Monday, June 30, 2008

Les animaux

We don't have kids, so let's write about the animals! They are adjusting quite well. Batman is very naughty in comparison to the Dutch dogs who don't need a leash. He sits on our couch and barks at every man or beast who passes. The need for curtains is immediate for this reason. (Plus no curtains on the ground floor is a little too much.)

Newman loves to sit in the garden in our backyard. Recently, he started escaping under the fence. I never thought we would have a problem because Newman is fat and the space under the fence is skinny. But I caught him red-pawed, flattening out his body, arms outstretched and wriggling his way to freedom. ~Erica

We have a cat door, but Newman and Batman are too stupid to use it:
cat door

Newman's garden:
garden
Plotting:
plotting
A Flaw in the System:
A weakness in the system
Sweet Freedom:
escaped

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Liege, Belgium

Nothing in Maastricht is open on Sundays. We were a little bored, so we looked through some guidebooks, and figured out that Liege has a huge market on Sundays, and is not far at all. The market itself wasn't too impressive, just very crowded with a lot of cheap clothes. We bought some candy, a waffle, and some socks for ballet flats. We grabbed a quick beer- this is the French speaking part of Belgium and our waiter jokingly called Nick "Mr. Director" during the whole interaction, not realizing that I understood him. Not the best travel story, but that's too bad, our life can't be entertaining all the time!

~Erica

Friday, June 27, 2008

Brussels

We drove to Brussels, which is about an hour away, to see our friend (and former landlord!) Kent. The driving was pretty nuts because at some point lanes didn't exist anymore, so it was just one big roundabout with cars all over. We were only in Brussels for a short time- long enough to get lunch, see a statue of a small pissing man, drink some beer with Kent, snack on fries with Sauce American (spicy Cheez Wiz), wander around Grand Place. There is much more to see here, and we're lucky it's only an hour away. ~EricaBrussels

pissing man

frites

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Den Haag

We had to go to Rijswijk today to apply for our long term visas. It was a pretty simple process, but we had to drive about three hours to get to the place.

Afterward we went to a nearby town called Den Haag. We went to a museum called the Gemeente Museum, a place called Madurodam (which has miniatures of important buildings and monuments in Holland), and had a wonderful dinner at a place called Plato.

We will make a trip back to Den Haag, after all it is where the Queen works!

~Nick

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arrival and first impressions

It was quite a month.... we went to a wedding in Costa Rica, then a wedding in Mexico, then one day to finish packing, then a last minute flight to NYC where we waited with bated breath for our visa to be approved. NYC was as fun as it can be with all of your belongings and two animals. I trapezed over the Hudson- it was a highlight for me, aside from getting the documentation needed to board the flight to Dusseldorf (June 20)....
http://newyork.trapezeschool.com/
trapeze standing

backflip

trapeze

trapeze catch

The pets both fit under the seat and behaved themselves for the entire flight. Despite the millions of rules for importing animals and bringing them on board, the enforcement was very lax. (For example, Newman weighed two times the weight allowed as carry on.) I had a bunch of documentation with microchip, rabies, etc..... it was all in Dutch since we originally planned to fly into Amsterdam. I approached the German customs officials and tried to finesse them. It didn't take much. One official made faces and clucking noises into the kennels while his buddy skimmed over the documentation and shrugged. They are supposed to remove the animals, scan the chip, match it to the documents, check the seal from the USDA approved vet, but who am I to argue with a mere shrug?

We had a taxi take us to the Medtronic building in Heerlen, about an hour away. There we picked up our car and our house keys. I requested an automatic in advance, because a manual transmission is standard here. Somehow we still ended up with a VW Golf, manual transmission. The Medtronic guard was kind enough to leave his post and teach me how to drive a stick in the parking lot. Nick was pretty hopeless with it and got frustrated right away, but I wasn't half bad, given the circumstances. After you get past first gear, life is easy, and after a half hour tour of the parking lot and surroundings, we drove to our new home.

(As an aside, we have since switched cars after driving the manual for 3 days. I stalled out twice in front of a police officer who requested my "legitimatie." Relaying that story to the powers that be greatly speeded up the process of finding us a new car. I really miss the Golf and wanted to learn, but Nick wants to drive too and wasn't as keen on the idea.)

Our furnished place is quite nice: two bedrooms, plenty of room, a garden that the animals love, cable (Nick is becoming obsessed with Myth Busters), a toilet room separate from the bathtub
The downside: our DVD player doesn't have a hack to make it region free yet, no oven, no dishwasher, no dryer (what is this, Central America?!) They recycle just about everything here and it's an environmentally friendly pain in the ass. We just keep an extra trash bin and a sack for paper and then walk to the nearest recycling center. You also need to purchase special purple trash bags for garbage that is picked up once per week.

Outside the front door:
our neighborhood

Other observations from newbies:

* The beds are low and the bathtub is high
* No refills
* Bring your own shopping backs to the grocery store because they charge you at the store. We stole 2 bags our first trip- ignorance, not criminality!
* Countless bikes
* Lots of orange worn during the soccer game (NL lost to Russia)
* No free tap water at restaurants and bottled water costs 6 Euro a bottle
* Everything is ridiculously expensive

~Erica