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March 2012

The End of March Photo Challenge, What I've Learned, and What I Will be Doing Different in April

We are finally at the end of March. Which means that,  I have blogged every single day this month! During the process, I saw my blog traffic increase drastically, as well as the amount of interaction from you guys! It has been really fun to challenge myself to try and make all the photos somehow relate to my life as an expat. It spurred all sorts of "oh yeah, I should blog about this" moments. But, it also limited some of the topics that I wanted to talk about this month, because I didn't want to over post. I am also going to continue my daily blogging, but now about the topics I choose. So much is about to happen and I want to keep you guys in the loop!

I am still planning on participating daily in the April Photo Challenge from Fat Mum Slim, but I am going to make them all instagram photos and post them on twitter and facebook daily. I think every Sunday I will take the photos from the week and have a post on here. If a topic really resonates with the expat experience then I will go into more details and turn it into its very own post. 

So, without any further ado,  today's topic. Where I Relax

I decided to pick a picture of Utrecht. Even though I have only lived here 6 months and I don't speak Dutch very well yet, Utrecht feels like home to me. I love it here, and have no plans of reverting to my nomadic lifestyle. The Verlo-and I will probably stay in our apartment for at least the next four years. This is a huge step for someone who has moved eleven times since they turned 19. For those of you keeping track, that means I've changed homes on average every 6 months. But not anymore, I'm putting down some roots. 

Where feels like home to you? Let me know below! 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 30: Toy

We don't have any toys in our house. Well, I guess there is the xbox, but we use that now for watching DVD's. I am not a huge gamer, but we do own two board games. Scrabble, and the only game I like: Rummikub. I got it for Christmas. Anybody want to come over and play it? 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 29: Feet

So, I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep when I realized that I had missed today's photo challenge! I immediately got up to post this dear one's. That's how much you mean to me! Which means, you are going to forgive me for posting this a little after midnight. 

Here you are, two distinctive pictures of my feet, for two very distinctive seasons here in The Netherlands. The top one was when the canals were frozen this winter and the bottom is last year at The Keukenhof. Both times I'm walking on water! It's a gift! 

 

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Inburgering! I Got My Letter

For those of you who are non-expats, allow me to take a minute to first explain what Inburgering means here in The Netherlands. For those of you in The Netherlands, feel free to skip this paragraph! Basically, when you move to The Netherlands and are a non-EU citizen, you are required to take an exam. This exam is about both the Dutch language and living in society here. There are a lot of different tracks you can take, you can also opt to do a portfolio in place, or in addition to the exam. To prepare you for this, the Gemeente (think Province) will provide classes for you. According to the Utrecht Gemeente website, this can be anywhere from 2 to 4 times a week. According to most expat blogs I've read, the trend seems to be 3 lessons a week, 3 hours each time, for a year. You are required to go to at least 80% of these classes or you have to pay all the money back. I'll probably have more information on this after Monday.

Most people are called for their initial interview after living here a lot longer than I have. I actually volunteered to start early. (I'll hold a second for your gasps). While most expats I know try to avoid this like the plague, I wanted to go ahead and start as soon as possible for a multitude of reasons. First, it is really time intensive and I would rather do it now when I have the time to devote to studying. Secondly, I am in the process of applying for Universities here, so I want to get more of a part time job to work during the next four years that I am hopefully in school. Part-time positions are more likely to require a working knowledge of Nederlands. In addition, rumors are that in a few years inburgering will still be required but not necessarily financed, do it while it is free is my attitude. Finally, the cultural part is probably a lot more useful if you are brand new than if you have been in the country awhile. A lot of people complain about this part because you should know it after you have lived here for a bit. I tend to not pay attention in class to stuff I already know, so this is another safe guard I have for myself. 

When you read up about the process, almost everyone unanimously agrees that working with the Gemeente is one of the hard parts. There are a ton of stories of people being switched between different workers or not being contacted. I can already attest to this. I filled out the form to volunteer on March 1st, when I received an automatic email response telling me I would be emailed my initial appointment time in a max of two days. A week later and no such email, I called to see what was going on. After explaining my inquiry to three different people, I was told my information would be passed on to a colleague and hung up on. Last Friday, I called again and was informed that the office is closed on Fridays. Lovely! So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a letter in the mail yesterday telling me that my appointment is next Monday. Less than a week's notice! After my talk, I am required to take a placement test. I'm guessing I am still at the beginning level. Wish me luck! 

*Also, I would like to apologize in advance for the numerous amount of Inburgering posts that will probably take over my blog since the Inburgeringscursus is about to take over my life! 

Flickr photo by: COCOEN daily photos

 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 28: Trash

Trash is interesting here in The Netherlands. For months after we moved into our apartment, there was a dumpster as construction crews were still working on the building next door. We now have these contraptions on our street. You put your trash in them and it disappears. Sometimes, household items are put out by them, but they almost always disappear into someone else's house before the garbage truck comes. 

When you get bigger bottles here, they charge you .25. If you return the bottles you get that money back. If you want a grocery bag here, you have to buy it. For other recycling, some grocery stores have mini recycling centers in front of them.

All and all, it is a pretty cool system. If only people would use it! There are some serious litterbugs here! 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 27: My Name

Before I left The States, my dear friends were nice enough to throw me a lingerie bridal shower. It was amazing and so much fun, a girl couldn't ask for a better send off! Then a few weeks later I got this lovely book of pictures in the mail from my friend Kay! It makes a lovely addition to my home decor and is an easy flip through when I really miss my friends! 

Today, I was talking to a new friend about the differences in being engaged here vs The States. When you get engaged in The States, one of the first questions that is asked is when you are getting married. In contrast, when we told Loek's friends they asked what year we were getting married. From what I've gathered, it seems that a trend here is to move in together, have a baby, and then get married. As opposed to the popular nursery rhyme "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage" that was popular when I was a kid. I don't think that one is better than the other, do what makes you happy, this is just an observation in cultural differences. 

If Loek had wanted to move to the US on a similar visa like I have, we would have to be married. There is no such clause on my visa for here. So, while we are still getting married one day, it will probably be a very long engagement. 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 26: Keys

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite words in Nederlands is sleutels, which means keys. So, here are my sleutels, apartment key, building key, and bike key. My bike has its own built in lock, you bike with your keys in the lock and then take them out when you are ready to lock up! One key that is missing, a car key. I'm totally okay with that!

 

 

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Kijken, Kijken, Kopen!

Culturele Zondag

Yesterday was Cultural Sunday here in Utrecht. This time it was dubbed "Kijken, Kijken, Kopen" or Look, Look, Buy. I'll confess, I hadn't much paid attention to the signs around town for it, only enough to note that stores in the Center would be open. (This doesn't happen every weekend). Since it was such a lovely day the verlo- and I decided to go look around.  

I needed to go because it is a certain Dutchman's birthday today and I needed to get him a present. So, for a little while we separated. Most of the stores were having some awesome sales! On my way back to our meeting point, the largest crowd I have ever seen in Utrecht was in front of Winkel van Sinkel and suddenly there was a glorious sound of Opera. Performers from De Utrechtse Spelen preformed songs from Orfeo ed Euridice from a boat in the canal. It was beautiful, but I had no idea what was going on until I looked it up today. 

After the performance we went to check out a book store I had never been to, De Slegte. After exploring their extensive art collection, we walked downstairs to leave. But were interrupted by a a group of three actors from the Aluin Theatre Co. They performed 3 scenes from some of my favorite Shakespeare plays: Othello, Macbeth and Julius Caesar. The whole thing was done entirely in Nederlands. The actors were superb and I was able to follow along because well, I have read all these plays. I was surprised that they even translated the famous latin line "et tu, Brute?" into Dutch. I noticed also that before each scene there was a tremendous amount of explaining the plot. I asked about this later and apparently Shakespeare is not required school reading for all schools here!?!  I mean, I know he is English but he is also one of the greatest playwrights the world has even known. Once I got over my shock, I managed to ask what is actually required reading here in school because The Verlo- never had to read Anne Frank or Shakespeare! Maybe, I can understand Shakespeare, but Anne Frank? Her diary was written in Dutch and she was in hiding in Amsterdam! Does anyone else find this odd?

Anyway, literary tangent aside it was a lovely day to spend in the Center. If the point of this showcase was to get people interested to go to the theatres, I think it worked. I for one now know that we have great acting here in Utrecht. 

What unexpected thing happened to you this weekend? 

 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 25: Breakfast

*Disclaimer, this is not the breakfast I had today, this is actually the breakfast I had the first time I visited Den Haag (The Hague). I was by myself and had to get some papers legalized. So, I stopped by this little cafe and got all this for less than 3 Euros. Isn't the decor cute? 

I am not a big breakfast eater. Mornings for me are typically a pot of french-pressed coffee. On the weekends though, we try to do a nice brunch. Today, I had mini-baguettes with goat cheese and honey. I can tell a difference in the season just by the fact that I am eating a lot lighter! Maybe next weekend we will do some fresh fruit and slagroom (whipped cream) 

Any expats out there notice a huge change in their eating habits? 

 

  • Day 19 of the March Photo Challenge, I showed the worst picture of me EVER taken!
  • Day 20, was all about the cuteness that is my cat.
  • Day 21, I posted my meatloaf. I'm making it again for the verlos- birthday so maybe you will get the recipe next week
  • Day 23, oops I skipped a day! Was about the moon! Or, I got all sentimental! 
  • Day 24, seagulls, they are everywhere! 

 

 

 

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March Photo Challenge: Day 24: An Animal

If you have a problem with birds, I would not suggest moving to The Netherlands.

They never leave! Even in the snow, there were seagulls around here. They even sit on police cars! 

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