May. 4th, 2010 09:50 pm
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There are entries on Queen's Day and our visit to the Keukenhof up at the other blog, with lots of pictures - a sea of orange and people with bonus 29th floor views from Queen's Day, and the best of the 144 pictures we took while getting rained on and looking at flowers at the Keukenhof. (Actually, the grey light really made the flower colors pop - the scenery photos would be better on a sunny day, but the flower closeups are great.)
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Over the weekend, I: drank lots of beer and listened to a good cover band on Thursday night; walked around the streets to see the sales and the celebrations Friday (and wore earplugs as the bands' volume continued to rise; on Saturday morning took Ted to see the Woensel Market and the local butcher and then later went out rowing in a single for another good coaching session; went to the Keukenhof Sunday and got rained on but took lots of flower photos.

Reasonably busy, but no drama.

As I found out beginning yesterday evening, over the weekend other people: died (childhood friend, my best friend in about the second half of grade school and for some of junior high); got engaged (someone I baby-sat from when he was a year old until I went off to college); gave birth (cousin of another childhood friend - we used to play when she visited).

I don't want to get rid of all drama, because the dramatic circle of life stuff includes love and babies as well as illness and mortality. But if the universe happens to be listening, I could deal with no more untimely deaths for a while. Please?

Also, some more personal good news: my stuff arrives on Friday. So I will have my boat! And my bike! And books, looooootttts of them! And the rest of my clothing! And all the conveniences, like a knife that really cuts (and a sharpener in case it doesn't), a popcorn popper, a small organizer drawer unit for the bathroom, and and and (this part goes on for about 42 more boxes...)
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As far as the decor and furnishings go, this apartment isn't as nice as a lot of the corporate ones. The floor's thin veneer that's buckling in spots, and in's not that the furniture is from Ikea, but that it's the cheaper stuff from Ikea - what you get for your first apartment. The table only seats four, there's only three wineglasses (well, two after I broke one today!), and there are about four plates and they don't all match. On the wall are framed pictures of cars and comic-book graphics. The kitchen's nice, stainless steel and navy cabinets, but the fridge is plain white and doesn't quite match the rest. Though to be fair, the floor is still nicer than the cheap carpet my early apartments had, the windows are top quality, and there are floor-to-ceiling drapes including very dark ones in the bedrooms. And the bathrooms are all tiled. It's nice, but not the lap of luxury except for that spectacular view. I was in a colleague's corporate apartment on Friday that's just gorgeous - two big sofas instead of my loveseat, a modern-rustic long solid wood dining table I'd love to have in my own house, a beautiful kitchen out of a decorating magazine. The linens and plates are nice, matching, and there are lots.

But thinking about it, aside from mild bathroom envy (he has two toilets instead of my silly urinal and a tub as well as a shower) I'd much rather be in this apartment. This one is more functional, and probably bigger as well. His kitchen is one short wall and an island; mine is L-shaped and each leg is much bigger. My fridge is as big as one you'd get in a decent US apartment and has a good-sized freezer, whereas he has a tiny built-in fridge and eensy internal freezer. My oven is a third larger and I definitely have more kitchen storage. Judging from the pants hanging in his hall closet, I probably have more bedroom storage space too. My guest bedroom has a double bed, a fair bit of space around it, and two big armoires, whereas his has a storage wall but only fits a single bed. This one kitchen is also a lot better for cooking in than the one in our previous pace here (also beautiful but not too functional) and the bed's definitely much better than the squishy waterbed we had there.

The funny thing is that my colleague probably would prefer his kitchen over mine. The one functional advantage his has is that it's got gas burners instead of the radiant ones I have. Mine heat up slowly and don't get as hot as I'd like. Since he's Taiwanese (and cooks Taiwanese style), he'd want to cook over high heat and is used to shopping frequently. So the gas burners are of more value to him and he won't mine the tiny oven and small refrigerator.

But yeah, I like this place. It's not really big enough for both of us when Ted gets here (no where to put the weight set) but it's pretty nice for me.
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It's a glorious spring day here, just about warm enough to sit in the sun with a jacket on, with a blue sky that belies any volcanic ash cloud except for a hint of gray at the horizon. This morning I went rowing - to give you some idea I've written at least three poems sparked by rowing on this particular Dutch canal in spring. And I saw two lots of ducklings!

Then I spoke to my husband, then I walked north to explore a street I was told had real butchers and an organic supermarket, then realized that the Woensel Markt was at the end of that street. I'd been meaning to check it out. There's a market in the city centrum right near my flat, but it's on Tuesdays, a work day for me. The Woensel market is on Saturdays, so I'd been wanting to go. Picture a modern version of the market in the medieval town in every medieval-ish fantasy story. Then triple it; there seemed to be five or ten stalls of each kind of thing and it probably covered nearly an acre, or maybe it just seemed that big. There are stalls for vegetables, flowers (it's the Netherlands, flowers are not optional), fabric, clothing, and a few of electronics and other odd stuff. Also stalls selling frites (french fries, only they call them Belgian here) or snacks (krokets and sausage rolls) I didn't buy much there, but I did get a nice chunk of beef at the butcher and I'm looking forward to roast beef tomorrow.

After putting the groceries away, I went back out and found that Esprit does have jeans that fit me (except "cropped" jeans here are full length on me!), and then sat at an outdoor cafe drinking mint tea (which they make here by putting a bunch of fresh mint leaves in a glass and pouring hot water over it) and caprese salad (which doesn't go well with mint tea but was very tasty) and reading email, until I realized I was being an idiot and sat and watched people walk by.

And now I'm listening to a new (to me) Archie Fisher album and contemplating if I want to make pasta or if popcorn is enough food, after the salad.

I'm missing Ted, and worried that he won't be able to fly out here on a planned business trip next weekend because of all the air flight backups. But except that his company would have been nice at the cafe and to come home to or with, I can't really think of a nicer way to spend a day.


Apr. 7th, 2010 06:03 am
dichroic: (happiness is a direction)
Here I am at 5:45, faffing around online instead of trying to sleep. It's not jetlag, it's that leaving the laptop next to the bed is a bad idea for me - too attractive a nuisance.

I don't know, yesterday felt sort of empty in spots. I arrived at 6:45 in Schiphol, took the train to Eindhoven (with company even - a couple other guys from my office in Taiwan who were coming here for meetings), showered, went to work, picked up papers I'll need to apply for my residence permit and the suitcase I'd left there, and had two of the planned three meetings (one was sort of folded into the other two). Then I had an hour and a half to fool around, before meeting the realtor to go to the new flat.

As I remembered, it's a touch less nice than our old place here or our one in Taiwan, but still perfectly fine - less cushy sofas, less fancy flooring and cabinetry, but nothing bad or unacceptable. There are a couple of lights that don't work but those will be fixed (not sure why they weren't already - one may be an electrical issue). The view is fantastic and it's got more small-stuff storage (i.e. bookshelves, closet, chests of drawers) than our previous Dutch flat, though less large-stuff storage (the storage room in the basement has a lot of stuff belonging to the owner). Still, the only things I need to put there are two bikes, my sleeping bag, flying stuff, and inflatable mattress, and there's room for those. It may have only wired internet (the realtor wasn't sure), but I packed a wireless hub in my airfreight shipment, which could in theory be here by Friday. I'm in hopes that it will be a lot quieter than our old Taiwan apartment, which had noisy kids next door, noisy traffic, fireworks and construction outside, and no soundproofing to speak of. (We never complained about the kids, because they weren't unreasonably noisy; the problem was with the apartment construction, not the neighbors.)

I took a somewhat shaky video of it with my iPod:

I stayed in the hotel for this one night. Today, I should try to get a bit more sleep, then enjoy my last hotel breakfast, check out, take my suitcase to the apartment, then hit the big supermarket (relatively speaking - it's nearly the size of a US supermarket) and buy pretty much one of everything. I gave up on a shopping list when I realized those are really more to tell you what not to buy, and in this case I really do need to buy just everything except the things I never want or use, which won't be tempting anyway. Then I can wander around and buy non-supermarket stuff, probably beginning with a wheeled shopping cart to make the rest of it easier. Or possibly beginning with an umbrella, if the weather requires it.


Mar. 3rd, 2010 07:22 pm
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I got to see my new apartment today, and was very happy to find it's on the 29th floor! This is in a town with about three tall buildings, so the view is fabulous. Otherwise, the apartment's OK: furniture by Ikea, more storage than I'd expected in a Dutch flat, reasonable fridge with an actual freezer (small by US standards, smaller than the one we have in Taiwan, but much bigger than the one we had here before and that didn't have a freezer at all), parking in the basement, spare bedroom with a double bed. It has enough room for my bookshelves and erg, no problem. There's a small storage room in the basement for my bike and such. The kitchen has decent cabinets plus a pull-out cutting board.I'm definitely looking forward to having a dishwasher again! As in our last place, the heater in the bathroom is also a towel rack - nice in winter to have the heated towels. And I forgot to ask, but being a new-ish high-rise, it's pretty sure to have air-conditioning.

The downsides are that it only has one of those combo microwave/over/broiler things that so unimpressed us in our last place (though this one is a little bigger); the stove is glass induction (ditto with the previously-unimpressed) though it does have five burners - we only have three in Taiwan. But those three are gas and get very hot, fast. lack of real over isn't unexpected, and maybe these burners will be better than the last place - I plan to buy a good cast-iron pot (I'm thinking of splurging on Le Creuset) which should work better on it. On second thought, I'm not really sure if the stove is glass induction - it's got a smooth top, but it looked more like metal discs in there. The other downside is only one toilet. Still, most of the time I'll be the only one there. And when Ted's with me, at least the toilet is separate from the main sink / shower. The shower's tiny, but that's to be expected. No tub, but I never use one anyway. Very oddly, the main bathroom also has a urinal. Never saw that in a private home before.

It's convenient for restaurants - there are a whole bunch by it that I haven't tried out. It's not quite as close to supermarkets as our last place, but still walking distance. Assuming it all works out, as it looks like it should, I think I'll like living there. The view is the best part; there are windows everywhere. It really feels like an aerie; I shall perch there like the Eagle of Gwernabwy. (Spelling?) Or at least the Eagle of Eindhoven, which has a lot less myffic resonance but does alliterate.

And now for another benefit of Eindhoven living; I am off to the biweekly meeting of the local knitting group. I hear they have a couple new American-expat members, too.
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The following entry was originally posted at my main blog on January 13 - apparently JournalPress, which is a plugin I use to mirror entries to Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, isn't working with the latest version of WordPress. It's kind of a relief to know why I wasn't getting any comments on those sites - I was beginning to think no one liked me! So I will be posting three past entries here, then I guess I'll just mirror them manually until I can get the plugin fixed. Sorry for the barrage of entries.

This is at least the second big moving comparison post I've written; this one is more comprehensive but it's still not definitive. I'm pretty sure there will be more stuff. (The first post is here.) I'll probably cross-post this to the travel blog, too. These are in no particular order.

Things I am looking forward to in the Netherlands:

cleaner air:
People keep telling me that Eindhoven has some of the worst air in Europe. But at least you can see through it, which is not always true in Taiwan.
colder air:I just don't like hot weather much. It's chilly now, but by Sunday, the high temperature here is predicted to match Eindhoven's average high for July.
language: - This is a big one, with lots of facets: first of all, a lot more people speak English, and the ones who do speak it better than here. (Chinese and English are so thoroughly different that each is very hard for native speakers of the other - even people who are comparatively fluent here have heavy accents, and even with my small knowledge of Chinese I can often hear the difference between a native speaker and an English speaker who has learned Chinese.) Second, Dutch is much easier for me - I can pretty much handle menus, for instance, which means I can eat at any restaurant rather than just ones with pictures or English menus. Third, I'll have Dutch lessons and the teachers and facilities were much better than the ones here.
walking around more at work: I don't like sitting still all day, as I mostly do here. There, it's a much larger campus and I'll have meetings all over.
getting out on the water: rowing, not just erg. Yay!
better social life: because of the rowing club and the local Stitch'n'Bitch group.
bread that isn't sweet: They don't really "get" bread here. Dutch bread is great. Even better, restaurants often serve it with herb butter. Pastries are also excellent. (Another two-way street - people from here complain about the Dutch serving bread at every meal, and aren't thrilled with the amount or quality of rice there.)
vacation time: Another big one. US: 2-3 weeks vacation plus about 8 national holidays and three days floating holiday. Taiwan, 112 hours (= 14 days) vacation time, 7 holidays, and 8 floating holidays. (This is my fourth year with this company - you get one extra day per year.) Netherlands: forty-one days vacation time - actually, 28 days (27 plus one for being over forty) and thirteen of what they call ADV days, which if I understand them right are compensation for working 40 instead of 32 hours per week.
drinkable tap water: something we didn't have in Arizona either, so I really appreciated it. In AZ it was safe but tasted awful; in Taiwan it tastes OK but we were told it's bad for you, though no one was clear on details.
more choices in the cafeteria: Here there are two plates, and can be some very weird combinations. I keep PB & J on hand. There it's a much bigger site, so bigger cafeteria with a lot more choices.
cheap and good wine: Wine is expensive here, due to taxes.

Things I will miss from Taiwan:
customer service: Not a Dutch core competency, very much a Taiwanese one.
quick restaurant meals: partly related to the above (servers work hard not to catch your eye!) but more because lots of people eat out or do take out all the time here, while for the Dutch eating out is an occasion and they don't want to be rushed. (It's much faster in Amsterdam than in the south where I'll be - maybe the tourist influence? But possibly also because there is a culture difference between the north and south Netherlands.)
Taipei taxis: cheap, safe (well, other than the crazy driving) and everywhere.
kindness: This is not at all meant as a slur on Dutch people, who were very nice to us. I'd be proud if a foreigner in the US was welcomed as we were. But the Taiwanese take kindness to a new level - it's practically a national sport.
cheaper electronics: Electronics, food, and clothing are much more expensive in the Netherlands. Clothes don't bother me because at least I can find more to fit. I can deal with paying more for food when someone else covers the housing. But electronics are very expensive!
Mexican food: Surprisingly there is some decent Mexican food in Taipei. Not in Eindhoven!
milky pearl tea: But I know it's getting more popular in the US, so maybe the Netherlands has it as well. The good coffee there is famous and would more than make up for it, but I can't drink real coffee, not more than a small cup very occasionally.
Costco, Carrefour, and A.Mart: I'll miss being able to get American brands and US-style cuts of meat at Costco. Carrefour and A.Mart are hypermarkets only a short walk from our apartment.
shopping on Sundays: And until nine or ten at night. In Eindhoven, grocery stores are open until 8 or 9, but otherwise shops close at 6 except for one night a week, and they are closed on Sunday except for the first weekend of the month.
my American fridge, washer and dryer: The one is big and the other two get clothing clean and dry, quickly and without ruining it. None of those could be said of the appliances we had in the Netherlands.
our apartment guard: who translates Chinese for us (though the current one has more limited English) and can accept packages. In the Netherlands, getting a package meant waiting for the mail carrier to try delivering it twice (when we were at home) and then picking it up on Saturday at the post office.

A few other things I won't miss from Taiwan::
guys making horking noises in the men's room No, I have no idea why, but it's all the time can hear them all too clearly from the women's toilet and the pantry at work.
our doorbell: which is very loud and plays inane versions of American songs like Yankee Doodle and Merrily We Roll Along.
an uninsulated apartment: which means not only is it cold in winter, but we can hear next door's annoying doorbell too - and their screaming kid, not to mention every time the people upstairs run the shower or flush.
having to be home for the cleaning people: I find it embarrassing to have someone else cleaning my home while I sit on my butt (working on the computer, knitting or beading usually). The only reason we keep them is that we'd hate doing the cleaning ourselves even more. (They do really do a great job, except that they keep finding new and unusual places to put things every time.)


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