Becoming Dutch – Mandatory Ceremony

I just noticed on the IND website that after 1 October 2006 that the Naturalisation Ceremony is now mandatory in order to become a Dutch citizen. I think this is a good idea. After all, you should want to celebrate the event and make it an official kind of feeling. Otherwise maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Here’s the official text:

The naturalisation ceremony on or after 1 October 2006

As of a fixed date in 2006, most probably 1 October 2006, it will be compulsory for you to attend the ceremony. Minors who were aged sixteen or seventeen at the time of the naturalisation request or option statement will also be required to attend. If you are invited for a ceremony taking place on or after this date, you will only become a Dutch national if you attend the ceremony. If you do not attend the ceremony, you will receive a new invitation for a future ceremony. You must attend a ceremony within one year of the decision being made; if you do not, you will not receive the Dutch nationality. Once the deadline has expired, you will need to begin a new naturalisation or option procedure if you still wish to become a Dutch national.

Becoming Dutch – mark this date

Yesterday DB took the filled in M46 form to the stadsdeel. He asked them several times to confirm that it was filled in correctly. You just never know with these abtenaars if they are paying attention. Anyway, the form was accepted and now all our paperwork is off to the IND for THEIR approval of our intention to become a registered partnership. Really I don’t know what the IND has to do with it since I have a valid residence permit in my hands. But this is the process that has to be followed.

Now the clock is ticking. How long will the IND hold onto our paperwork? How long will it take them to look in their computer, see my name there, and put a rubber stamp on the M46? Normally this should take no more than a month. Mark this date and let’s see!

Back to School in Dutch – night 2

Last night was the second Dutch language class with the Volksuniversiteit. The first one was all about politics. This class was all about having an opinion and the different verbal methods used to express it. Obviously, given these two topics, it’s an inburgerings cursus as well. What Dutch person doesn’t like to have a strong opinion about politics?

We also learned something that I doubt they teach in the official inburgerings cursus over at the ROC. We learned that when a person turns 50 they are said to have “seen Abraham” or in the case of a woman “seen Sarah”. This means that you are older and wiser and should be listened to by those who have not reached such an age. Therefore your neighbors should then take notice when you tell them to pick their dog’s shit off the sidewalk from in front of your house. Good luck.

You can buy or rent Abraham or Sarah dolls or wooden cutouts to put in front of your house to advertise the event to the whole neighborhood, the same as with storks at a baby’s birth. You can also buy cakes decorated with Abraham or Sarah for your birthday party. And since this is the Netherlands we’re talking about, you KNOW there will be a birthday party. Gezellig.

Best expression learned last night: Over smaak valt niet te twisten.

Biking in Amsterdam – Not for the Faint of Heart

On the website of the official tourist office for Amsterdam, it states that “the most practical means of transportation in Amsterdam is still the bike”, which is true, but only for people who live here. This website, along with travel books, tv shows, and columns written by erstwhile travelers, tells the unwary tourist to “see Amsterdam by bike”. This is simply wrong advice. Really. Take my word for it. Don’t do it unless you have lived in Amsterdam for at least 3 months and have sat on the back of someone else’s bike to get the feel of things. Otherwise you are a danger to yourself and others.

Amsterdamers use their bikes to get to work, to do their shopping, to take their kids to school and bring them home. They bike to the movies. They bike to the gym. Biking is a means to an end. It is not done for pleasure or because it’s good to get exercise. Biking is simply the most efficient way to get around the city. Therefore, stay out of their way or you will get run over! This is especially true if you are a tourist, and is still true if you are a tourist on a bike.

Tourists bike slowly and are busy sightseeing or finding their way around. Nothing is more irritating than trying to get home from work and getting stuck behind someone on a MacBike who doesn’t seem to understand that they are supposed to ride to the right side of the road/bike lane so that others can pass them. They don’t understand that you shouldn’t suddenly stop in the middle of the bike lane to stare gap-mouthed at some old building. They are then run over by the 10 bikers behind them coming at speed. Tourists from the US don’t understand the right of way rules and run the risk of getting hit by cars and they also don’t understand that just because a road is narrow it doesn’t mean that there will not be cars on it (this goes for US people on foot as well). The really good thing about bad weather in Amsterdam is that there won’t be any tourists on the roads clogging up traffic and causing accidents.

The above might make me sound like an agressive biker, but honestly I’m not. I’m a FAST biker, that is true, but not agressive. I learned that this morning on my own way to work.

Normally I leave for work from the west side of the city around 8:00 in the morning, heading into the city center. I pass by the inner ring road, I bike through the 9 Straatjes, smack into the heart of the city. This morning I left an hour later than usual and man what a world of difference that makes. I’ve never seen such agressive biking on the streets before. Even after living here for 3.5 years and owning 3 different bikes, this came as kind of a shock. Bikers were cutting each other off at every corner; racing to be the first to cut between the trucks blocking the road; crashing into each other because neither one wanted to give up the right of way. At 8:00 the streets of the city are deadly quiet and I only have to contend with the occasional delivery truck. This morning I had to defend myself against the young women in business clothes who had no intention of slowing down at the intersection even though she had a red light. One man ran his bike into mine because he thought he should go around the parked truck before me, even though I was ahead of him and we were all WALKING our bikes at that point because there was so little space left on the road. What’s up with all this agressive behavior?

I bike home at the end of the day around 5 or 6 every evening. The roads are again crowded with bikers heading home, but it is no where near this hectic or crazy. I guess everyone has spent their energy for the day and can’t be bothered to fight each other for road space at that point. I think I will go back to leaving for work early. It’s easier on my blood pressure.

Amsterdam history in fiction

I’m in the middle of reading “Quicksilver” by Neal Stephenson. When I bought it, and its two sequels, I had never heard of the books or the author, but they are big thick books with small print – perfect! Now I can hardly put it down.

This book starts in the New World colonies, goes back in time to 17th century London, Paris, Amsterdam and various baronies in present day Germany. The characters range from Sir Isaac Newton, to Hooke, Leibniz, William of Orange, Louis XIV even. Plus a few fictional main characters who, if you aren’t so up on your 17th century history like me, you don’t know for sure they are fictional til you check it out.

This book is so well written that it makes history a fascinating read. Espcially when you live in one of the major cities. And who would have thought that William of Orange was so fond of blow jobs.

This last summer I also read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” which also has some of the same characters. If you are a science fan, and are also interested in European history, these books are fun reads and highly recommended.

Back to School in Dutch

The leaves are falling, the temps are dropping (a little), and the sun is too lazy to come up early in the morning. It must be Fall (or Autumn for you non-US speakers). And you know what that means – Back to School.

It was back to school for me last night when my latest Dutch class started. I say “latest” because I’ve taken 3 classes previously, although it’s been 18 months since the last one ended. You’d think I’d be fluent by now, but nooooooo I still spend most of my time speaking English, reading English and thinking in English. Although the other day I couldn’t think of the English word for “loopband” which had my mom laughing.

My new classes are with the Volksuniversiteit which is a place for adult education where you can learn to paint portraits, to wire your house, to appreciate Italian architecture, take historical walks through Amersterdam, or learn languages, just to name a few classes on offer. I’m doing the NT2 (Nederlands als Tweede Taal – Dutch as a second language) course, which requires an itake interview of an hour to see what level you should be in. I ended up right smack in the middle of 9 levels. This basically means that over the 18 months that I didn’t take any classes I skipped a level upwards. I guess hanging out with DB has had some positive effect. If I continue improving I can one day take the NT2 test, which I don’t really have to do, but I’d like to do. Looks good on a cv/resume.

The other classes I took were at the UVA. I decided to try a different school because the UVA classes are overcrowded and I was less than impressed with the teachers I had. So far, after one night with the new school, I’m pleasantly surprised.

What did we learn in Day 1?
Today, 19 September, is Prinsjesdag. The Queen will arrive in Den Haag in her golden coach to deliver a speech and to present the government’s direction for the coming year. This is somewhat ironic since the present government is limping along with a broken coalition. New elections will be held on 22 November to decide the makeup of the Tweede Kaamer and the new government and new Prime Minister. Harry Potter might be on his way out!

All this and more we discussed in Dutch class last night, all in Dutch of course. We also discussed various forms of government around the world.
And then we did grammar exercises.

Now, my question to those ROC administrators, who are charged with creating and delivering the inburgerings curses, is, WHY DON’T YOU TEACH THIS IN THE INBURGERINGS CURSES? I learned more in one night of a Dutch language course than I ever did in the foreigners integration course that is required by law for all newcomers. What a joke this is. Rita Verdonk, you have no clue do you?

Favorite expression learned last night: Nederland is klein maar fijn.

OKGO is OK to go

Last night in the Melkweg played The Hard Lessons, OKGO and Motion City Soundtrack. They were touring together through Germany, Paris and Amsterdam. Last night was the end of their tour. I would not have even thought to go to this event except for finding the OKGO treadmill video on utube and thought it was so cool that I was curious enough to go see them live.

My first impression, while waiting outside for the doors to open, was that I’d accidently arrived at a highschool dance. Was anyone there over 18? I’m sure everyone else thought I was someone’s mother. This was not a good sign. And why so many American teenage girls? Did the bands charter a plane for them?

The Hard Lessons started the evening off playing “Rock and Roll”. They covered all the genres – rock, blues, country ballad, etc. Imagine the Scissor Sisters but less polished. Continuing the high school theme, I gave them an A for effort and enthusiasm. Augie on guitar strutted his stuff and did his best to get the crowd clapping and singing, Ko Ko kicked her legs and showed off her mother’s highheeled shoes. The Anvil was by far the best musician of the group, calmly and coolly beating the shit out of his drum set. Overall I gave them a C+. Keep working at it, get a real bass player and a real keyboard player, and you’ll be fine. Of course if you visit their website, it reads as if they are the next coming of Christ’s official band, but that’s American marketing for you.

Next up was OKGO. As I said, they were the reason I was there, and the reason I dragged DB there. These guys better be good since I’m sitting among a bunch of teenage girls, whom I never even liked when I was one. At least they were a full band with 3 guitar players and drummer. And they put out some sound. The driving force is Damian who seems to have learned his stage presence from Pelle Almquvist and had enough boyish charm to keep even someone his mother’s age interested. The music is nothing new or unique, but it’s fast and fun and not at all self absorbed or pretentious. The musicianship is good enough to sound professional without being so polished as to be boring. In other words, good fun for an hour. The most fun part, and what makes them stand out from the hundreds of wannabees out there, is their willingness to practice until perfect their silly dancing. At the end of their set they played a song off their CD in background and the four of them stood at the front of the stage and danced. They were obviously having a great time doing it, and they were good at it too! The choreography is as corny as a barndance, but that’s not the point. The point is that they CAN do it and they DO do it and everyone feels good watching them. Just check out utube for all the OKGO kids doing their own versions of the dances. B for music, A+ for the fun factor.

Last up, and headlining the evening, was Motion City Soundtrack. Will someone please tell me WHY they were headlining? I was so completely underwhelmed, no, even repulsed, that I nearly walked out half way through their set. I only stayed out of morbid curiosity to see if it could get any worse. Justin Pierre lost his voice and could barely choke out sounds in the end. The music was just so boring and the band so irritating. Talk about overacting! There was absolutely nothing genuine about their stage performance. The most irritating was the keyboard player who threw himself and his keyboard around the stage with such pseudo intensity as if his job was as difficult and important as brain surgery. Almost as irritating was Justin’s constant bitching about the sound coming into his earpiece. And his talking to the crowd only showed him to be an egomaniac with absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever to say. We don’t care about how cool you think you are Justin. Concentrate on making better music and you’ll be better off. I have to report, however, that the crowd loved them. They jumped. They sang. They crowd surfed (although they let one poor girl fall to the ground and stopped the band in mid-song to make sure she was ok). But they are only 17 and can be forgiven for not knowing any better. In 20 years they will play this band’s music and have fond memories of being young and naive. Think Rick Astley or Milli Vanilli.

Becoming Dutch – Phase II, Part I update

Yesterday we received a letter in the mail from the Stadsdeel regarding our request to become a registered partnership. See earlier post about all those details. DB thought that the Stadsdeel would review and approve MY paperwork, then send it all off to the IND for THEIR approval, and THEN it was necessary for the Stadsdeel to have HIS birth certificate in order to finalize the partnership paperwork. That would make logical sense. Why would the Stadsdeel or IND need his birth certificate in order to approve or deny MY paperwork?

But noooo.

The letter states that so far the Stadsdeel is happy with my paperwork, but they won’t go any further until they have his birth certificate in their hot little hands, and we need to bring the original copy of this letter with us when we drop it off. And THEN we have to fill out an “M46 formulier”. This wasn’t mentioned before and who knows what it’s for. I just hope it doesn’t cost money.

Since we didn’t think it was important to hurry up with the birth certificate for DB, he applied for it online last week. It takes 10-14 days to get it in the mail so we should get it in another week. If we had gone there in person we could have had it on the spot. But what takes 15 minutes in person takes 10-14 days without someone breathing down their necks to get it done right away. Go figure.

The good news is that the Stadsdeel likes me and thinks enough of my paperwork to let me hook up with a Dutchie. Now it’s up to the IND. A scary thought indeed. To be continued….

Apple non-event 12 September

Am I the only Mac zealot who is less than impressed with the 12 September announcements? As far as I can see the only really interesting announcement was earlier with the new iMac screen size and bump in processor power.

Maybe I’m especially underwhelmed because I don’t live in the US and I don’t have a credit card with a US billing address. Therefore I can’t buy movies or TV shows via iTunes. I can’t even SEE what others can buy once I log in because iTunes knows my story and blocks all the non-available content. What a rip off.

I can understand not selling the TV shows since the networks elsewhere in the world (like our lame NET5 for example) likes to buy the shows a year later than they come out, at a better price I guess, and show them piecemeal. Here they do really nasty things like get you hooked on Grey’s Anatomy then suddenly stop showing the program half way into the season. Just stop. No explanation. No warning. Too bad. Tough shit. This is why I illegally download TV shows using Limewire. I’m forced to by the unprofessional Dutch networks.

But why doesn’t Apple allow us to buy movies? Movies that have been released worldwide should be able to be bought worldwide. Why not?

As to the other “news”, who needs another ipod mini? I have one of those already – a lovely pink one with my name on it. Why would I want to buy another one? I was really looking forward to a new Nano with more storage, or lower price, or video or something interesting. Now if I want to buy a black one I have to fork out for the highest price model. The thing that interested me about getting a Nano, when I have a perfectly good mini to use, is the Nike+ thingy that I can use to kick my running into gear. As a geek and tech junky, that Nike+ add-on looks really cool. But I don’t NEED a new ipod to play music. Now, given this new non-announcement, I think I’ll just look for a sale priced old Nano, in black, with the nice plastic finish that matches my white macBook and not bother with the new models.

Last, and maybe least, is the iTV announcement. Another non-interesting product when you consider that I can hook up my macBook to my TV, or simply get a new MacMini to use exclusively with my TV. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of wireless. I have an airport with airtunes that I use all the time. I’m now sitting outside on my roof terrace with my MacBook connected to the internet. But streaming to my TV? There are better and cheaper ways to get the same thing.

I hope next time Apple really has something to say when they build an event around announcements. Otherwise we will stop paying so much attention to them. Please please Apple don’t become another Microsoft!

Advice to single men

If you are a single man in Amsterdam I know the best place to meet women. I discovered this yesterday when I went to the first Start to Run meeting in the Vondelpark. My neighbor and I need to get in shape, lose a little weight, and basically get off our butts once a week and get some exercise. I also have the goal of running the Dam to Dam race next year. So, off we went to the Run-2-Day shop on the Overtoom where the class begins every Saturday morning for the next 6 weeks.

I have to say, I was surprised to see so many people there (about 50) and nearly all of them women. Women of all ages. Women wearing close fitting workout close. If you are a single man I doubt there’s any better place to meet women. You see them without all the makeup and artifice of going out at night. You see who whines and complains when asked to work hard. Who’s in shape and who’s not. Who’s friendly in a non-threatening environment. So, guys, come on out and show us what you’ve got!