Monday, May 31, 2010

Biking Paranoia

On Saturday I bought a chain and lock for my bike.  I already have a u-lock but since I have a quick release seat and front wheel, I need something to secure them as well.

I was excited to ride my bike to the gym today but after I locked the bike up to the bike rack and then the wheel and seat to the frame, I could not stop thinking about it the whole time I was in the gym.  I thought for sure it was going to be stolen by the time I got back outside...to my relief it was not.

I guess ever since my other bike got stolen at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, I hate leaving my bike unattended anywhere now.  It doesn't help that all the Dutch people tell you that bikes get stolen all the time here.  The other thing is my bike doesn't really look like any of the other bikes here so it kinda sticks out.

I need to by a cheep bike from a junkie that sell them around here so I can drive that around for my day-to-day tasks and them use my good one when I want to bike just to bike and not leave it somewhere (at least for long.)  From what I understand a lot of Dutchman have to bikes like this, a good one and a crappy one from a junkie.

I'm not kidding about the junkies selling bikes either.  99% of them are probably stolen and they sell them for super cheep.  Kris and I were approached by one who tried to sell us one a little while ago.

I still really do love that biking is a legitimate part of life here.  There are business men in suits, kids riding to school, mothers with their babies, and people grocery shopping riding their bikes.  Its not abnormal for a girl to ride on the middle bar on the bike frame while the guy peddles away.  They even have entire parking garages just for bikes!  Here are some pictures:



I guess all this biking explains why almost no one is fat and a lot of the food here is fried!  America really should take a lesson.  Haha, ya right, Americans (for the most part) are lazy and they like it that way.  In the mean time, I need to get less paranoid about leaving my bike places from now on, everyone else does it...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Weekend in Review

This weekend was good.  It started with the PPG (Ex-SigmaKalon?) volleyball tournament at The Beach, which is an indoor/outdoor sand volleyball place.  My team was three guys from work that I knew and two women that I just met and our uniform was pink polo shirts with black shorts.  We played six game in the tournament.  Apparently, I did not know how to play very well, I guess playing volleyball at high school graduation parties does not count as good experience...
After a few games I got better and our team started to play together better as well.  We ended up winning 3 games and losing three games.  It was a pretty good time though.  Next I'm looking forward to the PPG tennis tournament next month.  I hear this one is a lot of fun.  It's too bad PPG US does not have any kind of fun sports games like this for employees.

Saturday ended up being a beautiful day (before the rain anyway.)  I did some shopping in the early afternoon and decided it was too nice out to go to the gym so I decided to try and find the fietspad (bike path) that runs along the train tracks.  I ended up finding it and saw some beautiful Holland countryside along the way.  Here are two pictures that really do not do the sites any justice, you really had to be there, it was something to see.

As you can see from the pictures it was getting ready to rain so I had to cut the ride short, but I am definitely looking forward to going back and riding further on a nicer day.  I'll probably end up riding to Amsterdam.
After the bike ride I went home and rested some because the Head Kandi party on the Oceandiva in Amsterdam was that night.  It was from 11 to 5 so I wanted to make sure I was well rested.  The party was pretty fun, it was a shame it was so cold though because we only stayed outside for a little bit once the boat set sail.  It was a good time, but we ended up staying almost until the end and I was dead tired.  After we got to Central Station, I realized that I had no idea where to pickup the Haarlem night bus!  It was already 5 am and getting light out at this point and the first train was not coming until 6:45.  I just ended up taking the bus back to Erik's and crashing on the couch until this morning.

Today it was rainy and cold.  I felt like doing nothing so I just chilled at home for the day.  Nice and restful.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some Updates

  • Monday, I finally got my Internet connected.  It is so nice to have fast Internet again at home.
  • I am getting ready to start looking for a car now that I transferred the money from the US after selling my car there.  It will be nice to have a car of my own for sure.
    • Best way to transfer money international is PayPal hands down.  They only charge $5!  That is way cheaper than banks.
  • The apartment is almost complete, all it needs now is a kitchen light and a few extra appliances (mixer, blender, etc.)
  • Some common things that I've been having trouble finding here are: baking soda, baking powder, vegetable/canola oil,  bleach for laundry.
  • My Nederlands (Dutch) is still a work in progress, some days I feel like I still know absolutely nothing.
  • It's still cold here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Barcelona España


This past weekend Erik and I took a short holiday to Barcelona.  It was a cool place and was nice to finally get into some warm weather.  We go there on Thursday and just kinda walked around and went to a few bars.  We noticed that there are a lot of hipsters there, way more than in Amsterdam.  We were pretty popular when we told those people we were from Amsterdam, they would be like "no way! that is so cool man, like totally..."  Everyone was passing out bar crawl flyers to us but we decided not to go that night and collect the flyers for Friday.

Thursday we got up and went to the beach.  It was so nice to lay on the beach in the sun.  The weather was great, but the water was still freezing cold.  My legs were numb when I went in, but at least I can say that I've swam in the Mediterranean Sea.
We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that night, it was the best Mexican I had since I came here, and the best meal we had in Spain.  After dinner, we picked Kayla the Canadian's bar crawl.  It turned out to be all guys for the most part except for this crazy girl that kept saying she was from london (and she did look like it) but sounded like a loud obnoxious American.  We at least met three cool dudes from Germany who were also on holiday and hung out with them for a while.  We were supposed to go to four bars, get a free shot at each and then to to a club and get a free drink there all for €15.  We ended up going to two dead bars and one deserted restaurant, and when we got to the club we did not get our free drinks and the beer that they served was Budweiser for €6!  People don't even drink that shit in the States!  The one thing about clubs in Barcelona is that no one goes until about 1 or 2 at night.  We go there around 1:30ish and it was dead, we were the first people in there.  Eventually a lot more people did show up.  The best part of the night is when this crazy girl named Gloria came up to Erik and just stared at her beer.  It was like nothing else was going on.  She kept reaching for it and Erik kept saying no.  Eventually he let her have some and she snatched the bottle and turned it upside down in her mouth and chugged.  He ripped the bottle off of her and she continued to stare at it and grab.  One of the German guys said "Do you even speak English?" and she would keep saying "I SPEEK ENGLISH" but she never really said anything else.  We started calling her Gloria the sniffster.

Saturday we went to the beach again for the day.  At night we just went to some bars on our own and that was perfectly fine.  We met some people form Chicago at the one bar and talked to them for a little while.

Sunday we climbed Mt. Montjuïc and did not take the cable car.  It was a long climb but there were great views of the city and of the sea the entire way.  We also saw the pools used for the Olympics in 1992.  At the top there was Montjuïc Castle and it was even free to get in.  That was pretty much the highest point on the mountain and the views were great.  Walking back down really got to our legs and feet after walking 10s of kilometers each day, this finally tired us out.  We ended up chillin' at the hostel until it was time to catch out flight back home.

This was the first time I ever stayed at a hostel (mainly because they don't exist in the US) and it was great.  It was so cheap and right in the middle of everything.  I really like this form of travel.

Barcelona was a fun time and now that's one more city/country that I've visited in Europe!  :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Universally Terrible Service

Let's talk about how bad the customer service (or lack there of) is in the Netherlands.  I have been dealing with it relatively well, but tonight just really pissed me off.  I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for Internet and still no Internet.
There have been many many example of this since I came here.  Here is the list from what I can think of off the top of my head:

  • The IND "lost" my application for a work permit and made me resubmit it.  I resubmitted about 2 weeks ago and have heard nothing since.  I still have no work permit.
  • My health insurance company, CZ, waited until I was living here for over a month to send me a letter to say that I was not insured because I needed to submit another form.  I got this letter from them a couple weeks ago and applied for the insurance in March.
  • I have an English language bank account at ABN-AMRO and they consistently send me letters in Dutch while others come in English.
  • Ever single phone number that I have scene so far for people who need help with something is an 0900 number that you have to pay to use and to top it off, they still out you on hold so you are paying to be on hold.
  • I have been at work for a month and a half now and still do not have access to systems that I should have had weeks ago.
  • I tried to return something that I bought at a store the day after I bought it, it was not open and I had the receipt.  The store would not return it and did not want to hear about why I didn't want it nor would they make an exception.  That is the last time I shop at that store.
  • Waiters and waitresses in almost every restaurant I have been to totally ignore you.  They come to take your order then they bring you food.  You have to flag them down and almost beg to get your bill when you want to leave.
  • The moving company here told me to send them a form that they needed.  I sent them the form in the mail and emailed them that day to tell them I sent the form.  Almost 2 weeks later I emailed again just to confirm that they had everything they needed from me.  The guy answers back that I needed to mail the form to him.  Why would he not tell me that he never received the form after I specifically told him that I mailed it to him.  I had a long delay on receiving my shipment because of this.
  • If a store is out of something, they simply wrap up the floor model and give it to you with no discount.  They don't even ask if it's okay to give you the floor model.
  • Everything closes at 6 here and it is just expected that you have a stay at home wife that can do your shopping for you during the day.
  • I got a package and of course I was at work when it was delivered.  I walked to the post office and asked what I needed to do.  The woman actually told me that I would need to wait at home all day for the package because they could not guarantee what time it would arrive.
  • And finally, I ordered DSL almost 4 weeks ago.  They promised it would here by 12 May, which was already three weeks from when I ordered it.  Then I get a letter telling me that it won't come until 18 May.  I get home today and nothing has changed, there is still not Internet, and what does Online.nl do?  Nothing, they can't even tell me when they can send someone to fix it.  That is just garbage and total bullshit.  I understand that they need to send someone from KPN to turn the service on, but it was there mistake and it should be fixed at least by the next day if not immediately.  I was planning on calling a bunch of people tonight since I was finally going to be able to use my Vonage phone service (which works over the Internet.)  I'm sorry to all of those who I promised to call.  I really hope that it will be sometime soon.
This Internet thing just pushed me over the top and put me in a really bad mood tonight.  I better have Internet soon, and I hope that I don't have to deal with anymore of this shit any time soon.  It just wears you down when you have experiences like this one right after the other right after the other, etc.

With all that said, I still am glad that I am here.  There are many reasons why The Netherlands is a great country and I know you have to give and take a little, and that's fine, life is full of trade-offs.  I really like being here and am glad for both the friends that I already made and some of the really good people that I work with.  But, I just needed to let this all out tonight and be a little negative!  I actually feel much better now that I've said all of that.  Thanks for listening and sorry for all of the negativity.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Space Cake Day

Today was space cake day.  We went to Amsterdam to try space cakes.  Everyone told us that that we should be careful and not eat much because it does not take effect until about an hour.  We walked around a while and decided to get some at The Bulldog Coffeeshop which is a like a major chain in Amsterdam and is everywhere like Starbucks in New York.  The woman that worked there was pretty crazy.  We asked her how much we should have.  She was like "Oh, you guys smoke everyday right?"  Haha!  Erik was like no, we never smoke.  She told us we should have 1/2 of one each.  When we got them, they looked just like a chocolate cupcake.  The cake itself was pretty good.

After we ate them we walked down to Vondelpark and wanted to hang out.  After the hour, no effects.  The it was an hour and 1/2, nothing.  Apparently space cakes from Bulldog are no good tourist traps!

Next time we make try to make our own.  Sorry there was not more of an exciting space cake story.

Going to the park was nice though.  It was kinda cold but we played frisbee for a while and that was cool.  Finally, we went to diner at the Tex-Mex place.  It was a big disappointment like all Mexican restaurants in Holland.  They had burritos but they were really small and did not have a main dinner size one.  We each got 2 but they were like little enchiladas.  So we were still hungry when we left.  It was okay, but defiantly not a burrito like we were hoping for.

Only a three day work week this week and then Barcelona for holiday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Have Stuff!!

My shipment finally arrived on Monday!  I was (and still am) so excited to finally fill up my apartment.  I worked from home on Monday so I could be here when the movers were supposed to be here at 10:30.  I got a call around then from them telling me that their truck could not fit under the bridges.  I started to get upset thinking that oh no, I'm not going to get it today.  Turns out, the guys had another truck with them and just drove the smaller one over with half of my stuff and got the other half after unloading the first half.  I spent the whole day unpacking and organizing.

Yesterday and today I cooked my first real meals here and that felt really good to be able to do.  Also today I finished hanging up pictures.  I'm pretty much done except to clean everything up.  I need to buy a mop tomorrow and mop the floors and then I will be all set.

I thought I was going to be complete by this time because Online was supposed to have my Internet setup by 12 May.  Turns out that it will not be until 18 May now instead because KPN can't hook up the connection until then.  I'm really looking forward to having fast Internet again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wijn

I like that you can buy these little bottles of wine here for about
€1,50. Not the best wine ever but a nice size to have for a night.

(yes, I know the red one is empty...I already had that one!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bevrijdingspop

Yesterday was Liberation Day in the Netherlands, it was the day we became free from Germany.  Every five years is a public holiday and there is no work.  This year was one of the lucky years!  Turns out that the biggest music festival in the Netherlands, Bevrijdingspop, is in Haarlem.  Kris and I walked over and met up with Dirk from work and some of his friends.  Dirk looks just like Napoleon Dynamite!  No kidding!

This festival was huge, it is a 12 hour festival that runs from 12 to 12 and there was 150,000 people there.  They have three stages with all different kinds of music.  My favorite was the first one we saw, Alain Clark.



This was the symbol for the festival:

Kris and I totally thought it was something else when we first saw it.  What do you see?

It was a good time overall.  I enjoyed hearing new music and think there may be some that I want to get to have for myself.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Queen's Day

or Koninginnedag as the Dutch call it


(Thanks Meg for commenting on how small I look in this picture...real confidence booster.  Thank God I started back at the gym this week.  I even had to tighten my watch an extra notch!)

It started on Thursday night, the night before Queen's Day, it was Queen's Night.  Kris mad a traditional Dutch dinner for his girlfriend and I called Stamppot.  This was my first real Dutch home cooked meal and I  must say, it was really good.  I'm going to have to make that once my shipment arrives (that is a whole other story!)  Stamppot is mashed potatoes with endive and bacon-like pork all mixed together with a piece of sausage on top.  After that we took the train in to Amsterdam to meet up with Eric.  Here we all are in our matching Holland shirts (ha!)  There were a lot of people out drinking in Amsterdam that night, most people were wearing orange and there were concerts on the streets.  It was a good time but we wanted to get the last train home (around 1) instead of having to take the night bus.  I wanted to make sure I was going to be able to enjoy the actual day.  Next year since it won't be my first time anymore, I'll be sure to stay out much later.

Queen's Day itself if crazy.  There are people everywhere all wearing orange, drinking beer, and ether selling or buying cheep stuff.  We went back to Amsterdam and walked through a bunch of the makeshift markets residents set up to sell all of their junk.  This was not in just one little section, people were selling stuff everywhere.  We made our way through the people selling stuff and checked out Museumplein and Leidesplein.  Both are big squares in Amsterdam and both were packed with people listening to free concerts and drinking beer.  Even though both of these squares were packed (and I'm sure all of the other places in Amsterdam were as well,) all the streets were packed too.  I don't think I've ever scene so many people packed into a city before.  It was pretty great.

We left around 4 and it was just in time too because my feet were starting to kill me with all of that walking we did.  Needless to say, we did not go back out that night!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mmmm Espresso

My new espresso machine. I could tell a story her about how much Dutch
customer service sucks, but I am just going to be happy with the fact
that I can make my own espresso again.

Finally Joined a Gym

clubsportive

I finally joined a gym and it is called clubsportive and is in the center of Haarlem.  The picture in this post is the random picture that comes up when you go to their website!  Haha some girl peeing on a guy...WTF?

The place is pretty nice but is pretty expensive.  It is about a 5-10 minute walk from my apartment and has pretty much everything.  One bad thing, no air conditioning, it's going to be like Skibo at CMU all over again!  O well, at least I can actually go to the gym again.  I think this has been the longest time period in my life where I haven't been to the gym.

I went for a tour on Wednesday after work and they let me try out the gym after the tour, then in Thursday I went to sign up.  It was closed today due to Queen's Day (more to come on that in another post,) but I can't wait to go back tomorrow!