Thursday, October 27, 2011

Homeless in Holland - Part II

If you missed Part I, you can find it here.....

I stepped off the train and thought to myself ''Here I am, Netherlands'' and Ashok says ''We are homeless!''

The flooring/painting job in the apartment we had rented was not even close to completion and we were told it would take atleast 3 more days. And our stuff from Munich was already on its way in a truck and would arrive the following day. Well, we did consider staying at the train station with a laptop table and microwave with a true Tom Hanks spirit but there was this little thing called ''going to work''. After we made it clear that we will not impose on friends or pay for own hotel for their lack of planning, we were given a temporary place to stay.

We made our peace with it, survived on bread/cereal/salads/take-out and went shopping for clothes (we only had spare clothes for a day). But there was a silver lining, atleast for me - since I wasn't due to join work for a while, I got a chance to explore the beautiful town, Den Bosch(that's another post though). On the third day, we were finally ready to leave and the phone rang again and by then, I was slowly beginning to hate the ring tone. I had good reason to do so - they would need one more week to complete the job !

Ashok and I took one look at each other and said we needed another apt. We were not prepared to reschedule/replan anymore. Already our goods from Munich were stored in a warehouse and I was sure my balcony plants were already dead without sunlight and water. We were told that there were no more apartments available in Den Bosch but there was one in Eindhoven that suited our requirements. We took one look at the apt, fell in love with it, nodded and moved in right on time for Ashok's b'day. That gave us an excuse to replace the traditional pal-kachufying with apple pie :D !

I would love to say all's well that ends well but there is more to come....

The apt was in a perfect location, had a great balcony and some tasteful pieces of furniture but there were no wardrobes and no sign that it ever had one. So where did the previous occupant keep all his stuff ? The apt has an intercom with a camera that allows one to see who is ringing the bell before buzzing them in. The day after we moved in, I was sitting in the balcony trying to speak Dutch without spitting (its really hard, by the way) when someone rang the bell. I looked at the intercom and its a cop !

I warily opened the door and asked him for his id first. He said he was looking for our landlord and while my heart was racing thinking of numerous law and order episodes that I wish I hadn't seen, I tried to outwardly remain calm and explained to him that we rented this apt and he doesn't live here any more. He asked me for his existing contact info and I got into defensive mode (living in Germany for 8 yrs makes all ''privacy invasion'' alarm bells go on when you are asked for someone else's contact info). Then he explained to me that our landlord was a victim in a crime and the police wanted some more information from him...phew, now why didn't he explain this right away and what-oh-what was the crime ?! Since he didn't give me any more answers and I couldn't deal with my imagination, I decided to worry about this when I have to (read, re-check our insurance policies).

The movers brought all our stuff the next day. After realizing that it was faster for me to arrange my own clothes than to explain to someone else how it should be arranged, I asked the movers to just assemble the furniture and leave. The first box I wanted to unpack was my electronics - I had shipped everything except my precious back-up external hard drive. I figured that if they lost my laptop, I atleast had a back-up and the latter was lighter to lug around. It turned out this was genius since my laptop really was missing ! It wasn't inside the box with other electronic items. The movers and I searched all the boxes and it was still missing. All they could do was give me a form to claim the insured value. But what was I to do at home without my laptop ?

After spending a couple of days going around the town (how long can you really shop?) and trying at-home Dutch lessons, I decided to do what I rarely did - scrub and clean everything (I had to do something to while away the time). I opened the box with cleaning supplies and something stood out under the dishwasher tablets and glass cleaner, so I dug in further and my hands felt the familiar edges of my beloved laptop...yippee !! Now who in the world packs a laptop with cleaning supplies ?!? I agree I hadn't cleaned the keyboard and screen in a while but that still wasn't an excuse.

Our relocation experience was like watching the movie race; there was a climax at every step ! We expected something, then it took a pretty hard left turn, then we replanned and took another U-turn...and...and....we ended up in a different town and apartment....and we love the took us a while to turn the house into a home but now it is...we are home, sweet home :) !

PS: My plants made it too :D !

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Homeless in Holland - Part I

It all started when Ashok and I got jobs in the same place (more or less, adjacent towns can be considered the same place when its the Netherlands, henceforth known as NL). Since both of us moved from Germany, the companies helped with the relocation (i.e. they pay a firm to help us find a house and tranport our things). We had only 2 criteria:
- should be walking distance from the station/city centre (living in the quiet outskirts will absolutely drive me mad)
- should not have the freaky dutch staircase (you have to watch the video to understand this requirement of mine) and there is no way I'm losing the last of my grey cells just because the living room and bedrooms are on different floors !

With these in mind, we flew to NL. Since our wants were simple, we found an apt we liked and we were given the option to rent it with the furniture. Given that we were in a long-distance relationship and had ''consciously'' chosen a lifestyle where we would blow all our money on travel, we only had the absolutely necessary furniture (read cot, laptop table and microwave :D) and we liked the idea of moving into a furnished apt and sparing ourselves the numerous trips to IKEA and numerous days with tools while getting used to a new place and job. So we happily said yes, discussed the terms and they (god-)promised to send us the lease asap.

I got home, started on the paperwork (change of address at every place from the bank to the miles and more card) and auctioned my furniture on ebay. Amidst exciting bidding wars, I received some bad, bad news. Apparently the landlord woke up that morning, decided that he was going to sell the apartment (in a buyer's market!!) instead of renting it, which meant we were exactly back to where we started !

Since I couldn't afford another day off, Ashok went house-hunting and canon/picasa served as my eyes (I know, I know it should have been iPhone and email but Ashok is just not a mobile-browser person...atleast not yet!) and we found only one place we liked and the caveat - it was completely unfurnished - the ad actually read ''flooring and painting on request'' !

While Ashok was negotiating a deadline for the flooring and painting, I undid the paperwork I had done, took my items off ebay and contacted the highest bidders with my story. I am glad that they all empathised with me and I got off without bad reviews...phew...the things one has to do to protect one's e-image !

The movers and packers were scheduled to arrive on thursday morning and after handing over the apt in Munich, we were to take the night train to NL. We felt we deserved to stretch and sleep on nice beds and have a proper breakfast instead of sitting in cramped economy seats with airline food ! Its 11 am on thursday and it does not bode well when your phone rings instead of the doorbell. Apparently (I am sick of this word, any synonyms ?) their previous assignment was delayed due to an accident and the earliest they can arrive is the next morning !

Ashok still had to take the night train since he had to report for work the next day. This means I got a quick tutorial on how to fill holes in the wall (caused by nails) with plaster and paint over them after the place was emptied by the movers. For those who do not know my handwriting and my grades in arts and crafts, trust me when I tell you that this was no mean feat !

To make up for the previous day, the movers arrived bright and early at 7:30am, when I was still seeing green and red spots everywhere. So I began what I knew was going to be a really long day, with no breakfast. The movers were 2 young dutch guys with minimal understanding of English...which again seemed like Murphy's law given that most of the Dutch speak both English and German ! They just packed everything....based on what room it was books, cutlery, pillows all went into the same cartons just because they were there in the living room. And while I was showing one guy the basement, the other efficiently packed the trash in the kitchen (not trash bins, just plain trash!). After setting some ground rules, it was a little better and after 6 hrs, they were done but I wasn't and wouldn't be until the plastering, painting, dusting and scrubbing were done. When I finally handed over the key and got to the station, the night train was sold out. So I took a train to stay with some friends who live close to the border (God bless them!) and slept like a log all the way through.

I arrived in NL the next evening, after having a good lazy day with my friends and one look at Ashok when I got off the train was enough to tell me that something was very wrong.....

to be continued....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Am I a desi version of German ?

A few days ago (actually months), I was pondering if life in Germany was making me more German every day. But I also realized...

....I need some noise in my life, I find quietness unsettling. If its too quiet, I have a compelling need to make the noise myself :D

....I need some spice in my life, in the food and otherwise (mind you, I am not a ‘’cho chweet’’ saying girl).

....I need some color in my life. Even in winter, I cannot stand wearing grey and black all the time. From bright red to parrot green, I can wear any color and feel cheerful about it.

....I have to speak Thamizh at least once a day (sometimes when there is no one who speaks Thamizh, I just speak to myself...but lets not go there now..rolling eyes).

....I need to do something when I go to the beach –explore, swim, snorkel, whatever, I cannot simply lie on the beach under the sun.

....I need to use my hands to eat Indian food (there is nothing to beat the sense of touch...obviously doesn't work with Spaghetti but since when is this Indian ?)

....I think French cuisine is way overrated. I feel the same way about Michelin star restaurants where the presentation is always great but the flavor and quantity aren’t !

....I have to watch atleast one movie a week and no it’s not a documentary!

and above all,

....I hate beer, can't drink it to save my life.

....I cannot swear in German.

So am I now like the dishes served in Indian restaurants in Munich – essentially desi but toned down to fit the locale ?!

I decided the best thing to do was to ‘’mix it up even more’’. So I packed my bags, said Goodbye to Germany and moved...well, just across the border to the Netherlands.

PS: As you can see, I had to give an excuse for not having blogged for 2 months….don’t you think moving to new country qualifies as one :D ?

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