Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nocturnal Visitors and other stuff

Ashok was away on business for a couple of days and I was alone in the apartment for the first time. I’ve lived alone before but never in a large apt. So when I went to bed, I walked around checking if the doors were locked. In spite of that, I couldn’t sleep as usual (read, like a log) and kept hearing every single sound. I finally drifted off to sleep at an unknown time and then I woke up completely startled, someone was banging the front door !! It took a moment to keep my wits about me but I finally came out of the bedroom and walked to the corridor. Through the window I saw a tall guy, all dressed in black (yeah, even in the worst of time, women notice clothes) staring at the door, while another one seemed to be pounding on it.

My heart was racing as I walked closer to the door and I thought to myself ‘’what sort of a burglar pounds on the front door in the middle of the night in an apt in the city centre?”. With that confidence, my heart rate came back to normal and I started hearing a very drunken voice of a woman shouting something in Dutch. Then I knew....and I was smoke-from-ears-annoyed !!

I opened the door hoping for their own sake that they saw the smoke and walked away. And I was facing a girl with the most confused expression and a guy whose mouth was open in shock. Even as I saw their looks turn to apologetic, I still couldn’t help being irritated and I asked them why they were arousing the whole neighbourhood at 3am, knowing the answer full well. Apparently they were trying to surprise their friend (translation: they were drunk and needed a place to crash) and their dear friend is none other than my landlord, who very conveniently had forgotten to inform these noble people of his change of address ! First a cop, then drunken friends showing up in the middle of the night....hmmm....maybe we should consider moving again....

but there is a catch in it....

We moved to Eindhoven. Eindhoven becomes the smartest region in the world. Obviously there is a logical relationship here ;) :D, so we cannot move without considering the repercussions !

So what else is happening in Brainport Eindhoven ? There is an additional glow this week.

This is because of a week-long event during which there are light installations and animations in 20 different locations in the city. The city itself is used as a background and the buildings, canals, even plain walls all turn into amazing platforms for these illusions and illuminations. One of my favorites is the city hall -

Eindhoven was heavily bombed during the war and is now just a place with skyscrapers. The city knows this and keeps constantly trying to do something fun and interesting to keep the locals and visitors engaged and me like it !

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

As a Dutchess...

...what I like about the 7feet-is-not-uncommon-height Dutch is that they are usually friendly, most of them are bi- or even trilingual (everyone speaks German and English besides Dutch) and they are flexible with the rules (which is a wow factor for someone used to Germany!)

…what I love are tulips, windmills, old Dutch houses, wooden shoes, canals, infrastructure for biking and their great effort to recover land from the sea and their success in keeping it !

…what I miss are mountains. The extent of high slope in the Netherlands that I have seen so far is a road with a 5 deg slope (which ironically is always called the Bergstraat or mountain street)

…what confuses me is their take on sex and drugs – if it’s out there in the open, then the temptation is far less than if its hidden and prohibited. Surprisingly this works, there are coffeeshops (not for coffee but for licensed sale of drugs – mind you, only soft drugs) even close to my place and not once have I seen any junkies or misdemeanors of any kind. People are even allowed to grow their own drugs and can have up to 5 plants in the house ! But what they forget is that this logic applies only to residents and not to tourists who when given this ‘’newly-found’’ freedom go crazy and cause all the trouble. Not to mention having to put up with the jokes from the rest of the world about ‘’everyone being in a drug haze’ in Amsterdam !

While I was watching a movie that I thought was pretty much in the sex-and-the-city-genre, I was surprised to find a bunch of girls who looked no older than 13 or 14 seated in the row behind me. Then I learnt that the movie was rated 12 yrs and above !! In spite of that, every time there was an adults-only joke, I couldn’t laugh and couldn’t help but hope that they didn’t understand it.

…what I find mysterious is that Netherlands is never in the news….and I have been checking both CNN and BBC diligently ever since I moved here and not one word of news about the country…I know its small but how can there be no news given that its one of the stable economies in EU ??!

…what I was not prepared for was the population density (the average is actually much higher than the average density in India!!). After having lived in western Germany for more than 8 years, where an overcrowded train is an once-in-a-bluemoon (read, worldcup football season) occurrence, its hard to get used to the always-crowded and not to mention, lower-quality Dutch trains.

We live right smack in the city centre and going for a walk without someone crossing your path is impossible on any day of the week between 8am and 6pm. People are always shopping, even on weekdays ! Now I know why the shops close at 6pm – to let the residents have some peace and quiet in the evenings !

Cycling during peak hours can actually kill you if you are not used to dodging-the-indian-traffic-antics. People on bikes usually fly and it’s almost like driving alongside a Porsche on the autobahn, which you know will overtake you on the wrong side.

…what amazes me and sometimes totally freaks me out is the average fitness level. Pregnant women are so strong that most of them give birth at home with just their partner’s help (they have a home pregnancy kit..seriously!) and they are up and about the next day ! Rowing, biking, marathon teams are everywhere and this is saying something given that the Dutch weather is worse than the English weather !

…what scares me are the stairs in most Dutch houses (or correctly known as death traps) – they are curved and spiral, narrow and dark – all the elements that actually make sure you trip or in the least, drop something you are carrying! It was one of my criteria when we started house hunting – no Dutch stairs. There is no way I am going to destroy the last few grey cells I have just because the living room and bedrooms are on different floors.

…what I am struggling with is speaking Dutch. Knowing German and English, I can read and understand Dutch to a large extent but listening and speaking is a totally different ball game.

… what I find funny:

Bicycle parking areas - We live in a building with 12 apartments with a max. of 24 people and there at least 50 bikes ! The picture below shows the parking area at the station. If you don’t remember where you parked yours…hmm…well…walk !

At least once a week, some shady looking guy tries to sell me an obviously-stolen bike !

The Dutch drink milk during lunch..every day ! Not kids, all of them !

They will die without Hagelslag (a form of chocolate chips that they put on bread) and biking.

They say Blah-di-blah instead of (what-I-thought-was-conventional) blah-blah-blah; every time I hear it, I have to suppress a grin because to me it sounds like Koundamani saying ‘’bloody’’ in a thick accent.

And finally, what I am looking forward to is to be able to embrace Netherlands quickly as my ‘’second home’’ and explore/enjoy the best and deal with the worst of it.

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