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April 2012

This Week In Instagram

I admit it, I have utterly failed in keeping up with the FATMUMSLIM photo challenge. But I have still been taking photo's. So, I thought I would post them on Sunday's from now on. It's my week in Instagram!

The only photo I remembered to take from the Photo Challenge, something I am grateful for!

I passed this in Utrecht, it is a hat seller and a shoe seller that decided to hang their products on telephone wires. This doesn't inspire me to buy their products.

While waiting for my friend Amanda, I ordered a Hoegaarden Rosebier. It is one of my favorite's, raspberry flavored and pink! 

 

 

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5 Things I'm Looking Forward To!

Alright, yesterday's post left me in a bad mood. To make up for it, here's another one of my famous list's of happiness! This is what I am looking forward to in the near future:

1. Queen's Day: In celebration of the Queen's Birthday, although it is actually the date the current queen's mother's birthday, people take to the street in Orange, the national color and my favorite! To drink beer, buy random crap, and dance. I haven't been before, but in my mind I imagine it to look like the scene in Chasing Liberty when Mandy Moore finally makes it to the Love Parade. The Verlo and I are heading up to Amsterdam to hangout with one of my favorite's!

2. I look forward to hopefully finding out when and where I will start my Inburgering Classes. I have a feeling this will happen in May.

3. Book Clubs in May! Which means I will meet some new peeps!

4. The trial study day for a school I am in the middle of the application process for is in May. I got  the good news yesterday that I passed a major step of the admissions process, I've got a few more to go, but I have confidence. 

5. I have made some awesome friends here, I can't wait to see what we will get up to next month!

What's happening in your life that makes you sunny side up?

flickr image by: jerrroen
 

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Oh, You Don't Speak Native Level Dutch....

This post is going to sound pessimistic, I don't mean it to be. Before you get all worried, this is just what I am experiencing right now. I have a plan, but since I try to inscribe as much as possible of my expat triumphs and struggles. Here it goes. 

It has been well documented over this blog my struggles to find something to do with myself, as far as a job goes here in The Netherlands. After several strongly worded rejection letters citing my lack of experience, education, or Nederlands language skills, I took a break from applying and started concentrating on what I could do to approve a few of these criticisms. Just a warning when dealing with the Dutch, they don't bullshit around trying to save your feelings. I think that  I am making headway on some of what I outlined, but more on that at a later date.

After about a month of emotional rest, I decided to give the job hunt another go last Friday. After lunch with a friend and armed with a Dutch looking Curriculum Vitae (resume) I decided to go to what I have named Temp Agency Lane here in Utrecht. There are like 10 of them all right next to another. I went into the first, and asked if they would be able to help me. No, absolutely not, we can tell that you don't speak very good Dutch and our clients only want Dutch speakers .Umm, err, thanks? So I went to the next, I got the same story, and it was the same at the next one. Each time getting more and more rude at the audacity I had to ask them for help. Needless to say, I stopped after 3, because I was about ready to punch the next person. Now before you dear reader, start with the well what were you expecting, you don't speak Dutch spiel. It was a Dutchie who suggested I go there because they worked through one that hired lots of Non-Dutch speakers, back when they were in University. 

I wish I could say that it is just me with these issues. It is true that some people have an easy time finding employement here. But it seems that I hear a ton of stories similar to mine. Just a warning. Anyway, I'm not done looking for a job. I just want a part time gig anyway. I have faith that one will come. It is just a long and windy road and part of my journey. 
 
 

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Book Clubs Abroad

I am a reader. The written word is one of my raison d'etres, to borrow from the book I had to read for my first meeting of The Utrecht Book Club last night, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I figured that since I love to read, a book club would be the perfect place to meet like minded individuals and make new friends.

This month, we read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I have to admit, I had my reservations. I had seen the trailer for the movie and it did not look like my kind of book. But it is written by Jonathan Safran Foer and Everything is Illuminated has been on my to read list for years, but I've never quite gotten around to it. I must confess that I know that I am an extraordinarily fast reader, so I didn't start the 300 pager until the Friday before.  I went to the meeting on Monday not sure what to expect. There were ten of us, all from different backgrounds. I have to say I was very nervous at first, but shortly felt right at ease. We had an excellent discussion on the novel. Everyone who had read the book really enjoyed it, so if you were thinking of reading it, do it. 

Next month, the book we are reading is Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I hear good things about it. I have a few books that need to be read before I start, so it might be another weekend before read. 

I am actually really excited because in May I will be in two book clubs. A new one is starting with some blogger buds. We are reading Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman. So yay for meeting new book lovers! 

If you want to friend me on goodreads, that would be awesome! Although, I will warn you, I signed up for their 2012 Reading Challenge and set a pretty lofty goal of 100 books this year. So, while there are some gems I've read, there are some crappy books in there as well. 

What are you reading? 

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Week Three of Photo Challenge for April

You might have noticed that I missed last weeks post. In fact, I have been a little lax on posting for the last two weeks. I'm not going to make excuses, I'm just going to try and do better. Here are the photos for this week's FatMumSlim Photo Challenge.

Day 16: Flower: Daffodils in my window garden

 

Day 17: Something I Don't Like Drop, think licorice

 

Day 18: Hair I can finally tell people my hair is its natural color! Now what do we call it?

 

Day 19: Orange This might be too red orange for Queen's Day. What do you think?

 

Day 20: Something That I Drew Its supposed to be Garfield

 

Day 21: Bottle All the way from my hometown!

 

Day 22: The Last Thing I Bought  I'm about to have a lot going on, I need an agenda!

 

Bonus: Cletis and Maybell, the ducks that have called our window garden home this week.

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Fluidity of Goals as an Expat

To do list

Preceding a big move, chances are you are going to have certain expectations about what life will be like in your new home. These are important to have because they allow you to start forming goals about your new life. After you land, you will probably find that some of your ideas of how life would go are just not plausible in your new place or, they are going to require a lot more effort than you originally thought. I am of a firm belief that goals and dreams should be fluid as different circumstances change. You can probably surmise that after living here for half a year, I have very different goals and expectations for my new life here than before I moved. Below I am going to illustrate some old goals and how they have now changed, since I am actually living here. 

 

Career: I had this idea that since I worked in a growing field in The States, I would have no problem translating that into a job here. Well, six months later and I haven't had so much as an interview. This is for a variety of reasons: I don't speak Dutch, and even though I have work experience that is solid for a 25 year old, I didn't finish University and that is a huge deal here. ( I mean, tuition is less than 2,000 Euros a year, and students get grants as long as they are under 30, so everyone holds a degree of some kind). A funny thing happened though after being unemployed and receiving several not nice rejection letters, I realized how much I don't want to work in the field I was in for the long term. So instead of wallowing on my limited career prospects, I am taking advantage of this life changing time and I am currently looking into my Higher Education options here, which is why I haven't written a post in a week. More on this later. 

Dutch: I have written before about how my old job told me that they couldn't keep me a week before I moved here. Because of this, I am of course not in the financial situation I had imagined. The good news is that I might get to freelance for them, so hopefully this will improve slightly. But, before I was planning on being able to pay for Dutch lessons. I was going to take a super expensive and intensive Dutch class at the University here so I could get a head start. This hasn't worked out, but I am currently waiting on the results of my Inburgering Placement Exam, so hopefully I will begin classes soon! 

Fitness:  I thought that sans car, the pounds would fly off of me. This was partially true, I have lost two pants sizes! But I also thought I would pick up bike riding again with ease. This was not the case, I found that I was quite uncomfortable on the old spare bike that we had, and I am the Queen of freaking myself out! The seat has since been lowered and after being pushed to ride in Amsterdam by my dear friend, I am now much more comfortable on my own bike. Although, I am still really slow. This week, I kept thinking that I would go for a long walk, but the weather has not been cooperating. I have given myself a firm goal of health and a deadline, as opposed to leaving it open ended and I have a support system. 

Apartment: It is going to take some time to get it perfect. It feels like home, but it isn't gezellig yet. We need some art! And pictures of friends! Oh and we should probably do something about the cursed wall that is now terrible looking. 

Friends: This is actually going better than expected, I have had an explosion in this category and couldn't be happier! 

The Verlo-: Honestly, they don't come better than what I got. 

 

The point is, being an expat is really hard. If you hold on to your preconceived notions about what life is going to be like, you miss out on the good stuff it actually has to offer! You should always be in flux, because life is anything but constant. That's my little piece of advice to those who venture out into the unknown.

What goals of yours have you changed?

 

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Springtime on the Canals

One of the things that I wasn't expecting to love about The Netherlands is all the canals. I, unfortunately have a deep seated fear of boats. I blame my mother, although when I was a teen I was more adventurous. Basically, there was an incident when I was about seven in which my canoe was capsized in alligator infested water,then I sunk at jetski when I was 15 or so, and I am named after my mother's childhood friend who died in a boating accident. All these things combined together is traumatizing! Needless to say, I tend to avoid situations what require me to be on a boat. But, here in Holland, there are canals everywhere,  some people even make their homes on houseboats. I have to admit, seeing kids kayaking in the canals by my house when they get out of school, does look pretty cool. Maybe this is one phobia I will have to get over. 

Anyway, here in Utrecht, we have a bi-level canal that runs through the center of the city. (The Oudegracht) Lately, it seems like almost every time I come to the Center, there is some sort of performance by boat in the canal. Yesterday, I met my friend Gabby from Holland Daze to help her out with her Master's thesis. (She is still looking for a few volunteers to help out here in The Netherlands, so if you have any spare time, it would be cool if you could help her too) We met at the Coffee Company and I had a super yummy Frozen White Mocha. After we left, we decided to walk around a little bit. I noticed some fire boatsin the canal and had just wondered aloud what was going on, when a band started to play. I don't know why, but for some reason performance by boat in the middle of The Oudegracht reminds me of how special it is that I get to live in Europe and experience things like this regularly. Hopefully there will be more performances this summer! 

 

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Week One of Photo Challenge for April, Plus What Happened Here This Week

I'm participating in the Fat Mum Slim Photo Challenge for April. Each Sunday I will share the photos I took. 

Day One: Reflection

Day Two: Color!

Day Three: Mail

   

Day Four: Someone (something )that makes me happy!

Day Five: Tiny

Day Six : Lunch, I forgot!

Day Seven: Reflection 

 

Day Eight: Inside my wallet

It was a pretty exciting week! How was yours? 

 

 

 

     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

       

                                                                                                                

 

 

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9 Songs I'm Listening to Today

And now for something completely different...

I'm still sick, seriously this is getting old! So, all my plans were today were ruined. Instead, I am stuck at home. That doesn't mean I am bored, I've been listening to some of my favorites today! Here is what I have been rocking out to lately!​

  • The Next Messiah, Jenny Lewis: I love this lady, everything she does! No matter what band or solo stuff she is doing chances are I will be all over it. 

 

  • Does He Love You: Rilo Kiley. Jenny Lewis again! But this time with her old band Rilo Kiley. I'm still heartbroken they broke up! 

 

  • The Mariners' Revenge Song: The Decemberists: Probably my favorite band, the use of accordion in this song is amazing! A music journalist once described Colin's singing as being "Donkey Voiced" I think he should take this as a compliment! 

 

 

  • Make You Pop: Diplo & Don Diablo: Zanger Rinus and Debora are our youtube sensations here in The Netherlands. Diplo & Don Diablo sent them their next single and this is what was made. Still would rather watch this than Justin Bieber! 

 

  • Mama Said Knock You Out: Alyson Greenfield: When I first discovered this song thanks to RubyFruit Radio, I tweeted that it was like LL and Tori Amos had a baby. Ms. Greenfield read the tweet and responded that she really liked being called that. While looking for the Youtube video I ran across a matchup of LL Cool J and Dexi Midnight Riders.

  • Crazy in Love: Antony and The Johnsons: Guess it is just a cover kind of day. But seriously the voice of an angel. 

 

  • True Affection: The Blow: Perpetually stuck in my head! 

 

  • One More Cup of Coffee: Bob Dylan: The first song I heard of Bob Dylan's when it wasn't my parents forcing me to listen to him. It holds a special place for me. I saw Bob in concert two years ago, somehow he's still got it.

 

 

What are you listening to this week? 

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11 Things I Love about My New Home After 6 Months.

Utrecht

I can't believe I have lived here for half a year! It feels like just yesterday and years ago, that I was waiting with Atticus at Hartsfield International to board our flight to take us to our new home. I'm still having the time of my life, but being an expat is not all dinner parties with diplomats and trips around the continent. It is real life, just on the other side of the world. With that in mind, here is my list of 11 things I still love about The Netherlands after living here 6 months. This list is going to be different than my things I love after 3 months, although all those things still apply. In no particular order: 

1. The lack of dubbing: The Netherlands, unlike most countries, does not dub films and shows into its native tongue (unless the show is designed for little children) This is amazing, it means that I can go to a movie here and hear Woody Harrelson's voice when he's playing Haymitch. (Hunger Games again, I know!) It also means that I can watch American and English shows and read the subtitles to try and pick up basic words and sentence structure of Nederlands.  

2. Inburgering, yes I know, I said no more posts about this for awhile! But, I think it is really cool that the government will pay for me to learn the language of the country I now live in. 

3. The Bibliotheek: With branches spread throughout the Gemeente, thousands of DVD's to borrow, hundreds of English books, and tens of thousands of Dutch titles, all for 40 euros a year. What's not to love? I am at one branch or another at least once a week. More about this in another post.

The Central Branch

4. Speculoos Spread: Cookie spread that I am obsessed with and it is all Lily's fault! Seriously though, this stuff is ground up cookies combined with oil and made into a spread roughly the consistency of peanut butter. It's magical! 

5. The Cheese Mongers: In a country known for its cheese, Gouda is actually a city here, you don't have to look far to find people who's whole shops or stands are devoted to cheese! These are also the places I can find cheddar the easiest. In Utrecht, we have a Farmer's Market every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, there are normally at least 5 different cheese stalls set up.

6. The fish stalls: Available at the pre-mentioned markets and spread through out the cities here, these are stands were you can buy both cooked and uncooked fresh fish. Where the Dutch can get their haring! I prefer kibbling. Tiny pieces of deep fried fish, it is sooo amazingly good!

The markets are even active in the snow

7. The cheap booze: Go on call me a lush, but the booze prices here are incredible. You can get beer for under a Euro in a grocery store, a six pack for under five. Perfectly good wine for 2.50. And it is cheaper to order a beer in a restaurant than a coke!

8. Ontbijtspek, dutch bacon: For those of you who know me well, know that I don't like most products that come from a pig. I accidentally tasted bacon a few years ago and became hooked! The dutch version is much saltier than it's american cousin. For a person who prefers boiled peanuts to cake, this is heavenly.

9. Free Education: Tuition here is on average around 1770 Euros per year. In the US, it is more than that each semester. Add that to student grants and travel cards that you can get here if you are under 30 and that you can pay most schools in installments and the Dutch can go for basically nothing. Of course, you do have to pay living expenses, so you might have to get a loan. But trust me, it is nothing compared to the amount of debt the typical american student acquires. 

10. It is totally acceptable to not have your shit together in your 20's: In the States, we put so much pressure on ourselves to finish University as soon as possible and start on our career. It seems more acceptable here to not rush yourself when you are young. People also aren't having babies or getting married nearly as young. I would say that about 1/2 of my friends are married and 1/3 have a kid. The Verlo is five years older than me and I would say less than 1% of his friends are married or have babies. There is no rush here. 

11. I have friends! After 6 months, I can finally say that I now have more than one friend that lives here, I have a few! Friends go a long way towards making a place feel like home! 

What do you love about where you live? 

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