Category Archives: November

Dog sweaters and other useful items

The weather has taken a slight turn towards chilly. Chilly enough that George gets the shivers if he stands outside too long in one place. If you know George at all, you know it is a rarity that he would ever stand still long enough to observe him getting the shivers. Today it was apparent and as a responsible person, I knew that it was time to track down some “honden jassen” (dog jackets) since our stuff won’t get here until the end of the month and that is too long to watch them shiver. It was also time for Petspoiler Jo to return to her real life and family in the North so we went to walk her to the tram.
There’s a tiny pet store right on the corner. I think every available inch of wall space is stacked with things for pets. Its also clearly a store for people who love their pets a bit too much – in terms of they really carry foods that are good for pets, not just your enormous 50 pound bag of rendered parts. What they do not carry however, are pet clothes. Since as the owner put it, he doesn’t have room. He does, after all, have eight freezers of frozen raw foods for dogs and cats. He is absolutely willing to let me browse his catalogs and order them. But like everything, it will take two weeks to arrive. So, that wasn’t what was going to work today. In the end, I got the cats some wet food that both Jo and the owner likened it to “making your mouth water and you wanted to put it on toast”. I opened the can tonight to feed the cats and while I prefer other things to put on my toast, I understood what they meant. It was shrimp and tuna and it looked human grade and it didn’t even smell. The cats ate it right up.
Two blocks up, there was a dog salon and they do carry coats and sweaters. So, the boys did end up with a sweater each to hold us over until their jackets come in the household goods or we get the ones from the catalog order. The point I am getting to is that I love the fact that there are all these tiny specialty shops. At first, I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t buy a cat litter scoop at the HEMA (like a Target) or by Albert Heijn (the grocery store chain) because my logic is if you sell cat litter, why not sell scoops and boxes? And I have had some time to turn that around in my head. You don’t buy the cat litter scoop at the grocery store, you go to the small pet store to do that. There are so many little businesses that specialize in one or two things. I like this concept a lot and I like supporting them. This is completely ironic because normally, I believe in efficiency before all else and even list and complete my errands in the correct geographical order so as to make the most efficient use of my gas and car time. But now I am on foot most of the time. However, this morning I did still try to stack my errands in geographical order, instead of going where I felt. I will just have to keep practicing.
The boys are snoozing since they have had three big walks already today. There will be another one before we call it a night. Last night, the weather was so great that we stopped in the middle of our walk to stop and have coffee. There were other dogs in the little café so we stayed outside. It is interesting, this concept of being rather than doing. I am trying very much to just practice being. So, like when I am walking the dogs at night, I put some euros in my pocket in case I might want to stop for coffee and not focusing on what time it is or what I should be doing to get ready for the next day. What I am really trying to say is that I am trying to spend more time doing things than thinking about what I should be doing. My goal is to be able to get to use my 26 days of vacation in the manner they are intended rather than being restless about being unscheduled ;) If you know me well, you are probably laughing at that goal right now!
I have been doing the dishes every night. Dishes at night vs the morning was one of those things that my mom and I disagreed on. When two strong willed women end up sharing the same kitchen, small issues like this can arise. I will never regret living with my mom but I would encourage anyone thinking about combining two households to have a very open conversation about domestic issues and schedules :) At night, my mom would REFUSE to do dishes. She believed 100% that dishes should be done in the morning. And for me, in the morning, I wanted a clear path to the Nespresso machine, a place to make my toast and nothing in the way. It wasn’t a matter of just me doing the dishes at night – her argument was based on two statements. Number 1- doing dishes in the morning was part of her routine and “putter around” time. But this is not the reason that she would give you. She would give you reason #2 – which was that the French don’t do their dishes at night so why should we? This statement used to drive me crazy. Because while my mother moved to Paris at 18 to take a job as an au pair and eventually joined the Dutch Foreign Service, we had no other ties to France. We’re not French, our French language is not even that good and we certainly didn’t dress with a French sense of fashion (fleece is not French). This was her argument and she would stick to it no matter what. I think she would repeat it to drive me nuts. :) It worked. I find myself regularly saying out loud to the air as I do the dishes after dinner “Mama, we are not French so I am doing them now”. Some nights I even do them before dinner. I do wish I could hear her give her French argument one more time. 

No, I didn’t fall into a canal

Instead, I have been running all over the Netherlands. That might be a slight exaggeration but this week alone I have been in 8 new to me train stations as I have been making my way around the country for various work commitments. Since it is my goal to stop at every train station that NS (the Dutch train service Nederlandse Spoorwegen) serves, I am making pretty swift progress this week alone.

I spent the day today with my new team digging deep into everyone’s Meyers Briggs profiles. This was a pretty amazing exercise and I really got to see the difference between Dutch colleagues and American colleagues. And I realized during the day that coming here was an excellent step for me work wise. I am finally going to get a chance to work with people in the way that I work best, collectively and with open dialogue. I was paid a pretty big compliment today, I was told that although they didn’t know me very well or even at all, they felt that I was best described as “authentic”. I liked hearing that since it is an important value to me. And I also liked hearing a bio break called a “Plas Pauze” or literally a “pee pause”.

Yesterday I was invited to speak to students at a Dutch college. Luckily for them, in English. I am definitely going to do it because I believe so strongly in the value of an education. I am also incredibly thrilled to be asked.

I had worried, a lot, that when I got here I might not be able to get along with people because I definitely have some quirks and social anxieties. But I seem to be doing okay. And that’s a big relief.

I realized too that one of the things about being here that I like so much is hearing people use expressions and tones of voice that my mom did. Even though I don’t know anything about the people using it, it is comforting to hear that some things remain the same. I was reminded of my mom when I rode in the silent car yesterday coming back from the conference. The last time I was in a Silent car on the train was with my mom, Jo and her mom on our way to celebrate birthdays at the Frankendael Park and Hortus Gardens in Amsterdam in 2011. The conductor busted my mom and aunt for talking out loud in the Silent Car and after he finished lecturing, my aunt was quite upset. And continued to talk. I remember the look on my mom’s face, it was that smile she got and twinkle in her eye when she was up to no good. Inside she was cracking up. My brother, Rupert, gets that look from her.

I’ll be posting some pictures over the weekend, I think. In between laundry and walking the dogs. The furniture won’t be arriving before the beginning of December so the camping will have to last a bit longer. Sitting on wooden floors makes your butt numb, in case you were wondering.

There goes the neighborhood

Big points to IKEA for being punctual and delivering the mattress, dishes and other items on time. Minus points for the bed frame not being properly drilled and as such not able to be assembled. Whenever I open an IKEA box, there is always that feeling of dread. It equates to the question of “will all the pieces be here?” and “will all the holes be properly drilled and aligned?” Lately, it seems the answer to that second question is more frequently “No”. I do have a drill. However, it is currently in the shipping container somewhere on a cargo ship. Once Astrid (my much loved old SAAB) gets here, we’ll be making that trip to IKEA to return the bedframe. It is a bit much to navigate on the metro system and the dogs are too small to handle heavy sled dog loads! The ship that Astrid is on is due into Rotterdam on the 8th. Not sure where the furniture is, I think I should probably check into that on Monday.

You see, I am learning. The Netherlands observe the weekend strictly. So I am making the adjustment to not fire off emails and inquiries over the weekend. I wait for working hours. I haven’t given up writing emails in the middle of the night. I am going to use the excuse that all the travel has reset my sleep patterns and so I am gradually adjusting. I think I can probably get away with that one for another week.

Jo and Pieter came down today to deliver the suitcases I left here last time and to loan me their Nespresso maker. You see, now I have it all to sustain myself for weeks of camping without furniture. There’s a mattress, Nespresso, the internet connection and the pets. What else does one really need? We went to a little café for coffee and cake around the corner. The conversation was great but what really struck me is that this time I am not leaving in a week or two. Next time they come down to the neighborhood, we can for Indonesian or beer or Thai or to the kosher deli. I live here now.

Tomorrow, Lawyerella and I will go to a museum. We bought museum cards in April that are good for a whole year. They were 49 euros or close to it, an incredible deal since they work all over the Netherlands. At the time, I had no idea I would be living here, we just figured we would be back to visit my Mom and Oma in the churchyard in Marum. Of course, before we go, it will be time to walk the dogs a lot so that they don’t bark us right to eviction. They have never lived somewhere with people over their heads so the noises are causing Henry to be very alert. And in case you are wondering, the cats are definitely not talking to me. I am pretty sure I saw Lientje giving me the finger when I tried to get her to come out from behind the curtains she was hiding behind. Cats are funny that way.

Fortunate to be here and I can’t quite believe how awesome this apartment is. I really think that you will like visiting here. That’s my goal anyway. I am channeling the Move Goddess and unpacking quickly as opposed to waiting until three years have gone by. Of course, since I am an amateur, I do let myself get sidetracked and walk back and forth 72 times while I put things away. However, that all counts as Fitbit steps so I think I have a pretty good strategy. Tomorrow, if the cats are talking to me, I will bravely venture into my new room and try to put away my clothes. Of course, if they are not speaking to me, it might have to wait another day.

Ha, I have keys!

I know that it seems slightly strange that I could have any doubts about this move being real but there have been moments that I have wondered if it really was going to happen. And there have been moments when I have asked myself “Do you have any idea what you are doing?” usually accompanied by “What in the hell where you thinking?”. Well, those questions can definitively be put away now because I have not one but two sets of keys in hand for the new apartment. We covered a lot of distance today, both on foot with Henry and George and in terms of life movement. I am not sure when it will all settle in that for the near term, I don’t have to go back on a flight. I don’t have to count down the days and raise the end of trip flag that I normally do when I come to the Netherlands.

Today was the first time Henry and George experienced the tram system. George took to it like an old hand, with his stylish Halloween bandanna around his neck giving him the appearance of dog about town. By the third tram today, he was pushing to get on by himself and didn’t have to be told to get on. Henry, on the other hand, isn’t really that thrilled about being the shortest occupant on the tram. He prefers the trams that have steps inside them so he can sit on the step and raise himself up a level. He also definitely dislikes elevators, whether they are the ones here in short term housing or the big ones like in the Apple store. He braces himself against the floor with all four legs locked like columns. Fortunately, we are going to be living on the ground floor so after tomorrow’s departure, there are less elevators he has to worry about.

This morning, I was having all kinds of American agita about what to do with the dogs while we went to get the keys, etc. And then I started doing some research to see if they were allowed on the trams. It turns out that there are some set rules about where dogs may not go – anywhere that has a posted no dogs sign, major museums and churches. Everywhere else is fair game, subject of course, to the business owner’s preference. This is very different for us, even coming from a dog friendly city like Seattle. So, the boys did about 5 miles today because I spared them the trip to IKEA. I like the idea of them being able to go places. This means that we will have to work on their urban dog qualities – such as not barking just because they are on a leash. For George, it will also include not eating every piece of food you find on the sidewalk. On our pre breakfast walk, he managed to get down half of someone’s discarded sandwich on dark bread before I could get even get my brain wrapped around what he was doing.

I wonder what my Mom would think of her boys living in Amsterdam? I was thinking about that today as we were walking around. I’d like to think she would have enjoyed seeing them here. The cats aren’t really speaking to me yet, but I am working on that. Of course, since we’ll be moving again tomorrow, it will probably start the acclimation/forgive the human clock all over again.