Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expats & Books

I was recently approached to participate in an interview about expats and books by Anita from Greetings from Holland.

Here is an excerpt:

An important book in your life is....
"Paul Coelho's ‘The Alchemist’
The Alchemist is about a young boy named Santiago who sets out to live his dream instead of settling down into mundane everyday life like so many of us do. The book is written simply in the style of a fable, it is full of fantasy, symbolism and adventure similar to what we find in fairy tales but the message is beautiful..." Read the rest of the article.

On the topic of books, I have to say that lately I have really been getting back into reading tonnes of fiction and it is gezellig overload as I lay on the sofa reading while Pogo sits on belly and purrs. At the moment I am picking up a little obsession for Paul Auster (who I recently wrote about here). After finishing his 'The Book of Illusions' I started on his signature work 'The New York Trilogy'.

Just like The Book of Illusions, The New York Trilogy keeps you on the edge and keeps you guessing. Like I mentioned in the interview these novels are a little "dark" and "leave you a little chilled" but I can't help wanting more, so next on my list is 'The Brooklyn Follies'.

Monday, September 28, 2009

6 Months in Amsterdam

This Thursday the 1st of October will mark our 6 month anniversary in Amsterdam.

It's hard to believe we've been here 6 months already but at the same time it feels like a city we've lived in for years. I often find myself walking the streets around our home, walking down the Overtoom, walking through Vondelpark, running into people I know and needing to remind myself that these streets that I feel so at home in aren't the streets i've walked all my life. It's a beautiful feeling to finally feel at home somewhere.

Here is the last 6 months of my expat life broken down simply;

I am still jobless:
I try not to let this get my expat adventure down but the truth is - it's depressing how exceptionally difficult it has been to find positions in my field that do not require fluent Dutch. It's depressing to think my career ambitions have been halted, my ambition is pretty specific, and I'm dying to keep moving toward it. If my Hawaii dream is ever going to come true then I need experience in my field and I need funds, so I want an exciting geo job now please!

On the positive side, I am waiting to hear back about an exciting opportunity this week, if I don't get it, my next course of action is to enrol into an express Dutch course.

I have also been busily building a website directly related to my studies, mostly as a way to keep myself updated on current research and to keep myself in the field.

I've become a social bee:
We have met some wonderful new people and made some wonderful new friends, actually sometimes I can't believe how easy it is for me to make friends outside of Australia. I am really enjoying how rewarding and pleasant socialising here is, so much so that thinking of it right now makes me want to bake cookies and buy presents for all my new friends here!

The visitors haven't stopped coming:
We have been bombarded with visitors and people on stop overs, and it's been bliss! It seems like Amsterdam is a place many people are keen to visit. In the 6 months we have had three friends and Mats' brother come stay in our apartment, Mats' parents come visit, and five friends swing by on stop overs while touring Europe. And there are even a few more visits expected on the way! (I am working on printing a photo of each of these people in Amsterdam and putting them in our foyer and making an "Amsterdam Wall of Fame").

Other bits & pieces:
We travelled a little.
We got a kitty to solve our mouse problem.
I spent too much time lamenting about my life in Sydney &
I found life blissful enough to offer advice no one asked for.

Amsterdam is fabulous, life is great and I can't wait to see what the next 6 months has to offer!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inner City Living & the Neighbours from Hell

I try to keep bitching levels low and optimism high on this blog, mostly because that's how I like to live my life these days. But it's time for a little rant (sorry!).

The most obvious thing that hit me about living in a city was the all noise around me, the noise of people everywhere, the sound of cutlery on plates, the sound of chitter chatter, the sound of people making love, the sound of radio's, TV's, children and pets. I love it, I love the feeling of living among people.

If you don't like city life and the noises that come with it, then maybe you should move out of the city and into the suburbs? I speak of my neighbours downstairs, of course.

Every afternoon at 3pm he comes home, starts by yelling at his children and then turns up his T.V so loud it vibrates through the floor boards. I can tolerate this because hopefully soon enough I will be working when he is at home harassing his family. I can also overlook the fact that he is such a bad parent that his little children are up crying at 11pm when they should be well asleep. This I tolerate because I like to hope that when they grow up they won't take his shit, they will see how Dutch kids all around them are much happier than they are and they will begin to question his psychopathic tendencies. I also tolerate this because I have accepted that these are city noises, and they are unavoidable.

What I don't tolerate though, is when he bangs on his roof (our floor boards) once a week on Friday or Saturday night when we decide to play some music and enjoy a glass of wine, rather than talking to us about it in a civilised adult manner.

What I also don't tolerate is him banging on my door and yelling at me the first time some water from my balcony plants dripped onto his balcony (which he never uses might I add). This is another thing he can come and talk to me about in a civilised adult manner. I refuse to reward aggressive behaviour so I continue watering my plants (which I don't really see any problem with doing anyway) I will do this until he stops behaving like an aggressive 5 year old and starts behaving like the grown man that he is supposed to me.

However, since standing my ground, I have noticed that everyday I get on my bike I find a new problem with it, is this a coincidence?

- My wheels rattle and have been damaged by what looks like a kick.
- My kick stand has been broken off.
- My tyres were inflated so much that they felt like they would burst (we know they can't, but you know, people like him are stupid enough to think they can).
- The battery on my front light was drained even though it was brand new.
- One of the reflectors behind the handles has been smashed.
- Glass was put under the tires.
- A long metal antenna was hidden in with the spokes of my wheel (luckily for me I'm not as good on my bike as a Dutchie so I don't just jump on it and ride away).

Am I being paranoid here? Or are these the classic signs of a psychopath getting revenge by vandalising the only thing of mine he can? Or the behaviours of a psychopaths children who think I'm the bad guy?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Truths About Amsterdam

Bill O'Reilly recently portrayed Amsterdam as a cesspool of corruption and liberal failure. In his attack he failed to refer to any sources where he found his information, because he didn't have any - not that this is surprising, when have we ever seen a right wing conservative use cold hard facts?

Here is the original video:

(I just love how she says "social tolerance" like it's a bad thing).

In response to this, two Amsterdam locals Robert and Elian, launched a video (and a website) showing the cold hard facts O'Reilly failed to mention.

Here is their video:

Their video gives the percentage of population in the Netherlands and in the US that has ever used cannabis (US: 40.3% Netherlands: 22.6%). More interesting though was a statistic I found on NationMaster - that Cannabis users in the US doubled those in the Netherlands;
US: 12.3% - Netherlands: 5.24%

What's more, it turns out that this crime infested cesspool of anarchy also has a fraction of assaults compared to those in the US;
US: 7.569 per 1000 - Netherlands: 2.689 per 1000

Their experimentation with "free love" that is also contributing to their liberal failure not only leaves them with a fraction of teenage pregnancies per capita compared to the US;
US: 1,671.63 births per 1 million people (highest in the world) - Netherlands: 172.061 births per 1 million people
but also with so few abortions that they don't even make the list;
US: 4.0945 per 1000 people - Netherlands: less than 0.113986 per 1000 people

(Statistics from from NationMaster).

Statistics aside, here are my truths about Amsterdam:

- I feel safe when going home alone in the middle of the night.
- I feel safe walking the streets of the red light district, which I can't say for any other place i've been were prostitution is located, and let's face it, it's located almost everywhere.
- I see happy people all the time. Happy adults and happy children (in fact according to UNICEF the happiest children in the world).
- Although I have easy access to it I still choose not to smoke weed.
- I feel safer here than I did in any of the suburbs I lived in in Australia.

What's your truth about Amsterdam?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adventure Calls

I have been lucky enough to do a lot of travelling the last few years since I made a serious effort to start living my dream. I have sat and enjoyed coffee in Parisian café's, walked down cobble stone streets in Germany and stood fascinated at the size of the waves in Portugal. I have walked in 104 different towns and cities in 18 different countries.

But I often find myself craving more, craving to climb more volcanoes, volcanoes that are more wild than the ones I climbed in New Zealand, I crave walking streets that teach me to rely on myself like the ones I walked in New York City, I crave to feel adrenaline like the adrenaline I felt when I found myself crawling into a glacier in the cold, dark Arctic.

What dread and excitement at the same time looks like.

What pure satisfaction looks like.

I have missed doing something that requires me to push myself. And as I look at photos of my last adventure and reminisce, I find myself opening Google Earth and looking down at the adventures I hope to have ahead of me.

Going overland from Europe to Asia via the Transiberian
Spending weeks walking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Seeing the Wallace Line for myself
Trekking through the jungles of Columbia to find the 'Lost City'

Ah adventure. I've missed you, my friend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Happy Expat

If you're someone who plans on coming to Amsterdam and reads the Expatica forums, you might find yourself reconsidering your move to the Netherlands all together. It seems that a handful of people have found the Expatica forums a perfect place to vent all their little frustrations.

As I read the hostility in these people's words and their sweeping generalisations about the Dutch, I often find myself wondering if there is a certain type of person who is best suited to the expat life, the type of person who has learnt not to judge others, not to attribute one annoying trait of an individual onto an entire country people, the type of person who finds cultural differences fascinating rather than branding them wrong or constantly comparing them to their own cultures.

If you have never lived in a new country but are considering it, there are some very important rules to leading a happy expat life;

1. Do not judge or criticise others' way of life.
2. Explore and be curious.
3. Think of everything as a learning experience.
4. Remember that it's not always easy.

A happy expat knows that being an expat isn't always fun times, it's not always easy and it's not a vacation (like some people think of it). Being an expat means leaving behind friends and family, it means leaving behind everything that is comfortable to you, it means starting everything from the beginning, new sites, new smells, new tastes, new streets, new people, new banks, new doctors, new jobs, new everything... And what makes it so bitter sweet is that a lot of these things are what also make the expat life so damn rewarding too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Amsterdamned is Best Amsterdam Expat Blog?

Why Go Amsterdam recently posted an article called "Best Amsterdam blogs: Photos, travel advice, food and expat issues"

And Amsterdamned was mentioned under the category of 'Expat Blog'!

"This is really nicely written by an Aussie expat named Angela, who is more than willing to share some parts of her expat life with the online world..." (read the rest of the article)

Blogs in other categories included:

Food Blog: Amsterdam Foodie
Expat Events Blog: Cosmo-polite
Photo Blog: One Year in Amsterdam & Photodam
Local Tips Blog: Spoted by Locals - Amsterdam
Travel Blog: Shannon's Amsterdam Travel Blog
Internet Radio Channel: Radio free Amsterdam

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amsterdam Must Do's

We have been lucky enough to have several friends and family visit us here in Amsterdam, and as locals now, we have been doing our best to give our guests the best experience they can get. Here, in no order, are some of our guests top things to do (of course some things are best kept secret :)).

BBQ in Vondelpark.
On a sunny day Vondelpark fills up with so many people you might actually begin to wonder if it’s a public holiday. On a day like this buy yourself a disposable BBQ (roughly €4-€6) from most supermarkets and a bottle of red wine and have lunch/dinner in the park. It’s bliss.

Hire a bike and check out the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest).
That’s right, forest. The forest was built (planted?) roughly 70 years ago and has since become overgrown, but because it was a planned park it has lakes, several leisure and sports facilities and an open-air theatre. There are also canoes, kayaks, horses and pedalos for hire. Because it is massive, we have always been content to just ride our bikes and explore. The Amsterdamse Bos is gorgeous and it’s hard to believe there is such a tranquil place so close to the city, no wonder it has become the favourite place to visit amongst most our guests.

Try some Indonesian food.
It was surprising in our first weeks here to see so many Indonesian restaurants, take a-way’s and eetcafé’s. Why Indonesian? During the 17th Century Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch, and so many of these Indonesian spices and dishes were introduced back in the Netherlands. If your budget allows it, go for the rijsttafel (rice table), a Dutch invention that includes rice with several small dishes. Our favourite Indonesian place so far is Kantjil & de Tijger on the Spuistraat, if your budget doesn’t allow for the rijsttafel here (between €44.50- €57.50 for two) then I strongly recommend one of the Rames (between €13.50- €16.40 per person), which gives you a taste of several different dishes on one very generous plate.

Tour Jordaan on foot.
With its picturesque canals and bridges Jordaan is probably the most charming part of Amsterdam. You will find several cosy brown cafés, quirky shops, tonnes of art galleries and some fantastic markets. And speaking of markets, while in Jordaan don’t miss the organic farmers market on the Noordermark. It has some delicious fresh food; the goat’s cheese and the homemade truffle chocolate are to die for. If you like markets as much as I do, then this website has a list and brief description of what's on offer in Amsterdam.

Do a bicycle beer and bitterballen crawl.
My fiancé and I love riding our bikes along the canals and stopping for beer and (occasionally) a bit of bitterballen. Our only rule is that once we leave a bar we have to go into one of the next three bars we see. This way we get to walk into places we usually might not walk into, because of this we have discovered some really great bars/brown cafes that we’re keen to go back to! We usually hit up a different area each time we go but we tend to avoid areas such as Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein because we find that bars and restaurants here tend to be expensive (and the quality of food not too great). But having said that, people watching in Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein is great fun and sometimes having a beer in an outdoor courtyard there can be a lovely way to start a bicycle beer and bitterballen crawl.

Visit the Beach.
I have mentioned before how great a cycling trip to Bloemendaal aan Zee via Haarlem is. If you don’t have it in you to ride the whole way, the train is your best option. You can take a train from Amsterdam Ceentral to Zandvoort aan Zee, it takes close to half an hour and costs roughly €9 for a return trip. From here you can walk along the beach to Bloemendaal aan Zee. All along the beaches here are beach bars with deck chairs and day beds for customers. A few ice cold Heinekens with your bare feet in the sand is a day well spent!