Saturday, March 29, 2008

No one said I need to pack cold medicine too!

On Wednesday I started to get sick... and by Thursday I was starting to suffer. Now I'm living with a cold... or a flu, not quite sure really. But to be safe, I'll say it's both. Now, that wouldn't be a problem if I was in the states, since there are a plethora of over-the-counter medications to choose from. Any ailment can be cured... in the US. However, Holland has never heard of Nyquil, Benadryl, or even Tylenol! Instead, for a cold/flu you have 2 options (that is, if you don't have a cough). You can either take a painkiller without vitamin C or with vitamin C. The painkiller is also a fever reducer I should add. But, to make it look like you have more than just two options, they have 2 varieties of the medicine. You can take it in tablet form, or as a tea. I have both versions... talk about living on the edge! Has it been working you ask? Well, it has helped with my body aches and has kept my fever down, but it hasn't really helped with my overwhelming bouts of nausea, my stuffy nose and sore throat. So, if you plan on visiting Europe, be on the safe side, and bring your own medicine.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Yesterday I took the tram through the city to get to church. While I looked out the window I saw tons of tourists taking pictures... and all I could keep thinking was "and I live here!" I love it! What a great city to live in.

When I got to church (the one I'll be going to from now on) I had a million and one people come up to me and say "oh, you must be Claire." The bishop from my other ward warned them of my arrival. Thanks bishop. They had heard that I served a mission in Brasil and speak Portuguese, and were quite excited I was there. They told me that there's a lady in the ward who is Brasilian and doesn't speak Dutch or English. So for the first time yesterday I became an interpreter. Best part was that I was translating from a translation... I wonder if she got anything out of the meetings. :S Who would have thought I'd be using my Portuguese in Holland?

There are 2 sets of sister missionaries and 1 set of elders in the ward... with a little over 100 members. One set of sisters grabbed me after church to teach a lesson with them. Something I haven't done in almost 3 years. Needless to say, it was quite a busy day!

I then went to the Bishop's family's house for Easter dinner. We had the very "traditional" Easter meal consisting of: nachos and burritos. I had to laugh. It was good though! She had also made chocolate chip cookies (yum) and stuffed us with hot chocolate and ham and cheese sandwiches before the main meal.

To top off the night, she gave me some baking soda! How excited was I?! I have been searching and searching the supermarkets for it, but to no avail. They only have baking powder here, and according to the internet, there is no substitute for baking soda. (However, I did discover that you can make banana bread using 3 tsps of baking powder in place of baking soda and there's not too much of a difference--- just incase you were wondering).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Memoirs of a Vagabond, part 2

Wednesday night I packed my bags in preparation to my next big move. Unfortunately, it's not into my own apartment... I haven't heard from those people in a number of days. Instead, I moved slightly north of Amsterdam to town called Purmerend with another co-worker and his wife. Now I'm only 20 minutes away from the city, instead of 1 hr, and maybe I'll actually be able to find a place of my own! (Here's to hoping).

*On a side note, let me instill a word of advice from someone ignorant enough to be scammed. DON'T TRUST ANYONE... at least anyone by the name of Jane Wilfred who states she's a missionary and is looking for someone to rent their home. And don't, I repeat, don't send money to anyone without meeting them in person, having a contract, or contact information. Seems like common sense... well... it IS common sense-- I just wasn't using it at the time. Lesson learned, with a slightly hefty bite in the pocket. *end side note*

So, yesterday I had a warm Purmerend welcome with some fabulous Turkish take out and a relaxing evening in my new "home". The only negative part is that they both smoke... and I've been finding it hard to find oxygen. But, they're extremely friendly and funny people.

As my life as a vagabond, I must tour the surrounding locations of where my temporary dwelling is. Since I had the day off today for Good Friday (gotta love Europe) Jan, my manager, took me around northern Holland.

First we toured around the tiny center of Purmerend. There used to be a cheese market in the center,but they got rid of that. Unbelievable that they would actually cancel such a wonderful thing... I know. There also used to be a cow market behind the center, but that too ended only 9 months ago. That's what all the bars are for in this picture, to tie up the cattle. We then drove around a number of the cutest villages, but due to the rain, I didn't take any pictures.
On the road we saw yet another windmill (surprise, surprise). And I couldn't just pass it buy, so we went inside that one too. This one pulled water out of the lake that used to be there.
It is now a museum and showed how a family used to live. The beds were built into the wall, but were only about 4 feet long. So either they got severe leg cramps at night or the Dutch population was MUCH sorter than they are now. Also, it was extremely drafty inside, due to the opening at the top of the windmill which allows the contraption to move around 360 degrees. Not sure I'd be "man enough" to live in one of them no matter how neat it'd be, unless there was some pretty thick insulation.

We then passed through Edam, famous for their cheese, and made our way to Volendam. Volendam was a large fishing community years back, and is now a large touristic location. While we were walking around, it snowed... snowed I say. Isn't it Spring yet?

Of course I wasn't wearing proper shoes, so after a few minutes my feet became numb and I thought I may have to saw them off. But we found a safe place to hide from the cold for a few minutes, where I transformed into a traditional dutch girl (along with bringing life back to my feet). So, if life as a vagabond doesn't pan out, maybe I can join the Volendamians... and spend my life in wooden shoes.

But then again the more I think about it, I won't turn into a traditional Volendamian whether I can make my career as a vagabond successful or not . The shoes are too.... too.... um, well,... wooden. So, I'll settle on modern dutch slippers instead.And...alright, they don't really wear the outfit anymore. Well, at least not all the time. And, only the farmers wear the wooden shoes - sometimes. But they do have their own language which the Dutch don't even understand. That way they can stay an exclusive community, ...I guess.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the streets where they lived

On Saturday Olof took me to Haarlem, which is 100% different from the NY version with a different spelling. In the 1600’s, two of my ancestors were born and lived the first 20 or so years of their lives there. They got married in St. Bravo’s church and then moved to New Amsterdam (currently known as New York).

So, this past weekend, I found myself walking the streets they walked and lived on, and touring the church they were married in. My ancestor Abraham Peiterson was a miller by trade, so I also had to tour the windmill that was located in the city. (There's a reason for my facination with windmills… it’s in the blood).

It still amazes me to see buildings from the early 1500's converted into clothing stores, chocolate shops, restaurants, and OH, we must not forget the shop completely devoted to cheese... *sigh*. This is the street where Abraham Peiterson lived, and he had good view of the church at the end of the road too.

The church architecture is amazing. It was built between the years 1300-1500, and is gigantic. The inside is just as beautiful...

(if you look really closely to the bottom right of the picture, you may be able to see me)... man the church is huge. The floor was made of gravestones; the ceiling was made of wood and was absolutely amazing. However, the inside of the church was freezing, I thought my hands were frostbitten; fortunately they thawed out once we stepped back outside.

Next stop on the list was the famous Haarlem windmill. It was first built in the 1700's, but burned down in 1903. It was finally rebuilt by the 1990's and is currently a museum.

Being right next to the blades was an experience in and of itself. They're quite powerful. The operator of this windmill is even able to turn the top around 360 degrees (to catch the perfect wind-- of course). Why don't more countries make windmills like these? What a cool contraption. "Back in the day," windmills were used to saw wood, crush grain, even draw out the water to make lakes into dry ground (which is why Holland has as much land mass as it does).

To end the day, we took a stop to the small town... no that's to big of a visual... small 'village' of Saandam where the legendary Hans Brinker is from. I even got to see him too... and got a picture as proof. So, here it is folks, a picture of the boy who saved Holland with the power of his tiny thumb.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It feels like home to me

Last week I wasn't able to go to church, since I'm miles and miles outside of Amsterdam. This week, since I'm still in Zeewolde, I found a church nearby, only about 30 mins away... well, if you have a car. Since I don't, I had to use public transportation. Church started at 9:30, and fortunately had sacrament meeting last, because the first bus came at 9:13am. The bus took me to the town of Harderwijk where there was a train that could take me to Amersfoort, where church was. I had absoultely no clue which train station to get off at (since there were a number of stations with Amersfoort in the name), so I spent the majority of my traveling to church asking people how to get around. Thank goodness most people speak English!

Once I got to Amersfoort I thought I could walk to church, since I got there a little after 10, and the bus that would take me there wasn't scheduled to arrive until a little after 11. So, I started walking. OH... and let me not forget to explain that today has been extremely cold and rainy... not enjoyable walking - or getting lost in a city you don't know - weather. After walking for a while (in heels) and not finding first street I was supposed to turn down, I gave up. I thought... "Forget it! I'm taking the bus to church... at least I'll make it to sacrament meeting". Only problem was, I didn't know WHICH bus to take. Fortunately one of the ticket handlers from the train station was from Amersfoort and was able to steer me in 'some' direction. Every time a bus pulled up, I'd walk on, point to the word that the ticket handler wrote on paper, and asked... um, are you going here? Again... extremely grateful people speak English!

Well, I finally made it to church, and ahhhh... it was like I was home again. A great feeling. People were so warm and welcoming. I had about 4 or 5 different people offer to translate the meeting for me too. The one person who did was a lady named Ada, her husband Howard moved to Holland from England in the 50's.

They were such a sweet couple, and invited me over for lunch after church. They fed me until I thought I was going to explode... and stayed for a number of hours just talking. She spoke English as well as he did, even though she's dutch, since they've lived in England and Florida. They gave me their number and address and stated that if I ever need a place to stay to let them know. People here in Holland are so kind... and I'm especially grateful to have family wherever I go, through the church.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cause of depression

I can handle having to wait 11 months to finally make it here, being a vagabond in a foreign country, having a difficult time trying to open a bank account, and the list goes on. But, what makes me depressed... I mean, really and truly depressed, is what I just discovered.
I went on abc AND to watch a tv show, only to find out that they do not show any episodes outside of the US. No more The Office, no more Grey's or Ugly Betty... or even Pushing Daisies! My mouth dropped. What am I to do? How am I supposed to keep up with my shows? I'm sure they don't have all 4 shows here and I'm thinking that all the episodes are a year behind in Europe too. What a cruel, cruel world.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Blustery Day

Yesterday I came to understand why Holland is filled with windmills. There were wind gusts of 50-70 mph due to a storm off the Atlantic. It's a good thing I weigh as much as I do... otherwise I might have been blown away.

There's a windmill farm between Amsterdam and Zeewolde... it's beautiful.

They're extremely large structures, and you can apparently enter them and climb stairs all the way to the top, where a mechanism is located, to control the way the blades move. There is also a door that opens up on the top and you can see for miles around. Olof stated that he may be able to coordinate a chance for me to enter one... that would be picture worthy!

He also found the other day that they're trying to get approval to build a windmill that is over 500 feet high (over 3 times the size of these windmills). Why? That I have no clue, since Holland obviously has a lot of wind no matter how low to the ground you are. No one knows if it will be approved though, since a moving structure that high will mess with the military defense radar.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cultural misunderstanding or pure stupidity?

In attempts to lessen the amount of questions I have about my apartment situation, I decided to put an update of what's going on.

Well... after the whole apartment situation occurred on Thursday, I went to work and wrote the lady who rented me the apartment an email. I had NEVER expected a response back. Low and behold, though, on Friday night I received an email from her... . Granted it was vague, but an email none-the-less. She said she just found out that Mar went out of town earlier in the week unexpectedly, and she'd give me more info later. She also apologized for the situation. Shocked and confused, I sent her another email asking for further clarification.

Sunday she sent me another email explaining that Mar found out early last week that his mom was sick and may have to undergo surgery. So he left to go visit her, and in his haste forgot that a) I was arriving, b) to inform her (the lady I rented the apartment from) of the situation, and c) to leave a key somewhere for me to pick up. -- that sounds valid enough --

So, I sent another email requesting his email and/or phone number. Apparently, however, he doesn't have a phone since he doesn't hear very well after an accident. And I never received an email address. I also asked her for her phone number... but have yet to receive that either. She did ask for my number though, so Mar can contact me once he comes back to Amsterdam... ... ... I'm still waiting for that call.

Yet again, I sent another email, asking for his email address or her phone number to get this all resolved. In her response she didn't answer my questions at all, but said "rest assured, the apartment is yours, and Mar should be returning to Amsterdam shortly" then went on to ask me to send more money for the following months rent since they're trying to open a charity home in Nigeria. Of course I said I'm sorry, but I can't. Does she actually think I'd send her more money when I don't even know if it's 100% valid??

So, I ask you... is this a cultural misunderstanding, or pure stupidity on my part?

That is yet to be determined!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Viva la…. Zeewolde

On Friday I went half way across the country (which took less than an hour) to the city of Rijswijk. And I got to see my FIRST, second, third, fourth, fifth... and so on, windmill. Most buildings, especially in the center of Amsterdam, date back to the late 1700-early 1800’s, including the windmills. They’re quite neat… unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures since it was cloudy and rainy out and the picture wouldn’t have turned out well.

My manager pointed out a building, along the way to Rijswijk, where they have… get this… indoor skiing. Holland is such a flat country they need to have manmade indoor mountains to ski down. I love it!

On Saturday, Olof had a few friends come over, one was a vegetarian, so I made some meatless meals, and their friends did too. We had so much food I thought I was going to explode. We didn’t make half the things we were planning on either. Although I’m without a place to call my own, I’m definitely not left wanting.

So…salsa dancing is becoming THE craze in Holland. And the tiny town of Zeewolde (where I’m staying for the time being) is feeling the heat. After dinner we went to an old theatre converted into a club and listened to some salsa music and danced… a bit. I don’t have very good rhythm, and I make a fool of myself when I’m on the dance floor, so I save people the pain of watching me and instead I stay sedentary. But it was fun watching everyone dance.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rainy Welcome

As the plane landed in Amsterdam, reality began to set in. I am actually in Europe... not only am I in Europe, I live here too. Well... sort of. That is if living in Europe doesn't require having a permanent address. As of now, I am a vagabond, roaming the rainy streets in search for a warm place to stay.

Ok, that was overly dramatic... but I am without residence. After my manager picked me up from the airport we drove to "my apartment" in the center of Amsterdam. Side note: even in the drizzling rain Amsterdam is an extremely beautiful city.

Once we arrived, we found no person by the name of Mar Van Davart, who was "supposed" to have my key. Yes, I used his name for the whole world to see, because from as much as I can tell it is a non-existent person.

A guy I work with offered to let me stay with him, which was extremely generous of him and I couldn't have asked for nicer people to work with. He lives over an hour outside of Amsterdam to the east, on land that was man made which used to be a lake.

In return for his generosity, I made him dinner while he set up my room. It was a bare room, but he divided his bed in half- (no chain saws were involved) - and now I have a comfortable place to temporarily call my own.

So, in the now 12 hours I've been in the Netherlands, I went on an extremely short trip into Amsterdam, and took an hour long trip to a town I'm not even going to attempt to spell, non-the-less try to pronounce. The rest of the time I spent at work, looking on a million and one websites for an apartment.

HOWEVER... as unexpected as my first day has become, I've had a blast... what an adventure! :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

from "Hurry Up and Wait" to "GO, GO, GO"

Those of you who know my story, know that my move across the pond hasn't been smooth sailing. Even now as 11 months has turn into a day and a half, the waves are still crashing. Will I get everything done in time, and more than that,... will I have a place to live once I arrive? I found my apartment on Craig's List, and if I haven't been scammed, the photo is where I'll be living... otherwise... I could be lucky enough to find an empty houseboat, right?

I guess it would have been less of an adventure in the long run if I had arrived 3 months after I decided to go like I was told, or if I knew 100% that the apartment I've rented in Amsterdam is legit. But then again... what would have been the fun in that?

I guess the major question will be, has the last 11 months become a prototype of what is to come? If so... there will never be a dull moment, of that, I have no doubt!