Fall Update

Time for another update from across the pond, I say. We’ve now been here for about a year and two months, and this year is going by just as fast as last year. When I meet someone new and they ask me how long I’ve been here, I’m always a bit surprised when I say it’s been a little over a year.

Even though it doesn’t seem like much time passed since we moved, I feel pretty adjusted to daily life here now. A year ago, I was spending entire afternoons frustratedly going to store after store just trying to find little things for the house like a hole punch (which is actually called a perforator here) or baking soda (which is found in the Asian markets, FYI).  I also would get really angry with how inefficiently most parts of the bureaucracy work. Okay, I still get pretty annoyed, but it’s been reduced from a go-home-and-cry-about-it anger…

aaahhhhhhh

to a milder, go-home-and-poke-fun-at-people-with-your-husband irritation.

1dpz1My point is that although many aspects of Dutch culture continue to baffle me and I still have volumes to learn about the language, I’m feeling more comfortable as a foreigner and I’m spending considerably less time and energy trying to, well, live here.

dancing in heels

This summer I left off with a post from the beginning of my Hungary trip, which was pretty fantastic. It was three weeks of choir, solfege classes, singing games classes, children’s choir workshops, lectures, and concerts. And eating. We joked that all we did was eat and sing, and I have some tight pants to prove it. So now I’m doing exercise videos from fitnessblender.com to undo the damage. (If you’re looking for a new exercise routine, check it out because they have hundreds of free videos for all fitness levels, and you can also get an 8-week plan for cheap.) Anyway, I came back from Hungary loaded up with new information, songs, games, rehearsal techniques, and a bunch of new friends from around the world. I would definitely go back if I had the chance. Next time I would also try to learn more Hungarian beforehand. I think all I learned was how to say yes, no, thank you, one, ten (my hotel room was 110, haha), water, good, cheers, and Do you speak English? If you’re outside of Budapest, it can be difficult to find people who speak English, so I got really good at pointing at things I wanted and hoping for the best. I wonder how fast I would learn Hungarian if I lived there. Dutch has a lot of connections to English vocabulary and grammar, so it’s not so bad for English speakers, but if you’re an English speaker, it’s hard to get Dutch people to practice with you. Hungarian is much more complicated for English speakers, but less people speak English there, so you would have to pick it up quickly to get by.

Last month I did a recruiting workshop at a music school where I’m starting the children’s choir and it went pretty well. I have about 10 girls ages 7-10 who are interested, and they already have a background in music since they are enrolled in the school for theory and string lessons. They can also invite friends of theirs (one parent asked if her kid could bring vriendinnetjes, or “little girlfriends”), so if they enjoy it, it could grow past the 10 I have now. The workshop was my first time to teach completely in Dutch. I did get a couple confused looks when I was trying to explain a breathing activity, but they were able to follow my instructions and they seemed to enjoy it. When I teach in English, I have a habit of talking too much and making things too complicated, but in Dutch I really can’t talk for too long, just because I don’t have as many words handy to string together. So, out of necessity, I’m keeping my instructions concise, which is what kids need in the first place. Unfortunately, this semester there were too many schedule conflicts what with other music lessons and rehearsals, so we are pushing the start of regular rehearsals to January. That’s okay, though because by then I may get my new visa.

Yep, new visa. I need a new one to replace my current one, which only was only valid for one nonrenewable year, and I need one that will allow me to work freelance, which is what the children’s choir requires as well as and another music school in Rotterdam that wants me to work for them. So, I’m waiting for approval for a visa under the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, which allows self-employed and freelance Americans to come an set up a “company” here without a lot of the hoops you have to jump through for a regular self-employed visa. I wish I had known about it last year because schools would take one look at my current visa (search year with very specific requirements to be able to work) and write me off because I required too much paperwork. I also wish I had known earlier that the most accessible music school positions here are freelance and that full-time music teaching jobs as a school employee on staff are few and far between. But now I know, now I can teach in Dutch, and I can move forward.

Despite visa drama, I got a new teaching job that I can do in the meantime. I now teach English lessons to small groups of adults via video chat for an American language website called Verbling. I think they got my email address from one of my accounts with the Skype language partner websites, because back in August I got an email from them with an advertisement for conversational English teaching jobs for native speakers. I thought what the heck, and sent in an application with a teaching sample video. I waited to the point that I had figured it was a wash and forgotten about it, but a few weeks ago I was surprised to get an email with a job offer and a contract.

So far I really like it. The schedule is pretty flexible, I can do it from home, I make my own lesson plans, and I get paid into a Paypal account. It’s not what I expected to be doing this year, but I get to teach again. It’s not music, but I’m becoming more interested in languages through struggling with another language myself and meeting non-native English speakers of various levels, so I’m excited to see what ESL is like.

And it looks like I can still fit it in when I start with the music schools. My students have been very motivated and nice to work with, and it’s kind of weird because I never have any classroom management problems. For the first week I kept having that prickly, on-your-guard feeling when you’re in a new school with new students and you’re trying to find out which ones will give you a hard time, but no one did.

gimme-five

So that’s about it. I’m trying to think of the latest funny, self-contained conversation I’ve had in this country lately, but I’m drawing a blank. That’s what happens when I don’t write these things down! I’ll post one here if I think of one in the next few days.

Advertisements

Hayter Goes Hungarian

I’m sitting in a hotel in Kecskemét, Hungary, where the annual Kodály Seminar is held. I’ll be taking pedagogical courses focused on children’s choir rehearsing/conducting for the next three weeks.

moves

Just kidding. Kind of. I do want to loosen up some aspects of my conducting…

Will left the Netherlands today as well, but he went the opposite direction to Spain for a clarinet/bass clarinet course in Avila. We’re no strangers to being apart as we spent two years in different states for grad school, and in the summers we’ve also gone our separate ways for various jobs/seminars/courses. Despite this, it feels strange being apart now that we’ve been married for a year. We never lived together before we got married, so even when we lived in the same area, there was that distance built into our daily lives. Now having established routines as a couple sharing a home, I was caught off guard by how different it feels being away from each other this time. Like he’s supposed to walk in any minute even though he’s on the other side of the continent. Also, it’s too quiet and this bed is too narrow.

You know what else is weird? Brushing with weird Dutch mint toothpaste because my mint-allergic husband isn’t here. I bought it when we first moved and I thought I was in the clear because the tube had a picture of a flower on it (mmm flower toothpaste). It has some kind of mineral salt in it. My mouth feels very clean, but…

ew

This is my first trip to another country by myself. I was pretty nervous, but most things worked out smoothly. I took a train to the airport in Amsterdam, which was surprisingly crowded for a Sunday morning, and then I took a flight to Budapest. I was worried that the Budapest airport would be sprawling and chaotic, but it was actually pretty small and straightforward. My bag came out right when I walked up to the conveyor belt, and right next to it was a currency exchange. I bought a bus ticket from the newsstand, and right when I walked outside, my bus came to take me to the train to Kecskemét, which is about an hour south of Budapest.

Hungarian has a lot of hard-to-distinguish pronunciations, so I had memorized how the bus stop for the train station was spelled and was counting on some kind of screen inside the bus to display the name of the next stop. I did see a screen inside the bus, but it wasn’t working. Luckily, I noticed the sign for the train station outside and was able to get myself and my luggage out the door in time. When I got off, I was confused because there were no train tracks in sight; all I could see was a strange-looking set of stairs that turned into a covered walking bridge crossing over the street. A bunch of people with luggage were going up, so I followed them. A lady at the top of the stairs said something to me in Hungarian, so I tried to ask her if she spoke English (my most-rehearsed Hungarian phrase), but she just looked at my crazy. I think she was telling me that I could have taken an elevator.

In the bridge over the street, there were very train-y looking signs directing me to various stairs down to the other side. All the signs were in Hungarian, but I knew I didn’t want to go to the center of Budapest, so I followed one of the signs going the opposite way. Somehow I got to the right platform. I found a ticket machine, except the display was a touch screen of what looked like a Window’s desktop with two folder icons: one called “group pictures” and another that was untitled. What the heck. I heard a few women speaking English next to me, and they showed me where to buy a ticket from an actual person. They were going to the seminar, too, and it was a relief to have other people to travel with for the last leg of the trip.

I had a little bit of downtime in the hotel, and then I got dinner with the people I met at the train station and a couple other people we met at registration. Everyone I’ve met today has been very friendly and easy to talk to. I didn’t get into the spicy and paprika-laden food tonight since my stomach has felt funny today from the traveling, but I did get a nice turkey dish for 2-3 times less than it would have cost in the Netherlands.

I knew that Kecskemét was a small town, but I’m surprised at how close everything is. The main pedagogical institute, the other buildings where we’ll have classes, and my hotel are all in the vicinity of the main square, and between every place I’ve gone today has been a 5-minute walk, tops. It seems like every time someone mentions a place I might want to go and I ask them where it is, the answer is always, “Oh, just walk about 5 minutes that way!” So if I get lost, I can just pick a direction and walk 5 minutes and probably end up near where I need to be. I got this.

Tomorrow the seminar begins and I’ll be testing into a musicianship class, going to choir rehearsals, learning new singing games, and working on children’s choir stuff. I don’t know the Hungarian word for fun, so, leuk!

Summer Update

I’m not so good at updating this thing consistently, huh? Some weeks I feel like not enough has happened for a substantial post, while other weeks we’re doing a lot, but I don’t want to turn into one of the people who never actually experiences anything because they’re too busy trying to document every detail. I’m also getting increasingly irritated with social media (too much oversharing, ranting, ridiculous selfies, narcissistic posts in general, humble-bragging, not-humble-bragging etc.), so at this moment I’d rather be doing too little than too much.

Here’s an overview of what’s been going on, in no particular order:

  • We’ve been here for 11 months! This year has gone by faster than any other year I can remember. We also had our anniversary this month and neither of us remembered until about a week beforehand (“Oh yeah, that’s next week!”). We did save our wedding cake top, but it’s in Will’s aunt’s deep freeze in Texas, so I made us a little white cake instead.
  • Will just finished his first year at Codarts this week. The school schedule starts and ends later than in the U.S. and also they take more vacations during the school year, so that’s why they’re finishing up while our American teacher friends are already halfway through their vacations. He had a recital on Tuesday, which went really, really well. Here’s his poster, made by our friend David Morley.

cagedbird

  • Earlier this semester there was a concerto competition, and Will was one of three selected to perform with the orchestra next year. His teacher had been telling the bass clarinets who were competing not to expect to win because they never pick bass clarinet for those kinds of things. The day the results came out, Will overheard someone say, “Yeah, and some bass clarinet guy got picked, too,” and it was him! He forwarded the results email to me, only adding “This is kind of exciting.” to the body of the email. So he’s like this kid:

spellingbee And I was pretty much like these kids:

spongebobkids

The girl’s pretty hilarious, but I think the boy in the blue shirt is actually the funniest. He’s got some kind of manic robot head-banging going on. So enthusiastic!

  • I’m starting a brand new Dutch children’s choir in September at a small music school in Rotterdam. If you told me two years ago I’d be doing that, I would have laughed my head off at you. A few months ago, I was looking for a group in which I could practice conversational Dutch outside of class, so I joined meetup.com and found a group for Dutch learners in Rotterdam. I went to an event where we played some word games, and after the event I was talking to the event coordinator, who told me he knew an American woman who ran a music school I had never heard of and could get me in contact with her. I emailed her pitching various kinds of music lessons or a children’s choir, and here we are. There’s a big age range at the school and we’re offering it to anyone who’s interested, so I hope we have enough so I can have two groups. I’m not worried about the pedagogy aspect, but I am nervous about teaching and communicating in Dutch.
  • I’m done with my Dutch classes and so far it looks like I won’t have to take the government proficiency test, although I’m going through a self-study book that’s based on its requirements. I’m feeling increasingly confident in my understanding in general, although it can be inconsistent. One day I can walk down the street and know exactly what the people around me are talking about, and another day I am completely baffled because a cashier asked me a question in a slightly different way than I’m used to. I need to practice talking most, so I joined a couple language-learning websites that match you up with people who are learning your native language and speak the language you’re learning fluently. At first I was disappointed with them because I was only getting Skype requests from creepy men who didn’t speak a word Dutch and had no business trying to contact me, but now I’m actually finding people to practice with. Now I have two Skype language partners, a Dutch singer-songwriter and a blind Belgian student (okay, so that one’s more like just talking on the phone through Skype). Both of them want to practice American English and we try to do 30-45 minute chunks of each language per sitting. I like it because it’s free, I can do it from home, and it’s less awkward/safer than meeting someone in person. I wish I had thought of it sooner!
  • We started getting visitors from home! In May, our friend Allen came for a couple days after his work trip, and Will’s family came a few weeks ago. And right now my roommate from undergrad Bri is in flight toward us. I really enjoy showing our friends and family our new country, so if you want to see Holland, this is a good time for you to go. But only if I like you. Just kidding. Kind of.
  • I finally went outside the Netherlands. Now I can tick Belgium, Germany, and Austria off my list. We went on a day trip to Brussels with one of my friends from Dutch classes, and it still surprises me that we can drive for an hour and a half and find ourselves in a completely different country with a different language and culture. If I drove for an hour and a half in Houston I’d be in…probably still Houston. When Will’s family was here we went to Munich (his dad had a work conference there) and also took a train to Salzburg.

I’m getting very sleepy, so I’ll leave you with a conversation I had last week with the tram attendant when he was checking my transportation card. It started when I said “Hallo,” but I guess it was more “Hello” than “Hallo” because he starting talking to me in English immediately. Actually, he wasn’t talking, he was singing.

“Hello…is it me you’re looking for?”

I laugh. It’s very entertaining.

“Where are you from? Wait, don’t tell me…Norway!”

“Nope. U.S.”

“Oh. You look Scandinavian. I think it’s your face.”

“Nope, just American. Texas.”

“Did you ever see George W. Bush?”

“No, but I did work in the same part of Dallas where he lives.”

“Why didn’t you try to find him?”

“Well, I didn’t know EXACTLY where he lives, plus if I did I probably wouldn’t try to go there uninvited anyway.”

“Oh. I lived in L.A. for three years, you know.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. That’s where all the Jennifer Lopez girls are. You know…

*draws womanly curves with hands and raises eyebrows repeatedly for the next 30 seconds*

At this point I’m laughing but trying really hard not to do an all-out in-tears cackle.

“Have you ever seen Bigfoot?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“I saw Bigfoot once.”

“Really? You saw Bigfoot in L.A.”

“Yes! I know it was Bigfoot, but it was weird because it had SHINY eyes. Bigfoot is supposed to have glowing eyes.”

Now I’m holding my breath and tearing up trying not to laugh in his face.

“I did not know that about Bigfoot.”

“Yes, it had shiny eyes. There’s no Bigfoot in Texas?”

“Not that I’ve seen.”

“Yeah, well, it’ll probably have shiny eyes instead of glowing eyes.”

“Okay then. I’ll be on the lookout.”

Big Day

Saturday was Codarts’ “Big Day,” which is kind of like a collage concert, except it was a series of concerts that lasted the whole day. All the concert halls were totally booked with back-to-back performances from the classical, jazz, pop, world music, dance, and circus schools (now we can’t even say, “What is this, clown college?” when we get frustrated). Will had 2 chamber performances: one at 3 PM and another at 8:45 PM. His call time was at 12, and I had a meeting at 12:30 (more on that another post), so we ended up walking around the city center to kill time between activities.

Much more people bike, walk, and take public transport than drive, so as a pedestrian, you can be pretty brave crossing the street. Well, as long as you’re dealing with cars and not bikes. If you don’t yield to a bike, you’re dead. But drivers are really good at watching for people and they come to a stop quickly. I’m usually a pretty careful person, so at crosswalks I want the little light-up stick figure man on the sign to be green, not red, and I make sure no cars are trying to sneak through at the last minute. My husband is not like that. Usually he checks to see if it’s clear and marches decidedly across, regardless of the traffic signal (while I wait for it to turn green). When we meet back up, he says, “I’m very cavalier.”

Saturday, he decided it would be fun to, in his concert attire with his bass clarinet on his back, run across every crosswalk screaming.

running

Now, I’m not a big draw-lots-of-attention-to-yourself-in-public kind of person, and while this was happening all the Dutch people looked at him, and then at me, and then back at him like this:

catsideeye

One time we were walking and holding hands when he went into running-and-screaming mode, so I ended up walking/being dragged behind yelling, “Really?! Oh my GOSH.” Betcha don’t hear many “One time when we were walking and holding hands” stories end like THAT. I am rarely bored.

I enjoyed getting to go to the Big Day. The performances I heard were all pretty good. Will’s first performance was Pierrot lunaire, and for some reason people kept coming into the hall in the middle of movements and making lots of noise in general. The conductor stopped in the middle and told everyone that this is a difficult piece that requires a lot of concentration and if you can’t be quiet until the end, you should leave. Then this man in the audience immediately popped up and said, shaking his finger at the conductor, “But now we have more people inside!” The conductor then said, “That is not good,” turned around, and started the next movement. Oh, Dutch people.

I also got to meet some more of Will’s colleagues. I got some Dutch practice in, too, and I realized that now when I first meet people, I feel much less awkward speaking Dutch than when I speak English. Weird. I think it’s because in Dutch, I’m more limited in what I can say, but I know I have to practice, so I just blurt out as much as I possibly can. Also, I’ve learned that if I smile and try to make jokes, mistakes I might make with pronunciation or grammar are more likely to be overlooked.

I think that because English is my first language, I end up overthinking things when I’m trying to engage someone new. Would they think it would be funny if I said something about (subject)? Nah, I don’t know if that’s funny in (country)’s culture. Oh! I like their shoes, say something about that! Oh, they’re talking to someone else now… 

So then I end up standing there like this:

muffins!

Zo gezellig!

Documenting stuff/LOL

It’s about 4:30 AM here. I usually would be asleep at this hour, but I woke up all hot and thirsty and now I haven’t been able to get back to sleep. About a week ago, the weather finally started to feel like spring (YUSS!), so sometimes when the heater kicks on, it’s too hot. Most places don’t have or really need air conditioning, but we’ll probably have to get a fan soon.

Graduate students at Codarts have to complete an artistic research project that they work on throughout the whole duration of their study. Will is doing a project on transcriptions for bass clarinet, and he had a meeting with his research coach where he learned that he must keep a “portfolio” documenting all the time he’s spent working on his project. Apparently, you have to document how much time you do ANYTHING related to your research and artistic development.

Neither of us really see the point of it. What are they going to do with that information? The time it takes to do something can vary so much from person to person. For example, a native English speaker may be able to power through a book in a week, while a student coming from, say, somewhere in Asia may take a month to do the same.

Also, it’s okay to document things like time spent on a train if you’re taking a trip somewhere to get documents, have a lesson etc., even if you take a nap while in transit. In that case, what other things could he document? We starting running around the lake, which boosts lung capacity and endurance. Put it in the portfolio. Did you think about your project on your way to school?! Put it in the portfolio.

Anyway, I started writing this whole thing about research because after I wrote the first paragraph of this post, my sleeping husband rolled over and said, “Report tray…mmmidunno….” He’s probably dreaming about research!!! Put that in the portfolio STAT!

letsdothis

I actually started this post because I’ve had a couple funny conversations I’ve been wanting to share. By this point in our assimilation to our new country, we’re pretty used to seeing and hearing things that would be deemed out of the ordinary in the U.S. and taking them in stride. Sometimes I get caught off guard still.

One example is that there are some things you would probably never hear an American joke about, but they’re fair game here. One time before church, I was talking to a Scottish man, who was telling me about his grandchildren.

“I have two grandchildren. They’re 4 and 6 years old.”

“Oh, cute!”

“Yes, but they are terrorists.”

What? He must have said “terrors” instead.

“Oh, haha…”

“Yes, they are in Al Quaeda. They kick my dog.”

surprisedcat

I was so surprised, it took all my self-control to keep myself from busting out laughing right there. It was time to start the service, so I walked to my place in choir and proceeded to try to sing without giggling. Not as intense as my reaction to the Kelly Family, but still difficult.

Another time, I taught Sunday school to the 8- to 9-year-old group. Most of the kids speak Dutch as their first language, but they usually understand English and can speak a little bit. Our church is international and is supposed to operate in English, so we teach them in both languages.

In my class, I had a very sweet and attentive boy sporting an orange mohawk-looking thing (not that the mohawk really has anything to do with this story). This kid’s grasp of English was surprisingly good for his age. He came up to me at the end of class, and I thought maybe he was going to say goodbye. 

nope

“In America, there are many Mormons.”

Still in teacher mode, I said, “Yes, well, in some parts of the country that’s true.”

The kid nodded and walked off. No one had said anything remotely about Mormons all day. What just happened? I looked at my friend Ediri, who was helping me that day, and we lost it. I think we laughed for a solid 2 minutes.

So, if you get the chance to move to another country, you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated sometimes, but to balance it out, you’ll probably get a few good laughs out of the whole experience. Freaking put that stuff in the portfolio!

Dino WHAT?

Yesterday I turned 27. Last year on my birthday I felt old because I had become closer to 30 than I was to 20, but this year I say bring on the late 20’s.

Will and I went out to eat, ate cheesecake, and FaceTimed with my parents. Pretty low-key, but a good day. Today at Dutch class, my teacher and classmates gave me a birthday postcard, a set of Van Gogh cards/envelopes, and a 3 pound apple pie. Later this month I cat- and house-sit for a lady in my choir, and she says she’s cool with me throwing a party. I see a taco bar complete with instructions on how to make a taco in my future.

In the Netherlands, the birthday person gets congratulated, so instead of saying “Happy Birthday” to someone, you say “Congratulations on your birthday.” And the family and friends of the birthday person get congratulated, too. So if I were to say something like “Today is my brother’s birthday,” then a Dutch person would immediately say, “Oh, congratulations!” and shake my hand. I think it’s hilarious.

I found out today that I was confused about all the rules for this congratulating business. Yesterday I was emailing some homework to my Dutch teacher, and I wrote that today was my birthday, so congratulations to her. She emailed me back asking me what I meant and if I was congratulating her for HER birthday, which happens to be coming up. I said no, I thought that she gets a congratulations through my birthday. I went to class later and she said that as the birthday person, I am not supposed to congratulate anyone. Other people congratulate the birthday person AND everyone else around them.

emma-watson-confused

Got it.

Some of you already know that I happen to be a leeedle bit older than my husband. It’s not by much, and we’re actually the same number of years old between January and April. Our internet connection has been funky lately, so we had this conversation the other night:

W: Remember when you actually had to log on to the internet, and you weren’t always connected?

A: Yeah, we didn’t even have the internet until I was in middle school I think.

W: Whoa, how old was I when you got the internet?

A: I dunno, you were prolly like a toddler or something.

W: When you got the Internet, the only website you could look at was the Smithsonian Institute, and they just had pictures of dinosaur bones and gemstones. Actually, you’re so old they weren’t dinosaur bones; they were still dinosaurs. The only website you weren’t allowed to look at was DinoNipSlip.com.

A: Dinosaurs didn’t wear clothes, and they didn’t have nipples, so there’s NO WAY there could be a Dino Nip Slip.

W: Only someone who saw a real dinosaur would know that!

Then we tried to go to DinoNipSlip.com, but it doesn’t exist. Then we tried to come up with a dino nip slip picture, but we could only find a dino slip. Enjoy!

dinoslip

Komt een vrouw bij de dokter

In America, we can start a lot of jokes with “A man walks into a bar.” Dutch people have a similar first line, but it’s “A man goes to the doctor,” or “Komt een man bij de dokter.” There’s even a TV show with that title, where they act out jokes like that. The title of this post is “Komt een vrouw bij de dokter” because I am a vrouw, and…well, here you go:

I went to a Dutch doctor for the first time last week. I’m applying for scholarships to go to the Kodály Institute in Hungary this summer, and one of the scholarship foundations requires a certificate of good health. So, I got Will and myself registered with the general practitioner in our neighborhood, which you have to do before scheduling any kind of appointment. I decided I like the receptionists because they don’t laugh at my Dutch. Important criteria at work here.

I went to my appointment on Wednesday and I told the doctor that I needed a certificate of good health. The scholarship foundation didn’t list a specific form to use, but I figured it would be a standard statement saying I didn’t have any contagious diseases that the doctor would surely have on hand.

He asked if I had brought a form and I said no. He told me to make another appointment and come back with a form. Then I wondered why these kinds of things still surprise me. Come on, Andrea, you can’t possibly still expect things to get done efficiently! Can you even come up with the Dutch word for “efficient” off the top of your head? No, you cannot. Because you haven’t heard it or read it ANYWHERE.

I made an appointment for Friday and asked the scholarship foundation if there was a form anywhere that I could use. They emailed back and pretty much said, “It’s just a simple form that any doctor should have. It’s not supposed to be that hard. Seriously, guys.”

srsly

I knew I couldn’t expect to get a certificate in my next appointment by showing up empty-handed and saying, “Uh, yeah…these Hungarians say you should have this…guise…srsly…” so I decided I would print one out. I did a bunch of different searches but the printable forms either cost money, were specific to a company or organization, or had stuff about blood tests (probably wouldn’t have time for the results before the application deadline).

So I made one. I sat in bed Thursday night and made my own health certificate in Publisher. The whole time I was making it, Will and I were cracking up.

“I can’t believe you’re making a bootleg medical certificate.” “RIGHT?! This is ridiculous.”

I printed it out and went to my appointment the next day. I told the doctor I had a form for him, put it on his desk, and waited. He stared at it for a minute, running his finger across each line as he read it. He looked up and told me it was a very practical form and asked if he could make a copy of it to use with other people.

newman

He checked my blood pressure, heart and lungs, filled out the form, and stamped it. Then he GAVE it to me to TAKE. All in the same day! And I didn’t have to pay anything! It’s a miracle.

So, now if you go to the doctor in my neighborhood and you need a medical certificate, you just might get my creation. What other forms can I make? Can I get a job drawing up useful forms that make sense?

You didn’t believe me

One of the more fun and less stressful parts of moving to another country is trying new versions of snack foods. Particularly, I like trying out different kinds of chocolate here. Sometimes I feel like this kid:

 

Today we bought a pack of “biscuits” that look like Oreos.

Me: Do you want to try those Oreo things tonight?

Will: Let’s try them tomorrow so we can get some milk.

Me: I actually like them with tea.

Will: Giiiiirl, you didn’t tell me you was freaky…

Next time I’ll bring Will’s vuvuzela

The library system in the Netherlands is similar to America’s in what it offers, but because you have to pay for a library card (surprising given the tax rate), I haven’t gone until today.  Right now I’m trying to find a reliable public space to teach private lessons because I want to advertise in more places but I also don’t want complete strangers coming into our apartment. I found out a few days ago that there are practice rooms on the top floor of the Rotterdam library, so I went to check it out.

I found a whole hallway of spacious, glass-walled, totally soundproof practice rooms, each with a coat rack, a window, and an upright piano. I went down to customer service and here’s how the conversation went:

“Hi, I don’t have an account but I’m interested in one so I can use the practice rooms.”

“Okay, so you play piano?”

“No, I play clarinet.”

“Well, you can only use these rooms for piano.”

“What?”

“You can’t play clarinet in the rooms. Only piano.”

“You know I bring my own instruments and supplies for clarinet, right?”

“Yes. But you’re not allowed to do that because those rooms are only for piano.”

“What if I have a rehearsal with a piano player but I bring my clarinet?”

“You’re only supposed to play piano in those rooms.”

“Okay. Well, sometimes I do practice some things on piano. If I go in, with NO CLARINET, and I play piano, and NOT CLARINET, how do I reserve a room?”

“Oh, well, in that case you can come down here and reserve a room up to one hour a day and then you use your card to unlock the door. Do you want a brochure? Here’s a brochure for rates. You’re an expat? Here are special expat rates. Do you want to open an account now?”

I think some things will be straightforward and when I least expect it, I’m reminded that I’m like in a whole different country or something.

I hope I don’t pee-pee my bed tonight

Tags

,

This week I’m going to try to post more often, because when people from back home ask me to tell them something funny or interesting that has happened to me here, I go blank and say something lame like, “Uhh…people here think my accent is weird?” when funny things happen to me ALL THE TIME and I don’t record them and forget.

This afternoon one of my coworkers from last year posted this video:

 

I had never heard of the Kelly Family before, but apparently it’s an Irish-American family that has a cult following in Europe, but mostly in Eastern Europe. I don’t know what Dutch people think of them, if they’ve heard of them at all.

It turned my gigglebox over.

I was pretty much laughing, screaming, and crying the whole time I watched it. Will came in from another room and saw that I had eyeliner-tinted tears streaming down down my face, so he asked me what I was watching. All I could say in that moment was “I don’t know!

I calmed down and we had dinner. On Sundays nights I have choir rehearsal, so after dinner I got my stuff together and left to catch a tram to the church where we practice. Walking to the tram stop was fine, checking in with my public transportation chipkaart was fine, finding a place to sit was fine. Halfway to the rehearsal, the laughter started to bubble up again, so I took a bunch of sips of water to keep myself from laughing on the tram. I got off and did a few deep inhales and exhales before going into rehearsal.

By the way, this is my choir. You can see that there are a lot of really tall people in this country (okay well I’m kind of short by most standards). That day I didn’t know enough Dutch/wasn’t confident enough to say, “Hey ya’ll…maybe shorter people go in front and taller people stand behind them? So we can see everyone’s entire face?”

Tonight we practiced some Schütz, some Gesualdo, and some Morales. Some German and some Latin. NOT funny music. For two and a half hours I tried to hyperfocus on the music, cough, scratch my nose, stretch…anything I could possibly do to keep “I AIN’T GONNA PEE-PEE MY BED TONIGHT, I AIN’T GONNA PEE-PEE MY BED TONIGHT” from taking over and rendering me helpless.

Even though we rehearse from 7:30-10 PM, a fiercely guarded Dutch custom is to have a coffee break in the middle of a meeting or rehearsal. Today someone brought spekkoek, or bacon cake, which is made with two different colored batters so it looks like bacon. See?

spekkoek

The choir director aggressively urged me to try some, so I took a piece and then he said, “Take MORE!” I was holding a cup of coffee in my other hand, so I said, “I’m already double-fisting it, man!” No one laughed.

So, I spent the second half of rehearsal hopped up on spekkoek and sugary coffee. I might have devoted more focus and energy to NOT laughing at the Kelly Family than our music. Now, I’ve been in this choir since September and the more I get to know these people, the more comfortable I am making jokes with them. However, I was NOT comfortable with busting out laughing in the middle of rehearsal and having to explain “I ain’t gonna pee-pee my bed tonight.”

I came home and finally could LOL all I wanted. Will said, “You probably just need to watch it again.” So we did.

It was the laugh-pacolypse. Part of me is glad we’re already married because it was some of the most intense laughing I’ve ever been through. Crying, sore abs, weird grunting noises etc. I got home over two hours ago and I keep spontaneously cracking up. I’ve been laughing the whole time I type this. I can’t type “I ain’t gonna pee-pee my bed tonight” without crying. I have a problem.