Friday, April 29, 2011

Tomorrow is the Queensday when the Queen of The Netherlands celebrates her birthday, on her mothers birthday. This is a national holiday and judging by the amount of alcohol I've seen people carrying today, they are determined to really celebrate tomorrow, and tomorrow evening, and tomorrow night. I'm told that Amsterdam is packed so full on Quennsday that people can hardly move. If I wake up early I'll go into Amsterdam otherwise I'll go to Haarlem which I'm told is a really nice place to be on Quennsday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The same guy was still painting the windows this morning, and if that wasn't enough my neighbor started to drill in the concrete wall that separates the apartments, right on the other side of my bedroom. I wonder why he does this between 8 and 9 in the mornings. Last weekend he was drilling at similar time. This is the same neighbor that had the elevator covered in white plastic for over 2 months while his apartment was rebuilt. He also refused to pay for extra cleaning or damages that the people he had working in the house caused.
People are interesting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Someone was busy painting the windows on the next building this morning, in a crane, that made "beeping" sounds whenever it was moved. And he moved it a lot. Understandingly I was not fully rested when my alarm clock started it's rise and shine song this morning.

The people here in The Netherlands use summertime where they add one hour to the time/clock during the summer. In Iceland they use the same time all year around. I don't understand why they add one hour to the clock. That means it'll be dark sooner in the evenings and the morning sun is wasted on people like me who would like nothing better than to imitate Bears and sleep form months or Sloths.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter in The Netherlands. It started differently than in Iceland because lots of stores were open on Friday and of course Saturday that is just a normal Saturday. And of course the Turkish stores were open all Easter. The Turks don't celebrate Easter and they're allowed to work here during Easter. In Iceland they're forced to close the shops. In Iceland the police will work really hard, even in overtime, to make sure that no one else works on Easter. But then it started to look similar with most stores closed on Saturday and Monday. After all it was really nice Easter, the warmest I can remember. My arms are still red after I was out in the sun on Friday and Saturday.

The Netherlanders like to go sailing on their dikes when the weather is nice.

The "big" windmill in Leiden. Judging by the smell it´s a popular pastime to sit by the dike on warm summer days and smoke hash.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In USA a mother allowed her 9 year old kid to take the subway home alone. She was called Americas worst mom. There are thousands of mom in USA that drug their kids, because they're active healthy kids that have trouble sitting still in boring classrooms while the boring teacher drones on about subject they don't like, usually in good weather. Not to mention the parents, moms and dads, that beat up their kids or subject them to mental torture by always talking down to and belittling them. This world we live in is so scared/frightened that otherwise intelligent and well meaning parents actually smother their kids and prevent them from growing up. Sure there are dangers in the world but they should not be hidden from the kids. The kids should be educated about the dangers of the world and then allowed to face them. Young trees bend and spring back from winds that break old trees. Kids, even down to 4 year old, are usually much more intelligent and independent than even the most adoring parents thinks.
In my opinion the mother that allows her 9 year old kid to take the subway home alone is much better parent than the mother who never spends time with her kids.

Few pictures from the park yesterday, showing kids and teenagers fooling around without hurting themselves.

Kid on a windsurfboard

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I figured out what the word "puntenell" means. It means Point-N-L or ".nl" It should've been obvious. It's always the last word they say in the ads on the radio.

As I was reading, in National Geographic, about a bicycle/barge trip of The Netherlands the following quotes caught my eyes "Dutch town names appear to be randomly arranged letters you'd swear could never be turned into words." "Drivers of motor vehicles share the road with cyclists rather than viewing them as targets."
This was in a nice article by Boyd Madson about a group of friends who cycled 300 miles about The Netherlands (in celebration of one friends 60th birthday) while their wives took the barge and met them in the evenings.

Few pictures from the trip to the lake in the park here in Hoofddorp.
Some people enjoying the weather.

Scootergirls on their way to the lake.

A family of 4 riding by the lake.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I cycle down to Leiden  today. Got lost on the way and took a shortcut on the way back with predictable consequences. With all the detours it was about 50 Km. trip. Here are some photos.

The Sundial in Leiden. Someone has been careless, it has not been adjusted for summer time. This photo was taken shortly after six o clock.

Another picture for Andrea. As you can see, here you can transport slightly older kids than in the other bicycle bus.

More pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Friday is tomorrow. The weather forecast for the weekend is like this week has been, 20-27 degrees Celsius during the day with slightly cooler evenings. I've never been so glad for air conditioning. My plan is to take the bicycle and take a road trip. This time I'm going to remember the camera. Maybe I'll start at Toolenburg, the park in Hoofddorp. It has a "big" lake in the middle. I'm still trying to decide where to go after that, I'd like to go back to Haarlem but Leiden would be fun too, it has nice big windmill and is very picturesque. Leiden is a bit too far for bicycle but the train ticket is not expensive, so maybe the road trip will become a train trip.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Soon there will be Queens Day. A national holiday in The Netherlands where everyone comes together and celebrates the birthday of the Queen. The funny thing is that Queen Beatrix's birthday is in January. For some reason she celebrates her birthday on her mothers birthday. Unless it's on Sunday in which case she celebrates her mothers birthday the day before her mothers birthday. On Queens Day The Netherlands become Orange, orange hats, orange scarfs, orange suits, orange dresses, orange ornaments on the houses, orange food, orange drinks. The Dutch even pour orange color dye into the canals. On Queens Day there is a "Freemarket". Basically everyone can sell whatever he, or she, wants without paying taxes of the sale. Even small kids are known to sell their old toys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The weather is amazing. Hot, hot, hot. It's nice to sit on the balcony with cold beverage in my hand, feeling the warm wind gently massage worries of the day away. 

I tried installing Firefox 4 in my PC, but it wasn't good so I installed 3.6 instead. And I wish Microsoft still sold Windows XP.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dutch have this snack called "Stroopwafels" (it might be know in other countries). This is a wafel about ten centimeters in diameter and a half centimeter thick. They cut apart in the middle and put caramel in between so you get sort of wafel, sugar, wafel sandwich. It's about forty grams, yet they manage to cram two hundred calories into it. Delicious.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I was thinking about the ride yesterday and realized that it was shorter than a Marathon yet it took me almost half as long to cycle the distance than it takes a marathon runner to run it. I was not racing but this is still interesting fact. Maybe we should just start running wherever we want to go? I know that I, and lot of other people, could use the exercise.

The traffic in the streets, around the market yesterday is incredible. Reminds me of a million birds on a small lake. I realised why birds never fly into each other although drivers in cars often do. The birds are traveling at speed they can handle, they're watching where they're going and they're prepared for unexpected behaviour from other birds. No one has the right of the way and they're not limited to narrow lanes. The overengineered streets and highways are causing drivers to crash into each others cars. Not to mention that the cars have way more power than the driver can handle.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

As good as the Dutch are in speaking English they are horrible in servicing people who don't speak Dutch. The banks as a rule don't have English information available. Restaurants don't have menus in English. Public transport don't have route descriptions in English. Products in supermarkets don't have English descriptions. I think The Netherlands are the worst country I've ever been in, in regard to written English.

Today I took the bicycle and went to Haarlem. In Haarlem I went to the market, bought a thin waffle and got calories for all my money. It was about 6 hour trip, I got lost twice and according to the speedometer cycled for just over 3 hours and traveled 39 Km. On the way back I stopped in Heemstede and spent an hour watching a RC car race at the MACH track. The trip was worthless in the sense that I didn't get what I went into Haarlem for, I even took a detour to Bloemingdaal to search for it, but it was still very nice just to be out in the warm weather, going to the market and watching the end of the race.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some of the machines I´ve been working on lately are themed with Dirty Dancing and Star Wars. Now I´m itching to see the movies. :)
A couple of guys from Iceland visited last week. They were here for training for their jobs. As a person who doesn't smoke, because it smells bad and is expensive, I'm always surprised at the eagerness with which people throw away their money. A lot of people in Iceland smoke but it seems that almost everyone in The Netherlands smoke and at the same time they're complaining about how expensive it is to smoke. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Straight in front of the pretty girl on the scooter (few posts down) is a restaurant named Revan Pera. At first glance it seems to be the standard Kebab restaurant, with meat and chicken on vertical sticks. It wasn't until Luigi, one of my coworkers went into town to buy lunch for bunch of us and came back with something called Kapsalon (Maurice laughed and told me that this place where Luigi bought the Kapsalon was right next to my apartment) that I discovered this tasteful dish. To make a Kapsalon they take a container, put French Fries (Chips if you're British. Freedom fries, if you're shallow minded American. Fries if you're lazy) in the bottom, add the standard Kebab meat of your choice, chicken or beef, sprinkle cheese on top and put it in the oven. After few minutes they take it out, add vegetables and sauces and you get delicious meal for 5.50 Euros. Here you see some of the nice and friendly staff. I'll miss this place when I move from the apartment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dinner at the restaurant Southern Cross with coworkers. Nice Australian-ish restaurant in Heemsted with kangaroo and Emo steaks along with Fosters beer. Livin la vida loca, eh. Like Joseph yesterday they could be more generous with their portions. Poor Johan, who's getting married on Monday, was "encouraged" to change his mind. His wife is from the Baska in Spain and I hope they have a good time there on their honeymoon. She will probably not blow him up like we suggested. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dinner at the restaurant Joseph. They don't have menus in English. The waitress didn't trust herself to translate. Not bad restaurant but they were a bit stingy with their portions. I can't fully recommend it, unless you speak Dutch. The Paddock just few meters away is much better, they are more generous with the food and have better waiters, not forgetting menus in English.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It amazes me, considering how frugal the Dutch are and how expensive energy is here, how little they do to save energy. On a hot day like today, the air conditioning is kept running at work. But there are ovens still heating up the place. In Iceland an building like that would have computer controlled air conditioning system that would either heat up the place or cool it down, depending on circumstances. Even using heat exchange systems as needed to heat the incoming air using the warmth from the outgoing air. In Iceland they would never do both, heat up using ovens and cool down using air conditioning, yet energy is so cheap there it's almost free.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I went to Haarlem yesterday morning with Gregory, my coworker. He was looking for advice on what RC car to buy. On the way back I showed him and his kid the MACH RC track in Heemstede. They walked away from the track with light shining in their eyes.
I went "down" to Nieuw Vennep yesterday for pleasurable evening. There I saw for the first time the famous Dutch "shelf" toilet, the best way to describe it is to say that with this toilet you'll never get "splasback" but it takes more cleaning than normal shaped toilets.
I took lot of pictures of Nieuw Vennep that I will be publising here, I must have cycled close to 20 kilometers and my knees are killing me. I really like the place and I'm going to include it in future searches for apartment here. I'll hear from the financial adviser on Monday and he was going to recommend an honest real estate agent to me.

More pictures from the beginning of the week:
The clouds are always crisscrossed with jet trails .

And I found this house, with beautiful fountain, buried between tall buildings.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I was woken up this morning by twittering birds. There are lot more birds here in The Netherlands than in Iceland. Maybe because the Dutch don't have nearly as many cats as people in Iceland. When I went to Iceland last time the average number of cats in each place I visited was 2. Here the preferred pet is a smallish dog, almost like a 3/4 size Icelandic sheep dog without the wagging tail and perky ears. In the mornings I cycle past large area where there are always 3-4 people walking their dogs. They are not kept on leash and in spite of possible 1000 Euro fine I've never seen owner pick up their dogs droppings.

Here is a picture of marching ducks from couple of days ago.

Friday, April 8, 2011

This week has been very busy at work. And since I now know mostly what I'm doing, great fun. The weather has been really nice. All in all life is good.
When I started this blog I planned to talk about the differences between the Icelandic and the Dutch cultures. Now I don't seem to see so much difference. The Dutch are more relaxed than Icelanders. Few of my Dutch coworkers, like Johan, have gone out of their way to make my stay here more pleasant. He's getting married and will go on his honeymoon the week after next. My Italian coworker, Luigi, has also worked hard to allow me to fit into the group. I'm invited to his house tomorrow night for dinner along with few of my colleagues. Tomorrow morning I'm going with Gregory, one of my Brithish coworkers into next town. My French coworker, Sergei, loaned me his old bike so I wouldn't have to walk to work when I just arrived here. There are many others that I don't name that have also been very nice. Geert, Jos, Tom, Maurice, Marcel, Marian, Sibren, Craig and Michael just to name a few. I thank them all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Here are couple of more pictures from yesterday. First a couple of quacks that were walking on the road like they didn't have a care in the world. Maybe they didn't. 5-10 cars drove past while Quackie and Quacker walked across the road quacking to each other. Not a single driver used the horn.

Here is another shot of the unmissable windmill. This one was used to mill corn and can sometimes be seen rotating on visiting hours on weekends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Busy day at work and this really, really great weather outside. I did the mistake of cycling around before going home and pick up the camera. Then I went out and got some nice pictures.

I've written about the pretty young women on scooters. Here you can see what I'm talking about. Notice her purse, these scooters are well equipped :).Also notice the blue license plate, it means that she´s allowed to drive on bicycle roads.

And of course there is no picture from The Netherlands unless it has a windmill.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I spoke with the mortgage adjuster this morning and it was decided that we meet on Friday to discuss things. He said that I should be able to borrow enough to buy that apartment I was looking at. This mortgage adjuster will drive to Hoofddorp to meet me on Friday morning and he doesn't charge anything. All his costs are covered by his percentage, that the bank that I will finally get the mortgage from, will pay to him. He contacts few banks and loan sharks to get good loans for me and they pay him.
My coworker Johan has offered to give me his old broken bike, I think I'll end up accepting that. All real Dutch people have more than one bike. :D

Monday, April 4, 2011

I got a phone-call from a mortgage advisor today. Unfortunately I missed it and when I tried to call back I ended up trying to speak to a person that didn't speak English. I thought that that types of persons didn't exist anymore. My boss is threatening to send me back to Iceland next week. I cried and begged not to be sent back so soon (not really). This will be discussed better tomorrow.
I did some checking into frequent flyer clubs today. Icelandairs club sucks so much, its almost pure vacuum. And it's not a frequent flyers club as such. It's a creditcard bonus club that you can use to purchase airfare tickets, but you'll have to pay landing fees and airport taxes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The hot water here in Hoofddorp is cold water heated by gas. Maybe that is why sinks in most WCs only have one tap, a cold one. I had trained my self not to turn on the hot water tap unless I really wanted hot water but since I came from Iceland I find my self using the hot water tap by the kitchen sink without realizing until the water turns hot. This is of course waste of energy, energy costs money, and good Netherlanders don't spend money unless absolutely necessary.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's been one of the days that people in Iceland can only dream about. Or experience when traveling abroad. The wind is blowing softly and it's warm !?!. I did what I could never do in Iceland, left the jacket at home and went out for a walk. I got my hair cut, shopped a bit and, since I picked up my camera when I left Iceland last week, took some pictures.

This one is for Andrea. The little pink bicycle belongs to girl, who looked about 5-6 year old, traveling with the woman riding the bicycle bus. When kids in The Netherlands get about 4-5 years old they're expected to cycle on their own.

Here is the skislope in Hoofddorp as seen from my door.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What a nice weather in Hoofddorp. The sun is setting, my french windows are open and it's very warm in here. If this continues tomorrow I'll go on a long tour on my bicycle.
10 year old car in Iceland is usually worn out and not all cars make it to their tenth year. In The Netherlands a 10 year old car is worn and has been driven more than in Iceland but it has few years of usable life left. There is a difference in how the cars are driven and the roads. It never ceases to amaze me that no one here is ever in a hurry. You see almost nothing of the me, me, me attitude that is so common in Iceland. If someone pulls into the road in front of you, you just stop and let him go, you weren't going too fast so you didn't have to brake hard. This is one of the reasons I almost never see cars here that need cosmetic repairs and it's also one of the reasons that there are so few accidents here.