zaterdag, augustus 28, 2004

Yolanda and Burak's Wedding

When we let people know we're getting married, the general response is, "I've never been to a gay wedding before." Our reply is, "Neither have we."

Still, we have been to two weddings together since I've been here. Both were on the same day. The one in the morning was here in Utrecht, a traditional church wedding for a colleague of Ian's. The couple had already celebrated their civil wedding a couple of days earlier.

Yoland and Burak's wedding, the one we went to later that evening, was in Belgium. We went to the party, not the wedding. The weddding also took place earlier.

We got on our bikes in Utrecht after the church wedding,

and biked to the train station in utrecht.

We left our bikes in the station along with the thousands already there, then boarded the train.

Once we got to the station in Belium, we were met by a friend of Yolanda's family and were transported to the castle, where the party took place.

This is the front yard. The owners of the castle rent the castle and grounds out to pay for their living expenses. A title and money apparently don't always go hand in hand these days. There was a guest house on the estate where the family stayed during the party. Althogh we saw paintings in the castle of their ancestors, we didn't meet the owners.

Castle Windows

The back yard was also spectacular.

Several rooms on the inside were filled with tables, where we ate. This is Yolanda, the bride.


Alberto was at our table, along with housemates Ian and Yolanda shared here in Utrecht during Ian's erasmus year several years ago. The wedding took place during the Olympics, so several at the table tried on headbands of ivy in honor of their countries' successes. (Yes, drinks were available.)

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donderdag, augustus 26, 2004

Why we chose the Netherlands over the U.S.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
—George W. Bush, August 5, 2004


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woensdag, augustus 25, 2004

The Intro

One month ago tomorrow, I got on a plane and flew from Wichita, Kansas to Schiphol airport in The Netherlands and started this latest phase in my life. Now, almost a month later, a blog. It's come to this.

So first things first: Why am I doing this (the blog, I mean, not the move...)? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that a lot is happening and I want to be able to let you know what those things are. Another is that our wedding is coming up and there are lots of things going on with that. I want to let you know what the plans are looking like so that hopefully you'll get excited enough that you'll book a flight and come to it.
I'm not sure how the interactive portion of this works. Hopefully you'll be able to post questions or comments and I can address them. If you want a picture of something, I'll try to get it. If you need help with sites for flights or accomodations, I'll post them. If you find a good deal on flights or a place to stay, you can post it and everyone will be able to take advantage.
I think there's a way to add Ian to this so he can also write - I'll figure that out later. This isn't going to be very elegant for awhile - I'm just going to try to find my way around and hope it will get better as time goes on.
Maybe the best way to start would be to post some emails that I've written to people. I think I'm also going to be able to add some pictures. Once I have that done, I'll post it. I'll try not to post too much all at once, but since I've got a month to make up for the first couple of posts might be a little big.

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zaterdag, augustus 14, 2004

Cycling through the province

Today we went on about a 40 km bike ride. First we followed a canal until we were just outside the city proper.

Once we got outside Utrecht and into the countryside (about 15 minutes), I was astounded at how much it looked like Kansas.

But if you looked around a bit, there, just to the left of Ian up ahead, was a canal.

And then there are the ever-present windmills.

The windmills here aren't to bring water up from the ground, though. They're to pump water back out to sea. Much of The Netherlands is reclaimed from the sea, so it's a never ending process to keep it dry. That, by the way, is also the reason for the wooden shoes. They don't rot like cloth or leather ones.

Boats like this line the canals throughout the country. Hey - maybe we could have our wwedding dinner on one of them. Hmmmm....

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zaterdag, augustus 07, 2004

Gay Pride, Amsterdam

Today we experienced Gay Pride day in Amsterdam. Ian had never been to a gay pride before and wasn't sure if he wanted to go or not. Against my better judgment, I encouraged him to go. I think it's something every gay person should experience once - similar to my belief after spending time in Grenada (the Carribean island, not the other one) that every caucasian should spend time somewhere where they are the minority - and more importantly, that every minority should spend some time in a culture where they are the majority.

Still, Gay Prides are kind of a double edge sword, or have been in my experience. I suppose that's understandable. When you're locked in a crowded room and the only thing you have in common with the others in the room is your sexuality, well it doesn't take long before you're looking for the exit and wanting a little fresh air. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with being gay or with other gay people, it's just that a room full of gay people usually have about as much in common with each other as a room full of people who have one blue eye and one green eye.

It's kind of cool to be in that room together with so many others who share this blue-eye-green eye trait, but THEN what do you talk about? Especially if there's lots of alcohol and good music?

But I digress. Back to the parade. And the floats. The floats actually were the parade. And they were actual floats as well. I learned that the rest of the world got the name for "float" in a parade from Amsterdam. You see, the parade is actually on the canals, and the floats, well, they float. So . . .

There were, I think, around 400,000 people at the parade. They of course weren't all gay, but it's nice to see some brown eyed people every once in awhile, isn't it? Oh - and did I mention where people take a leak in Amsterdam?

Enough said.

So we went. (To the parade, not to take a leak...) We met a friend of Ian's there - a very nice guy who was great fun to walk around with. He had been to several parades in Amsterdam, and it turned out that his brother had a barge.

He invited us onto the canals after the parade was over. His brother had rented his barge out to some people for the parade, but it was free after. We got on board, and after sailing around on the canals a bit, some friends of his brother also got on board. There was food, wine, beer, and some beautiful views.

Uh . . . Did I mention there was wine and beer?

As always seems to happen, I was quizzed on the U.S. government policies. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Bush is sane.

It was a great group of people, very fun.

I think Ian and I both half-dreaded the day, but after it was over we were both glad we went. It was great - especially with being the cruise on the canals. I think we left around 11 in the evening, which for us (me) was very late. It was a beautiful night, though.

We rode the train home, then got on our bikes and pedaled home.

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maandag, augustus 02, 2004

In Dutch with a canal

Today I've done something that I could only have done in The Netherlands.

Ian and I made plans to meet after work at his office. The Private Law Building is in city center, one of the older buildings in Utrecht. It's a beautiful setting, with a canal next to the building. I left home wondering if I was going to be able to find his building, but was feeling confident. Utrecht can be a little confusing at first. Few of the streets are straight for more than a block or two, and all of them, for no discernible reason, suddenly change their names.

At any rate, I made it with about 15 minutes to spare. The network of canals throughout the city actually help. If you follow a canal, eventually you'll get to someplace you recognize.

I was supposed to meet Ian up in his office, so as one has to do here, I started to lock up my bike. Best way to do that is to lock it to the railing around the top of the canal.

Mine is the one above with the blue saddle bags. Ian's is the one just behind mine with the black bags. Generally, after work either on of us, or sometimes, like today, both of us cycle to the store to pick up some things to make dinner and breakfast the next morning with. Everything here is a little smaller because of the lack of space. Although our apartment is a very nice size by standards here, we still have what in America is referred to as a "dorm fridge." Anyway, we can't get too many things at once when we shop, everything easily fits into the back bags - even a couple of large boquets of flowers.

But back to Ian at work. I was a little early, which is a good thing. I still am not great at locking the bike. You wouldn't think it would be that difficult, but although the chain is huge, so is the lock that goes through it. You could really do with another hand. You need to line up and hold the lock and chain with one hand while turning the key with the other. I suppose it doesn't help that all of my new keys are on the keychain that also holds the key to the lock. Some of them are unlike any keys I have ever seen before - especially the one to the front door. It cone shaped with lots of little burs all the way around it. We don't use it except for when we go on vacation (there is another one for daily use), but there it is on the key chain, and it's big. I guess it costs about $30.00 to cut a new one.

So I'm trying to heft the lock around the chain, and the chain around the bike and the bar to the canal.

What you're looking at above this is the water in the canal. As you look at this, about 7 feet below street level, imagine you've been in a foreign country for about a week. Now imagine that while you're looking down at the water, what you see, in very slow motion, is a lock with keys to everything you own slowly descending into the canal. Then you hear a "plop" at about the same time you see the keys hit the surface with a small splash. You see a few little air bubbles rise to the surface as the form of the lock itself is lost beneath the murky water, then the water is still again.

You look up and down the canal.

Then across the courtyard. Just to put a point on that sinking feeling in your stomach, there isn't even anyone who witnessed the event. At the very least, I wanted to see someone smiling at the absurdity of what just happened.

Nothing to do but wait for Ian to come out. As I looked at the door and the architectural detail of building, I had to laugh a bit. I normally go in and get Ian (otherwise he tends to get lost in his work and has been known to forget about concepts like time and space), but I couldn't leave my bike unlocked. I'd already had one bike stolen. (I was not responsible for that, but that's another story.)

So, I just looked around for awhile. Eventually, Ian came out of his building, very apologetic for being late. He thought maybe I was upset with him for not noticing the time. I finally told him that I would have come in, but that I didn't have a lock to my bike. He looked at me a little funny as though what I said didn't make any sense. I added, "I dropped it in the canal." Slowly, a huge smile spread over his face and he started laughing. I asked how deep the canals were, but Ian suggested I not even think about it.

We walked across the street to a bike shop (and there would have been a bike shop across the street anywhere in The Netherlands). A couple of stops later and we had all the keys duplicated, well, except for that big one.

Now, being able to say I've lost my keys in the bottom of a canal, I feel almost Dutch.

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