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Archive for the ‘Neighborhood’ Category

Some time ago on one of the various ex-pat blogs I read, I heard about a fantastic little creation of a British-Amsterdammer chef, Jason Hartley. With no restaurant of his own, he hosts a “popup” brunch at various locations around the city. The schedule is irregular, but for some reason I thought to check the lovefood homepage and, as luck would have it, 14 November was the day! And it perfectly coincided with my November trip home!

This round of brunch was in cozy Jordaan restaurant, Vlaming.  We were a little lazy and didn’t make it right at 11am, so we got slated for the second seating around 12.30p. Tragedy, the breakfast burritos were all gone by the time we settled into our seats! But no bother, Wout and I opted for a traditional English breakfast, complete with thick cut bacon, home-made organic sausage (OMG, so good!), an egg, soda bread, potatoes, black pudding (I was a little shy with this item), and beans inside a baked tomato. What a show! And, no surprise, the food totally won– I couldn’t quite finish.

Staying true to my roots, I topped breakfast off with a self-made bloody mary– they serve you up the liquor and you mix it the way you like at their bloody mary bar. Delish! But regaling the tale to a couple of Dutch friends at dinner last night, I learned that the British/American penchant for a boozy brunch is not shared by the Dutch. “A bloody mary for breakfast?! Shocking!” And yet, on further discussion, it was decided amongst the Dutch that beer for breakfast would have been totally normal. Let’s hear it for exploring cultural differences!

Wout and I have made a pact– we will be back for the next round! And this time, it’s breakfast burritos or bust! Nom nom nom…

Promo photo  source: http://www.lovefood.nl/

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Then we drove to Connecticut for a relaxing vacation…

Sunrise Set3, Old Saybrook, CT

…Followed by a brief visit to New York

Grand Central Station, Breakfast!

And then…

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About 4 weeks ago Wouter and I packed up my car, sold or donated everything that wouldn’t fit, and started driving east from Wisconsin…

The Big Move! (Leaving Madison) Goodbye Home!

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World Cup fever is raging here in the Netherlands. I have been totally remiss in documenting the build-up to the first match (NL 2 – DK 0!), but the country is just covered in flags, signs, banners and pendants in red, white, blue and orange. A week ago we went for a drive around Wouter’s old neighborhood… and I mean ooooooold neighborhood, where he was born and lived until he was 3. The houses were totally decked out for the upcoming tournament. After seeing this, it seems funny to me that people would think that Americans go crazy/weird decorating their houses with lights in December. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera handy to document any of it.

But, as luck would have it, I am not the only expat blogger to notice how nutty things are getting around here. And so I bring you Isabella’s fantastic YouTube creation “Go Holland Go!”

In the first part of the video Isabella documents some of these “Super Fan” neighborhoods. In the following section you’ll see a wide array of adverts featuring orange products.

No surprise, companies develop all sorts of “Oranje”-themed gimmicks to get people into their stores around the World Cup. The top grossing crap items so far this year are furry little caterpillar-looking things called Beesies at Albert Heijn grocery stores (you get one free for every €15 you spend… we might have two already) and an orange dress produced by Bavaria beer. Apparently the dresses are causing a stir at World Cup matches in South Africa.  FIFA officials had 36 Bavaria-dress clad Dutch female fans ejected from the Netherlands-Denmark match, accusing them of ambush marketing. Never mind that the women didn’t work for Bavaria and the dresses didn’t have any Bavaria branding on them. (UPDATE: Now it’s come out that Bavaria did pay for the tickets, accommodation and travel costs of the ladies! Ooo, scandal! Here’s a link to the story (in Dutch).) A similar incident occurred at the tournament in 2006, when officials forced fans wearing Bavaria-branded orange lederhosen to strip. Well, no matter. You really can’t keep the “Orange Army” down.

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Today I finally saw a doctor here about my knee problems.

For some time now, I’ve been sorting out eligibility, getting health insurance and finding a doctor. These things haven’t been hard, but they have been a little time consuming. And even though the amount of time consumed was reasonable, when you’re hurt or sick 5 minutes seems too long to wait. Navigating the Dutch health system has not been overly complicated, especially given that I have a local to help me. But even still, that which is new and unknown intimidates me.

But awesomeness of awesomes, we managed to enroll with a doctor’s group practice (huisarts groepspraktijk) only 1.5 blocks away from us. I mean, short of house calls, it doesn’t get much better than this! And given my state of mobility this morning, it was a good thing I only had to manage 1.5 blocks.

The doctor came highly recommended by a friend of Wouter and he was everything I could have hoped for: friendly and funny, attentive, thorough and extremely capable in English. (This last thing was not a surprise, but a relief, none-the-less.) But… and here we arrive at our major our cultural difference of the day… he was very conservative and non-interventionist in his approach.

Dear readers, I don’t intend to pooh-pooh this approach right from the starting gate. Nor was this an entirely unexpected turn of events. I often get shocked looks from friends when I mention my affinity for Tylenol PM on long-haul red-eye flights or when I confess to taking NyQuil for a cold or when I suggest that Wouter pop an ibuprofen or two for soreness after one of his indoor football matches. So it was not a surprise when, after an intensive and painful examination of my knee (I may have whimpered), Dr. Dutch sat me down, made a diagnosis, showed me some exercises to loosen and strengthen things up, wrote me a prescription for stronger pain/anti-inflamatory meds and sent me on my way. And you know what? Part of me wonders if the prescription was an afterthought, thrown in at the last minute just to ease me into the Dutch way of doing things.

This experience stands in stark relief to the treatment I received for these same knee troubles just a few weeks ago in the US: X-rays and MRIs were ordered, surgery was discussed, referrals to an orthopedist were made, all without a diagnosis. (When I mentioned the orthopedist referral, Dr. Dutch exclaimed: “Oh no! Please don’t go to an orthopedist!”)

Interventionist or not, I don’t care as long as I start feeling better. And while the physical problems remain, I am extremely relieved that surgery is not looming. At this point I don’t really know which approach to medical care I prefer:  Dr. America’s “let’s get this fixed NOW!” or Dr. Dutch’s “well, let’s just see how this goes first.” While I would prefer to feel better NOW, having a diagnosis and a plan of action makes me feel so much better than waiting in limbo for the surgeons. So for the time being it’ll be “when in Rome,” I suppose, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Some fun facts:

Hm… while this last one may be statistically accurate, I didn’t feel that way the first time I cycled in Dutch rush hour.

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On Queen’s Day (April 30th) the municipal waste removal workers in in the Netherlands went on strike in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Their demand? A contract (they’ve gone a year without one) and a 1.5% pay raise (basically a cost of living increase). The strike was originally supposed to last for 24 hours– just long enough that the great masses of Amsterdam could, upon recovering from their hangovers, wallow in the filth they had created the day before toasting the Queen with Heineken. (And boy was it filthy!) And after the 24 hours was up, we got our clean city but the worker’s didn’t get their raise.

Garbage Strike 2010, Before1

Inspired by a longer-term Dutch railway cleaners strike earlier this year and in solidarity with municipal workers in Utrecht, the Amsterdam workers announced an indefinite strike beginning on Thursday, May 6th (kindly after the city’s Liberation Day celebrations).

Garbage Strike 2010, Before2

Things got very dirty, very quickly. Huge piles of trash bags formed at collection points. Glass and paper recycling containers overflowed onto the streets. Garbage that wasn’t secured in bags started to blow around, lining the sidewalks and spilling over into the canals. Fortunately it’s been on the chilly side or else things would be getting pretty stinky too. One little strike and we’re back in the 16th century! How quickly things fall apart.

Flash forward 10 days to Sunday May 16th. The demands are met! The municipal workers are back on the job! And by Monday the streets are looking clean again. Thank goodness.

Garbage Strike 2010, After

But in hindsight, I wonder if people moderated their behavior? Did people pay more attention to what they consumed and threw out when faced with visible (and smelly) evidence of the waste they produce? Did the piles grow at the same rate as the underground trash bins normally fill up? Did people adapt, finding new ways to dispose of their stuff– recycling, composting, Ebay, private waste disposal services? (Side note: Why don’t we recycle plastic, tin and aluminum here???) Or maybe 10 days wasn’t enough time for change?

Well, I’m glad the municipal workers got their 1.5%. The strike proved the worker’s point to me– we need them because at the moment there is no other infrastructure set up for removing waste from the city. And further evidence that they are a classy bunch: despite the strike they agreed to keep the Giro d’Italia routes clean. Nice.

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