Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paris preview

I have about a million (or 250. I'm not so good with numbers) photos to go through from my weekend in Paris. Since I'm obviously not going to do that now since I've got an episode of The Biggest Loser to watch, I'll leave you with just this one for now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Will's visit

Will and I went from seeing each other all the time last school year to seeing each other every two or three weeks last semester to this very long semester apart. So after 9 weeks of being apart, Will came to visit during his Spring Break and we had some much needed time together.

The first half of his trip we spent in Den Haag so I could show him around. I showed him my neighborhood and office, the city center and the Binnenhof. We went to Mauritshuis, which is the museum that houses "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and then ate fries with mayonnaise while fending off the disgusting sea gulls (have I mentioned how many birds there are here? It's frightening). We had Indonesian food (excellent here because of the Dutch colonial ties) and coffee and stroopwaffels and pannenkoeken in Delft. And Will of course got the prettiest weather we've had since I've been here. Lucky.

For the second half, we took off for Amsterdam. I hadn't spent any real time there, so it was fun exploring the city together. I've already posted these on Facebook, but here are some again with more explanation.

This is a canal near the building where Anne Frank and her family hid. I have a picture of the building, but it's honestly not much to look at since it was just an office building/warehouse. Photography wasn't allowed inside, but photos wouldn't really have captured it anyway. It wasn't exactly a fun place to visit, but it was worthwhile.

We went to Zaanse Schans the next day, so I have lots of windmill photos.

We went in the same windmill that I went in with my parents (a dye mill), but later found out there was also an oil mill and a saw mill that we could've gone in instead.

I didn't end up buying any wooden shoes (they were too heavy and expensive) or funny Dutch hats but I still made Will try them on. 

And of course, the nieuwe herring, which Will has been telling me he wanted to try since December. It took him all week to build up the courage to eat it. Did I mention it's raw?

After this bite, he made a sick face and discreetly (and quickly) made his way to the nearest trash can to throw the rest away. If it tasted anything like he smelled afterward, I can imagine why he looked sick.

We went some other places where photography wasn't allowed, like the Van Gogh museum (the correct Dutch way of saying it is not so pretty) and the red light district (most of the ladies in the windows just looked bored). But the best part of the whole trip was just being together. Isn't that sweet of me to say? I think that deserves a nice dinner when I get home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taste of home

Alright, I need some help. At the end of next week, the other interns and I are going to have an international food day/dinner/party. Each of us is supposed to bring a traditional dish from our home countries (or home states for those of us lucky enough to come from a state bigger than most European countries).

So what do I bring? Don't say McDonald's.

I need something simple enough that I can make it and find most of the ingredients in a Dutch supermarket (and I'd prefer to not have to buy a dozen spices that I'll just throw away the next week when I leave). But it also needs to be something that isn't readily available here, like burgers or hot dogs or pizza.

(Although this Five Guys Burger looks amazing. (And this photo happens to be from the Brooklyn location where my love of Five Guys started). Man, it must be time for lunch because I am drooling.)
Photo from SimonDoggett on Flickr

I don't think I could make barbecue here. And I don't want to fry anything. I'm thinking Tex Mex. Does anyone know any really simple (time- and ingredient-wise) recipes for a Tex Mex dish? Enchiladas or taco filling or a really good dip? I might just settle for a dip and salsa if no one comes up with anything.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Chinese?

Photo by kevindooley on Flickr

After the post where I listed all the interns by nationality, my dad emailed me wondering why I only assigned a gender to the Chinese girl. I did that because I didn't think it sounded appropriate to call her a Chinese. Am I crazy? Somebody get out your AP Stylebook and tell me what's what.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Odds and ends

Next week I'll probably have some good photo posts for you, but for now I just have a few thoughts that are too boring for individual posts:

I feel like I've entered the final stretch of my time here. Only about 2 and a half weeks left. I can hardly believe it. And while I'm definitely going to miss some aspects of being here (like never having to go to the gas station, tax already being included in prices and being around people from all different cultures), there are some things that I've decided I'm ready to live without (1- and 2-euro coins, having to admit I don't speak Dutch and having housemates).

Photo by wlappe on Flickr

Next weekend, I'm going to Paris. Since I only have about a day and a half there, I need advice on what to see and what to skip. And where should I stay? Any suggestions?

I had a job interview last Thursday via Skype. I don't want to jinx it by saying too much, so I'll just say it's in Houston, the interview went well and I should move on to the next phase of the interview process. Go ahead and do any good luck rituals you have on my behalf. I'll take dances, lucky underwear, whatever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Full capacity

Since I last talked about my internship, we've probably had a couple interns leave, but we've had even more join us. So I am now working with:
3 Italians
+ 1 German
+ 1 Chinese girl
+ 1 Egyptian
+ 1 Spaniard
+ 1 Norwegian
+ 1 Indonesian
+ 1 American (Chicagoan, to be exact)
(+ me)
= 11 interns

In one tiny office.

I know this is a terrible photo because of the intense sunlight coming in from the window (yes, we have sun now!), but I think you get the idea. This day, I was sitting in that corner by the window.

You can see everyone better here, but J.J., the American, is out of frame and Nancy, the girl standing, had to move from her makeshift desk to be in the photo. Needless to say, we're pretty cozy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Missing ice

I must really be missing ice in my drinks, because I read a blog post about Fred & Friends the other day, and the ice cube trays kept catching my eye and I've been thinking about them each time I've poured a drink. I guess they aren't technically ice cube trays. Ice other-things trays.

I'm also missing other more obvious things like Mexican food and real Dr Pepper and the smell of my normal laundry detergent. I can't really complain though because I've got less than a month left here! It's just crazy. So everybody get ready to cook me some barbecue and do my laundry.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Italian lesson #5: Angry edition

I know it was probably at least a month ago when I promised an Italian gestures lesson to deal with the frustrating Italians in your life. Can you believe I've been here two months? Crazy.

Since then, the Italians have been focusing on teaching me the actual spoken language. Focusing is probably the wrong word. They've been making me repeat random phrases. They say I have a real knack for language, so it's a pity I was born in the U.S. They also say I speak Italian with a French accent. I guess that's a good thing.

Now, I'm not really angry right now, but you guys might be because I made you wait so long for this lesson, so you can practice on me if you want. I did my best at making angry faces. It kind of just looks like something stinks. Don't get confused.

This is the general angry gesture, the one you're all probably most familiar with. You have to shake it a little bit to get the full effect. Actually, that's the case with almost all of these. This means WTF. Or "Ey, you dropped-a my meat-a-ball on the floor-a."

This one's just a movement in the wrist, back and forth a couple times. "I'll beat you."

Something like the A-OK sign turned upside-down. "If I catch you..." The threat is implied, kind of like "Why I oughtta..."

This one requires a little more movement. With one arm straight, hit the inside of your elbow with your hand, causing the arm to bend and then bring the other hand up in a fist. "Go to hell." This one's forceful enough to be pretty effective any language, I think.

This is actually the first gesture that I learned had a specific meaning. It kind of looks like I'm pointing at something (inappropriate) in this photo, but what I'm really doing is indicating size (shaking it a bit for emphasis). "This is how big I'm going to make your anus." Lovely, isn't it? 
When I first learned this, we had a little misunderstanding and they kept saying that it shows how big they're going to make your butt. And I thought, "Yes, please! You'll be doing me a favor." The real meaning's a bit less appealing.

So now you can go pick a fight at Johnny Carino's or the local gelato place without any problems. Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cologne Sunday

Sunday was a pretty relaxing day for the most part (though still crummy weather). I started it off by watching Hilary Duff's "Raise Your Voice" dubbed in German while I got ready. I'm embarrassed to say I followed every bit of it, not because of my excellent German (I don't sprechen) but because I've seen it at least twice, which is 2 more times than is acceptable.

I ended up meeting Henry for a little bit before his train left in the afternoon. We (he) got some Chinese guy to take a photo of us in front of the Dom, but for some reason I'm not able to steal it from him and post it here. 

After Henry caught his train, I went to Museum Ludwig, which has lots of Picassos and the largest collection of pop art outside of the US. It also has some really really strange stuff. I'm not going to try to define what counts as art, but some of this seems like it's stretching it a bit. Like this:

It's a video set up in a dark room. And I don't know if you can tell or not, but the image behind those white rectangles is a butt. A naked butt walking. Talk about artsy fartsy.

This one looks like something a kid drew at a psychiatrist's office as they try to get to the root of his fear of spiders and breasts.

Some pop art:
Andy Warhol's Double Elvis. In German, they call it Doppel-Elvis, which I found amusing because all the Germans I know think it's funny that the English language just stole the word doppelganger without changing it at all. Maybe they're not aware that most everything in American culture is stolen from somewhere else.

This bored lady is actually one of the works of art. She doesn't seem too impressed with Lichtenstein's pieces.

And then Picasso. I have a lot more photos but I figure you guys probably didn't care to look at a bunch of photos of paintings.

There were also some pieces by lots of famous artists, like Miro, Magritte, Mondrian, Pollock, Jasper Johns and Kandinsky.

After the museum closed, I still had several hours to kill until my train (because the later tickets were cheaper) so I got some uninteresting dinner and hung out at a Starbucks. My train ended up being delayed 30 minutes, which made me a little anxious about making a train in Utrecht and then a tram in The Hague since it would be getting late and I don't know when transportation stops running. 

But luck was on my side and there were still a few trains to The Hague and I made the very last tram to my neighborhood, putting me at home around 1. I just have one international trip left (Paris in a few weeks) and thankfully, my train should get me home much earlier than 1. And because I don't have many trips left to talk about, I might just have to do some more Italian posts. All in favor?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cologne Saturday

Last weekend, as you know, I went to Cologne, Germany (and yes, I did actually buy some cologne while I was there). This time, unlike my trip to Brussels, I got on the right train on the first try like a normal person. I even took a couple pictures of trains there, which are available on request for the one person who might be interested.

The train station, Köln Hauptbahnhof, was right by the cathedral, or Dom. It's known for being huge and Gothic, it's Germany's most visited landmark, and it happened to be right by my hotel.   

All the details on it were pretty amazing. And impossible to really capture in a photo.

On one side of the Dom is this kind of ugly concrete square, which was overrun with teenage boys doing tricks on their skateboards and bikes. Or maybe I should say it was overrun with teenage boys falling off their skateboards and bikes. 

I met up with my friend from Baylor, Henry, and his German friend, Joey (Johannes) who lives in Cologne. Henry's doing the same master's program as me and is currently living in Paris (I'm trying not to be totally jealous). It was really nice to have someone to do things with, starting with the inside of the Dom. It's crazy how different it seems than the outside. It's much cleaner and the stained glass all over gives it a whole different spirit.

Henry and I went up to the observation deck...533 stairs up. I probably should've stretched first. Or trained. Somewhere along the way is this bell, so tourists can pretend they're really interested in it and take a little break from the climb.

The halls around it were a little tight. Though I guess anyone who climbs those stairs everyday would have no problem fitting through them.
(photo stolen from Henry)

We did eventually make it to the top, but we were caged in, so the view wasn't as good as it could've been. And people have scribbled their names everywhere up there. You can see it to our left and right.
(another photo taken from Henry, but the real photo credit goes to some random German guy)

The Dom is right by the Rhine, which might've been a nice place to hang out if it wasn't such crummy weather. I really should've come to Europe in the spring instead.
At the right, you'll see a couple of kids making out. Europeans make out like crazy in public. They really have no shame. I probably could've walked up to this couple and taken some close-up shots and they wouldn't have stopped. They may even have asked me to join.
On the left, you probably can't see the sign that says rundfahrten. Fahrt, or something with that root, means something about driving, according to Joey, but I still couldn't see ausfahrt on a sign without giggling like an 11 year old. 

 For dinner, we went to a brewhouse for some real German food. I let Joey order for me, so he got me krustenbraten and sauerkraut. Krustenbraten is pork with a crispy skin. It was served with beer sauce and potatoes. It was so much food I had to let the boys finish it for me. But I finished my Kölsch alone (that's Cologne's special beer).
(another of Henry's photos)

We went to Joey's for a while (where we watched German Idol) and another German guy met us there. We hung out for a while, had some Kinder eggs, and then I headed back to my hotel. It was nice that it happened to be by the biggest landmark. And extra nice that the landmark looks like this at night: