Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tack for the memories…

At Arlanda airport, in the lounge, waiting for the flight back to AMS. It was a great weekend and I give Stockholm full points for being a very livable city. I managed to knock out 20K steps on Friday which was pretty good on 4 hours of sleep.

We made Gamla Stan, Old Town, our base. We stayed in a hotel that had to be furnished withΒ some of the most eclectic decorations I have ever seen. In the basement, they had a private sauna built in and the plunge pool was the original well for the surrounding buildings. It dated to the 14th century. It was a little creepy, letting go of the rickety stair into a well and not knowing precisely where the bottom was. I didn’t stay in the well very long, having figured out that it made me feel like I was in danger of being disposed of a bad fairy tale — trap the wicked witch in the well sort of thing.

While we were here, we witnessed the changing of the Royal Guard ceremony, visited the Vasa Museum, took the ferry through the harbor to get to the island where the Vasa (and the ABBA museum) are located, explored the Royal Palace, visted the Tre Konor museum, walked up and down 135 step staircase cut out of the rocks, ate at Herman’s Vegan Buffet high above the harbor, went to Sunday mass at the Stockholm Cathedral, ate dinner at the nicest 7-11 I have ever been in (complete with juicing bar), checked out the crypts at the Riddenholm Church, explored Fotografiska and their amazing Anton Corbijn exhibit and took a bus ride back to the airport with a bus chauffeur who had a thing for the 80’s and sang along with every single song – and we did too.

I also scored a tshirt with four different Saabs on it. It is going into heavy rotation.

I definitely would like to see more of Sweden so we will put it on the list of places to come back to. Perhaps with the dogs and a long leisurely vacation. I realized again this weekend that I am still traveling like an American. We’re going to Prague on the Thanksgiving weekend so I have a few more weeks to practice being a more relaxed traveller.

I had it in my head that Swedes were big blonde sorts like the Dutch. They are not really. The only common Swedish characteristic that I could spot was facial hair. They are very fond of beards, mustaches and things in between. This doesn’t really help identify Swedish women.

Who knows, if the Dutch job search doesn’t pan out, maybe I will have to expand to Sweden? I do think they could use a little help designing their in and out traffic patterns. I would be willing to take this on as a public service project πŸ˜‰


My vote…

for the Nobel Prize would have gone to Leonard Cohen long before it went to Bob Dylan. As fitting, I am listening to his new album that came out this week. While I am certainly not part of the Nobel committee, tomorrow morning GG and I are heading to Stockholm for the weekend. Too late to have an effect on this year’s selection, unfortunately… πŸ˜‰

My other vote, for the presidential elections, went by mail last week to King County. I hope that the excessive postage applied means that it will arrive on time and that it will count. People that I come into contact with here ask me quite directly “Who did you vote for?” In all counts, when I give my response (for HRC naturally) the next question that comes up is “Do you know anyone who is voting for Trump?” Umm, yes, I do. There’s also a series of articles in the paper this week about Americans in Muncie, Indiana who tell their stories to Dutch reporters and why they are voting the way they are. In all of them, it’s for Trump – which definitely says that yes, there are people voting for him.

I take voting seriously in the sense that when I am offered the chance to do so, I will. Last year I was eligible to vote for the candidates for the Dutch Water Line – this is the group of people that technically are responsible for the water management practices of the Netherlands from the dikes to the drinking water. This year, I will be eligible to vote in the Amsterdam elections since I will have lived here for three years as of Sunday. I am not able to vote in the national elections, with their 80 different parties (and members of all of them get elected). For the US, I can do it by absentee. There’s always the cynical viewpoint that does a vote actually matter? But since it hasn’t even been 100 years since American women got the right to vote, I take it seriously.

Today Amsterdam is 741 years old. Yeah, I had to look twice at that number too. I know there are older places. For example, in Bern last year, I sat in a town square on benches from 970 something. Of course, they were stone benches so I didn’t settle down for a two hour sitting.

It has been an interesting week. Since my decision last week to activate my job hunt, I have been a little busy. Next week I have my first interview, externally. On one hand, I know that change is something I am looking for and I need a different set of stimuli. On the other hand, I have feelings of sadness regarding looking away from the company that has enabled me to do some amazing things. Then again, I need to really do some deep thinking on what the benefits of change are vs. the benefits of making do. Like most things, I will go into this with the intention of seeing it done – that renowned Taurus tendency. πŸ˜‰ It doesn’t make it easier. The thought of staying and waiting for something to come along internally appeals only to the 5% of me that worries about uncertainty and risk. However, sometimes that 5% has a microphone hooked up to a stadium quality sound system and has a great deal to say.

The change is important for other reasons too. As I spend time with little C, I am reminded of how important it is to go for things, because the outcome and timelines are unknown to all of us. That’s not a pessimist thought. It’s an awareness of not to take anything for granted and not to make choices that are guaranteed to preserve the status quo. It also helps that as I am busy self selecting out of chances, she gets up on a figurative step stool to smack me upside the head and tell me that “Of course you are technical enough to do that, DUH”. I need that sometimes when the 5% band is performing πŸ˜‰

Last night I went to a silly photoshoot. It wasn’t meant to be silly, I chose to experience it that way. GG and I were in their store last weekend and they asked if we wanted to participate in a photoshoot. Because I am learning to be a thrifty Dutch person, I thought “I could use a new LinkedIn profile photo. I bet I could make this work”. So last night under the directions of a bearded German photographer barking out commands I ended up posing for some 38 shots. It was HILARIOUS. IΒ have never done something like that before so for the campiness of the experience alone it was worth it. He was very hipster arty and kept telling me what do in German which doesn’t work for me, so then he would hand me a prop and use body language. I think my very favorite one was the one I call my Eva Peron look. dsc_0024

I’ll save you the search effort, this did not go in my profile pic. πŸ˜‰ It is kind of weird to have someone so close to you with a camera. Okay, maybe not for most people but I have a pretty defined barrier of personal space!

I’m looking forward to Stockholm… I have never been to Sweden and it is still my goal to take Astrid to her birthplace in Trollhattan. Although, I will be waiting for summer weather to do that. I also want to go to the Pippi Longstocking themed amusement parks. Yes, there’s more than one of them!

I don’t know a damn thing about Stockholm. I’m choosing to go there that way so I get to experience it without any preconceived notions. I booked the trip because it was in one of those 99 euro roundtrip fare emails that KLM knows I am susceptible to! GG has been before I think… she speaks Swedish anyway. My Swedish is reduced to imitations from the Muppet Show. We’ll see how far that gets me πŸ™‚ But just to be safe, I’ve practiced throwing kitchen utensils up in the air tonight when I was making dinner.

Almost Friday

And I can tell you that for sure I am looking forward to tomorrow evening. My last meeting of the day is at 1600 and I know it will “walk out”as the locals say. As long as I am home in time to get dinner on the table at 1800 for two small dogs, it will be okay.

I worked from home today since I was seeing Little C this afternoon. We had a really good nurse today! She was willing to write up the medical report that the following treatment needed to be held on the Grand Canary Islands, that it was a medical necessity. I think that is a great way to use up your medical insurance premiums! She was lots of fun and I hope we have her again.

It was also nice to have a day to work this week where the only surrounding sounds were ones that I was making as opposed to being in meeting rooms or training sessions πŸ™‚ I feel like I have been all over the Netherlands this week… Utrecht on Monday, Oegstgeest on Tuesday, The Hague yesterday and Amersfoort tomorrow.

I have gone into every single presentation worried that I haven’t prepared enough, only to be surprised with the reality that not only do I have WAY MORE than enough information in the presentation, I have actually a little too much of it in my head. Of course, thinking about tomorrow’s presentation, I am still concerned that I don’t know enough πŸ˜‰

I have some little things to celebrate… The first being that my mentee, John, has found a job in Kenya. And not just any job, it was a position that was created for him after they interviewed him for a teaching position. It is so exciting! He’s going to tasked with drafting a plan for building technical knowledge centers and curriculums for Kenya. They needed someone who could understand it from a technical, teaching and regional perspective. I am so proud, when he told me, I did almost cry!

I thought this might mean that our relationship was coming to an end but we have decided to continue because he wants to get started with his next plan – reaching out to developers with low access to resources and getting them up and running. Of course, I am in!

In something slightly closer to home, geographically speaking, GG and I made it to six months as of Saturday. Kind of surprising considering ALL my quirky ways and how much stuff has happened that wouldn’t really make you think “Wow, is this the relationship for me!” πŸ˜‰ What can I say? I know that she not only gets my “weird”, she appreciates it!

Next weekend, we are running away to Stockholm for a few days of playing tourist. I am not going to work on my poems for Sint during that time. Oh, and the person that I have to write the longest poem for is her dad. Not the easiest subject…I drew his name in the lotto.

Okay, I am going back to my presentation prep πŸ™‚

Back in the lowlands

It was a quick trip to Barcelona this week, Tuesday morning until yesterday evening. It is such a great city. My mom and I went there once and had an amazing time.

This time it was work related so there was plenty of presentations and information and no sight seeing. It’s okay though, since I can easily go back there for a longer trip next time. It was quite a bit warmer than here but with lots of rain so that also didn’t make me feel like I was missing too much.

I was up early this morning, catching up on the work from the week since the hotel had either really poor Wi-Fi or we really overburdened it with the devices of 142 meeting attendees. I am willing to bet on the second since it seems like everyone has at least one phone, sometimes more, plus tablets and laptops.

I have a customer presentation on Monday and they have sent me a list of questions. Looking through the six subject areas, I am not sure how much they expect to see of this as something that could be done through a live demo. Plus I only have 60 minutes in total and while I talk fast, I don’t think we’re going to get through all of it.

With the changes this year within my team, I am trying to do my job, be available to help my colleagues when they ask for it (freely offered help was not a good strategy), continue my job search and keep all my side projects humming along. It means I don’t have a lot of wiggle room in the schedule right now and am finding myself having to say “No” to things I would ordinarily try to make room for. It has also sharpened my focus in the sense that if I think there is something that will generate more success I will go for it. Earlier this afternoon, I had a conversation with one of my colleagues who had a different meaning over the idea. Instead of spending two weeks debating it, I said bluntly this is the goal I need to reach and here’s how I am going to enlist this resource to help. Figure out for you and yours what works best for you – I’m not committing the team to this, just me.

I thought about the past year while I was in Barcelona and how I struggled to incorporate and make changes on all of the feedback I received. There was so much feedback received, I felt like I was constantly walking in circles. That’s pretty accurate. Last year I was struggling to do everything possible to make my team successful at work. This year, that’s different – I am focusing on making sure that I am successful first, they are responsible for their own successes. This is a strange place to be for me, advocating for myself first. It has come up more than once in my life so I am aware it is an ongoing habit. I am trying to change that. What’s strange is that it becomes only something I can do when I have finally been pushed too far. I’d like to be able to advocate for myself in a healthier manner – like before shit hits the fan πŸ˜‰

Who knows if that’s a benchmark of adulthood? Finally, right?

And here comes the fall…

I know this because with the change in temperature, my nose has started thinking about running. There could be a number of causes. I mean, I did spend two days running around a conference with lots of other people and their germs. It could also be that this might be my body’s way of saying “Hey, you – yeah, you… we know you are looking forward to going to Barcelona next week for work but we’d like a little more down time so we’re going to arrange that”.

This also means that I am already wearing a very vivid set of pjs and have zero plans to leave the house. I ate some baked beans and have a big mug of tea next to me. And then the doorbell rings. Package delivery but I didn’t order anything. I figure it is for one of the neighbors. It is addressed to me, which makes it even more puzzling. Inside are two gift wrapped packages. Turns out one is a dictionary focused entirely on rhyming (in DUTCH) and the other is a book titled “Yankees, cookies and dollars” and subtitled the influence of the Dutch language on North American languages. There’s only one person who could have sent these to me, GG. Sure enough, there’s a very sweet card included and the sender is confirmed.

This is the downside of being involved with someone who is both super smart and super helpful… πŸ˜‰ This weekend we had the Sinterklaas discussion. This is a big deal in her family. You draw a name and that person gets a long poem and a gift. Then you draw a second name and this person gets a poem and a “surprise”which means you have to make it yourself. Then the remaining people all get a poem. The poems need to be in Dutch. So when I was asked if I would be attending this year, I moaned and groaned about my Dutch language and certainly Dutch poetry writing skills were way too inadequate…especially compared to GG, her sister and her mother. Apparently, they can drop full length poems like without even breaking a sweat.

So, now I really don’t have an excuse. Paul is on it too. When I told him about it at my lesson this week, he was eager to make it part of our curriculum. And has he said, I have five poems to write and not a great deal of time. Who knows? Now that I have a rhyming dictionary, I might develop into a sensation overnight.

Or not.

I didn’t get a chance to tell Little C about The Quest of the Sinterklaas poems this morning. We were too busy having fun. What’s kind of weird is that the nurse looked a lot like my current and her former manager. Enough so that I kept wanting to call her by our name instead of hers. Luckily I managed to hold that in. Of course, after the remark I made that Little C was not allowed to swing from the bars above the beds, the nurse knew not to take me too seriously πŸ˜‰ Fresh from our morning meeting – really we did actually touch on big data and cross platform mobile development, I headed to the office. I figure someone has to keep the weird in the office going!

They have started gutting the house next door. With the housing market being as tight as it is here, people buy, gut and renovate. This means that probably for the next four months or so, if the dogs bark, no one will notice since there is so much noise from the construction crew. Since you share a common wall, you do hear everything. I was surprised I could hear their conversation.

Tomorrow is Friday and I am glad. One more day in the office – especially to spread my cold germs and then done til Monday. I hope I am fit enough to for Sunday’s Glow In the Dark Mini Golf session. It’s one my chance of revenge against GG for all the Scrabble games she’s won!


or should that be exnerded? The past two days have been busy with a technical conference, where I found myself one amongst the 2100 attendees. I came home tonight with a serious case of grilled cheese brains. I’m sitting here eating my really delicious lentil soup and waiting somehow for the brains to come back into focus.

I noticed especially at the end of today, after three technical sessions in Dutch, I was really tired. My vocabulary had certainly been added to. Yesterday, I went early in the morning, left at 1045 to ride to my Dutch lesson, went from there to the Hague to a customer and then went back to the conference.

During my Dutch lesson, Paul gave me a book for first names – which will be exceptionally useful if I play Proper Name Scrabble with GG since she beats me easily when we play in Dutch. He also gave me the Holland Memory game that his kids used to play. In theory, this kind of drill will help me keep things in order – or prevent early dementia. πŸ˜‰Β And lastly, he gave me a children’s book from 1935 called “Our Little Friends of the Netherlands Dirk and Dientje” by one Miss Francis Carpenter. It’s 200 pages and I was easily through 80 of them yesterday on the train.

I am seeing Little C tomorrow morning and I plan to bring Memory with me. I think we could turn this into something quite amusing. It is too bad it will be early morning, otherwise we could make a drinking game out of it.

I walked out of a session today because of the presenter’s slides. He was talking about testing native and hybrid apps and he used a photograph of indigenous people to make his point. At first I thought I misunderstood, but then I realized I didn’t. Then he made a few other socially awkward remarks and I decided that I wasn’t going to waste more time out of my life by staying in his session.

I went back to the main building and ran into someone I know from the same company as the presenter. I told him about the slide I had just seen. And then he tells me he knows that slide, it’s a really popular image in their company. I was not okay with that at all. So, I laid it out what precisely was offensive about the slide and using people’s heritage for visuals. He did listen but I am not entirely sure he understood why I was not thrilled. I’m going to follow up with the speaker himself.

It reminded me again of why the IT field can be so unwelcoming to anyone who is different, whether that is based on gender, age, ethnicity, whatever. Because the majority of people in it don’t stop to think that when they do things like this, however unintentional, it makes the industry seem even less inclusive. The discussion about the slides then when into the discussion about Zwarte Piet (not by my doing) – which I will spare you the details of.

I have privilege, I’m aware of that as well. Being able to use that privilege has made things easier for me – for example when I need laptops for code camps for women – where I work gives me access to resources that others may not have. Or that I am here on a visa that is directly related to the type of work I do. Or that I can have a private teacher for Dutch instead of having to wait for an opening in the municipal classes. And it’s shaped my life in a million other ways, I know that. I wasn’t going to let this one go by.


Riding through the city

Marianne and I had agreed to meet this morning at the Noordermarkt, specifically to have the best Saturday breakfast treat, a big piece of appeltaart from Winkel 43Β with coffee. It is definitely an indulgent way to start your weekend and a critical basis for having a good conversation. Seeing that the weather was good, I decided to bike knowing that I would also wander through the organic farmer’s market and come home with some culinary treasures – in this case brussel sprouts, chanterelles, sunflowers, a vegan ricotta cheese and some amazing bread.

On the ride over, while dodging tourists, trams, cars, other cyclists and street clean up crews, I realized that my cycling style bears a resemblence to a brontasaurus on a bike. In other words, while Dutch cyclists seem to do everything on the bike with grace and style based on years of experience, DNA and upbringing – I ride super defensively and with the intent to just keep going. In other words, powering through. It helps that Beatrix is a heavy framed work cycle, meant for serious transport of bulky things and tonnage. It’s also why she has 8 gears and more storage space than some small cars.

This made me laugh. There’s a certain freedom that comes with bicycling and also an enhanced system of priority. Going to the store requires strategic purchasing. It also means that I have extra bungee cords to allow for fastening of bulky objects and that with a little creativity, there isn’t much you can’t do with your bike. For example, last weekend I knew I needed to make a recycling run (they don’t pick up at your house here) so I figured how to maximize my cargo capacity.


If you were to ask me what I would miss most about living here, I think my answer would be the ability to bike most places. While I won’t ever be Dutch, I think that I have enough Dutch blood in me get the bicycle love affair πŸ˜‰

On the way home from the Noordermarkt, I didn’t take the opportunity to ride through the passage of the Rijksmuseum – this is my favorite spot to bike through in the city. Simply because during the day, it is packed with museum visitors. I like doing it best at night, when it is empty. It always feels like I am getting away with something, but it is permitted. Unless you have a scooter and then it is not!

This afternoon, I spent a long time working with my mentee and his interview presentations. The connection between Amsterdam and Nairobi wasn’t that stable today but we managed to get some good work done. I am really privileged to be part of his life. He shared something with me today – on his way to his interview this week, he reminded himself of something that I said. I was really touched. Funny to think that every now and again, some piece of advice I have for someone works. Now if he gets one of these jobs, I will really be delighted for him.

In a way, focusing on his job search is also helping me with my own. It is helping me to refine precisely what I want in terms of responsibilities, culture and challenges. I think a bicycle commute is definitely high on that list πŸ˜‰