Archive for July, 2007

breaking up the family

Friday, July 27th, 2007

I am not a happy biped, at the moment. We just officially found out that in order to move a cat or dog to Taiwan, said animal has to have a blood sample taken and sent to a special lab at least 180 days before the move. As I may have mentioned, we expect to move somewhere around the end of October.

(Pause while Paula tries to fit “180 days” into “between now and the end of October”. Nope. Can’t be done.)

We were already worried about the effect of the move on him; sine Taiwan is a rabies-free island, he would have had to be in quarantine for at least 21 days. This is never a fun time for any animal but in this case it was especially worrying, since he’s 15 years old and timid. He’s actually been a little less timid lately, maybe since the older cat died, and more likely to come out when strangers are around. He’s even let a few visitors and our cat-sitters pet him. I’m afraid that being left in a quarantine kennel for three weeks would scare him into catatonia, though (no pun intended) and leaving him with someone here for three months, then shipping him and then quarantining him would probably utterly destroy his tenuous belief that the world isn’t so harsh after all.

So I have bitten the bullet and begun inquiries. Anyone want a cat?

He is healthy, though old; timid and gentle; has his claws but has never scratched anyone on purpose, and is good with older kids and other cats but should probably not be around tiny kids because of the claws. He’s never really met a dog, to speak to.

I hate to do this to him, because he’s considered me his mom since he was three months old. (I’m not one of those who considers my pet to be my baby, but I’ve never been entirely sure he got that message.) But I do think this would be better than putting him through the alternative.

settled …. briefly

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

On Monday evening I picked up my Dutch driver’s license. Unless I’m forgetting something, that was the absolute very last little bit of our moving-to-Netherlands paperwork. I guess we’ve arrived.

Tomorrow we have a meeting with one of the company relocation specialists to talk about what we need to do to prepare for moving to Taiwan. Total elapsed settled time between completing paperwork for one move and beginning it for the next: 3.5 days.

beginning of the end

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

There really wasn’t much of a middle, it seems to me. There was the beginning, whose end was difficult to determine since we still have so much to see and learn here, and now we’re into the last few months.

There’s still so much to see here, and time is beginning to close in on us. Ted put his prodigious talent for oganization to work and now we have a plan that will let us see some of Scandinavia, Prague, a bit of Switzerland, Germany, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg before we leave. But of course we’ll still be skimming the surface; there will be much more that we haven’t seen. Even in this country, we’ve missed the whole north part – we’ll get to drive through on the way to Denmark, but that’s it.

Meanwhile, it’s really beginning to feel like the beginning of the end. We still have a few months left, but they’ll be packed and we have lots of preparation and paperwork to deal with. I’m beginning to feel like I should record everything I do from here on to my memory banks, so I’ll have all the things I loved from here stored in memory to take with me. Rowing down a narrow, cool canal with green leaves arching overhead. Walking in front of an old church with kids practicing tricks on their bikes or skateboards on the cement apron in front and getting a vision of their ancestors in tunics and leggings, daring each other to try new stunts (maybe acrobatics instead of skateboards) on the grass in front of the church that stood there before this one. Walking through town in the evening noticing how light the sky still is at 10PM, so far north. Rmembering back to a winter night, when I walked through town looking at the town getting ready for CHristmas and thinking how someone could have done the same in the same place, eight hundred years ago.

Netherlands in a nutshell

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Definitely, some things are different here.

Our oven (the tiny combination microwave / convection oven / grill) has now been broken for a month. The glass inside the door spontaneously shattered while Ted was cooking something, right after I left for the US last month. Bear in mind this is a *rental* flat, so the money paid for it is supposed to include fixing stuff like this. of course Ted called about it right away, expressing the hope they could fix it (and a light fixture that’s also not working) while we were gone. No dice; the property management company said they “called the owner several times” but he never returned calls. When we got back, I managed to persuade them that a broken oven was a major enough inconvenience that perhaps they could do a little actual property management and call a repair person themselves. They did; he came in, looked around, left and ordered the part he needed. Thats also been a couple of weeks; apparently the company he has to get the part from is all on holiday. It may still take another couple of weeks to get the damned thing fixed.

Tonight’s dinner is Thai food, leftovers from last night. You know what? It’s not really possible to reheat ricely evenly on the stovetop.

Last Saturday we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on IMAX 3D (unfortunately only twenty minutes or so was actually in 3D). Afterwards we went to Nemo, the science museum in Amsterdam. Thatwas deifnitely a little different. The ground floor was all hands-on experiements, mostly aimed at kids. They weren’t extremely fancy stuff like in the Exploratorium, but it was very well done, good solid science / engineering and very practical. There was a big machine moving balls around to teach about processes in a factory, an exhibit about how to get power, fuel and water to houses in a neighborhood, and a big wet one abot water purification. The main difference here was that to o some of thee experiments, you had to spend some time figuring out how they worked – the learning curve needed was much steeper than a US museum would expect. This is a good thing, I think, since there were actually kids doing all of these experiments.

The upstairs would never have been seen in a US science museum. It was aimed more at teenagers and was a large exhibit on sex and puberty. Actually, much of it could have been in the US – hormonal changes and pimples, a bit on risktaking where you had to put your hand in a series of dark holes (on the last one they told people on the other ide to reach in and grab your hand!) and tests on your view of yourself. There was a large screen with an animation showing the rate at which girls and boys mature, with a girl cartoon-silhouette on one side and a boy on the other, that was a little more explicit than would fly by America’s primmest – for instance, it showed the girl playing with her breasts and the boy’s first erection stretching his underwear and first ejaculation squirting out of it. Cute, funny and informative – maybe a US museum could manage it with the squirts removed. Then there were three curtained booths, with the most explicit part of the exhibit; one showed people having orgasms (from the neck up), another illustrated erogenous zones on men and women and showed exactly what to do to them. You had to get a token for each booth, so they could make sure you were over a certain age – we forgot to double check, but I think it might have been all of 14. Wow. Of course, this is a city that has entire museums devoted to sex and drugs, but I think you have to be a little older to enter.

On the way home today, I saw a bumper sticker that seemed to be trying for US slang. t turned out to be from a tattoo parlor and said, “No guts no pain.” Um… ok – so what’sthe problem with that? I’m all for no pain, myself. I can only guess that they got confused somewhere between “No pain, no gain” and “No guts, no glory”.

So that’s the Netherlands in a nutshell: hard to find service, easy to find sex, and the English translations can be a bit funny.

not good at sitting still

Friday, July 13th, 2007

We’ve been back here for all of a week and a half and Ted’s already getting antsy. Apparently neither getting back into our workout routine nor his impending trip to Taiwan is enough activity for him. (Sigh.) So this weekend we will not just be going to the new Harry Potter movie. No. Instead we will be going to Amsterdam on Saturday to see Harry Potter in IMAX. And then if we’re not too tired or too gorged on movie popcorn we’ll go into town to see Nemo (the science museum there) and then if we’re sitll up for more we’ll eat dinner there before taking a train home. And on Sunday morning, of course, we’ll row.

And on Monday he leaves for Taiwan. I expect to have a restful week.
(Of course, I plan to spend Saturday, July 21 holed up with the very, very last (*snif*) Harry Potter book. Don’t bother to call or email hat day, until evening.)

across the USA

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Yo, we’re back.
(We only spent three days in Philadelphia, but picking up an accent doesn’t take long when it’s your native one.) Anyway, to take things in order:

Our first stop was supposed to be Ted’s hometown, where we would stay with his parents and celebrate his grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary at his aunt’s house nearby. It didn’t quite work out that way; his grandmother didn’t make it to her anniversary. So instead, Ted’s mom picked us up at the airport and the next morning we all drove out to join his dad at the grandparents’, in their tiny town way out in the Oregon high desert. It was one of those things, good and bad and laughter and tears, just the sort of way life and death are. Because the anniversary celebration had been planned for that week, most of the people who loved her were able to visit her one last time, and she was responsive enough that we know she knew we were there. A few more who missed the chance to visit made it to the memorial service; Ted and I had to miss it, unfortunately, but I suspect half the town was there. (The service director asked the family to write some memories about her. We don’t know if they used them in the service, but what we wrote is here, one entry down.) If we had to miss something, though, we were glad to have been there earlier to support Ted’s parents; it was hard on them to lose both their mothers so close together.

One thing that came up during conversation is how much Ted’s family enjoys some of the comments to this blog, particularly Squirrel’s Dutch point of view on our entries here. (So keep those cards and letters coming, kids.) I didn’t take a lot of pictures there, not wanting to be intrusive, but here’s one I like, of Ted’s grandpa in his home terrain, walking with his mom (I mean, Ted’s mom, obviously).
grandpa_ray.JPG

We also got acquainted with two cousins of the next generation we hadn’t met before, aged 7 years and 10 months respectively. I think the 7-year-old was quite disappointed to learn that Ted was already spoken for – he seems to be irresistible to women of a certain (single-digit) age.
irresistible.JPG

We had to leave because the main reason we’d planned the visit this summer was t spend time with Ted’s other grandfather as he adjusts to life on his own. We had a good visit there; plenty of time to hang out and talk, and we also got to see an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, with models made to his drawings (It’s a traveling exhibition, well worth seeing if it’s near you.) as well as the UC Davis Arboretum. That stop on the trip also featured a chance to see some more relatives and to make some excellent steaks part of the baggage we carried back to the Netherlands – internal baggage, of course, so no issues with customs or refrigeration!

Finally we visited Philadelphia, where I informed my parents that everyone had better be in good health! They’d discussed the idea of going, as we say, down the shore (which is how Philadelphians refer to visiting the beaches in southern New Jersey) to Atlantic City for a day, but with so much zipping back and forth on this trip, we opted to stay put for a bit. We got to go out for our last US steak (Ted) and burger (me) for some time. We also got to visit some old friends of mine, to celebrate birthdays: one impending, one for someone who’s had a few more birthday parties to practice on. Here’s the blanket I made for the former, with her mom-to-be is holding it for her:
sandy_blanket.JPG

The trip back was remarkably fast, which only meant we got to Amsterdam before 5 AM. The jet-stream must have been cooperating. Unfortunately, it’s not in league with the rental car desks, so we had to wait 20 minutes or so until they opened. Ted was smart enough to plan for us to take today off, so we’ve used it to get his Dutch driver’s license and get mine applied for (apparently his went through one he got the capability form approved; mine was lagging because it took longer to get my sofi number) and to restock our refrigerator (when one this small gets empty, you really have nothing to eat). We’ll be back at work tomorrow, though I make no guarantees as to whether we’ll have any useful cognitive capacity.