I started this project the day after I landed in the Netherlands. This is yarn that I bought at Stitches West a few weeks ago. My friends, the Yarniacs, took me by the hand and lead me to the Sincere Sheep booth, introduced me to the dyer/owner, and helped me to pick out this color. Such enablers! This is worsted weight yarn, from Cormo sheep in Wyoming. I wanted something special from the U.S. to make a new sweater and this yarn is indeed special. It feels wonderful in my hands.  It is not superwash so it is not slippery in my hands but has a really sturdy yet next to skin soft feel. The texture is just perfect for the sweater I’m making – Foldlines by Norah Gaughan. Here is the photo from the Ravelry page.


As you can see, I’m knitting the body in the round even though the pattern says to knit it in pieces.  It’s an even 22 stitch repeat, so why not knit this in the round up to the underarms? There will still be shoulder and armhole seams for structural strength.

DB and I are now “camping” out at his parents house in NL while we organize a home of our own. Changing countries is not an easy process.  It’s stressful and takes a lot of time and effort.  When we moved to the US I was working full time and DB did a lot of the organizing while he wasn’t working.  Now it’s the reverse.  He is working full time and I’m organizing and sorting things out.  He did of course start the process here in NL while I was still in the US, but I think I will be taking that over now. Certainly a lot of the house stuff.

We’ve made an offer on a house, which was accepted, so now we are starting the search for financing and also making budgets for what we have to buy and what to do next. We sold nearly everything we had when we left the US and now we need to buy what will fit nicely into our new home. Exciting, yes! But a lot of work.

The Dutch have an expression “Het voelt dubbel”. “It feels double”.  You might think that the feeling the person is talking about is felt doubly strong, like feeling doubly upset or doubly sad.  But that is not what it means at all.  People keeping asking me how it feels to be back in the Netherlands.  I reply “het voelt dubbel” meaning I feel at both extremes – very happy and very sad. The expression means that you feel both sides of a situation. It’s an interesting view into Dutch culture because this expression is used a lot. Dutch people have the reputation of being open minded and I think this is an example of that. They see both sides of situations and feel both sides of situations all the time and express it in “feeling double”.

I’m really really sad that we left the US when we did and in the manner we did. My job was not only awful, but the company was busy downsizing and it was only a matter of time before my turn would come. We needed to make decisions about our future, not let some company make it for us.

Also, living in Southern California wasn’t easy. It was stressful. It was hard on body and soul. This was a surprise to us and not what we expected when we moved there. But that was the reality and it was clear that staying, even if I found another job (which wasn’t happening no matter how hard I looked), was probably not a good idea.

When DB got the job in Amsterdam I cheered! I was so happy because this meant that I could quit my terrible job and we could go back to a place where we would feel safe and secure and life could be relatively calm again.

But this also meant leaving my mom in California and that makes me very very deeply sad. I don’t really want to talk about it.

And so I feel double. In the past few days, being back here in NL, I’ve felt so completely at home. This is where I belong. I never felt so at home in SoCal, but I do here. I dropped right back in to speaking Dutch all the time. I’m excited about our new house and new life. But I’m sad to leave people in the US and I feel like our leaving so soon was a kind of failure. It was not the plan to leave so soon. Het voelt dubbel.

Yesterday I took the train to Haarlem to look at some house stuff.  While there I had a favorite Dutch snack – kibbeling – pieces of batter dipped and deep fried fish. Yum! 67E01011-87B0-4826-A220-4AC6873047D3

Who’s a Dutchie Now?

On the 19th of June I became a Dutch citizen. I was required to go to the official ceremony at the Stadsdeel Amsterdam, in the Stopera building. I have an official certificate that I am supposed to guard with my life as it will remain my final proof of citizenship.

Thus endeth that quest. Somehow it feels anti-climactic, probably since nothing in my day to day life has changed as a result. Maybe it will be real when voting time comes around.

My colleagues bought me orange daisies for the occasion.

Becoming Dutch – Part III – the application is IN!

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here. I have no excuse besides the usual things bloggers come up against – time constraints, other priorities, lack of anything interesting to say. The last time I posted was around Thanksgiving, while I was in the US. I survived the trip back and immediately got sucked into changes at work, holiday planning and DIY projects at home. But there IS NEWS regarding one big project….. becoming Dutch!

On 7 December we went to the Stadsdeelkantoor and officially became a Partnership. I’m still not sure what the difference is between getting married and having a registered partnership. I first thought that the registered partnership was a way for gays to become “legal”, but since gay marriage is legal here this explanation makes no sense. In any case, we chose for the registered partnership, and on December 7 we signed on the dotted line. We had 4 witnesses and to be honest we both wanted to make this as informal as possible, but some people just don’t listen! The abtenaar who was presiding over things tried her best to make it “special”, bless her, but it only became comical. For us this was a formality on the way to Dutch citizenship, and doesn’t change our relationship one bit. But yeah, it’s done and now we are even more official! We never would have done this except that it’s a requirement if I want to have both a Dutch and passport. And, by the way, in de Baarsjes its free on Thursdays!

This morning we went to the IND (yet again) so that I could apply for Dutch citizenship. At this point we’ve jumped all the difficult bureaucratic hurdles, so this final step was quick and easy. The only hard part was handing over 362 euros. And if they turn down your application you don’t get your money back. I had to show them my inburgeringscertificaat but everything else was already in the computer. The woman who helped us confirmed that I would be able to keep my US passport – no problem.

Now we wait! She said that it might take 6 months before I get a reply, but I expect it will be less. Once it is approved I will have to attend the official ceremony. And then we will throw a party!

One more step on the way to becoming an official Dutchie!

Becoming Dutch – Phase II, Part 1, section iii

Yesterday we went down to the Stadsdeelkantoor to apply to become a registered partnership. This after the other paperwork necessary was done and about 4 months had passed. Four months! since we first went to the IND to apply for Dutch citizenship. Sheesh.

Anyway, it was a pretty quick operation yesterday. Review of existing paperwork. Pick a date to come back and sign the final paperwork. Sign here. We choose to come back on 7 December since it’s a Thursday and on Thursdays marriages and partnerships are FREE! Otherwise we would have had to pay 200something euros. Are we Dutch or what.

Our next step is to find 4 witnesses to come with us to this official event. If it wasn’t for the fact that we need to do this in order for me to be able to apply for Dutch citizenship we never would have thought about registering. A livingtogethercontract was enough for us. Now we have to drag 4 other people to the city office on a cold December morning in order to help me get to the end goal. Or just grab a few people off the street with promises of hot coffee inside….

Becoming Dutch – Phase II, Part 1, section ii

Back on September 28 I said to mark this date. The IND had one month to reply to our request to become a Registered Partnership. What the IND has to do with it I still don’t understand. But nevermind, whoever does understand bureaucracy must be crazy. Well, surprise, surprise, the IND actually replied early. We received today our letter from the Stadsdeel De Baarsjes saying that we are approved and to make an appointment to come down and get hitched (sort of).

They were at least a week early with their reply, so maybe the IND is getting better.

DB will call tomorrow to make the appointment.

Once we’re officially registered as a partnership (not sure how long that takes, surely not just a day!) we can go down to the IND (again) and fill in the paperwork for my Dutch passport. I’m seriously trying to hurry before they change the law about letting me keep my US passport. I expect it will take 6 months from the time the forms are handed in until I receive a (positive) reply. We’ll be sure to take photos at the ceremony.

I will keep you posted loyal readers……

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.

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.