Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fleshy fashion

I managed to wangle an invite to a factory warehouse sale.. it was awesome. I got two pairs of (Brazilian leather) shoes, one handbag, one pair of leather gloves (a must in these winters), one top, a bracelet, a ring and two sets of cufflinks (I had to come home with something from Mills)... all for 52 euros. That's R670 of brandwear folks. Awesome, I tell you. Awesome.

It was also another learning experience in Dutch culture. Being a warehouse, there weren't many facilities, and there certainly weren't any changerooms. I'm not a fan of wating in lines for a changeroom anyway, so I try on things as discreetly as possible, when possible. Discretion is not in the Dutch vocab. Literally. If you find a set of jeanpants that you want to try on, and you're in the middle of a warehouse, you just drop your pants and try them on. No shame, no worries.

Same applies to shirts. One lady browsed in the middle of the hall by the cashiers, completely topless (bra only), without any rush to re-clothe after unsuccessfully trying on one top.

I was there with a Scottish friend and a Dutch friend. The Scot and I thought this was hysterical and giggled like school girls at the sight of all these undies (male and female unlike). The Dutchie couldn't understand the fuss. Her argument: you walk around the beach in a bikini, right?

Our response: Yes, but this isn't a beach. It's just different.

Flesh is a complete non-issue with Dutch people. After almost two years, I'm still not used to it.

Monday, November 24, 2008


It started snowing on Friday. Slushy, sleeting, hail-ish snow. It's pretty in flight, but mushy in landing. I was not impressed.

But, by Sunday, the Netherlands was in a little mini-blizzard. It didn't last very long, but as Africans in Europe, of course Mills and I had to get out into the snow. We attempted to catch snowflakes on our tongues (massive fail), and I received my first snowball to the back of my head. Fortunately, I was so well insulated that I didn't actually feel it and just saw splatterings of ice as they bounced off my head.

Here's a picture of me in the snow...

I was born for this weather.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blyg oisug howughowug

Fing... ers.... are... rusty... can... 't... re... re... re... mem... bah... how... to... ytpe...

Since the last post I have: planned my forthcoming holiday up Kilimanjaro, had high tea with the Queen B's grandkids and completed my memoirs. Or more likely, I have been too lazy to write anything.

After Mama Afrika's final visit, Mills and I were inspired to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo, briefly performing in Rotterdam. I wasn't sure what to expect. I know and love the vocals of the group, but how would they translate it to a European audience, who only know of the performers due to a collaboration with Paul Simon? The answer was surprisingly obvious - charisma and showboating. After an energetic first half, they patiently taught the audience a lullaby; a short couplet repeated syllable by syllable. We were then challenged to out-sing Ladysmith Black Mambazo. A matinee panto crowd couldn't have been more enthusiastic. I thought it was a great way to capture attention... and market their new CD (on sale at the door as you leave, don't be shy now folks!).

The real highlight of the show, however, involved members of the audience trying to master Zulu warrior dancing. Proving yet again that white men can't dance. I almost fell out of my seat laughing.

Otherwise, we've been having a fun time sorting out flat/relocation issues/coupled with visa issues. Long story made short: we were informed that if Mills is unemployed, my visa becomes invalid. This came from a fairly reliable source, but investigation has turned up three other similarly reliable sources who suggest this is not the case. We're not sure who to believe or how to proceed... rather stressful seeing as Mills will be unemployed in two weeks time. So 2009 could either see me happily setting up house in a new flat in Den Haag, or frantically packing my bags before expulsion from Cloggieland.

On the flat hunt, we may have found suitable accommodation and are currently in negotiation with the landlords and their makelaars (real estate sharks) regarding monthly rent. In this country, if successful in finding accommodation through a makelaar, you are charged the standard one month rent up front (fair enough), borg (deposit of one month rent) and an 'admin' fee (commission) of one month rent. So if you're paying 800-euros (about standard for 60-square metres in The Hague), you have an initial outlay of 2400 before you get the key.

In the case of this particular flat, it has a great bathroom (WITH BATH - very rare in this town), but a slight issue in that the washing machine and tumble dryer for the entire apartment block sit in an indentation into 'our' flat's entrance... with a thin plastercast wall doing nothing to stop noise from the machines. Not ideal if you have an uber-hygienic insomniac as a neighbour (a very real threat, judging by my luck with previous flats).

So, we'll see if we can get the rent to reflect his inconvenience. We're still looking at other places and have until the middle of December to vacate our current home. The next few weeks should be fun.

Bruski - just for your boredom levels, I shall endeavour to post more regularly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mama Afrika

A series of events lead to me joining NCF for a concert on Friday. NCF received a set of tickets from her new hubby, which he was unfortunately unable to attend. I was invited to accompany her on that evening. I couldn't believe my luck and delightedly accepted.

So, off we pottered to watch what turned out to be Miriam Makeba's final public appearance. She performed at the Paridiso in Amsterdam, an entertaining and charismatic singer to the last. I didn't expect to be as emotional as I was when she hobbled, bare-foot, onto the stage. Hell, I can only hope to be 76 and still shaking ass (literally) like she did on Friday. I think she has earned her rest.

The only indication she gave that she might be slowing down, was when she closed the show and mentioned that her "sons" (the men accompanying her on stage), would still remain the Miriam Makeba band... with or without her.

I can't believe she's passed away. What a character on stage. Of course her songs will live on, with her sons and others, but I doubt that anyone else will every manage to capture her energy, her voice and most uniquely, her endearing facial expressions during heart-felt performances.

Hamba kahle, Mama Afrika.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New horizons

Mills and I are looking for a new apartment.

We recently made the huge decision to stay in the Netherlands for a while longer. This is a full 180 from going home on Mills's expat contract.

As of December 5th, we will no longer be expats. We will be gewone internationals living in the Netherlands. Mills has handed in his notice and as of December will be unemployed. I have extended my contract as recruitment consultant. Our beautiful flat will no longer be ours to call home as this was a lovely expat perk.

Welcome back to the Real World, here's a full cream pie in your face.

So we are looking for a new apartment - one that we can afford.

We've seen a number of places. Some are great - and too expensive. Others are nice-ish, affordable-ish and pretty blah. Some are just plain weird.

Like the one with a shower room. Room, with shower head and faucets. Oh and a connection for the washing machine. No towel rails, or water retainers. At least you can watch your washing while you shower, although I don't know how happy I would be showering with electrical appliances.

Another one had the toilet outside of the apartment. Not a shared facility, but the toilet is in the entrance landing, while the rest of the flat is behind the front door. On the upside, this situation would probably help eliminate any trailing... odours.

A personal favourite was the shower cabin in the kitchen. Kitchen plus clear perspex shower. Very... interactive. I think the scariest thing is that Cloggies don't seem to find this set up weird. A shower in your kitchen is apparently normal.

By-passing the comical kitchen/shower situation if you have guests staying over, the bathroom basin was in the lounge cupboard. Odd? All things considered, I think it was actually the large playground outside the terrace that really killed that option for me.

The search continues.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Club Bed

We had our company trip last weekend. We knew nothing about where we were going, but got told to pack the following:
  • passport and/or EU ID card
  • casual/comfy clothes for travelling
  • sport shoes - very NB
  • sport clothes
  • respectable sleeping gear... you won't be sleeping alone
  • dashing clothes for Friday evening
  • even more dashing clothes for Saturday evening
  • ps. the temp is expected to be between 15-23 degrees.

Now, you must understand, the thought of temps between 15-23 was just so exciting after suffering a few days of very chilly early winter, that my colleagues and I were just about peeing our broekies with anticipation. And what was this dashing event we were supposed to be ready for?

On Friday morning, still without a clue, we were picked up from various destinations and driven to Rotterdam Airport, where we learnt that we were going to South France... to a Club Med.

Nice? Naaaaaice.

I didn't know much about Club Meds, but I had heard rumours about luxury accomodation and facilities. The dress code was to ensure that we were suitably attired for dinner each evening. What I hadn't heard about was the food. Full three-course buffet meals, three times a day. All-you-can-eat lobster, paella, seafood, steak, pasta, pizza, salad, cheese, desserts... drinks, beers, liquors, wine, cocktails included. Omigod.

Unfortunately, there was a major mix up with our luggage. This lead to the first team building exercise. There were 25 people in our group, staying in 13 different rooms - all strewn across the resort (about the size of the Cabanas at Sun City). Instead of leaving our luggage in one place, the very helpful French staff took two items of luggage to each room, regardless of who was actually staying in each room. So my roomie and I ended up with KC and AM's luggage, JJ ended up with mine, and my roomie was left running around in uncharacteristic stormy weather trying to establish which room was blessed with her personal belongings. Fun game.

The Club Med was awesome, but there is something to be said for such a large resort with so many family activities... people bring their whole family. There were far too many children under foot for my liking.

The food and free cocktails soon appeased our frayed nerves and we made full use of the all-inclusive price. The dashing outfits were slightly tainted by the glow in the dark jewelry that we managed to get hold of. Classy. The staff hated us... "these English twats, who drink all night and scream all day". Unfortunately for the French barman, we have a number of native French speakers on our staff, who responded accordingly to his pissy comment. We made sure to keep him busy with cocktail orders aaaaaaall night, being as obnoxious as possible. He hated us, but we were okay with it.

It was round about this time that I started to witness why Club Med is called Club Bed by some Europeans. BB was soon having horizontal sex with one of the pool boys (cliche!), but BB is single, 30-something and very able to mingle with whom she choses. Other colleagues were equally indiscreet, but with people within our group, four of them pairing off throughout the weekend. It seriously disturbs me. They all have partners, who they talk about openly. One is married, but basically only together with his wife because of their daughter. I don't think this was his first indiscretion, but it was certainly his first with one of my team mates. Another colleague has just moved in with his girlfriend. He tells everyone that she is The One, and then he has a one night stand with his engaged co-worker in admistration.


They are all consenting adults and I try to tell myself that I really shouldn't judge. But I do. I don't know any of them that well - and after this weekend, I don't want to. Am I being too harsh? Am I condescending because I don't feel the need to frolick openly and butt-naked in the heated pool with colleagues at the end of the night? Am I just lucky because I have a ginger hottie (who is growing a MOustache for the month of MOvember) waiting for me at home?

I don't get it.

I (and most of the party) stuck to more wholesome activities of the sporting nature... tennis, volleyball, football, archery and swimming, saunas and Turkish Baths... but only when the frolickers weren't in there, steaming up the facilities further. Ew.