Monday, June 28, 2010

What a Day.

That pretty much sums it up for today.  I need to start making some changes soon before I turn into a Debbie Downer.  That's all for now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Anonymous Comments now Welcome

I've had a few people tell me they wanted to leave comments but can't because they don't have a Google account.  I turned on anonymous comments for now to see how things go.  If I start getting a bunch of crap advertisement comments I will have to turn them off again.

Also, did you know if you have a Gmail address, that is also your Google account?  Just saying because it's nice to see who the comment is from.

A Relaxing Weekend

This weekend was a nice change of pace, I had no real plans but that was a good thing.  After all of the activities last weekend and going out on Thursday for voetbal, taking it easy was nice.

Friday I basically just came home, made a makeshift (didn't feel like going to the store to get the proper ingredients) burrito because we were talking about Mexican food all day at work.  Then I just sat on the couch all night :-)

Saturday I when to the gym and then decided to go car shopping, I found a place in Haarlem that has decently priced cars and have a couple in the running:

your thoughts on these cars would be much appreciated.

Then, I found a grocery store that reminded me of an American grocery store due to it's size.  I was glad to find it but could not buy much because my bike does not have a basket (yet.)  They also had two shelved labeled "Amerikaanse."  It is funny to see what the Dutch consider "American:

  • Marshmallows
  • Marshmallow Fluff
  • Mountain Dew
  • Betty Crocker mix
  • Skippy peanut butter
  • Peanut Brittle
I can't remember everything but it was funny.

Saturday night I had great all you can eat sushi with Kris at Sumo.  Mmmmmm!  Wow was I full though.

Today I went to my first MyHarrlem event.  MyHaarlem is an expat group where people not from Holland get together to do things and meet other people.  There was supposed to be blues music in the botermarkt today and we were going to have lunch on the terrace to watch but for some reason there was no music.  Lunch was still nice and I enjoyed getting to meet some people.  After that some of us went to watch the England vs. Germany voetbal match at an Irish pub.  It was a great game at least the first half, things were pretty even.  The greatest part though was everyone in the whole bar was speaking ENGLISH and the TV was even on BBC!!!  It was so great to understand everything I heard for almost the entire day.  Really made my day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Still trying with (very) Limited Results

Haaaaaaaa, where do I even start?  I am so frustrated.  I used to enjoy trying to learn Dutch and felt like I was progressing, now every time I do it, it just make me mad and make me feel stupid, dumb, and useless.  I think learning a new language has to be one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I ever did (no kidding.)  I listen, listen, listen, read, read, read, speak, speak, speak, write, write, write, just like everything/everyone says I should do and you know what?  I feel like I know less every time I open my fucking mouth trying to speak a Dutch sentence or phrase.  I'm getting to the point where it is just becoming too overwhelming, when will I have a breakthrough, when will I feel like I am progressing, when?  I almost wish that I don't have to hear people speaking it anymore because it just makes me want to understand all that much more.

Lately, I've been going to Dutch websites, downloading Dutch software, reading (or tying to) read Dutch magazine.  I have the desire and feel like I am doing everything I can, but it is just not coming, I forget words, I don't build sentences even close to correct, words have different means or multiple words for the same thing, the list goes on and on.

At the same time, I keep on reading things that say keep reading, keep speaking, keep listening and someday you will get it.  So my plan is to keep doing just that, I am not going to give up no matter how frustrated or mad I get (and trust me, I get MAD.)  Why do I have to get so mad about this, looking back, when I first moved here, I would have never expected to be able to communicate very well in Dutch after only three months so why do I constantly keep getting so mad and frustrated?  I think it is because I can't stand not knowing or understanding something that I want to figure out.  I really can't.  I hope all of this frustration will help me to keep at it and maybe one day I will have an epiphany and speak in Dutch.

In the meantime though I really hate how this is putting me down and making me be in a bad mood, that is not who I am.  Sometimes I just sit at home totally overwhelmed and think to myself "there is absolutely no way I'm going to learn this, there is just too much to know! How the hell do other people do this?"

And Rosetta Stone really pisses me off, it makes you feel like you know what you are doing but then you get to the real world and realize that nothing you learned really even applies in real life, people just don't talk in the way they do in the examples.  I can't understand why that software gets such great reviews, it sucks!  Yes I've learned some things from it, but I am almost done with it and far from being able to hold a conversation with someone.  I am still hopeful that the last unit and a half will put me over the hump and get me to the point were I can at least communicate with people.  I think once I get to that point it will be so so much nicer.  I can talk to people for the most part and then when I don't understand or need to say something I don't know I can just ask (then learn that word/phrase) and switch right back to the conversation.

Sorry for all of this, but I really need an outlets for my thoughts on this because it is killing me right now keeping it to myself and pretending like everything is fine and dandy.

I would however like to end on a positive note, I absolutely do like being here in Holland.  It is a great country, I have good friends, and can't really complain about much else, besides not having a car yet, but we won't go there now!  haha

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

500th Post!

Wow, this is my 500th post!  I can't believe this blog mad it so long.  I started out back in February of 2008 and never would have guess that I would still be writing for this same blog!  I guess I do it as much for me as I do for other people.  I really like going back and reading older posts, it's interesting to see what I was thinking about and what used to be important to me.  I also can't believe how many people read (or say they read) this blog either.

Wow, looking back my life is a lot different than it was back when I started.  I went from working full time at PPG and being a part time grad student at CMU to living in the Netherlands working for PPG Europe.  Who would have ever thought?  I know I wouldn't have!

So what do you think?  Should I keep writing?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Summer Solstice

Haarlem around 10:30 PM

Today is the official start of summer and is marked by the longest day of the year.  The official sunrise and sunset in Haarlem for today was 05h19 and 22h08 respectively, but as you can see from the picture I took at 10:30 PM it is still quite light out.  Unfortunately from now on the days will be getting shorter...

Im looking forward to a lot of holidays/work trips coming up soon.  Here is what I have planned so far:
  • Barcelona (already went in May)
  • London for Cisco training
  • Canary Islands for a two week holiday with friends
  • Paris for work
  • Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest with friends
Additional trips that may happen are:
  • A long weekend in Poland
  • A weekend in Helsinki Finland
  • Definitely more day trips by train depending on where I feel like going
  • Who knows what else!
I love living in Europe and being so close to all of these really cool places, if I were to go to all of these places while still living in the United States I would be spending a fortune on airfare.  Luckily, flights within Europe are cheep and for closer destinations, the train is even cheeper.

Ik how van Holland!

I have a Kitchen Light

I put up my kitchen light today with mini blind window fasteners! It is a little off center but at least I have a light now. One bulb is burnt out but I can always buy a new one. By the way, I totally broke my kitchen table when I jumped off it after putting the light up. I should be able to fix it with the help of a drill...

Also, I'm pretty impressed that I got the electric to work on my first try. First time I ever installed a ceiling light.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Holland Toilet Paper

Just one example of how crazy people get about the World Cup here. I love it!

PPG Tennis Tournament

Yesterday was PPG's Grand Slam Tennis Tournament.  Even though I haven't really played tennis since gym class in high school, I signed up to play since I heard it was a lot of fun.  I joined the beginners division.  The weather was supposed to be 14 and raining the whole day, but it ended up being a little warmer and the sun even came out every now and then.

Upon arriving, we were given shirts to wear and had coffee while we got to talk and meet some people from other PPG locations.  This part was not very fun for me at first because I didn't know what people were saying and still don't like to make people talk in English just for me so I sat around frustrated for a bit.  Eventually people started to talk to me in English and that was better.

To my surprise, I found out that everyone I knew was in the intermediate division and I did not know anyone in beginners.  I wish someone would have told me this before and I would have just joined intermediate.  The beginners was okay, but I think I would have had more fun in intermediate, not to mention have people to talk to in between matches.

The day stated out with a tennis clinic where were learned the basics of tennis.  All instruction was in Dutch and I was following along okay.  As soon as the guy found out that I spoke English he switch the entire lesson to English for everyone (how embarrassing) I tried to tell him to keep going in Dutch and I understood for the most part, but like all other Dutchies, as soon as the know you speak English, forget about them speaking to you in Dutch ever again.

We then had a BBQ lunch that was pretty good while watching Holland beat Japan in the World Cup.  After lunch, we played three matches for a half hour each with a half hour break in between.  We were matched with a random person in our division for each match  and played against a random opponent each time as well.  My teams lost, won, lost.

At the end of the day, they gave out prizes for the people who got the most points and also had random prize drawings.  I won the first random prize and it was an underwater camera!  Cool, I can definitely use this on holiday when we go to the Canary Islands later this year!

The tournament was fun, I wish GO would have done these kind of things for us in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trader Joe's at Aldi?!

Aldi in Amsterdam sells fake Trader Joe's products! The logo is not even the same.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Midnight Sun (almost)

Even though it is still pretty damn cold here for June, you gotta love the fact that it is 10:45 PM and it is still relatively light out! One of the benefits of being so far North.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Biked to Amsterdam and Back

Wow, I was tired today.  I decided that I wanted to ride my bike to Amsterdam today, it is not really that far from Haarlem, less than twenty kilometers.  I took the path that runs next to the train.  There were some nice pastoral areas, animals, and water on the way.  I got mixed up about half way there because the signage is not all that great.  There are signs that show you how to get to a lot of places but sometimes you will get to an intersection with no signs at all and that makes it a little confusing.  Either way, I found my way there without much trouble and was a pretty nice ride.  After arriving in Amsterdam, I was not sure where exactly I was but knew I was close to Centrum.  I eventual found my way to areas that I knew and started to take some pictures.  The main reason for my trip in addition to just wanting to bike to Amsterdam was to take some pictures.  I haven't done this yet since being here!

I'm putting together a photo album that will be a work in progress and I will keep updating it as I go to different places throughout The Netherlands.  Here is a link if your interested in taking a look:

Holland Sites

They were having a sand football tournament in Dam today, they actually built a temporary beach there for the national sand football teams to compete.  I watched a little bit of the Hungary-Sweden match.  I LOVED having a bike in Amsterdam, this was the first time I was able to bike through the city and it really let you get from here to there very quickly.  I biked around the whole time I was there checking out different things and taking some pictures.  I did not take too many pictures because it was not the nicest day out, it was cloudy and dark for the most part.

Finally I decided to come back home.  On my way back, all that biking hit me at once and I got really tied.  I think the worst part was having to be hunched over my bike the whole time.  Since I have a mountain bike, the handlebars don't really go up any higher like the Dutch models do to make for comfortable riding.  I still need to get a bike like the other Dutchies around here have from a junkie or some other place cheep :-)  By the time I made it home, I was so tired that I plopped on the couch and didn't really move for about an hour.  It was a nice ride though and I will defiantly do it again, maybe next time though I will take a bit of a break before I ride back home.

Utrecht for the Day

Today I took the train to Utrecht to check it out for the day.  Had to take the from from Haarlem to Amsterdam then to Utrecht, the whole thing took less than an hour.  When I bought my ticket at the station, on of my favorite things about trains happened, I bought the ticket, ran up the the track, the train was there, I got on, and I was off.  No security, no waiting, just get on and go, great!

When I arrived in Utrecht, the station is actually a big confusing mall.  It was the biggest mall I've sean in Europe for sure.  There were a lot of good stores.  I really wish Haarlem had a Media Markt for when I was buying all of the stuff for my apartment, it is like a Best Buy but better.  I got lost a bit in the mall looking for the way to centrum, but eventually found my way.  I walked around for a bit and then discovered a really cool canal that has two levels.  There were a ton of stores and cafés around too.  It was a pretty nice day so there was not an empty seat at any of them.  I grabbed a quick sandwich for lunch called a broodje mario that I saw a bunch of people eating.  Then, I finally found cold coffee in The Netherlands!!  It was at CoffeeCompany, and it tasted great.  I was really starting to like the city at this point.  It is the oldest of the big four cities in The Netherlands and (so far) I like it the best.

I also got to walk into an old church called Dom Kerk.  It was pretty nice on the inside, but I thought more impressive on the outside.

One thing that I was really excited about going to see was the Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement which is a museum for all instruments that can play on their own such as a player piano, or band organ.  I've always been fascinated with these things ever since I was younger and when I saw Utrecht had a whole museum dedicated to them, I had to go.  I went on a tour where a girl demonstrated a bunch of the pieces they had on display.  They had the mechanism that plays bells in church towers and that was really cool to see how it worked.  We also saw musical clocks, street organs, player pianos, and a dance organ which takes up an entire room.  It was really cool.  One of the street organs we saw was played for Michael Jackson when he arrived at Skiphol in 1996.  Michael was so impressed by the music that he offered a million dollars to buy it was not sold however because they wanted to keep it in Holland.  One of the dance organs is pictured to the left.  I was surprised to see that there was nothing made by Wurlitzer at the museum which is a very famous company that made automatic instruments as well in New York.  A lot of the instruments that we were shown came from Belgium.  I really liked this piano that also had three violins as well:

I just think that is so cool that the whole thing is totally mechanical, no computers are electronics whatsoever.  This was actually made in 1910!  Amazing.

After walking around a little bit more, my feet were killing me so I decided it was time to go home.  Overall, I really liked Utrecht and will put this on my list of places to take people when they come to v

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cold Coffee

Believe it or not but I found COLD coffee in Holland and it is in Utrecht at CoffeeCompany.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oranje is Everywhere!

Holland along with the rest of the world is getting ready for the World Cup in South Africa.  I've never been much of a voetball (soccer) fan since it is not big at all in the US but I am looking forward to watching now that I'm here.  Everything around here is all turing orange.  Every store has a section of everything orange from clothing to anything else you can think of.  Xenos (which is a store similar to Big Lots but much smaller) for example has orange boas, glasses, plates, candles, sponges, etc.  Basically anything they sell that is orange in the store is moved to one section.  Our canteen at work even has orange banners hung up all over.  The anticipation for the actual even is getting pretty big, I hope it lives up to all of this hype.

I really wanted to go to a match at Ajax Stadion in Amsterdam but I did not realize how early in the summer the season is over.  I will definitely make a trip next year though.  For now I am looking forward to watching the World Cup on TV with some Dutchies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Car to Buy??

So, I transfered the money that I need to buy a car (money that I made from selling my Mustang) to the Netherlands a few weeks ago.  I still have not bought a car yet.  There are a lot of choices and I am feeling overwhelmed and unsure.  This would be a hard process for me in the United States but I feel like it is ever more difficult here because I am still new to just living here, how am I supposed to know all of the rules about buying a car!

I've looked around Uithoorn for some cars during my lunch break one day with Jeroen and Sander and saw some that seemed pretty cheep, but I don't want to buy a car just based on cheepness, I want it to last and not have problems.  I am also a little nervous because I don't speak Dutch very well yet (not very well at all) and I don't want the car people to take advantage of a "stupid American."

There are other issues like how does car insurance work here? how much will the road tax be for the car I pick? how do I even pay for the car itself?

I hate making big decisions like this.  I miss having my dad around to help me with things like this.  I always felt much better when he was with me for something like this.

Lately I've been taking the bus to work and it is really making me want to rush into buying a car.  The bus ride is about 1 hour and 15 minutes and then there is a 20 minute walk to work from the bus station after that!  Jeroen reminded me that I should not just buy any car and that I should remember what happened when I rushed into buying my espresso machine (that is another story.)

I just want to get a decent car for a decent price.  I don't want or need anything fancy.  If anyone in Holland is selling or knows someone who is selling a car, please let me know :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010


Learning Nederlands (Dutch) is so frustrating!  I feel like the more I learn the more frustrating it gets.  I am using Rosetta Stone and while I'm using it, I really feel like I am learning something, but as soon as I am in a real life situation, I have no idea what is going on.  It really makes me feel like an outsider when everyone else is speaking Dutch and I am just sitting there like a stupid dumb ass not knowing what is going on.  Also, I get letters/bills in the mail and have no idea what they say.  It is so frustrating not being able to figure out simple day-to-day things like this.  Yes there is Google translate, but who wants to scan in a 20 page insurance policy and ready a shitty English translation?  Not me!  It just makes me feel really dumb when everyone else here is speaking 2, 3, and 4 languages and I only know 1.  It really makes me fit the dumb American stereotype really well.  I thought starting to learn the language before I moved here would help, and it has a small amount but not nearly as much as I was hoping for.  It really would have been nice if PPG would have sent me to some Dutch classes.  Sometimes it just ruins my whole day just thinking about it.  I want to learn and I want to learn now!!

I wish there was a fast track way of learning a new language but unfortunately there is not.  I just have to keep struggling along and hopefully one day I'll be okay.

If anyone has any suggestions on what helped them learn a new language, I would greatly appreciate it if you can share some tips with me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Yesterday it was finally warm enough to go to the beach in Holland when I was not at work.  I road my bike from my place to Zandvoort which is a beach resort town on the North Sea.  It was a nice ride along the N200 through the Zuid Kennemerland national park and took about 20-25 minutes.  The beach itself is nice, it has soft sand (unlike Barcelona which was coarse) and was easy to get to.

The town of Zandvoot is nice.  There are a bunch of shops, cafés, and restaurants and actually has a hill!  The hill is of course man made to stop water from coming into town in case there is a big storm.  I really like the way the town is setup too.  It is very nice to walk through and you are never far away from the beach.  The main part of town literally starts as soon as the beach ends.

One other good thing with the beach being so close is that I can easily go after work on nice days.  I haven't had the chance to do this yet because there were not many warm days yet, but I decently plan on doing it when it is.  It stays light here until about 22h30 and from what I hear until 23h00 by the end of June.  So I will easily have enough time to go to the beach, stay for a while, and come back before it's dark.  It is really crazy having it light so late.  I like it but sometimes it messes me up.  I will be sitting here at home doing something and then all of a sudden realize that it's 22h15!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is This Your Name?

Today I came across a site that give random facts about your name.  Here is the info for mine.  What about yours?

Nick Ferrara, your Power Animal is the European Red Squirrel.  Discover more at www.IsThisYour.Name
(click the picture for more information about my name)