Friday, July 6, 2012

May in Amsterdam

Ollie, Pepi and me playing in the paddling pool
This blog seems to be dying a silent death! I just got a bit too busy living life to spend any time writing about it, you'll understand why when I catch up on posts! But I am determined to get up to date, if only in brief as a record for myself, and now some I'm having some really cool new experiences. So here goes!

I don't have too much to say about May in Amsterdam, after Hauke was here for Queens Day I got quite sick, eventually being diagnosed with bronchitis, so I spent a lot of time at home trying (and failing) to shake the cough. I did manage a trip to Warsaw in Poland over the second weekend of the month, but I will write about that in another post.

Rollerderby in Amsterdam
I watched Rollerderby for the first time. I'd often thought about playing it myself, as I'm quite aggressive on sportsfields and used to take great pleasure from shoving my elbow into an opponients side while the referree wasn't looking, but I never really new much about the game. Turns out, the point is to go round and round in circles, with one person from each time trying to get to the front and go around the fastest, while the rest of the opposing team tries to block you from doing so. It actually wasn't very exciting viewing after the first couple of rounds.

Ollie on a really hot day
The weather got really really hot for a while, and I spent a lot of time hanging out in the sun with Ollie, splashing around in the paddling pool with both kids, and sitting on Anissa's terrace in the evenings with a few drinks. The nice weather really lifted my mood and made me happier to be in Amsterdam over summer...

...until one morning Jacquie told me that my visa application had been rejected and I had 28 days to leave the country! There was no indication that there would be any problem, so it was more that a bit of a surprize. Their basis for rejection was that Rogier and Jacquie could not prove that they could financially afford an au pair, as their only income source was earned in Luxembourg. Seems a bit silly to me, given the whole borderless Europe thing, but I've heard a lot about the Dutch visa office, and it seems a total mess, turning down a lot of visas for random reasons after they refuse to process visas via their embassies and make you fly all the way here to submit the application.

"Who me? Of course I wasn't playing with it.."
After I got over the initial shock, with the help of a lot of red wine and some amazing friends and family, I actually came around to the idea, and decided that while I would miss Ollie and Pep like crazy, I wasn't really keen to spend much more time working for their parents and was glad to leave Amsterdam. While I had a lot of "wow, look at the clogs/tulips/windmills/cheese, its so cool to be in the Netherlands" moments, I never really felt at home there.

too cute!
I'm going to make some horrible general-
isations here, and say that the Dutch are quite cold people who are hard to befriend and have very different concepts of manners and childraising than I am accustomed too. Unlike some of the other au pairs, I wouldn't say they're rude, because I think its just a different way of doing things, but definitely the lack of pleases and thank yous started to bug me, as did their way of letting their children run wild and do whatever they want unpunished when young, figuring at some point when they grow up they will work out the proper way to behave

Our boat trip, pulling up at the windmill brewery bar
A good example was when I was having lunch with Anissa and a very flashy woman dining with a friend ignored her preschooler while he disturbed the rest of us, and then turned around to order another diner to shut the door, without adding a please or thank you anywhere. I know it seems minor, and the kind of thing you see in most countries, but it seems so much more prevalient in Amsterdam, if not the whole of the Netherlands. Overall, its not a culture I could see myself integrating into. Also, I don't think Amsterdam is my favourite dutch city. The blatant sex, drugs and drunken debauchery gets annoying after a while, as do the hordes of tourists that constantly get in the way. It isn't a big city, but feels quite spread out with different bars, resturants and parks all over the show rather than in a orderly centre, so that it becomes a hassle to do things. I much prefer Haarlem or the Hague.

Me and Anissa at the windmill brewery
And finally, having to move turned into a good opportunity to see a little of somewhere else for a couple of months, before I head to Gottingen in Germany to work in September. Initially, my mind was spinning with all of the possibilies, and I looked at spending the summer in the south of France, or Turkey or Greece. After finding the Netherlands hard to settle down in, my heart really wanted me to go back to Luxembourg, where I felt at home, knew my way around and had friends. I spent hours every day for weeks looking at profiles of families and places to go - hence the lack of blog posts! But, in the end I listened to my head over my heart (and my desire for sun and surf) and agreed to go to Munich for a couple of months, as it would allow me to improve my German. More on that later...

Me perched on the stern
Moving also meant I had to cram four months worth of plans into just one month! Just after I found out I would have to move, Anissa surprized me with a day out on a boat cruising around the canals. This is something I'd always wanted to do, not just go on the tourist trip in the big barge, but be on a little motorboat with a bunch of friends, drinking and partying as the dutch do on the weekends. A friend of hers had gone in with his coworkers on a boat for a year, so he took a bunch of us out for the day. We had perfect weather, and after a stop to get petrol (service stations in Amsterdam have back entrances, steps down the the canal water level so that boats can pull up and get gas, cool ay?) we picked everyone up and spent the whole day cruising around.

Faces of horror as we ventured out into the rough open sea
Memorable moments were me offering to take driving over while someone had a ciggie, and subsequently crashing into a moored boat, heading out into the open sea and then reaslising we were a bit too small for it, then running out of petrol and having to refuel in the middle of the harbour with the waves crashing over the sides and the big boats steering around us, pulling up at the windmill brewery bar to stop for drinks, and the many interesting locations we stopped to pee, including Willem just sitting on the stern and peeing overboard. Willem also ended the day on a funny note by falling into the canal while trying to moor us.

Willem overboard in the canal
I also visited a beach with Jana, at IJBurg, some man-made islands just on the edge of Amsterdam. Its not a beach I would recommend, like the rest of the city its horribly windy, has a view of the suburbs and industrial area rather than open sea, and was a bit icky. I was feeling really sick that day and didn't enjoy it as much as I normally would have, and also managed to get sunburnt. I think my skin has been dutchified, as last summer I spent a whole week lying in the sun in Sicily with no sunscreen on and didn't get burnt at all, this year I had a low-SPF on but still got burnt by the dutch sun, surely one of the weakest in Europe! Not cool!

Me on the beach at IJBurg
So May was not my best month this year, it really drained me emotionally and saw me get really sick physically. Finding out I would be moving again was hard, facing the fourth time I'd have to pack up and start all over again in a little over a year made me realise that this whole nomadic lifestyle is getting old, and I am beginning to crave a solid base, a house I can feel at home in and some close connections with people. It also proved my theory that trying to plan anything while on an OE is a waste of time - six months ago I would have told you I would spend the summer in Luxembourg, a couple of months ago I would have told you I would spend the summer in Amsterdam, and now here I am off to southern Germany! My new mantra is life live by a Plan B - Plan B is what you think you could do, if everything works out right, no doors close to you and no new doors open to you. Plan A is what you actually do when everything turns to shit or you get a better offer! So lets hope my new plan works out better than my previous ones!

More photos are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment