woensdag, augustus 24, 2005

Why I Love The Netherlands, Part 4

AMSTERDAM — Members of the public will be able to borrow more than books at Almelo Library. In September, people will be able to "borrow" a gay person, gypsy or a Muslim for an hour.

Jan Krol, the head of the library, got the idea from a Swedish colleague who set up a similar "forget the stereotypes" project in Malmo.

People will be allowed to bring the "borrowee" to a cafe for an hour next to Almelo library to ask questions they would not normally dare to ask.

Krol is putting together a group of 10 people — representing different minority groups — to volunteer to be lent out. One of the volunteers is a Muslim woman living in a local asylum seekers centre.

Krol is also chairperson of the Twente and Achterhoek branch of the gay organisation COC.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]


Continue Reading

zondag, augustus 21, 2005

The hunt for a house

Finding a house is hard work. We've looked at a lot. Of the houses we've looked at, we've found a couple we like. Of those, we've bid on two. What we didn't know when we bid on both of the houses was that the seller's agent never intended to negotiate with us. With each of those two, the owners had decided to sell to someone else before we put in our bid. In both of those cases, we were used only to get the buyer's bid higher - even though we later discovered that in each of those instances the seller would have taken the bid the buyers originally put forth. We're left feeling a little used.
Standard business practices anywhere, I suppose, but it leaves Ian and me feeling as though we need to take a shower.
What bothers us the most, though, are the realtors who will say anything to get a sale. We're both busy. It's irritating to ride a bike for 30 minutes to go look at a house, then find out once we get there that a house we'd come to look at or put a bid in on is not available. This has also happened to us twice. All told, we've probably spent in excess of 40 hours apiece looking for a house.
The other day we looked at a house we liked. We were told by the realtor that a couple who had just seen it was very, very interested in it. Because of our previous experiences, we decided not to see it. We didn't want to be used as a tool to drive up the bid for the other family. When we said this, the realtor said the other family told him that if we wanted the house, they wouldn't bid against us. A month or two ago, I may have believed him, but it was hard to listen to him with a straight face.
Luckily, it's not like there is a shortage of housing here. We'll find a house. And once we move, we expect to live there awhile.
One of my mom's mantras is "It's the journey, not the destination." It's slowly becoming apparent to both of us that how we go about finding that house to live in is as important as which house it is that we'll eventually turn into a home. Neither of us will feel good about paying a commission to a sleazebag simply because it will further our short term interests. I wonder if we'll be strong enough to be led by the mantra during the journey?

Continue Reading

dinsdag, augustus 16, 2005

Border update

No problems with the Bulgarian border police. On arrival there, after I handed them my passport they asked for my boarding pass. That confused me a little. I'd never been asked for a boarding pass once I arrived at a destination and had left the plane. I think they wanted it because I travel with a U.S. passport, but came on a charter flight filled with Dutch passengers. Maybe they thought I was trying to sneak in, or something. (Although when you think about it, who sneaks in to Bulgaria?)
At any rate, I couldn't find my boarding pass. Silly me, I thought it was only used to board the plane. Anyway, I went to the back of the line to look for it and eventually found it - I'd used it as a bookmark. After I found it and went through the line again, there weren't any other questions asked.

Labels: , ,

Continue Reading


It's safe to say that although Булгариа (Bulgaria) is a somewhat unusual honeymoon destination, it was just what we were looking for. Looking back, we really haven't had time to breathe since the wedding. We needed downtime, and that's exactly what we got.

The weather was beautiful, and the Black Sea was warm. What I was not expecting was that for the whole time I was there I did not run in to one other American. There were a few Brits, but no Americans. I think that was a first for me.

We left our hotel for the airport at 3:45 this morning. A bus, plane, train and another bus later finds me a little sleep deprived. I'll write more later after my brain returns . . .

Labels: , ,

Continue Reading

maandag, augustus 08, 2005


We're leaving tomorrow for some rest on a beach in Bulgaria. I guess it's a honeymoon, although we haven't really called it that. Yesterday we thought about some of the practical ramifications of sharing a last name. When we go through customs, what do we tell border control when they ask if we're traveling together? If they notice the names and ask how we're related, are we honest?
This made us think a bit more about what happens when we visit the US. Ian reminded me that a married gay couple from Canada were refused access to the US when they tried to cross the border together. I quickly reminded Ian that I was a US citizen, so there wouldn't be a problem. For me. I saw immediately that my being a citizen wouldn't help him at all. If he was denied entry, would we have to immediately arrange a flight back to The Netherlands?
This led me to reflect on the changes I've gone through since I've been here. The longer I'm here, the more disgusted I become with the amount systemic discrimination that the citizens of the US are willing to support. When I moved here, the thought of selling my house in the US filled me with dread. I didn't want to cut that tie. Now I'm thinking that until the political climate becomes friendlier, the fewer ties (excepting personal relationships) I have to the US, the better. When I moved here, I had no idea how much of my energy in the US was wasted by being angry about the discrimination that so many of us faced on a daily basis. Now that I don't have to deal with it, I just don't feel very guilty about not wanting to encounter that discrimination any more than I absolutely have to.
In the meantime, we'll let you know when we return how we did with the Bulgarian border control.

Labels: , ,

Continue Reading

vrijdag, augustus 05, 2005

An update

Just in case you're wondering, that mixer STILL hasn't come.

Continue Reading

The House

Remember that house for which we put in an offer? We didn't get it. There was another bidder, and the sellers decided to negotiate with him first. Apparently the negotiations went well and he ended up with the house. Grrrr. It's ok, though. Although we liked the house, there were things that would have made it difficult to sell later.

aNNabaNAna, on the other hand, got the keys to her new house and is starting the fix up. I'm envious.

Still, it's not all gloom and doom for us. We have appointments to see three more houses on Monday, then on Tuesday we head out for a vacation on the Black Sea. Life could be worse. I'm telling you, though, that I am ready for some sun. It's been cool here, and it's raining yet again as I type this.

A little break will be good, too. I finished my latest Dutch class today. The test was yesterday, then today we got the results. I passed, which is actually a little surprising given the amount of studying I didn't do. I came up with an outline last weekend, then studied it a bit on Wednesday before Thursday's test. You can't cram for the listening tests, though, and it kicked my ass. Still, I passed. Maybe we'll celebrate a little tonight. Farscape vids, homemade chocolate chip cookies and a good bottle of wine.

Continue Reading