Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rental agreement clause

The rental contract we signed last week was very similar to the ones I've signed previously.  It included clauses like: No pets; No painting the walls or altering the apartment without authorization of the landlord; etc.  But there was a new clause that I'm guessing is rather Netherlands specific.

Special Provision 19 states the following:
Het is niet toegestaan om hennep en/of aanverwante gewassen te telen dan wel om andere activiteiten te ontplooien in het gehuurde die in strijd zijn met de Opiumwet.

Which translated, means roughly:
It is not allowed to grow hemp and/or related crops or to undertake other work in the rental unit at variance with the Opium Act.

And it had never even occurred to me.

Then we were wandering through the flower markets today in Amsterdam, and found the following.

I really love how it's tucked in among all the bonsai tree seeds.  Relaxing and meditative in very different ways...


Pindakaas:  known in English speaking countries as peanut butter.
But pindakaas actually translates into 'peanut cheese', so in our
household it has come to be called PandaCheese.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two steps down, ? to go

So--we have a house!  And we registered* with city hall!  Now we just have to do something that involves IND (which I think has something to do with immigration) and get a stamp in our passports, and then go back to city hall and they'll put through our paperwork to get a BSN (think social security number) and then in two-ish weeks we'll get that in the mail, and then we can finally get a bank account.  Hopefully that will be sometime before Dan's first pay date, as we got the impression they'd just 'hold on' to his money until we did manage to get an account.  And then we can finally get cell phones**.  WHEEE!

*This is going to seem absurd to all you Americans, and probably the Aussies reading too.  In Europe (at least Germany and the Netherlands, and Russia--though that seems like less of a surprise) everyone has to register where they're living with either the police station or city hall (it depends on the city).  To my paranoid self, I can't help feeling this is an invasion of my privacy--which is absurd as I always had an address on my driver's license and probably one attached to my library card, and the government would have no problems finding me if they wanted to, but registering still seems really strange.

**When people have been asking for our phone number, we've either given websites that demand one our defunct Aussie one, or just explain to actual humans that we don't have one yet.  It's worked all right so far...

But back to the house!  It's this amazingly large place where Dan gets to have a work space and I get to turn the dining room into my sewing room (which means we will have plenty of room for guests), and there's a garden in the back which looks like it's doing fine growing on its own so I'll only have to do light gardening, which I think will suit just fine.  Also, I think it was built in the 1930's so all the detailing is fantastic and it has character!  Plus it's fully furnished so we don't have to worry about finding cheap places for furniture and then sell it all again in two years.
Photos will be posted soon and you'll see why (we think) no one rented it yet--our bathroom is a bit ridiculous.  But we don't move in until Friday, so you'll just have to wait as a description just wouldn't do it justice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Domtoren in Utrecht

Photos of the Domtoren, as promised.  We didn't actually take a photo of the entire tower, but the last photo shows the top third of it.  It's currently the tallest structure in Utrecht, and has been since 1382 when it was finished, though there is currently a proposal for an apartment building that's causing some controversy because it would be taller than the tower.  In the late 1600's a really bad storm took out the back half of the church, so now there's a gap between the tower and the rest of the church.  You don't really see how odd it looks from the ground, but it's clear from when you look down from the tower that part of the church is missing.
The bells ring every 15 minutes, and we got to be in the bell ringing room (I don't know what it's actually called) when the 5pm bells rang.  It actually wasn't as loud as I was expecting, though the floor vibrated nicely.  The large bell near the bottom is for the ringing of the quarter hour and the smaller bells above are for playing tunes on the hour.  On Saturdays at noon there's always a longer song played by a special bell ringer.  Our guide told us her repertoire includes everything from Bach to Michael Jackson, so that would definitely be interesting to hear.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We've arrived - obviously

So as I'm sure it was made clear by yesterday's post, we're no longer in Western Australia.  We left there only 3.5 weeks ago, but it feels like at least 6 weeks.  From Australia we travelled to San Francisco for a few days to catch up with some friends and eat as much nostalgia food as we could.  Then to Chicago to visit my parents, where I slept for much of a week (chest infection) and we desperately got the last of the visa stuff figured out (more hangups with beauracracy).  Then to Pittsburgh for a few days with Dan's family, where I got to see the Cubs completely trounce the Pittsburgh Pirates, and we arrived Amsterdam last Tuesday.  From there it's been, well, you read about that yesterday.

But today was/is Dan's birthday, so we had a fun day.  Travelled to Utrecht, one of the cities outside Amsterdam we're looking to settle in, wandered around, ate lunch at a really nice little cafe, climbed 400some-odd steps to the top of the Domtoren (the bell tower of the main cathedral), and saw the new Bourne movie.  A much better day.

Photos may go up tomorrow.  It's too late tonight.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Everyone says it'll be an adventure, but the truth is it's going to suck a lot first

I feel as though I'm living in the book "If You Give a Pig a Pancake", which is extremely similar to the more commonly known "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", but I've read the pig one recently so I'm going with that.  In it a girl gives a pig a pancake, and he then wants syrup, gets sticky, wants a bath, somehow ends up trying on all her clothes, some other stuff involving a fashion show, and then builds a treehouse, using glue which gets him sticky again, which reminds him of the maple syrup so he wants another pancake.  It's one of those books.

Or maybe it's more like a version of the song "There's a hole in the bucket dear Liza, dear Liza", if anyone actually remembers all the verses.

There are very few things I think I really need right now.
--a place to live
--a bank account
--and a phone would be nice, though Dan needs it more as he's used to having internet on the go and I can just call my parents on Skype if need be.

So here's how my (somewhat reverse) version of the pig book goes:

Ultimately, I need a cell phone.  Before I get a cell phone, I need a bank account.  Before I can get a bank account, I need a rental contract, I think to prove that I actually live here.  I also need something called a BSN which is a personal registration number that all people who live here need to have.  Also before I get the BSN I need a rental contract.  So housing is the number one priority.  But in order to find a house, you basically have to sign up with rental companies in order for them to pay any attention to you, and to do that you usually need to enter your phone number.

And that's the short version of the book.  There are other branches that tie in.
--We tried to get a Skype phone number, which you can do for a bit of money, but you need to be a resident of the Netherlands and have info that proves that.  Does anyone know if Skype was designed by the Dutch?
--Apparently, you're supposed to get your BSN within about a week of being here.  But finding an apartment is supposed to take 'at least a few weeks'.
--You need to have health insurance that kicks in before you start work.  On the application, they need your BSN.  Dan doesn't start work until 1 Oct, which gives us two weeks yet, but we are no where near to finding an apartment, so it seems he may have to start work later, or get paid under the table, I'm not really sure how the Dutch handle that one.
--And here's the one that really has me scared, though it doesn't quite fit the pig/pancake model.  The Dutch housing market is TIGHTLY controlled, it seems to be so no one gets a place they can't afford, or someone who makes a lot can't get a really cheap place, those are saved for people who make less money.  There are also often restrictions on how many people can live in a place.  Places around 750e (e is standing in for the Euro sign, as I'm not sure how to insert it in blogger and I'm on a rant and don't want to take the time to look) or under seem to be only for one person, though this (I think) is often at the discretion of the landlord (apartments around 750e in the places we're looking are often small 1 bedrooms).  So many of those are not for us.  But many places, so that the landlord knows you can afford the rent, often have the caveat that you make 3-4 times the rent amount, but this seems to be an unwritten rule and completely up to the landlord.  If a landlord wants 4 times the rent in monthly salary, we could afford a place for 625e (net) (it seems they want net and not gross).  So there's a clear problem there.  If a landlord wants 3 times the rent in monthly salary, we could afford a place for 830e (net).  So our window is really small for rent cost--750-830, but again this ruling is only explicitly stated in a few places so I have no idea if the places we're looking at online are even available for us to rent, which is really frustrating.  I feel almost as if the Dutch are telling Dan that he doesn't really make enough to keep two people on his salary.  That he doesn't make enough to have a wife who doesn't work--when of course I really want to work, I just probably won't be able to as I will never be fluent in Dutch in the time I'm here, or the fact that all jobs go first to EU citizens (which I do agree with as a sound rule, it just sucks for me), so the only museum job I may be able to find is as a tour guide to Americans here on vacation, and I think I'd rather shoot myself--maybe just a pinkie toe off or something not too vital, but I'm pretty sure I'd still rather shoot myself--and that's taking into account the fact that Dutch hospitals don't believe in pain medication (though that's probably another post).

So congratulations if you made it to the end.  And if any of you have the desire to comment, if it's anything positive or encouraging or how to solve my problem (unless you actually know, like literally), keep it to yourself.  I'm in a bitching mood, so if you have any stories that you want to share about how your life is absurdly complicated at the moment, I'd LOVE to hear about it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Things I'll miss - the shortening of words

In addition to some words that are different from American English (like boot for car trunk and till for cash register), Australians seem to have created an entire vocabulary out of shortened words.  I adore some of these, and some have melded into my own vocab.  For example, I now usually say sunnies instead of sunglasses.  I also occasionally use brollie (not a long o, more like the -ou in bought) instead of umbrella, but Dan makes fun of me for that one so I only use it when I'm talking to an Aussie or when I feel like sounding like an Aussie.  Below are some others I've heard.

brekkie/brekky - breakfast (most of these are only spoken, not written, so there's not necessarily a right way they're spelled.  So these are my best guesses)

arvo - afternoon (this one doesn't meet the pattern of the rest, I'm not sure why)

rellies - relatives

vollies - volunteers

mozzies - mosquitoes

esky - cooler (as in the portable kind you take to footie games)

footie - Australian Rules Football (not to be confused with American Footie)

tradie - tradesman (this one is used all the time and denotes anyone who works as a tradesperson.  Funny story: the first time I heard this my boss was telling me what her partner did.  I thought tradie meant stock trader.  She said he starts work before 5am, so I figured he worked with overseas markets.  But I got really confused when she said he worked at a golf course.  It eventually got sorted.)

sparkie - electrician (this one is probably my favorite)

chippie - carpenter (It seems that a lot of the tradies have shortened names for the different positions, but as far as I know a plumber is still a plumber.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Things I'll miss - the odd growing seasons

We're quitting ths country soon and moving to Amsterdam.  Hopefully that's not news to any of you, but I've begun to think about what I'll miss when we leave and found a new one this morning.

I'm going to miss the lack of irony in statements like the one below:

"Winter has arrived, which makes it the perfect time to do some gardening." --from the City of Wanneroo newsletter

Winter is when everything turns green and grows, whereas summer is where all your flowers wither under the intense and constant sunlight.  Silly country.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Free range Australian cattle

There's really not a lot of talk here about free range beef.  There is about eggs, though the availability of those is widespread, but I haven't heard anyone really talk about free range beef.  And here's why.

Cattle in Western Australia are raised on stations (station = ranch).  And it turns out, in WA, an average station is about 1 million acres (1500 sq miles) with about 20,000 head of cattle.  So that's 50 acres per cow.* 

Yep, WA certainly doesn't lack space.  Oh, and cows are mustered (herded) using helicopters.

*I know there's more to ethical animal raising than the amount of space you give an animal to roam around, but that's a whole different discussion.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Baby Quilt

I came back after the wedding and still felt like sewing (amazingly), but I had no desire to sew clothing.  So I decided to sew a quilt for the first time in years, and as I had TONS of leftover scrap fabric from my sewing marathon, I figured I'd make it out of that.  I also knew of a baby who didn't have a quilt, so I had my answer.

I started by cutting out 2" squares and matching them up to sew into 4" squares.

Sewed those together.

And was left with a stack of the same number of created 4" squares and pre-cut 4" squares

I then arranged those, alternating the 4-squares with the 1-squares.  Getting this right took awhile.

Sewed those together, and had a quilt top. Amazingly, I originally thought the quilt might look boring, as much of it is shades of blue and black.  Instead it's rather chaotic and vibrant, and I think works really well together.

The back of it looks kinda funny though.

I added batting, and a backing, quilted them together and hand-sewed down the binding.  It was finished!

You can see the quilting better from the back.  Diagonal lines and small crosses in between those.
 I really enjoyed this project, I'm kinda sad to see it go.  But it's going to a well deserving little boy, and it used up a bit of my stash fabric, so it was totally worth it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bush fires

There are two ways of noticing there's a bush fire in the area.  One, obviously, is the smell of smoke.  The other is that the sky turns a vague orange, which intensifies the closer you are to the fire.

Currently down south (FAR away from here) there's a large bush fire burning, and the smoke has blown up the coast to us.  The last few mornings Perth residents have woken up to a haze over the city.  Even in the afternoon, when the sky is (as always) that clear intense blue, if you look down near the horizon you will notice the sky looks a slightly ruddy orange colour.

On a more humorous note, the news this morning has a representative from some government health office advising people that breathing problems can be aggrivated by the smoke, so they should keep their puffer with them at all times.  This always makes me imagine people carting around puffins under their arm as they go about their daily tasks, but no, puffer is just the Australian word for inhaler.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snow in Perth

Saturday night it snowed feathers in downtown Perth.  Two tonnes of them, apparently.

The feathers fell as part of 'Place des Anges', an ariel acrobatic performance; the show itself was part of Perth's International Arts Festival.  It told the story of angels who, once every 500 years, come down to earth and have a party.  For one hour, the angels had pillow fights, danced, and generally flew along wires strung hundreds of feet in the air across an intersection downtown, all while trailing copious amounts of feathers.

By the end, much of the crowd was blanketed in white, and children were practically swimming in the down.

Dan and I walked home, and even just a few hours after the event feathers had made their way to Subiaco, two miles away.  They were beautiful to watch, dancing and swirling along following invisible currents.  I have no doubt that by Sunday they had been carried along to every train station, and will be hidden in corners of Perth for years to come.

*The photos aren't mine, but come from here, where there are a lot more images to peruse.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Australia Day

The fireworks for Australia Day this year were especially interesting.  There was lightning accompanying the beautiful fireworks, and the crowd definitely gasped more at the strikes than the explosions of color.

It was fun.