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. :)