22.11.11

Baltic Winter Drinks for Charity

Some of you might have already heard - some crazy Baltic people (+ our great Dutch team member) are organising a charity event here in Amsterdam on December 18!

It started as an idea "Let's do something good this Christmas and let's popularise Baltic countries" and it grew into this wonderful event. Baltic Winter Drinks for Charity is organised by youth from all 3 Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) to have a nice winter evening, to educate people here about our countries and to donate income to the charity (soup kitchens in Baltic states).

Able to join on Dec 18? Living nearby Amsterdam? From Baltic states or having an interesting about these countries? Just come!

Every day we are e-mailing each other, updating about news, supporters (today we got to know that not only the embassy of Latvia, but also the embassy of Lithuania is supporting us!), making sure the agenda, promotion and everything else is as good as possible. Feels like back in NGO times! :)

16.11.11

What exactly is voluntary work?

Yet another article to introduce you with.

It was still July (or maybe August) when for AEGEE's annual report "Key to Europe 2010/2011" I wrote two articles - one about voluntary work in general and one with quotes from several AEGEEans about their reasons to volunteer.

The annual report is published and my articles are published as well :) Go to your closest AEGEE office and read the magazine there, your board should have it!

Or do as I did - read it online here!


15.11.11

Hear me singing

As you might remember, I am singing in a Latvian choir here in the Netherlands. Although we have been rehearsing for less than two months, our first performance is going to be already this weekend when the Latvian community in the Netherlands is celebrating the Independence Day of Latvia (my country is getting 93 years old!).

Last weekend we had our rehearsal, where we also recorded the Latvian anthem as LNT (one of Latvian televisions) is collecting videos from Latvians abroad singing the hymn.

While it might not be the best singing ever, please, appreciate our efforts taking into consideration how young is the choir "Ziemeļjūra" (it means Nordic/North Sea)!

08.11.11

Spread the love

Yet another article - this time with the readers of Libertas Magazine I shared my opinion about love... No, not that kind of love as you might think - but my love to volunteer!

"We all know that (almost) all of us love our partners, parents, siblings, children and close friends. It is an unconditional love, which (almost) all of us have experienced in our lives and continue experiencing. But how about loving the world through volunteering?"

To read the rest of the article, please, click here!

04.11.11

1 out of 7 billion

I feel like an ant... How about you?

26.10.11

Caricature

What do you think about this version of Anita? :)

I got this caricature last week from my Dutch course mate who is a professional artist-caricaturist. Every lesson he is drawing some people just for fun (while studying Dutch), so finally I also got my picture.

Michael already gave his opinion - the straw symbolises me drinking capirinhas and the smile symbolises me making fun of Michael. :)

Other opinions?

21.10.11

Friends of/with beer

I have entered in a new photo contest, this time run by Van Gogh Museum.

Please, vote for my picture via Facebook and/or Twitter! :)

Many thanks!

16.10.11

Great food at "Moeders"

I am sorry for not writing so often here anymore, but somehow it doesn't feel the same... Maybe I am getting even more lazy than before? :)

Anyways, as I heard that today there is Blog Action Day 2011 and the topic is "Food", I decided to write about the great restaurant we went today - "Moeders".

I have passed by the place quite a few times and always been amazed by the great interior (as much as you can see without going in), but never had time/opportunity to check it out. Today with a few friends-visitors we finally did it!

At first I thought that it's a bar, so it was a surprise to go in and find out that actually it's a restaurant. As the name implies ("Mothers"), it has a particular design, all full of different mums' pictures, really cute. Also the plates and glasses, and all other cutlery is very diverse as it all has been donated by visitors when they opened the restaurant.

The restaurant is not very big, around 10-15 tables, so we were lucky to get a free table without a reservation. It seemed that usually it is completely full and there were still people coming in and being turned down (as there were no free seats anymore). Good to know and make a reservation for the next time!

The food was very good, and the dessert - cheesecake - was simply the culmination. Michael already said that we should bring his mum next time she comes for a visit. So if you are in Amsterdam with your mum - bring her as well!

13.10.11

Latvian Choir

Yesterday I attended my first Latvian Choir rehearsal in the Netherlands!

Seems that there are two choirs - one in Tilburg and one in The Hague, so twice a month I will be taking train to The Hague and singing together real Latvian songs with real Latvians :)

In the first rehearsal we were practising four songs - "Pūt, vējiņi", "Saule, Pērkons, Daugava", "Bēdu manu lielu bēdu" and, of course, the hymn "Dievs, svētī Latviju."

I have never sang those songs in alto, always only in soprano, but now I am an alto, so it was a bit hard to get used to a different melody to follow. Will do my best!

Will keep you updated how it goes!

27.09.11

Ik spreek Nederlands

For those who did not know yet - a couple of weeks ago I finally started my Dutch language classes, which are paid by the city council. Thanks, gemeente! :)

How did I get them? Well, the long to free Dutch courses was not so easy...

2) Find information about these courses. Not so easy, because it is (almost) nowhere written that also EU citizens can take them voluntarily, so you need to know about them in advance.
3) Send an e-mail to make an appointment with the city council regarding the courses
4) Go to an appointment and answer to questions like "why do you want to study Dutch?", "what will you do with the skills?", "how much time do you have?" etc.
5) Have another appointment where they test how fast can you learn aka "stupidity/IQ test" :) No language skills necessary.
6) Have yet another appointment with their chosen language school for you where for 1 hour they test your writing, speaking, listening and reading (15 min each) - all in Dutch, of course!
7) Wait results about your current language level. I got A2 for reading and A1 for everything else with a note "uses a lot of German words".
8) Start your classes for one year!

Next time I will tell you my opinion about my classes, which are twice a week for 3 hours each time (+ homework).

25.09.11

Vīrieši par sievietēm

Pirms kāda pusotra gada manā rīcībā nokļuva aizraujoša lasāmviela, kas bija (gandrīz) autobiogrāfisks stāsts par kādu puisi-vīrieti, kurš no vairāk-vai-mazāk jefiņa kļuva par vienu no sieviešu iekārojamākajiem objektiem, kurš zināja, kā jebkuru sievieti dabūt sevi. Angliski šo mākslu un specus sauc par "pick-up artist", latviski tiem nosaukums man nav zināms.

Ar lielu interesi izlasīju šo grāmatu tāpat kā citas neparastas grāmatas, kas ir balstītas uz patiesiem stāstiem. Atzīšos, ka līdz tam nezināju, ka ir tāda "suga" (ja tā var teikt) un ka tā ir gan māksla (viņu uztverē), gan arī labs naudas pelnīšanas bizness, mācot to citiem.

Pirms dažām nedēļām veiksmīgi dabūju arī realitātes šova ar tādu pašu nosaukumu sērijas, kur astoņi neveiksminieki (kā viņi tiek pasniegti), tostarp arī 45 gadus vecs un vēl nevainīgs vīrietis, tiek apmācīti trīs šādu "pick-up artists" pavadībā. Kā jau katrā šovā, katrā sērijā kāds tiek izbalsots, ir balvas un visi pārējie pribambasi.

Diemžēl vismaz pirmās divas sērijas nebija tik interesantas, kā es to biju cerējusi. Pārāk daudz šova elementu un atkārtošanās... Grāmatai ne klāt nestāv. Tomēr kā izklaides līdzeklis vakarā - droši! Ar vīna vai kādu citu glāzi un labu kompāniju, ar ko kopā pasmieties :)

20.09.11

Calendar with my photo

I am rocking again!

Some months ago a shop/food place Kitsch Kitchen made a photo competition, asking to submit pictures showing the intercultural diversity of Amsterdam. Of course, I took part and sent a few pictures from Indian festival "Diwali".

Just last week I heard back from them saying that my picture has been selected for the calendar of 2012, yehuu!

Prize - a copy of the calendar, which I got just yesterday. My picture is placed in the (in)famous last week of the year/first week of the next year and there is also my name in the list of all the photographers.

Wanna get a unique calendar with my photo in it? You can do it on their website.

18.09.11

Apzinīgs pilsonis

Labs darbiņš, kas padarīts! :)

Vakar ar četriem amsterdamiešiem, kam ir Latvijas pase, devāmies uz Hāgu balsot Saeimas ārkārtas vēlēšanās.

Ierodoties tur ap 12pm, uzzinājām, ka esam ~30-40ie balsotāji. Tie, kas nobalsoja pēcpusdienā, teica, ka esot nobalsojuši jau vairāk nekā 200 cilvēki. Interesanti zināk, cik tad bija beigās? Vēstniecība lēšot, ka oficiāli valstī dzīvo 2500 mūsējo (tie, kas to norādījuši PMLP), neoficiāli kopējais skaits varētu būt ap 4-5 tūkstoši.

Lai nu kā, diena pagāja zem Latvijas zvaigznes. Kopīgi ieēstas pusdienas, kopīgi iedzerti aliņi/vīni un iepazīti Hāgas bāri. Domāju, ka satiku ap 20 latviešus, no kuriem ar vismaz 12 sēdēju pie viena galda un spriedu par dzīvi šeit, par trīslitrīgajiem mašīnu motoriem, par valodu fetišu, par prezidentālu republiku, par Maltu un par kopējām paziņām.

Pēc tik daudzām kopīgi pavadītām stundām un secinājumiem, ka vajag tikties atkal, ir skaidrs, ka šie plāni tiks realizēti jau drīz - par to jau liecina jaunizveidotā grupa sociālajos tīklos. Latvieši iekaro Nīderlandi vēl vairāk!

14.09.11

Problems with the car

Seems that we are quite unlucky with the car. Within less than a year we have got already problems with it already four times... :(

1) Once we arrived in our car park (as parking there on a street is for free) in Amsterdam Zuid to find that somebody has stolen our car's windscreen wipers. I don't know who would need just them, but it took quite a lot of time and days to find new ones as apparently this specific car type (and therefore also wipers) is not so common in the Netherlands...

2) In February during the Maastricht Carnival some carnival car was apparently too big and wide. At night/evening it was passing through the street where our car was parked and completely broke our right window and another car's window! Luckily the guy was nice and left a note with his address to clear the insurance papers etc. Unfortunately the garage which can fix the problem is not so fast and even now (after half a year) we still do not have a fixed mirror as they are very slow with ordering the new one. Hopefully soon...

3) Another time Michael was driving the car and suddenly noticed that the breaks were not working! Luckily he was not to the garage, so could go (very slowly) and fix it, but it could have been very dangerous if he would be already on a motorway...

4) And last weekend - see yourselves! Somebody wanted to steal the car! Luckily he did not succeed, but now we can't open the right doors and the driver needs to crumble inside the car through the co-driver's seat. Not very convenient, but we hope to fix it already this week...

Conclusion: don't park in the Netherlands your car, it's dangerous!

13.09.11

Saeimas vēlēšanas

Šodien saņēmu e-pastu no Latvijas vēstniecības Nīderlandē, ko vienkārši nedrīkstu paturēt tikai sev. Izbaudiet arī jūs! :)

"Tautieši!
Mēs esam sena tauta – un mēs esam viņai parādā!
Ārzemēs dzīvo vairāk kā divi simti tūkstošu Latvijas pilsoņu. Mēs nevaram vēl tautu “savest mājās pie Daugavas krastiem” bet varam katrs tomēr piedalīties valsts attīstībā - 17. septembrī!
Varbūt arī Tu dzīvo starp divām saulēm ar kājām vienā zemē un sirdi Latvijā? Arī Tu vari palīdzēt Latvijai 17. septembrī, ejot balsot. Katra pilsoņa līdzdalība ir svarīga Latvijai, jo sliktus deputātus ievēl labi pilsoņi, kas nepiedalās vēlēšanās. To mūsu zeme vairs nevar atļauties."

E-pastu papildināja daži tiešām labi video, tostarp šis:


11.09.11

Latvian cuisine

A few weeks ago in one event I met a lady from Philippines. We started talking and she asked me where am I from. "Latvia, but probably you don't know where is it," I replied as I don't expect non-Europeans know our small country.

What a surprise I had when she asked which is my hometown! Turns out just only a few weeks ago she visited in Latvia and felt in love with the country and food! Now she is telling to everybody how nice and beautiful it is, unofficially becoming a kind of Latvian Ambassador :)

That's not all. She really loved our cuisine, so kept telling me about a book about Latvian food she saw, but didn't buy - and regretted it. I even didn't know that there is a book in English about Latvian tasty food!

With my help and a few websites she managed to find the name of the book, so tomorrow I am going to meet her and give her the book (thanks to Agnese who bought and brought it from Latvia!). It will be funny to think that a women from Philippines is going to cook home Latvian food :)

For all of you who also want to know more about Latvian book - take a look at the book here!

07.09.11

Fulfilled dreams

In the latest issue of Libertas Magazine you can read my interview with Haris Mexas about the topic "achievements".

"I always envy those people who can speak several languages and change from one to another without any problem. My dear Greek friend Haris Mexas is one of those lucky people. He is a linguist, so one can expect him to be able to speak fluent Greek, English, Spanish, German and French and add some respectable knowledge of Italian, Turkish, Latin and even ancient Greek. That's not all – this September Haris is starting to fulfill his dream to be a master student in the Netherlands and catching up with his Dutch language skills!"

Full article you can read here.

06.09.11

Loģika

Kam ir ideja, kāds ir nākamais cipars un kāda ir loģikas secība? :) Pareizajai atbildei - pārsteiguma balva no manis!

5
4
4
5
5
4
7
6
6
...

05.09.11

Latvians keep coming

I do not know if it's just my aura or all Latvians are really moving to the Netherlands, but I keep meeting more and more Latvians who have moved or are about to move here! The funny thing - almost all of them I have already met before!

Since 2,5 years ago when I moved here for the first time I have hanged out with:

1) Agnese Nr. 1 - my crazy party associate in my last and her first weeks in Amsterdam. The friendship with crazy memories and long-lasting impact on both of us. True, I didn't know her before - but CouchSurfing united us.
2) Sintija - the history dates back to 2003 when we got to know each other through my dad. One day I noticed on Facebook that now she is living in Amsterdam - what a surprise, me too! For almost a year she was my company to a lot of cultural events!
3) Lelde - the history dates back to God-knows-when. I think, both of us were still in the primary school when we became pen pals. Later on we found out that we used to study in the same university and she used to work with my course mate. Funny enough, for the first time we met more than 10 years after in Amsterdam...

Furthermore, there is a bunch of other Latvians living nearby whom I haven't met so much yet, but who are worth mentioning anyway.

4) Kristīne - so many e-mail exchanges, but still haven't met despite having quite a few common friends. One day...!
5) Mārtiņš - my cousin's cousin, yet not my cousin. One day I heard from my cousin that he has moved to the Netherlands as well... So far the only Latvian guy I am aware of in this country (apart from "I know X who knows Y who is living here")
6) Baiba - well, we were together in the primary school and, the same as Lelde, she was also studying in the same university. Then one day I saw on Facebook (as well) that she is in the Netherlands, although in the opposite side of the country. Will meet again for sure!
7) Agnese Nr. 2 - at first, ages ago I interviewed her grandma for some article. At second, her grandma then told me that her granddaughter Agnese was studying in the same high school where I did. At third, turns out that she used to work for the same company in Amsterdam I am working now!
8) Agnese Nr 3 - my Latvian colleague at work, seeing her every day and practising my Latvian not to forget it :)
9) Egita - well, Facebook says that we have 45 common friends and I am sure that draugiem.lv would add a few more. Knew about her since I joined AEGEE, but never really talked - until one day we met in Brussels in an event. And then again, here...
10) Agnese Nr. 4 - the youngest part of the non-existing-community. One day she wrote me on Facebook saying that we have met and spoken a few years ago in an information market in Sweden, where I was presenting AEGEE and she was doing Erasmus (I think so). Of course, we have common Latvian friends. Last week also this Agnese moved to Amsterdam. Welcome!
11) Tatjana - just remembered, another AEGEEan living in the country, although also not so close to me. Memories about co-organised events back in Latvia...

Did I forget anybody? :) Aija doesn't count, she was living here before I did - too bad.

04.09.11

Maltese wedding

So it has happened. I was a guest at my first international wedding! :)

Yesterday my dear friends Alistair and Anna got married in a Maltese/Polish/international wedding, full of people from different parts of the world. It was interesting to observe and discuss the differences between wedding in various countries.

I guess that it was a quite typical Maltese wedding, which leads me to a conclusion that apart from the church and the white dress there are no similarities between Latvian and Maltese wedding. Amazing to be a part of so different wedding!

I am not sure how correct will I be comparing both of them, but let me give you my observations about the main differences:

Time: ~5 hours (Malta) vs ~24/36 hours (2 days) (Latvia)
Procedure: Church + standing reception (Malta) vs church + seated dinner/breakfast with a lot of traditions (Latvia)
Speeches: 0 (Malta) vs a lot (Latvia)
Flowers as presents: 0 (Malta) vs from every guest (Latvia)
Presents: usually money (Malta) vs anything (Latvia)

Nevertheless, it was an important moment for Alistair and Anna as well as all their friends and relatives. Some of us were present the first time both of them met, so it is a nice memory to keep with us - being proud to be a part of their family history.

Congratulations, my dears!

30.08.11

This week

Beach, beach, beach.

Swimming, swimming, swimming.

Holidays, holidays, holidays.


And also some other stuff, of course :)

28.08.11

Open-air theatre

On Thursday we were praying for the rain not to pour and driving to a small place between The Hague and Leiden for an open-air theatre play in English.

A few months ago I won the tickets (of course), so it was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy another cultural performance in the Netherlands!

This time it was The English Theatre, which was organising another English theatre company's tour around the country with Shakespeare's play "The Twelfth Night". It was unusual because of several reasons:

1) It was outdoors. We were sitting on chairs, wrapped with blankets, sipping our drinks and eating food we have brought with us - a real picnic!
2) There were only five actors, but around 10 characters - so each of them were performing two roles, some even more. Men were playing women, women were playing men etc.
3) I haven't read the book and haven't seen other performances, but this was definitely one of the biggest comedies I have ever seen! Couldn't stop laughing (even if I didn't understand some parts due to the specific English) and wondering how did Shakespeare write it in the original version.

If you have a chance - go and see the play either here or in the United Kingdom!
If not - make sure you attend any other open-air theatre, it is a completely different experience!

27.08.11

Ķīniešu valoda

Pirms vairākām nedēļām es apmeklēju kādu pasākumu, kas bija paredzēts šeit dzīvojošiem ārzemniekiem. Vairākas valodu skolas iepazīstināja ar savu piedāvājumu, tostarp bija arī īss ķīniešu (mandarīnu) valodas demonstrējums.

Ar hieroglifiem nemāku rakstīt, bet ķīniešu val. skolotāja šādi rakstīja ar latīņu burtiem:

Sveiki - nī hāo (izrunā kā nī hāo).

Nī = Tu
Hāo = labi

Es esmu - wo shi (izrunā kā vo ši).

Mani sauc - wo jiao (izrunā kā vo tjau).

Kā Tevi sauc? - nī jiao shenme? (izrunā kā nī tjau šemmē)

Paldies - izrunā kā sje sje.

24.08.11

Once

Memories. Good film.

23.08.11

I want a bank card!

So... The story about my "integration" and settling down in the Netherlands continues.

After I got my Dutch bank card to pay in the shops and to withdraw money, I found out that with this card it is not possible to pay online. I never had such a card before in Latvia (although I do have a similar Belgian card), so it was new to me.

Whatever - I went to my bank and applied for a credit card (MasterCard). After waiting more than one hour in the queue and filling out the form, last weekend I got to know that... my request has been denied! And in the bank they even couldn't give me a reason why.

What? Denied? For what? I didn't do anything, why wouldn't you give me a simply card so I can shop online (flight tickets, Amazon etc.)

As one Dutchie wrote - "It is probably because you don't have any credit registry in the Netherlands as foreigner. Often they demand Dutch citizenship with a proper creditrecord (no debts!) or explicit proof of high income and/or capital as non Dutch citizen."

Well, let' s try plan B then - apply for visa card as suggested in the bank. The lady just told me to go online on visa.nl and said I could fill the form in English.

Turns out not to be true. At first, the form is only in Dutch. At second, there are so many different visa cards, that I didn't know which one to choose and what is the difference.

Nevertheless - I applied for one of them and let' s hope they will accept at least that! Otherwise my boyfriend will need to continue buying my stuff online...

22.08.11

Getting ready for Malta

It is late, so I will not write a lot, but...!

Today we rented online our car for our trip to Malta, which starts in one week. Yippi!

Plan - two days in Gozo, three days in the main island and then a wonderful Maltese/Polish wedding in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Mdina).

I haven't been to any wedding for years and I really like them, so looking forward to that.

Apart from that - sun, beach, hopefully swimming, showing Michael around the beautiful island, eating a lot of good, fat food and desserts, memories and meeting long-time-not-met people.

In short: holidays, here we come!

20.08.11

Article about Malta

This time my article was published in an online magazine "Dispataches International". The same as other magazines I am writing for, also this is an international youth magazine.

Article is about the new Maltese legislation, which nows allows people to divorce. Believe or not, before it was not possible.

"Over the last few weeks, the Maltese islands have received a much larger amount of media coverage than before. It is not only because of the increasing amount of African refugees who arrive in Malta each day by boat, but because on May 28th 2011, 52% of Maltese voiced their desire to legalize divorce," that is how my article starts.

Full article you can read here.

19.08.11

Open-air cinema

You know what is one of the things I love the most about Amsterdam?

The huge amount of cultural events, possibilities and things to do. I can't get enough of it!

Especially I love those free open-air cinema evenings, when it is dark outside, loads of people sitting together, having fun and watching great films on a big screen. Random people pass by, stop and stay even without planning to do so.

Why didn't we have such things back home?

One of the first open-air films I saw two years ago in the festival "Pluk de Nacht" - when I was living in Amsterdam for the first time.

This summer I was sure I want to enjoy the festival again as last year I missed it. So two weeks ago we want to see a nice French film "Les Emotifs Anonymes". We arrived two hours before to make sure we had a good spot and had a great time with champagne bottle from home and pancakes bought on the spot.

Yesterday we went to another festival with another open-air film - this time it was World Cinema Amsterdam and Israeli/Mexican film "Salsa Tel Aviv". So amazing, laughing all the time! Even a bit of rain didn't spoil it.

Now just need to find another film - I am sure there are some more in the upcoming weeks, e.g., in Het Ketelhuis etc.

17.08.11

Freecyclers


I hope that after this post the group suddenly won't have a lot of freeloaders... :)

Just wanted to share with you a nice idea which I found a few weeks ago and have used a few times so far. Here in Amsterdam (and other cities around the world) we have a group, called "Amsterdam Freecycle".

The idea is simply - you have something to give away or you need something? Subscribe and give or take things for free! TVs, sofas, books, clothes, cables, furniture and anything else you can imagine - especially useful if people move and do not want to throw away previous furniture which do not fit in the new apartment.

So far Michael and me have got a scanner and beautiful champagne glasses. We have also contributed and given away one of our bikes, a plant and an extra iPhone cable.

So - join if you can contribute or you can't afford buying some new things you might need! And make a similar group in your city if it does not exist yet!

16.08.11

Viesskolnieki

Tikko izlasīju Calis.lv forumā (ko šad tad laika pakavēšanai lasu) par kādas ģimenes jauko pieredzi, uz gadu AFS apmaiņas programmā uzņemot meiteni no Jamaikas.

Par šīm programmām pēdējo gadu laikā esmu dzirdējusi diezgan daudz un vienmēr nožēlojusi, ka nebija informācijas par tām tad, kad es mācījos skolā. Aizbraukt pašai apmaiņā man nebūtu bijis līdzekļu un gan jau arī tobrīd vēl interese, bet es domāju, ka tajā laikā gan es būtu gribējusi uzņemt kādu viesskolēnu. Piemēram, cik gan forši būtu bijis iegūt brāli uz gadu! :)

Nezinu, kāda citiem latviešiem ir bijusi pieredze, bet zinu vienu beļģu meiteni, kas gadu pavadīja AFS programmā Latvijā un lieliski iemācījās runāt latviski. Tas vien ir kā vēŗts! :)

14.08.11

Very cultural life

There are so many things going on in Amsterdam and our busy lives, that it is impossible to mention and blog about all of them. Pity, because it would be worth to!

But let me just mention the main cultural things I have been doing from last Sunday till this Sunday, so you would get an idea what I am speaking about.

(last) Sunday: free open-air cinema in "Pluk de Nacht" festival
Thursday: a small film night at home
Friday: an insight into "Leidseplein live" festival and the opening concert of Grachtenfestival (absolutely amazing)
Saturday: stand-up comedy in Comedy Theater with four comedians from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia
Sunday: attraction park and water park "Duinrell"

Besides that - hosting two American CouchSurfers for three nights and two Brazilian CSers for other three nights!

13.08.11

Concert in our living room

One day on CouchSurfing a saw a post - an American guy was writing that he is offering to play free concerts in random living rooms. Who is interested to do that in Amsterdam?

Me, me, me!

So I e-mailed him and we established a date for something unusual - a concert in our own living room! Never had any and never attended any, so it was something interesting to try both for me and Michael.

The concert happened last Tuesday, and it was simply amazing. Wes Swing and Sophie, travelling musicians from the USA, were singing, playing a cello and a guitar as well as selling their CDs. As stated above, the concert was for free, but they were accepting donations.

The concert had also a surprise - a couple of songs, played by another American musician who is living in the Netherlands and whose friend got in touch with Wes asking if it's possible for the other girl to play. Sure, it is! We also bought her CD :)

In the beginning I was scared if our living room is too small, if we will have enough people, if people will like the music and buy CDs etc. But in the end it turned out great! Invited friends also took a couple of friends with them, so we ended ~20-30 people, which was perfect amount. As everybody was bringing some food and drinks, we did not have shortcut of those and we still need to drink the last bottles left after the party!

So if you ever have an opportunity to host such an event in your living room - do not hesitate to do it!


Latest tracks by Wes Swing

12.08.11

Die Welle

I am quite picky about good films, but yesterday I saw a film which is definitely worth mentioning - German film "Die Welle" ("The Wave") from 2008.

First - watch the film.
Second - read the background about the film.
Third - tell me where can I borrow the book! After seeing the film I want to read the book on which the film is based!

08.08.11

Balkan mission

I have never been in Balkans myself (although - it depends if Bulgaria and Greece are in Balkans), but I decided to post a link of Facebook group "Project: where does our Yugo end?"

Four crazy Dutch guys went to Bulgaria last week to buy a typical Balkan car there. After buying a zastava for pretty good price, they are now travelling around Balkans and exploring these amazing countries in their "new" car.

Check the pictures and follow their stories online!

06.08.11

Goviral

Not a long time ago a friend of mine said she is now working for goviral network and asked me to join and post some of their videos on my blog. Apparently I can also get some money for that!

I am not sure how is it working, but posting the first video to see how it goes.



05.08.11

Me and drugs

In this Magazine Libertas edition I wrote two articles - both of them about drugs.

1) "I do not smoke tobacco or weed. I have never even been inside a coffeeshop and I am determined to keep it like this. Yet I live in Amsterdam, “the capital of cofeeshops”, and I am writing an article about coffeeshops."

2) "I am convinced that internet and online media are the biggest addiction nowadays. Facebook, Twitter, online newspapers, e-mails, Skype, YouTube and more, and more, and more. Once you turn on your laptop / computer, you can't switch it off. It just seems wrong. There is always something more to read, to watch, to check. Sounds familiar?"

Read both articles (and all the magazine) in full here.


04.08.11

Banks

Some years ago in Latvia Hansabanka (yes, a bank, which is now called Swedbank) had a very nice idea - if you were waiting in the queue for longer than 20 minutes, you received a free voucher for a cup of coffee/tea/hot drink in a coffee shop (not the Dutch coffeeshop). I remember sometimes waiting in the queue and thinking that I could wait 20min - just to receive a free voucher :)

Today when I was waiting in ABN, I thought about passing this idea to the banks here in the Netherlands. It was not very crowded branch and after hearing the reason why did I come to the bank (not for suggesting the voucher idea) the lady said that I can sit down and wait, adding that there are three people before me.

It took exactly one hour before I got what I wanted! After 50min of waiting the lady said that there are three people working with customers and that I am the next in the queue. So did everybody really need 1 hour for discussing their issue with the bank or did they all (by accident) wanted something very complicated like a loan?! For me it took 10 minutes...

01.08.11

Vēžošana

Nedēļas nogalē es pirmo reizi dzīvē izdarīju vēl kaut ko, ne tikai to, kas ir minēts iepriekšejā rakstā. Pirmo reizi dzīvē es arīdzan... vēžoju!

Seši cilvēki - seši noķerti vēzīši. Kā to dara?

1. "Iegādājas" māsu, kas visu izplāno, lai pārējiem nav nekas jādara. :)
2. Atrod ezeru, kurā mīt vēži, un sarunā tur aizbraukt.
3. Atrod divus stiprus puišus, kuri airēs un uz kuru vārda būs vēžošanas atļaujas (Lādes ezerā - 2 Ls no deguna).
4. Sarunā ar superīgo saimnieku, ka var lietot viņa murdus un no viņa var nopirkt arī vēžu ēsmu. Parasti ēsmā esot vardes (tikko nobeigtas), bet mēs vēžojām ar vistu kakliņiem.
5. Paņem murdus un brauc ar sešiem cilvēkiem (no kuriem viens vēžoja bērnībā un otrs pāris reizes kaut kad, bet pārējie nekad) divās laivās.
6. Izmet un iztin murdiņus zigzagā kaut kur ezerā. Gaida aptuveni 20min un tad ceļ vienu pēc otra ārā.
7. Sūrstojas, ka lielākajā daļā murdu nekā nav, un met atkal.
8. Priecājas, kad ir, un spēlējas ar vēžiem.
9. Brauc krastā, runā par viena vēža likšanu akvārijā un pārējo piecu vārīšanu.
10. Plāno nākamo vēžošanu uz ilgāku laiku un nopietnāku sagatavošanos. :)

31.07.11

Changes in my life

The time has come... Finally, being 25,5 years old, I did it!

My sister did it when she was around 12-13 and she did not tell Mum in the beginning as it was not allowed to do it so early, at least not till you are 18 or so.

My Mum did it only when she was 38... Michael says that his Mum was younger when she did it.

But I did it now! I was afraid that it will hurt a bit (as they are telling), but luckily it didnt.

What do you think?



28.07.11

Here comes the library

Almost two weeks ago I finally subscribed for OBA (library).

More than half a year ago I won a year long free membership card (worth around 25-27 EUR) for the library (thanks to I amsterdam!), but turned out that only registered Amsterdammers are able to subscribe.

When I finally registered as living here, I immediately wanted to use the opportunity to subscribe. All I needed - the present voucher, my passport and the letter from the city council stating that I am registered here.

I have been to OBA quite a lot of times - studying Dutch, showing friends the nice view from the top and escaping from the rain. Now I will also be able to take books, films and CDs home! And it is really great, because one can take books for three weeks for free and films & CDs for a week for just one euro. Great service and big choice!

Last week we went to the library to take something and we opted for DVD "The Da Vinci Code" because Michael hasn't seen it yet (we watched it on Monday) and we couldn't agree on anything else. Next time - maybe some book? :)

It was amazing that both the registration system for renting the DVD was automatised (put your library card on point A and the DVD on point B) and also paying for it (1 EUR) was possible only in the machine. Great! As far as I remember, at least one gives back the items to a real person. :)

26.07.11

Learning Latvian

Now not only me, but also Michael has a blog - he has decided to blog about his attempt to learn Latvian language, so you are welcomed to follow his blog as well! Unfortunately there is no possibility to comment on his blog yet, but you can do it on his Facebook :)

Part of his first article:

"In the beginning I tried to learn some random Latvian words (basically the usual stuff like "thanks", "good morning", etc.). But mixing everything together to some kind of Engerlatutch (ENGlish - GERman - LATvian - dUTCH) does not sound nice if used in the long term. Furthermore, I like learning languages, so I want to challenge myself and learn proper Latvian."

25.07.11

A new shop

I have yet another shop here in Amsterdam! :)

20.07.11

Missing Latvian language?

If by any chance you have a need for Latvian keyboard (read: characters) on your laptop, but you do not have it, here is an easy solution - download it for free!

I have downloaded it for myself already a few years ago and very happy about that.

Get it and do not complain that you can't write in proper Latvian because you do not have the necessary letters!

19.07.11

Dienvidslāvija

Tikko pabeidzu angliski lasīt ļoti interesantu un viegli lasāmu grāmatu.

Horvātietes Slavenkas Drakulič grāmata "They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague" stāsta par tiem augstākā mēroga kara noziedzniekiem, kuri bija iesaistīti 90. gadu Dienvidslāvijas karos, nogalinot vairākus tūkstošus horvātu, serbu, musulmaņu u. c.

Lai gan tā nav pirmā reize, kad iegūstu jaunu informāciju par šo laika periodu Dienvidslāvijā, es joprojām cenšos atcerēties, vai skolas laikā mums par to vēstures stundās mācīja? Savu atmiņu neuzskatu par sliktu, bet absolūti, absolūti (!) neko par to neatceros.

Latvijas vēsture - skaidra lieta. Krievijas, Francijas, Lielbritānijas, pat ASV Pilsoņu kara un citi notikumi ir spilgtā atmiņā no vēstures stundām. Neatceros neko daudz par Āfriku, it īpaši tās kolonizēšanu, un Āziju.

Tomēr bijušās Dienvidslāvijas teritorija ir kas cits, tā ir tepat Eiropā, pavisam netālu no mums. Un 90. gadu vidus bija tieši tas laiks, kad es sāku iet skolā. Ja vēl ne pamatskolā, tad varbūt vidusskolā par to vajadzēja runāt?

Tagad pēc gadiem par to uzzinu vien no saviem ārzemju draugiem, kuri paši nav dienvidslāvi (jo zinu, ka ar viņiem par to labāk nerunāt) - bet kuriem par to ir vairāk informācijas. Skatos (dokumentālās) filmas un lasu dažas grāmatas, lai gūtu kaut aptuvenu priekšstatu.

Tomēr jautājums paliek... Vai varbūt citās skolās ne tikai par Dienvidslāvijas karu/-iem, bet par to teritoriju vispār tika vairāk mācīts? Un vai šobrīd par to māca?

18.07.11

Discounts with Groupon

As far as I know, Groupon discounted deals exist not only in the Netherlands, but also other countries. Not long time ago also in Latvia appeared several similar websites (although not Groupon), all offering great discounted deals.

I know that my sister is a huge fan of them and using them regularly. Here in the Netherlands I have used them and a couple of other websites a few times as most of the offers do not attract me. I do not want to get any beauty treatments, book a hotel (which anyways sounds quite expensive), go out for dinner on a regular basis or subscribe for a fitness club.

However, sometimes there are interesting deals we have used:
It is true that we wouldn't have been going to these places otherwise (except "Mt. Everest" which was in our plan anyway), but as the prices were not too expensive, it was interesting to try something new. And I think that it is worth it as long as you do not pay too much.

I have also used a couple of websites for presents, but can't reveal which deals - as those who got the presents might be reading my blog :)

How about your experience?

17.07.11

Dutch insurance

Finally after so many struggles and e-mails I got my Dutch insurance! The road to it wasn't easy...



I am obliged to have a local insurance if I am working in the Netherlands. My Latvian insurance doesn't count for them... And as there are quite a lot of insurance companies here, I couldn't understand which one to choose.



Step 1: CouchSurfing

After posting a question about it on CouchSurfing and getting opinions both from Dutch and expats, I learnt that the insurance here is very expensive. Insane! Back home I used to pay three times less, but OK - also the incomes were lower...

After checking all the replies and suggestions, I started to act.



Step 2: Agis

My employer has a contract with Agis, which gives 6% discount for the basic insurance. They were the only ones who replied me in English and also had a brochure in English to send me. Nice service!

Unfortunately the insurance turned out to be quite expensive - around 130-140 EUR per month. I think it's too expensive as I am not getting ill so often to make it worth...

So needed to look for another option.



Step 3: AnderZorg

As most of the people suggested AnderZorg, I applied for their insurance online (unfortunately all in Dutch). Soon afterwards I got a reply (in Dutch) that I must send them a copy of my passport and a copy of my employment contract or a copy of the paper saying that I am registered as living in the Netherlands. My SOFI number was not enough...

That was end of June, and I didn't have the employment contract (yet) and I was not registered with the city council, so I moved on.



Step 4: CZ.nl

Another suggestion was CZ, who even have their homepage (partially) in English, so I decided to try my luck there. The customer service assured me that they need only my passport copy, nothing else.

I applied, but it turned out not to be true - they sent me reply (in Dutch) asking for the same paper from the city council which I did not have...



Step 5: Interpolis

I also applied for Interpolis (in Dutch) online, who called me ~10 days later by saying that I should call to another phone number to apply as I was not a customer of Rabobank. Shitty (read: slow) customer service...



Step 6: back to AnderZorg

As I finally got my employment contract in the beginning of September, I sent it to AnderZorg. It took them some time to process, but this weekend I finally got my insurance card and all the papers (in Dutch). It will cost me a bit more than 90 EUR per month, but it was the cheapest I could find.

Unfortunately all the papers and the customer service replies (which are quite fast) are in Dutch, but Michael, Google Translate and my practise will help :)

14.07.11

Chitchat in Dutch job interviews

Some time ago I participated in Amsterdam Expatcenter event, where we had a short discussion about Dutch job interviews and the best way to position yourself in Dutch job market.

The speaker gave an example of American lady, who disliked Dutch job interviews because of very personal and irrelevant questions she was asked - "How long do you live here?", " Why did you move?", "How was your day?" etc. While they might seem innocent questions for me and you, it was not like that for her.

As the speaker explained, unfortunately she did not know that in job interviews these kind of questions or answers are not important, as the main importance is paid to make the interviewee comfortable and relaxed before the interview and real questions. Well, in this case with the American lady it just got the opposite effect.

After being to a few job interviews myself I can confirm that it is indeed true, although luckily it does not make me annoyed. But then again, I always thought that Latvians are very similar to Dutch.

In one of my previous job interviews in the Netherlands I got to know:
- Why did the interviewer (non-Dutch) moved to the Netherlands;
- What sense of humor does the interviewer have;
- That all Latvian girls' names start with A (according to their previous experience);
- Where did my interviewers study.
- Etc.

Relevant information? Not at all. But it helped me to see the "human side" of those people and make it a bit less informal for both of us. I also do not mind sharing information with them (why did I move here; what do I think about Amsterdam; was it easy to find the office etc.).

If you do not feel so comfortable yourself, here is a hint - starting asking them questions back and let them do talking!

13.07.11

10 pages about Estonia

Finally it happened!

Some of you might remember that in April for a few days I went to lovely Estonia to check out five star hotels, conference centers, restaurants and other places in Tallinn and Tartu. It was a wonderful trip!

When my Estonian friends asked me about the reason of my trip, I told that I have joined a FAM trip, organised by Estonian Convention Bureau. While other people were thinking if it's worth to host international conferences from their organisations exactly in Estonia, my role was to gather information for an article.

Today I finally got the copy of the article - wonderful destination report on 12 pages (two covers + 10 pages with text) about Estonia for Headquarters Magazine, who also payed me a nice amount of money, of course!

Read it here!



12.07.11

Why Latvians are cold abroad?

So let's make it clear once for all. It is simple - Latvians are never cold in Latvia, only when going abroad (including to Western and Southern Europe). And somehow foreigners seem not to understand this simple truth.

So let me explain you. For us in Latvia it does not feel cold at all. We are used to that, the cold has been there for years and we have proper clothing for winter if you were wondering about -20 degrees. In fact, I remember coming to Latvia from Belgium in Feb 2010 and saying it is too warm with my winter coat!

However, things change when we go abroad. When I used to live in Malta, I was freezing in their winter when it was around +10. Despite the warm degrees, it was always windy and rainy, and I was not prepared for that. It felt colder than in Latvia, and I was forced to wear a jacket, gloves and a scarf even in March!

Now in the Netherlands I am rarely satisfied about the weather - it is either too cold (97% of cases) or too hot (above +25 degrees, 3% of cases). Luckily the last few weeks have been fine, or maybe I am simply used to that by now.

Back home I never had air-conditioning either at home or in the office. I had central heating with only one option - turned on (no "turned off" or "regulated heating" or whatsoever) for 4-5 months per year. If it was too hot (and mostly it was), I was opening windows or wearing short sleeves inside. Yes, it was not a modern house, but built in 1920ies.
At my dad and my grandma's houses there were two options - either there is heating or there is not. A bit better, but no choice to regulate it.

To sum up, we are cold when going abroad - unless it's hot summer and then it's too hot for us. The only good and predictable weather is in Latvia :)

P.S. Of course, I am generalising. As always. But just to help you understand the point why the only people in the multi-cultural environment complaining about cold office today were two Latvians :)

11.07.11

Official Amsterdammer!

Finally we did it! After months of complains both in Facebook and IRL, e-mailing our landlord and receiving back reply "you will get it soon" and pulling some strings at Michael's company - finally we got our renting agreement!

As it is not possible to register as living in the Netherlands without this agreement, it was very important. If I would have had it a few weeks before, my SOFI number, bank account, insurance and all other things would have been much easier...

But it does not matter any more. Last week we got the renting agreement and immediately scheduled an appointment in the city council to get registered. As EU citizens we needed only two things - passport and the renting agreement.

This morning we had a meeting in the city council (for us it was on Stadhouderskade as our flat is in central Amsterdam). It took around 15 minutes, and then it was done - very easy and without any problems. As we already had our SOFI numbers, the clerk took this information as well and then asked us to sign the form that we want to be registered. Afterward he issued both of us a paper saying that we are registered, and that was all!

Now I can finally get registered in OBA (library), apply for free Dutch language classes, get a sticker in my passport (according to Maarten) and make my life much easier! Maybe later I will find some more benefits :)

10.07.11

Other blogs

Here is a list of other blogs I tend to read time from time when I have time and the right feeling... As I know those people personally (well, more or less), it gives a special feeling to follow their adventures.

Can't remember any more at the moment...

Any special blogs you would like to share?

09.07.11

Too many articles

OK, I think that I am exaggerating again... It started as a nice wish to write a couple of articles per month - not too much, not too less. But now I feel that I have agreed to write too many, and all the deadlines are coming up at the same time!

So let me see, what do I need to do?
And all of them within the next days or maximum a week.

Argh! Why did I do that to myself? It's not like they would be paying me for that... :P

07.07.11

How much money do we spend?

In the latest Libertas Magazine issue there is my article about money, comparing the situation in different countries by local young people.

Take a look here!


06.07.11

What is Bookcrossing?

I wrote this article for Cafebabel Brussels almost two years ago, but it never got published. Recently remembered about it and thought it is still worth publishing it at least in my blog.

How often do you get a present when you go to interview somebody for an article? Not too much, I would say you. But during my last interview I got a present – a book! Amy Bartlett, a bookcrosser from Brussels (originally from Canada), gave me Terry Pratchett’s book “Jingo” to understand the concept of Bookcrossing much better.

Release and find books

BookCrossing? What is that? How can these words go together? Actually yes, quite easy, says Amy, who has been a bookcrosser for eight years and can not stop talking about the concept of it. Listen to her passion and emotions when she speaks about the positive karma travelling around the world, about making somebody’s day in such an easy way and about the lovely way how to connect with others!

BookCrossing is an online platform, created nine years ago, which gives the possibility for book lovers to release and find books in random places all over the world. Even if it sounds scary at a first glance to give away your books, it gives the possibility to increase your “bookshelf” (even if virtually), exchange opinions about books as well as give and get suggestions which are the most interesting books.

From Germany to Malaysia

“Some people struggle with Bookcrossing, because they want to keep their books. I struggled with it in the beginning and I kept a lot of my books, but then I started to realise that it is so exciting for other people to read the books I like and to pass them on. I have almost no books that I own. There are some that are gifts and I keep them because I do not feel comfortable giving away gifts all the time. My friends know me well enough now, so if they buy me a book, they say – you can bookcross it,” admits Amy, who has the biggest amount of bookcrossed books between Belgium bookcrossers – at the moment she has registered more than 400 books and released more than 500 books.

As a citizen of the world who has lived in six different countries and is travelling a lot, Amy has released books everywhere and is excited to see where they end up. She recalls a book she released in Germany and it is now in Malaysia or another book which flew away in her homeland Canada and five years later was registered in the website somewhere in the United States. Amy says: “You really start to get the global reach of this process and see how far good books and karma can travel.”

800 thousand members of BookCrossing

While I am going through the book she gave to me (by the way, a few days later I released it on a bench in Amsterdam and already a few minutes later the book was gone!), Amy tells about people she have met and books she have exchanged throughout these years. While living in Peru for a year, she once received a box full of books in English from a Brazilian bookcrosser who just saw her post in the forum saying that Amy misses books in her native tongue and sent her the present. Another book which she received from an Australian bookcrosser and released later on Rue de Midi was picked up and taken to Antwerpen. “I had never heard of BookCrossing before and was intrigued so I just signed up, but really have to do some work now, so no time to read just yet,” was the journal entry left by the lucky founder.

What is the secret which makes people want to buy books and later give them away? Maybe it is the curiosity they have, thinking what others say and how do they evaluate the particular book. Maybe it is “win-win” situation, understanding that you can also get from somebody else the book you have always wanted. Maybe it is a good will and a wish to make somebody very happy. Whatever is the answer, more than 800 thousand members of BookCrossing so far have registered more than six millions books and the number is increasing.