Sunday, April 25, 2010

It got Warm...Finally!

I didn't have to wear a jacket all weekend it was really nice.  Saturday was great, the sun was out all day and it was pretty warm.  I took the opportunity to walk around Haarlem to acclimate myself better.  I walked all around, went into the shops, and just marveled at the way things work here.  Everyone walks in to the center to do their shopping either by foot or by bike.  There are open markets, super markets, stores with everything you'd need and then some.  Everything here is so fresh and the smells coming from the markets and the bakeries is amazing.  I can't wait until my kitchen stuff comes so I can buy some of this stuff and actually cook!  The canals here are beautiful and so are the streets, the parks, and just about everything else.

Here is a small park that is a three minute walk from my apartment:



Nice and relaxing:


Watching all of these people on their boats made me really envious.  Kris was talking about buying a boat and now after seeing how cool it would be to get one, I told him I would go in on buying a boat with him.  I really want one now.

Today I took the train to Amsterdam, I guess it was about a fifteen minute ride there form Haarlem Central Station to Amsterdam Central Station.  I live about a 10-15 minute walk from Haarlem Central, so not too bad.  When I got to Amsterdam, I wanted to look for the book called The Undutchables, but nowhere has the new edition published last month yet.  I walked around in and looked in a bunch of stores but did not buy anything.  When I got to The Dam, there were having a similar carnival to the one that is still going on in Haarlem, only bigger:

The other reason I wanted to go to Amsterdam today was to check out Vondelpark.  It is a great old European park with huge lawns, lakes, cafés and tons of people laying on their blankets, playing music on their guitars, having picnics, drinking wine, and smoking weed.  It really seams like I nice place to just go and hang out for the day.  I really think I am going to like living here.
After wandering around town a little longer, I headed back to the train station because my feet and back were killing me at that point.

Tomorrow the cold comes back,  only a high of 14 and rain...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Superman Underwear

Saw these at H&M. If they had Ninja Turtles I might have bought a
pair! Haha.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Since when have I been Allergic to Anything?

I've lived all my life (thankfully) without ever having to worry about allergies or being allergic to anything. It looks like that has changed!  Sunday I decided to do some laundry since I was running low on T-shirts.  I did the wash no problem, went to bed and woke up the next morning with a couple rashes.  I for a long while thought they were bug bites since I saw ants in my room.  As the day progressed, I noticed that the rashes were going away in some places and showing up in others.  Then I noticed some huge ones too.  I was like WTF?  By the end of the work day, they were jumping around all over my body and I was getting a littler nervous.  Later on I called my nurse friend Meg who I always go to for medical advice (thanks Meg!) and she said I was probably allergic to the new laundry detergent or fabric softener. I said no way, I'm not allergic to anything!  So last night, I decided to take a shower and wash my clothes that I was wearing in just water.  (I decided that I was not going back to the hotel since I bought a bed at IKEA and didn't want to go back to the bug or whatever caused me this issue.)  I put my clothes back on after they dried and went to bed...

I could not sleep.  I was thinking about the stupid rushes all night.  Then I noticed I was really itchy all over!  I had HUGE rashes all over.  I was like shit, maybe I am allergic and there was still some soap left in the washer.  I took off my clothes and  tried to go to sleep...didn't end up falling asleep until about 3:30 AM!  Today I got up and I was a little better.  I thought good, this thing is going to go away today.  Well it did not, it just progressed throughout the day even though I took a shower back at the hotel in the morning before work and then put on clothes that were totally unrelated to the wash in any way.

After work, Kris took me to the pharmacy to see if they had Benadryl which Meg suggested the night before and a lot of people on the Internet were walking about.  The woman at the pharmacy had no idea what it even was...she looked it up in some book that I guess has medicines in it from other countries and found a generic form of the drug.  I took the (very small) pill and started noticing almost instantly the itchiness and rashes going away!!!  After I went to the grocery store (since I moved out of the hotel this morning and permanently into the apartment!) I noticed that the rashes were pretty much gone.

Tonight I filled the washer with water and drained it twice.  Then I washed my clothes with just water.  I hope this does the trick.  We will see I guess.  As of right now, I have no rashes and only feel mildly itchy.

This still does not tell me what exactly I am allergic to!  I guess what I am going to have to do is wait until this passes and then dab some detergent on one arm and fabric softener on the other and see which one causes a reaction (unless someone can tell me a better way to determine what I am allergic to.)  This sucks.  How am I ever supposed to know what kind of laundry products I can buy now.  I saw some (I guess from what the pictures looked like on the bottle and that it did not smell or have coloring) hypoallergenic laundry detergent, bet it was about 3 times more expensive  than all of the other ones!  Shit...

O well, hopefully I get this figured out soon so I am able to wash clothes when I need to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Congratulations Dad!

I just wanted to say how proud I am of my dad who was just honored at West Hempfield "Night at the Races" for all of the hard work he has put into the organization over the past couple decades.  I really wish I could have been there to show my support for him.  This is a picture of him with my mom and brother, he is holding a plaque that will be installed at Tillbroock ball fields.  This was a much deserved honor.  He dedicated a lot of his time to the fields (from as far back as I can remember)  and helped to make it something really special today.  I can't wait to see what is in store for the future...there are still a lot of other plans to make it even better from what I understand.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Good Weekend

This weekend was pretty good.  I think I'm starting to get used to things here, for example, I remembered to have food on hand today since grocery stores don't open till 4.

Friday Jeroen gave Kris and I his Makro card to go shopping.  He said there were good deal on washers and dryers.  Wow, they really were, I got a washer and a dryer for €296 each and a nice TV for around €450.  We also split a case of Red Bull!  I was glad to get to use the card.  Brought them back to the apartment, had some pizza and beer with Kris and called it a nice.  The pizza was really good.

Saturday we went back to Makro in the morning, but I did not buy anything this time.  Kris dropped me off in the Center of Haarlem and I walked around for a while.  They were having a carnival in the square by the old church were the market was the previous week.  I went into some store to look for some European clothes but didn't really find anything I wanted.  On the way back to my apartment I passed by a second hand store and bought a cool ceiling light for in my kitchen for only €4!  I am going to have to go back to that place!
When I got to my apartment I decided to setup the washer, dryer, and TV.  The washer was a real pain in the ass, you had to take the whole thing apart just to remove these for plastic things that keeps the drum from moving during shipping.  It was really hard to figure out what the hell I was doing since non of the directions were in English!  I finally figured it out then put it back together.  Luckily the dryer was easier although it did not fit under the counter.  I stopped by Kris's to get a screwdriver and a cable and came back to take the counter apart so I could fit the dryer, and put together the TV and hook it up.  When I got back to Kris's we decided to order Thai food and while I was waiting, I hopped on his WiFi to make some Skype  calls since the Internet in the hotel sucks and it's not even worth it to try to call people on it.  After dinner we had a few beers.

Today, I decided I wanted to rent a bike, I got one from the hotel this morning and road to the beach.  Wow, there were a lot of great houses on the way.  The beach itself looked pretty nice too.  They had fresh seafood everywhere.  I didn't actually go on the beach though...a little cold for that.  The town where the beach is at is called Zandvoort.  It was a great little town with a bunch of shops and cafés.  I'm looking forward to going there and spending the day soon.  After that, I went back to my apartment.  I was so mad that Haarlem IKEA was closed today.  I was going to buy a bed and some towels and be done with this stupid hotel.  Maybe I can go some night this week.  They actually stay open until 9 every night!  What a concept!
Later, I took the bike back to the hotel and picked up some dirty T-shirts since I am getting low on them to wash in my new washer and dryer.   I stopped at the Albert Hijn by my apartment and was glad to see that it is a pretty nice store.  I got some laundry stuff and some dinner and brought it back with me.  You should have seen all the people waiting in from to get in when they opened at 4:

Laundry took a little while because these European washers and dryers take about 2 hours each.  That's okay, it won't be bad when I'm actually living there.  I'm just excited to have my own washer and dryer for the first time in my life.  It was dark when I left, but I was glad to see that some of the lights in my apartment that I thought were going to be way too dim seem just fine once it's dark.  Luckily I won't have to replace those now.

That's pretty much it for the weekend.  Looking forward to what next week has in store.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My "Dutch" Oven

So I finally figured out how to turn on the oven in my apartment and it is so "easy."  All you have to do is follow these simple steps:
  • Make sure the first clear unmarked button is pushed in
  • Make sure the dial next to the clock does not display the bell with the strikeout mark through it
    • Do this by turning the base of the knob that is under the clock, don't turn the skinny part because that will just set the time on the clock that does not work.
  • Move the large dial to the right upwards
 And presto!  The oven is on!  So easy, can't believe I didn't figure it out right away.

In other news, I also figured out the dishwasher.  I'm not even sure how it started working, but somehow it did.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shawarma


OMG, I had some of the best food ever last night!  It is a Middle Eastern food called Shawarma or Shoarma in Dutch.  It is so good.  It is basically meat cooked on a stick similar to how gyros are cooked and then put in buns or pitas and ate with garlic sauce, an onion mixture, and a spicy pepper sauce.  So good!  I will be eating these often I think.

Euro Road Signs

Driving in Europe is really easy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Closer to 30 than 20!

Yesterday was my 26th birthday and I spent it in Haarlem.  The weather was a least a little bit sunny but still pretty cold when you were not directly in the sun.  I wish I would have brought a jacket with me when I went to go walk around Haarlem Centrum.  After walking around for the day, I am really looking forward to living a lot closer to there than I do now at this stupid hotel.

First I went to my apartment to see if my BSN number came yet, this is the Dutch equivalent to a US social security number.  It was not there.  I hope it comes soon because it is needed in order to import my shipment of stuff from the US.  I was surprised to see that forwarding my US mail to The Netherlands did in fact work though!!  I had a piece of mail waiting from me that was sent to my Pittsburgh address that was forwarded to my Dutch address via the US postal service!  The apartment still looks nice, just waiting to move in.

The first thing I went to after my apartment was a market that was setup by V&D.  I got two really good egg roll type things, one kip (chicken) and one saté (kind of a peanut like sauce.)  Very good but burned the hell out of my mouth because I was so hungry.  After that I went into V&D because I heard there was a really good restaurant on the top floor with a great view of Haarlem.  I heard right, the food was great and the view was amazing!


Next I walked around the shops for a while and saw a man with a big old band organ (the kind usually found on carousels) walking right down the middle of the street playing music.  It was pretty cool.  I stumbled in to the center of the city where the big church is and found a huge open market they were having that day.  So much fresh fish, cheese, fruits, vegetables, meats, and so many other random things.  The smells were awesome.  I can't wait to go back when I have a kitchen...It is killing me not to cook for this long!  After walking through the market, I walked around the shops a little more and then went back to my hotel for a nap before going out.

The plan was to meet Kris and Erik at a pool place at 21h00 but I set out early to go to dinner too.  I ended up getting a kipburger from the same place that we played pubquiz last time I was here.  It was good and I was done just in time to meet them at the pool place.  We played pool for a little while and I did bad as usual.  After that we went out to a bunch of Haarlem bars.  It was a fun night and I didn't get back to the hotel until a little before 5 in the morning.  Thanks Kris and Erik for making my birthday fun.

On an unrelated note, I really am going to have to get used to everywhere closing at 6 and being closed all together on Sundays.  It is really strange to me how everything can close so early and not even open at all on Sunday.  I was pretty much foodless today because I thought the grocery store was open today but I was wrong.  I thought that's what Sundays were for...grocery shopping!  The one good thing is though that store do at least stay open until 9 on Thursdays.  I think once I move closer to center, there will be at least one grocery store that I will be able to get to.  Today was shitty kipburger and fries lunch from  FEBO and a snickers bar from the vending machine and veggie wrap for supper.  It wasn't even a true veggie wrap, just some left over salad mix I've been using to make sandwiches with...  I guess I'll be walking back to the grocery store again tomorrow and this time I will be sure to buy a lot of items.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Been here a Week

I've been living here for a week now and here are my general thoughts so far:
  • I do not like living in hotels
  • Everyone here knows 25 languages and I can't even learn a second
  • It is frustrating not to now what people are saying but I don't want to make them speak in English, I want to learn.  For example when I go to a store or restaurant, I try to do everything with Dutch for practice.
  • There are daffodils everywhere
  • It has not warmed up here like it has in Pittsburgh yet, it's okay in the sun but when the wind blows...het is koud (it is cold!)
  • I like wearing jeans to work everyday
  • It's nice to only pay between €2,00 and €4,00 for lunch
  • I miss the gym and feel gross because I haven't been there is so long
    • At least there is going to be a gym close to me once I move in to my apartment
  • I miss knowing girls
  • I like the people I work with
  • Dutch food is (for the most part) better than American, less preservatives and additives and more natural, therefore better tasting.
  • I can't wait until it's warm enough to go to the beach
  • Think I'm drinking too much free work "espresso"
  • I'm glad I got approved for the 30% tax ruling
  • Am looking forward to my second birthday in Europe

This was a pretty random list, but my life is pretty random right now.

Blue Bastard

Great drink I discovered that tastes very similar to Red Bull but is
only €0,35!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Koffie uit FEBO

Never order coffee from FEBO. Blahhhh! It is worse than American fast
food coffee.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter by Myself

Well, today was the first holiday I spent without my family.  There was no Easter candy or Easter dinner, just me on my own.  Today was the first day that I got to sleep in since I got here so that was nice.  When I got up it was lunch time so I had a sandwich out of my fridge that Kris lent me while I’m staying in this hotel.  It was really nice to have food readily available.  It is still cold and gray here but I decided to take a walk over to my apartment anyway.  The walk took about a ½ hour, but I did not mind since I am going crazy not belonging to a gym yet here.  Once I got there, I realized this was the first time that I was at the place on my own.  I decided to really check the place out.  A couple things that I realized:
  • I’m not sure if my dresser is going to fit anywhere accept in my living room!
  • I have no idea how to work the oven; I can’t even get the thing to turn on!
    • It is an older oven and has one of those old-fashion analog clocks on it which you can hear through most of the apartment even though the time on the clock never changes!
  • I have no idea how the dishwasher works.  At least I can turn it on but it does not fill up with water.
  • There is a random washing machine in the hallway outside of my apartment hidden in a makeshift wooden box.  I wander if I’m allowed to use it.
I probably stayed in the apartment for an hour or two trying to figure out where I wanted to put everything once I comes.  Then I got hungry and decided that I wanted more than a sandwich back at the hotel.  I walked into the Center of Haarlem (not a long walk at all from my apartment…cool!) and figured most places would be closed because it was Easter.  The first place I saw that was open was McDonald’s.  Usually I would say no way, but I was hungry and figured nothing else would be open so I had my Easter dinner there with a bunch of bums and twelve year old smokers.  One my way back to the hotel I saw that there were other places to eat that were open, oh well, at least I will know for next time.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Look

New country, new look.  I figured it was time to refresh the look of my blog.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm "Home"

I use the quote marks because can I really call Holland "home" yet? and because I am currently staying at the Van der Valk Haarlem Zuid hotel for about a month until my shipment arrives from the US.

My trip here was uneventful, thank God for once!  Now I know why it was so expensive to fly here this time.  The plane was pretty empty.  I guess KLM wanted to make up for that by charging everyone extra.  The nice thing was that I had a whole row to myself and was able to lay down and get some sleep during the flight.

My hotel is decent, but I hate how European hotels charge extra for everything!  For example, it costs:
  • €9,95 per day for the Internet
  • €3,00 to use the pool
  • €7,50 to use the gym
Not cool.
Today I had a busy day with my relocation agent.  We registered with a doctor by my apartment, checked in to my apartment and met the landlord, registered with a dentist, registered with the town hall in Haarlem, and tried to registered with a pharmacy.  Finally after all that, she brought me to work for my first day as a PPG Europe employee.

Now I'm back at the hotel...this hotel living is really starting to get old.  I would much rather just live in my apartment.  Too bad my shipment is not coming until the beginning of May!

More to come soon, I have much to take care of such as buying a car, buying all of my plug-in stuff such as a washer, dryer, espresso maker, etc.  Should be a fun next month or so!  Stay tuned.  :-)