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ImageI found a mountain of fresh jalapenos at the market this morning. Glorious. Until now, all I’ve been able to find in this country has been pickled ones in tiny jars. All this time I’ve been rationing out the pickled ones and dismissing recipes that call for fresh ones. Now that I have them, I don’t know what to do with them. I’m paralyzed by options!

I bought a bag and the lady at the booth asked me if I was going to make chili. She started in English before I said a word (How do they KNOW?). I told her in Dutch that I don’t know yet, but I’m buying them because I’m from Texas. Then the man at the booth yelled, “TEX-as?!” and proceeded to impersonate what I think was someone on a bucking bronco. It looked more like Gangnam Style to me.

gangnam style

This is what Dutch people think Texans do, I guess.

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Winter Update

Time we had an update, huh?

We had a great time back in Texas for Christmas and while leaving our friends and families to return to Europe was difficult, we’re glad we got to go. So much Mexican food. Too many tight pairs of pants. We had a rough trip back involving being stuck in London for 12 hours and being awake for 40. The most surprising thing for me coming back was how comforting it was to hear Dutch announcements in the airport when we landed at Schipohl.

We’ve now crossed the 7-month line of living in Rotterdam. No job in a school yet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few things. Clarinet-tips is coming along slowly. January was harsher than usual in terms of homesickness and restlessness from not teaching as much, but the past few weeks have gotten a lot better. I decided to quit waiting for the weather to get better for running (because hello, you’re in the Netherlands, Andrea…) and started doing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred videos. I’m always amazed at how much exercise improves my general outlook, beyond the endorphins you get right after a workout. I’m also trying to be more proactive socially now that I’m more comfortable with culture differences. Plus I’m always curious as to how Europeans like my cooking. So far, Tex-Mex cooking is a win.

I’m a week away from the end of my first intermediate Dutch course. One more course to go until I take the government test that, if passed, shows I’m fit to work in Dutch. I think I’m enjoying this class the most compared to the beginner ones because now we get to have more in-depth discussions. Grammar is getting harder, but a lot of things that confused me before are much clearer. We have five people in our class, so we each get to talk a lot. I leave class feeling confident and empowered, but when I try to engage a Dutch person in conversation I still feel like this kid sometimes:

…I just hope I haven’t said anything that translates to “You want him to do you so much you could do anything?”

Lately I’ve been finding myself in situations where I understand every word that comes out of someone’s mouth, but I’m convinced that I don’t. One time in choir someone asked me what country I’m from, a question I learned how to ask in my first DAY of class, but because I thought she already knew where I was from, I had decided that she must be asking me something else. It took about 4 rounds of me asking her to repeat herself until I decided I was right the first time.

Another time Will and I were walking from the train station to Codarts to practice and this really big lady wearing a neon orange muumuu, a green scarf, and a purple hat started yelling at us asking if there were photographers at the station. I thought that surely this big, orange-muumuu-wearing lady was NOT trying to find a photographer at the train station and clearly I didn’t know what was going on, so I ended up just looking at her crazy. Then she switched to English and said exactly what I thought she said. I hope she found some photographers.

In many cases it seems like expats in the Netherlands whose first language is English don’t learn Dutch, and why would they? Almost everyone we interact with here has at least decent English and if you’re able to have a satisfying work and social life in English, there isn’t very much incentive to learning Dutch. Because of this, Dutch people are often surprised and amused at expats trying to speak Dutch, and I’m no exception. If I start talking to someone, like a vendor at the market, they hear my accent and look at me like this:

swanson

Then they switch to English, which to me says, “Your second language sucks, so let’s talk in MY second language instead.” To which I try to keep speaking Dutch regardless, and if can do it without mistakes, then I get this:

honeybooboo

And this is why people don’t learn Dutch.

That being said, this situation almost exclusively happens with people I don’t know. If someone knows me and why I’m learning Dutch, it’s usually a more positive experience. Through church, choir, and people I’ve met from Codarts, I’ve been able to find support and encouragement from Dutch people and other expats who have actually learned to speak Dutch well.

I will persevere!

Aside

To Texas!

We’re back in Texas for Christmas and although right now we’re dealing with a raging case of jet lag, it’s great to be back.  Door-to-door the whole trip took about 20 hours.  We got to Will’s parents’ house about 9 last night and after sleeping from 10 to 8, Will is conked out next to me and my blinks take way longer than usual.

I stared at the sunlight coming through the window in disbelief this morning because for the past 6 weeks or so in the Netherlands, it doesn’t even begin to get light outside until 9.  Then you get a few hours of dim light through the clouds and it gets dark again around 4:30.  That adjustment has been rough on us and my friends who are also from places closer to the equator agree.

I’m curious as to what we’ll make of being back in our own culture after spending almost five months with the Dutch.  My goal is not to lose too much Dutch language while we’re here, so I’ll try to write something in Dutch every day. I finished beginner level Dutch classes, and the day after we get back (probably with an even more raging case of jet lag) I start intermediate classes.  I believe I have two sets of classes to take before I take a government exam that, if passed, shows I am fit to work in Dutch.

My interview last month with the music school went well, and if I were to work there I would go out into the public primary schools (none of which have a music teacher on staff) and teach general music and/or beginning clarinet/flute classes.  I had a good impression of the organization, but before I can go further in the recruitment process, I must be able to manage a class of kids in Dutch.  They say the best way to learn a language is to have a need for it, right?

I observed some classes to see how they work and pick up more vocabulary.  I found out really fast that children yelling in Dutch are very hard to understand.  Also, the approach to instruction and classroom management is a lot different than what I’ve done, especially from my job last year.

Some observations:

  • At both schools I went to, I was able to walk right in the open front doors and when I told them I was there to watch music classes, they said they knew that from an email and sent me to the classrooms.  No asking for my name, no showing of ID, no sign-in, no visitor sticker.
  • 11-year-old boys swaying with pretend lighters over their heads while singing is a universal phenomenon.
  • I suddenly found myself helping 4th-grade-aged kids put clarinets together for the first time, but at the time I didn’t know enough Dutch to say anything but “Other way around” or “This way.” At the end of the class, one girl came up to me, and in perfect English, said, “Thank you very much!”  Exposed!
  • The general music teacher I was with introduced me to all the classes, and in a second grade equivalent class, she had me say something in English to them.  One kid told me in Dutch that one time, he went to Aruba.
  • A third grade equivalent class sang a song called, “Zeven Hecksen,” which is about seven witches.  They are making a soup and each witch adds a new ingredient.  The kids came up with a few to sing in the song, including “poep” (is and sounds exactly like poop) and “spin” (spider).  Then they proceeded to say and clap those words in a ti-ti ta rhythm.  I thought I was going to have to leave the room laughing when they very excitedly said and clapped, “POEP EN SPIN! POEP EN SPIN! POEP EN SPIN!”

We got our holographic residence permits and now I’m clearly legal to live in the Netherlands for the next year.  With the permit I can now apply for the international schools, so I’ve sent applications and letters to the 20 or so that are a reasonable commute from home.  Since it’s the middle of the school year, they’re mostly just in need of subs.  That’s fine for now because subbing actually pays very well at some schools, and then I can learn how the different schools work.  After Christmas I hope to see more postings.

I’m really looking forward to having a job with a physical place where I GO.  This was my first semester not attending or working in a school full-time since I was 5.  And also my first time not having a packed schedule since…I don’t even know.  Will and I are both learning that I feel happier when I have more places to go and things to do.  I like to interact with groups of people and be physically active at work.

Right now I’m reanalyzing, rewording, and reorganizing clarinet-tips, which is taking much longer than I thought and has less visible results than I would like at this point.  And actually, I’ve had to constantly adjust my view of how long everything I’ve been doing should take.  Before coming here I had the expectation that we’d get here, get residence permits within a month (actual time: 4 months) and I’d have to beat off international schools with a stick while getting EVERYTHING I want to be on clarinet-tips published.  I gave God a good laugh this year.

But, since I’m starting to see light at the end of the job tunnel and I don’t know when the next not-busy time will be after I start going to work again, I’ve decided to appreciate it.  When else would I learn Dutch, make bread from scratch, and cook my way through the Smitten Kitchen and Homesick Texan blogs?

Will just woke up and said, “I went to sleep and then sun was up.  I got up four hours later and the sun was STILL up.  It’s the Winter of Eternal Sunshine…It IS the end of the world!”

Thanksgiving Gone Dutch

Since neither of us are huge fans of Halloween, we count Thanksgiving as the first American holiday not celebrated here that we’ve had to work with so far.  We missed getting to spend time with our families, but it was also nice for us to start our own traditions.  I told the Dutch woman to whom I give clarinet lessons that I put jalepenos in our cornbread dressing and she said, “I have no idea what any of those things mean!”

Dutch grocery shopping is usually done several times a week on your way home from work or school, in which you grab a few things to hold you over for a day or two.  Most days I like that system, but it can be inconvenient when you’re planning a bigger meal because the stores are small and limited in variety.  It took a few trips to a few different places to pull together all the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was able to stock up on most of the vegetables and our chicken (no turkeys here) at the open-air market.  Held every Tuesday and Saturday, the Blaak market takes up several streets with over 450 stands selling really cheap produce, baked goods (not those kind of baked goods!), fish, poultry, cheese, textiles, plants, and more.  The only problem is that it’s just a little…

…crowded.

And did you know that the Dutch are not a queuing culture?  That’s right, if you want to get helped at the market, you don’t wait, you push through the crowd.  I’m still in the beginnings of embracing this, but handling the knots of people gets a little easier every time.  Except today I might have appeared to be shoplifting when I was putting fruit in a bag and got swept several feet from the stand by a large family before I could pay.  I’m coming back, I PROMISE.  

Personal space does not seem to be as high of a priority, so getting shoved around apparently doesn’t phase people as much as in America. Adjusting to this culture has also proved difficult for us as we’ve traded our previous road rage to sidewalk rage.  Or crowd rage.

Anyway, after acquiring all the supplies, the next task was figuring out how to produce a bird and all the fixin’s in this:

And this:

I took these pictures when we first moved in because I had to do a presentation on where I live for class.  On a day I’m teaching in the apartment (translation: it’s clean) I should give you a tour of it.  We got the last of our necessary furniture this week! (yes, I know it’s November.)

Okay, so this last picture is of our hallway, but it’s also our utility room and bathroom sink.  I call it The Weird Room.  Will calls it The Ugly Room.  The flower stickers on the cabinet and dishwasher are from the previous residents and we have yet to be able to get them off.

Back to dinner.  You’re probably looking at the thing I circled and thinking, “Wow, that’s a big-ass microwave!”  And I also thought that the first time I saw our OVEN.  It fits one pan that’s about the size of a US 9 X 13″ snugly.

But, with a little planning, a lot of cooking stretched out over a few days, and 5 power outages due to the continuous oven use, we had this:

That poor little chicken was almost too tall for the inside of the oven!  Not pictured is a pumpkin pie.

And this week I came home to another thing to add to my Thankful list:

YUSS!

 

Buitenlanders

I’ve read that when you settle in a new country, the first two months feel more like a vacation than a move because there is always something new to try, new people to meet, and new, exciting challenges.  You have all these things in the third month as well, but you realize that these new things you’ve been trying and these new people you’ve been meeting and these challenges that were exciting earlier are now your life.  You wish more people would get your jokes and less people would laugh when you’re trying to say something serious.  You run into bureaucratic red tape and instead of being surprised, you mutter, “Of course there’s another step to take.” You stand out because you are different but you also miss being the same as people around you. You are a buitenlander.

After much sturm und drang we’ve both entered the in-between phase of having applied for residence permits and actually getting our applications accepted.  Did you know it takes up to 6 months to get accepted for a residence permit?  It took 3 just to get all the right documents together.  Why does all this take the same amount of time to gestate a baby?

I think that process is more complex.

Now everyone who has only skimmed this post to this point will think I’m preggo.  SUCKAS.

I’ve been dragging my feet writing this post because lately the visa process has been consuming us with worry and frustration and I figure that the last thing the Internet needs is another whiny and negative publication.  Plus if I was getting bored writing about all the details, then you probably would, too. So here’s an quick overview:

When we read weird/conflicting translations we often look like this:

Then we go into the Expat Desk looking like this:

And then we try not to do this:

Or get in trouble by doing this:

Then we go home and do this:

But when stuff actually works out we do this:

There you have it!

Other stuff:

-Evening Dutch classes are coming along nicely, but after the intensive classes it feels like the progress is slow.  That’s probably good because at the end of this course I will have completed all of the A level of proficiency, and to move on I’ll need to have a big vocabulary and very solid grammar fundamentals.

-I have a job interview at a music school this week for a teaching position for group singing-based general music classes for 6- and 7-year-olds.  Really excited, but I may have to interview in Dutch.  I’ve been emailing the coordinator about my situation in Dutch, and because the kids are on younger side they’ll be more comfortable in Dutch as well.  The good thing about teaching that age in a second language is that instructions have to be simple and to the point.  The bad thing is that if a kid calls another kid a poopyhead or something, I might not be able to pick up on that immediately and respond to it.  I might see if they have any need for international classes in English, though.

-If you get a chance to play Picture Telephone with an international group, DO IT.  You may have to limit the written part to single words instead of sayings, but you’ll make up for it when you sit next to a doctor who ends up drawing extremely anatomically correct  leaking breasts, so you write “lactating boobs” and then you get to explain to everyone what boobs are and how to pronounce that at the end.

-I’m pretty happy with our social lives we’ve been gradually settling into.  A lot of my friends are not Dutch at all, mostly because class and church are international.  Plus here it’s always nice to be able to talk to another expat. A few weeks ago at church we met another young American couple who teach English in Rotterdam and being able to talk about similar reactions to things here has been a godsend.

-I’m always surprised when I run into someone I know in public, which happens more times than I think should given the number of people I know. Then I remember that I’m not in Houston or Dallas and I’ve traded driving around a big city to walking and metro-ing around a smaller city where a big percentage of the population ends up in the center at some point during the week.

-I’ve been missing Mexican food a lot, and although they offer “Mexican” things at the store or the “Mexican” restaurants, they aren’t the same at all.  Fortunately, we have access to pickled jalepenos, limes, cumin, cilantro (actually the leaves are called coriander here, like the seed) chili powder, beans and avocados, so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.  Lekker!

Aside

Integration

How is it almost October already?  In Dutch, they like to say that the time flies like we do in America, or “de tijd vliegt.”  It looks a lot different in print but it sounds similar when you say it.

I’ve completed all of my intensive Dutch course, and while I’ll be glad to focus on a bigger variety of pursuits (like that clarinet thing I play…) I’ll miss the routine I got from going to class and studying every day.  In a couple weeks I go back to the same school to continue classes, but for one evening a week.  The intensive course gave me a foundation of conversation, sentence structure, spelling and grammar, and now I need to keep learning new vocabulary and practicing so that correct speaking and writing at the basic level become second nature.

I really enjoyed class and how much we were able to learn in a short time.  Our class was good in that we mostly all learned at the same pace and we got along well.  If I can’t convince any Dutch people to practice with me, our class may be able to plan some “geen Engels” (no English) reunions.

I also like how much focus the classes demanded of me each day.  I have a history of my mind triggering all kinds of unwanted adrenaline and jumping through mental hoops in order to sit still, but I didn’t have that problem in Dutch classes.  It’s like my mind is too occupied for anxiety or worry because too much of it needs to quickly figure out what word to use, how to pronounce it, and how to put it with other words. I hope that if I can always find ways to mentally stay active and moving forward, I will grow beyond having to struggle with worry over insignificant things.

Actually, every day here requires more focus and effort from us just from the relative unfamiliarity of our surroundings.  It’s maddening sometimes, like trying to integrate but constantly having to learn new systems with immigration, banking, phones, and even things like grocery shopping (There’s no baking soda to be found! And it’s not because I can’t figure out the Dutch term for it!  How is this possible???).  But, each step we have toward settling in feels significant.  Like how we set up a lot of the kitchen and I’m cooking dinner most nights now.  And the fact that I got a cheapy little phone with a prepaid plan so I can actually give my number to people and not have to pray that I don’t get lost or run late to meet anyone since I can’t call them.

I joined a choir and they sing music that is pretty challenging to me, plus the rehearsals are in Dutch. Really, even without the Dutch classes it isn’t too bad so far since I’ve just had to know the numbers to stay on top of rehearsals.  Announcements are difficult for me to understand, but the person next to me helps translate.

Last week I subbed for Sunday school and although our church is English-speaking and international, most of the kids can listen in English, but are mostly dependent on Dutch for speaking.  I started out with my normal bit of “Mijn naam is Andrea.  Ik kom uit Amerika, maar ik spreek een beetje Nederlands” (My name is Andrea.  I come from America, but I speak a little Dutch), which seemed to open the floodgates of really fast Dutch unto me.  Two weeks of classes was NOT enough, but fortunately I had someone in there to help translate for me.  I had written out a lot of explanations and questions in Dutch, but something about my pronunciation, rhythm and intonation made it difficult for me to be understood.

I liked the kids, though, and now I know what will be required of me if my goal is to be a possible candidate for ANY school, English or Dutch.  I’m starting to look more into Dutch music schools and I’m attempting (with proofreading from my teacher) to write emails in Dutch explaining my language situation while talking about my experience in teaching music.  We’ll see how that goes!

Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands.

Having what feels like constant drama with our internet connection is cramping my one-post-a-week goal, which means I forget/don’t get to write about all the stuff we’ve been up to.  Lame.

The biggest development for us is that we’ve finally moved out of the church and into the apartment.  The apartment came with some furniture and appliances in it already, so we sleep in a fort we’ve made out of the sections of our couch.  Not sure what else to call it.  There’s some saying about how the best part of marriage is that you have a sleepover every night, but I didn’t think it would go so far as having our own fort every night!

Aside from the obvious kitchen/bathroom/hallway, we have two big rooms and we’re thinking we’ll use furniture to divide them into a study/living room and a bedroom/dining room.  Right now the front room has our fort, a TV, and a pile of empty water bottles (because we don’t have glasses yet).  The back room has an empty wardrobe and the result of 4 suitcase explosions.  This weekend we can make it more home-y.

So far I really like living in Kralingen because it’s in a much quieter area than the church.  Aside from the church renting out the hall for really noisy parties (I think one of the ones that went to 2 AM was for a 1-year-old’s birthday party…), the nightclubs across the street stay open until 5 AM.  At that point, all the loud, drunk people spill out of the clubs into the courtyard and yell loud, drunk Dutch things.

Speaking of yelling loud (but maybe not drunk) Dutch things, today I completed Week 1 of my intensive Dutch classes, but I don’t think I know enough vocabulary yet to yell at anyone without looking cray-cray.  “I AM CALLED ANDREA! WHAT ARE YOU CALLED?  I COME FROM AMERICA AND I LIVE IN ROTTERDAM!  I FIND DUTCH DIFFICULT BUT I LIKE TO SPEAK IT!”

Monday my first Dutch class sent me home in tears.  Immersion-based language study is unlike anything I’ve ever done.  Add to the mix the fact that I’m pretty Type A, I don’t like making mistakes or not knowing what’s going on, and a big chunk of my musical training involves trying not to play anything wrong in the first place.  Imagine a straight-laced classical musician thrown into a improvisation setting in which they must make up new music amid chords they don’t understand and make stylistic decisions about an unfamiliar style while battling performance anxiety.  Yeah.

However, if you know me well, you know that I have a history of experiencing what feels like crippling anxiety right before or on the onset of a new undertaking and once it’s out of my system, I’m golden.  I studied for 6 hours on Monday, did a presentation from memory and wrote a page of dialogue summaries on Tuesday, had an unscripted conversation yesterday, and I’m making compound sentences and sending Dutch emails today.  It’s one of the coolest things I’ve done here so far.

We have 9 people in our class and I’m the only American. I really enjoy talking to my classmates in both English and Dutch–we are a mix of educated, motivated professionals from all over the world.  We have people from China, Egypt, Spain, France, Greece, and the Ukraine.  I’m also pretty sure that I’m the only one who is coming in only knowing one language.  But, since I speak English as my native language, I have an easier time figuring out the sentence structure, so I’m told.  I now hope to continue until I’m fluent, which for some people takes just a few months with the right instruction.

American schools obviously don’t have time to incorporate the immersion method in foreign language classes, but now I’m wondering how foreign language classes could improve in getting students communicating more.  My Dutch vocabulary is limited, but I feel more confident with it than I ever did in 5 years of Spanish.  Except Monday I kept translating stuff to my crappy Spanish and then to Dutch, and then mixing up Dutch and Spanish words…I DON’T EVEN SPEAK ANY SPANISH ANYMORE.  WTH.

Other stuff:

We went to our first Dutch birthday party (the birthday person throws the party and everyone congratulates the friends and family…I don’t know either) and had our first trip to the beach.  Church is really helping us meet people our age and that helps us feel less isolated.  I joined the church choir, sub for Sunday school next week (come on, Dutch lessons!), and I have another choir audition next week, too.  Ik vind zingen leuk (I like to sing).

Will started school and is working on some cool stuff.

When the internet doesn’t fail on us everywhere we stay, we think it would be cool to start daily “Today’s Adventure” posts because we see something new every day but the kind of weekly posts gloss over that.

Tot ziens!

Aside

Progress?

Well, one day away from being here four weeks, and we are inching closer and closer to our apartment contract.  I will never complain about trying to find an apartment in the US again, or moving from one state to another, for that matter.  When I went to Colorado from Texas for grad school, I was all, “I had to wait in line for a drivers license!  And get new license plates!  Waaah!” Get out of my face, 23-year-old Andrea, it’s about to get real.

We get slowed down here because although we have an English version of the rental contract, the legally binding version is the Dutch version.  So, we have to take the Dutch version to get looked over by the Expat desk, who then gives us a list of questions about unclear wordings, email the questions to the realtor, wait for the answers, and then wait for the updated contract.  We have to keep in mind that we are thankful that we have a safe place to stay while we wait on all of this.

Last week I found out that I don’t have to apply for my visa just as Will’s wife, which is great because the companion visa doesn’t allow you to work.  I’m learning that with immigration, the Dutch want to know that 1. We won’t be depending on the Dutch government to support us financially (even through they wouldn’t give us anything anyway) and 2. I won’t be working in a job that an EU national could otherwise do.  I didn’t ever have a strong opinion about immigration in America, and I’ll be interested to see how I feel about it after all of this.  Definitely more compassionate towards immigrants in general so far.

Anyway, when we got here we got this big book called The Holland Handbook, which is pretty much a textbook for living in the Netherlands.  Reading the chapter on visas and residency, I saw a short paragraph about immigrants who have a masters degree that is less than 3 years old being able to have a special visa that allows them to work as much as possible to gain experience for a full time job.  For a whole year!

I asked the Expat desk about it, and they said that would be possible if CU were in the Top 150 of the Times Higher Education list.  In the world.  I thought back to grading music appreciation papers (from concert reports,”In the grand old tradition of white people stealing from others, this was rock and roll, in the modern ’emo’ sense.” and “The piano player played the third movement really fast because she wanted to go home.”) and figured that I would be out of luck.  We pulled up the list, and scrolled down.  Cal Tech, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Oxford, blah blah blah.  But there it was at #77!  I qualified!

Now I will be applying for a “highly skilled migrant” visa.  Will says it sounds both congratulatory and derogatory, like they’re saying that I’m exceptionally skilled at picking fruit.  The application is much less complicated, and there will be none of this pesky “I can’t technically work so you have to pay in cash” nonsense.

So, progress!  Tip for those wanting to live abroad: Get your documents ready for foreign governments with apostilles.  If it says to legalize it or have a marginalized note stamp or anything that seems weird…get the apostille. Just…trust me.

I’m learning more about Dutch children and it turns out that they don’t speak as much English as I thought.  They learn a lot of English in secondary school, so the age that I really, really, love teaching (although I’d teach any age) isn’t as bilingual as I originally thought.  Getting a job at an international school other than subbing also may be more difficult than I anticipated because teaching music at an elementary school is a lot different than being a classroom teacher, where there are multiple positions at one school.  Plus, I have to wait who knows how long before I get the freaking residence permit that all the schools want at the time of application.

So, for me to do meaningful work while I’m here I’ll have to be creative and branch out.  In two weeks I start an intensive Dutch course that is supposed to get me through the A level of language proficiency, which covers basic conversation, grammar, and simple topics.  B level is intermediate, and if you get through the C level, you’re considered fluent.  Learning Dutch would allow me to work in exponentially more schools and even if I’m teaching mostly in English, speaking in Dutch will help me corral them chirruns.

I’m slightly terrified.  I made good grades in Spanish class in high school, but I’ve never been in a situation where I had to actually USE a foreign language.  I have to do a presentation in Dutch at the end of the course.  Outside of the comfort zone is where the magic happens???

So, while I better myself for international teaching, it looks like I’ll be doing some clarinet-tips and finding some ways to market clarinet resources to a network I know and understand: Texas band.  I’ll also find out more about using some space in the church to start some after school music programs for the schools nearby.  I’ll be happy to be officially doing things in some kind of routine.  When Will and I meet new people, we tell them that we’re here so that Will can study at this school with this program that you can’t find anywhere else etc. etc.  Then it’s always “And what are YOU doing?” to me.  And it’s always the same “I’m looking for work, trying to get my residence permit, yes I’ve looked into that, yes I know a lot of schools have started already etc. etc.”  It’s like breaking your leg while doing something stupid and then having to explain it over and over again to everyone.  Sometime I absolutely hate not knowing what I’ll be doing.  It’s difficult for me to separate my core identity from a job, but hopefully this experience will help me to get to know myself better and with that, make a better impact.

Other stuff:

Will is at introduction week at Codarts, probably working on his group’s “artistic project” right now.  With his “buddies,” or orientation leaders.  Yeah, it sounds weird to me, too. He has a LOT of funny stories about the things people say to him, and I will encourage him to write about them.  I wasn’t there for some of them, so he can tell them.

We’ve been playing lots of duets lately, and we want to get some gigs and maybe do some competing as a duo.  So far the best name we’ve come up with is “Duo Hayter.”  Any suggestions?

Second week

Week 2 in the books.  We’re still living in the church, but we are very close to finalizing the paperwork for an apartment in a neighborhood called Kralingen.

Rotterdam’s center, which is the same area as the church and Will’s school, is packed with rows of businesses and is getting increasingly more crowded and noisy as the locals  return from holiday.  But, a 5 minute metro ride from the center takes us to Kralingen, which in comparison is much quieter and calmer.  Oh, and we’ll be really close to this lake:

The lake is about 3 miles around, so hopefully my on/off, love/hate relationship with running I’ve been in since student teaching will improve.  I’m also itching to get into a place where we can have a sense of ownership.  Right after we got back from our honeymoon we spent July moving out of his apartment, moving out of my apartment, moving our stuff to Houston, and packing to move here.  Ready to stop feeling homeless.

Today we had an appointment with an expat specialist at one of the banks here, but Will threw up a couple times this morning so I went by myself.  I just realized I probably gave you the impression that we spend a lot of time horking up our guts, which isn’t the case.  I thought I had a problem with yogurt earlier, but now we’re pretty sure that something about Wok to Go makes us both violently ill.  Good things to know before school and work start.

Anyway, since we don’t know very many people here yet and neither of us have gotten into a school or work routine, we’ve been running all of our errands together until today. I had a hummus bagel and mint tea (because when your husband has a mint allergy you have it whenever he’s not there), talked to the bank representative (unwieldy), ate gelato (mint), walked around Hema (pretty much the Target of Europe), decided that the food section of Hema smelled like Pup-eroni (probably the result of sausage displayed in a wicker basket), and went to Albert Heijn (pretty much the Kroger of the Netherlands).

When we were trying to decide whether or not we should move here, I talked about it with our friend Keith, who went to UofH with us and teaches in Taiwan now.  He told me that if you have an opportunity to live abroad you should take it, but if you go by yourself it can get really lonely.  Walking around Rotterdam alone, I discovered that there definitely is a difference between being surrounded by people speaking Dutch and being surrounded by people speaking Dutch with another person whose primary language is the same as yours.  Even though it is very easy to communicate in English once people know that’s all you speak, to me it’s so so so much better being here with someone else than going at it alone.

Once our priorities are more than simply not being homeless or illegal, we want to take Dutch classes.  I still get a little flustered when someone starts speaking to me in Dutch, even though they switch to English with what seems to be little effort.  Since a lot of the Dutch pronunciations contain sounds that don’t really exist in the English language, it’s tough for me to even pick out the words within sentences I hear.  I think this move will prove to be the most uncomfortable but empowering experience I’ve had to date.

Other stuff:

I have a few job leads now, but I’m not sure how they’ll work out. Or, more likely, if I’m doing several part-time jobs, I’m not sure exactly how much time to dedicate to which job.  Finish and monetize the Clarinet Tips website? Teach clarinet lessons?  English lessons?  Sub at the international schools?  Teach in a music school? Rent out space and start my own English children’s music classes?  I want to KNOW.

Conversation with the gelato man today:

GM: Are you from Canada?
Me: No, I’m from the U.S.
GM: Oh, okay.  Which country, L.A.?
Me: Uhh…Texas?
GM: Oh, you don’t have the accent!
 

I’m looking forward to setting up our kitchen and cooking (apparently the stovetop and oven in the church are “hazardous”) because constantly finding inexpensive, not-smoky, not-crowded restaurants can be time-consuming, even though there are places everywhere (freaking Dutch! lolololololol).  I’m ready to get into a routine where we’re not spending so much time trying to feed ourselves.  Dutch food is pretty good, though.

Two things I decided I like:

Carbonated iced tea.  About the same amount of sugar as soda, so there’s one benefit of no free refills.

And this:

Only found in the Netherlands, the Groenteburger (vegetable burger) from McDonalds.

The other Dutch McDonalds sandwich has a croquette patty, which doesn’t seem as appetizing (Fried meat paste? Eh.) As someone who flirts with vegetarianism every once in a while, I always like trying different meat substitutes.  I couldn’t find much information on this sandwich because when Google Chrome tries to translate Dutch from a vegetarian forum, you get weird results.  Like how it translates “burger” into “citizen.” Anyway, I was expecting some kind of mashed-up patty of pureed vegetables/beans, but it actually had recognizable pieces of carrots, peppers, peas, and onions inside. Score!

Goede dag

Welcome to our blog!

We started this so that we can keep our families and friends updated on our life in Rotterdam, NL.  Fresh out of the wedding chapel, we moved here from Texas so that Will can get a masters degree in bass clarinet (the only one like it in the world) at Codarts.

Today marks our first week-aversary in Holland.  I think we’ve adjusted to the time difference (7 hours later than US Central time) and we’re slowly learning our way around.  Our priority right now is to find a place to live because once we get a residence we can get into the immigration process, Will can officially enroll, and I’ll be able to apply for more jobs.  Finding a place to live is more complicated here because we have to work through realtors who then mediate between us and the landlords, which means we have to careful that no one is taking advantage of us.  Fortunately, we’ve met some very helpful people through Codarts and the Rotterdam expat services who are patiently answering our many questions.

We stayed in a hotel the first few days we were here, with a checkout day on Monday.  Since we don’t have an apartment yet, we were about to book a month at a short stay apartment so we have more time.

But!

Earlier in the week we were walking around, probably lost, and we saw a Scottish international church, which looked like a good place to go to church on Sunday because it was close to the hotel and had an English service.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we found a vibrant community full of very kind Christians from all over the world.  After the service, the pastor talked to us more about why we were here and gave us a place to stay at the church while we find an apartment.  We were overwhelmed at his hospitality and the timing with our hotel checkout.  So, Monday morning we rolled/dragged/wrestled all of our stuff from the hotel to the church and now we’re here until we know exactly where we’ll be living.  There may be some opportunities for me to help build up the music ministry there as well.  Coincidentally, the scripture on Sunday was Ruth 2, where Boaz allows Ruth, a foreigner, to stay and work in his fields.  Safe haven much?

Other stuff:

–We knew that the vast majority of Dutch people speak English, but we weren’t sure if we were being rude by just starting our orders at restaurants in English.  Like:

Waiter: Wat wilt u drinken?   Me: UUUUMMM, can I have some water? You have that, right?

After a couple days of rehearsing how to say “Spreekt u Engels?” or “Do you speak English?” and then getting crazy looks when we (actually, just Will) ask Dutch people that, we’ve learned that most of them don’t care and switch languages without even thinking about it.  We want to learn as much Dutch as possible while we’re here, and we think the pronunciation will be the hardest part.  Right now with my Dutch skills I can get the gist of a restaurant menu.  Plan: avoid things with kaas (cheese).

–We rode the underground Metro rail for the first time today to get to an apartment showing.  For a station where most things are in Dutch, and for me having lived in Boulder, I was surprised at how easy and fast it is to get around.  I could work in The Hague (a very internationally-oriented city) and get there from Rotterdam in 20 minutes.

–Riding underground on the Metro is much better than getting trapped underground in the Rotterdam World Trade Center because the Expat desk is on the 3rd floor and you took the wrong elevator and it turns out that that elevator doesn’t even HAVE a button for the third floor and you try to take the stairs and once you’re in the stairwell you can’t get out and you go all the way to the bottom and have to call security to get you out.  Just saying.

–Also, the sooner we get an apartment, the sooner we can buy health insurance.  It’s not free for everyone, but they make it so that if you want to legally stay here you must have it.  I threw up a couple nights ago (NOT pregnant, you crazies.  I suspect yogurt), but I think I might have stopped it from getting worse.  I minced a garlic clove and swallowed it with a glass of water.  It’s supposed to go through your digestive system and kill bacteria AND viruses.  I did that a few times and today I’m back to a normal appetite.  No regular health insurance?  Garlic.

That’s all for now…Will will be writing here, too.  We hope to update at least weekly!