Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prague!


Prague was just as good as I expected it to be.  It was so cool and so old!  There were magnificent buildings everywhere and not just in the center of the city.  Wow, such great great architecture.

It all started out very very early in the morning last Saturday.  As I was walking to the bus to get to the airport, there were actually still people in the bars from the night before!  So yes, I was tired!  At the airport, I was in the plane and all ready to go when they made and announcement saying that hydraulic fluid was leaking and we would have to use another plane.  I was actually kinda glad because then at least I would not be in Prague so early anymore.

Once I made it there, I bought my public transport ticket and was off to the city.  Public transport in Prague is pretty good.  I bought one ticket that worked for three days (from about €10 or so) and it worked on all buses, trams, metros, and even the incline!  Luckily when I got to my hotel really early, they let me check in anyway.  My hotel was right in one of the main squares there.  After I got my stuff in my room, I headed out to explore.  I walked around the center, then crossed the Charles Bridge (built in the 13th century!) and headed up to the castle.  That was a lot of walking but well worth it for the view.  After coming back, I had dinner and was extremely tired from being up so early and then walking all day.  I went to bed early that night.

The next day I started out going up the incline to see a replica of the Eiffel Tower, it was okay, but nowhere near as nice as the one in Paris.  I walked back down and stumbled upon The Museum of Young Art.  I ended up deciding to go in and was really glad I did.  It was very interesting and was in an old palace.  After that I had coffee at one of Prague's famous old grand cafés called Kavárna Obecní Dům.  The place was pretty nice and I had a nice relaxing snack.  That day I also had a traditional Czech meal of roast duck, potato dumplings, and red cabbage.  It was awesome.  The night, I went to go see some black light theater which apparently originated in Prague.  It was cool.  Everything was done in black lights and some people would wear all black clothing and carry things making it look like things were floating.  I saw "Rock Therapy"which was a show about The Beatles.

My last day, I walked around a bit more and saw the old train station which was cool and a modern building called "Dancing Houses" (translated to English):

Then I got a Thai massage.  It was nice but very different from the Swedish ones that most people are used to.  Check it out some time if you come across one.  I did some more walking around to see some sites and then ended by having an awesome dinner at a French restaurant.

All in all, I really liked Prague and was glad I decided to go.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Almost got arrested in France!


Last week I had to go to Paris for the day.  I took the Thalys (fast train between Amsterdam and Paris) as usual.  When I was at the train station, O thought "O. shit, I forgot my passport!"  I did not worry too much about it because they never check.

When I was on the train somewhere in France, the French police come in and say "Police! Identity Cards!"  I was like OH NO!!  So when they go to me I gave him my Dutch drivers license hoping he would just accept it, he was like no, ID card and I was like I forgot it.  He did not understand me and told me to wait.  He then checked the next guy's card and showed it to me "ID card."  Me: "I know, I forgot mine."  Then a couple other Frenchie cops came over, none of them spoke English of course.  I was starting to think, oh no...

Finally a Dutch cop came over and I was able to explain to him in Dutch what was going on and that I was not even staying overnight and that I would be coming back that same day.  He asked to see my return ticket, I showed him, and he explained the the Frenchies what was going on.  They did not look too happy but they accepted it.  Then the Dutch cop told me to make sure I don't forget next time.  Feeeewwwwhhh....

Then after they left, the Dutch guy sitting across the aisle was like "Um excuse me, your drivers license is not valid for ID outside of Holland"  I was like "...ya...I know..." and was thinking "WTF?  you just heard me having this discussion with the cop!"  He went on to tell me that he takes the train every week for the past 2 years and this was only the second time they checked IDs...Of course it is the day I forget mine!

O well, I made it there and back with no problems and did not end up in a French prison!  :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just do it, Don't wait

Last night I finally booked my trip to Prague.  I've been wanting to do this for a while now.  At first I was so set on finding other people to go with me, but no one either wanted to or was able, so then I thought, maybe I will wait.  But I continued to look around at flights.  Then I was not able to get the absolute lowest price anymore which I did not like, so I thought I would wait.  Then things started to get more expensive, so then I thought I would put it off or just go somewhere else.  But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much time I was wasting by trying to make everything perfect and turn out exactly the way I wanted it.  And by wasting all of that time I lost focus on the fact that I wanted to go to Prague, the details really should not matter (too much anyway.)  So last night, I got home from work and said to myself, "Nick, you want to go to Prague, so lets just do this."  I booked the ticket and I am going!
No I am not going with someone, and no I did not get the €99 price, but you know what, I got a decent price, and I am still going to have a good time even though it is by myself.


Moral of the story, don't wait around for other people, or wait for things to be perfect, otherwise you will be waiting around for a long time.  Live life to it's fullest, NOW!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paris ip-label Training


Finally I will complete writing about my month off.  The first week of October I was in Paris for training with a few guys from GO and Wouter.  We stayed in the La Défense section of Paris and that was my first time there.  Everything is very modern and does not feel like you are in Paris at all.  It was okay, but I much prefer the older sections of the city.

The training itself was a bit boring for me because it was very technical in an area that I was not at all familiar with.  But, the people that worked there were all very nice and brought us to so many good places to eat lunch.  They also took us to a dinner one night and WOW, I can't even describe to you how good it was.  I just love food in France.  We started with starters including foie gras with is really good, but you can't really think about how it is made...force feeding geese.  Read the link for more info.  The I had a dinner of a variety of duck and goose items which will sound gross to most people if I explain everything (so I wont) but this is typical French food and once you get past what everything is, it is really really good.  We were buy the way throughout the entire dinner drinking really good 10 year old red wine (the restaurant specialized in wine and traditional French food.)  Then we had coffee and three nice little mini deserts to go with it, and finally we had 40 year old cognac...probably the best I ever had.

Besides all the great food, I showed Shawn and Kara around a few nights before they left for Rome and I also hung out with my colleagues as well.

Nice trip, looking forward to going back next month for some more food! :-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oktoberfest


So after the fam left, I had a day or two to myself, then I was off to Munich to meet Shawn, Matt, and some of Matt's friends.  In one word, Oktoberfest was awesome!  I knew it would be cool, but it was way better than expected!  This is the world's largest festival, and I can see why.  The tents were huge and it's hard to call them tents, they are more like temporary building.  And, the rides, it is like an amusement park.  They literally build entire roller coasters just for Oktoberfest!

The first day we pretty much got right to drinking beer, early...  The tent we were in first had all old people and the waitresses looked like grandmas.  It was still fun, but the next tent was a little more our speed.  Being that we started really early and did not eat much, most of us were back at the hotel and passed out before 9 PM!!

The second day we made it a bit longer.  For the first part of the day, we walked around Munich.  It is a beautiful city, so much to see, and the weather was perfect.  We went back over to Oktoberfest later on and this time had a bunch of food first.  We ended up drinking 4 liters each of beer that night and then after all of that I road a carnival ride because they dared me to and said I could not do it with out throwing up.  Well I did it and did not throw up!  It was really fun the first 10 seconds, then I was really ready for it to be over.

The next day Shawn and I walked through Oktoberfest one last time to checkout anything we might have missed, then caught our plane back to Holland.  We hung out here for a few days, and then Kara came over to meet us.  I think they liked it here which is cool.  After that we were off to Paris, but that will come in a later post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fam in Europe


So the fam finally made it to Europe to come see me.  Mom, dad, Mike, and Lyndsie all came.  When they first arrived, we hung out in Haarlem and in Amsterdam.

Next we drive to Eindhoven to fly to Italy on RyanAir.  We went to visit our cousins who have a house there.  They were great hosts.  We got to eat and drink a lot of good food and wine, and even get to see an unexpected country while we were there!  San Marino is a city state that is located within Italy.  It was a cool little country that existed only at the top of a mountain.  The one day we went to the beach (it was 5 minute walk from their house) and I got stung by a jelly fish!  That was the first time that ever happened to me.  Really, I did not know what happened, I thought I brushed up against something but I did not see anything.  When I got out of the water, it started to hurt, then get red, then finally swell up.  After a few days it went away, and then about a week later it came back in full force!  Now it is finally gone, but that was crazy.

We even got to see Vila Santa Maria the village where Bruna and my grandfather's family came from.  It was pretty interesting to see this place since I've hear about it since when I was little.


I also took the fam to Antwerp on the train for a day.  It was really cool to see Antwerpen Centraal Station which is said to be one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and I can see why!  I think they really ended up liking Belgium.

Finally we got back to Holland for one last day of their stay.  They got to meet Cory and Novita and then we went to Sumo for dinner.  At the end, I think they were pretty ready to go back but I hope they had a good time because I enjoyed having them.  Sorry there are no fam pics, I'm still waiting for them to send them to me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rested

Hi!  I'm finally done with all of my vacations/business trips (at least for a while) and have gotten back into the swing of things over the last week.  I plan on writing about my experiences soon over a few posts since I have a lot to talk about.  But for now, I will talk about my weekend.

Saturday I decided to use my all day train ticket that I bought in August from the grocery store for only €14!  The ticket is good for one day to ride the train as much as you want anywhere in the country!  What a deal.  I ended up on purpose and randomly while underway selecting:
All were very nice but I really ended up liking Eindhoven.  I would not have even considered this, but recently I read in the paper that Eindhoven ranked this year as having the best binnenstad (center of the city) in the Netherlnads.  I can see why it won, it was pretty cool to walk around in.

In Gouda I of course tried cheese and ended up buying green cheese!  I it wasabi flavored cheese and is awesome.  Still got some in my fridge.

After all that traveling around, I was dead tired and stayed on the couch and watched the discovery channel all night...

Today I went to Batavia Stad Outlets.  This was the first time I've been to outlets in over 1.5 years.  They were pretty nice.  It did take a while to get there but was a nice day out since the sun was shining all day.  I bought a few things but nothing major.  I even ate at Subway also for the first time in a very long time.  It was really good!!

That's it for now.  Stay tuned for vacation storied and pics.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Moord in een café


I wasn't really even going to write about this, but I happened to be reading through my blog tonight and came across this old post.  It was the day that I joined the library last August and signed out a bunch of children's books.  Well, as of last night, I am happy to say that I finished my first "grown ups" book (as pictured above.)  I read the whole book and only had to look up a few words.  I felt pretty accomplished when I closed the back cover last night.  I've really come a long way. :-)

Water Skiing


Today I went water skiing at Lido in Almere, the picture above is from their website because we did not have anyone there to take pictures of us.  It was fun but hard to get used to.

At Lido you do not go behind a boat but rather hold onto a cable that pulls you around the lake.  I messed it up my first 3 or 4 tries.  The one time I made it almost 1/2 way around and missed the one turn which really sucked because I had to swim the whole way back (maybe about 10-15 minutes.)

After that I finally made it the whole way around, that was a cool feeling.

This is not something that I would have thought about doing, but had a good time doing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

So Excited

I only have three more days of work left until I'm out of the office (five days short of) a month!

First my parents, my brother, and Lyndsie are coming to visit me!  We will be in Holland for a while, then visit some other family in Italy, come back to Holland, go to Belgium for the day, and still then come back to Holland for a while.

Two days after all of that I will meet Shawn & Matt in Munich for two days of Oktoberfest (the real deal!)  Then Shawn is coming back to Holland with me to hang out for a while.  Later in the week his girlfriend will meetup with us and shortly after we are all heading to Paris.

Paris is not really vacation time for me.  I am there to meetup with some co-workers from the US and Holland to take a training class for the week but will still no doubt have time for some fun at night.  Shawn and Kara will be there for about 1/2 the week with me until they head off to Rome (I unfortunately will not be joining them there.)

After that I am headed back to Holland with my Americans co-workers and even though I will be back to work, will be showing them around the city as well I am sure.

It's going to be a hectic month, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Free Umbrella!


Tonight I was at meetup at In de Wilde Man in Amsterdam.  When I went to leave it was raining and the girl that was working there told me if I would wait she would get me an umbrella.  I was like ok, sure!!  A couple minutes later she came back with a whole bunch of umbrellas and just gave me one for free!  This has to be the best customer service I ever received from a Dutch business.  Wow.  I felt bad though because not even 30 seconds after leaving it stopped raining.  O well I guess.  I will definitely go back now since all of the people that worked there were pretty cool and I like the beer selection.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

English or Dutch?

Interesting story happened last week at the data center.  My boss and I went there in order to meet with our account manager and the new guy who is responsible for our projects.  Our account manager comes into the room and starts talking in English (the other guy is late.)  So we talk about random things for a while, then he gets a call.  It is the other guy (who of course he is speaking in Dutch to.)  I was laughing at the things happening on the phone and replying to them in Dutch.  Then h switched back to English after getting off the phone, I was a bit annoyed, but ok.

Later the other guy comes in, say hello in Dutch and then proceed to give him a tour of our racks in the data center.  This little tour took about 1/2 hour.  It was for the most part all in Dutch except for a few comments our account manager made to me in English. (annoying)

Then we go back into the office and finally do introductions.  My boss introduces himself in Dutch as did I.  The new guy starts proceeding to introduce himself in Dutch when all of a sudden our account manager is like "wait, wait, Nick, do you understand this?"  I think I shot him a look like are you crazy?  We literally we just speaking in Dutch for 1/2 hour and now he asks me!!

Even though he asked the question in English, I responded in Dutch, "Ya, I understand it!  We do not have to speak in English, I know when Arjan [my boss's boss] is there he thinks I can't understand anything in Dutch so he always says 'OK lets do this in English for Nick' (this pisses me off so bad when he does this) but that is not necessary."  Then the account manager says in English, "okay, because Nick is not Dutch you know."

I'm sitting there like WTF? I'm sure this other guy knows I'm not Dutch and he is not making a big deal about it like you are.

Then finally, my boss jumps in and says (I think in Dutch, but can't remember now) "Ya, Nick and I pretty much have been speaking almost totally in Dutch for the last couple months, this should not be a problem."  Thank you Jeroen!  after that, finally our account manager stopped with all the English BS.

Now in the past this whole situation would have made me mad, but now, I think I'm pretty much over getting mad about things like this.  Was I annoyed? Yes, a little, but not a big deal like it used to be for me.  I actually thought it was a bit funny because of the great lengths this guy was going to try to speak English when, to everyone else in the room (at least from what I could tell,) did not think that it was necessary.

So that's it, just a random story that I thought was kinda funny.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where Have I Been?

Hi, and first of all sorry that it's been so long since my last real post.  I need to get back into blogging more regularly for all of my avid readers/fans ;-)

It's still pretty cold and rainy here as it has been all summer :(  I am really hoping for an "Indian  Summer" when I am on vacation in September/October.  It would be great since I have so many people coming to visit me if the weather is nice.

I guess I haven't been blogging too much because I am spending quite a bit of time on Dutch (as usual.)  I kinda have a system now of things that I am doing and I just get right into it when I have free time.  If your interested, my current method goes something like this:

  • Do chapters in my CODE 2 book
  • Always write down words I don't know at all times wherever I am
    • Make flash cards of all compiled words
    • Learn the cards by seeing the Dutch and saying the English
    • Learn the cards by seeing the English and saying the Dutch
  • Talk to as many people as possible in Dutch
    • At Meetup (almost every week)
    • At work
    • Around town
    • Where ever else
  • Read Dutch books (real ones now, not kids)
But, ya, I want to make more time for blogging again.

Today I made polenta for the first time.  It was pretty good I must say.  I of course did not just make it plain... I spiced it up and also added chicken sausage!  Yum.  and the best part, I still have some for tomorrow.

Only 2.5 weeks of work left until a nice long vacation.  Looking forward to it for sure!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Park Camping

I think it's funny that Dutch people go camping in parks that are in the middle of the city.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Webify Me

I just webified myself.  Here is my link:
http://mzl.la/mQls9T

Try it and comment with your link.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rain, Cold, RAIN, COLD ----> Miserable!!


I hate to complain, but maaaannnn....  This summer sucks!  (weatherwsie)

Not only does it rain all the time, but it is freakin cold all the time.  A lot of days, I have to wear a jacket!  We are talking July and August here!!  I think I am seriously starting to get depressed about it...  Here we are in August and summer really has not even started for us yet.  I think about winter coming and I really did not get a chance to enjoy much nice weather yet.

Above is the view looking out my back door, it is this dark and gray at around 6 PM!  Every day, because of this rain and these clouds.

And yes, my back yard needs weeded, but it is raining every day so I can't.  And if by chance it is a nice day, I'm not going to wast the only nice one weeding!

I really hope the weather is at least 1/2 way decent for Saturday.  Matt and I are going wadlopen and I hear it is awesome.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sunset

Not exactly picture perfect, but still nice.

Bliss

So nice to be able to come to the beach after work, read a book, and listen to the sea...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Malta


Just got back from Malta this past weekend.  I went with Kris and Erik for a week to explore the islands and get our advanced diving certificate.  For those who don't know, Malta is a very small country built up of three islands in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Libya.

The first day we went to this small beach (pictured above) to hang out for the day.  It was pretty nice and very warm.

Diving was good.  I did not see nearly as many fish as I thought I was going to see, but that is okay.  I did get to do some other cool things like dive through a sunken WWII destroyer, go through underwater caves and caverns, as well as dive then the water was very ruff, it looked like the whole ocean floor was moving from time to time.  While the dive experiences were good, I don't feel like there was much teaching that was done like there was at the place I went last year, but somehow at the end we all got our certifications.

Going out was alright.  The drinks were incredibly cheap.  Really, there was no one there our age.  Most people who where at the bars were between the ages of 14-17.  Apparently a lot of people send their kids to Malta to learn English (even though I thought they all spoke pretty okay English.)  The Maltese language was pretty interesting to hear.  It is a mix of Italian, English, and Arabic.






The last day that we were there, we took a ferry to the island of Gozo.  There we were able to get a taxi to take us around the whole island to see different things.  The driver waited for us everywhere we went and it only cost 40 euros between the three of us.  The picture above is from us at the oldest standing structure in the world.  We got to also see some nice beaches, caves, and old cities/forts.

In the end it was a quick trip, but I had a good time especially because I got some time to hang out with Kris and Erik which never really happens anymore.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Delft and Leiden


Today I had the day off since I worked over the weekend in Paris so I thought since it was a nice day it was a good opportunity to go see more of Holland so I went to Delft and Leiden.

Both were pretty cool and very picturesque.  I ended up liking Leiden better.  There I also had a really good lunch from a hip little sandwich place.  As usual, I updated my Holland Sites album with more pictures.
Holland Sites

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Utrecht Pub Crawl!


This past weekend I was back in Utrecht and finally got to have the Utrecht pub crawl (without the two other official planners, but that is besides the point.)

We started off having to ride the NS bus to the Amsterdam Sloterdijk station because there was no train traffic between Haarlem and Amsterdam Sloterdijk last weekend... I hate it when that happens.

Right after I stepped onto the bus, I noticed that the screen on my BlackBerry was broken after I just used it two minutes before!  I could not believe it, this was the second phone that broke on me in a week!  (My iPhone is currently getting repaired because it totally "bricked" when I tried to instal iOS 5 beta 2)  So I was out a phone the whole time we were there.

It ended up being Leo, Novita, Sammy, and I going.  We got to the city, checked in to our hostel and were out on the streets around 6.  We started having a few drinks outside at cafes and even tried some beer brewed right in the centrum of Utrecht.  Then it was time to eat.  We found a pretty decent French restaurant that had a three course meal for about 20 Euros.  It was a good price and tasted pretty nice too.

For the rest of the night we just walked around and tried to find good bars to go to.  It ended up being a bit harder to find a lot of bars which surprised us a bit, but it was okay.  The Winkel van Sinkel was having an 80s and 90s party that would have been fun to go to but we had to be back at our hostel by 3 so that was not going to work.  We went to a couple more bars, got Turkish pizzas, then went back and slept.

The next day was shopping Sunday so we did a bit of shopping and then headed back home.  Was a nice time, but maybe a bit too short.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Français!? Whaaaat???


So, the other night right after I got back from France, I decided that I wanted to learn French!  I am going to be there a lot over the next few months and would like to at least be able to communicate a little bit in French.  And...I already started learning it!  I know, I know, "But Nick, you're learning Dutch now, I thought you didn't want to learn two languages at once, and what about Italian?"

Yes these are all true points, but still none the less, let me address those:
  1. Yes I am still learning Dutch and I said that I don't want to learn two languages at once, but, if you keep putting things off, you are never going to do them.  And besides, I can communicate pretty okay in Dutch now.  It is by no means perfect, but some days, I am actually satisfied with myself now...some days! ;)
  2. Italian, yes, I think it is a really cool language and would love to learn it, but right now, French is more important and useful to me at the moment.  I will not say that I don't want to learn Italian, I'm just saying I will put it off for a bit.  But even with that said, I'm going to Italy now in September so it would be nice/polite to learn a bit before going.
But ya, French is crazy so far, there are so many strange things that can happen to words like how they combine with another or have silent letters and all this other stuff, but you know what?  That's okay I'll figure it out.  And, unlike Dutch, I really don't care to really good at French.  I don't live in France so this will be something that I am going to do when I have time and when I feel like it, no pressure!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crazy Two Weeks

The past two weeks was a big project in Amsterdam and Paris to get new equipment installed in the data centers.  There were three guys who came over from the US and I was pretty much the only person from Europe who helped for the most part.

First we started in Amsterdam.  The first day was crazy.  There was a ton to do at the site and a bunch of other issues to manage that was going in with AT&T in Paris.  By the end of the day, my phone was totally dead and I had had it with Global Switch and AT&T, they were really pissing me off.
The rest of the week we remained in Amsterdam trying to get everything worked out which luckily we did.  I will spare you all the details but trust me they were long days.

Last weekend was the PPG Tennis tournament.  It is a tennis tournament held every year for people who work for PPG in Holland.  Basically you pick a skill level for yourself and you get put into four random games with people you may or may not know.  It is a great way to get to meet people.  One person is your partner and the other two are your opponents.  The whole day there are free drinks and a BBQ lunch.  I ended up winning one game (against Kris! :-) ) loosing two games, and tying the last.  It was a nice time.

The next day I hopped the train to Paris, it was going to be another week of getting things setup there like we just did in Amsterdam.  I met the guys when I got there and took them into Paris.  They did not like it all that much so we did not stay for very long, after that, we never went back into the city (while they were there)
My favorite part every time about going to France is eating.  This time, I found a great little bakery not for from the data center that had fresh sandwiches and pastries.  I went there almost every day for lunch...great!
We ended up getting done a bit early so the guys changed their flight and went home early, none of them really seamed to be big fans of Europe.  Me, I stayed because I did not want to change my ticket and I like France.


Wednesday I took the train and worked in the not far off PPG office in Rueil-Malmaison, France.  After that went back to my hotel and was getting ready to go into Paris.  I though why not just check to see if the Louvre would be opened.  And guess what?  It was!  Wednesday is the only evening that it is open and it was Wednesday!  Cool!  I got there not long after and bought my ticket, the place was beautiful and huge.  There was all kinds of famous paintings, but the coolest of all was seeing the Mona Lisa!  Wow!

The next day it was back to the data center to finish up then catch my train back to Amsterdam.  On the train.  It was a very busy two weeks, but it was nice to be busy for a change, things have been moving so slowly at work and this was a nice change of pace.  After I got back, I was glad to hear people speaking in Dutch again so I could understand what was going on around me...I still don't know any French, but I think I'm really going to have to learn with having to go there so much.  One other strange thing is when I hear people speaking in French, my brain automatically starts thinking in Dutch!  Is that weird?  Then I would think to myself, these people are not going to understand Dutch!

Looks like I will probably be in Paris again in two weeks, then again in August, and probably again in October.  I don't mind though because Paris is pretty cool.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's not all fun and games

A couple of things have been on my mind lately.  So, why not talk about them here.

First of all, I haven't talked about Dutch on here for a while, so I thought I'd give an update.  I had my test from my class on Monday and Wednesday this past week.  I did not think it was too bad, and my teacher then asked me if I wanted to go to B1 or B2 in September.  (I am in A2 now and B1 would be the next class in order.)  Since I thought that A2 was pretty easy, I told him that I wanted to try B2.  He checked my scores and I was okay in reading, but was 1 point under the cutoff in both writing and listening. He said that he thought it would be okay anyway so he is going to recommend me to go to B2.  That was cool news but at the same time, I wish that I actually made the cutoff myself.
Secondly, I am starting to feel a bit more confident in using Dutch and people are starting to notice that I can use it which is exciting, but at the same time frustrating.  There is still so much farther to go.  Everyone tells me that I am learning fast, but in my mind I feel like I will never be comfortable with myself.  I want to be to the point where I can be comfortable with myself in all situations and not have to plan things out in my head or be nervous in any way.
Overall I can see that it is coming along, and I am happy about that but I really could use some motivation and direction in this area.

So far, this summer is not really turning out to be like last summer.  Last summer there was non-stop fun every day.  The whole time was planned with things to do or if there was no plans, impromptu nights out and crazy times that were not expected.  This year is different.  I've had some good times, don't get me wrong, but they are further spaced out.  Last year I had only a few days where I had nothing going on and this year the number is rising.  I know it's on me to make the best out of things, but all of a sudden I feel like I've lost two of my best friends here.  It's kinda been bumming me out and I guess I just need to look past this and make the best of things.  I still have a separate group of friends here that I can always count on for a good time.  And who knows, maybe this is a good opportunity to meet some new people as well.

Work is going okay.  It has been really slow so far this year, but I'm looking forward to things this month.  There is going to be a lot of activity in the European data centers and I will be involved with it all.  I really wish my work could be a bit more spread out, ether I have a ton of stuff to do all at once or I have nothing to do at all.  For me, I like to be busy all the time.  At least I know that for the next month (and probably a little beyond) I will be very busy, and that is a good thing.  I don't like sitting around at work and I don't like sitting around at home, I am always happy when I have something to do and something going on.

Other than this, not much new going on.  Hope to have some more exciting news soon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Randstad Complete

Today I went to Rotterdam for the day thus completing me seeing the four big cities in the Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, and Utrecht.)

Rotterdam was cool.  It had a bunch of big modern buildings which I m not used to seeing around here.  This is mostly due to the fact that most of Rotterdam got blown up during World War II so new buildings had to be made.  I walked all around looking and taking pictures.  I saw the famous bridge called Erasmusbrug.

You can see all of my pictures here in my Dutch picture collection:

Holland Sites

Rotterdam

Finally made it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pittsburgh Trip

Been wanting to write this one for a while but haven't gotten around to it, so here we go...

My boss and I left Holland in the beginning of May for a trip to the US.  This would be the first time that my team was all together in the same place at the same time.  From Amsterdam, we flew to Detroit where we met Kavin, the guy who works in China.  From there we continued on to Pittsburgh.  That was Saturday night, so I spent it with my family who came to meet me at my hotel.  We went and had Mexican food!!  mmmm.  Next next day was Mother's Day so we all went to Schenley Park for Race for the Cure.  It was a good time as usual.  After that, we went to Irwin to have Mother's Day dinner were I then got to see the rest of my family, some of which I haven't scene in over a year!  So that was really nice.  We went back to my parents place for a bit, but then pretty much everyone left.  Would have been nice if they could have stayed longer, but I'm glad I got to even see them in the first place.

Sunday night I got to see Erin and Sara in the hotel bar.  I wish I got to see more of them but unfortunately, it was a short trip.

The next day we went in to work.  It was pretty nice to have the team all together for once.  It would be nice if we can do this every once in a while.

It was also good catching up with everyone back Downtown.  A lot has changed since I worked there.  Market Square has a bunch of new places.  Some, like the Cajun place were really good.

While I was hanging out with my fam on Mother's Day, Jeroen and Kavin went to the Chinese grocery store in the strip and asked for an authentic Chines restaurant.  They suggested How Lee in Squirrel Hill.  I could not believe that is were they picked.  I never ate there before, but there is no way that place could have been good.  After we got there, it turns out they totally redid the place.  Kavin ordered all of the food for us, and it was awesome.  So good...
We met Megan and Justin after that and hung out for a bit in Squirrel Hill.
Kavin also brought me some hot oil from Hong Kong that I've been using here in Holland.  It is so good.

 We had a couple of other nice dinners and then on Friday it was already time to leave.  It was a quick trip and was glad that I got to squeeze everything in that I could while I was there.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zaanse Schans



Today we went to Zaanse Schans which is a traditional Dutch village that has windmills, little shops, and clog making.

The coolest part was going in the paint windmill, you got to climb up all through it and see how it worked.  It was amazing to me that the whole thing was mad out of wood!  No metal at all, wooden beams, gears, and everything.  Sometimes it would really start turning fast and the whole building would move if the wind picked up enough.

video
We also got to see clogs getting made.  It was pretty cool to see.  The machine that they used was an old German machine that works on the same concept of how a key is copied.  With these machines, you can actually make a clog in 5 minutes.

We also saw and tasted some cheese, went in a bunch of gift shops, and played with some old Dutch toys.

It was also pretty amazing how many Japanese people were there of course with their cameras the whole time!  :-)

There were some other things to see like the first Albert Heijn, but we were not there in time to do that.  We had dinner at a pancake place.  It was okay but nowhere near as good as the Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Koninginnenacht and Koninginnedag


Queen's Night and Queen's Day were fun this year even though I did not feel like going to Amsterdam.  For Queen's night, Novita made an awesome Asian dinner and Alena made a Russian cheesecake.  After eating too much and being really tired, we took some shots and went bar hopping.  Fun as usual.

On Queen's Day, I woke up and went looking around the vrijmarkt for stuff to buy.  I ended up getting shoes, chocolate, and underwear all at really good prices:
 €2.50!

 €1.00

 €10.00

I also of course bought a bunch of food all over the place then took a break for a while.  Later on I met up with Novita and we went to a bunch of different concerts and walked pretty much all over Haarlem.  Then we met Alena, had some beer and sat in the grass by a canal.  Finally we had dinner at a pretty decent pizza place that did not coast all that much.  Will have to go back.
To end the night, Novita and I went to the carnival in the Grote Markt.  We road the Dancing Monster which turned out to be a really good ride:


http://youtu.be/nu8K5AbBgqU

Then we met Leo and his friend, road the bumper cars, had one more drink, and called it a day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Walibi Holland


Today I went to Walibi Holland with Kris and Justyna.  It was a better park than I thought it was going to be.  It was a bit small, but the rides were good and there was not too many people there at all!  The weather was perfect, sun all day and warm.  The only bad thing was the park closed at 5 PM!  WTF?  This is pretty much a normal closing time for them.  I just could not believe that.  It would have been a little bit nicer to take our time and have a nice leisurely day, but I was not about to slow down what I paid almost €30 to get in.  So we got to ride most of the roller coaters at least twice and road some of the other rides as well.  The food was disappointing.  I don't think any amusement park will ever have as good of food as Kennywood.  Eating is 1/2 the fun there...

All in all, it was a good day and I'm glad we got the chance to go this year.

At Walibi Holland

Monday, April 25, 2011

The First and Second Day of Easter

Yesterday  had Easter at my house.  It ended up being a BBQ since the weather has been so nice here.  There were seven people here including myself.  We had a lot of food and some good conversation.  I made key lime pie and potato casserole with some make shift ingredients and also some from an expats grocery store.  As I was sitting there with my friends eating and having a good time, I can't help but think how far I've came from last Easter when I had dinner by myself at McDonald's!

Today was yet again another great day.  Started out at the gym with Kris, had a quick lunch, and hopped the train to the beach.  Today was my first day at the beach for the year, and it felt great!

Tomorrow is Walibi Holland!

Everyone is coming to the Beach.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Flowers in Holland


Today I went with Alena and Sammy to bike through all the tulips.  It is really not all that far from Haarlem in Hillegom.  We went by bike of course.  It was really amazing to see, there were just flowers everywhere and then you went a little bit further and saw even more.  Flowers in all colors and the smell was also really nice.

Here is just a sample of the range of flowers that there were, of course there is a windmill in the background!  After we got tired of biking through the flowers, we stopped and had some beers and then continued on.  Later we came across this little village called De Zilk.  They were having a street festival so we stopped had some beer with cotton candy and listened to some people sing.  After that back on the bikes and we made it back into Haarlem just in time for... more flowers!  It was the end of the flower parade and I was able to get a few pictures of some of the floats.

Here is one of the floats that we saw.  After this, we went to the Botermarkt to drink some more beer, but it was too crowded so we decided to go to StadStrand de Oerkap.  I see this all the time on the train and always wanted to go last summer.  It is a little makeshift beach along the river in Haarlem where you can sit in the sand, drink beer, watch the water and the trains, and just relax.  I think this might be a great place to go after work in the summer.  I will have to organize something later.



I ended up taking a lot of pictures so if you want to check them out, I created an album on Picasa.  Check them out here:

Flowers in Holland

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Camera

My new camera came today and I went out to take some picture.  I found out that a lot of the stores in the new Raaks development are open so I checked that out.  There are some nice places and some good looking restaurants I would like to try there.  Here is a picture:


Also, here is some coffee I had at Douwe Egberts today:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm 27!


So somehow I turned 27 today!  Does that officially put me in my late 20s or does that start at 28?  Hmmm, I think 28, right?  Seriously though, I don't mind turning 27, I'm happy with life and healthy so that's all that should matter, right?

Last night I went out with some friends to a few bars in Haarlem and had a pretty good time.  Today was a beautiful day and I spent a good amount of it outside.  I got some reading done on my Kindle and washed my car for the first time since I bought it in October.  I also went to the gym.  I am pretty psyched because I have a workout partner again for the first time since Shawn and I used to workout together at Trees.  Kris joined clubsportive for 50 days as a trail and so far he has been really good about coming almost every day with me.  It is nice to have someone to go with again and to put myself more that I usually do.  Hope he ends up staying past those 50 days.

Today I also made my favorite cookies, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with chopped peanuts and cinnamon.  In Holland you have to bring in food for people on your birthday, not the other way around.  So I am not bringing cake like most people end up bringing, I am bringing in real chocolate chip cookies to show these Dutch people what a real cookie is all about. :-)  I am looking forward to seeing what they have to say.