Sunday, May 17, 2009

Funny Dutch things

Funny Dutch thing #1: The other day at work, the finance department came into the office with a large group of university students and asked us about the tax department, what we do, etc. etc. etc. One of the students looked familiar, but I couldn't place her. Maybe she works at a store in Maastricht? Later it hit me- she was one of the Belgians we met in Barcelona at the cava and sandwich bar. I wonder if she remembered me. One moment I'm drinking bottles of cava, the next I'm talking about taxes. Or perhaps the two are related?

Funny Dutch thing #2: I saw my coworker's passport during our trip to Israel. See if you can spot the humor.

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Etc., etc., etc.??!?!! Somehow the idea of "etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah" on an official document strikes me as odd. Like some alcoholic college student who forges passports in his parent's basement got bored and decided to go make a sandwich and just wrote "etc. etc. etc." so he could finish the damn forgery because he can't remember the Queen's title and the royal family is so outdated and irrelevant anyways and forged passports aren't as profitable as they used to be and isn't Star Search on TV? Good enough is good enough, nobody really looks at that page, do they? Or maybe it's the Dutch government's way of being passive aggressive about the idea of having a Queen. Crazy old Beatrix, "her majesty," blah blah blah, whatever she's calling herself these days. Whatever the reason, this juxtaposition of practicality and bureaucracy makes me laugh.

One week, many kilometers

From Paris to Tel Aviv.

Toasters in Paris

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Laundry detergent in Tel Aviv

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Last weekend Nick and I drove to Paris to pick up his mom. We had a nice weekend with some relaxing and a few touristy things, like the Opera...

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Saturday we had dinner with Nick's mom, her friend Susan, and Romain, who is Nick's stepdad's cousin's son. Got that? When I was a student in Paris, he and I used to meet every Thursday for lunch- seven years flew by! As a group we wandered to the Eiffel Tower.

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Nick's mom had a walker. When she stopped to spend time buying souvenirs, I sat in it while we waited. Nick insisted on taking a photo, and he covered my legs and said "now you look just like Franklin Roosevelt!" Here is a picture of me laughing and looking like Franklin Roosevelt.

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Then I went to Israel.... just a few days for work, so no Nick pictures. Beach near the port of Tel Aviv (Mediterranean Sea).

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Church

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Watch out for the humping road! It just doesn't take no for an answer.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stockholm

We just got back from Stockholm! Finally a timely post. So, Stockholm.... a bunch of islands, a bunch of vintage stores, chocolate, super expensive alcohol (11 EUR for a tiny drink!), cool design. We spent a lot of time walking and walking and walking and paying and paying and paying! I noticed a lot of independent stores closing down and that was pretty sad to see. My apologies, at the end of these posting binges, I get lazy with my diction. Islands:

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May Day marching- "Socialism is the only answer!" Glad that's cleared up! Photobucket

Vintage:

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Chocolate:

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Design Passion interior design exhibit:

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It was a little chilly, but overall great weather... especially considering winters are about 18 hrs of darkness. To this end, the Swedes celebrate "Walpurgis Night" a big bonfire at Skansen to celebrate spring. Skansen is a big attraction with old Swedish houses, historical references, and animals. There were some adorable baby goats that held our attention for awhile:

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It was very crowded of course, and fun- a choir sang, and a famous Swedish author gave a nice speech in Swedish, and an odd old man walked up to the author and gave him something and yelled at him and was scolded by security. And then they lit the bonfire! The crowd:

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The bonfire:

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The end!

Keukenhof

About 2 weeks ago, Nick's mom came to visit along with her two friends, Susan and Stacy. We all had a grand time in Amsterdam in general, and at the Keukenhof more specifically. The Keukenhof is basically a humongo garden full of tulips. There are way too many beautiful pictures to post, but here are a few:

girls

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Around town

How bout an update from Maastricht! A photo of my favorite shutters:

pigs

And another, which needs a brief explanation.... there are a few temporary employment agencies near us that post various job openings in the window. It seems that a Dutch version of "calculator" is quite different from my own. They wanted a calculator, so I gave them one.... within a day somebody decided to disagree with my sense of humor, but not before I got a photo of my handiwork!

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Spain!

Another posting binge! Let's start with Spain. Vegetarians and animal rights activists may want to skip this one. Nick and I headed to Madrid and Barcelona at the end of March for vacation. We did not have any expectations other than relaxation, but we both fell in love with Madrid. The weather was perfection, the city was relaxed and not too full of tourists. The people were incredibly kind and unpretentious. And they didn't speak English in many cases, which was actually great. I'm ok not being rewarded for our linguistic laziness- hand motions, the few Spanish words I know, and some flexibility do just fine. We did the "typical" Spanish things- watched flamenco dancing and a bullfight, ate tapas, drank Sangria, etc.

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We also went rowing in a park- Engineer Nick couldn't figure out how to row, how to move the oars to steer, etc. We each took ownership for an oar, but due to "one of us," we kept going in circles. When I tried to explain the steering to him, he said "maybe you're just not strong enough for us to be in sync." But in fact, he just had no idea what he was doing, and the "maybe you're just not strong enough" comment was the source of great embarrassment and laughter as his ego dissipated.

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After Madrid, we headed to Barcelona on an overnight train. Boo hiss, we "slept" with our suitcases at our feet in a small room with 6 bunks. Barcelona was always touted as better than Madrid, but for us that didn't ring true. It was touristy and beachy, with very narrow streets- though luckily for me not as narrow as those in Venice. We found a lot of amazing food, drinks, shopping, markets.

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And we both enjoyed exploring Gaudi masterpieces like Park Guell.

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We also (accidentally) went to a fun exhibit about tourism, is it escapist?, plans for Dubai world, etc. etc. It was too cold for the beach, so we spent most of our time eating and drinking. One such place, which doesn't have a name, serves bottles of pink Cava (like pink champagne but better!) for only 2 Euro. Amazing deal! The only catch is that you need to buy sandwiches there- about 2-3 Euros each. It's touristy, but very alcohol and "deal" fueled fun- we met a girl from California who now lives in Barcelona, and her Belgian friends who coincidentally live about 10 min from us.

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