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July 2012

Rooting for Two Teams Equally?

It has been Olympic Central at the house ever since 10pm on Friday night. The Netherlands are an hour ahead of London time, so I got to watch it live. It actually was just ending when it started playing prime time in Atlanta. This year, watching the Olympics is totally different for me. Not only because I am not rooting for two teams, but also because I actually miss NBC's coverage of the Olympics. 

Right now, our cable has the Olympics on four different channels. Two Dutch and two BBC, while I am enjoying switching in between the two different countries channels, The BBC mostly shows the events that Team Great Britain are competing in and the Dutch are showing the events that are interesting to Nederlanders. It makes sense, but I miss hearing the stories of my native American athletes. Also, these are the first summer Olympics since my own hometown's hosting in 1996 that I have been in a time zone to watch all the events live, maybe this is the reason that I feel like there is not as much information on the screen during the events about the times, etc. 

People have been asking me who it is I am rooting for this time. Am I rooting for the USA more because I am an American, or The Netherlands because this is where I plan to take up permanent residence? I'm not sure why I would have to choose, so here is my answer. I cheer for both equally. I just want my two teams to win as many medals as possible. 

I will say though, when it comes to being stylish at the Opening Ceremony, Nederland has you beat America.

Who are you going for? What is your favorite Summer Olympics Event?

 

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Let The Sunshine In!

Sorry, I´ve been noticeably absent from the blog this week, I was working on a blog exchange for 20 Something Bloggers, but my swap partner disappeared off the face of the earth, plus the sunshine came back to The Netherlands. For those of you who didn´t live through it, this July was miserable. Like rain jacket, scarf, didn´t see sunlight for the whole month miserable. To be fair to the weather, I somewhat expected it. I mean, I did move to the same latitude as Edmonton, Canada and to possibly the rainiest place on the planet, but it is really weird to be cold in July! 

All that changed this last weekend however, when the sun came back with a vengeance. Not a cloud in the sky, nothing but blue skies. Since this is supposed to disappear tomorrow, I have become fully integrated and took advantage of the sunshine while it lasts. 

How was your week?

 

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Halfway There: 50 Books Read on my 100 Books GoodReads Challenge

At the end of last year, my prospects were slim. I hadn't yet done any research to go back to school here in The Netherlands, and I was receiving more than my fair share of rejection letters, I decided to sign up for the GoodReads Reading Challenge. I figured, if I was going to have all this free time on my hands, and limited funds, I might as well do something valuable with my time. In the GoodReads Challenge you are allowed to pick the number of books you want to read. Since I had all this time on my hands, and I am a freaky fast reader. Seriously, I am not even trying to gloat, everyone has some weird special talent and mine is reading faster than the speed of light.

Well, I finally did it, I made it halfway through the challenge. Officially, that makes me 4 books behind.Not exactly the position that you want to be in when you are about to go into what could be the busiest time in your entire life for the last 4 months of the year. But, I will catch up. I listed some of the best books I read when I was 1/3 of a way through the challenge, so here are the good one's I read from 34 to 50.

  • 1Q84 by Haruiki Murakami: This is probably the strangest book I have ever read. It should be said that I never read Science Fiction so maybe it isn't that weird for the genre. Some part of this book really turned me off, like the obsession with describing all the female character's breasts. But the story itself is interesting and beautifully written.
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman: I knew almost nothing about Hasidic Jews except for what I learned by watching I Love New York. This book really opened my eyes to the fact of how generally lucky I feel to have been brought up in an extremely secular household. 
  • The Surgeon and The Apprentice both by Tess Gerritsen: I really like Rizzoli and Isles, the detective show based on these books. Normally, if I see the show or movie first,I don't bother with the books, because I get bored if I already know the story. In this case however, I enjoyed learning more about the strong female characters.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Interesting take on Zombies, I also read the follow up, but that one is just the same story retold. 
  • The Naming by Alison Croggon: I love love love well written epic fantasy. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The story of one little German village during WW2, as told by the Grim Reaper. It is an interesting concept with great execution. 

You can keep up with everything I have read so far this year here. What is the best thing you have read this year? 

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Thoughts on Renewing My Visa

Saturday was an exciting day here, I unexpectedly received the paperwork to renew my residence permit. I know, it doesn't seem like enough time has passed for me to be thinking about renewal! I'll  be sending in the paperwork tomorrow, you need to have a black pen to fill out part of it, and even though I just had 60 black pens sent to my mom's house from Amazon so that she can bring me a ton of school supplies when she comes in August, we didn't have a single back pen in the house! So I had to go buy one today. The paperwork itself is so far considerably less than last time. 

For me, the decision to renew my visa, which should be for 5 years this time because I am on a partnership visa,was not something that required any thought on my part. I am happy with my partner, in the process of inburgering, starting an undergrad program in September, and I have great friends here. Sure, life is a lot different than what I imagined it would be when I was planning to move here, but I am not sure that I would change it back to my original plans, even if I could. It was tough there for awhile, trying to figure out where I fit in here after getting rejection after rejection on the career front, but I look back at that time, which coincidentally coincided with the darkest, coldest months of the year, and I never once thought about packing up and going back to Georgia. I think this had a lot to do with my attitude that this is my life, this is not temporary, so I better make it work! 

Not everyone renews though, I've heard that the first year in a new place is the hardest. Hopefully that is the case, this year was pretty tough. I would be really interested to see some data on how many expats return home during the first year, or decide not to renew. After all, according to several polls, The Netherlands is the least friendly place for expats. There is no shame in not making it. This life definitely is not for everyone. However, If you are currently a struggling expat, or you are about to become an expat, I have two pieces of advice. 

1. You have to really, really want to make it work. Nothing is going to turn out the way you thought, and you are going to have to be prepared to roll with the punches. 

2. Don't give yourself a timeline. If you say you are going to give it a year, your entire experience will be a countdown until the year is up. Instead, treat it as this is your life for the foreseeable future. If you are really unhappy you can always go back home. But as a very wise man on TV is known to say, "Make it work!"

Thanks for sticking out the rough months with me my dear readers! Your support means the world to me! 

 

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Anne's Amsterdam

I was approached to write this review by The Anne Frank House. At this time, I do not accept money for reviews or anything of that nature on this blog. However, they thought I would be interested in their new app after reading my blog, and I am, especially since I am about to study tourism, I decided to tryout the app for myself. 

Anne's Amsterdam is a new smartphone app made in conjunction with the Anne Frank House.  The App is available in English, Dutch, and German. I have it on my iPhone. The App allows you to explore Anne Frank's life in the city before her family was forced into hiding. The way the app works is simple, it uses your location and shows you different monuments in town that were important to Anne's life. For example, you can see where Anne went to school, where her and Margot used to go skating, and other significant details of a young girls life. 

Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is an incredibly humbling experience. I was required to read the Diary of Anne Frank when I was in High School. Visiting her house combined with seeing her life outside in the city really gives you even more of a sense as to how terrible things really were during the German Occupation. 

Whether you are an expat, a Nederlander, or a tourist to The Netherlands, I recommend that you download this free app. It is very well done, and you never know what you will discover in an unsuspecting corner of Amsterdam. 

 

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11 Things I Love About My New Home After 9 Months

I landed nine months ago. Nine months! That is long enough to have carried and given birth to a baby. Not that I'm pregnant or even thinking about having a baby for years, I mean I'm about to be in school for the next 4 years, but to give you an idea of the time I've been here, I chose that analogy. This post could not have come at a better time, I feel like I haven't really been present or sociable the last few weeks. I always do this, I have a lot to look forward to in August and July, so I forget to live in the present. I'm sorry, my friends, I am going to try to do better. But in the meantime, here are the 11 things I love about The Netherlands after 9 months!

1. I love how international it actually is here. Since I have been here, I have met so many people with so many different backgrounds. Where I grew up in The States, there were people from different backgrounds, but most of them are 3rd and 4th generation. It is really awesome to meet so many people who come from all over world. It is important to note that this isn't the case all over the country, mostly just in the larger cities to the west. 

2. I can actually stomach the milk. For those of you who know me well, you know how disgusting I find milk. I actually inherited this from my mother, even though she would think it in front of me when I was little because she thought it was important that I get the calcium I needed. It was years before I would even eat ice cream. While there is no way I would ever reach for milk as a beverage, the milk here does taste differently and I can stand to have it in my cereal and will even chug it when I have heartburn. I know, crazy talk!

3. Even though the weather in the summer is unpredictable and I haven't yet put away my jacket, I'm the tannest I have ever been. Okay, so this is probably only a Kaitlin thing. I have extremely sensitive skin, it burns extremely fast. Because of this, I tend to be an inside girl. Seriously, Nicole Kidman is my beauty icon. But, because the sun is less extreme here than in Georgia, I am definitely outside more. I'm probably three shades darker than normal.

4. Even though I complained the whole time, I know feel more at ease in communicating in Nederlands after inburgering. My last inburgering class for a month and a half, was a week ago. Even though I still don't really like the system, I do recognize that I am much more willing to try and communicate in Nederlands than I was before my classes started. I am also continuing my learning alone, because I have to switch into the evening class.

5. I'm totally obsessed with the baby birds. If you read the blog regularly you know this already, but seriously, they are so cute. Oh and the bunnies! I see wild bunnies at least once a week.

6. I'm becoming more thrifty. Going out is more expensive here, clothes are more expensive, pretty much everything but booze is more expensive here. I actually think this is a good thing, as it is ridding me of the disposable lifestyle many Americans have. Now when something breaks, I do the Dutch thing and see if I can fix it. Except for those shoes from a few posts ago, those things are toast!

7. It rains all the time. I know again this is probably a personal thing, but in coming from a place that is perpetually in a drought, the fact that I am frequently caught in afternoon is actually a great thing. 

8. The view on marriage here. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same sex marriage. This makes me incredibly proud of my newly adopted country. In order to stay with The Verlo-, I actually don't ever have to get married. To be clear, we are engaged, but there is not the societal pressure or contingency of my visa to walk down the aisle. 

9. I love the countryside. I am a big city girl, but I do love that just a little bit outside the major cities the country is ripe with cows, goats, sheep, and horses. Seriously look out the window next time you are on an Intercity.

10. I can't believe I have not mentioned this one before, but I love the bikes. I'm still amazed by all that people can do while on their bikes. I doubt that I will ever reach the level of mastery required to talk on the phone, or transport a tv on my handlebars while cycling, but it is nice to have a goal.

11. I feel really safe here. I'm not naive enough to believe that there is no crime here, however, it is night and day between sketch parts of The Netherlands and sketch parts of The States.

Want a recap of the other things I love here? Check out:

What do you love about where you live?

 

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When Your Friends Leave, Reality in Expat Friendships.

Looking at the friends I have made so far in The Netherlands, most of them are fellow Americans. This was never my intention, but it makes sense, my only passable language at the moment is English, and we are all going through a lot of the same things. However, having your main friend group tied to another country besides the one you are planning to live in long term presents its a whole new set of problems. Being an expat for many is a very transient period, it is something they are trying on and eventually, most will probably move on. Either back to their home country or the will move elsewhere abroad. 

A few weeks ago, I had my first of what I am sure is many goodbyes to a friend who moved back to The States. To be fair, when I met her she told me that her and her husband were not looking to stay here long term. Neither of us expected her to leave as soon as she did. I am very thankful for the warning because I feel like I knew going in that the living in the same country part of our friendship had an expiration date. Not our friendship itself, just the both living in Utrecht part. I miss you Amanda!

Knowing that your friends might leave is just part of the living life abroad. Sure it is painful, but does that mean that you shouldn't make friends with anyone? My advice is to cherish the relationships you are able to make at any point in your life. If a friend does end up leaving, do your best to keep in touch, and look forward to the places you will now get to go visit. Speaking of keeping in touch, I owe some people some skype dates. Let's make them happen people!

Have you had friends leave? How did you deal with it?

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Baby Swans, A Cemetery, and Major Wardrobe Malfunctions

I've decided to quit This Week in Instagram. Judging by the numbers, you guys weren't really reading them anyway. Instead, I am still going to wrap up the week on Sundays, I think it is important to remain consistent. But now with catchier titles!

This week started off pretty normal, I went to class and my tutoring gigs. I complained about Inburgering and developed a study plan for the summer. Fun fact- I have one class left until September. But then, I caught this terrible stomach bug which had me at home on Thursday and Friday. Things just got weirder on Saturday. On my way to Amsterdam, my shoe broke on the train, like not able to walk right with it, broke. I was wearing fancy flip flops and one of the sides came out and the whole bottom came apart. Luckily, I managed to buy some super glue at the Bruna in the station and was able to fix my shoe while hanging out with some friends in the Vondel Park. I ended up heading home to Utrecht super late. While waiting at the bus stop for a ride to Amsterdam Centraal, you will never believe what happened, the other shoe broke! Not as bad as the first one, this time just the side came out. However, while walking down the stairs of the train the whole damn shoe broke! Every step I took the whole bottom would spin around in a circle on the thong.

Since it was 2am and the train was late, I had to wait 40 minutes for the next night bus. I got some Julia's and then tried to repair my destitute shoe. This time however, it did not work. I did manage to accidently glue my foot to the shoe, so at least I could walk. I then proceeded to try and get on the night bus with my OV Chipkaart. Apparently, at night you have to buy a ticket for the bus. SERIOUSLY! And you can't buy it on the bus, you have to go to the overnight counter. As soon as, I stepped off the bus, my foot came unglued, so I limped towards the desk. Then they wanted 5 EUROS! 5 Euros for what in less than four hours would cost me 1.22. Then, I would have to limp the ten minutes home with my busted-ass shoe. I decided at this point  it was time to take a taxi home. 

Yep, it was a fun night! 

But on to the better parts! 

The photo above is a path in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, it is really interesting as it runs along side the Beth Haim Jewish Cemetery. The Beth Haim is the oldest Jewish Cemetery in The Netherlands. It is trying to become a 2012 World Heritage Site. It has my vote! 

Take a gander at these baby swans! 

If you are wondering, I did in fact throw out the shoes! How was your week?

 

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