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Archive for April, 2010

Turnaround time.

So it’s back to the NL for me this week. It’s been great to be back in Wisconsin and see loads of friends, but I’m beginning to feel like it’s about time to head home… yes, home! I’ve been thinking that or a couple of days and it’s only now occurred to me that increasingly I think of the Netherlands as home! So strange.

It seems as though Europe is completely open for flights, which is a relief. Unfortunately, I am totally on US Central time, so I’ll have to go through the requisite time-transition period this week. But on the plus side, the jet lag will work in my favor for Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) on Thursday/Friday– sleepy in the mornings, ready to go from 12pm-2am! And in support of truly feeling like a Dutch resident, I went out this week and bought an orange dress for the occasion! Wow, does orange look good on anyone? Maybe the queen…

Drag Queen Beatrix
Drag Queen Beatrix, Utrecht, Koninginnedag 2008

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Back from my conference in Texas– very productive, saw some very interesting presentations and met up with colleagues from all over the world. I didn’t have much time for touring, but what I saw of Dallas was nice: had some tex-mex and visited the 6th Floor Museum.  The Museum chronicles the life and death of John F. Kennedy. It’s a bit embarrassing– I didn’t make the connection between the “Dallas” where my conference would be and the “Dallas” where JFK was shot and killed until our waitress recommend the museum as a must do.

I was amazed how iconic I found the Texas School Book Depository to be– I recognized it immediately, blocks away, as we walked toward the museum. And the grassy knoll! It’s just there, looking exactly the same as the photographs (although the grass wasn’t in great shape).  The museum was incredibly moving. The exhibit walks you through Kennedy’s life, the campaign, election, politics and crises of the first years of his presidency… and then all of a sudden the pace of the timeline slows and you are guided, frame-by-frame, through the events of that day: the news paper articles announcing the visit, the itinerary and purpose of the Texas trip, photos of the arrival in Dallas on Air Force One, invitations to galas, stills from that single, solitary film as they took the hair pin turn, passed the Book Depository and the knoll, JFK falling forward, Jackie crawling over the trunk of the car, speeding to the hospital, lay outs of the hospital, an original print out from the AP tele-text machine, and then suddenly you are standing in the corner where the gunman knelt and then shot and killed the President. Wow. To experience it minute by minute. Wow.

Well, back to the present day– I was very grateful that I had scheduled another week in WI after the conference. Most of my European colleagues are stranded in Texas or in their connecting cities until further notice. Oh man, how terrible for so many stranded travelers! I’m so thankful I have a comfortable and homey place to stay. And poor Iceland! It’s surely been a tough couple of years for them.

This whole air-travel debacle is really enhancing the sense of distance between Amsterdam and me. I am not feeling very optimistic about my return trip next week. But even more so I realize how dependent I am on the ability to quickly travel between the United States and Europe. So many of my family, friends and work colleagues are here in the US! And an increasing proportion of my family, friends and work colleagues are in Europe. The decision to divide my life with an ocean was very much contingent upon easy air-travel. And clearly that is not something to take for granted.

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I’ll be paying a visit to my home university for the next two weeks. This trip feels very different from previous ones– I wasn’t so sad leaving Schiphol yesterday. Sure, I’ll miss Wouter. But it’s only two weeks and, after all, I live in Amsterdam now. Wow, it still seems weird to say it, but it does feel that way!

Pulling into Madison was so exciting! I thought about all of the friends, cafes, restaurants, shops, parks and activities that are waiting for me here. In someways it felt a bit like visiting Stockholm– it’s somewhere I’ve lived, I know it like the back of my hand, I’ve a long list of favorites (people, places and things), but I don’t think it’d want to move back right at this moment. I suppose that means it’s the right time to be moving. I hope that’s what it means.

More news and adventure to come about the trip, I’m sure.

But a quick side note: On Saturday night, before I left Amsterdam, Wouter and I had dinner out at La Maria, a small Italian brasserie-style restaurant in the neighborhood. We’d been meaning to try it since it opened in February. Simple, miss-matched furniture, wine crates and bottles scattered about, tall candle stick holders, earthen ware vases and an unfinished wood floor– love it! But back in February and March, I wasn’t sold on the ambience– the walls are painted a stark white that was positively ELECTRIC under compact fluorescent overhead lighting. But as the days grew longer and the overhead lights were no longer a necessity, the owner’s vision of clean white walls in the afternoon sun came to fruition. With the wide windows providing ample views of spring’s budding leaves, narcissus and fluffy white clouds, the setting was absolutely perfect! Well, until the sun set far enough to directly enter my line of sight… but never mind about that.

The menu is simple– a couple of starters, three pizzas, a fish dish and a meat dish. All food is prepared in a steenoven (brick oven). The food was delicious and was complimented by a very nice wine list. A perfect “good-bye for now” dinner in the neighborhood!

P4100116P4100118
Left to right: Broad window view and white walls; fresh bread and olive starter.

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I woke up this morning with a single, simple task to complete today: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the day when I will go and pick up my residence permit (verblijfsvergunning) from the immigration authorities (IND).

I had meant to do this yesterday, but I procrastinated just long enough to remember that I was supposed to have proof of health insurance which would certainly take *all day* to find and print off the interwebs.

I woke up this morning hoping that it would be rainy and I’d have yet another excuse not to face the task. No go– it was a beautiful, sunny 16C/64F degree day.

Honestly, I don’t know why I’m resisting– probably because it will be yet another an opportunity to fail at speaking Dutch and bungle up paying on the public transport system (ugh, remember: Uitcheck! Uitcheck! Uitcheck! I’ve been having a lot of trouble with this lately for some reason.). Thus far today I’ve taken an extra long shower, had a coffee, done some work (you know it’s bad when you procrastinate by working), and eaten lunch. And now I’m sitting here trying to figure out which book I should bring to read on the metro… I think I’ll forego the gratuitous, young-adult vampire fiction– this is a serious occasion, after all– in favor of a travel memoir about a lazy, lie-about Australian who wastes 3 years doing nothing in Amsterdam while his wife supports him. It seemed appropriate, given my behavior over the last 2 days.

Ah, but still one more task before I go– I must figure out how exactly to ask for my permit in Dutch. Certainly, given how adept the Dutch are with languages, I could do this in English. But I feel added pressure that these are the Immigration Authorities and I would most certainly disappoint them if I didn’t make an earnest attempt to conduct the transaction in Dutch. And who knows, maybe they’d say “What’s this?? You didn’t even try to learn how to say “residence permit” in Dutch? Well in that case, we revoke your permit until you at least make an effort.”

Wouter has been coaching me for days, but somehow “verblijfsvergunning” is just not an easy word to remember. Hm, I wonder why… Verrrrr-bl-I’ve-zz-verrrrrr-honey. Four-bl-eye-sore-hunting. Fear-blows-for-humming. Ugh. Finally last night Wouter’s friend Erwin seemed to get through to me by stressing the “gunning” aspect of the word– although I really don’t make a habit of thinking about guns at all, somehow it stuck. Pleased as he was with his talents as a teacher, he was careful to remind me that it would probably best not to actually emphasize the “gunning” when at the IND. All of this reminds me of when I was learning Spanish in middle school and couldn’t remember how to pronounce the letter ‘x’ for my first quiz. I remember my mother saying, “It’s like “Dos Equis,” the beer. Just make sure you don’t say “Dos” in the exam.” Indeed.

Well, several hours and a few successful in- and uit-checks later, the task is done! I’m in possession of a shiny new (and expensive) ID card. And so, onto the next task– actually making a life here.

If you thought the process of actually picking up the permit was a challenge, just wait… ha.


Niet vergeet te uitchecken! (Bwahaa!)

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