Thursday, April 7, 2011

And now it's story time...

I know, I know. It's been for-EVER. Amazingly, when you don't have a job you become insanely busy! Life has been full of cooking, sewing, traveling, planing trips, café-ing with girlfriends, going on trips, exploring new cities, cycling, gym-ing, dealing with visa nightmares, hosting, party going, party making...and, yes, wedding planning. I won't bore with all the crazy stories, but I do have a few to share...

Cooking and sewing: potato gratin, pencil case, oil cloth tote, herbed dorado 

[The Gym]
We found this great gym about 3 minutes from our apartment. It has two huge floors of equipment, lots of classes, and enough treadmills so there's never a line. We were first curious about it because it's called "Fit for Free." Well, it's not free. But, it is only 16€ per month, 19€ if you want the classes, and no stupid initiation fees. Goedkope (good deal)! There are a few catches though (of course): (1) the classes are pretty sparse, about 2-4 per day, mostly in the evening; (2) you bring your own towel for wiping your sweat and sitting on weight machines, they don't provide towels or locks for the lockers; (3) if you want to take a shower, it costs 0.50€ and you get three minutes (hopefully the water is hot!). Since we live close, none of these is an issue.

On to the 'story.' So, I was really excited to try out the "Body Balance" class, seemingly their version of yoga, tied in with some tai-chi and meditation. The 45-minute class was good, not great; definitely was relaxing and moved my muscles some. The strangest part about it, though, wasn't that I couldn't understand the instructor at all--besides the occasional 'downward dog' or 'plank' reference--what was strange was that the entire class was choreographed to music. Hm, interesting. Breathing in and out to a rap-less version of 'Empire State of Mind' wasn't my ideal yoga music, but it worked. Nevertheless, after that first class, I thought I'd stick with it and make it a weekly routine.

The next week, I was excited to go loosen up a bit. As we began the first moves and breathing routine, I couldn't help but notice it was the same music as last time, and choreographed to the same moves. I thought it must be just a standard warm-up or something. As we continued, yep, 'Empire' came on again and the whole class was a repeat from the week before. When I realized it, I got so bored and depressed and almost angry--what is going on?!?! After class finished, as polite as possible, I asked the instructor if it was indeed the same class as last time and yes, yes it was. And why is that? "Well, it's the 'Les Mills' copyrighted classes, so of course it's the same class every week for three months! That's how all the classes are at this gym, and every gym in Rotterdam!" Apparently, you're supposed to build up expertise of the moves every class and three months is the proper amount of time to build that expertise. I mean, I get the rationale, but still! 

A view of the city center from Kralingen Lake

[The Smoke Alarm]
One evening, Elliot was studying in 'his office' (aka, the far end of the dining table) and I was seeing if I was missing out on anything fantastic from (of course I was) on the couch in the living room. All of a sudden, I started to smell this distinct smoke smell. No, not cigarettes. Not incense either.  Nor burning food. This was like paper or wood--or our apartment!--burning. Elliot didn't smell anything, but I certainly did. And it was coming from downstairs. We lead our noses all around the apartment, sniffing here and there. It was definitely concentrated in our living room and no where else. Finally, we went downstairs to the neighbor directly below us. The odor was very strong on the floor below us and when I stuck my nose in his door crack I definitely smelled smoke. We knocked but no answer. Knocked again. Nothing. We then knocked on the other neighbor's door and a nice woman answered. We explained the smell and she also noticed it. She gave us the number of the local emergency police and said we could call if we wanted to. She also mentioned that neighbor is a little, er, not well up there (pointing to her temple) but he's much better than last year. Hm. Awesome.

So we went back upstairs and didn't do anything.

A few minutes later, the smell was worse and making my eyeballs sting. I have to admit, we were a bit freaked out. What if the apartment is on fire and he's asleep or out of town?! [Ok fine, yes, we packed a small bag with our laptops, passports, and Time Capsule.] A few more minutes later, the nice lady neighbor knocked on our door and said she was going to call the police because she was also worried. Within maybe 10 minutes, three huge Dutch police dudes stomped in and banged on his door, checking if the door was bolted shut. A couple more thunderous pounds roused the guy from an apparent very deep sleep and when he opened his door a whole cloud of smoke wafted out. The police demanded to enter and when they returned to the foyer they said he had made a fire in his fireplace and the wind drove down the chimney and had filled up the place with smoke. Now, we do not have a fireplace in our apartment so this was confusing. I guess he has one, and I guess he uses it.

The smoke in our apartment finally drifted out with some open windows but one question still remained: why is there no smoke alarm in his apartment? Well, why is there no smoke alarm in our apartment? If there had been a smoke detector in his apartment, it would have alarmed and woken him up much sooner, dismissing the need for the police summon. After speaking with a local, apartments do not come with smoke detectors and if you want one, you need to buy and install it yourself.

De Tuin Café at Kralingen Lake

[The Missed Connection]
Elliot and I were on our way to Den Haag to see some family friends of mine. They were kind enough to lend us two bicycles for the time we are staying here. All we had to do is pick them up and get them back to Rotterdam--easy enough, right?

We left from Rotterdam Blaak, the train station closest to our apartment. We quickly made a transfer at Rotterdam Centraal and headed out to Den Haag, about 30 minutes northwest. We stopped, then passed the first Den Haag station, Hollandspoor, so the next stop was us. It's a big city and we were enjoying the cityscape of buildings and rushing trams, cyclists, the whole bit. We then saw some new buildings we hadn't remembered seeing on our last trip to Den Haag. Then...we saw cows, sheep, and farmland! Oh no! We have left Den Haag! When the ticket man came around we asked him where the next stop is, thinking it'd be Leiden (only a few minutes away)--but NO! SCHIPOL! I was too ashamed to tell my family friends that we are incompetent train travelers, so I said we were 'running late.' A half hour later we were at the airport, went up then down platform stairs and hopped on a Den Haag Centraal train. We were nearly two hours late to pick up our new bikes! Oops!

Lesson learned: at each transfer make sure you get on the right train! 

Through the trees at Kralingen Lake

[The Meat]
One of my jobs as a 'huis frau' is to make nearly every meal, including sandwiches for me and Elliot in the morning. Growing up, this was always done by my father (thanks Daddy!), so it took some getting used to (being the sandwich-maker) but it's easy enough. One day at the Albert Heijn, our local supermarket chain, Elliot picked out some sandwich meat and threw it in the basket. I made him a sandwich with it for school the next day. He came home super excited about his sandwich. It was soooo good! Make it again! Go get more!  So I the next time I was grocery shopping, I reached for the same meat, but something stopped me. No, it wasn't the almost-eerie deep red hue of the meat (though that wasn't enticing). It also wasn't the price (it was quite cheap). It was, in fact, the Dutch name of the meat: paardenvles. Something in my mind said, let's skip the paardenvles today. Somewhere, and I wasn't sure where, I learned the word paard but I just couldn't place it. 

As soon as I got home, I looked it up. It was then I remembered that I learned paard in the free-bee Rosetta Stone lesson, a basic introduction to animals. Horse. Yum. Needless to say, after disclosing the new vocabulary to Elliot, I haven't made him any more horsemeat sandwiches. 

My new friend at Kralingen Lake

[The Shoulder-turn]
Rotterdam is a very busy city. It's known as the 'working' city and the people of Rotterdam are also said to be hard working people. A notable quote in Holland is "Rotterdam is where they make the money, the Hague is where they distribute it, and Amsterdam is where they spend it." When walking through the city center it is clear that many people work hard and are on a mission to get from 'A' to 'B': some in nice suits, briefcases sturdily carried, people looking serious--and yes, a very obstinate gait. So much that, if you are the poor soul in their way from 'A' to 'B' you will get knocked into. Not just standing in their way, I mean if you were walking opposite them and your shoulder is in their way, while you enjoy the flowers or look for a street number, at the last second you are forced to turn your shoulder because otherwise their shoulder will collide with yours with a great THUMP! 

It's the classic shoulder-turn. Both people, no matter what, use their peripheral vision and see that the other person's shoulder will imminently collide with theirs unless a shoulder-turn takes place. And so, mutually and simultaneously, both parties engage in a polite shoulder-turn. Well, that seems to be the case in the Bay Area anyway. 

It is quite possible that my young urban life in the Bay Area doesn't wholly represent urban life of the greater world, but I am so certain that I haven't had to be the shoulder-turner so much as I have here in this city. One day, I was definitely the shoulder-turner like ten times in a row. TEN! Finally, fed up, I said to myself that's it, I'm done. So a few minutes later, I spotted my challenger with my peripheral vision. An older gentleman, tall (duh), gray hair. I think it'll be an easy case--a mutual shoulder turn. As he got closer, I saw that he was not moving even though he had way more room. I gathered my nerves, clenched my abdominals, and then THUMP! He instantly turned back, growling at me but I didn't flinch. HA! One minute later, THUMP! The same thing. Four minutes later, again. Ugh, it was tiring running into all these people! I don't get it...maybe no one cares and just runs into each other all day. 

Next up: Copenhagen


  1. Mer, such funny stories! Love reading about your time :) Hi to both of you from both of us!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...