Thursday, May 31, 2007

Satan is a short fat kid with red hair


I spent most of my last unemployed day in the Croatian Embassy. It took them four hours to process about 12 visa applications. The South African Traffic department has nothing on these guys. I was also sat next to a seven-year-old... a cherub of a boy who insisted on kicking me, kicking the stairs, shouting in the echoing hall, stamping, generally behaving like Satan had a personal vendetta against me.

I eventually got home, but not before being followed down the street by another bunch of kids with boxes on their heads, pretending to be zombies. I don't make this shit up.


I start work. Am off to catch public transport in rush hour. I hope Satan has forgiven me for mocking his offspring all the time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Forget Ebay... sell your organs on TV

‘Tasteless’ organ donor show to go ahead
A tv reality show which centres on people competing for a dying woman’s kidneys has been condemned by the Dutch cabinet and MPs, a spokesman for the European Commission and a host of foreign broadcasters and newspapers...

Despite the condemnation, the tv company BNN says it will go ahead with the broadcast. In the show, the terminally ill 37-year-old Lisa will choose which of three kidney patients will receive her kidney. The public can help her decide by sending sms messages...
I can't wait to see the show's layout. So far, I've got it pictured as a 70's dating show:

"Contestant Number Three... what is your idea of a perfect evening at home?"

"Good evening, Miss Organ Donor, and can I tell you how luuuurverly your voice is. First I'd kick this dialysis machine into touch, and then I'd lose the 24/7 nurse - what a wench. That would leave us free to talk kidneys and stones... if you know what I mean..."

Between the Dutch and the Americans, I can't decide who's turned reality television into more of an artform. Although the poms aren't doing too badly either... as far as I know, Andrew Lloyd... sorry LORD Andrew Lloyd Webber is in the throes of finding himself a real-life technicolour-coated Joseph.

How many people in the western world do you think have been on TV, or at least have tried to get on to one of the many reality shows? Maybe we should just shortcut the process and have a channel dedicated to a different Joe Soap, one every fifteen minutes.

Come one, come all! Tell us about your: dancing ambitions/singing dreams/bratty children/interfering family/embarrassing illness/life-long passion/unusual fetish/eating disorder/self-esteem issues/dirty home/ideal holiday/newly landscaped garden/badly behaved pets/inter-racial relationship/money problems/organ donor aspirations...

Actually, I may be on to something - we can call it Warhol's Reality.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ja, Swaar

Hosted boyfriend's siblings and their partners this weekend...
a) it's the in-laws
b) it's the in-laws.. en mass
c) it was the first time we were hosting more than one person
d) it was the first time we were hosting anyone for longer than four hours
e) we only have one toilet.

  • Watching SA thump England - even if it wasn't a full strength opposition. Love the Flying Habana.
  • Solving South Africa and Africa's problems at 3am.
  • Knocking over a full glass of rosé wine.
  • Knocking over a full glass of red wine.
  • Proving that red wine DOES stain more than rosé.
  • Agreeing to ghost-write a collaborative book titled "Fat people are devious and gingers have no souls". Agreeing that the title would be longer than the book.
  • Deciding that we are all going to be cursed with fat, ginger offspring.
  • Trying to convince the sister-in-law dietician that eating nothing but Appelmoes would be a balanced weight-loss diet. Also trying to convince sister-in-law dietician that Dutch food is healthy. Eating lots and lots of fried snacks, stroopwaffel, Belgium chocolate, chocolate sprinkles on bread (another Dutch delicacy).
  • "Well, if you order garlic/asparagus then we'd all better have garlic/asparagus... "
  • "Who farted?"
  • Discussing whose girlfriend folds socks better.
  • Discussing whose boyfriend is better toilet trained.
  • Putting off hiring bikes because it looked like it was going to rain all weekend. Eventually hiring bikes because it didn't rain once. Fifteen minutes into our cycle, it started raining. It only stopped shortly after we returned the bikes.
  • Doing touristy things, on bikes, in the rain.
  • Almost getting taken out on the bike, twice - by the same car.
  • "Who farted?"
  • Which couple is going to take one for the team and be the first to provide fat, ginger grandkids?
  • Eating stroopwaffels for breakfast - ignoring dietician's pleas to eat five fruits a day.
  • X-Treme Shopping at Albert Heijn.
  • Breaking one pair of glasses and one pair of sunglasses within an hour of each other.
  • "The asparagus has kicked in..."
  • Feeling sad that everyone had to leave at the end of the weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Generation Gap

I realised that I have been completely neglecting my Dutch news consumption. While I still know what's going on in SA, I had no idea that a gorilla made light work of his containing moat in the Rotterdam zoo and then strolled around the facilities for a few hours while zoo keepers tried to find a tranquilizer or three. How could I not know that? I live in the damn country!

While perusing a few Dutch websites, I came across a beauty - local news, in English. This site is geared towards expats and even has a handy list of terms that are likely to baffle new people in the country. I was scanning through when I got to a paragraph about hangjongeren, which also mentioned something about troublesome pensioners.

Double take. I'm not paying attention. That didn't just say what I think it said. Did it?

Hangjongeren - literally, youths who hang around - is the handy Dutch word to describe groups of teenagers who loiter on street corners and in shopping centres, often getting up to no good. The Netherlands has also had several incidents of nuisance caused by hangouderen - pensioners who hang around in shopping centres without buying anything and making annoying remarks to passers-by.
I'm sorry, let's revisit that last sentence.

Pensioners... who hang around in shopping centres without buying anything and making annoying remarks to passers-by.

It has been a while since I squeezed out tears of laughter.

This comment made me wonder about my Gran's trips to Cresta on a weekly basis. She hops on the bus from Sunset, I mean, Sunrise Estate with the other old ducks and they prowl the shops of Northern Joburg... intimidating youngsters and threatening toddlers.

What kind of annoying remarks?

"Oi, you! I saw you buying those condoms... and I don't see a ring on your finger. You... HO!"

"Hey fat arse! You gonna need a tin of prune juice with that Big Mac!"

Or perhaps my Crazy Dame Olga is one of these troublesome pensioners, prowling the Grote Markt in Den Haag.

Monty Python predicted this threat to society, years ago. They called them... Hell's Grannies.

Too good to go unnoticed

This pic was snapped by my boet on his way to varsity. Whoever Hugo Brown is and whatever he does, his sense of humour and personality can be seen in his logo...
Class with a capital ARSE.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Crazy Dame

Allow me introduce my neighbour, Lady Olga Hoo-hum. She's been living in the flat across from ours for the last 48 years. Yes, that's just as long as Patricia Doyle's hairdryer has been going. Co-inkidink, huh?

Forty-eight years in the same two bedroomed-flat… wow. But that's not the point. Lady Olga Hoo-hum is slightly bi-polar. I call her Lady or Dame because she's very proper, regal in a way. I call her crazy because she is. I think her surname reflects her dichotomous personality.

Dame Olga doesn't work, so we tend to bump into each other during the day. Sometimes I'll go for weeks without seeing her – I can hear her waiting for me to shut my door before she opens hers. So I never know whether I'm going to be greeted by the Lady or the Crazy.

Dame Olga bought me a bunch of bright yellow tulips and a vase when we first moved in.
Crazy Olga called the police when we went away for the weekend and didn't secure our balcony door properly. Crazy Olga verbally attacked me in a drunken haze (hers, not mine).
Dame Olga rang our bell one day to present me with a bottle of home-made rhubarb chutney.
Crazy Olga bitches about the neighbours at the top of her voice in the echoing hallway.

Today, the blessed duckie was waiting to pounce on me when I got back from the shops – as I put my key in the door, she popped out to give me her latest offering… AllerHande: het tijdschrift van Albert Heijn. The local supermarket's monthly magazine.

I can't decide if this latest interaction should be filed under the Crazy or the Dame.

But the truth is, I like Crazy Dame Olga. She takes the time to speak Dutch (slowly) with me, even though her English is almost perfect, and is patient with my three-year-old attempts at full sentences. I really, truly appreciate that.

Three reasons why I can't blame her for being loopy: a) she's old b) she's been living in the same flat for half a century c) she's Dutch… en iedereen zijn gek. That's my attempt at saying they're all bloody nuts.

In short, Crazy Dame Olga is worth the entertainment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fekking stupid design

Okay, picture a light fitting against a wall. Light fitting is sleek and elegant, a flat dome that sits flush against the wall. Light bulb blows and must be changed. In order to change lightbulb, sleek and elegant light fitting must be removed. In order to remove light fitting from wall, one must loosen the securing screw - situated in a 1cm wide gap, just big enough to fit a screwdriver or a desperate fingernail. In order to see securing screw situated in 1cm wide gap, one would have to place one's face flush against the wall and squint.


Shift your perspective and picture this light fitting, not against a wall, but against a ceiling. Please take a moment to think about the logistics. Flush against the ceiling, it is impossible to get your face flush against the light fitting. Unless you happen to be 3m tall - or standing on the back of a 300-year-old Galapagos tortoise. I am not and I was not. Ergo, I could not see the fucking screw.


Take a moment to picture me attempting to get to the lightbulb. Bare in mind that I don't know what I'm looking for in the first place... should it be twisted off? Should I just hang on it and pull? Stretching, on tiptoes, on the giant four-poster bed in our spareroom, I can only barely get my fingers to the light joint. Using my extensive knowledge of Braille, I establish that there is a screw that should probably be loosened.


Still on toe-tips, I use my left hand to locate the screw and try to establish (with the earlier mentioned desperate fingernail) which way the screw driver should be inserted in order to actually connect with the groove. Right hand moves in on the operation. This is bit more difficult because my blind skills do not extend to using screwdrivers. Scratch screwdriver on metal and glass while trying to find the screw. *SCCCREEEECH!* Grils... like nails down a chalkboard. Slot screwdriver in screw! Yes! Make half a rotation, screwdriver slips out, scratches against metal and glass. Fuck. Repeat. Half a revolution, slip, scratch. Fuck. Repeat.

Keep in mind... while right arm is struggling to unscrew; left arm is holding light fitting as it slowly loosens. Both are directly above my head. My precious brain is desperately praying that my arms have got enough cordination to not mash myself to death with a sleek, elegant and fucking-stupidly-designed light fitting.


Glass dome loosens enough to come away from the ceiling. Holy fuck. What a mission. The room is now blue with my sweat and swearing - and it was all I could do to not smash the fucking thing on the floor in a moment of Greek celebration.

I've changed the lightbulb, but haven't put the glass cover back on. I think I'll leave that for when Mills gets home... let's see how many expletive combinations HE can come up with.

Enough bitching from me. Let's look at what everyone is bitching about in Jozi:
This picture courtesy of my father - apparently taken on or around the N1 in Joburg yesterday morning. To paraphrase a friend, it looks colder than a witch's tit in north-facing igloo. Nasty.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


On BBC Breakfast: Patricia Doyle has been using the same hairdryer for 48 years. [Cut to footage of Patricia Doyle using her archaic hairdryer.]

If anybody else saw this footage - and knowing BBC reporting, you are bound to see it eventually - you might have noticed that Patty has three hairs on her head anyway. So she's used her hairdryer for 20seconds, once a day, for 48 years. I'd like to see that hairdryer lasting more than two months if it had to dry all my hair. Not a chance.

Fortunately, the Beeb decided not to put this story up on their website, so here is another website's link to Patty And Her Amazing Goblet Of Hot Air.

In more local news - Bezuidenhout, Den Haag to be precise - the headline runs Onduidelijkheid en onvrede over hondenuitlaat in.

... which, according to means: "Obscurity and dissatisfaction concerning dog exhaust". The actual situation is that people are turning signs around in the forest - so paths where dogs should be put back on their leads have had their signs turned around to read that they can be taken off their leads. Outrage!

To everyone back home in SA... warm enough for yer? Brrr...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Winners know when to quit

How could I forget to mention the highlight of my weekend?

After our morning at IKEA, Mills and I joined a bunch of expats to watch the FA Cup Final and the Super14 Final... both being aired at the same time. The rugby was streamed online and projected onto a nearby wall, the football was playing on the TV next to it. Perfect. Mills is a big Sharks fan and James (a Manchurian) was heavily invested in the football game... we were all set for an emotional afternoon.

Unfortunately for Mills and James, their teams lost - technically both of the games being decided outside of full time. [Why didn't the Sharks kick it into touch? Why?] But spirits were high (for most of us) and the weather was good, so we followed up our afternoon with a good old fashioned BBQ and a game of poker. I'm not a big fan of poker - I don't get which hand beats what and even if I did know when to bluff, I generally can't hide my facial expression... but I do like the idea of arranging my chips into matching stacks. It's pretty. I'm simple like that.

Before anyone knew it, I had managed to win a couple of big hands without paying much attention. I'd just get told when it was my turn to place a bet, would chuck in the required amount and get back to stacking my chips in pretty patterns. "Okay, let's see them... Koekie's got a flush. Damnit." Yay! More chips for me to stack!

Stacking chips aside, winning the pot meant that I had earned money for the first time since February. So this is what I should've been doing - instead of playing domestic treasure - I should've been hitting the Hague's casinos.. I'm a natural.

The poker game was followed up with a few solid hours of revisiting varsity drinking games... so when Mills and I eventually made our way home, our faces were covered in charcoal marks from several rounds of Ooblie-dooblie. A good time was had by all - even the losers whose teams lost in the finals AND got their asses kicked by a girl in poker. Sorry for them!

Final Ikeafication

Saturday was our LAST trip to IKEA. No more IKEA. IKEA-ed out.

We got there early, before the doors even opened and found ourselves in a crowd of similarly-minded shoppers. I immediately regretted not kitting ourselves out with whistles and walkie-talkies.

What fascinates me is how many people seem to treat IKEA as a day out experience. They walk four-abreast, enjoying the stroll through the bedding and cushions, stopping for coffee, encouraging their 3-year-old to roll around like a retard under other people's legs and trolley wheels. Who needs to go to the park when you've got IKEA?

Mills and I rushed around grabbing things and putting them in our trolley as fast as possible - we had a Super14 Final to make. Our momentum came to a grinding halt when we came to the till. I blame Mills, he blames me. Short story: me + one small bag of decorative marble stones + 6 wine glasses. Combine these elements within a 2m radius and wait for the crash. Usually I make it all the way to the parking lot before breaking anything, but our check-out chick was kind enough to send me dashing back to get another set.

The IKEA system is simple... sort of. Once in the entrance, you have to walk through the entire shop to get to the till. Arrows on the floor mark the direction of traffic flow, effectively making it one way. Getting through IKEA once is an effort, making you way through IKEA backwards is another thing entirely. I rushed back through the aisles of self-constructing furniture, past the outdoor section, over the retard kid rolling in the walkway, through the lamps and lighting... I figured if I followed the arrows backwards I would retrace my steps to the wine glasses.

The déjà vu started in the bathroom section. Have I been there before, or is it just because it looks like the kitchen section? And going through the mirror department in a rush was like an optical illusion. At one stage I found myself following the arrows in the correct direction... I had managed to join the flow of traffic towards the exit and still didn't know where the hell the glassware was. Stepping over the retard again and dodging the picnicking family on their day out, I retraced my steps for the second time.

After much disorientation, I found the wine glasses and made my way back to the tills. Of course, by this late stage of the morning, the check-out area was starting to look like a central African food market...

On the upside, we managed to drive all the way to IKEA and back without getting lost or driving on the wrong side of the road. So all in all, relatively smooth operation.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A little bit of this and that

The Dutch have four public holidays (outside of the standard Easter, Christmas and New Year). And all four public holidays fall within a month of each other - in May. So while I'm unemployed, I'm getting all my days off in one whack. Awesome.

Yesterday was Ascension Day and Mills played his first cricket match. I popped down for as long as I could stand to be in the cold wind... which was just long enough to see Mills bending his fingers back as he landed on them and then taking a knock to his face. Then I went home, curled up in the sun on the bed and fell asleep. It's a cat's life. A good day all round.

... and now for something completely different.

A few recent conversations got me thinking about strengths and weaknesses in general knowledge. Mills knows everything and just about anything there is to know about sport. I don't know how or why, but he saps up this random stuff like a square spongy dude in pants.

Take last weekend, when I said something about the Bulls 'coach' on the Super14 sidelines.
"That's not the coach," Mills scoffed. "That's the kit manager."
Well, how the hell am I supposed to know that... and why the hell do YOU know that??

Another time, playing 30seconds (a favourite game for name calling and relationship testing):

Me: "How was I supposed to describe the word Bliksem?"
Mills: "Aagh! That's the name of Danie Craven's dog! Everybody knows that."
Me: "Um, no. Not everybody knows that. Besides, Danie Craven died ages ago... where do you learn this random crap?"

And so on.

On the other hand, Mills and I were discussing Dutch artists and museums in the Netherlands.

Mills: "Every town's got a Van Gogh museum in this place."
Me: "I know. Chop off one ear and everyone wants a piece. Hahaha. I kill me."
Mills: "What else did he paint. I know there was a vase of flowers. And the Mona Lisa isn't even kept in the Netherlands..."
Me: "Uuuuum, Van Gogh didn't paint the Mona Lisa."
Mills: "Yes, he did... Didn't he? Who painted that then?"
Me: "You're kidding right? Leonardo Da Vinci."
Mills: "Are you sure?"
Me: "Wow. Yes."

See, strengths and weaknesses.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Yesterday, a lorry full of tortoises collided with a van full of terrapins. It was a turtle disaster.

I don't care who you are... that's funny. And no, I don't have anything better to write about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Career path

Early on in my work days, I realised I was made for big things. My very first job - at the age of 16 - was dressing up as a giant hippo for the amusement and entertainment of unruly brats at(what was then known as) the Randburg Waterfront. This was an interactive position: kids love to punch over-grown mascots and drunk students love to tackle them. Oh, and we used to dance the Macarena in these outfits.... just in case you weren't laughing hard enough.

Skip to a few years ahead. By this stage, I had decided that TV journalism was the path for me. As a kid, I used to pretend I was interviewing people (this involved a cut-out box, with buttons and dials draw on it... "look at me, dad, I'm on TV!") Fortunately, while studying my course, I got the opportunity to practise being on-camera... and unless the 'deer caught in the headlights' look is back in fashion, I was able to steer myself clear of ever appearing on screen.

I moved behind scenes - working on pre-production and multimedia projects - and loved it. My TV career culminated at 50/50. Yes, you heard me. That long-running, much-loved wildlife programme where dried up dung beetles are discussed by dried-up dung professors. Veldfokus... you know you love it.

I got to interview an elephant trainer - in a horse paddock. Horses are very elegant animals but I prefer to view them from the safety of a fence and a bolted door. People always tell me to let "the beast know who is in charge." These beasts know who is in charge, and it ain't me. So I was uneasy about standing in a paddock surrounded by the equestrian monsters, but my interviewee ensured me that he would have the sugar cubes in his pockets and they would only be interested in him so it wouldn't be a problem. I probably would've been happier with elephants.

With horses and their foals milling around us, I started to relax and concentrated on the interview. That was when one of the younger horses bit my ass. Chomp. Somewhere in the archives of SABC2 sits footage of an intern producer yelping and jumping into shot as a horse takes a chunk out of her right butt cheek. I had a neat little U-shaped bruise to show for it.

And that will be the last time I ever trust an elephant-horse whisperer.

Horseshoe teethmarks and all, I moved from SAUK Twee to online website media, from there to communications, to publicity and now into recruitment. Someone pointed out that I don't seem able to make up my mind.

I can't decide if I agree with them or not...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The age-old argument

The rugby vs hockey argument has always made my blood boil. Well, not so much the argument itself, I'm all for healthy rivalry, but rather the narrow-minded point of view (in some communities) that hockey is a wussie sport, moff-stock. Why? For the simple reason that it's not rugby.
Mockery in jest is good - rugby guys mock hockey guys and vice versa, it's the same with hockey girls (lesbians, of course) and netball girls. Don't even get me started on that sport... "ooh, look at me! I caught the ball with both my hands! How skilled I am. Now I'm not allowed to move my feet, so that cuts down on the coordination and allows me to focus on where I'm going to pass this over-sized ball..." Okay, you got me started. No offense to anyone who play(ed) netball, but you're still a bunch of fairies.

Back to rugby/hockey.

Listening to some of the Super14 commentary this weekend resurfaced the issue for me. I play hockey and am more hockey-biased, but I like rugby and my friends who play rugby. I enjoy watching a good game and I can appreciate the skill involved in trying to read the bounce of a egg-shaped ball while 15 men from the opposing side wait to pounce you from every angle.

But surely I'm not the only one who finds the overt sexuality amusing?

"Hougard goes in low and hard..." [His teammates like enthusiasm.]
"Adams whips it out to Botha..." [Naughty - he'd get arrested outside a primary school.]
Referee warning player: "You must release him, then play the ball." [Or at least have a safeword that you've both agreed upon before the time]
"Crouch... Touch... Pause... Engage!" [Who says rugby players aren't romantic?]

On screen, Habana makes a dash for the line but gets thrown to the ground - in the tumbling process, his attacker manages to wedge his head between Habana's thighs. I've watched a lot of moff-stock and not once have any of the men ended with someone's face snuggled in another's crotch for any amount of time.

Not to mention the scrums, where hands go up and in areas that I'm pretty sure most hockey guys would jealously protect during a match - especially if it was a team mate doing the grabbing.

I also feel the need to whisper, in as hushed typing as I can muster... Kamp Staaldraad. Oh dear.

So please tell me, how can an avid rugger-bugger honestly argue that hockey is more gay than rugby? From a number of SAUs, I can attest to the fact that most male hockey players are definitely not same-sex inclined. I cannot say the same about female hockey players... there's smoke and most definitely fire in that case. Eye-opening education when on provincial tour at the tender age of 15.

Rugby is a manly game, no doubt about that. Certainly less drama-queenish than football, where a player tripping over his own shoelace results in him clutching his shins and wailing loudly for the next 3 minutes. In rugby, when a man stays down it means he's unconscious. And guys bleed and stuff. You don't get much more macho than that.

What I would love to know is this: just how many of our national rugger-buggers are same-sex inclined? Cos I think they're having a ball on the pitch. Literally.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Woo hoo!

I kept telling myself it had to happen eventually... someone had to give in and hire me.

I was actually applying for another job ("we regret to inform you...") when the recruitment consultant handling my application sudddenly took a liking to me and asked if I would be interested in applying for a recruitment position at her company.

Next thing I know, I'm meeting the bosses and being introduced to the expat recruitment team. Cool - but nobody seems too phased about the fact that I actually, technically, have no recruitment experience.

I'm a little bit nervous about this fact. I don't have a salesman pitch. I can't bullshit. If I don't like you, it's going to show on my face. If I think you're bullshitting me, it's going to show in my comments. No matter, I'm getting a 6 month contract so I guess I should know by November whether or not I'm cut out for recruitment...

I get to take two people who I think will be compatible, then I tell them where to be and what to wear and what to say... what? That's not recruitment? That's match-making, you say?


All I know is that as of June, I will be earning a salary. And not a minute too soon - I have holidays to plan, shoes to buy, restaurants to visit... oh, and Mills is probably going to expect a bit of financial input too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Things I have learnt in the Netherlands

  1. Bikes: As a pedestrian I soon learnt to deal with these strange commuters. Treat them like volatile animals. Make eye contact - let them know that you have seen them and you are aware of their presense. Maintain eye contact - let them know that you are sticking to your chosen path. You are on the pavement, they should be on the cycle path. Unless, you are on the cycle path - in which case you should be prepared to be mowed down.
    I still can't get used to the multitasking. Shopping, kids, potplants, anything and everything is piled onto the bike. Couples cycle next to each other, holding hands. People cycle while smsing or chatting on the phone. Kids learnt to cycle on specially modified bikes - they pedal attached to the back of the parental bike. Clever. I think the ultimate in arrogance is when people cycle with hand in their pockets. Show-offs.
    As a cyclist myself, I'm very proud of my personal growth. I am no longer terrified of traffic. I've realised that motorists are actually considerate of cyclists - they tend to wait for your right of way, instead of aiming at the two-wheelers. Bike paths definitely help. Oh, and I figured out the trick to using the bike light... I changed gears. Much easier now.
  2. Homes: The very first thing that struck me was that people are not big on curtains. Even if they actually have curtains, they don't close them. And they're not hidden behind 7ft solid brick walls and electric gates. Coming from SA, where you can't even see your neighbour's driveway, I could not stop myself from gawking into people's lounges. Also, most stairs are really narrow and steep. Fortunately, ours are not. I'm glad we don't live in an old apartment block... I would hurt myself.
  3. Food: The Dutch love their fried snacks. Recipes consist of 'gooey meat type stuff, rolled in bread crumbs/pastry/something starchy, doused in hot oil' = kroketten, bittenballen, frikadellen, ragoutje. Served with lashings of mayonnaise and fries (or any form of potato/patat)
    When the Dutch aren't eating fried stuff, they're stuffing raw herring down their gullets. I have not tried this yet, but I'm going to go with a resounding YUCK. I'm sorry. I like sushi. I LOVE sushi. But sushi at least looks like it's been prepared to some degree. To eat something that looks like it has just be picked out of a canal... YUCK.
    On the upside, I have rediscovered salty licorice - yum. And stroopwafels - yum.
    Dairy: Rows and rows of cheese. Not a huge surprise, just makes it trickier to select - I'm used to choosing between Gouda and Cheddar. Yoghurt... this one I didn't see coming. The Dutch love their yoghurt varieties. You've got the standard selection (full cream, double thick, slim etc) but then there is also fla (tastes like runny instant pudding - do NOT point this out to a local), kwark (very sweet and rich), and a number of other yoghurt bi-products I've yet to discover.
  4. Language: Now that we've gotten TV, it's a lot easier to pick up the language (especially insults and swearwords). And playing with a Dutch hockey team means I'll be more familiar with on-pitch instructions than social conversation. But a few of my favourite words so far:
    Hoor: pronounced 'whore'; used in agreement - as in "Ja, hoor."
    Doei: pronounced 'doo-wee' with enthusiasm; equivalent to bye-bye/cheers
    Douche: pronounced 'doosh'; as in shower. It cracks me up every time I see an ad for douchegel. I take great delight in informing Mills that I'm off to go 'douche'. And don't even get me started on the Nivea bodywash campaign that read: "Douche time, Happy time"...
  5. Other: I've learnt that the Netherlands is the third most populated country in Europe, after Monaco and Malta, and that traffic jams can be astromonical (anything from 5km to 22km for no particular reason). I've learnt that South Africa was never a colony of the Netherlands - but that Suriname was. I've learnt that Dutch people tend to be honest to the point of bluntness, and I like it.

End of lesson. For now.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In a flap

In a post inspired by Peas, I've decided to share my all time greatest fear...
Birds. I hate them.
Creepiness is.

I can handle looking at them, but I don't want them near me. I prefer not to make eye contact with those beady little eyeballs and I definitely don't like large gatherings. This gives them a chance to network against me. Every time I see one taking off, I picture all the tiny bird mites falling from their fluttering feathers and landing in my hair and in my food. Yuck yuck yuck puke.

My most terrifying near-bird experience happened in my late teens. On a visit to Cape Town, my family decided a trip to World of Birds was needed. Like I said, I can handle seeing birds. It's not like I'm going to run screaming from pigeons poeping on the pavement (I'm more likely to run screaming AT them) and so it was that I joined my family at the World of Birds Crawling with Bird Mites.

While strolling through the gardens, a starling decided to lodge itself in my hair. It was probably aiming for the glinting sunglasses perched on my head but, with me having the hair of Medusa and it having the talons of a gryphon, entanglement was the obvious result. Of all the people in the flipping place, it targets me.

Picture the scene: Starling frantically beating its wings against my head as it tries to take off with my sunglasses; me frantically flapping my arms in response close to tears; screaming, "Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!" while my mother tried not to wet her pants in laughter.

[Picture of birdmite removed due to grossness. Ed]

Think of all those bird mites in my hair after that little flap. Gross. Needless to say, I have never ever gone into another aviary. Never. Ever.

And I will never, ever allow birds as pets. Unless I'm using them to feed my pet snake.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Why I need a job

  1. I need new shoes.
  2. The weather has turned shitty.
  3. I am addicted to Facebook: Fred has changed his status from "just about to shower" to "showered and feeling good and clean and fresh. Tralala." Mary is no longer married. Marike has removed Harry Trotter and the Trudgeon of Love from her favourite books. You have 111 friends. You are cool. Jonathon has joined the group "Things and phrases that I like people to know that I like".
  4. I am addicted to Girls of the Playboy Mansion. Holly, Bridget and Kendra rock my world. This is possibly the definitive symptom of my unemployment. When I had a work life, I would never have watched this bollocks. Now I can't get enough of the Playboy Mansion. If I were living in the USA, I'd be watching from a trailor park... with peroxide-platinum hair, recovering from my most recent augmentation.
  5. My lunch time is dominated by BBC Prime scheduling.
  6. I can recite the "True or False" fillers on E! Entertainment Network - I know that Nicole Kidman is a lepidopterophobe.
  7. If I don't find a decent job, I may have to resort to being a check-out chick at the local supermarket.
  8. I'm losing motivation.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Think before you smile and nod

Oh dear god, I should not be allowed to talk when I'm not paying attention. First, on Queen's Day (which was messy anyway), I accepted an invitation to join my new best friends for dinner in Rotterdam. I forgot all about this invitation until Mills came home laughing last week Thurs... informing me that I will be expected at dinner on Saturday evening. We already had plans for someone else's birthday party - which Mills was definitely going to - but seeing as I had unwittingly accepted a week ago, I pottered off to Rotterdam on my own.

Then, while at random dinner with people who I had just met (in a STUNNING apartment on the 19th floor overlooking the whole of Rotterdam port at sunset - picture not included), I agreed to join a mixed league hockey side. Well, I sort of expressed interest in playing mixed league and next thing I was being introduced to my new team mates. Oops. I spent the rest of yesterday and last night praying that they weren't being serious, but opened my email this morning to be greeted with:

"Hey Koekie,
How are you? Did you had a good weeekend?
Hope you are still interested in tonight's hockey game… ;-)
Our game starts at 20.15, so if you could be there around 20.00hrs that would be perfect.
Hereby address details of the club...."

Oh fukkity-fuk-fuk-faaaaak. So it looks like I'm going back to Rotterdam this evening to play hockey in the rain with people who I have never met. What was I thinking??

I wasn't. Nod and smile, nod and smile... I've really gotta stop doing that.

Besides setting up random play dates with random people, I also dragged Mills around the world-famous flower gardens of Keukenhof. Thus the random pictures of a windmill and flowers.

About 10,000 sets of feet tramp those flower paths to death on a daily basis for the brief few spring months that the gardens are open every year, so the place is crowded with busloads of Asians, kids, prams, grannies and walkers. It was a test of patience, but I managed to control any knee-jerk reactions to bratty kids and Mills didn't shove any geriatrics. I almost managed to get a picture of a lady bending over a flower bed as the wind blew her skirt up, but I mistimed it. Would've been good though.
This particular picture involved a bit of negotiation with an individual from Japan/Taiwan/China/South Korea. I waited for a truckload of them to move out of the way so I could get my chance to snap the pretty bloems, but as I raised my camera, a lady straggler decided to stop and pose for me. Thoughtful though this was, I'm not a fan of random people in my pics (unless they don't know I'm taking the pic and they're doing something amusing, like flashing their white granny-broeks). I dropped my camera and gently motioned in the direction of her tour group. Run along now, dearheart... you're missing an important detail on the history of turips. Thank you kind-ry.
But back to important matters, how do I get out of this hockey match without making it seem like it's just because the weather's turned? I'm fickle like that.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lightly toasted

I had yet another job interview this afternoon. I did my usual preparations... took an hour to shower, another hour or so to decide what to wear and style my hair in the required fashion. Tried on a few outfits, rejected them. Bemoaned the fact that I really need more shoes. Checked up on the company's website, checked there were no delays on public transport (biking to an interview is just asking too much of karma), checked the weather websites for further consideration of what to wear. Decided I really need to make a good impression because I really need new shoes.

Half an hour before I had to leave (nails done, hair done, make up semi-done and outfit still undecided), it was time for lunch. Simple egg on toast.

I always burn toast. Always. Any one I've lived with can attest to this claim. This time I did it good and proper. Smoke billowing out of toaster was the first sign, the second was the smell, the third was the fire alarm.


I flung the offending piece of (now charcoaled) toast onto the balcony, opened all the doors and windows, switched on the extractor fan at full blast and then turned my attention to the screeching contraption out of reach on the ceiling. Thank god it wasn't spraying water at me.

Just as I was concluding that the only way to shut the thing up would be to rip it from the ceiling and mangle it with an iron, a-la-Phoebe style, the thing shut up on its own. No more smoke, no more fire, no more alarm. Clever.

So I was able to get back to the all important process of selecting an outfit with corresponding earrings and shoes. Oh, and the egg on toast became an egg sandwich. I wasn't trying to burn two pieces of toast in one day, thank you.

Have a smoke-free weekend!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I know it's not my hamstring, but this one is just on the outside of my hamstring. And it's sore.

I played my first game on Tuesday eve - they flung me into the midfield, which was nice (most new teams insist on playing me up front, which I don't appreciate... remember, I prefer playing fat, scary sweeper at the back) so I got to do quite a bit of running.

I had also cycled to the hockey match - ambitious, I know, but I had to start some time. I think it's the cycling that did it. The poepstring, that is.

You see, seeing as the hockey club is on the way to the beach, and it being the Netherlands and all... cycling towards the beach means cycling uphill. True, it's not much of an incline (there aren't really hills anywhere in the country), but it's up nonetheless.

After the match I had to cycle home. With my thighs feeling like gelatinous toxic sludge, I was quite looking forward to the freewheel down the hill. Unfortunately I hadn't counted on my bike light. This wonderful contraption works on kinetic energy and is required by law when cycling at night. You flick a switch and the lamp attaches itself to the front wheel of the bike - the faster you pedal the brighter it glows. It also tightens the wheel's rotation to the point that I might as well have been cycling through a pot of my nana's Sunday gravy (it was fairly chunky stuff).

Freewheeling on the downhill didn't happen. If I stopped pedalling, the bike had slowed down the point of falling over within 20m. I put it down to weak legs from the game, but last night I had the displeasure of cycling home from dinner with my light on... same exhausting result.

I'm sure I'll get used to it, but cycling is meant to be easy.... with the bike light on it feels like I'm trying to complete a mountain race. And the strain has resulted in me pulling a poepstring. I just know it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


After a day to recover I can now post about the weekend.

Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) is a celebration of the Dutch Queen's birthday. Technically, it's not the queen's birthday. It's the now-deceased queen mum's birthday... but the new Queen Beatrix's birthday is in January and the weather is shit at that time of year so now the queen gets to stroll around and wave at everybody singing her happy birthday for her mom. Sweet.

Not that it really matters - most people just want to dress in orange, get drunk and stoned. And by 'most' people, I mean 'tourists'. I think most Nederlanders actually just stay at home and enjoy a day off.

So the festivities start in The Hague on Koninginnenag (Queen's Night), the eve before. The quaint old-town city turns into a giant carnival with flashing games and whirling rides. A performing stage is set up every 150m throughout the city centre as well as snack bars and bar stands.

Eventually hauling ourselves out of bed the next day, we got ready for the actual celebration in Amsterdam. With orange hairdye, orange face paint, orange (silk) shirts and any other orange paraphenalia we could get our hands on, Mills and I looked like we'd fallen into a tub of tartrazine.

We headed into Amsterdam (getting more than a few stares) and met up with the rest of the expat group. From what I can remember, it consisted of: two South Africans, one Irish, one Italian, one Ukrainian, five Americans, two Dutch, one Indian, one American-Dutch-German and one Moldovian for good measure. Moving from place to place was fun as we had to keep this mish-mash of foreigners together - and I kept ending up with the two shortest in the group. In a crowd of very tall Dutchmen, everyone wearing orange and I was trying to look for two 4-ft-something ladies. Fun game.

The streets are absolute chaos as, just like the night before, there are stages set up at every corner. Trading laws are effectively abolished on this day which means that anyone and everyone can sell anything they want. There are jumble sales, lemonade stands, buskers, game stands, karaoke... some entrepreneurs even rent out canal-side spaces to be used as public urinals.

But the anarchy is not limited to the streets. The way to do Queen's Day, it seems, is by boat. Self-contained parties float up and down the canals - rocking with their own DJs and booze. And if they need to stop at a pub or for any other reason, then you just get as close to the edge as possible and simply boat-hop from yours across any others in your path. It's very social.

After a long day of partying (and losing my return ticket and my drink in the bowels of a port-a-loo), we decided to call it a day.... not before the obligatory mayo frites and kroket. I still have no idea what the gooey stuff is, they call it mince meat but I challenge anyone to actually agree with that description.

When it comes to visiting the Netherlands in spring, make sure to plan your trip around Koninginnedag. Definitely worth the party!