First day in the office

So here it comes! My first day in the office :)

Some background information.

Approximately a month ago I answered to a job/internship ad and got invited to an interview with two Greeks. When one of them called and invited me for an interview, I was about to say: "Hi, Manos, what's up?", but then I realised that it's another Greek calling :) Ah, Greek accent!

Although the interview went quite well, they decided to employ another person and I continued to look for another position in another place.

However, miracles happen. Last Monday I got a call from the same Greek again saying that they are looking for one more intern and asking if I am still interested. As I had two other job interviews that week, I decided to think for a couple of days, but on Thursday I finally said "yes" to them! If you remember my Facebook question "A or B", then you'll understand :)

So... After confirming my interest all I had to do was - to wait. On Thursday afternoon I got the final call with a short question: "Are you ready to start on Monday?" And I was!

So where does it leave me now?

From today onwards I am Lifestyle Editor of IamExpat - it's an online platform/website for all expats who are living in the Netherlands. For half a year I will be taking care of the lifestyle section, writing articles about different (cultural) events and updating the agenda there. I can hear what you are thinking - perfect job for Anita! That's right, baby! But remember, it's an internship, not a job - nothing in this world is perfect.

I need to be in the office four days a week (with pretty nice working hours), but as I am planning to go to Portugal in March, Latvia in July and some other trips, I will be in the office five days a week and take days off when it will be needed. Very flexible, that's what I like!

The office is quite small, there are three Greeks (co-founders of the website) and another intern, a Swedish girl. Two Nordic girls and three Southern guys, that's an interesting mixture! Already today during the lunch we had a discussion about weather in Latvia and I was like: "Yeah, it's nothing special, around -25 degrees back there, not so cold when I have my winter coat on", but the Greeks looked pretty terrified... :) Well, one of them is from Crete, where in the summer it can go up to +43, so that explains!

I will post my first articles in the blog as well, so stay tuned and check IamExpat website every now and then as well!

P.S. The picture is from their website.


Home alone

As from tomorrow onwards I will be sitting in the office again and not hanging around at home, I thought about answering to the magical question "What does Anita do all day long at home alone?".

It has been asked to me several times and I am sure that I will ask it to myself after some time - how could I manage to sit half a year at home without going to work and not feel bored? OK, to be honest - sometimes I did feel bored, but most of the time I had quite a few things to fill my agenda.

Here is the list of the most common things and activities I used to do and I am sure that I will miss some of them...

- Writing my master thesis (will not miss this one for sure)
- Sleeping longer (sometimes too long)
- Spamming my cute boyfriend with e-mails about things to do, go and visit and speaking with him on Skype (wondering how did he manage to find time to work as he needed to read all my e-mails and chat with me)
- Sending job applications and finding new ads to apply (annoying and I will not miss it at all!)
- Learning how to cook and washing dishes (I never enjoyed cooking before, but now I both start to enjoy it and start to get better at it)
- Checking online what is going on in Amsterdam and what can I do and see (very useful skill for my new position)
- Afterwards hanging out with Sintija in different cultural centres, exhibitions and other activities for free (hope to continue it in my free time)
- Updating my family tree (very important and need to find time for that also in the future)
- Daily e-mails and social networks' activities (still will do, but on a smaller scale)
- Participating in several online competitions where you can win something (and being pretty lucky)
- Reading Latvian news portals what's going on in the world (can survive without it)
- Following women problems in family portal Calis.lv just because of being curious (can survive without it)
- Sending and answering to AEGEE-related e-mails (I guess it's just good that I will have less time for it)
- Taking pictures of Amsterdam (check my Facebook and draugiem.lv galleries for that and yes, I hope to continue doing it)
- Writing letters to my grandma (once a week or so, but still - and it will be continued)

Of course, I could add also watching some movies, reading books and other things, but those were not done so often if we compare it with other activities.


Multifunctional churches

What does a church mean for you? A place where you never go? A building which has a beautiful architecture once you are abroad? A part of religious ritual whom you are following on a regular basis?

Recently churches for me mean... discoveries. Over the last years I have noticed how different church buildings there are all over the world! When I think about it, I realise that something like that would not have been possible 200 years ago, but now it seems that everything is possible.

- Church - bookshop: I have seen two - one in Maastricht (the Netherlands) and one somewhere I can't remember... Thought that I have seen one in Toronto (Canada), but it was in an old theatre, not church.
- Church - cinema: Just heard today that in Bordeaux (France) there is a huge cinema with five screens in a church building.
- Church - hotel: Again Maastricht (the Netherlands) wins. I went inside the exclusive hotel and it took some time to notice that it really used to be a church.
- Church - apartment building: I do not know how many such buildings there are, but next to my Mum's previous apartment in London (the United Kingdom) there was a church which became a very exclusive apartment building.
- Church - climbing hall: One in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) for sure!
- Church - nightclub: I am sure that I heard about it, but can't remember where was it...
- Church - restaurant: Quite small, but cute restaurant in Mainz (Germany). I didn't dine there, just went through it.

I bet that there are other ways of using church buildings nowadays as well. What have you noticed?

P.S. I can't find any pictures I have made myself, so again - Google!


PRES2 manager

When I re-started this blog, I promised myself not to write anything about AEGEE here because that part of the life was over and I was starting a new life which was not around it.

I think that I managed pretty good by now. However, today I am going to break the promise to myself as these news are simply too big to be silent about it.

I was, am and will be crazy - but you already knew that, right? So now I have got another challenge. Some time ago I applied and just now I got appointed as the manager of Public Relations European School 2 (PRES2), which is one of AEGEE-Academy training courses.

What does it mean?

It means that I am the main person behind this amazing training course whose target audience are youth, active in different youth organisations (not only AEGEE) - but not on a local level in their own city or country, but on European/international level.

The training course will take place on May 8-15 in Novi Sad, Serbia (thanks to AEGEE-Novi Sad for being the local organiser). As all the work in AEGEE is done on voluntary basis, I do not get any salary for it (the same as other trainers), but, of course, they ar covering my costs while I will be in Novi Sad.

Now besides looking for a job (and hopefully starting to work soon), being a houswife and doing other stuff I need to dedicate time for PRES2 every day as well. I just finished the draft open call for trainers and sent a few e-mails to local organisers. In the next days it will be more - open call for participants, strategy, aims and program of the training course, assigning workshops to the trainers etc.

You might wonder why did I apply and how will I be sure that I have time to go? First, I am not sure about the answer to the question "how". Second, speaking about "why" - it was one of my dreams. Back in 2007 I was a participant in PRES2 Pecs and in 2009 I was one of the trainers of PRES1 Leiden. As you know, communications is my passion and recently I found myself enjoying delivering trainings as well, so I thought - if I am not going to be PRES2 manager, who will it be then? :)

So yes, you can congratulate me or say how stupid I am. :) But I will do my best to make it happen, have a qualitative training, manage to enjoy Serbia (never been there) without making my current life suffer!


Cartoons in different languages

I bet you were watching and reading cartoons when you were a kid. Remember Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Cartoon Networks and all others?

I grew up with them and many more. Of course, the cartoons were translated into Latvian, but somehow I knew also their original English titles and characters' names - without thinking about it.

By accident yesterday I had a look at the list of different characters and their names in several languages. That was one of the funniest things in the last days and I was laughing so loud that I simply couldn't stop myself from thinking - "This is so funny! How many people ever think about that?"

So here goes just two funny names I found... Feel free to add new ones to the list!

Donald Duck
Donalds Daks - Latvian
Antulis Donaldas - Lithuanian
Piilupart Donald - Estonian
Anders And - Danish

Kalle Anka - Swedish

Uncle Scrooge
Knaps Makdaks - Latvian
Balthazar Picsou - French

Joakim von And - Danish
Dagobert Duck - German

Dagobert McCsip - Hungarian

Scrugulus Anas - Latin

Skrudžas Makdakas - Lithuanian

Ziu Papiruni - Sicilian

Sknerus McKwacz - Polish

P.S. No offense to any of these languages, I love them all and I bet people are making fun of Latvian names as well.


My new love

It was a love from the first sight. For a few seconds I looked at him and he looked at me. Then I called him to come to me and he was running (indeed, running) to be in my arms. He couldn't stop kissing me after that...

I didn't want to let him go and therefore I was holding him in my arms for a long time, candidating to be the most happiest person in the world at that point. I was smiling like a drunk (is it only Latvian expression?) and repeating how cute he is. He didn't mind.

But then it was time to leave... I didn't want to leave him and I believe that he didn't want to let me go either. I begged to take him with me and be next to me for the rest of our lives. I told that I will take care of him, make him happy and fulfill all his wishes as good as I can.

It didn't help. My boyfriend didn't agree to share our flat with my new love. He didn't share my enthusiasm.

The last kiss, the last eye glance and the last hug. My new love stayed, but I left.

Good-bye, the sweet, two months old laika puppy! Our love affair was shorter than an hour, but I will never forget you and miss you!


Diploms, pēc kura es lidoju

Pēdējās dienās tik daudz notikumu, ka es pat nezinu, ar ko lai sākt un ko aprakstīt. Šķiet, ka laikam jau jāsāk ar manu izlaidumu, jo tā ir pēdējo dienu kulminācija.

Tātad sestdien, 19. februārī, es beidzot ieguvu ilgi gaidīto Vidzemes Augstskolas (ViA) profesionālo maģistra grādu uzņēmējdarbības vadībā. Diplomā gan tas nav īsti skaidrs, bet kursa specializācija bija tūrisma stratēģiskā vadība (tāds arī patiesībā bija programmas nosaukums).

Paskaidrojums tiem, kas nezina - ir profesionālie un ir akadēmiskie grādi. Mans bakalaura grāds ir akadēmiskais, jo tur uzsvars tika likts uz teoriju. Maģistra grāds man ir profesionālais, man bija obligāta vairākus mēnešus ilga prakse, ne tikai teorētiskās studijas. Noteikti kaut kur tam ir jābūt sīkāk aprakstītam, bet ātrumā nevarēju atrast internetā nepieciešamos resursus.

Pasākums sākās ar stundu ilgu "ceļamaizi", kurā piedalījās tikai pasniedzēji un absolventi, lai apmainītos ar novēlējumiem, labiem vārdiem un visu pārējo, kas uz sirds. Lai gan iepriekš teicu, ka, salīdzinot ar manu bakalaura izlaidumu Latvijas Universitātē, tas bija kas neredzēts, jauks un neformāls, sapratu, ka tā tomēr nav. Arī mums toreiz bija sava veida "ceļamaize", vien tā bija jau pēc izlaiduma oficiālās daļas un diplomu pasniegšanas, nevis pirms.

Īpaši atmiņā iekrita viena pasniedzēja joks par to, kā šajos krīzes apstākļos Latvijā dabūt algas pielikumu. Sak, jāaiziet pie priekšnieka un jāsaka: "Boss, man vajag pielikt 100 Ls algai! Ja nepieliksi, pateikšu visiem, ka pieliki 200 Ls!" Skarbs, bet labs jociņš.

Pēc tam - pasākuma oficiālā daļa, kas ilga tikai nedaudz vairāk par stundu, ļoti patīkami. Absolventu nebija daudz (trīs kursi ar ne vairāk kā 35 cilvēkiem kopumā), arī no garām uzrunām mēs tikām pasargāti. Vien daži oficiāli vārdi, ļoti jauks augstskolas kora dziedājums, absolventu dāvanu pasniegšana augstskolai un - diplomu saņemšana!

Mani uzcītīgie kursabiedri bija absolvējuši jau gadu agrāk, tāpēc dāvanas pasniegšanā es kooperējos ar šī gada programmas absolventēm, kuras bija tikai trīs (pārējie viņu kursabiedri cer absolvēt vasarā). Pēc n-to e-pastu apmaiņas vienojāmies, ka pasniegsim augstskolai pašu veidotu kanvu, uz kuras ViA burtu formā uzrakstīti vārdi, kas mums visvairāk asociējas ar pavadīto laiku augstskolā. Ceru, ka dāvana patika!

Domājot par dāvanu, nāk atmiņā tas, cik operatīvi tika sadalīti pienākumi. Viena meitene atbildēja par ielūgumu izveidi pasniedzējiem, aicinot viņus uz izlaidumu, otra - par dāvanas pasūtīšanu un pirkšanu, es un vēl viena - par runas tekstu, pasniedzot dāvanu, un novēlējumu, ko ierakstīt absolventu grāmatā. Īsti organizatori un perfekti darba dalītāji!

Paldies jaukajiem ģimenes locekļiem un draugiem, kas ieradās un bija ar mani kopā šajā mirklī! :) Nu jau vairs neesmu Latvijā, bet bildes no izlaiduma atrodamas... kāds pārsteigums, draugos!


Top 5 places in Amsterdam

People often ask me what are my favourite places in Amsterdam, where do I suggest them to go etc. So here goes my Top 5!

1. Bike tour around Schellingwoude - in Amsterdam Noord there is this amazing place which used to be a fishery village in 19th century. There is just one street leading through it and if you bike through it, you can feel like being back in the past. Seems that the houses haven't changed since that, and the calm and peaceful atmosphere makes you simply feel good, wishing to move there for good.

2. 7th floor in OBA (Openbare Bibliotheken Amsterdam) - everybody knows the library next to Amsterdam Centraal (railway station), but not everybody is aware of the beautiful view which you can see from it's 7th floor. Just take the elevator on the right of the lobby and go till the last floor to the restaurant. There is an outdoor terrace, which is open even during the winter. In a clear day you can see quite far away, showing the guests Amsterdam's towers and important places. Wonderful place where to take pictures - my visitors are always impressed.

3. The Begijnhof - ok, probably this is no surprise :) The Begijnhof - a courtyard in the middle of Amsterdam city - is a favourite place for a lot of people. And no wonder. Not only it has beautiful houses, but it's also like stepping in a different world - from busy and loud city life to a calm and quiet village where nothing can spoil your day. In this courtyard, where only single women are allowed to live, also is English Reformed Church, where I am going to sing in a choir every week.

4. Amsterdam Historisch Museum - it is located just next to the Begijnhof and is indeed one of my favourite
museums in general, not only in this city. I am interested in all kinds of city museums, telling about the history and lifestyle of the city, but in this one I really like the exhibition about the 20th century and modern life. There is information about several inhabitants, giving an insight in their daily life, one of the most famous cafes of Amsterdam, a tiny Ajax stadium and other exciting things. I have been there twice so far, but going back in the spring again as they are re-structuring the museum right now.

IJscuypje ice-creams - well, an ice-cream shop is also a kind of place, right? On Prinsengracht they are offering amazingly good Italian ice-creams with big scoops (not so big as in Italy, but big enough for the rest of Europe). One scoop costs 1.60 euro if I am not wrong and during the summer sometimes I pass by there more than once a week. I wanted to buy ice-cream there also a couple of weeks ago, but turns out that in the winter there is no ice-cream, they start their season only in April. Need to wait till then!

And how about you? Any favourite places to share? :)


Van Gogh Museum

It is not easy to remember all museums and places I have seen in Amsterdam lately, but I will try my best :)

Last Friday I paid a visit also to Van Gogh Museum. I have been passing by it quite a lot by bike and quite often saw a lot of people in the queue outside, but never went inside myself. Now I finally managed to do it.

It was an early Friday morning when I went there, just 10-15 minutes after the opening of the museum. And I was surprised - it was so full! Not only individual visitors, but also a couple of student/pupil groups with a guide. Now I am wondering if it's always so crowded or it was just a coincidence?

As you might know, I do not have a huge interest in art, therefore I could not appreciate all the beautiful paintings there. I just wanted to get an impression of the museum and learn a bit more about this painter as all I knew was the incident about cutting off his ear.

My expectations got fulfilled. The museum is divided in several halls, each one showing his and other related artists' paintings from one period of Van Gogh's life. In each hall there is also a summary of his life at that time which I read with a big interest. I did not know that he was painting only for 10 years - and it's not so much if you know that he made more than 200 paintings, most of them being very nice ones!

I did not spend so much time looking at the paintings because then I would get bored, but I must admit that I did not expect them to be so beautiful. I wish I could have some at home :)

Conclusion - if you are an art or Van Gogh's lover, this museum is a must and you will love it (despite being crowded). If you are anything else, then it's not for you. The building is a new one, so you can't see Van Gogh's home or lifestyle at that time. For that you should rather visit Neunen, where there is another his museum. I haven't been to that one, but sounds interesting and I hope to visit in the future!

P.S. It was not allowed to take pictures, so enjoy some from Google!


Mijn eerst huiswerk in Nederlands

In mijn land Lettland hebben wij vier seizoenen – de lente, de zomer, de herfst en de winter. De winter is langer dan in Nederlands, maar de lente en de herfst zijn dezelfde. De zomer is een beetje korter, maar niet altijd.

Mijn mooiste seizoen is de winter omdat ik houd van sneeuw. Ik houd van skiën en omdat ik houd van winter ook! Ik houd niet van de zomar zo veel omdat ik houd niet van zon...

In januari verdwijnt licht zo snelle in Lettland, dat is niet goed. Ik weet niet exacte tijd, maar ik denk dat om 16:30. Maar in juni hebben wij licht so lang! Wij hebben een paar dagen wan licht is 22 uur per daag! Dat is heel mooi!

Sorry if there are any mistakes, my Dutch teacher didn't review it yet as I just sent it to him yesterday.


Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House)

Last Monday I finally managed to visit also Anne Frank House, which definitely is one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam.

When I moved to Amsterdam for the first time, I used to work just around the corner of the museum and therefore was passing by there a lot. It always (always!) had a huge queue of people waiting to get in, I was always wondering how long do they wait in the queue... Even around 8:30-9am when I was going to work, there was already a queue...

However, until recently it was not possible to visit the museum with the Museumkaart. As the references I heard were not so great, I didn't bother paying the entrance fee and visit it. But now you can enter there for free with the Museumkaart, so on a quiet Monday evening Michael and me managed to visit it. For him it was the second time, for me - the first.

The first surprise - no queue at all! OK, it was Monday evening and it is winter, I understand. But still!

The second surprise - you are not allowed to take pictures. Pity...

The third surprise - it is indeed nothing special. When people say "nothing special" (apart from Mr Ainārs Šlesers (Latvians will understand what I mean :P)), I still expect something more - because there might be different tastes and opinions. But the museum was... kind of empty.
You could walk through all the building where Anne's father Otto used to work and also see the Annex where Anne and her family was hiding. However, Otto didn't want to have any furnitures in the rooms when he opened the museum, so the rooms have just some information on the walls with quotes from Anne's diary. There is also a small model house where you can see how the Annex looked like.
Apart from that, in the new part of the museum there is an interactive exhibition about human rights in different circumstances and countries. You could also send a video greeting from Anne Frank House. We sent two, but only one arrived in the receiver's mailbox...

I can imagine that loads of people want to see the place where Anne and her family was hiding. However, if it's your first time in Amsterdam, you do not have a lot of time and you are on a low budget - I think that it's one of the museums you can miss without feeling sorry for it. Better buy her diary (in Amsterdam's bookshops you can find several versions) and read it again and again.

P.S. Pictures from Google!


Markets vs shops

While living in Western Europe, I have noticed how cool it is to shop in open-air markets. Although both here and back in Latvia they look similar, the feeling you get while visiting them is kind of different - although I can't tell you why.

Back home I didn't really go to the market so often. Sure, we have quite a few markets in Riga and tourists especially love the Central market (which is situated in hangers for zeppelins). However, in my neighborhood there wasn't any market. As it was not on the way, I didn't go to any, just shopping in the usual supermarkets.

But both in Brussels and Amsterdam you find loads of markets in different places of the cities. Next to the CD House in Brussels where I was living for a year there was a small market every Monday morning. If I managed to wake up on time, sometimes I used to go there and buy some fresh fruits and vegetables.

Today here in Amsterdam we also did shopping in one of the street markets, this one was on Ten Katestraat. We initially wanted to go to Albert Cuyp market, which is the biggest and most known one, but saw the first one while passing by and decided to give it a try.

And it was great, of course! Not only you can really smell vegetables and fruits and buy them much cheaper than in the supermarkets, but the choice is also bigger. In the end we bought more than we wanted and needed, but still the total amount of money spent was less than we would spend in the supermarket.

Of course, for other stuff you still need to go to the supermarket, but now I will try to manage to buy vegetables and fruits in the markets much more as well as go to the special meat shops (mostly run by Turkish and Arabic people) for meat.


Looking for books in English in Amsterdam

Today I was looking for a present for my master thesis' supervisor. I wanted to buy her a book, so that involved visiting different bookshops here in Amsterdam. Here is a short summary of the bookshops in English I mostly visit. If you know some more, feel free to comment the blogpost!

  • New English Bookstore - that's the one I visit the most. Comparing with other bookshops, it has the best prices, you can often find good books for around 5 euro! On the other side, the bookshop is not so huge as some others, so the variety of books is limited. Also bear in mind that you should have cash with you, because quite often the credit card machine not working.
  • American Book Center - huge! It has several floors and all the books are sorted in various topics, so you can find pretty much everything there. As I was looking for books about the Netherlands, I noticed that ABC has the biggest choice - several shelves were dedicated to books about living in the Netherlands, getting to know Dutch culture etc. It is not so cheap as New English Bookstore, but in general the prices in ABC are the same as all other bookstores in Amsterdam I have seen.
  • Waterstones - I have been to this one only twice, but already noticed that it's quite big as well. It seems to be British version of ABC. They have a very nice tradition of posting the readers' reviews about the books next to the books - so you can read what somebody else has said about the book before deciding if you want to buy it or no. Alternatively, you can also leave your own comments.
Of course, there are also shelves dedicated to books in English in the regular Dutch bookshops such as Selexyz. There are also some smaller bookshops in English, but I haven't been to them enough to comment.

Conclusion - I still prefer going to second hand bookshops in London and remember the wonderful bookshop in Toronto where the books were amazingly cheap and which also claimed to be the biggest bookshop in the world. Ah, buying books in countries where the first language is English still is the best!


Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House)

Background information

I thought that one by one I might start to post information about different museums I have visited here in the Netherlands.

I do not know how many of you are museum freaks, but I am definitely one of them. You can either use the information here to decide if you want to visit the particular museum or no, or you can simply have a short tour around the museum through my blog if you do not manage to get yourself to the Netherlands. :)

Practicalities. Most of the museums I visit have free entrance if you have got Museumkaart, therefore I will not write about the entrance fees and other similar stuff (plus, you can check it on their websites yourself). It will be just my own personal opinion about the museums I have been to.

And the first museum...

So the first honour goes to Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House) here in Amsterdam which I visited on Saturday. The museum is located in the building where the painter Rembrandt was living for more than 20 years.

I would say that the museum is interesting for two kinds of people - first, those who love art (and unfortunately I am not one of them) and second, those who love memorial houses in old times (and I belong here). Rembrandthuis is a mixture of both as you can see not only a lot of paintings, but also the way house was looking when he was living there back in 17th century.

Once you enter the museum, you also get a free audio guide in around six languages, which is a great option because it provides more information about the rooms and Rembrandt's life. I skipped some of the points but mostly I was listening with a great interest. In the weekend twice a day they have also guided tours (including in the entrance fee), but unfortunately I did not know about it and entered too late, so missed one. I always opt for tours, because that's more interesting than listening to the guide or walking on your own - and you have the chance to ask specific questions you might have. Oh, and I can't forget mentioning different demonstrations they have - e.g., there was a woman explaining how Rembrandt used to mix colours and put them on the painting.

It took around an hour to go through the house without rushing too much and without looking at each picture for a long time. As it was Saturday afternoon, it was quite crowded. The staircases and rooms are small, so sometimes you need to wait a bit before most of the people get out of the room and you can take a look.

Two good things - first, they have temporary exhibitions every now and then, which adds extra value. Second, you can take pictures (without flash), which is important for me :)

Conclusion - recommended if you like art or memorial houses, or you are simply Rembrandt's an. Otherwise do not bother, because it's pretty much like most of the memorial houses, dedicated to certain persons.


About book presentations

Another event I attended lately was organised by ABC Treehouse, where ABC stands for American Book Center. On Saturday three authors were holding a presentation "Three authors read from their memoirs of life overseas", so we went to have a look.

Presentation itself

The presentation was very informal, all authors said "hi" to everybody personally and chatted around - probably because there were max 20 people, so the atmosphere was very nice. Although it was clearly a part of advertising campaign (as all books were launched recently), it did not feel like one because of no distance between authors and readers.

I haven't really been to any book presentation before, at least I can't remember, so it was interesting to participate in one. As a person who reads a lot of books I also took a look at those three books and some others which were displayed. I did not plan to buy any, but (as always) I went through all of them briefly and one really caught my eye. Such campaigns indeed work, because in the end we bought that book!

USA & black vs. white

The book we bought is called "black and (a)broad" and it's about a black American woman who is now living in the Netherlands and her life journey on the way to where is she now. The book is written in an easy-going way, so I finished it pretty fast and was very satisfied about it. As a person who has never been to the USA, my impression about the relationship between black and white people is purely based on mass media and talks with other people. The impression I got from a book is a completely different one, making me think - does racism really exist there? If so, in whose mind is it bigger - in white people or in black people?

What made the book even more special was the feeling that I know the author. Of course, I do not know her as my friend, but I have seen her in the presentation, I have heard her voice reading out loud some pages of the book and got her signature in the book. I know she is real and I believe in what she is writing. Plus, as a foreigner she is writing about the Netherlands, the country I am living - so I can relate to some things being said in the book and compare them with my own thoughts.

Money, money, money

And that's not all. Michael started a chat with another author, an Irish lady. She seemed to be quite talkative and we got to know that the music in the background is hers. With that I do not want to say that she owned the CD, but that she composed the music, wrote the lyrics and was singing herself! The music touched me and I wanted to listen to it again and again, so... we bought the CD "The Singing Warrior" by Niamh Ni Bhroin as well! We do not have so many CDs at home to listen in the living room, so it was another reason to buy it.

So, you see, such book presentations work out and the authors really get some income and extra PR without a lot of effort! Both sides are satisfied, because participants could also just listen to authors reading, have a chat, get some snacks and a glass of wine for free - and who doesn't want that? I really appreciated the fact that nobody was forcing me to buy any of the books and trying to tell "discount just now". It was my own choice and judgment.

On a side note - the event could have been longer, it was less than two hours in total with three authors and Q& round. I had a feeling that there were more questions in the air and that also other people would love to chat with the authors a bit longer.


Opera Gala

Last Friday I experienced a couple of my most beautiful hours in the last weeks. I didn't expect it, so the wonderful evening was appreciated even more!

What happened? The Conservatorium van Amsterdam held "Opera Gala", where all the musicians performing were students - the conductor, the singers and the orchestra. I do not know if it was kind of their last exam before graduating or just an event, but it was simply amazing!

I am not a big fan of opera, just the opposite - my previous opera experience is not very exciting as I almost felt asleep all previous times... But this was something else. Not only you could even see sparkles in their eyes when they were playing their musical instruments, but you could also see different opera. This was not the classical one you use to see in the opera houses. This was youth and student opera with theatrical elements, a girl which almost looked like wearing a night dress, a singer sleeping next to the conductor's feet (see the picture on the left) and another signer literally touching the conductor... The audience was laughing and enjoying every single bit of 2,5 hours long opera!

Wondering how much did that cost? That's even better! The entrance was for free, but the donations were accepted afterwards. I have heard before that usually such events (free entrance with donations) get even bigger profit than if you would ask everybody to pay.

Thanks a lot, Conservatorium and its amazing students! For sure I will return to see and hear another performance.


Septiņas lietas par mani

Pateicoties Ilzei, arī es ieguvu uzdevumu aizpildīt ceļojošo anketu, ko tad nu ar godu arī cenšos darīt.

1. Kas ir pirmā lieta, ko tu iedomājies, kad piecelies no rīta?

Ui, jau tik agrs? Vēl varētu pagulēt. Negribu celties!!!
(pēc tam sastādīju kompāniju brokastīs un aizgāju atpakaļ gulēt uz vēl trīs stundiņām)

2. Pirmā lieta, ko tu pamani pretējā dzimumā?

Rokas un smaidu. Rokām jābūt vīrišķīgām un lielām. Smaidam - īstam un bieži.

3. Pirmā lieta, ko ņemtu līdzi uz neapdzīvotu salu?

Savu mīļoto vīrieti ar domu,. Viņš ir noderīgs :)

4. Kas ir pēdējais, ko tu apēdi?

Divas pēdējās Australian šokolādes konfektītes no (sava) slepenā pielūdzēja.

5. Pēdējais cilvēks, ar kuru tu runāji pa telefonu?

Ui... Neatceros. Jāapskatās telefonā. Izskatās, ka pēdējais zvans bijis piektdien no nepazīstama numura. Atcerējos - atbilde uz manu CV un motivācijas vēstuli, lai paziņotu, ka es, iespējams, esmu pārāk kvalificēta. Viņi gan teicās vēlreiz apdomāt un dot man šonedēļ atbildi. Gaidu.

6. Pēdējā filma, ko tu noskatījies?

Gribēju teikt, ka "Inception", bet tā bija viena no pēdējām, ne pati pēdējā. Varbūt "Into The Wild"? Neatceros. Pirms 1-2 nedēļām skatījāmies vairākas filmas, nu jau aizmirsies, kura bija pēdējā.

7. Pēdējā grāmata, ko tu lasīji?

Vakar iesāku, bet vēl nepabeidzu grāmatu "Black and (A)broad" angliski, ko nopirku no pašas autores - Nīderlandē dzīvojušas amerikānietes.
Pēdējā, ko iesāku un arī pabeidzu? Šķiet, ka Dena Brauna "Zudušais simbols" latviski, ko aizņēmos no vecmāmiņas, kad biju Rīgā.

Tradīcija prasa, ka stafete ir tālāk jānodod trīs cilvēkiem. Nodošu nākamajām pasaules lāpītājam un ceļotājām no AEGEE-Ogre - Agnijai, Anetei un Lindai. Veiksmi!

Secinu, ka man slikta atmiņa uz sīkumiem. Bet varbūt uz nebūtiskām lietām?


Size doesn't matter

If you like my story below, please, vote for it at Tongue Stories competition!

On one hand, I do not have a talent for learning languages. On the other hand, I simply LOVE languages and learning new words - although I tend to forget them soon afterwards as well.

When I moved to the tiny Mediterranean island, called Malta, I thought that the life there will be simple. After all, not only Maltese, but also English is an official language there, therefore it should be easy to communicate with locals and have a life there, right?

The beginning was promising. I learnt a few basic words in Maltese and was very proud to use them in e-mails or conversations with my Maltese friends (e.g., thanks a lot - grazzi hafna, hello - merhba, good night - il-leljl it-tajjeb). Malta is one of the smallest European countries with only 400 000 inhabitants, so I thought that the fact that somebody know even a few words should make both sides very happy. And it was so!

But then... It turned out not to be enough. Even while having me around, Maltese tended to switch from English to Maltese in their meetings and informal chats. Several jokes couldn't be translated to English and some words neither, so sometimes I felt excluded and left outside. Furthermore, while most of the information in the country was available in English, several things were only in Maltese as well.

So I learnt that it makes a difference to learn even a language of a small country. Yes, you might not use it outside the country or very often, but it will help to integrate in the local community!


It's not so easy to find a job

The beginning was promising. As some of you might remember, back in 2009 I did my Erasmus internship in WYSE Travel Confederation here in Amsterdam. The remuneration or scholarship was good, the people in the organisation were great, the job was not hard and the social life was wonderful.

I thought it will be the same also now. How wrong I was! Still after several months of looking for a job I am unemployed.

At first, I discovered that English language skills are not enough. Seems that there are three possibilities:
1) You need to speak Dutch well enough to be able to work in it;
2) You need be a native English speaker (they will simply check your nationality);
3) You need to be fluent in several major languages (such as German, French, Spanish etc.).
I am none of them. I have just my English and Latvian, but seems that nobody needs the second one here. My Russian is not good enough to work, and my German and Dutch skills are hardly enough for even a basic conversation.

At second, I discovered that most of them times I am either under-qualified or over-qualified. Seems that only students are eligible to apply for internships, where most of the time they get ridiculously low remuneration (around 200-400 euro per months for 4-5 full working days per week). As I am not a student anymore, they even do not consider me for them. And when they do, I mostly get a negative reply about being over-qualified...
Trying the next level seems more logicial solution, even when they ask you a couple of years working experience and a university degree in the relevant field. I have both of them, however, it seems not to be enough as only once I got till the job interview. Most of the time it's just rejection e-mails again.

For those wondering what kind of job I am looking for, now I shall reply - anything. I have background in communications, youth work and a bit of tourism. I started with PR, communications and youth work and now I am sending applications even to hotels, different kind of assistants and anything like that.

I guess that there are hundreds of people like me in Dutch labour market, but I didn't think that it will be so hard... Even after replying to endless amount of job ads and sending open applications I haven't got further than several job interviews with negative results in the end.

Would it mean that the Netherlands doesn't want me? Or that I do not belong here?


Secret lover

It all started in late November, when one morning Michael found a couple of white roses and a letter in Italian in the front of our door. Some mysterious admirer?

Thanks to our Italian friends, who translated the letter, it was indeed a love letter and said something like "It can seems silly, but I wish to know you, I wish to speak with you and have a walk long canals of this beauty city, before than the sun goes down to leave the place to the moonlight."

We thought that somebody mixed the door (as none of us speak Italian) and took it downstairs so the mysterious admirer could take it to the right person. The letter and roses stayed there for a few days, nobody took them... :(

This weekend it happened again - at 7am in front of our doors there were 10 pink roses. No letter this time, but now the roses look very nice in our living room.

And the third time was yesterday, when after coming back from work Michael found a box of Australian chocolate with a note "
For the most enigmatic and beautiful woman of A'dam :)". The chocolate was tasty (and I heard that also expensive), thanks, but still...!

So Michael wrote a letter that the secret admirer must be wrong with the flat number and took it downstairs this morning. One can't get in our house without a key, and there are around 15 flats in the house, so it must be one of the neighbors. :)

Well, maybe it is for me, of course, and I am the most enigmatic and beautiful woman! But I do not speak Italian and wouldn't it be silly to put nice presents in front of the door where one lives with the boyfriend? So I still say the secret lover mixed the doors...