A ton of bricks

And so it hits...
I was ironing a skirt this morning when I realized that the last time I had worn it had been on a sunny April Friday when I took Pepper to work with me. I remember walking her back up to the office after visiting the park blocks and how she pranced along right beside me and was so happy. At one point I looked down and she looked up and, as cheesey (keeping with the theme) as it sounds, I know she was loving me as much as I was loving her. I can't believe she isn't mine anymore. I can't believe that I am never going to have her sit on my lap or put her head on my shoulder when I am driving. I can't stop crying and I have to go to work in 10 minutes. I miss my life, I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss my dog, I miss having people around who get me and like me anyway, I miss Portland, I miss routine, I miss it all. I don't want to start over anymore. I want my dog back and I want my life back and I want to come home. I'm not nearly as brave or strong as any of you gave me credit for -- at least not right now.

And, if any of you are new, Pepper was my dog. Now she is someone else's dog.


No matter where you go

The baggage comes with you. I wonder what it would have been like to be an expat in my 20s, mostly because I would have had the capacity and desire to be wilder then, and I sort of feel like a boring old woman amidst the sheer volume of alcohol consumption by my coworkers. I want to go out and be social, but I just can't keep up and I like sleeping far more than I like being loud in a smokey bar. And I miss going out to dinner. People don't really seem to do that here and I outgrew the liquid dinner diet about the same time my lactose intolerance (aka - the dark days) ended and I rediscovered cheese. I am just not a huge party girl and I am sort of in a party atmosphere right now.

I move in to my new apartment this weekend, which will be fabulous. My things arrive from Portland on Tuesday and for the first time in years and years, I will have my own place. I can't wait. There will be photos, though I won't have internet access for a while. If you believe what people say, the act of having cable hooked up in Amsterdam is a study in frustration and sheer amazement. Everyone keeps warning me about how bad Dutch service is and how "It's not possible" should be the national motto, but I haven't encountered anything that bad yet. Rest assured, I will write about it when it happens.


Brussels ain't no chopped liver

Just got back from my first adventure beyond the borders of Amsterdam. Here are some highlights and photos:

- Watching a series of five modern windmills come forward on the horizon. At first, they seemed to be in a straight line, then, as the train got closer, they looked like they were clumped together, and then, as the train moved, they moved apart again. And the coolest thing was that each set of blades moved separately, but each one was perfectly timed to the different tempos of "Blue Rondo A La Turk."

- The number of statues in Brussels freaked me out. Seriously. From every major art movement and of every major event for hundreds of years. I was amazed at the amount of Art Nouveau next to modernist next to baroque next to neo-classical and mixed in with overblown ornate architecture next door to Bauhaus and post-war architecture. It wasn't beautiful, but at the same time it was. It functional despite the form, which is a whole conversation for another time.

- I took myself out to dinner last night and used my peu du conversational French for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, I stopped reading after "risotto avec champignons" and didn't bother to translate "y foie de boeuf." It wasn't bad -- I would for sure go back just to try more of the food.

- The art museum is fantastic. They had three Chagall’s in one of the galleries, including "Clair de Lune." I sat on a bench opposite from it, played Debussy on my iPod and stared and stared. And then I wandered around the surrealist gallery listening to Tom Waits.


Patriotism in the pitch

I watched the England vs. Sweden game at an Irish (??) pub that was filled with British ex-pats cheering their loudest and getting all testosteroney with football fever. It was a sight to behold -- hot, a bit smelly, very noisy and very, for lack of a better word, passionate. Green Bay's Styrofoam cheese hats have nothing on the English soccer fan.

And so today, when the USA played Ghana in its must-win game, I sat in front of the television at work and allowed myself a bit of patriotic internal flag waving. It felt good to cheer for my team simply because they were my team and that anthem at the beginning of the game was my anthem and that dork in the stands wearing an American flag and a chicken beak mask was one of my countrymen (zoinks!). Perhaps I am too judgmental of those who are AMERICAN with a capital A -- talking loudly with wide-eyed innocence and wonder at how different things are here from there (like there is the land of normal and here is some freakish place where the wine is cheaper) -- perhaps I am missing out on something great by not embracing my national identity 24/7. But how can I be proud of being an American when I am not proud of America? And why is it that I assume that these wide-eyed Americans who talk too loudly and point out too many differences are all sheltered neo-cons?

Enough about that. Bettine Geitenkaas Honing 45+ is a sweet, soft cheese that is delicious on sandwiches. It tastes a little like cream cheese only sooooo much better.


Shocking development!

When I went to the market on Saturday morning (alright -- a little worse for wear after the Netherlands game the night before), I was repulsed by the smell of cheese. Never has that happened before, and, frankly, it scared me a little bit.

Fortunately I overcame my temporary cheese phobia with yesterday's lunch: a sandwich consisting of chorizo sausage (not WinCo chorizo sausage with red dye #495, but excellent and real sausage), black olive tapenade (yum!) and thick slices of goat cheese.



New neighborhoods to wander

Yesterday I went on my first housing tour and saw seven apartments -- all of which would have been fine to move in to. One place is very cool, very grown up, very modern and fab, very Domino magazine (hint to my friends with access to free copies + interoffice mail) and I am going to try and get it come Monday. I walked down to the neighborhood today (another beautiful day here in sunny Amsterdam) to get a sense of the people and tone on a weekend, and sort of developed a crush. Nothing is decided yet, but I feel like I am making good progress.


Merci Madam Kreis

Note to the kids: if anyone tells you that French is a dying language and not to bother taking it in school, don't believe them.

The naan was delicious.


Tipsy shopping bag

Here's the story. I left work and came back to my apartment to trade my work bag for my shopping bag because I was determined to go to the grocery store this evening. I walked to the store that I visited on Sunday, only to find it closed for major restoration. I was one of many people who were surprised by this - seriously, in the span of a minute I saw at least 13 people approach the store and look confused. I decided to go to my closer, but smaller market, but not before I went on a walk along the canal. Imagine my surprise when I heard my name called after walking for a while. I turned and saw some lovely co-workers waving me over. Apparently they had tried to reach me after I left the office, but I had no way of knowing that. I just crossed their path. So here's a drink (or 10) to serendipity. And here's to white wine. And here's to grocery shopping after many glasses and good company.

Here is what I brought home with me (written as I unpack my shopping bag and taste everything):

Vanilla ice cream {nearly brought me to tears with happiness}
Fresh green beans {whatever}
Ardenner pate {pretty good. very mild. don't know what ardenner is, but I am a supporter}
Patak's Original (an authentic Indian recipe) Naan {crap! the preparation instructions are in Dutch, French, German and Italian -- I am screwed}
Butter {every recipe in the Silver Spoon cookbook calls for it}
Zaal Kaas cheese {mild. very milky. a comfort food cheese. don't know if I would bother with it again}
Two fresh peaches {whatever}
Danish Blue 50+ cheese {dying. soooooo good. on a tall cloud of flavour looking down on the world and singing a happy song of joy titled, "Cheese, how I love thee." If this cheese was a dark cave, I would overcome my fear of enclosed places and move in.}


The funniest thing I saw today

An older lady rode her bike past me while I was wandering...somewhere. She was wearing a long yellow scarf and a brown linen shirt dress and had her grey, curly hair done in a fabulous half-chignon. I was impressed.

So imagine my surprise when she blew, not one, but TWO snot rockets when she was about half a block from me. While riding her bike. I thought snot rockets were exclusive to bike messangers and Puck-poseurs, but apparently not. If there was a sudden strong wind, she would have had slug tracks on her linen. But lucky for her, that didn't happen. She just blew and rode on.

My reactions to World Cup (ongoing)

- never have I seen so many people raptly watching a sporting event and wearing orange at the same time. Just when I thought nothing could top watching the Stanley Cup playoffs during a Pistons game at the Yipsilanti sports bar.

- that "Ole! OleOleOle!" soccer song isn't so charming at 2am especially when there is no game on.

- ooh! Look at all the sunburned aryans! (Sweden vs. T&T)

- wow. I didn't get the whole David Beckham thing until now. (England vs. Paraguay)

- those giant hats are completely Peep-bonnet inspired, but I think they are on the field as dramatic...topiaries. (opening ceremony)

- why do Germans dressed in folk costumes (dirndles and lederhosen) and marching in formation send chills down my spine? (opening ceremony)


Glad I didn't pack the mukluks

I was told that the Netherlands is a cold place -- that I would be lucky to see a 75 degree day at the height of summer. Perhaps the last two days of sunny, borderline hot weather is a fluke, but I am not complaining because it is hard to walk around crying when the sky is blue and girls are all wearing cute skirts.

And I tasted the most amazing chevre with lemon zest at the farmer's market this morning. Sublime. SubFREAKINGblime. The cheese booths were all crowded and I don't understand the shopping questions yet (May I help you? Is this all? Do you know how much this costs? etc.), so I just admired and drooled today. Which, when I think about it, might not be so great in a foreign country -- the drooling might be misinterpreted as a physical condition instead of a merely mental one.

Admiration and drooling: MTV in German! Lots of orange soccer ephemera! A cool breeze coming through my living room window! I managed to find a store that sold both a coffee press and a hairdryer!

More tomorrow. I am going to try and spend the entire day wandering around.