Dutch Culture

Rando-List 3.0: Mogridge’s Revenge

Fear not, my friends!  You have not been abandoned!  I am just lazy!  Things have been a little crazy recently here in Amsterdam, so I’ve been a tad negligent in my blogging duties.

Fear not, my friends, for I have returned!!!

So, without further ado, I present to you:  RANDO-LIST 3.0!!!

1.  First, let me start with a few things that my Facebook friends have already seen.  Check the image captions for more info and as always, click the image for a larger view.
2.  Our shower had a small leaking issue a few weeks ago.  Water was dripping through the walls and coming out of the lighting fixture above our dining room table.  Not fun!  Turns out that it was my fault for not cleaning a small filter that I was never told to clean (or that it even existed, for that matter).
Drip, drip, drip...

Drip, drip, drip…

3.  I was visiting with some friends here in Amsterdam when I suddenly found it necessary to use the restroom facilities.  I was not prepared for the utter awesomeness that I encountered in what can only be described as “The World’s Greatest Home Restroom”.

A quick look to the left and all seems normal.

A quick look to the left and all seems normal.

A quick look to the right and one quickly realizes that this is no ordinary home restroom.  Am I in Narnia?  What world is this?

A quick look to the right and one quickly realizes that this is no ordinary home restroom. Am I in Narnia?!? What world is this?!!?

Indeed!  Your eyes have not deceived you! A home restroom…  WITH A URINAL!
Not only convenient for the man, but a real marriage saver too!  Never again argue about keeping the restroom seat up or down!  Wondrous!

4.  I ran across another film premier at the Pathé Tuschinski.  This time it was for a Dutch film called Verliefd op Ibiza, a sequel to the 2001 film Costa!.  While I don’t know much about either film, I do know that they both share the common trait of never having been heard of outside of the Netherlands.

This premier was nowhere near the size of the Skyfall premier event we saw a few months ago.  There were perhaps 20 or so people taking pictures and that was about it.  It probably didn’t help that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication of the throne about 5 minutes after I took this photo.

RANDO 11

Lame… I know.

5.  I found a new place to get a haircut!  At first, I was encouraged by the old school atmosphere, but I quickly learned that the hunt for my perfect Amsterdam haircut must continue:

6.  Our cat is transforming into some form of cave troll…  with laser vision.

RANDO 16

7.  I found this odd vehicle parked outside of my apartment a day or two ago.  I’m not 100% positive about this, but I think it has something to do with nuts, sacks, and Gotye.  Then again, I did zero research to find out if I’m wrong.

RANDO 15

De Nootzaak Gotjé delivery “truck”

8.  Finally a note about why I’ve been neglecting this little corner of the web:  I’m currently doing some photography and design work for a local eatery.  Here’s a taste of some of the things I’m doing for them:

Buisiness Card Front 1

Additionally, I’ll be updating my photography website in a few weeks with some of the photography work that I’m currently working on.

Look for more updates on this endeavor in the following weeks.  Keep your peepers peeled for the  de-de-details!

Alright!  That should do it for now.

Coming later this week/weekend:  Antwerp Beer Trip!

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Views from Around the World

To my 8 or 9 devoted followers, let me say thank you for visiting my little corner of the net as often as you do.  In all honesty, I enjoy looking at my site stats every now and again to remind myself that people actually read the crap that I write.  It keeps me motivated to write more.  I appreciate it.

About a week and a half ago, I jumped on WordPress for my weekly stat check, and was extremely surprised to see a modest spike in readership.  Expecting to see the usual 4 or 5 views per day, I was quite shocked to see the following:

2012-12-13-2That’s right, the site went from 5 or fewer view per day to just under 200 per day.  That’s well over a 3000% increase.  I must say that when I first saw this, the first thing to go through my mind was, “Great!  I’ve been hacked!”  In addition to a huge increase in hits, I also noticed that the hits were coming from all over the world.  I typically see hits coming from two places.  I see hits from my friends in the US and hits from my friends in the Netherlands.  That makes sense to me.  This is what I saw when I looked at the location stats:

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Yeah, that’s right. 5 hits from the Republic of Tanzania.

Having NO interest whatsoever in figuring out what was going on, I shut my laptop and went about my business.  A few days later, I checked the stats again, to find that they had continued to be WAY above what I was accustomed to seeing.  Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to do a little investigating.  Looking deeper into my stats, I found that most of the hits were coming from Google searches and heading straight to my article about Zwarte Piet.  Since Sinterklaas was just around the corner at the time, I assumed that people were just reading my post to get the perspective from an American living in Amsterdam.  Who knows?

After looking a little deeper, I realized that the hits were not just coming from Google, but Google Images.  Doing a Google Images search for Zwarte Piet gave me this:

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That’s the #2 image on Google Images that links to my blog.

You can’t tell in the screen capture, but that is the second image that pops up in a Google Image search.  I know absolutely nothing about how Google’s search algorithms work, but they found an image that I stole from some other blog and decided to tell the web to come visit my page.  They even earned me a rather tame tongue lashing from a real Zwarte Piet in the comments section.

Anyway, now that I write this, I realize it’s not that interesting of a story.  Oh well, I wrote it so I’m going to post it.   You wont realize it’s a waste of time until you get about this far into it either, so we can share the experience together!

Here’s a pretty cool slight of hand video for wasting your time! Enjoy!

 

Who sucks at posting?

This guy sucks at posting!

Anyway, it’s been busy here in the lowlands and I’m just now getting over a pretty nasty sinus infection, so it’s CATCH UP TIME!!!  I have about 20 or 30 things bouncing around my noggin that I was planning on writing posts about.  However, if I try to write full posts about all of them, I might finish up sometime around early spring.  To avoid writing about Christmas stuff when the weather starts to warm, I am going to quickly run through some of the things that I’ve been meaning to post about.

Here we go!

1.  We just got back from Barcelona.  It was really great.  That tale will get it’s own post.

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2.  A few weeks ago, Amsterdam hosted the International Documentary Film Festival.  They took over several theaters in town, filled the hotels with indie documentary movie types, and turned my beloved Rembrandtplein into a temporary restaurant and box office.  Oh yeah, and they also had several micro-theaters posted around town showing films.  By the way, for those who don’t know, “Micro-theater” is industry speak for a shipping container with a screen, a projector, and a few chairs.

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3.  Stairs here are really steep and super small.  After spending some time visiting other people’s apartments in the city, I am extremely happy we settled on a newly renovated 1st/2nd floor apartment.  We have nice new stairs which are completely capable of fitting an entire foot and are at less than a 60 degree angle.  This is not the norm for Amsterdam.

That's the wife.  Three stories up.

That’s the wife. Three stories up.

4.  I made a chore poster to keep me on track with my daily house keeping.  I don’t know how you ladies do it!

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5.  My wife is a smart, beautiful, talented adult woman with an excellent career that allowed us to spend these few years in Amsterdam and allow’s me to follow my own passions in life.  I love her for this.  She also still makes me take a picture whenever she sees an anchor… (sorority stuff)

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6.  The bar downstairs recently celebrated its 15 year anniversary.  The wife and I left our apartment one Saturday night for an excellent dinner at a local restaurant (separate post to come) and returned home a few hours later to this:

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7.  In Europe (at least in Spain and the Netherlands) Dunkin’ Donuts is called Dunkin’ Coffee.  Don’t know why.  Don’t really care.  That being said, they certainly have a one up on their US counterpart.  Dunkin’ Coffee serves beer.

This young gentleman found himself a cold one.

This young gentleman found himself a cold one.

8.  We had a really great Thanksgiving dinner with some friends on Thanksgiving Day.  One would think that celebrating such an American holiday in Europe would be odd, but it was actually one the most American feeling experiences I’ve had here.  Bird roasting in the oven, sides on the stove, cold beer in hand, and the NFL on the television (thanks NFL for the free season pass in Europe this year).

9.  We had another really great post-Thanksgiving dinner hosted by one of the partners here in Amsterdam.  This too was a really great meal, with plenty of beverages, and loads of great people.  Unfortunately, things may have gotten just slightly out of hand.  I’ll let this picture of the post-meal dinner table speak its thousand words.

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10.  Sinterklaas was celebrated here on December 5.  I decided to test the waters with this new holiday and get the traditional chocolate first initial as a gift for the wife.  I surprised her with it by leaving it in her shoe, as per the Sinterklaas tradition.

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11.  My site recently experienced a HUGE bump in hits.  After a looking more closely at my site stats, I realized it was all due to my Zwarte Piet post right before Dec. 5.  This will be getting its own post.

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 2.05.22 PM

12.  This town really does it up for the feestdagen!  Lights, lights, and more lights.  I was a bit worried that I’d miss not having a huge Christmas tree with lots of lights and load of decorations.  All we have to do is step outside of our apartment and our whole street is decked as if it were a hall.

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Ok, so I guess it was closer to 12 than 30, but I still feel much better getting those things out of my head.  Also, if anyone is interested to hear more about any of these topics, feel free to leave a comment.  I’d be happy to expound further.  Also:  POLL!!!

Zwarte Pieten Style

A week ago we began the Dutch celebration known as Sinterklaas.  As you can guess from the name, it is a celebration of Saint Nicholas.  Although the actual Sinterklaas festival does not occur until the 5th of December, the season was kicked off on Sunday, November 18 with the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam.  Old man Klaas arrives in Amsterdam from Madrid, Spain via boat, cruising through the canals until he reaches his docking point in the cities port district.

After making it to shore, Sinterklaas mounts a white horse which he rides through the streets of Amsterdam in a huge parade procession. The parade snakes through the streets until reaching Leidseplein where Sint dismounts and gives a brief speech to the crowd proclaiming the beginning of the holiday season.

This would be a perfectly fitting beginning to the holiday season if it weren’t for one odd part of the tradition:  Zwarte Piet.

Zwarte Piet is the name of the Sint’s mischievous little helpers.  Perhaps analogous to Santa Claus’s little elves, the Zwarte Pieten are tasked with helping Sinterklaas perform his holiday duties.  A more detailed history of the character can be found here, as I am not wont to bore you with the finer details.  The key issue that I have with this character is his visual representation.  In not so many words, Zwarte Piet is a dude in blackface.

In fact, we are not talking about just one dude, but hundreds!  Hundreds of Dutchies running through the streets of Amsterdam in blackface, red lipstick, gold jewelry, and huge afro wigs.

As an American, I see this as a little bit on the unacceptable side of racist.  Although I am told that it’s a harmless tradition that the Dutch see nothing wrong with, I am inclined to believe that they also see the inappropriateness of the character.

Zwarte Elvis

Zwarte Elvis

One night while mingling at a going away party for one of the wife’s Dutch co-workers, the subject of Zwarte Piet came up.  Being the only two Americans in the room, the wife and I were treated to a story of how the blackface is meant to represent the soot of the faces of the Zwarte Pieten.  Now, because I am a nerd and have a tendancy to research the hell out of anything I don’t understand, I know that Zwarte Piet is supposed to be a Moorish character from the south of Spain, so I called BS.  Besides, they sure have very clean clothes for such sooty faces.  I didn’t buy it and they knew they were caught.  They gave an impish smile and the conversation moved on to other topics.

Zwarte Children

Many Dutchies also claim that they don’t have the same cultural sensitivity to things like blackface as Americans do because they don’t have the same historical connection to slavery that the US does.  Again, I call BS.  The Dutch were the first to ship African slaves to the New World and continued to play a major role in the slave trade for many years.  I certainly don’t think it gives the Dutch a pass on having blackfaced Dutchies running through the streets creating trouble and getting little kids hooked on the pepernoten that they hand out by the hand full.  Enough about that.  I think it’s racist. They don’t.  Regardless of who’s right, I don’t think Zwarte Piet is going anywhere anytime soon.

The Dutch love Zwarte Piet.  There are Zwarte Piet TV shows, Zwarte Piet Movies, and even this:

It’s certainly one of the more shocking aspects of Dutch culture, and that’s saying a lot considering the countless number of sex shops, coffeeshops, and prostitues one can find in this city.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get it.

This is a Bedroom

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So this is what passes as a bedroom in Amsterdam.  I took this while we were looking at apartments a few weeks ago.  We were checking out a small one bedroom place in a really great location on one of the major canals.  The apartment was at the back of the building, so no canal view, but a decent enough place to live.  Unfortunately, the image above is what they were calling the bedroom.  Nope, not gonna happen.

Playing Catch-Up

I had a few topics that I was planning to write about, but I don’t think that I have the patience to tackle each one on it’s own.  This is the part where I try to cover as much as possible in one or two posts.  It’s a bit difficult to actually sit down and write about these things when you are dealing with drains that don’t drain or clothes dryers that don’t dry, but I promise that I’ve been thinking about it.  Look, I made a list:

  1. Leaving Home
  2. Moving the Cat
  3. First Day in Amsterdam
  4. Expatcenter
  5. House Hunting

That list might seem small, but I’d be hard pressed to tell the whole story in anything under fifty pages.  However, I don’t want to write fifty pages and no one wants to read fifty pages of me blathering on, so I think we can all agree that the best thing for both of us is that I hit the hightlights.  If something doesn’t make sense, then you probably have a perfect understanding of how things actually happened.

1.  Leaving Home

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Most of you know we sold most of our earthly possessions and just took with us the things we could take on the plane.  That was a bad idea.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that again.  That being said, once we got everything into the car and set of, we did have quite a nice trip.

  1. Leave Atlanta
  2. Spend a week in Memphis.
  3. Attend a very nice wedding.
  4. Drive from Memphis to Missouri.
  5. Get our throwed-roll on at Lambert’s.Image
  6. Drive from Missouri to central Illinois.
  7. …. that damned cat.
  8. Another lovely wedding in Decatur, Illinois.
  9. Drive to Chicago.
  10. PORTILLO’SImage
  11. Drop off the luggage, drop off the cat, go sell the car.
  12. Arrive at Carmax to find that they are NOT OPEN.  (Nightmare ensues)
  13. Drop off the car at Shari’s grandma’s house.
  14. Taxi to Airport.
  15. Flight leaves at 6:30 PM.

2. Moving the Cat

Let me tell you how much this sucks.

  1. You have to get a chip and rabies shot at least 27 days before you go abroad.
  2. Then you have to get a vet to fill out pet passport papers no more than 10 days before you go abroad.
  3. Since we were in Decatur, IL when we needed to get the pet passport papers done, we had to go to a vet there.
  4. He had no idea how to get us an international pet passport.
  5. Two different two-hour trips from Decatur to Springfield to get papers signed by the USDA.
  6. Major pain in the ass.

Playing Catch-up, pt. 2

So, the listing thing is kinda weird, so let me be quick with this.  Or first day in Amsterdam was long.  We had a €150 taxi ride from the airport to cargo, then back to the airport, then back to cargo to get the cat, and finally to the hotel.  We stayed in a nice serviced apartment between Amsterdam and Amstelveen.  We had to go to the Expatcenter to make sure that we got the “OK” to live in the country.  Everything was cool and now we live in Amsterdam.  

The first day that we went out to explore the center of Amsterdam, we happened to pass a real estate agency that had postings for apartments in the city.  We stopped in, got an agent, and set up viewings for the next day.  After seeing many apartments online and a few in person, we settled on our new home near Rembrandtplein in the center of Amsterdam.  We are in a newly renovated 2 floor apartment that we are really enjoying.  There are a few small problems with the place, as you would expect anywhere, but it’s really pretty perfect for Shari and me.  

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OK.  I think that’s all I need to catch up on.  I still have a few posts up my sleeve that are not so time sensitive, so I’ll save those for a rainy day.