever come across someone who is trying to learn English, (or Dutch if I ever get to be good enough,) I know exactly how I will not treat them.  I wish I would have had this experience before going to CMU and I would not have joked around so much (it was all in fun never mean) about some of the foreigner's English.  Their English was phenomenal compared to my Dutch.

Sorry this post turned into another Dutch language post, but that was really what was on my mind tonight.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two more Days!!

Only two more days until my holiday is finally here!  Yesterday, Kris and I setup his tent in the playground to make sure it was ready for Lowlands since it was broken before.  We figured it out and it should be ready to go.

Thursday we are leaving work, dropping our work stuff off at home and heading straight to Lowlands.  Lowlands is the biggest music festival in the Netherlands and lasts for three days.  Apparently it is somewhat like Woodstock.  There is going to be about 60,000 people there staying in tents listening to music from 11:30 AM until 5:00 AM every day.  It is going to be crazy and I am looking forward to it.  After Lowlands, we get home (very) early Monday morning, try to sleep for a while and then meet up with Erik to go catch out plane to Tenerife in the afternoon.

We will be in Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands) for about two weeks.  While there, I will get certified as a PADI open water scuba diver, that should be really cool.  I also am going to go surfing for the first time.  I hope Kris is a good teacher, but I know either way I am going to make an ass of myself.  The rest of the time will consist of relaxing on the beach, going out, sightseeing, and doing nothing.  It is going to be a nice change of pace for sure!

There has been a slight change of plans with Oktoberfest, we waited too long to book so it was too expensive.  Instead we are going to Kraków, Poland.

It is going to be an exciting next couple of months, here is what's planned (so far):

  • Lowlands
  • Tenerife
  • Paris Pub Crawl / Weekend in Paris
  • Probably Paris again for work
  • Belgium Weekend / Pub crawl
  • Kraców
Did I mention that I love Europe?  ;-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Blog!

Hey everyone, I have a new blog that you can find at this link:
http://nickf84nl.blogspot.com/

Don't worry, I am still keeping this blog, but my new one will be all in Dutch to help practice my writing.  Obviously the posts are going to be very short and wrong at first, but I hope with practice it will get better.  Comments from Dutch speakers are welcome for the (many) mistakes that I will make.  If you don't speak Dutch, you can always translate what I am saying with Google Translate.

To Notebook or not to Notebook


Last night I decided to read through my entire Dutch-->English notebook that I've been keeping since 20 July.  I do review the notebook in part most nights and sometimes read through the whole thing.  Last night when I read through it, I realized I am not really learning the words/phrases in it as good as I thought I was.  Yes I remember some, but most I do not.  So now I am wandering is it worth it to still carry this thing around with me everywhere I go?  Maybe I am using it wrong?  Any ideas?  I like the idea of the notebook and I feel like in the beginning it was a big help, but now with almost a months worth of information in it, it is a bit overwhelming...

Some of you told me you use notebooks.  How exactly do you use them and then, how do you review the information in?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking

For some reason today at work, I cannot think of anything else but languages (I'm sure you are not surprised!)  It is a bit of a slow day, so I've been looking at different language resources online.

I am at an interesting point in my Dutch now.  I would say that I am now "barely functional."  This is a good thing though!  By barely functional, I mean that I can pretty much get though the day without having to ask for too much English on the very basic every day tasks, nothing major or out of the ordinary though (yet.)  I feel like it is such a strange feeling to be at this stage.  At some points I feel like I don't know anything, but at other times, I can't believe that I understood something.  There are just so many extremes.  For example, I got an introductory pamphlet from the library when I joined and I was for the most part able to browse through it and actually obtain information about the library without having to translate anything!  I was pretty happy and impressed with myself at the same time.  But then there are also times, like for example today, where I found a word list online with some pretty common words on it, and I only knew maybe about 20% of them.  It seams as if there really is no linear progression to learning a language, but really just a bunch of randomness and things either click or they don't.  And, there is really no way to "force the click."  But let me tell you, it is a great feeling every now and again when you do experience "the click."

At this point also, I am still wandering if I am approaching learning Dutch correctly.  There are so many contradictory viewpoints out there that I'm just not sure what to think.  I guess since I am making progress it is a good thing and I am doing something right, but there is always a thought in the back of my mind that is asking, "What if there is a better way that I could be doing this?"  I now have so many different things that I am doing each night, reading kids books | 10 words per day iPhone app | reviewing Rosetta Stone | watching online Dutch videos | reading the dutchgrammar.com website | Dutch Word of the Day in my RSS reader | and whatever else that I can think of doing, it's pretty crazy.  Recently I'm starting to wander now if I am getting enough speaking practice.  Even though I try to speak Dutch when I can, I am not really forcing myself to, I only do it when I am relatively comfortable with what I am going to say.  I think I need to start challenging myself more in that area next.  Yes, conversations are nowhere near as colorful when I am using Dutch because of my limited vocabulary, but still, it must be done.

Also, now that I have some French friends, I decided to quiz myself to see what I remembered from high school French today online.  I was pretty amazed at some of the stuff I did remember.

One other thing that's been bugging me (and I am not happy with myself that I let it get to me) is that I am damn jealous of Kris who is a native English speaker but also speaks perfect Dutch and near perfect French.  I am always thinking "Why can't I do that?"  Never mind the fact that he's been speaking French since he was in high school and Dutch for the last 10 years, that part always seams to slip my mind.  I try my best to turn the feeling around into a positive one and make myself think...look it is possible if Kris was able to do it so keep trying.  It really gives me something to strive for.  [Kris, do not let this get your your head!]

Well, this was what has been on my mind today so I thought I'd write about it as an update about what's been going on with me lately.  No, I am not obsessing today about not knowing Dutch, but am more just thinking about it in both good and bad ways.  Like I said, I am at an interesting point right now with this whole process.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning to Read all over Again!


Today I finally joined the library in Haarlem.  And so continues my quest to learn Dutch.  The strange thing about the libraries in the Netherlands is you have to pay!  It is cheap, but still strange.  I am used to the Carnegie Library which has been "Free to the People since 1895."  Haha.  Anyways, the lady was nice and ended up giving me a €10 discount since they were having a membership shortage and it only cost me €21 for a whole year, and if it ends up really helping me to learn Dutch then it will be worth every "penny" (Euro cent!) Hahaha!  On a good note, I filled out the entire form (it was pretty short) that was all in Dutch on my own.

I ended up getting a bunch of children's books because that is pretty much what my level is right now.  I'm really hoping that I will be able to progress through these ones pretty fast.  It should be interesting though, I got Dr. Seuss, Donald Duck, and some other random one.  I also got a comic about the Netherlands that is not for children.

Today I also came up with a:
New Goal
Get a haircut (and talk to the person cutting my hair) without using English.

Yes, this is a pretty ambitious goal, and I realize that I will not be getting there any time soon, but I think it will be a good test and it something to strive for.  Until then, I though it would be good to come up with a list of lesser goals so that I can at least see that I am making progress because (as you all know) I never think that I am making any progress.  Please check out my Dutch Goals List and let me know if you have any other milestones that would be good to add and I will add them.  These are just a few I came up with right now.

So, here is hoping this library membership is going to be a step in the right direction.  I want to try to read at lest one children's book per day until that becomes too easy and then I will take it to the next step from there.  As always, thanks for your support and comments, it really does make a difference when I see that you all are behind me in this.  And Aunt Chris, I'm still trying for the Prince Charles suggestion that you gave me, that would definitely be the best learning solution I think!  ;-)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On a Better Note

So after going to bed early on Friday night, I felt much better again on Saturday.  I even started (attempting) to speak Dutch again!



This weekend was also Gay Pride weekend in Amsterdam.  No I am not gay, but this is one of the biggest events in Amsterdam.  Everyone goes, gay and straight.  It is basically a big party with lots of drinking like Queen's Day.  It was a shame though because it was raining a lot.  We stopped and saw the parade (in the canals) for about 2 minutes then it started to rain.  We ended up just going to a café and drinking beer all day.  The Frenchies brought their friend from PPG Amsterdam who was Dutch and he told me that he was impressed with the amount that I know already.  It is nice to hear when others (especially Dutch people) say that I am doing good and making progress.  I just wish I could see it more myself.  But a complement is a complement so I was happy.  That night Kris and I watch a really stupid movie in Cantonese called "The Killer."  They movie was basically about killing people, but there were always these crazy Asian guys in totally white jumpsuits busting out of cars all over the place.  Really funny!

Today, I didn't do too much, helped Kris with his house and played Snooker at Level 1tonight.

I am happy to be feeling better and am glad the weekend came when it did.  But for right now I need to go study some Dutch to make up for my boycott on Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Here we go again...

Caution: Negative Post

The last three weeks have been great with Dutch.  I have been feeling really good about myself and have had pretty much nothing but optimism towards learning.  I really though all of the depression was over.

Then, it all went away last night.  Kris had to stop at the garage on the way home to get his car fixed.  We ended up being there for a little over a hour and a half.  When I am in situations like that, where everyone speaks Dutch and I have to speak English, it is really quite embarrassing.  I can't really explain the feeling, but embarrassing I think is what describes it best.  I test to not say anything in these situations because I don't want people looking at me like I'm an idiot.  For the most part I've learned to get over this, but I think since yesterday I was in the situation for so long that it just built up and slowly got rid of all the optimism that I've built up.  I think the work part was when the auto mechanic turned to me at the end and spoke to me in English even for the very simple things like "goodbye."  Wow, it just really hurts.  So I was kinda down last night but was trying my best to bring myself out of it and I did a little bit.

This morning I still did not feel totally up to par and by the time we got to work I decided I was boycotting Dutch for the day (I know not a good choice...)  So I used English the whole day and by doing that I think just made things worse.  Towards the end of the day I realized how stupid the whole thing was so little by little I started to feel a bit better.  Then at the very end of the day, someone came into are room and carried on an entire conversation in Dutch not even acknowledging that fact that I was in the room.  I've learn to get over this as well by listening really hard and trying to figure out was was going on and chiming in when possible.  But today, that was just not going to happen, this was the final straw that made the bad mood stick for the rest of the day.  Man does that make me feel stupid, unimportant, dumb, and unwanted.  Like "no need to include Nick, he has nothing of value to add anyway."

No I know that's not the reason that people do this and like I've said before I don't want people to change for me, but today being in the state that I was in, it was just too much and I could not handle it so I just got out my phone and started playing a game and totally tuned everyone out.

I'm starting to feel a bit better now that I've gotten everything off my chest on here (thanks again for listening.)  Now I need to concentrate on getting my optimism back, one so I can have a good weekend, and two so I do not lose all of the progress I've made so far.

So sorry to disappoint everyone with this news, but hopefully it is only a minor setback.  I look forward to hopefully sharing some better news next time.

Caffeine

Is it okay to drink coffee and energy drink at the same time?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ik heb van het Werk Gefietst Thuis!

[I biked home from work]
{translation could be wrong! :-)}



Today, Kris had to stay after work to do some server room stuff and I really didn't feel like staying this week so I through my bike in his van on the way to work.  While at work, I mapped out my route on Google Maps and set it to walking (biking directions are not available in Holland yet.)  The route looked easy enough, just basically take the N201 pretty much the whole way.  The total ride was going to be 25k exactly and according to Google Maps take 5 hours and 9 minutes if I were to walk.

So the end of the day came and everyone thought I was crazy riding from Uithoorn to Haarlem, but whatever, it's been something that I've been wanting to do.  They all though I was going to get rained on too, I was optimistically thinking that I would not.  The ride for the most part was good.  I only got mixed up for about 5 minutes when there was one little section of the N201 that did not have a bike lane so I had to go on some back roads for about .5k for so.  While passing Skipole I realized how loud those planes are directly overhead when you are not in a car.  When I got to Hoofddorp I got off the N201 and cut through the center of Hoofddorp and then got back on the N201.  When I finally made to to Haarlem I was I was starving.  The trip took about 1 hour and 25 minutes.  There was a lot of start and stop due to red lights, but I though the time was not too bad.  Better than if I would have taken the bus that is for sure.

I thought I was going to have so much time tonight because the bike ride was going to be my workout for the day so I was not going to go to clubsportive later.  But wow, I was so tired I didn't feel like doing much at home anyway.  I finally "woke up" after I took a shower much later.

Would I do it again?
Yes and no.  I would for sure ride home from work again pending that I had nothing I really wanted to get done that night, but I don't think I would ever ride into work.  All I wanted to do when I got home tonight was relax and that is not a good feeling to have when you are at work.  But glad I did it and I felt good about myself.  I definitely earned the cookie that I scarfed down immediately after getting into my apartment!

Ben je geil of wil je een koekji?  Ik wil een koekje alstjeblieft!!  Tenminste dat is wat ik wilde toen! :-)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

BBQ and Pub Crawl


Last night was pretty fun.  I had a bunch of people over for a BBQ (finally got to use my back yard for this!) and then we went on a dive bar crawl of Haarlem.  Everyone brought food over for the BBQ and it turned out to be a lot of good food and tons of alcohol.  I had a good mix of people from all different countries.  One thing that I was not anticipating was drinking so much at the BBQ.  I though we would pretty much save that for the bar crawl.  Ha, I was wrong.  I started with some wine then switched to beer.  At the end of the BBQ, Wouter opened the Polish vodka he brought for everyone to take a shot.

Once we finally made it out, we started getting a beer at each bar, but of course it did not stay that simple, at on bar we had a tequila shot and then at the very next bar we had a Jaegermister shot.  I did not even remember the Jaeger shot until I read Alena's status message today on Facebook...

At the one bar there was a newspaper sitting on the table so I thought it would be fun to tach Julia some Dutch, (like I knew what I was talking about...ya right!)  I like the French person Dutch accent :-)

Finally we just decided to go to Steels and dance for a bit.  We ended up staying until they closed.  On the way back home for some reason, some people in our group decided to lay in the bike lane.  Then the cops came over and told us to go home.  I just remember that I kept saying "Wij gaan thuis!" "Wij gaan thuis!"(not the best grammar, I know)

Today I woke up to find a bunch of pictures on my camera!  They were pretty funny, glad I took the camera.

Today sucked I laid on the couch most of the day then still had to clean up.  Needless to say I am not doing anything tonight!

I think the BBQ/bar crawl was a success but next time definitely one or the other...not both!  Thanks to everyone who came and made food.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Life as a "European" is Good

Life right now is good.  I enjoy my job, my friends, my social life, and just about everything else.  I've always been saying that I like it here in The Netherlands, but I guess about 2-3 weeks ago, I came to the realization that I am really glad that I decided to move here.  It's amazing to see how different the world can be from what you are used to.  I don't think I have ever really been happy in the "comfort zone" I always have to be doing something new.

I'm not sure that I can pinpoint one exact thing or even things that makes me like it here, but I think it is a combination of everything and just the feeling that I have.  Even when I came home (see, I just said "home" there) from London a few weeks ago, I felt like "ah, I'm home."

I guess if I had to think of some things that make me like it here they would include:

  • The people
    • I feel like people here think similar to the way I think
    • They tell it like it is
    • Made some awesome friends already (still can't believe I've only known them for such a short period of time)
  • The atmosphere
    • You can walk and bike everywhere
    • Old buildings
    • Canals
    • No suburban sprawl
  • The location
    • I have the rest of Europe at my fingertips
    • I live so close to Amsterdam
    • I live in Haarlem
  • The feeling of being able to make it truly on my own
  • The language
    • Believe it or not, this one made the list!  Yes, I bitch and moan about it all the the time, but for as hard as it is to learn, I find it truly rewarding each time I recognize either by hearing or reading something that was unfamiliar to me even a couple days ago.
    • This is a true challenge that I vow to accomplish no matter what it takes.  I like challenges and this one is certainly the ultimate.  I think if I can do this, I can do just about anything else.
  • The train
    • It is awesome, there is nothing else to say.
  • Work life
    • Europeans value their home life more than there work life.  This is the way it should be and it is great that the people have control here and not the corporations.
    • 36 1/2 days of vacation!
Now, I don't want everyone in Pittsburgh (and everywhere else for that fact) to take this as I don't care about them anymore.  This is certainly not true!  I miss everyone like crazy.  I can't wait for the first person to come visit.  And if that doesn't happen, until I come home for Christmas.  I wish I could have the best of both worlds by having you all here with me, but unfortunately, that is not possible.  But know that I am thinking of you.

I'd like to close by saying I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to come here and that I am looking forward to what other experiences and challenges it may bring.