I spent last night in the old Noordsingel prison in Rotterdam. I have to say that going there was super creepy. It was an active prison until the beginning of this year, first used in 1872 or so. Going in there last night certainly made me grateful that I haven’t spent in any time in a contained environment like that. It is known for being the first prison in the Netherlands have single cells.

So, what was I doing there? We had an event from work. A 24 hour code camp in the prison for developers of iOS and Android apps. I managed to stay awake until about 4AM and then crashed in my cell for a couple of hours. Surprisingly, I slept pretty well on my big bean bag on the floor, despite the racket and the fear that the door would close while I was sleeping. The doors can’t be opened from inside the cell, as would make sense. This morning I went around exploring the basement and taking pictures. I was not going to do that last night since I had no idea what I would find down there, rats and what not.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to a closed complex of a different sort. I am off to learn Dutch in a very intensive manner pioneered and taught by the nuns at Vught. And while the nuns are no longer active in the day to day of the language institute, if you tell people you are going to the “Nonnen” they know exactly what that means. Eight hours a day of 1:1 instruction with 4 different teachers assigned to you. And since you are the sole focus of their efforts, you can’t even try to get someone else to answer when your brain gives out. I am excited though. I love to learn, especially in a classroom setting. And I am totally thrilled that I get to go and do this because I am so frustrated with the limitations of my Dutch writing skills. I will be spending the week there.

I am also hoping that I will have some time to turn off my brain a bit and chill out. I expect that is probably pretty unlikely but perhaps I will be inspired by being out in the middle of the Dutch countryside. I also went to Heerlen yesterday, which is in Limburg in the south eastern part of the Netherlands, again near the German border. It was a 2.5 hour train ride each way so by now, with Dutch travel math, you know that is almost out of the country!

Another new thing is that I learned that if you send out an invitation in the Netherlands, to a party for example, you should be very specific about who is invited. I decided to finally have a house warming borrel (cocktail hour) and send out the invitation to the folks I work with. I didn’t understand why I was getting so many replies that asked me if they could bring their partners. Turns out that unless you specify, people won’t automatically think it is okay to bring their other. I, of course, operate on the “more the merrier” principle so today I sent out an update very specifically letting people know they could bring their significant other/house pet/rock/grandma/etc. Funny how many little nuances there are.

I had lunch with Marianne today after I got out of prison and we had a very interesting discussion about social differences between the US and the Netherlands – such as the invitation thing. Another thing, if you date in the Netherlands, the expectation is that you are only dating one person at a time and you don’t choose the next one until you are finished with deciding whether or not you will be pursuing a relationship with that person. This contrasts to the American pattern where you might simultaneously date a few people casually at one time until you decide who will be the lucky contestant for relationship status. I think it’s kind of like ordering from a menu vs going to the buffet.

I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to the nuns!

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