Sunday, December 24, 2006

Things I Will Miss Most

And that was just the last night....

Merry Christmas to all of you. Stay tuned for updates about my re-acclimation process and hilarious tales of the stress of graduating and finding an apartment and job and life. It should be a very happy new year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Help Me Out, New York

So I am feeling pretty down on leaving Amsterdam and I'll probably post another Thing I Will Miss really soon, but for now why don't you remind me of all the great things I am coming back to. I have started a list, as you can see, but other than the company of your lovely selves, I'm a little stuck. Let me know!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things I Will Miss: Comestibles

So, I do a lot of complaining about Dutch cuisine. And while there are many things I will be glad to never think about again (raw herring? those pate salads? unrefrigerated sausages?), I have grown quite attatched to certain foods and beverages that just won't be available to me in New York.

1. Stroopwaffles Should any of you find yourself in Amsterdam at some point it is imperitive that you try the fresh, warm stroopwaffels at the Albert Cuyp Market. A treasure. Warm, gooey, a little cinnamon-ey.... and so, so delicious. I am planning to have my last one *sniff* on Thursday.

2. Vla It's so much better than pudding! And I'm really not sure why. It comes in milk-style cartons and you could practically drink it. Maybe it seems healthier, or at least higher in calcium than a Snack Pac. If you get the chance, try the "dubble vla" (double vla) in chocolate/vanilla. Like Hoodsie cups of our youth! Only in near-liquid form!

3. Cheap Wine Do you remember that time we bought wine for $1.99 in New York? Lost Vineyards was the brand? No? You can't remember? Because the vile substance (which might have been cleverly packaged fermented Welch's grape juice) erased your memory of the evening? Well, over here it's a different story. While it's usually more satisfying to go for a 3 or 4 Euro bottle (OMG the Aliwen Sauvignon Blanc is just the most delicious 13% alcohol white wine of all time), you can easily drink the 1.89 grocery store Rioja.

4. Cheese It's just. so. good.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Things I Will Miss: My Shower

This is the first installment of a new, questionably-regular feature called Things I Will Miss. In all liklihood it won't last much longer than the process of writing the paper I am currently not writing. Which is to say, Tuesday. Hopefully. But I just wanted to commemorate in words and images some of the finer things in my life here in Amsterdam. And the first object of praise is my shower.
Having showered regularly in six different places in 2006, I would like to state without reservation that the shower at Meer en Vaart 442 is by far the best I have experienced. Maybe even ever. I, like most people, I imagine, look for lots of water pressure and inexhaustible amounts of hot water when evaluating "shower awesomeness levels." This shower, my friends, has both to spare. If you aren't accustomed to the positioning of the faucets you might even burn yourself or bruise your skin with the pressure (probably hyperbolic). The room billows with steam. The water on my back is like a thousand little cat tongues insistently massaging away my stress. Or whatever.
It is not merely the superior heat and pressure which make this particular showering experience perfect. It is the design of the shower itself. It is just a shower head in the corner of the bathroom, unseparated from the toilet or sink by a curtain or a tub. At first, I admit this was difficult. The toilet seat gets wet and the toilet paper can get a little damp from the condensation sometimes. But then, I began to realize the benefits. As I have mentioned before, the ability to position a coffee cup within reach but outside the spray of the water has exponentially improved my mornings. And afterwards I just brush my teeth. And not with hot shower water (hot water brushing is gross). I use the cold faucet of the sink. Without the chill of leaving the shower.

It's also really great to have the mirror right there over the sink. I have to swipe away the fog with my hands a couple times, but plucking my eyebrows has never been less painful. My skin is so soft and open from the warm water. Additionally the mirror can provide a great deal of amusement when I enjoy a small joint before showering in the evenings. I play a game called Scary Mermaid which basically involves smearing the mascara that is running down my face and making viscious, come-hither looks at myself in the mirror.
After the cleansing, plucking, caffinating, tooth-brushing ordeal I am relaxed and ready to start the day:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tangental Update

So I just put my sister on a plane back to Boston. Which marks the end of the last visit I will recieve in Amsterdam, barring one of you surprising me tomorrow morning (this is recommended). But I crossed some very important things off the meta-To-Do list of the semester including the Heineken Brewery (just great!) and the Expressionist exhibit at the Van Gough Museum (they really over-sold the Kandinsky. There are only two paintings of his). Additionally I spent more time under the influence of substances that aren't legal (or "tolerated") at home than perhaps the whole rest of the semester combined. Which is a good way to end things, I suppose.

Another long term goal I attained this week was finally getting a white leather bag (a quest Leila and Doug might remember from the way I eyed the ones Italian police officers wear). It was a great deal and I really love it and my old purse is on it's last legs. I do feel a little ridiculous buying things for myself with Christmas right around the corner and not a single gift bought. Who am I kidding though? It's clearly going to be stroopwaffles for all.
And so, I am becoming more and more preoccupied with moving back to New York and the pending culture shock of that experience (and the general shock of finishing college in May). I'll just repeat for any of you who are so unlucky as to not be my facebook OR myspace friend that I am looking for an apartment that is cheap, doesn't require a year lease and reasonably easy to get to NYU from. It seems like moving back will be especially depressing because I'll have just missed that magical Christmas In New York feeling that's everywhere in December. Instead it will just be the Depressed But At Least The Bars Are Open Late feeling that takes over in January. I'd like to take this opportunity to warn all of you that I have not maintained my tolerance of alcohol while abroad and if you make me take shots I might vomit. I also go to bed by one most nights.
But for now I am just trying to write my last paper so I can do fun things and have a great time with the people I have met here who I will miss veryvery much. I am trying to look at it as an incredible opportunity to visit friends in exciting places in the future, but I also feel like I am just getting to know a lot of people and it's sad to leave them. Sigh. So complicated.
Ok. If I post again really soon just yell at me and tell me to go write my paper.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I thought you might need a little Christmas...

you know, right this very minute.
So this is sooner than expected, but I finished a paper early and I thought it would be fun to have up first thing in the morning. I couldn't think of anything you guys would like more than me being a complete asshole, so here you go.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Updates, Contests, Holidays, etc.

So I meant to mention under the contest rules that I only had certain materials available for fixing my earrings (scotch tape, duct tape, mounting putty and penut butter). But since I didn't, Devin wins. He'll probably get the stroopwaffles in the mail since I am unlikely to make it to Texas before they would become stale.
Don't be sad that you didn't get the stroopwaffles (but see how commenting pays off?) because I am working on a super-great holiday gift for all of you, but especially Leila, Rachel and any member of Sixie Choir I might be forgetting. It might be done before my sister gets here on Thursday should I drink too much Gluwine (hot wine, not wine made of glue) at the Sinterklaas dinner tomorrow night and not spend the evening writing my colloquium rationale. Nevertheless, it's going to be great.
I leave you now with a photo of myself with a Zwarte Piet in Rotterdam this weekend.

Coming Soon! Rotterdam! Marzipan Analysis! The definitive debate on what makes a bar gay featuring special guest commenter Yvette!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Contest! Fix My Earrings

What binds fake pearls to metal?

The winner gets stroopwaffles. No joke. Unless I don't know you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dutch Culture: Sinterklaas

This is officially my first post about the holiday season and my first post written while I ought to be working on a final. Probably the Sint will leave me coal. "The Sint" is an affectionate nickname given to Sinterklaas, which is an affectionate nickname for Saint Nicolas (Sint Niklaas). Sinterklaas is basically the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus. Except they also have Santa on Christmas, so really it's just more candy and presents. I urge you to read more about this fascinating and complex tradition, but for now I will just do the highlights.
On the second to last Sunday in November Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Spain in the Amsterdam harbor. Yes. A boat from Spain to Amsterdam (Sinterklaas Boot!). He spends Saturday chilling at his church (which I have posted pictures of before. It's big and vaguely Byzantine). You can see him from home because they broadcast his arrival on TV all over the Netherlands and Belgium. On Sunday he parades through town on his white horse (apparently named Americo) and throws (unwraped!) candy to the kids who come to see him. It's important to note that he does this in every town (in the Netherlands AND Belgium). So to recap, parents, television and the government (which I have reason to believe subsidizes this extravaganza) conspire to convince children that:
a) A boat came from Spain.
b) It was carrying a saint on a horse.
And then they leave this elaborate ruse wide open by having one guy in every town at once.
Of course the Sint himself isn't throwing the candy, his reliable helpers the "Zwarte Pietje" do it for him. Those quick with Dutch translation know that these are "Black Petes." This is probably the most.... difficult part to get as an American. I accept that we are racially preoccupied as a country, but Black Petes are just a bunch of Dutch guys running around with black face (and hand) paint with big red lips, wearing "moorish" outfits and gold earrings. Apparently Pete is black from the soot of the chimneys he goes down delivering candy. Which he does EVERYNIGHT FOR THREE WEEKS. Yes, Sinterklaas and Piet go from rooftop to rooftop each night atop Americo delivering candy to children's eagerly waiting shoes. Typical candy seems to be anything with an almond base (there is so much damn marzipan in this city right now!) and chocolates in the shape of the first letter of the child's name. Something makes me think that stubbornly ignorant American children would reject such a candy as a subtle ploy to teach them to read. Perhaps I am disillusioned.
You're really only supposed to get candy if you're good. If you're bad you might get coal or sticks. And if you're really bad you might get put in a sack and taken back to Madrid with the Sint (I am working on my badness as I type). Apparently the sack and Spain treatment isn't particularly in favor anymore, but I can try!
On the eve of Saint Nicolas day (December 6) everyone exchanges presents and the daily candy bombardment stops (until Christmas 20 days later...). Sinterklaas is really the day for gifts, but they are supposed to be small and funny. In fact, my favorite part of the holiday is that you write rhyming poems for all of your friends and family. Poems!
I would certainly love to write some rhyming poems, but since my first final is due on Sinterklaas, I think I better not.
All in all, Sinterklaas is probably not that much stranger/ less probable than Santa, though the mythology and ceremony surrounding him is certainly more precise. Racism aside, it's cool the way everyone buys into it. And capitalists rejoice that Sinterklaas' arrival in the Netherlands is perfectly timed to kick off the holiday gift buying season!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Old and New Amsterdam Compared and Pie

I wash my hair between Monday night and Tuesday morning and at some point on Friday. Every week. Hair dressers and women's magazines are always telling you it's a good idea to wash your hair less frequently and in the (relativey) smogless Amsterdam it's finally possible (in New York I wash my hair every other day. I brush my teeth the same amount in both places). My shampoo smells like babypowder. I don't know if I explained my complex method of choosing items like shampoo when faced with Dutch packaging. I basically choose something cheap and familiar looking. So I have Dove shampoo. The package says "Anti-Roos" and according to my translator roos means rose. Needless to say this discovery was very distressing. I mean, there must my lingo-psychological damage caused by prolonged use.... I later learned that "roos" is the word for dandruff. A little insulting. But just to be certain, I bought a conditioner (also Dove brand) which is labled "Respect and Balance." For some reason that's in English, though the rest is Dutch (I think I have normaal haar, right?). It seems like a good way to counter act shampoo that might be washing away flakes of my Self along with unwanted build-up and dead skin.
In New York I buy shampoo solely based on smell. Also commercials (to be totally honest). And the last time I bought shampoo in New York I succumbed to the trap of buying designer or professional or whatever the term is for an expensive one. I find myself making comparisons like this a lot lately since I have just over a month left here. I don't think I remember New York clearly anymore.
I have a vague notion that I might have already mentioned my perculiar Dutch shampoo situation in this blog, and if so, I appologize for boring you. My parents are in town and we had a long day riding the train to and from Maastricht (yup, the one with that treaty!). We also saw some neat medieval stuff like walls and churches. And we saw the crypt of a saint who died in 384 AD. But the important news is that the South of Holland is known for a particular type of pie called Limburgse Vlaai (which when pronounced correctly it rhymes with pie). And so I was finally able to fulfill the promise implied by the title of this blog.
Honestly, I wasn't blown away. It was served cold (a no-no) and there were raisins in it. Also I think it was a little mass produced. I won't condemn the style as a whole, though. The crust was cakey rather than the flakey pastry we are used to in the States, which I can dig. And the concept has merit (a crust of uniform thickness on all sides with a nicely proportioned amount of filling) but I think I went to the wrong shop. I guess I'll have to try it again.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm Basically Dutch.

Well it finally happened. Five weeks and one day before I leave the country I received my official residence permit card. This card cost me several trips out to the far flung industrial park where the foreign police are located and 430 euros in September.* But it's pretty cool to have an official identity card from another country. It says that my nationality is Amerikaans Burger which sounds vaguely like a menu item at Bartley's to me. I am still fascinated by all of the forgery proofing on this tiny object. The fancy holograms and barcodes and invisible inks on identification cards practically make up for the frightening loss of privacy they represent. Um, I mean, it makes me feel safer from terrorism. No terrorist could possibly get by the gold colored face silhouette on the back (and it ought to be real gold for the price I paid).
On a related side note, did you know that the Montana driver's license has bears on the hologram? And not like complicated roaring bears that appear to swallow the photo when moved in the light. Just tiny, simple bears. It's about as complicated as the key design that was on the fake ID I paid too much for when I was nineteen. But even the fake was more complicated. At least when you turned it you saw "guaranteed authentic."
Contributing to my Dutchness is the fact that I attended a "football match" between the national team and England last night. It was sort of slow (I was trying to root hard for my temporary home team but they just didn't have any hustle at the front). But in the end they tied it up and it was exhilarating good soccer for five minutes. The fans were almost certainly more interesting than the game. Especially those wearing "Lyonhosen," bright orange liederhosen-style short pants with a lion's tail coming out of the bum. The lion is the national symbol of the Netherlands and orange is the national color. As some of you might know I have an abiding fascination with people with lion's tails. I suppose I read The Borrowers too often as a kid. Whatever the reason, it was marvelous.

*exorbitant cost of photo copies not included.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Three Parter

So I have a lot of catching up to do. I am going to break down the last several days into three major categories: Karaoke, the Zuider Zee and Belgium. So, beginning chronologically:

Karaoke Thursday evening was my first time properly doing karaoke in the Netherlands. There was one activity called "bier cantus" (beer singing) during the orientation week, but that was really more of a sing-along with television screens projecting the words. So on Thursday, we went to a place that bills itself as a "the only karaoke bar in Amsterdam" after dinner. It was run by two Cantonese women and dominated mostly by groups of Dutch students. This karaoke bar was not doing anything right. Most egregiously, the DJ was incredibly rude to one of my friends, prompting us to leave before Son of a Preacher Man and the Macarena* had a chance to be brought to their full glory. Additionally they allowed the same (godawful) Dutch pop song to be sung twice in ten minutes and only had the Nikki French disco remix of Total Eclipse of the Heart available. It was popular nonetheless and my second song was met with what I like to think of as silent respect by the onlooking drunk Dutch students. I can say with confidence that 90% of the room had never heard MacArthur Park before (god help them). Marta emailed me this photo with the subject line "Pop-star Rose Costello in Amsterdam Performance! A new talent has born.."

*It should be noted that this selection was made by Federico and Marta who were choosing the only "Spanish language" songs in the catalogue. The lyrics to La Bamba appeared with phonetic spellings for a Dutch reader, which was pretty hilarious.

The Zuider Zee For those who aren't attuned to the intricate Dutch translation process, Zuider Zee means Southern Sea (isn't Dutch adorable?). On Friday I had the opportunity to visit this lovely region which is only about a half hour from Amsterdam. I went with Federico and Walter (who goes to NYU also, though we only met here. It would be a funny coincidence if I knew anyone at NYU). Our first stop was Marken. We were relying on a Rough Guide for our information on tour stops and mostly picked Marken for it's intriguing description: "Despite its proximity to Amsterdam, its biggest problem was the genetic defects caused by close and constant intermarrying." ("Damn, they really put the rough in Rough Guide on that one. We looked around, saw the pretty houses (they're a bright green color with white trim) and I began my new photo project of documenting the awful lawn ornaments used by Dutch people. I have honestly never seen more garden gnomes in my life. But all the while we were looking for people with genetic defects. Disappointed we returned to the bus stop where we finally spotted one at the bus stop. I would include a photo, but it's on Walter's camera.

Our second and last stop (it really starts getting dark at four-thirty here) was Edam, home of the famous cheese. Edam is basically a postcard. It is incredibly quaint and picturesque. The canals, bridges, houses, etc. were all very enjoyable, but the highlight of this stop was definitely the cheese warehouse. We sampled about fifteen different cheeses and they were so delicious. Federico and I bought a fantastic creamy bleu and a delicious traditional Edam style cheese with garlic and herbs. Edam differs from Gouda, the other famous Dutch cheese, in that the rounds are typically smaller because the farmers in Edam were not as rich as those in Gouda (and consequently didn't have as many cows and thus didn't have as much milk). Edam cheese is also only 40% fat wheras Gouda is 48%. Again, this is because of the richness of farmers. I know these are the details that keep you all coming back for more, so I couldn't let you down. We returned exhausted at six pm to a pitch dark Amsterdam and prepared for more fun adventures the coming day.

Belgium Saturday was the first time I left the Netherlands since arriving almost three months ago. I went with six friends (yes, it is difficult to travel and make decisions with so many people). It took us a while to get on the train (train tickets are much more complicated than they ought to be...), but when we did our final destination was Bruges or Brugge. You might never have heard of this city before because I certainly hadn't, but let me tell you, it's a must if you're in Belgium. In English it's Bruges (rhymes with bruise) and in Dutch it's Brugge (for some reason Brew-ha). The city is apparently a tourist trap and was very crowded eventhough it was cold and wet. But it is full of medieval architecture and cathedrals and cobblestones and chocolates. We mostly just walked around, but we saw some really cool things including a Michelangelo statue in the Church of Our Lady (I literally went to six churches in one day). Perhaps inconcruously, the highlight of the trip was the bar we went to on Saturday night which was a sort of secret entrance piano bar with a Cuban santaria theme. it was so cool. The place was full of strange art and the mojitos were really cheap. And the piano player was.... well, completely unbelievable. Not in his skill necessarily, but more in his style. Picture an older Belgian man in an ugly tie and ill-fitting jeans playing and singing I Will Survive. Priceless. I took a video but I have to add sound and stuff so it'll come up later. For now I will leave you with this picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe to give you an idea of the style of the place.

So I'll probably post more photos soon, but I gotta run now. I am going to see the Holland vs. England soccer game tonight. I'm excited. Real live hoodlums!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Party's Over

So I love blog comments. They're like internet PDA's but more tasteful and less offensive. However, "Anonymous" has ruined my open commenting policy for everybody. You will now need to register yourself as a user. This is not a difficult thing to do. You don't even need to write a blog. You just need to sign up. You can do it through the blogger homepage. It's my intention that this will prevent further advertisements in the comments section. I hope this doesn't prevent any of you from contacting me. I think that most of you already have my email address, but I'll soon try to set up one of those fancy email links to make it even easier. I'll be back really soon with news (stories! photos! videos!) about my action packed weekend. Until then, enjoy Monday.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I am a Grown Up.

This evening after getting home from karaoke, I recieved the following email in my inbox:

Please respond so I know you'e OK. I read the most recent entries in
your blog
today and enjoyed them. XOXOXO R.

That "R" stands for "Roberta" (maybe Robin), who for the uninitiated (that is, creepy readers I don't know... or whatever, maybe you're not creepy) is my mother. So yes, my mother is reading this blog. Which is actually ok. Because when I think about it there isn't really anything I am uncomfortable with my parents knowing at this point. Sure, we might not naturally talk about the details of my sex life or things like that, but that's not really what I'm telling you guys about either (good thing too because it would hardly make for a good read what with the ocean between me and my monogamous partner). I sent out the address in a mass email which is probably how most of you found the site as well. Something about my mom reading this blog makes me feel old though. It's like, "Oh you read my diary? No big deal. Wasn't that thing that happened on October 15 hilarious?" Oof. Weird. But, I just wanted to say, "Hi mom!!" and that it's cool and strange but mostly cool that you read this. Also it's cool that you figured out the internet well enough to find it.
So that's it. I'm all grown up now.
In other news I'm going on lots of fun excursions this weekend. Tomorrow I'm going to a village that used to be an island that is known for inbreeding (apparently people are actually dumber there?) and on Saturday to Sunday I am going to Bruges in Belgium which is considered "the Venice of the North" (although Amsterdam is also called that). So I have to get to bed now. But expect lots of pictures of me singing "MacArthur Park" and posing in front of windmills with inbreds in the next entry. Cause that's just how we grown ups roll.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Elections of all Ilks

To be honest I voted last week. In fact, in the five years I have been eligible to vote (and I voted each year!) I have only cast a ballot at a polling center once. All the others have been absentee. Except this year I had to buy a stamp. I considered going to the US consulate to see if they would send it for free (essentially I was paying 1.20 euro to vote which seems fundamentally undemocratic) but I thought it probably wasn't worth getting lost on my bike in the rain. And if they said no I would have looked like a cheapskate chump. Probably.
But I hope you're all out there participating in participatory democracy. Unless you can't because of a lack of US citizenship, felony charge or being stuck under a collapsed piano. Those are the only excuses that I currently accept (and the piano one requires the written testimony of the fireperson who eventually rescues you) and I'm working on the felony one (in a broad cultural/ideological way, though I'd love to do more!).
In addition to the US election, there has been all sorts of other electoral fun in the Western Hemisphere this week. Mostly fun for leftists in Nicaragua. But also nearby Panama won a seat on the Security Council. I can't really claim to have followed the Security Council elections very closely (I hardly think any of you are in a position to judge), but it seems like Panama sort of came from behind after all that Venezuela bruhaha earlier this fall. It it must be very exciting for the Panamanian delegation. Not to give the power of the UN or the Security Council undue credit, but just imagine: You're sitting in the General Assembly, pretty psyched to get to meet all these awesome diplomats, never expecting much more and then, bam! Basically you're an instant celebrity. I mean if you base your definition of celebrity on self-Lexis Nexis searching (which I imagine to be the self Googling of the diplomatic and intellectual elite).* I bet they're dreaming of the "Panamaniac" puns copy editors will get to make because of them right now.

*In the interest of full disclosure, and the general interest of this blog which is self-interest, my own Lexis search is dominated by a columnist for the Sunday Times (of London) who appears to write about shopping and an Irish romance novelist who also tops any Google searches. Also, I share a last name with the treasurer of Australia (the Stacy McGill of Down Under as I like to call him) and several articles pop up involving the past tense of "rise" (inflation, spending, growth, etc.) from that country.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Big Girl Plays Dress Up in MOTION

So despite the fact that I turned in all of my midterms a week ago, I am still messing around with the video recorder on my camera. For me this means boredom and wasted time. But for you this means unflattering video entertainment... and probably wasted time as well (let's be honest, are you waiting till your lunch hour to read this?). This is momentous not only as my second foray into internet video production (or any video production) but also as the second installment of Big Girl Plays Dress Up. Although I will forwarn you that this is not a clear cut case. This is actually the wackiest ensemble I could put together given the "practical" clothes I brought with my to the Netherlands. So what do you think? Is it totally cutting edge? Will it take Paris and Milan by storm?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Halloween in November! or The Return of the Lion Lady

So perhaps my "Sad Little Pumpkin" post was speaking too soon. Last night I went to a Halloween party sponsored by the International Students Network. So basically there was a Halloween party about equivalent to a College Halloween Party (think: half-way between Rhodes Halloween and Radnor Halloween, with more boys, just as much girl kissing and (slightly) less latex body paint. But just as many Americans. For non-Bryn Mawr Alums, I have no analogy). It was a bit above lame though certainly not memorable.

Among the highlights were my orientation leaders dressed as a Vampiress and a Dentist (as an added layer of meaning, she is from Romania), the fact that it was in a club called "de Catacombes" which is actually in the basement of a church, watching people from my classes awkwardly/drunkenly make out (sometimes it's nice to be a part of the gossip mill) and the perfection of my Lion Lady costume, which New York friends might remember as a mixture of the Deer Phenomenon Party and the Magical Realism Party outfits. So I saw some orange christmas lights, saw some wacky costumes and they even played "Thriller." And so, I present my costume:

It's really more of a concept costume of a predatory cat. Yes, I only said that because I am an asshole.

That's my tail. Scroll to the last post to see my (engorgeous?) mouth/ makeup.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I ate canned hot dogs.

More on Amsterdam Haloween (observed) in the morning.

Be honest, does my mouth look sufficiently engorged?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sad Little Pumpkin

There is no Halloween in the Netherlands.
Not in any meaningful way at least.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My Last Post About Midterms or Is Aspertame Supposed to Burn Like This?

So I only have one midterm left. I think it is probably not that difficult and I hope that I can just sit down and write it (I hope this in spite of the fact that has taken me on average six days to write each of my other midterms). Unfortunately, I seeth with rage at the very thought of the class I am writing it for. Ok, that was probably too florid. But this teacher is Dance Instructor Crazy plus a dash of Obsessive Poststructuralism. She believes that technology (namely flash animation) will *finally* enable performance to be studied academically. Yet she does not know how to turn on the overhead projector in her classroom. Or, I suspect, the lights. She once singled me out in class to ask, "What do you think about postmodernism in New York City?"
"Well, in New York City we think postmodernism is...."
or maybe
'When in New York I think postmodernism is..."
I mean, the woman is nuts.

I also wanted to take this moment to thank 1.5 litre bottles of generic diet cola (29 cents each!) and brand x sugarfree gum with xylitol (42 cents for 36 pieces!) for making this midterm season possible. The unfortunate side effects of lying in bed shaking for several minutes each night and the noticable burning sensation around my gums aside, I really couldn't have done it without them. Is it possible that generic soda has more caffine than brand name soda? Maybe Wikipedia knows. I'm sure I'll check as my first order of procrastination bussiness this evening.

On a (mostly) different note, there has been an interesting development in the ongoing saga of Gross Dutch Food. The Dutch equivalent of Andy Capp's Hot Fries is even less flavorful than its American counterpart. But just as addictive.

And finally I would like to sum up the low points of this midterm season:
1. Drinking coffee while in the shower. This is now probably the only way I'll be able to get up in the morning. It takes some maneuvering when it comes to shampoo, I'd imagine. But I'm just guessing because:
2. Not washing my hair for six days. My haircut still looks good though. Well, relatively speaking.
3. Cooking pancakes for the first time (ever) I actually don't really like pancakes so it was just unabashed procrastination. I also made chili, curry, homefries, soup and pasta. Not all at once, but time at the stove is time not at the computer.
4. Telling my flatmates I couldn't have lunch because I was studying when I was actually watching Top Model on YouTube. Brooke!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I haven't finished

So I am still working on midterms. And I am really far behind. But I liked this a lot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Actually, I got them all cut."

So in what is most certainly my most expensive procrastination technique yet, I got a haircut today (38 euros. Could have been worse). I asked Yvette, who also got her's done, whether the short layers in the front and length down the back made it look like a she-mullet (I have secretely thought every haircut I have had in the last two years might be a she-mullet). Serves me right asking a European (African?), since she didn't know what a mullet was to begin with. And so, I submit to you, dear readers.... My Haircut.

(Midterms certainly make me a more consistent blogger. I haven't written so often since before I had friends here.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Although school generally provides me with ample procrastination fodder (this blog might be considered an example), I now have a week off from classes to concentrate on midterms, which in my case involves writing four papers. This means that my procrastination activities are much more ambitious and time consuming. Although my only study goal for the evening was to watch the rest of Apocalypse Now (I have to write a paper on it, I swear), I managed to spend about two and a half hours editing and posting the video below. Which provides footage of my procrastination on Thursday night (as well as the reason for the hangover alluded to in Friday's post). By posting this video here, I am taking Eating Pie Elsewhere in a whole new direction. Not only will it be a way to keep my friends at home informed of my activities, but it will also be a forum for embarrassing my new friends here! So expect lots more drunken videos and unflattering candid photos in the future!

Friday, October 20, 2006


I just wanted to take a minute to share some things I think are particularly good, in no particular order.

Colgate 360 Toothbrush Josh thinks the well padded, expertly shaped body of the brush makes it supreme. I think it's the GENIUS incorporation of a rubber tongue brush. Were it not for the pesky gag reflexes that prevent me from brushing the portion of my tongue under my tonsils, I believe the Colgate 360 could eliminate hangovers entirely (ok, the Colgate 360, coffee and ibuprophen).

Spa & Fruit Spa is the major purveyor of bottled water here in the Netherlands. Generally, the most common varieties are Rood (red cap, sparkling) and Blauw (blue cap, still). The confusing Marie Henriette variety (was it named in some bizarro competition?) appears to be a "light carbonation." But really the jewel in the crown of the Spa Empire is Spa & Fruit, which is basically sparkling water and fruit juice. Which cuts out a step in the process of buying seltzer AND fruit juice. It also doesn't have the sugar of those fruity sodas (though my passion for Fanta Pomelo could hardly considered dampened). It's available in many flavors, but I have yet to attempt white grape or lemon and cactus (what kind of cactus??). Mostly I go for orange. Which tastes just like the combination my mother gave me as a child, telling me it was soda.

The New Anti-Bacterial Soap in the Kitchen Mostly I believe the kitchen in my flat to be one very small step above a sesspool in terms of cleanliness. I can practically SEE the germs dying as I squirt this blue liquid onto the sponge. Besides hygiene, the soap has a very pleasant aroma. In fact, it smells exactly like the soap Josh uses in the shower. Although when I commented on this similarity to my flatmates I think it sounded a little pathological.

Fixing Your Own Bike (hearsay) Ok, so I failed. But it was exhilarating and empowering. Biking in and of itself is empowering. But really, it's not as easy as it looks to change a bike tire (I think it's easier to change a car tire).

Afternoon Naps (especially on Friday) Add this to the list of hangover cures. You get up, get hydrated, eat, get some tasks accomplished (going to the bike repair shop could be an example) and then go back to sleep for an hour. When you wake up, you're as fresh as a daisy. (Can anyone sense that today I might have "relearned" my lesson about how drinking rum makes me feel in the morning?)

Autumn in New York City I'm gonna be honest: New York can be a virtual pit of despair in the summer and winter time (it's just not the kind of place where you want to rely on artificial climate control). But in the in between seasons the majesty of the city sort of explodes everywhere. In Spring and Autumn there's actually NATURE in New York. You can see it poking out of little unexpected places (like the trees on that median strip on Houston across from my old apartment) or you can completely soak yourself in it in the parks (if you're feeling adventurous, check out the foliage at the Cloisters!). I am partial to autumn because of the color palate and the central role of pie on seasonal menus. And somehow it just matches the buildings and the smells and the rivers so well. Maybe I'm a little homesick.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Segment: Big Girl Plays Dress-Up

Currently I just write a blog. There is no greater organizational structure than blog or not blog. As of today, all that's going to change. My first regular segment (segments will henceforth be designated by italics, my only html skill) is going to feature me playing dress-up. Essentially. Basically sometimes I am going to put on a funny outfit and/or do my make-up all crazy and ask for your critiques. This is in honor of my recent dedication to fashion-related reality television programming. Basically I am never watching current episodes, so commenting on the programs themselves would be boring. Instead I am going to interpret the ideas of such shows in my own way. Which makes you the expert panel of judges (except for that person who asked if I wanted to be a secret shopper. S/he is banned from the panel). Please be honest and tell me what you think of the "concept of the look." Whether it conveys a coherent mood, thought, emotion, etc. God only knows what such a concept might be. That will also be up to you. For now. Perhaps I will give themes in the future. So, without further ado, Big Girl Plays Dress-Up, Part 1:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You Win Some...

I'd say that in general, I am a pretty good student. I do, however, have an eensy problem with time management and motivation. I ALWAYS write four papers in three days during finals. Because I have four pretty important assignements due in two weeks, I have decided to break my bad habits and stay in tonight. I have been surprisingly productive. Not only have I gotten a lot of my reading done for my classes this week, but I have a pretty good outline going for one of the big assignments. I submit to you photographic evidence of my productivity:

That's me! And I'm studying!

Another way I can measure my productivity is the fact the list of downloads on my Acquisition account has increased almost expontentially today. Embarassingly, "Soul Decision" and "Ignition Remix" both appear as search items.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dear Thursday Night DJ at Club Meander,
You and I have had some good times together. Remember that time you played "Golddigger" by Kanye West and even Philippe from Belgium danced?* That was priceless! And I appreciate that by not charging a cover and having beers for a euro fifty you could not possibly be raking in the big bucks. But I do think that you need to put a little more consideration into what you play as a last song.
Although I have no personal experience with DJing, my philosophy of the "last song" is that it should be a sort of summary of the whole night. Memorable, fun, dancable but not dance music. This is why I just cannot comprehend why you would play "(Can You Feel) A Brand New Day" from The Wiz as your last song. Even allowing for some merry prankster slipping the CD into your collection at some point in the night, how could you THINK of playing showtunes? It wasn't Diana Ross night. It wasn't misguided disco night. Really, it's just baffling.
I think in the future you should steer clear of any song (last, first, in the middle) which might have been performed by a high school show choir.** No one wants to see (or be) that guy doing jazz squares on the dance floor in a fit of alcohol induced nostalgia.*** It's actually really quite a simple guideline. Sure, it rules out some great ones like "Night Fever" by the BeeGees but in the long run, I think we can say, "better safe than sorry."
I hope that you take this message to heart. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this will never happen again. You will continue to play unimaginative top forties pop music and I will continue to endure the unwanted attentions of your male employees (though what those four guys actually *do* for you is beyond me). I am glad that me could work this out.

*I have made the (somewhat unscientific) observation while in Amsterdam that Belgian men are actually the WHITEST people on earth. Culturally (especially rhythmically) speaking. Not literally. That would be albinoes.


*** This statement has no bearing on the actual events that may have taken place at Club Meander this evening. Especially not ones involving "sunburst" arms and/or yours truely.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

(Written while taking a break from clipping Fixodent cupons)

I'm cheap and I don't like being out in the rain. These are really the chief driving impulses affecting my social life in Amsterdam. That and the fact that I only know about seven people. Thriftiness and the desire to stay dry, however, have lead me to discover (maybe rediscover?) the joys of pot luck dinners. Last night, for example, we had a dinner in my flat and everyone made a dish which was culturally typical of their country of origin. Embarrassing as it was to actually serve people American Chop Suey (as bland as I remember, but somewhat popular), Gerda, who brought a "Lithuanian Chocolate Bar," won out for least impressive (though it was tasty, it was distributed by Kraft foods). But it was also terrifically fun. And it cost me about three euros. And I didn't have to leave the house. I am going to another pot luck on Monday and we are going to start regularly having them on Wednesdays in the flat.
Along with my tendency to go to bed early and my drastically reduced alcohol tolerance levels, my enthusiasm for pot lucks seems to be a harbinger of early-onset elderliness. In fact, ever since I turned twenty-three I have felt a certain magnetism towards sedate, comfortable social interactions. I'm not tape recording Murder She Wrote yet, but don't be surprised if the next time you see me I'm wearing a skirt with a hem below my mid thigh... and organizing a pot luck dinner.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Week in Review

This week I have been away from the internet mostly because I had a visitor. It was nice, not only because I got to see Joshua, but also because I had the opportunity to do many "touristy" things in Amsterdam that I had been putting off. In fact, my week was so unusual it produced an entire LIST of highlights. By day:

Saturday- Culinary Vindication Because it nothing is opened on Sundays, we did some grocery shopping on Saturday after coming back from the airport. This gave me the opportunity to introduce evidence of the highs and lows of Dutch cuisine. Not only was Josh understandably repulsed by the "meat salad" (as far as I can tell it is cat food with a hardboiled egg and a flower-shaped carrot slice on top) but I also had the joy of presenting him with his very first stroopwaffle (I couldn't have been prouder).

Sunday- Surprise Bar The weather in Amsterdam can be.... tricky. Sunday was a beautiful day for the most part and we saw a lot of the old city on foot. After dinner, however, our weather luck ran thin. While walking through the Leidseplein (think very quaint Times Square with sex shows and lots of pot), a magnificent bolt of lightning tore through the sky. Then it started pouring. Josh and I hurried into the innocuously named "Cool Down Cafe" just a few steps away. It was dark and completely deserted except for about five male employees. After ordering drinks and settling in a little, we slowly began to realize that this bar had a very distinctive character. The employees were conducting some sort of sound check to compile music for the evening. At first I wrote off the disproportionate number of disco songs to European musical taste (it's sort of like house music, right?). Then I noticed that ALL of the staff were wearing tight denim cut-off shorts (like mid-thigh length). As I casually whispered this development to Josh, we both became suddenly aware of the stretched and yellowing thongs pinned to the wall in front of us (Josh referred to them as "banana hammocks" though I am not certain where he learned that term). My flatmate, Yvette, who grew up in Holland, insists that the Cool Down Cafe is not a gay bar but I say, the proof is in the pudding. Basically it was pretty much the most hilarious way to wait out the rain.

Monday- Adventure! One of the best things about being in Europe is how close so many things are. Hoping to take advantage of this, Josh and I set out early Monday morning for Texel, an island in the North Sea. Though the train ride there was excruciating (nearly three times as long as expected), the island itself was magnificent. After getting off the ferry we took a scenic (and somewhat roundabout) bus trip to an old lighthouse at the far end of the island (see photo). The inland areas were covered with picturesque sheep and flower farms (fields full of Lupin and Sunflowers!), many of the buildings had "traditional" thatched roofs. The beach surrounding the lighthouse was incredibly flat and at low tide looked completely surreal, like a tundra. We explored Den Burg, the largest town, where I bought a t-shirt with seals on it (because we didn't see any seals as I originally hoped we would). After a full day, we narrowly made the last ferry to the mainland and arrived home about seventeen hours after our departure.

Tuesday- SpanDutch(ish) My dissatisfaction with restaurants in Amsterdam (quality and price) made choosing places to eat somewhat difficult. We stumbled upon a Spanish restaurant in the old city (tourist heavy) which seemed promisingly simple and affordable. The food was mostly quite good (if incredibly salty), but really the ambiance made this restaurant a highlight. The decor was, in Josh's words, "a Spanish version of the house on The Brady Bunch." The music was similarly off-the-mark. In a confused attempt at authenticity, a remixed and over-orchestrated Ricky Martin album played throughout the meal. Wine, candles, dark paneled walls.... and "La Vida Loca." Very romantic.

Wednesday- Cosmopolitan Osdorp Regular readers may be familiar with my opinion of the neighborhood I live in. Generally, the architecture is ugly and utilitarian and the population is mostly made up of families and the elderly. Needless to say, nightlife is scarce. On Wednesday, however, we happened upon a very chic and attractive restaurant and bar just down the street from me. We just had an after dinner drink, but it was practically like being in a different town. Most of the walls are windows overlooking the neighborhood's best feature, Sloterplas, a large lake used mostly for sailing and fishing. The decor is sleek and very tasteful (with the exception of blue glass water cups, a trend here I find completely incomprehensible). It was so young! So attractive! And, best of all, only a few steps from home!

Thursday- Dim Sum The Dim Sum Palace is a small, but noticeable chain in Amsterdam. The conceit of the establishment is basically the same as the ubiquitous Chinese Buffet restaurants in New York (more Brooklyn than Manhattan), unlimited Chinese food for 7.50 euro.... in one hour. Although eating fried gobs of MSG for MORE than an hour seems totally unappealing, if not impossible, the addition of the time limit somehow makes this restaurant more attractive than its New York counterparts. That and the lack of vinyl booths with gold chrome trim and fluorescent signs. Though in retrospect the plain interior could have done with a frosted glass landscape or some inlaid mirrored wall-panels. We prepared for our Dim Sum feast all day (mostly mentally, otherwise we might have skipped the chicken fingers at lunch). And my, oh my, it was terrible! EVERYTHING was incredibly salty. There were six types of dumplings all featuring an unidentifiable meat product eerily reminiscent of my impression of SPAM. It was joyfully awful at first, but very quickly became revolting. I'd say that we took about twenty-five minutes of our hour. But Josh used the rest of his later that night vomiting in the bathroom. (On Thursday we also saw the Rijksmuseum which is the national art gallery, though it was not as noteworthy as cheap Chinese food, which is more a commentary on the scale of the renovation being done than anything else).

Friday-Boots! Some of you may have had the pleasure of shopping with me. For those who have not, I am... let's say a little particular. Especially when it comes to footwear, I tend to develop very specific and often unattainable ideas of what I want before beginning the process. I can spend months, sometimes years looking for particular items. This season, I desperately needed boots. My last pair died a graceless death (involving a broken zipper, rain-drenched suede and very wet feet) last spring. I began the fall wearing my "boot outfits" with sneakers (which will always look a little juvenile, I think). So, for about three hours, through maybe 15 shoe stores we shopped. And finally.... there they were. Although I am still breaking them in (apparently leather stretches to your feet) and regularly treating them with a wax spray (for waterproofing and to keep the leather healthy), I am now the proud owner of a beautiful pair of boots. And here they are (on the right side next to Joshua's cowboy boots for comparison).

Saturday-Cruise, etc. Although I did go on a canal cruise during the University orientation, I had never been on the canals at night, when the bridges are lit up and the light reflects on the water. For Josh's last night, we went on a really beautiful cruise and celebrated his trip. We started the evening the picnic pictured below (after shopping for the ingredients at the open market) and sat with a very friendly woman from San Francisco on the boat. It was a really great way to end Josh's trip.

We tried to style the photo after the Dutch master still lives we saw at the museum.

And this is just a taste of all the fun we had! You'll have to come visit me in Amsterdam to see the rest!

Friday, September 29, 2006

I am not really interested in having a political blog. There are many writers on the internet who are much better informed and much more active than I am. I don't think that so many people of such diverse points of view read this sight that any great change or illumination could really be made. But just this once, I am going to indulge a political rant. Living as an American abroad, especially in such an international setting as my current one, I am questioned daily about the actions and policies of the US government. I always try to explain the complexities of the situation: that there are many Americans who are actively and vocally opposed to the current administration. It's really hard to do that without sounding like I'm making excuses, which is not my goal. I just hope that I can be an example of a conscious, thoughtful American, for whatever that is worth.
Tonight I watched a Google video about the campaign in Fallujah during the Iraq war. It was made for Italian public television using footage from Italian (and I believe British) crews. I remember the event (which took place the day after the Presidential election in 2004) vaguely. Honestly, the details of the occupation are very upsetting and somewhat nauseating to me so I don't pay as close attention as I should. And this documentary only proves how awful it is. But it also brings to light facts that are incredibly important for every single person, especially Americans, to know.


Cause I didn't. It's weird to say "we" there, but I think that's a really important part of this. Being a citizen of a democratic nation makes you responsible for its actions. When flesh burns underneath clothing, no one is going to stop and ask who you voted for (or if you voted at all). And honestly, mentioning it sounds cheap. It is terrible and demoralizing to feel blocked on all sides. Your voice isn't heard in elections. The news isn't telling you everything you need to know. Writing letters, carrying signs, lying on the pavement in the middle of the city.... all to no avail. And I certainly don't have a solution. But I DO support the prosecution of the Bush administration in international court for war crimes. I DO support the supervision of American elections by international certification bodies. I DO intend to vote in the election this November (absentee). And I am going to continue to think about anything I can do to make changes. And I think you should too.

(Actually a substance with the same effects called M77, since Napalm was outlawed by a UN treaty and the US stockpiles from Vietnam were destroyed.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Insomnia, Nostalgia and My Four Ounce Pour

So I haven't been sleeping well. Initially this was because of my cold. Every night I would spend forty-five minutes minimum coughing before falling asleep. Thankfully the phantom mucus which had a stanglehold on my lungs has loosened its grip. I am not sleeping any better, though. Each night I lie in bed for hours, unable to remember exactly how to turn off my brain so sleep can get to all those hardworking parts. Sort of puts a cramp in your style when class starts at nine and it's forty-five minutes away.
It reminds me of the first half of my seventh grade school year. I had just started at Latin and my alarm went off on school days at six am. Almost every night I lay awake for hours looking at the red glowing numbers. Sometimes I would wake up at two or three in the morning, only a half hour after I fell asleep, and get fully dressed thinking it was already morning. This would often result in attending school in wrinkly, slept-in clothes. Although, that may have been an improvement for my outfits (can anything improve light denim overalls?). Probably it was a combination of stress and hormones and exposure to mediocre alternative rock.
Part of me thinks that I am reverting to my seventh grade self. Last night, while not sleeping, I developed a theory to prove this based on the coincidence of my international flight (when six hours were just "lost"?) and a change in my hormones due to a birth control adjustment. I left my copy of "Dookie" by Green Day at home, so I haven't fully tested my transformation. But I have been drawn to plaid flannels this fall...
To make things more eerie, today in my class on memory and cinema, a girl with an Australian accent (sometimes unexpectedly reminiscent of a Boston accent) asked if I had gotten my sandwich at Spar, around the corner. For readers who were not lucky enough to attend the illustrious Latin School, Sparrs was the name of the dug store/ lunch counter/ soda fountain/ cliff notes dealership around the corner from my high school. And low and behold, the convenience store (no cliff notes to my knowledge) around the corner from my school in Amsterdam bears a VERY similar name. At the time this seemed an incredible coincidence. In the cold glare of the computer screen, I see the connection is tenuous.
So tonight I am taking matters into my own hands, a) by not going to the International Student mixer downtown that would keep me out much later than it was worth and b) by trying out one of "the best wines under five euros." Even though I haven't poured wine professionally in a month now, I still automatically pour exactly four ounces a glass (and twist my wrist as I lift the bottle). The things you remember!

Friday, September 22, 2006


So I actually took some "Amsterdam" photos today. And they go along with the last post. I mean, it's really beautiful here.

This is the smallest house in Amsterdam. It's less than a meter and half wide. I actually still don't really know what that is in feet, but I'd say about four.

This is the only traditional Dutch windmill left in Amsterdam. Apparently it's still used as a beer brewery. They have this tasting thing which is what all the cool kids do on Sundays. Now I know.

A dusky view of the Sint Nicolaaskerk (Saint Nicholas Church, like Santa Claus) and the center.

The harbor and the city and a gigantic Chinese restaurant with lots of little lights.

Six o'clock in New York.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Amsterdam Top 10

So I have been here for twenty-four days now. And I have been sick for eleven of them with an illness I think it best to describe as "hopefully-not=bronchitis." With more than a third of my time here spent in bad health (and another third in bad weather), I have found myself dwelling on the negative aspects of my current home. And so, I am making this list to remind myself of all the splendid characteristics of Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general.

10. Stroopwaffles Perhaps you haven't really understood my prior posts concerning this phenomenon. Basically a stroopwaffle is a cookie. Because it might end up taking over the entire post, I cannot explain further. But if anyone ever says to you, "Hey, fella/lady! Do you want one of my delicious stroopwaffles?" You should absolutely say yes. Unless you are a diabetic.

9. English I really don't need to know Dutch to get around here. And even though I sometimes PERCEIVE hostility about it, everyone is mostly quite nice about speaking English. Additionally, my English language skills can sometimes make me a temporary celebrity on my hall. Mostly when someone can't figure out how to say something. But sometimes I get to proofread!

8.Gouda Characteristically, this list is a little food oriented already. The cheese here really is just so good. Which is great because it's the main component of at least one meal a day. And in response to inquiries about the "high protein" diet of Dutch people as reported in the New York Times, this is the source.

7.Height I have always been among the taller women I know. And it's mostly fine. I have really put my height issues to rest (I bought heels this summer!). But it's really, really nice to be in a place where everyone is around the same height as me. The mirrors always show my face instead of my boobs. Sleeves are long enough. I bet when I try to buy shoes they'll have lots in my size! In one literal sense, I finally fit in.

6.Parks I am basically an urban dweller. I spent five weeks in Vermont this summer and nearly drove myself into severe depression. One thing that really makes cities livable, however, is large, well-placed parks (take note, Philadelphia). And man, the parks here? Fantastic! Across the street from my abode there's a giant lake. It's so big it takes two hours to walk around. And people have sailboats on it. And they go fishing. Although my flatmates are not sold on the idea of late night illegal swimming (and technically, I promised my mom I would stop doing that after the whole arrest/trial debacle), it's great for walks. And there are other parks too! Lots of them! Science says they make the air cleaner.

5. My Room So this one is a little funny, because my living arrangements are one of the worst parts of my time here. But when you get over the fact that it is forty-five minutes (bike or tram) to classes everyday, that there is positively NOTHING interesting about the area and that it is in the ugliest building in the entire city, my room is really wonderful. It has a huge window and it's own bathroom and I have a nice picture of Samuel Beckett on the wall. It's homey. The perfect thing to come back to at night.

4.Bodies Not to dwell on my admiration of Dutch physicality too much, but, women here really do have much more realistic body images. Sure, girls still talk about weight gain and dieting (but mostly the ones from other places in Europe) and Pepsi Lite is the only soda that sells out in the machine at school, but on the whole, it's a very reasonable ideal. Most of the Dutch women I have met have sort of athletic builds, including the trademark muscular thighs (biking everywhere will do that to you). But they really aren't that skinny. It's nice.

3.Location So, strictly speaking, I haven't passed the city limits since arriving. But I could! It would take only a few short hours (sometimes less on a plane) to go to Germany or Scandinavia or Britain or Belgium or France or even Luxemburg! The possibilities! And all of them much more interesting than Canada (sorry in advance to any websurfing Canadians).

2.Internationalism, pt. 2 So far, I have made friendly acquaintances (friends are hard for me), with people from 20 countries! Holland, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Columbia, Romania, Poland, Turkey, Estonia, Lithuania, Australia, Greece, China (AND Hong Kong!), France, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Britain and Italy. And I bet I forgot at least one! Oh! Ireland! Wow.

1.Change To be honest, I have been in New York longer than any place since high school. And in some ways that's exciting. And really, I am very excited to go back. I even say "go home." But it's also nice to be doing something completely different and a totally new place for a while. Because I don't think I'll ever have a chance like this again. It's corny, but I honestly think about that everyday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Following up...

Perhaps perusing this site will give you an idea of the food standards in the Netherlands are.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Persistent Mysteries

I have been in the Netherlands for three weeks now. I have figured out a lot about the culture, geography, weather, customs, etc. There remain, however, a few things I can't quite understand.

1. How do Dutch women seem to ride bikes in skirts all the time? And all lengths too! I have now attempted the skirt/bike combination, and just as I suspected I was giving a free show everytime the wind changed. One older gentleman even thanked me. Surely it is better than the catcalls of Avenue C, but I must be missing something. Dutch women often achieve the "flirtatious flutter" of the skirt hem, but it's never something indecent. So what am I missing here?

2.Why do they use so many English words inappropriately? On the whole, the people of the Netherlands are overwhelmingly fluent in English. Although this makes me feel pretty lame for not being multi-lingual myself, it also leaves me puzzled about the common misuse of English phrases. For example: The toilet paper I bought today was labled as "friendly" with the subheading "soft and strong." While softness and strength are qualities one might admire in a friend, the connection seems weak. Generally most of these mystifying phrases involve adjectives, which are admittedly somewhat vague as a word group. Last week some jerk who tried to dance with me in a club was wearing a shirt that said "2 strong 2 be cold." The puzzling nature of his shirt was the most interesting thing about him.

3. Food. The national cuisine is close to non-existant, I know. But why doesn't anyone here seem to care about food? Given the amount of sandwiches people eat (probably two a day on average), you'd think they would at least have exciting sandwich options with assortments of condiments, toppings and fresh breads. But no. The bread is fine, but it's just cheese and ham. More likely cheese or ham. It seems that the (literal) fruits of being an industrialized nation just aren't exploited in the same way. With the ever increasing number of immigrants from warmer (and more food oriented) countries, one might expect a wide range of small, Surinamese/Indonesian/Sommalian/Morrocan restaurants to choose from. But it is not the case. There are certainly a small number of such restaurants (as well as the expected Chinese/Indian/Thai/Italian/French fare which dominates the restaurant scene accross the US), but they are fairly uncommon and expensive enough that they couldn't possibly cater to immigrant populations. Dutch people remind me that it is not a cultural norm to go out to eat, but why then are restaurants so overpriced and mediocre? Why isn't the grocery store open later/ more often? Do Dutch people secretly not require food to sustain themselves?

4. Medicine. I have been told that Dutch people are not so prone to cultural hypochondria as Americans. Dutch doctors apparently say "you just need more sleep" quite frequently. Over the counter medicines are much less common. I have had a pretty bad cold for the last week and the only comparable thing to NyQuil (or DayQuil) I have been able to get my hands on was a packet of cold medicine which dissolves in hot liquid and tastes like lolipops. And this was from a friend who brought it from Columbia (bless the self-medicating ways of the Western Hemisphere). I accept this as a culural difference. Lord knows we can do more harm than good just taking a pill everytime something goes wrong. This is why I was so befuddled when I saw cough syrup with codine on the shelf at the drug store today. That's a highly addictive, very strong, opium derrived ingredient. And it's just sitting there. Heaven forbid pseudophedrine and acetominiphen be available in a single pill, but codine? Why not?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Flat Warming

It's time I confessed: I do not have access to an oven in the Netherlands. All of my high hopes and promises of making a Dutch apple pie with REAL Dutch apples are shattered. The lack of oven is one of the many short comings of my accommodation for the next few months. My shower used to leak in such a way that it was necessary to remove my toilet paper from the bathroom before showering. I also didn't have a toilet seat. I thought there was some sort of cultural difference that deemed toilet seats some sort of luxury item. But now I have a toilet seat, a shower that functions normally and a rug that was three euros at Ikea (but it looks like it might have been five). It's beginning to feel comfortable here. Inconvenient and institutional, but a bit homey. In honor of this (and the phlegm build-up the first cold of the season has bestowed upon me), I am enjoying a Hot Toddy this evening. Should it happen to be a cool night in your part of the world. Or if you are maybe just feeling a little cold on the inside, I encourage you to do the same. You'll have a toddy, read a little, go to bed early and tomorrow it will be sunny and warm and mid-September like. So here's my recipe. For those who don't know, I don't like honey and I do like whisky, so if you differ, please adjust accordingly.

Rose's Hot Toddy

1 Favorite mug
Hot water
A couple of healthy-sized lemon slices (about a fifth of a lemon?)
A spoonful of honey
Whisky (something that you would actually drink, Old Smugglers or cheaper will only make you feel worse.... I hear.)

Squeeze the lemons into the favorite mug. Pour the hot water over the lemons (half-way or more if you like). Stir in the honey (more if you like). Fill with whiskey. Sip slowly. Don't try to get drunk. You won't like it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Roaringly Delicious (the secret is caramel)!

Although, for the most part, my diet here has consisted almost entirely of bread, cheese and stroopwaffles, I have recently alit upon a most delicious confection. "Lion Pop Choc" is something akin to those bags of Butterfinger or Mounds or Snickers "Bites" sold at CVS in the states. I bought some yesterday at the gas station conventience store (my only local source of nourishment on Sundays), and since then I have marvelled at what could possibly make them so good. The bag is predictably in Dutch and did not reveal much. The candies seem very similar to Kit-Kats. A sort of waffer, chocolate synthesis. So finally today I googled. And it's caramel! It may look like chocolate between those crisp, flakey layers but it's much, much more. I encourage all of you to seek out Lion candies (the internet leads me to believe they also come in bars). In fact, I am thinking about petitioning the Nestle corporation to bring them to your side of the Atlantic (sorry to any European/African/Non-Atlantic-abetting readers I may unwittingly have if that statement is inaccurate).

Weekend, Extortion, etc.

And so, my second weekend in Amsterdam has come to a close. Nothing of particular interest to report about its events. I had dinner with some friends on Friday where I was questioned (somewhat tediously) about use in the States of the crude (and juvenile) hand gesture for "the shocker." It's encouraging to know what aspects of American culture make it accross the sea (my hat is off to you, Beyond that, my weekend was fairly uneventful. I did some nice biking (I am practicing keeping my feet on the peddals as much as possible) and got some homework done. Below you can see a snapshot from the weekend (me with Samuel Beckett).

Now I am preparing to "register with the foreign police." This is a requirement for opening a bankaccount in Amsterdam as a foreigner. A bank account is a requirement of paying rent in Amsterdam (essentially). Although I am not shy of opening bank accounts (briefly in the fall of 2004, I had 4!), the registration process is really thinly veiled extortion. Not only do I have to prove my residence and registration with a University, I also have to pay 433 euros.... IN CASH! The fee is different, depending on your country of origin. It seems to be less for people I have spoken to from Hong Kong and Turkey (within the EU you needn't register). So tomorrow I am going to hand in all of this paper work, along with an envelope full of bills. Which basically sounds like a bribe to me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Recent Internet Obsessions (Top 5)

5.Video chatting on my iSight thingie It's a little bit like living in the future. You can see people and talk to them. Even if they are accross the ocean. It's particularly funny because in some ontologically bizarre way I actually AM in the future, relative to most of the people with whom I chat.... Also it's neat to pretend to poke the person you're talking to.

4. NPR Podcasts Listening to a specially edited NPR show on your iPod while buying French cheese at an urban market WILL ACTUALLY make you feel like a walking demographic. In a funny way, though.

3. Updating my blog Apparently.

2. YouTube (especially video blogs) When you have no access to television, the miracle of YouTube really asserts itself. And, maybe I'm totally passe but, Video Blogs? Lonelygirl15? Out of this world! It's regular small doses of teenage melodrama presented as reality! It's everything you're missing from Laguna Beach!

1. Skype Ok so maybe you heard about it five years ago, but I'm gonna say it again. It's basically free international calls. And YOU CAN TALK TO ME!

(check out the html!)

Separated at Birth?

Yesterday in class I was struck by how familiar my professor seemed. Maybe it was the pants (tight, white jeans), maybe it was the accent (southern Dutch, close to German), maybe it was the glasses that were slightly tinted and seemed to take up most of his face. But this man IS some bizarre hybrid of Karl Lagerfeld and Dr. Strangelove. And though the internet turned up no images of Dr. Jan van Luxemburg, I submit to you these photos of his counterparts so that you can understand the joy and humor that comes with each session of "Literature, Love and Lust."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Condom Mystery Solved

Apparently the broken condom that recently made it's way onto my windowsill WAS used. My neighbor was lucky enough to get the wrapper IN his window. He attributes these gifts to the people living directly above him. He was also fortunate enough to hear the sounds of the their pleasure for over two hours. Every night this week. Probably one of those crazy Amsterdam aphrodisiacs at work.

INTERNET SURVEY: Under what circumstances is it alright to throw a used condom out of a sixth story window?
Rose says: If, and only if, you receive a message that the prophylactic will self-destruct ten seconds post-coitus.

Thing That Have Broken Since I Got My Bike

1. The fabric on the knees of my tights.
2. The skin underneath that fabric.
3. My left big toe nail (from skidding to a stop).
4. "The seal," while drinking beer last night.
5. The steering on my aforementioned bike.
6. My pride.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


So, I will not be on the Tour de France summer of 2007, as was expected by reporters and sports analysts.

Mijn Fiets

Yesterday I became the proud owner (okay, renter) of a bicycle, a fact which gives me exponentially more cred as a resident of Amsterdam. Honestly, it has been about ten years since I rode a bike with any frequency... or maybe thirteen. But ride I did. Mostly it was very nice and only sort of harrowing when I thought to much about my steering and wove all around the path. And maybe some would-be-members of the AARP passed me from time to time, but I was ultimately pretty proud of myself for making it home in one piece. The men at the bike shop referred to the bike style as a "Granny" (it's got those funny high handle bars and looks a bit like the one ridden by the wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz"). I like that I can sit up relatively straight and that the steering is very sensitive (so I can swerve out of the way of on coming traffic better).
In a few minutes I will leave for class (my first one in the Netherlands) which will give me a solid hour and a half to travel what is probably two-three miles. Though really I don't have much of a sense of it. Tonight I'll ride home in the dark (!), using my light and, if necessary, my bell (to warn pedestrians and other bicyclists of my presence). I think that bike travel will be an excellent way to limit my alcoholic intake. I am wobbly enough stone cold sober. Alwyn, my Dutch orientation leader, assures me that everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes home drunk at night. This isn't really reassuring.
I'll keep you up to date on my biking progress. Between my new wheels and my new classes I hope to be distracted enough not to spend too much time wondering about the (used?) broken condom which mysteriously appeared on my windowsill in the night (*shudder*).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dutch and American College Orientations: A Comparative Analysis

Actually the only real difference is that in the Netherlands every day ends in a school sponsored (and sometimes subsidized) drinking event. This small change really makes quite a difference. Nothing really helps people get to know eachother better than unlimited free Heinekin and karaeoke.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

This TIme on a Different Continent!

So, it's finally happened. I am now reporting to you live from a place known as Osdorp, Amsterdam. It seems to be the sort of European neighborhood where everything goes wrong in an Almodovar film: huge concrete apartment buildings, lower middle class for the most part, lost of kids on bikes shouting what might be threatening things in Dutch. But I am settled in (a little) and about to start my second day. My personal goal is to meet twice as many people as yesterday, which amounted to four. There was a girl named Daniella from Austria at the housing office who seemed very nice, though she had a ring through the gum between her two front teeth, which couldn't be good for periodontic health. There was the "caretaker" (apparently just a creepy title for the building super), who has promised to come back tomorrow to replace a light bulb and fix my shower's strange leak (Though no amount of fixing will change the fact that it is merely a showerhead in the corrner of the bathroom with no curtain or stall separating it from the toilet and sink). Then the taxi driver who was extremely friendly, though our conversation fizzled to some degree when I ran out of things to say about the manual transmisssion on his Mercedes (my choice of subject, for some reason). And finally my neighbor whose name sounded quite a lot like Timothy. He was very nice and offered to show me around the neighborhood and help me set up the internet in my room (which only required plugging an ethernet cord into the wall), though I was about to take a nap when he came by so I had to decline. I suppose I might have been more conversational with Tim, but I was so exhausted when I met him that I couldn't quite work up the will to discuss my academic studies of Feminism and Performance with a Turkish man. It seemed overwhelming at the time. After today there is a good chance that I might have a phone (and maybe also the number of one of my awesome new friends). I'll be reporting back regular. Now it's time for my breakfast of "Winnie Ze Pooh" yogurt and stroopwaffels.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And So It Begins...

I am stressed out and leaving tomorrow. Will update soon. Theoretically.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Heating the Beat

So it's actually just fucking sweltering in New York. I may be lucky enough to be crashing in an air conditioned apartment, but honestly the humidity just seeps in. And going places is positively sticky no matter what. So short of sitting in front of the AC with nothing on but your laptop and a cool towel round your neck, I have devised a few sure fire ways to cool off on a budget.
1) Seltzer with lime- Is SO MUCH BETTER than any of those sweet beverages (lemonade for example) when you are truly and profoundly hot. The bubbles sort of shoot little pockets of cool into your blood stream. HINT: 4 ice cube minimum, depending on glass size.
2) Incorporating ice cubes into foreplay- It seems tacky to talk about (I assure you I am just repeating an unsubstantiated rumor) and maybe you'll be haunted by memories of that scene from Hot Shots, but it is said to make you feel "profoundly cool."
3)FrozFruit- Just over a dollar usually. And worth every penny. (Recommended: coconut, strawberry and pineapple. The watermelon has seeds, true story).
4)Cold Soup- And not just gazpacho! Chilled cantaloupe soup, bourgie though it may sound, is just fantastic!
5) Heirloom Tomatoes- They have begun to appear at the farmer's markets and, let me tell you, I couldn't be more ready. They should really take off in the next week or two, but look out for some of my favorite varieties including the Yellow Peach, which has a pale butter-like color and a soft, furry skin and the Green Zebra, with a vivid, watermelon-like skin. All it takes is maybe some salt and a little bit of bread, fresh basil if your fancy and cheese if you got it and BAM! So delicious! And no cooking required.
6)Frozen Grapes- So maybe there is a little focus on comestibles (and fruit) in this list.... I really just like food. Freezing grapes is a genius way to cool off. I think green ones work best (they have that cool, refreshing tartness), but whatever looks best to you will work. I would like to point out to the penny pinchers among us that a bag of frozen raspberries or blueberries is a thrifty and satisfying way to enjoy a cool fruity treat.

Monday, July 31, 2006

So, here it is, my blog. I guess I intend this to be a way for me to keep in touch with people and document my time in Amsterdam. Right now I am a little less than a month (4 weeks today!) from leaving. I am completely broke and have lots of debt to pay before I go. I am trying to look at this in a romantic, off-the-cuff, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of way, but mostly it just makes me want to curl into a fetal position and cry until someone appears to stroke my hair and give me a fat check. Also, it makes me think about filling out those mysterious online surveys that say they pay lots of money.

Things you may see on this blog include: accounts of cultural differences and the embarrassing hi-jinx that reveal them, photos and anecdotes of exciting Dutch adventures, discussions or elaborations related to classes I will take, pleas for international fashion advice, little recommendations of books or movies, pie recipes, etc.

And so, beginning four weeks before the start, this will be steady and reliable documentation of the five months I will spend this fall semester at the University of Amsterdam. Assuming I ever update again.