Monday, 28 September 2009

Our second location: Friesland

We've had our first week, and after being surrounded by leaf trees - something Age really missed in Wton - we've swapped these now for a more open landscape. In Wton all green stays green throughout the year, and because it's a city you don't see much green at all. We were therefore very happy to sniff some forest and trees in the last week, with beginning autumn colours as an added bonus.

What have we been up to in the last couple of days: we met a former colleague of mine from the Police Academy of The Netherlands in Zutphen, one of the old Hanze cities. Very nice to see Tanja again! Then we drove to Apeldoorn, a town we've lived and worked in (and where I've been born), to have dinner with our old standing friends Mathijs and Ellen, and also to admire their already 2.5 (?) year old son. Well, they hadn't changed the slightest bit, we could just have arrived from Heerenveen, as usual. Mathijs even baked a Dutch appeltaart (apple tart), for the very first time in his life - and ruined his glass stove top too, while rummaging through the above cabinet to look for cinnamon, when the glass pepper mill fell down and caused a big crack. So that was an expensive, but delicious, dessert. Everything tastes better when it has a story, don't you think?

On Saturday I did some more marking work for the Open Polytechnic, and later in the afternoon we went to Arnhem, where we would meet with some other long standing friends: Oscar and Mireille, Niels and Eveline, and Auke and Annick. All with their kids, half of them we'd never seen before. Oscar and Niels prepared a delicious I-don't-know-how-many-course-dinner, with a Pavlova for dessert. The first attempt ended in a Pavlova resembling a dark brown frisbee, but after Niels went out to get more eggs, we all participated (as Oscar doesn't have an electric mixer!!) to give it another try.

On Sunday I did some more marking, we went out for a run again - the weather is still awesome, very un-Dutch, we cleaned the house and the cat (we bought a new brush for the cat, the cat is now half the size as before brushing), and then we went to Enschede to my grandmother (omaaaa). Enschede is the town where we both went to University. Not that we went into town this time, no, straight to oma and then back. Oma too hadn't changed a bit, still good looking for someone of 94 years of age. She had delicious little tarts from the bakery, and there was one type Age and I had just been talking about a while ago, that we really had to try to find that specific little tart, so we were lucky! After visiting oma we went back to Emst, got the washing from the line - now dry, packed our stuff and headed to Friesland, where we are now.

I think we've done more than 1300k already, and there is more to come! More visits, and tomorrow and Wednesday we're going to Terschelling, one of the Frisian islands, where Age's parents are with some more family and where we'll meet Age's sister Elbrich, with daughter Minke, of whom we will catch our first glimpse.

Some more observations:
  • people are better chauffeurs here than in NZ, something that can't be difficult to achieve. You see that they watch their mirrors and what's happening behind, instead of just stupidly looking forward.
  • the stairs in houses are much steeper here, and the steps are shorter, so tumbling down the stairs is actually quite easy.
  • people have more 'stuff' in their houses, more clutter. I notice way more decorations, lots of it in pairs, as one of those well known Dutch designers prescribed years ago.
  • Dutch women wear white trousers.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Beautiful surroundings

If you are a tourist in your 'own' country, you see things differently. I had never noticed that this particular area where we're staying now is so nice: open fields, paddocks, edged by forest. Don't think forest is the right name, but don't know what it is otherwise. We are situated at such an edge and can look through the trees towards the grazing land and corn fields, all of very cute sizes with very cute little farmlets.

The weather plays a nice part too: all days 20 degrees, quite still, bit cloudy now and then, but great autumn weather. I just read about snow fall on the Rimutaka hill road up to 200m and single digit temperatures in Wton!

Feel much better, Age and I just went out for a run this morning, all went okay. Running here is effortless - you don't have to battle a hill first!
We've already chewed over 700k in our car - and used only one tank of petrol of twice the price of petrol in NZ, but as the car is twice as efficient as ours, no shocking surprises there :-)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Oh those cyclists!

We have arrived safely in Emst, where we'll stay this week. We've had a frantic Saturday and the unimaginable happened: our home is totally ready to be put on the market. It is clean, we've finished our DIY, and the book case Age's created is beautiful. As soon as we've found out how to get pictures on this laptop, as we forgot to take the connection cable with us, we'll provide you with some evidence.

I felt a nasty cold coming on Saturday morning. The second time right before a trip to NL! And yes, with the whole huha: diarrhoea (bless Immodium!), blocked nose, cough, fever, sore throat... This must have been the reason that I only packed warm clothes in my hand luggage, well, I can tell you: if you ever have a few hours to spend in Singapore, don't walk around in a pair of fleece trousers!! And a thermal and a sweater...

The flights were actually quite pleasant, lovely to just sit and do nothing. I even haven't read a single line of text or watched anything on the in-flight entertainment system, except for the flight path. Age watched 3 movies!

After a nice welcome and a breakfast at Schiphol Airport we went to our temporary home here in Emst. Holland is really really flat, and very crowded. We drove in one big queue for most of the way, and I have no idea why - I mean, those people should have been at their offices at 10am on Monday morning! And everyone drives the latest models of cars - all German makes of course. Not one battered ute on the road - I found it a bit pathetic, a hidden contest about who has the shiniest and most expensive car.

We had the idea to visit my Mum later in the afternoon, to force us to stay awake, but when Age shouted in the car to his Dad that he took the wrong way on a roundabout - which he didn't - we thought it would be wiser to not hit the road. We visited the little village of Epe close by instead (where I lived when I was 6-16yrs), all by ourselves with the car we may use, courtesy of my Dad. And we were really shocked by the amount of cyclists!! Everywhere you look are cyclists! School kids, house wifes (the majority), elderly... That was a real shocker - and in normal clothes, not sports gear, also with the latest models of bicycles.

We did a bit of window shopping in Epe and enjoyed our first 'patat met kroket' (fries with croquet, or something like that). We felt like we're in a time warp - thrown back to the future. There is so much more choice of everything, I guess most stuff has a way better quality, as in NZ they try to invent everything themselves (to keep the economy going??). Just some observations, not about good or bad, just about differences.

We had a very good night - woke up at 5am, not bad when you take into account that we went to bed around 7.30pm. Still some fever to work through, but hopefully that and my blocked nose, will improve soon.

Friday, 18 September 2009

How many hours in one day?

This training week left every participant exhausted, including myself, being one of the organisers. Start times of 8am and end times of 8pm and later. But it's all part of the game and it adds to the bonding of the group, at least that's what I've been telling myself. By the way - who invented the term 'Zombie'? Spot on!

Now that this is over and done with, the focus needs to shift completely, and quickly too: on our holiday. Only one day left to leave this place here in an orderly state and I can tell you that that's going to be a BIG task. Haven't touched a vacuum cleaner for 2 months I think, laundry everywhere, let alone the unfinished DIY, which Age is determined to get through tomorrow (!).

Anyway, head is still buzzing, so our next step will be to start our holiday at the cafe down the road, making up a SMART formulated to do list, and unwind a bit!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Kiwi audience

Our blog posts will be in English from now on, as we seem to have a very keen Kiwi audience who can't wait to get their teeth into our blog.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Vast in de lift

Vorige week heb ik een Management Team Development sessie gefaciliteerd, voor de 11 managers van het NIC. Was leuk, vooral de vele uren die ik thuis op het internet heb doorgebracht op zoek naar geschikte videoclips. Ben heel wat tegengekomen op Youtube! In ieder geval, een van die clips is Stuck on an escalator, wat zoveel betekent als vastzitten op een roltrap. Gelijk na het laten zien van deze clip was het lunchtijd, dus hup, de lift in, gebouw uit en naar een Franse banketbakkerij om de hoek.

Na de lunch weer terug naar het gebouw waar we deze sessie doen, en hup de lift weer in. Elf personen staan inmiddels als haringen in een ton in de lift, er staan er nog 2 buiten. O zegt iemand, hoeveel kunnen er eigenlijk in die lift? Dertien, staat er op het bordje, dus dat moet kunnen, zegt een of andere lolbroek, kom er maar bij. Dus toen stonden het hele Management Team van 10 man inclusief de directeur, de secretaresse van de directeur, mezelf en mijn manager in deze geweldig kleine lift, na een copieuze lunch.

Deuren gaan dicht, we gaan een stuk omhoog en toen was het van 'klunk', zwiep en zwaai. Meteen kreeg de ene helft de slappe lach en de andere helft een aanval van claustrofobie. Je kon echt werkelijk geen kant op! Ik heb nog nooit in zo'n volle lift gestaan. Ik checkte met mezelf in of ik het nou leuk vond of niet, maar tot mijn eigen verbazing vond ik het eigenlijk wel knus.

De persoon die bij de knoppen kon, begon als een gek op de alarmbel te drukken. Dat maakte een hoop herrie maar leverde niets op. Toen gingen tenminste vier of vijf mensen allerlei andere mensen bellen, inclusief het nummer dat op de lift stond. Er zou een monteur gestuurd worden.

Het werd loeiheet in die lift, grapjes gingen over en weer over de deterioration van de luchtkwaliteit, de secretaresse nam anxiety druppels en iemand anders had echt last van claustrofobie. We kwamen er ook achter dat niemand in het gezelschap mechanicien is en men vroeg zich hardop af of dit ook bij de Management Team Development sessie hoorde.

Gelukkig bestaat het MT uit zo ongeveer alleen maar mannen, en mannen hebben de neiging overal aan te gaan zitten en alles uit te proberen. Springen hielp niet, dus dan maar aan de deuren trekken. De binnendeuren gingen open, en we zagen dat we ongeveer een meter boven de begane grond moesten hangen. Er was nog een set deuren te openen, maar daar zat een ingewikkeld mechaniekje aan vast. Totdat een slimmerik uitvogelde dat je daar ook mee kon spelen, en ineens waren die deuren ook open. Hoefden we ons alleen nog maar uit de lift te wurmen en op de grond te springen!

Een paar mensen gingen achteraf zitten rekenen, en kwamen tot de conclusie dat die lift minstens 30 jaar oud moest zijn. Wanneer anders kon je met 13 man maximaal 900kg wegen???