Friday, August 26, 2011

Little Difference #9

I think these pictures should probably speak for themselves. Never seen anything like the States.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Road Test

One of the biggest learning experiences we've had since we've been here was navigating the roads in our rental car. We have rented a car twice this summer, and we really enjoyed the freedom that goes with that.

Freedom, yes. Familiar? Not so much. It's amazing how different some road signs are, and how helpless not knowing what they mean makes you.

Some were pretty self explanatory, like this speed limit sign.

Others, though, had us a bit confused. This sign means it's no longer 50 kilometers per hour speed limit.

What do you think this means?

The above means no passing. 

And this one, means end of no passing zone. To me, the slash through it should mean no. 

This one means no cars allowed.

This one means no parking...not a helicopter landing pad. Sorry, John.

It definitely made Jay a very aware, alert, defensive driver. It also made me very glad I wasn't listed as a driver on the rental agreement! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Today I was caught unprepared. Very unprepared.

I went to meet Jay at his school for lunch. We had a quick bite to eat and then decided to go for a little walk before he went back. When we started our walk, we commented on how it was going to rain this afternoon because the sky on the horizon was that dark gray color. 

Within just a few minutes we decided we better head back. This storm was moving. By the time we got back to his school (I swear no more than 4 or 5 minutes) the entire sky was a DARK greenish dark that all the cars had their headlights on. We parted ways, and I picked up speed. It usually takes about 8 or 9 minutes to walk from his school to our apartment, and I was hoping I could make it.

I didn't make it.

Without warning (well, minus the whipping wind and the scary-movie dark sky) it started pouring. {Pouring really isn't even the correct word. What is pouring times 100 with hail thrown in? That's what it was doing.} Not a sprinkle. Not a gradual increase in second it wasn't raining and the next it was a deluge. Luckily I was near an overpass, so along with a few other unprepared souls, I jogged to find shelter under the bridge.

Here's how I was unprepared today:
          1. No umbrella...such a rookie mistake here in the Netherlands considering it has 
              rained 90% of the days I've been here.
          2. I was wearing flip flops. Have you ever tried to walk in flip flops when it's
              raining? (No wonder you don't see many Dutch wearing flip flops.) It's impossible!
          3. No jacket and wearing a whitish shirt. NO need for explanation really.

So, there I stood under the bridge pondering what to do next. 

I could:
           1. Wait it out. The only problem with this scenario is that it can rain for days and  
               days here. OR
           2. Take off my flip flops and run like crazy the rest of the way to the apartment. I 
               mean, how wet can you get in 4 or 5 minutes? (I'll answer that question with 
               another question, Have you ever taken a shower?)

So I did nothing. Just waited. And waited. For 25 minutes I stood under the bridge. I debated in my head when would be the best time to go. I tried to figure out the crosswalk light timing so if I decided to make a run for it, I wouldn't have to wait too long at the intersection.

Then, finally, I went for it. The rain had let up a little, but it was still raining. Really hard. I took off my flip flops, ducked my head, and just went. I was drenched by the time I got home. But you know what? It's still raining an hour later! I could still be standing under that bridge.

This has got me thinking about life. (Pretty deep for 25 minutes under a bridge, hu?) Sometimes there's no perfect solution to the situation you're in. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that you're totally unprepared for. Perhaps you could have been better prepared, but you aren't. Sometimes you may really question the timing of what's going on...why couldn't it be a year later? a month earlier? 

Here's what I learned today. You can't stay under the bridge forever. Sometimes you just have to jump in and go for it. 

It may be messy (Um, I'm sure you can imagine how nasty and gross my feet were when I got back). It might not be pretty (As my mascara streaked face and curled up wet hair can attest to!). It might not even be what you had planned on doing. But, if you really think about least you're not standing under a bridge frozen with fear and indecision. 

Sometimes, you just have to duck your head and go for it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Change of Plans

Jay arrived in the Netherlands in January to work on a 9 month degree program. I stayed in Wyoming to finish my school year. The plan was for me to join him in June and stay with him until he completed his courses at the end of September.

We were fully aware that as a US citizen, I could stay in the Netherlands for 90 days before registering for a residence permit. We had been in contact with his school about it, and they told us to contact them when I'd been here about 60 days, and they would help us get the ball rolling. Should be no big deal....{you may see where this is going}...

So, at the beginning of August Jay sent an email to the appropriate person to set up this appointment. We were scheduled to meet with the lady the next week. Unfortunately, she needed some documentation we didn't have (Who travels with their marriage license anyway?), so there was some scrambling to the Randall County Courthouse (Thanks, Duane!), and scanning, and emailing, but we showed up to the appointment prepared. 

What we were not prepared for, though, was the news that the fee to register for a residency permit was now 1200 Euros! We were originally told it would be a couple hundred. Apparently the changes are fairly new because even the ladies at his school were just as shocked as we were. One of them even put her hands over her ears when she heard!

I arrived on June 12, so my 90 days is officially over on September 9. Jay's classes are finished September 23. It didn't take us long to decide that 1200 Euros to stay an extra couple weeks was definitely not worth it (especially since that would more than pay my airfare back to the states).

So, the big change of plans is that I'm not going to get to stay with Jay for the duration of his courses. I'm flying back to Iowa (to Junie and some Diet Dr. Pepper...a bright spot in this unexpected change of events) a week from today, next Sunday. 

He will fly home to the States when he's done at the end of September. I'm sad to be separated from him again, but it's only a few weeks this time. I guess we'll see where this journey takes us from there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies? I always DREAD this question on applications or when someone asks me in conversation. 

Dread it. Here's why.

I am terrible at hobbies. Worse than awful. Seriously. The only hobby I really have is reading.  Now don't get me wrong, I have dabbled in countless hobbies over the years, but I just don't have the "stick with-it-ness" required to fully develop a hobby. For example...

Knitting Years and years ago I got into the knitting craze. I signed up and took a class at the cutest little knitting shop in Iowa City. I loved that store. It was cozy and colorful and so perfectly organized. I even convinced  my friend Liz to take a class with me the next semester. She dove in headfirst and became a knitting fool. She finished our mandatory scarf in the first couple weeks and was on to bigger and better projects! Me? I barely finished the first scarf and when I packed up our house in Wyoming, I threw away two started scarves and a dishtowel. Hobby finished.

Scrapbooking I had the marvelous idea the year we turned 21 to make my friend Elise a birthday book entitled "21 Reasons I'm So Glad We're Friends." I embarked on this project with full gusto and with about two months to complete it. I spent countless hours at Hobby Lobby, bought gobs and gobs of scrap paper and pens and stickers. I also happened to mention to a few people that I was "sooo into scrapboking." {Guess what I got for gifts for years following???} I made a few pages, and then I was fresh out of new ideas. I eventually finished and mailed the book to her in April (her birthday is in January). Never used those supplies again, but I traded my friend Val some great scrapbooking materials for hot sauce. I think I got the better end of that deal! Hobby finished.

Yoga I signed up for a yoga class at a cute little studio in Iowa City. One night a week....not too much of a commitment, right? Hmmm. Now, in all fairness, I did enjoy my yoga class, but I never practiced the poses at home. I also think I skipped the last few weeks of class...I think I could get into yoga again, maybe. Maybe not. Hobby finished.

Stamping/Cardmaking I met some great friends in Wyoming and one of them happens to be a Stampin' Up representative. Stampin' Up is a company that deals in, you guessed it, stamps, papers, and cardmaking...essentially. Once a month Deborah had these great parties. You go, pay $10, get to make four cute, cute cards and enjoy a nice sampling of foods and drinks. I was hooked after the first time. I loved the cards we made. I loved the idea of being crafty. I bought a couple sets of stamps, I bought the materials to make our Christmas cards that year, I even won several stamp sets at her parties. Guess what? After I moaned and groaned my way through our Christmas cards that first year, I never made another card outside of Stamp Camp. I donated all my goodies to another friend Jennifer who actually uses them and makes some very cute creations. Hobby finished.

Dutch Yes, I know I said I was going to learn some Dutch. I promised myself back in March when I got back from visiting Jay here. I ordered Rosetta Stone, and I was into it...for awhile. Then I got busy with school and said I would work on it when I got over here and didn't have so much to do. And I did...for awhile. Then, I decided that my time here was already halfway over, and unless we were back here in the Netherlands I wasn't going to really need to speak Dutch. I have learned some vocabulary words and can recognize words in print. I have no idea what people are saying or how to say anything, though. So, I feel a twinge of guilt when I get an email from someone asking how the Dutch is going. 

Let's face it, I'm TERRIBLE at hobbies. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fall is in the Air??

Could it be? Is it really that time of year? Yes, I know it's getting toward the end of August...that it's back to school time, but could it really be? Is it FALL?

See, it never really got all that hot here. It has been very mild since I arrived in June. We probably had three or four days that I would call hot. The rest of our days the weather has been in the 60s and 70s, and of course, it rains so much here compared to anywhere else we've ever lived.

The last week or so, though, there has been a certain "crispness" in the air. 

You know, the kind that goes with fall. 

When Jay's parents were here, we noticed some trees by the train station here in town had leaves turning yellow. We weren't sure if it was a sign of fall or if the trees were sick. I think these pictures from this weekend confirm it, though. 

And so do the other trees around town. The leaves are turning, and if they haven't turned yet, they are that weak color of green right before they turn. No denying it, I guess. It's almost favorite season of the year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Go West

We were itching to go somewhere this weekend, so we decided to explore the western Netherlands. We boarded the train early Saturday morning, and only three hours later, we were on the other side of the country! {Of course that prompted the land surveyor to do some internet research and we discovered that Fremont County (where we lived in Wyoming) is about 3/4 the size of Holland.} The Netherlands may be small, but it is packed full of culture, architecture, and beautiful scenery.

We started off in The Hague. It is the seat of the Dutch government and is the third largest city in the Netherlands. It was chilly and rainy when we were there, and we were kind of wimpy, but we did see quite a bit of it. 

It is always fun to see something familiar in a whole new way! It was too chilly to try one, though.


We got back on the train and rode just a little ways to the town of Delft. Delft is most famous for its pottery, appropriately called Delftware.

We didn't go on a factory tour to see the pottery made, but it was everywhere to buy. Delft is a quaint little town. They were having a large market where we found American style cupcakes, and they have a HUGE city center area with a big open area. It was still very, very rainy, but we did walk around and enjoy the town. 

This was the beautiful train station.

Trying to capture just how far this church tower was leaning. It was definitely not where it once was!

It was a great daily outing, and we really, really enjoyed those cupcakes!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Two months ago today I landed in the Netherlands for an extended summer stay. I knew when I was packing up our house in Wyoming that the next few months of my life would be a totally new experience. Time has flown by and Jay and I have had some unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences in that short time! 

I think I've adjusted (somewhat, and probably as good as I'm going to) to life here. We are, as I've mentioned before, in a very unique situation. Jay is going to an international school, so we're living in student housing. That means the basic necessities for day to day living are provided with the housing. Therefore, other than our clothes, computers, and a few books, none of our own things are on the same continent as us. Because of this, I know that our "Dutch experience" Is not typical. If we were to move here for a longer duration, we would definitely have more of our belongings with us or would have acquired more along the way. As it is, though, we are living a pretty spartan life compared to how we've lived previously. But, our experience is just that...our experience. 

So, as I've been reflecting on our life for the last two months (his for the last seven), I've compiled a list of the items from my previous life that I'm missing and can't wait to have again when we return!

*These are really in no particular order, except number one and two.

1. My cat, Junie. She's at my grandma's and I know she's in the best hands and being well taken care of, but I miss her. I also feel guilty about abandoning her. I am aware this makes me sound like the crazy cat lady.  

2. Diet Dr. Pepper. I have dreams about walking into a store and finding it hidden behind some other drinks. That's how bad it is. I can't wait to get my hands on one or ten.

3. My car. I really have enjoyed all the extra walking that a Dutch lifestyle entails, and I hope to carry some of this over to my life back in the States upon return....but, I won't take for granted being able to hop into my car for whatever reason. Need to buy a whole trunk worth of groceries? No prob. 

4. A dishwasher. I guess we do have a dishwasher here...actually two and their names are Jay and Hilleary. Not a fan of washing dishes by hand, that's for sure. 

5. A microwave and oven. We only have a cooktop here, and I think we have done very well for ourselves in the food department. (Neither one of us is hurting for food that's for sure!) But, man it sure is a pain to have to heat up leftovers on a stove (not to mention the pot that the above-mentioned dishwashers now have to wash). I know people lived without microwaves for a long, long time, but what a great invention. And an oven...I had no idea how many of my recipes use an oven. 

6. Netflix. We love to watch movies, and we've gone to several here at the theaters. We also love to watch them at home and had gotten way into Netflix, especially streaming movies. They are awesome. So sad they don't work here.

7. A real couch. Seriously look at this thing. It's not even on the same page as comfortable. I guess even if we could stream movies, we wouldn't have anywhere to relax and watch it!

I don't know that two months ago I would have been able to guess the things that would wind up on this list, well except Junie and the Diet Dr. Pepper.

Tot ziens!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Little Difference #8

One of the things Jay and I have always loved to do is go to movies. It was a cool, air-conditioned activity in hot, humid Corpus. It was a warm, cozy place to be during our Wyoming winters. Here in Enschede, it's an easy way to get our American culture fix.

We've been to several movies since I've been here {How's this for American culture fix? We've seen Bad Teacher, Bridesmaids, and Horrible Bosses this summer...yes, a little crude and crass, but we laughed anyway}. Anyway, the first movie we saw, Bad Teacher, was in a relatively empty theater. We enjoyed an entire row to ourselves with two or three other small groups of movie-goers spread throughout the theater.

The second movie, Bridesmaids, was a whole different story. We noticed when we sat down that some people came in and sat RIGHT next to, there were all empty seats on our row and they chose the two right next to us. Weird. Then another couple came in right before the movie started and sat on the other side of us. We were trapped in between two groups of people we didn't know...and there were still plenty of empty seats throughout the theater! Awkward. Thank goodness I had already seen the movie, because I was quite distracted with people I didn't know sitting thisclose to me. I need my space, especially if I don't know someone. I'm the person who will get up and move at an airport waiting area if you come and sit too close to me. When we left the movie we were wondering if the Dutch just had different standards of personal space.

So, imagine our surprise (and my horror) this past Sunday afternoon when we went to see Horrible Bosses and this happened. We went in and sat down. We intentionally chose an aisle seat, thinking people would much rather sit in the middle of the row for optimal viewing. Jay and I even strategically put my purse and his jacket {*yes, I said jacket those of you melting in Texas and Oklahoma*} in the seat next to us to deter space-invaders. Of course, without fail, the first group that came in after us was a family and they were heading up toward our row. I was commenting to Jay that I wasn't sure it was an appropriate movie for kids to see when they walked into our row, passed us, and started looking at the numbers on the seats. Numbers on the seats? Hmmm, hadn't noticed those before. Then, they started speaking to each other and pointing to the number on the seat next to us and then at us. 

Apparently, there are assigned seats at this movie theater! We had no idea. We got out our tickets...sure enough E6 and E7. So, we got up and retreated to our assigned seats. We laughed at ourselves, thinking we had caused our own stress at the previous movie by not sitting where we were supposed to. We also laughed because everyone that came into the theater was looking on their tickets and then searching for their assigned seats. How had we not noticed this before?! Ok, I was feeling better in E7 with Jay, someone I know, sitting next to me. the time for the movie to begin got closer and closer, the seats around us started filling in. RIGHT in front of us. RIGHT behind us. RIGHT on BOTH sides of us. All I was thinking was my friend Michelle would have been hyperventilating at this point and probably have left! 

I think the assigned seats are ridiculous. Ridiculous. But on top of that, for a computer to assign seats in a really big theater right next to someone who bought tickets ten minutes before??? Insane. Most of the little differences I've documented have been neither positive nor negative, just different. This? This is a BIG negative in my book! 

I have no idea if this is a regular practice in the Netherlands, but they do it at our theater. It makes no sense to me and Jay got a big laugh over how worked up I was about it. I concluded that their computers could run faster and save memory by not having to assign seats to each ticket purchased. I also asked him how much ink (i.e.,  money) they could save each year if they weren't printing seat numbers on each ticket. I think those are valid I just need to find someone at the theater to listen to me. Perhaps next time I can start by sharing it with the stranger sharing an armrest with me.

Tot ziens!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What I've Been Up To

Last week when I went to Amsterdam with Jay's parents to be tourists and see them off on their plane, I came across a gold mine.


In one of the shops at the airport, they had ENGLISH! 

I was so excited. I've always, always been a magazine junkie, but I've slowly weaned myself over the years. At one point, I think I subscribed to 8 or 9 magazines at the same time. When I left Wyoming, I was down to 3. That's not to say, of course, that I didn't buy a magazine every time I was at Wal-Mart, though!

Here's what I came home with...

I didn't realize until I went to check out that my find would cost me dearly, but it was worth all thirty euros I had to spend! I slowly have been working my way through my treasure and enjoying every minute of it.

Tot ziens!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Love Can Build A Bridge

Is the Judd's song going through your head right now? 

So, on our first trip to Cologne we noticed something unusual on the bridge over the Rhine River as we rode the train into downtown.

Apparently, there is a tradition for people in love to fasten a lock with their name or initials onto a bridge. Once the lock is on there, you throw the key into the river. The idea is, the lock can never be removed since the key is long gone, and therefore, your love will always remain. 

I know, it's just a tad cheesy, but we decided that since we were going back to Cologne when Jay's parents were here we would surprise them and do it too. So, we both locked our locks onto the bridge and threw away the key. 

If you're ever in Cologne, our locks are on the 14th panel on the more congested side of the bridge {Probably should have paid attention to an actual direction}. Look us up.

Tot ziens!