Belgium trip, Julie's life, 9-11
Trip Start Apr 06, 2003
69Trip End Ongoing
It's not as if we've been slacking on our T-Pods, it's just that we've been SOOOO busy. Since our last entry on Montreux, we've had my parents in town for 2 weeks, which included a daytrip to Utrecht, a weekend trip to Maastricht, and a 4-day weekend in London. While my parents were in A'dam, we also had Julie's college roomie, Christy, visit for a handful of days before the girls went to Christy's friend's wedding in Sint Arsenio, a small village about 2 hours south of Naples, Italy. In addition, we also had very dear family friends, Andrea and Moshe, who finished a 3-week cruise of the Baltics and decided to have the end of their vacation coincide with my parents' time in town. While we made it through this busy visitors' season with no real injuries, we are still waiting for some T-Pod entries and pics from our visitors (hint, hint) so we can fill everyone in on some of the happenings of the last month
Once all the guests left, we decided to go to Belgium with Chris and Melanie for the weekend. Chris and Melanie are very big beer connoisseurs and were planning a weeklong drive through Belgium to visit some very small breweries. They invited us to tag along for the first few days. We went to Brussels for a huge Belgian beer festival, which was a cross between a wine-tasting and Oktoberfest. From there we went to Bruges for a nice couple of days in this medieval town. This T-Pod will go into some detail of this wonderful weekend.
So this is our first weekend in A'dam with nothing to do since August 2 when we hosted our party - remember Julie's parents were here the weekend before that and we were in Friesland and Copenhagen the weeks prior. So basically, we are pretty thrilled to be here with no real plans. We even talked about going to see a movie, just because we can. We certainly aren't lacking for activities though - we have had a few dinners with some friends and are in the middle of trying to plan our next phase of trips.
Our friend Sasha is coming to town for work (she works at the bank with me) and is staying on for a few days, but other than that, we are here with no real plans until we leave for the south of Spain on October 15
In addition to this, we are making arrangements for a 4-day trip over T-giving to Germany. Julie's family always hosts a wonderful T-giving, which I really love. We tried really hard to make the trip (which by the way, would have included my witnessing of a win at Camp Randall Stadium to the lowly Iowa Hawkeyes) but in the end, we decided it just wasn't going to happen this year. I think that because of not being with her family and the fact that in Europe, nobody gives a shit about T-giving, it could be a really tough day for us both. So we decided we need a distraction so we are going to rent a car and drive a few hours to Germany where we plan on doing something called "fairy tale road". I don't want to get into too many of the details now since we'll write more about it later but basically, it is the area where the Brothers Grim lived and found the inspiration for such stories as "Hansel and Gretel", "The Pied Piper", "Little Red Riding Hood", Sleeping Beauty", and more. We'll get into this later though.
Anyways, this T-Pod intro is becoming a T-Pod in its own right so I'll just stop there and move on. You can see we've been really busy but we know lots of you are also busy getting engaged, partying at bachelor/ette parties, having weddings, buying houses, remodelling homes, creating babies, giving birth to babies, taking vacations, building companies, progressing in careers, contemplating moves (both job and geographic), narrowing down college choices, and many other exciting things so please continue to keep us posted on your adventures as well.
Anyways, here is some info on our trip to Belgium with Chris and Melanie, some of the things Julie has been up to as she settles into her life as a non-working spouse, some things going on with my job, my thoughts on September 11th from abroad, and a few other odds and ends. We hope you enjoy...
BELGIUM WITH CHRIS AND MELANIE
Chris and Melanie picked us up at our apartment on Friday morning around 9:15. Chris was on driving duty while Melanie navigated. It had been a while since Chris, Melanie, and the Kantors had seen each other so we had a lot to talk about on the ride to Belgium. It seemed like no time before the 2 hours had passed and we were lost in Brussels. None of us had thought to get exact directions to the Marriott and Chris had forgotten to upload his GPS (even though he told us he had) so we weaved in and out of some very nice streets for about 15 minutes until we all decided we'd be better off parking, grabbing some lunch, and asking for some help.
The first thing I noticed about Brussels was that it seemed as if everyone spoke French. I was looking forward to showing off the 2 or 3 Dutch phrases that I'd learned. But no. It appears as if French is a lot more widespread in Europe than I had initially thought. It is also weird because as soon as someone begins speaking French, I usually begin to have bad feelings about them
Anyways, back to Brussels. We ate at a very nice sandwich shop. After refuelling, we asked the restaurant staff for directions to town. At this point we all came to the same conclusion about Europeans (or at least northern Europeans) - when you ask someone for an answer, they give you their opinion instead. The question was "how do we get to the hotel". The answer was "you shouldn't drive to the hotel because it's so congested down there and you'll never find parking". Thank you for your insight. We finally got directions and made our way in and out of small cobblestone alleys within the old city center until we finally made our way to the hotel. Incidentally, it was not too difficult and we found parking very easily.
We checked into the Marriott (E125 per night with a very nice breakfast) and dropped off our bags. From there we headed into town, which was basically 2 blocks away. Brussels seemed like a huge city, much different than A'dam. I'm not sure if Brussels was destroyed during WWII but it seemed like it was because the city just didn't seem to have the quaintness that A'dam exhibits.
Anyways, we entered the Grand Place, a huge marketplace in town surrounded by magnificent guildhalls topped by ornamental gold crowns (see Picture 24). We admired the beautiful square however, our view was impaired by the many white tents that occupied the area for the upcoming beer festival (see Pictures 16 - 17)
From here we walked to THE tourist attraction of Brussels, the world-famous Manekin Pis. If you have ever seen it, you understand the sarcasm. If not, it is all you hear about when Brussels is mentioned. When you muster up the energy to see this treasure, you are usually surprised. It is a black statue of a boy with a never-ending bladder. This is not the surprise, the shock is the size (get your mind out of the gutter, I mean the height of the boy). He is no bigger than 2 feet tall and stands on a perch for all to see his amazing feat (see Pictures 2-4). The mass of tourists who stand by and wait patiently for their turn to pose with the boy is just as amazing (see Picture 6). I decided to pose with him in a rather unconventional way which I am proud to say brought a smattering of laughter from the other tourists (see Picture 5).
We tried to get the story behind the significance of the boy and his famous pose and heard a few stories. Everyone seems to be united in the fact that he is the son of a former king. One story has the kingdom under attach and on its last leg. As a final resort, the boy climbed a tree and waited for the advancing foe at which time he began to urinate on the troops. Despite being out manned and moments from imminent death, the boy continued
The other story is just as outrageous. Again, he is the son of the king however this time he saves the kingdom with his famous talent as he put out a fire which was overwhelming the land. Again, his weewee would be worshipped thereafter. Regardless, nobody is real certain why he is there or why he is peeing but we all love him.
From here we wandered back towards the Grand Place, sampling Belgian chocolates from many small shops along the way. They were so good and cheap (about E0.50 each piece). My favorite of the day was the milk chocolate truffle. There was an escargot vendor pulling the snail from the shell and serving them right out of his cart, almost like one of those New York hot dog vendors (see Picture 1). None of us were daring enough to sample them, plus the beer festival was beginning to stir so we moved on.
There was a whole itinerary for the festival that proceeded the actual tasting
One activity began with a procession (see Pictures 7 - 11). It was lead from the Grand Place to some church about 3 blocks away by a band of drums and horns being played by some men who looked to be very big fans of the celebrated beverage. There were 2 teenage boys who carried a large wooden pole that transported a wooden keg (see Picture 8). Next were a handful of men wearing red robes (see Picture 9). It kinda looked like some strange fraternity ceremony. Next came the various dignitaries complete with sashes and medals. We decided to follow them to see what would happen.
The procession ended at the church and Chris and I decided we were going to try to sneak in. Being as smooth as we both are, we got separated from the girls. I gave one last glance over to Julie from the doorway before being sucked in by the momentum and our curiosity. We had made it in to the secret lair. We stood in the back of the church as to not draw attention to us so that we could watch the sacrificing of some virgin.
It actually ended up being a very nice, but ordinary, church service
Unfortunately we didn't stay long, probably about 15 minutes, because I wasn't sure what kind of trouble I was going to be in from Julie when we were done with the service. So I convinced Chris that for the betterment of our weekend, we needed to leave and find the girls.
I was hoping that they would be right outside waiting for us and we could all go back in and enjoy but, no. This of course made me even more worried. There was a great chance that Julie and Melanie figured that their respective husbands are idiots and saw this as an opportunity to get a break from our nonsense. But there was also a chance that they were getting each other angrier and angrier at us. I didn't want to chance it so I led Chris on a 15-minute hunt for the girls.
We went to the covered upscale shopping center that we passed along the procession to the church, fearing that they would take out their anger on the credit cards
But just then, we saw the girls in the Grand Place and they were smiling. They even waved to us as we approached. As it turned out, they had no interest in the church thing and spent that time walking around, looking at shops, and visiting the chocolate museum. They were not angry and had planned on meeting us back at the church entrance at the end of the service. I guess the fear of the pain actually is worse than the pain itself.
From here we decided we would find a quick meal before the beer festivities really got under way. Melanie was really craving mussels. Apparently the saying is "when in Brussels, eat mussels" but to be honest, I think Melanie was getting this confused with some Jean Claude Van Damme movie slogan. Regardless, we went to a really nice, small café on the Grand Place. We entered a very small, non-distinctive doorway and down about 5 steps
After dinner, we emerged from the restaurant to see people already in the beer garden drinking. The ticket counter was not open yet so we figured these must have been the men in red robes and the rest of the procession people.
We were hoping to get in early so that we could get a table before it got too crowded. This is where Chris really displayed something special. During dinner, he had excused himself for a moment to go to the place where the beer festival organizers were running the weekend. He had bugged them a few times throughout the day already and finally, they told him to come back around 6:00 to get a press kit. I think they gave it to him to get him to leave them alone. It didn't work because now that people were in the beer garden drinking and we weren't, we realized that we needed these stickers that read "Belgian Beer Paradise"
At dinner, Chris had started ranking which beers he wanted to try and which wonderful beers weren't worth the money or time, but now, we were all over EVERYTHING. At dinner, we had come up with a plan to each order a beer and share it until it was done, but now, we had no problem with sipping it for awhile before sending it away for another delicious beer (see Pictures 13 - 15).
As a result, our table began to pile the half-drunken pints. All flavors. All colors. All aromas. Each of them were wonderful (see Picture 20). The setting was magnificent with the gothic buildings surrounding the Grand Place illuminated (see Picture 22) and happy drunk people all around who as the night wore on, began to show the effects of the brew (see Pictures 18 - 19)..
Each beer was served in a glass with its brand and beer type on it. For example, in the US, the glasses would have read Miller Lite, MGD, Goose Island Honkers Ale, etc. So on top of finding beers we enjoyed, we also found beer glasses we enjoyed. I don't know what happened but some of them must have been accidentally placed in my backpack and I didn't realize the mistake until we were back at the hotel. Oh well, an honest mistake
During the evening, we met a handful of really nice people. Of course everyone was nice, we were all full of Belgian beer. Bill and Jim were especially friendly. They ran the beer sections at Whole Foods in a DC store (see Picture 21). They were in town for the event and were really interesting people. They told us all about the Whole Foods organization and I am a big fan. I'm sure my bro will be happy to know that his favorite place, Ms. Gooch's, has been taken over by a wonderful company. We also met a bunch of young college students who were backpacking through Europe and since Julie and I had both done that years earlier, we understood how tight their money situation probably was so we began offering them our "rejected" beers. After the initial hesitation to drinking someone else's beer, their economic minds took over and we all rejoiced in these lovely cups of wheat, barley, hops, and water.
After a while, the beers started to taste similar to me so we called it an evening...only 5 hours of steady drinking. Well, almost; we made our regular trip for falafel. It was so good and exactly what this group of drunk Americans needed.
We met Chris and Melanie at the hotel breakfast at around 9:00. We had omelets, fruit, bread, cheeses, and juices. It wasn't necessarily good but we ate a ton, even loading up the empty table next to us pretty good with our used plates.
Included in Chris' illegitimate press pass was an invitation to a guided walking tour of Brussels. We decided we would include ourselves in this as well. We got to the beer museum in the Grand Place where the tour was meeting and when we got to the doorway, they asked me "are you a journalist". I tried not to lie so I said, "we're here for the walking tour". They let me in and began to ask Julie. Knowing that as soon as she opened her mouth, she would come up with some horrible lie, I turned back and said "all 4 of us are here for the tour". They bought it.
We walked downstairs where we were told to wait for the rest of the tour to arrive. They asked us again about the tour, this time saying "are you television or print" to which we said "print". Well as Melanie pointed out, technically we would be writing about the event for TravelPod.com so I didn't feel too bad about the fib
While we were waiting for the walking tour to begin (see Picture 23), we watched a parade of paper-maché giants pass through the square (see Pictures 25 - 26 and Picture 35). It was pretty cool. Apparently, it was part of a procession for Manekin Pis who was getting a new outfit, his 700-and-somethingth (see Picture 34). Typically when a dignitary visits Brussels, he/she brings with the statue an outfit. He was also going to be pissing beer in honor of the festival.
We waited and waited for the walking tour to begin, hoping that nobody would call us out as phonies. Eventually, we had made it - the tour began. Unfortunately, the tour began. It was so boring. We thought it was going to be a tour of Brussels but in reality, it was a tour about beer. The guide's knowledge was less than Chris and Melanie's and in general, was uninteresting to Julie and I. We contemplated ditching the group but we all felt that since we were on the tour when we shouldn't have been, we had to stay with it.
The other people on the tour didn't seem too interested in it either. There were 2 French-speaking Belgian women who didn't seem too excited. One woman, an Asian middle-aged woman, spent most of the tour complaining. Even in French, I could tell she was a bizo. First, she whined when the tour didn't leave promptly. She later complained about Chris, but we'll talk about that later. The other French-speaking woman didn't speak much but when she did, I noticed all of her teeth were decaying. Besides the French women, there was a Hungarian writer from Paris who told me that he came to the weekend to take 1 picture which he took the day before but decided to stay another night in Brussels because the tour sounded interesting
Well, finally the tour began. The one interesting part of the tour was when the guide took us to see some off-the-beaten track cafes and bars (see Pictures 27 - 33). They were really nice, complete with dark wood tables and stools. The bars usually had very nice, unique decorations and stained-glass windows. Much different from your normal US bar with neon Budweiser signs and jukeboxes blasting "Sweet Caroline".
For the most part, the tour was boring though. The guide seemed like such a nice man, I felt bad that his tour was so boring (see Picture 31). The most excitement came when Chris got distracted by a street cat. He stopped to take a picture of the cat and the group moved on without him. We made 2 turns from when we lost him so I knew he wouldn't find us. I had seen him last (about 10 minutes earlier) so I left the group for a moment to retrieve Chris. This is when the Asian Frenchie got upset with us - chill out lady. I found Chris, the poor guy, wandering up the street. His friends have given him the nickname of "Ritalin Boy" and I think it is very fitting =)
The tour finally came to an end and we grabbed a few last pieces of chocolate before heading out of Brussels (see Pictures 37 - 39). My favorite of the day was the chocolate covered marshmallow that was on top of a peanut butter cookie. YUM!
Just outside of the beer festival tents was a video-simulated demonstration to show people what it is like when they drive drunk. I gave it a shot (see Picture 36). I don't think this was the point but the woman who was running the exhibit complemented me at the end of my demonstration on my ability to drive drunk. I thought it was a pretty interesting display and was actually the only time I have seen anything dealing with drinking and driving since I'd been here, or as we thought. We had all seen signs on the highway that read "Bob" and now we know what it means...Bob is the generic designated driver. I have a "Bob" keychain now to remind me that despite my ability to manage a video car fairly well, when I am out in A'dam, I should not drink and bike.
After my expert drunk driving, we got the car and began our trip to Bruges. Along the way, we decided to stop at Waterloo, site of Napoleon's last battle. None of us are huge history people but since Napoleon was my favorite character in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", I had a real interest in visiting the site.
Our drive out of Brussels was much easier than the ride in - other than the part when Melanie slimed herself and the passenger seat with yoghurt
While I found the site fairly unimpressive, I think it is rather amazing that we were able to visit the site of a historic battle just because it was on the way to where we happened to be going. This continent has so much history, it seems like everywhere you turn, there is something of significance.
From here we continued onto Bruges. Julie and I both caught a quick nap - Chris took a really funny picture of us both passed out in the backseat so I would encourage you to take a look at their T-Pod to see some of their pictures (their T-Pod user name is "chronometers").
Chris remembered to upload the GPS for Bruges so we had no problem finding our hotel this time
After dropping off the luggage, we walked about 5 minutes into town. We walked around, not really doing anything other than taking in the atmosphere of this medieval town. As you might be able to tell by the vague titles to the pics, Bruges doesn't have many attractions to offer. It is a very beautiful town with magnificent buildings and charming canals but basically, all there is to do is wander (see Pictures 44 - 49). This of course was perfect for us
Julie had been battling a headache for the past 2 days. This was not a hung-over headache but a normal headache that she had since Friday morning. We could not find aspirin anywhere. The hotel store in Brussels didn't have it, none of the hotel staff had it, and nowhere in town had it. They don't have over-the-counter medicine readily available at the local Walgreens, grocery store, gas station, etc. like in the US. Julie eventually got some in Bruges from a pharmacist and I think that made her trip a bit more enjoyable.
After walking around for a bit, we decided to get some dinner. We hadn't eaten all day and actually, other than fries, chocolates, and drunken falafel, this was basically our first meal of the weekend. Chris had wanted to go to some restaurant that was recommended on some website called "beerdrinkers.com" or something like that. We were all a bit nervous about eating at some place recommended on a beer website but Chris seemed to really want to eat there. Then we got there, and Julie, Melanie, and I thought it looked and sounded really nice. The problem, now Chris didn't really want to eat there. It offered a 4-course fixed menu that came with a different beer with each course for about EUR 40 per person
The other restaurant, Kaffee de Passage, looked really nice so we decided to stay. It was another really nice environment with a very unique-looking, huge wood-burning heater to create a bit of an interesting décor and keep the place warm in the winter months. We sat next to a nice couple from Santa Cruz. He is a professor on sabbatical, studying sexual harassment in the European workplace. He is travelling a bit too and was at the beginning of his journey. His wife was with him. They seemed to be enjoying their time so far.
I ate fish stew and Julie had beef stew. I forgot what Chris and Melanie ordered but we all enjoyed our meals. Obviously, we also had a local brew. We finished off a really nice meal with Belgian waffles - mine was with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup (see Pictures 50 and 51). YUMMMMM!!!!
After dinner, we walked around town a bit more
I didn't really sleep so good because I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I was pretty annoyed but then I got up and saw the B&B's dog. He was so cute! Breakfast was really good - we had fresh bread, eggs, fruit, the usual.
We packed up our bags, brought them downstairs, and headed back into town. Again, we strolled around. That seemed to be what Bruges was about so we embraced it. We wandered aimlessly, checking out the occasional chocolate shop and lace store. Lace is the main souvenir in town. We watched this old lady dressed in period clothes make lace by hand (see Picture 55). It was pretty amazing. I couldn't believe that she was going to be able to create this intricate design. She seemed to be throwing string all over the place in no particular manner.
Eventually, we decided we would take a canal ride (see Pictures 56 - 63). It was really pretty. The canals are much narrower than those in A'dam. The canal system is also far less intricate. There is basically 1 canal that circles city center whereas A'dam has 4 main canal rings with dozens of smaller canals that intersect them. The tour was given in French, Dutch, and English. Again, we didn't see anything terribly impressive but it was a really nice and relaxing ride on a gorgeous day. To help liven up the ride, some of the people on our canal boat continued to splash their friends in another canal boat. It was very immature - something I would do if I knew people in another boat.
After the boat ride, we walked around a little bit more. We looked at a local market where I found a really cool toy (see Picture 64), but Julie wouldn't buy it for me =(
From here, Chris and Melanie decided that they would get started with the rest of their trip. They had planned on going to a town about 2 hours away for a tour of a brewery run by a doctor. I would have liked to join but we were interested in seeing Bruges and weren't all too excited about driving 2 hours. So Julie and I continued walking town before stopping at a nice sandwich spot.
After a quick bite, Julie and I separated for about an hour. I really like Salvador Dali and there was an exhibit in town. Julie was more interested in window-shopping (since most of the shops are closed on Sunday). The Dali exhibit was really interesting. It was a series of illustrations of famous stories
After the Dali exhibit, Julie and I rendezvoused. We stopped back at the B&B to get our luggage and walked to the train station (see Picture 67). We bought our 1-way train tickets (EUR 74 total) back to A'dam. This was a 4-hour ride which required a change in Antwerp. For the most part, it was a pretty uneventful ride (see Picture 68). We got back in town just in time to drop off our bags at home and get to the local sports café in time for kick-off for the Packer-Vikings game. Other than the outcome of the game, it was another great weekend.
I am writing to fill people in on the life of a Dutch housewife. In between keeping an immaculately clean house and cooking gourmet meals for my husband I find a little time to have a social life
On September 1st, I decided it was time to join a gym. I had been running outside, but not regularly b/c of the weather and I realized I needed to do more then just the occasional run in the park. Fitness First is a English gym chain that is all over Europe. An Aussie girl, Ange, said when she moved a year and half ago to Amsterdam from Sydney, she checked out all the gyms and Fitness First was the best deal. So, I rode my bike to the gym, about a ten minute ride. I met with a "trainer" who gave me the tour of the gym and I liked it, so I told him I wanted to join. He handed me the forms to fill out and SURPRISE! They were in Dutch. I could figure out name and address. I had to ask a million questions and they probably thought, this is one dumb American. I finally got the forms filled out right, paid, had my picture taken and became a member of the gym.
The next day I came back to work out. They have the same elliptical trainer I used at Bally's in Chicago. I got on and was all set to choose the cross-train aerobics mode when I realized SURPRISE! It is all in Dutch
On Wednesday, I had my first of three introductions to the gym. In the first session a "trainer" goes over how to use the machines. A Dutch guy, Bos, was also there with me to get the first introduction. OK, gyms are not a very Dutch thing to belong to. When you tell a Dutch person that you work out in gym, they ask why? And say just ride your bike and get outside. So, this Dutch guy, Bos has probably never been in a gym before, so this would explain his dress. A turquoise golf shirt, fitted of course, tight shorts and soccer, excuse me indoor football shoes. The introduction was quite uneventful, but afterwards I was given headphones to use that I can pug in while on the machines and listen to 8 TV stations and 8 radio stations.
I love being able to watch MTV Netherlands, The Box and TMF while I work out. All techno all the time. For those of your interested in the crap that is played on the radio stations here the Netherlands, you can look at:
After going to the gym a few times, I have noticed that golf shirts, preferably Lacoste, are the preferred top worn by men while they work out
In July, I got a phone call from a woman who said she got my number from my grandmother in Seattle. I called Lisa back and it turns out her mother is friends with my grandmother. Lisa has been in the Netherlands for 15 years and is married to a Dutch man. She has an 8 and 10 year old boys that she was looking for a baby-sitter for. I was interested in what she meant by babysitter and went over to their house to meet them. They live in the Old South, a neighborhood in Amsterdam. It took me about 15 minutes to bike over to their house. I met Joey, the 10 year old and Lucca the 8 year old. The parents told me that they need someone 2 days a week to pick up the boys from school and ride home with them. It sounded good to me. Two days a week for like 2 hours after school was not much of a commitment. So I agreed to do it.
My job entails riding my bike to their school, again about 15 minutes from our house. I hang out while they play with friends on the playground for about 20 minutes. Then they get on their own bikes and we all ride back to their house. Then we just hang out for like 2 hours and then I go home. So far I enjoy it, the kids are very bright and since I am new they are on good behavior with me. I know this will change soon enough, when they decide to challenge me. So far we just hang out and do whatever the boys want to. As we get used to each other I will do activities with the boys, like cooking, going to the museums and that kind of stuff.
The boys like to play board games and when Joey gets stuck, frustrated, loses he says "shit". When I heard him say this, I didn't know what to do. In the states I would have given him examples of more appropriate words to use when he gets upset. I just let it pass. I asked a Dutch person we know about this and he told me that to the Dutch shit is just another word it has no inappropriate connotation.
Joey also likes to read the sports page of the newspaper after school. Remember, the sports page in the Netherlands covers soccer, tennis, bike racing, track and field, field hockey and Formula One, nothing I know anything about. Joey likes to point out words in the paper and asks me to try and pronounce the word. I say the word how I think it would be said and Joey replies, "That is how an American would say it."
Two voices is the name of the preschool where I am volunteering on Monday mornings. It is Montessori styled preschool. It is an English/Dutch dual language program. I interviewed there in the summer. They have a pregnancy leave in January and I am at the preschool to see if I would like the job and they can see of I would be a fit for the job.
September 15 was my first day volunteering. The woman, Victoria, who is leaving is the lead teacher in the 3 and 4-year-old room. So, I will be spending my time in there. I really enjoyed my day. I especially love the little ones with British accents; it is so cute to hear them say "I want my mum" all day, where as "I want my mom" all day annoyed me while working at ChildrenFirst in Chicago
AMERICAN WOMENS CLUB OF AMSTERDAM
One of the first things people have said to me and Stephen upon moving here is that I should really contact the AWCA. The AWCA is club in many major cities all over the world for women living abroad. Their basis is a charity organization that also has social activities. People also said that the club is mainly older women with families who have followed their spouses all over the world and Amsterdam is just another stop for most of the women. Needless to say I was very skeptical of attending any events. I was convinced I would by far be the youngest person. I also talked to a woman when I first moved here who was the New Members chair. When I told her I wanted to volunteer at the International school, she said how hard that is to do and when I told her we didn't have children she told me about how great a time this would be for me to start a family. I was a little insulted, this woman doesn't even know me and she is telling me to have a baby. Anyway, I was a little turned off, but I am getting pretty bored and lonely so I decided to attend a meeting.
On September 4th, I attended the first general meeting of the AWCA of their calendar year. Right away I was introduced to some other new comers and we talked about where we lived etc. During the meeting all the newcomers introduced themselves, saying where they were from etc. After the meeting that went over going ons in the club, like excursions, family outings, annual events and listening to guest a speaker, I went to look at some information about upcoming excursions provided by AWCA when a few young women came up to me and introduced themselves. Two girls who have been in Amsterdam for a few years invited a few of us new people out to lunch. I had a really nice time and was surprised that they were young, childless women at the meeting.
Last Thursday I attended a morning coffee at the New Comers chair's house (not the same lady I talked to before, but the woman who took over the position this year). I met a few more young women and saw some of the women from the meeting the week before. Again, a handful of us went out for lunch. It was really nice to talk to people in the same position as me. We decided to do lunch again this Thursday.
In Chicago I became involved in Hadassah to meet some young women. I joined a book club I went to once every 6 weeks. I contacted Hadassah International with hopes of joining a book club here in Amsterdam. Well, no one ever contacted me, until my mother-in-law, Roz (who is a Hadassah VIP) intervened and she got the president of Young Hadassah in Amsterdam to call me. The president of Young Hadassah Amsterdam is Amos, a French Jewish male
I met Amos at a café near our apartment. He is about our age. He filled me in Hadassah's history in the Netherlands. I am going to try and relay what he told me, my information could be wrong and a lot is his opinion. About 15 years ago Hadassah tried to start a chapter in Amsterdam, but tried to run it like Hadassah USA and it just didn't catch on here in Amsterdam. So, about 7 years ago Young Hadassah was formed in Amsterdam and this time they are trying to run it Dutch style and not American style. Which means nothing has gotten accomplished in 7 years, but that is my commentary, not Amos'.
So, Jewish organizations (maybe all organizations) here don't have members. I didn't get why, but they have "friends". So no one in the Netherlands is a member of Hadassah. They are also just at the stage where they are trying to get their name recognized. See, there aren't enough Jews in the country to support any type of philanthropy, there are only 30,000 Jews in The Netherlands, whereas there are 250,000 in Chicago alone. Amos, is interested in having me help them with P.R. and getting there name out there. So, there is no book club, mah-jongg club, movie club etc. They do host cabarets, comedians, and musicians to raise money. But, most of the audience is not Jewish for these events.
Amos also filled me in on the Dutch psyche. Dutch will give money to charity if the charity can create an image of suffering. Telling people Hadassah raises money for a hospital in Jerusalem doesn't tug at the heartstrings of the Dutch, but telling them Hadassah Amsterdam raises money for children's oncology does
I asked Amos about being French and Jewish. He joked and said he is in Amsterdam now. He is from 50 KM north of Paris and he said in 1991 during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait things got really anti-Semitic in his town and that 80% of his town supported LePen.
Getting involved with Young Hadassah here seems to be a really interesting opportunity. One, I will meet Dutch Jews. Two, It will neat to be part of an organization that is just developing here. Three, Maybe I will get to go to Hadassah convention and represent The Netherlands.
This was a tough day
But on 9-11, we didn't have TV. We hadn't missed TV, especially since we don't understand most of what's on TV anyways, but I really wanted to see what was happening on 9-11. That made the day harder for me. In addition, it seemed as if nobody even noticed it was 9-11. I think it makes it easier to go through a tough moment when you have someone with you to go through it with
Anyways, it seemed like nobody did anything to recognize it. It was just another day. On CNN.com, there were stories about world-wide memorials but after doing a quick search of the usual US-friendly Dutch websites, there was never a mention of the day. Even the US Embassy didn't mention it or any sort of memorial. I was really sad about that because being as far from home as I felt that day, I wanted to feel like I was at home, if only for the day.
Obviously, I made it through the day fine. There are tough days here. There aren't many of them anymore but this was one of them for me.
Well, this T-Pod has been waiting to be sent for a while now. Most of the reason for the slacking is because during my down time at home, I have been trying to get caught up with Badger football. I have been watching the "Barry Alvarez Show" on UWBadgers.com, reading the message boards, and have even been watching video tapes of 3 week old games...undefeated baby! I know, I'm a loser. Some guy I met on a Badger message board has been sending me the games on tape...not quite as exciting as the videos Joey gets from people he meets in chatrooms but what do you want from me. This weekend I listened to most of the Badger game on the internet. Not having f-ball season has been tough but at least I have the internet. I can only imagine what it was like for expats before the internet
Last update, Sasha is now here. She arrived this morning. That's it for now, speak to you all later.
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