Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dutch expressions

During our weekly Sunday family Skype call this week, my dad started complaining about the many issues he's having with his network cable at home.  I stated, "it must be a Monday morning cable."  It just came out.  Like it was hardwired in me after living in Holland for two years.  I've begun saying things that make no sense to people of my own nationality... even my family.  So logically his response to my statement was: "what?"

In efforts to narrow the gap that I've now created between myself and other non-Dutch speakers, or those who aren't familiar with the Dutch culture, I've decided to write a list of Dutch expressions and their meanings.  That way, when I spew out another Dutch phrase like word vomit, the person at the other end of the conversation won't respond with: "huh?"

"a Monday morning [bike]" - a bike, or item, that breaks down constantly.  Because it was obviously made on Monday morning when the person who built it was either hung over, not yet awake, or really didn't want to be at work after the weekend.

"You never know how a cow catches the hare" - it's hard to know how to attain something seemingly impossible, but there's always a solution.

"Knocking down the front door to get in" - going straight to the point, without saying the initial hello.

" (S)He won't walk into 7 ditches at one time" - don't worry, (s)he won't get into too much trouble, (s)he'll be OK.

"Butter with the fish" - pay in one lump sum, immediate action.

"One man's death is another man's bread."  - someone always benefits when something goes wrong.

"Tying a cat to bacon" - leading someone into temptation.

"Hearing the thunder in Cologne" - being stupefied, flabbergasted.

Last year there was a commercial on TV stating a number of Dutch phrases in English. It had the Dutch rolling with laughter, although it made no sense to anyone who doesn't speak Dutch, me included.  Thanks to the help of my colleagues, I finally understand the meaning behind them all.

"The windmills have not laid us wind eggs" - it's paid for itself.  (In Dutch, wind eggs are empty eggs).

"Just beat my advice in the wind" - ignore the advice I gave you.

"Getting the wind from the front" - having a difficult time, like you're biking against the wind - or in the context of the commercial, the boy is having a hard time with his mom yelling at him.

"Smell an hour in the wind" - someone/something smelling so badly you can smell it even if you walked an hour away in the direction the wind is blowing.

"From the wind, we can not live" - just like the English saying, "man can not live by bread alone."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The waiting room

One requirement to enter parts of Africa, parts that I will be frequenting shortly, is that you need to have proof of certain vaccinations.  Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, DTP... all of which are valid for 10 years.  I received all three, 8 years ago, before moving to Brazil.  The only problem is, I don't have my vaccination passport.  It's in a box, a box which is located (most likely) in a storage closet, in my dad's new house.  Meaning: there was no way it would be found.

Instead, I opted for getting the shots over again.  I just didn't realize what sort of adventure it would entail.

Initially I contacted my house doctor (and was dreading doing so the entire time).  Once I finally got through to the receptionist, she informed me that I need to go to the health clinic for the shots and I don't need a referral from the doctor.  Phew, at least that was one thing I was able to avoid.

A few days later, I walked into the city health clinic around 7:45am, during the 30 minute time frame they've designated for registration.  Having already filled out the registration form I found online, I took a number and began to wait.  And wait.  And wait. 50 minutes later my number was finally called.  I was directed to an office where a lady transferred all the information I filled out on paper into the computer.  She handed me another number and told me to go back to the waiting room for that number to be called.  So, I went back and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

30 minutes later my number was called and I was directed to another office.  A healthcare official looked at the paperwork I had filled out.  We discussed where I was going.  She informed me of which vaccinations were necessary and which were recommended.  She marked the vaccinations I would be getting on my paperwork, along with the price I would pay for each.  I was given a booklet on ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip, which lead to a discussion of malaria tablets.  She pulled out another booklet describing the different pills available.  The first one she pointed out gave normally expected side effects, such as nausea, headaches, etc.  However, she stated, they are 3 Euros a pill, and I would need 21.  She then spoke of the other, cheaper, option.  She informed that it causes side effects such as the basic nausea, headaches, etc., along with nightmares, insomnia, depression and hallucinations. And as much fun as that sounded, I opted for the more expensive route.  Once that was cleared up, I was given the tally of what everything would cost and was requested to go back to the waiting room for my number to be called.

So, I went back and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  20 minutes later my number was called and I was directed to the cashier.  I presented her with my paperwork, swiped my debit card, received my receipt, and was asked to sit down and wait for my number to be called.  So, I sat.  And waited.  And waited.  15 minutes later my number was called, I entered yet another room.  This time I was directed to sit in a chair by a health professional who was surrounded by needles and vaccinations.  One minute and three shots later, I left the room.

As I walked out of the health clinic, I glanced down at my watch.  It was 10:15... 2 and a half hours after I arrived.  2 and a half hours for something that took one minute to do.  This, I thought, is the healthcare system I subject myself to in my chosen country of residence.  Socialized medicine with a twist... a 135€ Euro twist.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oranje Homecoming

Reason number ... shoot, there are too many to count... why I love the Dutch is their resilience.  They may have walked away from Sunday's game depressed and down trodden, but you wouldn't have known it if you saw them Tuesday.

Usually, I work until 6pm on Tuesdays, but a last minute request from my colleague to switch schedules had me leaving at 3:30pm - which I was more than happy to comply with.  But I was greeted by more than just the simple pleasure of leaving early.  I was able to join the celebration to cheer on the nations football team who had just returned from ranking 2nd in the world.
As soon as the team arrived in Holland, they were welcomed by the Queen in Den Haag.  They were then transported by helicopter to an "undisclosed location in Amsterdam" to see their families for the first time since the World Cup games began.
But what had multiple planes flying welcome and thank you banners along with the Dutch dressed in orange and lining the canals, was a boat parade carrying the team to Museumplein, which was just as full this time as it was during the final game.  And it was thanks to my colleague and the last minute swap that I was able to see the parade myself.

(And by see, I mean:  I was able to watch the parade only after recording it- since my camera became my eyes, held high over the heads of a crowd of people).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Deafening Silence

During football championships everyone and their dog (literally) are donned in orange.  It's like Queen's Day...  an extended version, that lasts as long as the Dutch team is playing.  It's actually one of the many reasons why I love the Dutch.  They're proud of their country.  And that pride includes the people (namely the national football team) who represent it. 

Holland hadn't made it so far in the World Cup since the 1970's.  So the past few weeks have been nothing short of exciting. There's no way you couldn't get into the football spirit with the energy that was pulsing around the city streets.  The orange clothing, the orange streamers, the orange hats, hair, sunglasses, vuvuzelas...

And after the team won each game in the championship, people would party all night long.  As in, ALL night.  As in, you're still awake at 2:30am because of all the cheering and vuvuzela blowing outside. Thankfully, you're consoled in knowing that everyone partying will most likely be working in a few hours just like you. 

Once Holland made it to the finals, the excitement grew ten fold.  The day before the game (not to mention the day of), even tourists were walking around in orange. 

When Sunday finally arrived, the streets were flooded with people, hours before the game began.  Not only were over 100,000 people filling up the grassy area of Museumplein, there were thousands of others filling up pubs and cafe's around the city to watch the game.  The noise of excitement echoed to the ends of the country... at least.

But the moment Spain won, there wasn't a sound that filled the air. Depression set in quick.  As the hundreds of thousand people shuffled back home, you could hear a pin drop.

It was too quiet.  Eerily quiet.  Like a ghost town, except... with people instead of tumbleweed.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It's probably not surprising to note that family reunions don't come often in my family. Not when my mom lives in Germany, I live in Holland, and the rest of my immediate family is spread out across the (now) continental United States.  But that's just my immediate family.  We're not the exception in my extended family.  They're just as spread out (within the US).  So it takes something big to get everyone together in one place, at the same time.
This time around, that 'something big' was my cousin's wedding.  Which, by the way, was stunning.
The only problem about returning to the States is that I can count on one hand the number of pictures I took while there.  Thankfully my cousin had an amazing photographer. Now the memories of my weekend trip to Kansas City (and my main purpose in heading back to the States), were captured in a far better quality than I could have produced for myself.  That and the fact that I can steal glances at her pictures any time I'd like to remind myself of the great time I with relatives I see so rarely. 
 It's just a shame her photographer didn't take pictures of all three activity filled days.

last 3 photographs courtesy of Lindsay Pierce

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


If I had expected a relaxing trip back to the states, I would have had a rude awakening.  Most days (at least the ones in North Carolina) I was up and out of the house by 6:45am and didn't return until 10:30pm.  And I loved every second.

  • I loved holding my nephew, and seeing him love me so much that he'd cry (with joy, I'd like to think) each time I came near him.
  • I loved knocking off the items of my wish list, restaurant for restaurant, purchase by purchase. 
  • I loved spending time with my brother and his wife, and watch their apartment transform from a near empty shell with just an air mattress to sleep on, to a fully furnished, entirely decorated dwelling - in 10 days.
  • I loved seeing my dad and receiving packed lunches made especially for me, so that his "little girl won't go hungry at work."
  • I even loved working back in my old office... but as a DUTCH employee, in order to somewhat distance myself from my previous work life.  
  • And I loved, loved spending afternoons and evenings with friends, eating ice cream for dinner or cheesecake at the Cheesecake factory.
I just had to continually remind myself that life wouldn't be like the little vacation I was having if I returned permanently. Because, I really enjoyed my visit back to North Carolina... even while enduring 90+ Fahrenheit degree weather with 100% humidity and torrential rains.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I had a few months waiting period, from the time I bought my tickets to when I actually flew back to the States. And to be quite honest, my excitement level really wasn't very high.  At least, not initially.

But then one evening the weather turned nice, and there was a familiar feel in the air, like... home. A sudden craving stirred within me. I found myself wanting to be surrounded with longtime friends while eating on the terrace of an American restaurant. I tried to shake it off, I tried to fill my mind with the beauty of Amsterdam,  but there was no denying it.  I was looking forward to going home.

You may not find that profound.  You may think I'm strange for not having a naturally innate desire to always long for my home country.  But I'm not that type of girl.  Which is exactly why my desire to suddenly want to return home for a visit astounded me.

That desire increased as my mind reeled with other reasons to return. Like, seeing my nephew for the first time. Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.  A good haircut (one that was much needed after 2 years). Reasonably good Mexican food.  Buying jeans that actually fit me, for less than 60-100 Euros a pair.  Cold Stone ice cream.  Shoe shopping. Panera Bread's cinnamon bagels. Walmart. Papa John's Pizza with garlic butter sauce. Clothes shopping. A juicy all-American cheeseburger. Target.

Which is why it's a shame the Euro drastically dropped right before my two week shopping spree!  Er.. um, I mean, it's not like the conversion rate even matters, since... uh,... my trip home was to visit family and friends... obviously.