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.