Monday, March 29, 2010

Living in Irwin

So much has happened over the last couple weeks.  Last weekend Harry and Adam came to hangout and my mom and dad had has a going away party for me at Papa Rocks Pizza.  The party was really nice because I got to see a lot of people that I didn't think I was going to get to see before I leave for Holland.  It was a really good time.

I spent most of last week getting things ready for the movers on Thursday.  I can't believe how much stuff I saved over the three and a half years that I lived on Hempstead.  I gave three stuffed garbage bags to Goodwill and through away at least ten garbage bags full of things I never used or didn't even know I had.  It took me way longer than I ever thought it would to get ready for the movers, especially when I did not even have to pack anything on my own.  The movers were the ones who took everything out of my drawers and cupboards and boxed things up.  The other hard part was I had to inventory everything that I was shipping and come up with a replacement value for it.  I hope I put down all the right values because things are much more expensive in Holland than here.  I was also thinking it might be kind of cool if all of my stuff gets stolen by pirates, just so I get to tell people that my stuff was stolen by pirates.  Haha!  Another thing that was way more expensive and difficult than I would have thought was transferring (or wiring) money overseas.  My two online banks do not do it so I had to transfer money to PNC first.  Then PNC charges you $45 per wire and charges you to convert to Euros as well!  That is ridiculous!!!

On Tuesday I had my going away lunch for work at Las Velas.  Then on Wednesday some people at work had a going away party for me at Bar Louie.

By the time the movers came, I was so stressed out from all of the packing and other random little moving tasks that needed to be done in such a short period of time.  I just could not wait until it was mid to late May!
Finally on Thursday the movers came.  They were there from 8:40 until 3:15.  I was so hungry by the time they left.  I felt so weird just standing there watching there do everything.  I wanted to help, but knew that I couldn't if I wanted my stuff to be insured.  When the moving truck pulled away, I watched most of my possessions go right along with it.  They are on their way to Baltimore and eventually Rotterdam and finally (at some point) Haarlem.  Then since I had nothing left in my apartment, I moved in with mom and dad and am staying here until I move.

Dad took me to and from work on Friday and it was my last day at PPG in Pittsburgh.  It was kinda strange, because it really didn't feel like my last day.  I hope I remembered to say goodbye to everyone.

Yesterday I woke up early to go clean my apartment.  Driving in to the city for this one last time was really starting to make me sad.  I started thinking about all the good times I had at my first apartment on my own.  Cleaning took way longer than I thought and I ran out of paper towels half way through so I had to stop and go to Giant Eagle.  There was so much dust in that place, it was crazy.  I think the skin on my hands was starting to dissolve too because the only cleaning supply I had left to use was Lime Away, and I used it to clean everything,  Erin W stopped up to say goodbye and that made me sad too.  I hope I have cool neighbors that are my age in Haarlem too.  Then when I was finally done cleaning, I took out the trash one last time and came up and gave the place one last look.  It was really sad closing and locking the door for the last time.  I drove to Walnut Capital to turn in my keys and garage door opener and officially became homeless...
The rest of the day I spent with Aunt Tama, Uncle Vince, and Amanda who came up from Virginia to see me.

Today I went around with mom and dad for lunch and a bit of shopping with them.  They bought a web cam because they want to Skype with me while I am away.  I'm interested to see if they will actually use it.  Here is a picture of me from the cam I just setup for them:

Tomorrow I have a few more things to take care of, one of which is hopefully to sell my Mustang, Justin already bought the Saturn.  I also am going to have lunch with my mom at her work and go say goodbye to Meem.  I think Erin and Angela are going to come over tomorrow night as well.  Then...Tuesday I have a one way ticket to Amsterdam!  Wow, I can't believe the time is almost here for me to be a European.  Time really flew by since October when I first started talking about this move with my boss, but I think I can finally say that I am pretty much ready at this point.  Europe, here I come!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Be Back Soon...

To all of my readers:

The last couple weeks have been really crazy and stressful for me due to the big move.  Once I get some time, I'll tell you all about it.


Monday, March 15, 2010

What a Day

Yesterday I flew from Amsterdam to JFK in New York, the entire fight was fine (I really like KLM, did you know they have free wine and beer in economy?) until we got to New York.  We circled around the airport four or five times before trying to land and it took us three tries to actually land.  NYC was having some crazy wind up to 75 mph according to the news later that night.  Of course my flight to Pittsburgh was cancelled.  I waited in line at Delta and they told me my next possible trip to Pittsburgh was the 16th at 10 AM.  This was Saturday evening and I was not going to be able to get home until Tuesday!  I decided I would rent a car because waiting 3 days is a little ridiculous.  All of the rental car places were sold out.  Later I found out all of the JFK hotels were sold out too.  Throughout this entire process people at the airport were sending me all over the place.  JFK, seriously has to be the worst (even more so than Philly) airport I've ever been to.  Nothing is easy to find or all!  I called American Express Business Travel (the company who organizes PPG's travel) and they were able to get me a Holiday Inn room at LaGuardia Airport.  After arriving at the hotel, I just wanted to have diner and go to bed.  Well everyone was trying to eat since the hotel was packed so I had to wait.  Not that big of a deal.  I went back to the room and tried to call Delta to see if they could possibly get me a flight from LaGuardia to Pittsburgh and stayed on hold for 2 hours and then decided to give up.  All the while I was looking up rental cars and all were sold out.  I finally found one at Hertz so I hurried up and reserved it just in case I could not get a flight.  Then I went to bed!

This morning I called Delta again and stayed on hold for 20 minutes until AT&T decided to drop my call.  I decided I had enough with Delta so I took the airport shuttle to the airport to see if I could talk to someone there.  Once I got there, the line was absolutely crazy.  I would have waited for at least two hours and I did not want to invest that kind of time when I figured they were just going to tell me too bad.  I made my way to Hertz and got my car.  One problem, the woman there said they do not rent GPSs for one way travel!  Oh shit!  I was like ...okay...  I got in the car and got directions from my iPhone (thank God I have one) and was presented with the following:
Okay, this was going to be fun driving through New York City trying to navigate while holding my phone which is illegal in New York and New Jersey.  Not to mention the fact that the iPhone does not automatically give you the next direction and does not compensate if you miss a turn or go the wrong way.  I figured I was fucked.  To my surprise it did not go all that bad.  I got a little nervous as I was reading and driving along when the phone told me to cross the bridge into Manhattan.  I did not want to have to deal with driving there when I had no idea where I was.  I ended up finding the Holland Tunnel with no problems!  The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, just a whole bunch of middle of nowhere Pennsylvania.  It was nice to finally get home except I still had to go bring the rental car back to the airport so I could get my car that was parked there.

I'm can't remember the last time I flew where I did not have some kind of issue.  Flying is highly over-rated.  I wish they had high-speed trains that whet everywhere including one on a bridge from the US to Europe!  Haha.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Genroku: a cool All-You-Can-Eat experience

Tonight I had dinner at this all you can eat Japanese restaurant called Genroku.  This was a little different that American all you can eat restaurants because it was not a buffet.  No gross food that everyone breaths on that is sitting under heat lamps for hours that is served in cafeteria style trays  with gross sticky spoons to scoop it out with.  Here is how it worked:
There is a menu with a bunch of different pictures on it with a brief description and a card with all the numbers from the pictures on it and a pen.  There are five rounds and during each round, each person at the table can order five items.
I went for three whole rounds and one final round where I just had green tea ice cream.  The food was pretty good.  Each item that you order was freshly prepared when you ordered it.  The food came out as it was ready so you did not get all five items at one time.  After you finish your five items you may order your next round of five items.  This was a really cool concept I thought and would really like to go with a bunch of people and have everyone share with each other.  Who wants to go when they come visit?


Old Olympic torch in Amsterdam as seen from the bus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The weekend as a Tourist

This weekend was my first time in Holland where I did not have anything work or relocation related to do.  I was able to pretty much do whatever I wanted.  Friday night I had dinner at a Greek place.  Apparently gyros here do not refer to the pita sandwich that it is in the US.  Here it is just the meet with some cucumber sauce on the side and some vegetables.  It was still good though.  After that had one beer at a bar and called it a night.  I didn't want to do anything too major because we were going to Hed Kandi on Saturday.

Saturday I woke up and took a walk around to some of the shops.  I also walked over to the library because I heard it has some of the best views of Amsterdam.  There were right, the views were pretty nice.  I wish the outside part was open though so I could have gotten better pictures:
 The library itself was pretty amazing.  Very modern and huge.  I really liked the design of the place.  I thought the Carnegie Library in Oakland was awesome, well this place is just as cool only in a modern way instead of an old fashion way.
Later I took a nap to rest up for a long night.  The Hed Kandi party was from 22:00 till 07:00!  I met up with some people at Erik's apartment and did a little pre-gaming and then took the bus to the Heineken Music Hall were the Hed Kandi party was.  The party was pretty fun except I was being lame and not really drinking because I had a huge headache and was not feeling well in general.  At about 3 or 4 in the morning I still had a headache and I think the time change was catching up to me (Amsterdam is six hours ahead of Pittsburgh.)  I decided I had to get a night bus home.  It sucked that I wasn't feeling good for my first real night out in Amsterdam, but there should be many more opportunities to redeem myself.  I did have a good time though.

Today I did not wake up until 14:00 and stayed in bed until about 14:30 I was that tired.  I walked around a little more today and finally bought myself an OV-chipkaart which makes public transport much easier than cash.  I had dinner at a Thai restaurant that was pretty good.

This week I will be working in Uithoorn for the most part, but also doing some more relocation things here in Amsterdam and maybe in Haarlem as well.

On a sad note, I decided that I want to sell my car.  It is just not practical to keep a car in the US that I still have two years to pay on and therefore must keep full insurance on.  I will miss my car...  Anyone want to buy a 2007 red mustang convertible with black top in perfect condition, please let me know ASAP.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My New Apartment

Yesterday my relocation agent, Dorte, and I drove all around Haarlem looking for an apartment for me.  We looked at 11 different places that ranged from really small to pretty big.  I even looked at one in Haarlem's Red Light District!  I can't believe how common it is for Dutch apartment not to come with an oven!  In the end, I really liked the one I saw on Duvenvoordestraat and Dorte agreed.  It was a really good deal and its only a couple blocks away from the center.  I got way more than I ever thought I was going to get.  I have a living room, terrace, awesome kitchen, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a desk/work area, and an extra little area.  There is even a hookup for a washer and dryer!  I can't wait to have my own washer and dryer. The apartment should be mine April 1 but I still have to sign all the paper work next week so I hope there doesn't turn out to be any issues.  Here are some pictures of the place:
This is the living room with view of the terrace.  Notice the glass ceiling.

The outside.  That little red room is the second bedroom.  Yes there is also a way to get to it from inside.

 This is part of my red kitchen.

This is my loft style bedroom.

I'm pretty excited about moving in!

At a Dutch Grocery Store

Is this pizza making fun of fat Americans? :-D

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crazy European Busses

I went in to work today since I don't start with my relocation agent until tomorrow.  I was supposed to be in Uithoorn by 09:00 but I did not make it on time.  I left my hotel around 07:15 giving myself plenty of time.  I was going to have breakfast first, but I thought that would find the bus stop first.  I knew the 170 and the 142 were supposed to be right be the hotel.  My iPhone kept trying to tell me it was the tram station right in front of the hotel.  I didn't think that was it since I only saw trams coming and going.  I looked around some more and could not find it.  I returned to the tram station and waited just in case, no buses.  I walked around in a couple other directions and still could not find the bus stop.  It was getting late and I was getting pissed.  Finally I decided to just take a bus from Central Station, so I walked up to there and luckily was able to get a 170 at about 08:00.  Shortly after I got on, the bus passed right by my hotel!!!  WTF?  The bus passed by on the opposite side that the shelters were facing so I never even thought to look on that side of the road.  Damn it!  At least I will know from now on.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Second Trip, First Day

I am on my second trip to Holland after deciding that I want to move here.  This time I should hopefully find a place to live.  I am supposed to be going around with a relocation agent all day on Friday.

This time over, I took Delta to JFK (I did not like that airport at all) then took KLM to Amsterdam.  KLM has good food, great service, and flight attendants that seem to really like their job which made the flight pretty nice.  I met a woman from Sweden who sat next to me.  She had a similar accent to a Dutch person and that's what I thought she was at first.

When I got to the airport I needed to take a train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central Station.  It was a little harder to figure out than when I got the train Italy a few years ago, but it wasn't too bad and I made it to Central Station just fine.  From there I walked to my hotel (Die Port van Cleve) which is right next to Dam Square.  I must say, this hotel is much nicer than the Best Western in Uithoorn!  It is right by everything, and I like the room.  My room is on the 5th floor which I like better than being on floor 0 (Dutch version of first floor, really I am on the 6th here.)  This way, I at least get some exercise.  This hotel was actually the first Heineken brewery and the first bar in Amsterdam to allow women.  And, as an added bonus, the hotel has a shower that is not mounted right in the middle, it is at the end of the tub.

I walked around for a little bit and found a lot of cool stores that I want to go back and check out when I have more energy.  Also there is this mall type place right next to my hotel, I like the inside.

For Dinner tonight, I had one of the best salads I've had in a long time, I was chicken, feta, and fresh mango.  Never would have thought of that combination but it worked.  That's about it for now.  I'm tired tonight, long trip into the office tomorrow from here (that's the only bad thing about staying in Amsterdam as apposed to Uithoorn.)