Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Oogst, a farmer's market déjà vu

For the past nine months I've been irritated that in such an international city as Rotterdam, there is no such thing as a newspaper or local events magazine in EnglishMan, I'd really love to know if anything super cool is going on this weekend... I've asked countless people about this lack--both expat and Dutch. Nothing. They had nothing for me. Really, how is it possible?

Total tangent here, but I promise it'll get back to the main story...If there's anything I've learned here, its this: don't beat around the bush with the Dutch--ask exactly what you want to know. In fact, think about the result you want and form a question that tackles it. It's an art. Especially as a polite American (well, I like to think I am). In this situation, what happened was that I merely asked the wrong question. This happens a lot here.

A perfect example of this was when I discovered the organic store across the street sold wine by the liter and I wanted to taste it before purchasing a whole liter (less than a liter was not possible). The wine spout is just around the corner from the coffee machine that serves complementary espresso in to-go cups. Here's the conversation I had:

me: Could I please taste the wine before buying it?
her: Oh, no that's not possible.
me: Ok, well, could I use of those small coffee cups to taste the wine?
her: [confused look] Um, I guess you could but those are for coffee.
me: If you don't mind, I'd like to use a coffee cup to taste the wine.
her: Um, ok.

Another example was when I went to the immigration services to get my social security number, after wrongly thinking my resident card and work permit I received months ago included this number.

me: Hello, I already have a work permit and resident visa but I really need to get a BSN number as quick as possible. I was told I can fill out a form and turn it in today.
her: Did you apply for a BSN number?
me: No.
her: [handing me the form] The office is closed right now, so you can return it tomorrow.
me: [looking around at the very busy office] This is closed?
her: The people who deal with BSN left at noon.
me: If I bring this form back tomorrow, how long until I have a BSN number?
her: Four weeks.
me: I need it by next Monday. Can I pay more to have it rushed? [typical American]
her: That's not possible, this is a free service. [typical Dutch]
me: Can I make an appointment to do it in person?
her: Let me see...the next appointment I have is Friday at 12:15pm.
me: And how long will it take to get a BSN after the appointment?
her: You'll get it at the appointment.
me: Great, sign me up for 12:15.

Now, I love living here and I admire how systematic this country and the people are--afterall, the country would be overtaken by water without those systematic tendencies--and it also drives me crazy at the same time! In the first conversation, I totally messed up the first chick by mixing the two systems of wine and coffee and the second one--I don't even know, it was just frustrating.

Anyways, the point is--one, don't beat around the bush and, two, when in doubt make an appointment.

This is all to say that, after 9 months of living here in Rotterdam, I was finally introduced to a website that rocked my little Dutch world: weownrotterdam. It's kinda like if SF's 7x7, sfgate, and UrbanDaddy all nicely merged into one more low-key, blog-like entity. First of all, it's in English--yay! Second of all, it's super easy to search through and find events all over the city. Basically, it's a godsend.

The Oogst -- or 'harvest' in Dutch -- is a food festival, only it's second year, high-lighting goods and produce from the Rotterdam region. It took place on the west side of the city which to me has an edgy, Temescal or lower Haight feel--with a few more 'coffee shops'. Definitely up and coming.

[L] information on how to make a 'city salad' from urban plants

At the park, some local cafés set up shop, a few student-lead exhibits shared ideas about cooking and growing your own food, and some local bands played super Indie tunes--but mostly, Elliot and I were thinking...this is so familiar...there was something about the hand-roasted coffee, expensive organic apples, the free samples, and the single-speed bikes that reminded us of...oh ya! It's like the Farmer's Market every week in Oakland!! I'm kidding (sort of). The event really was great and I wondered why it was only annual, not weekly or even monthly. I'd be going every weekend -- just for the chard!

I haven't seen chard in forever!
I guess it really is fall...

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