Time for German

I didn't tell you yet, but a couple of weeks ago I started CouchSurfing weekly German classes. A German girl is studying to be a teacher and wanted to practise, so I quickly agreed to be one of her students for intermediate lessons.

So far we have had three lessons and it is really cool. It is like a real lesson, because she is preparing exercises for every week and speaking in German all the time - even when we do not understand some words, she explains them in German and does not give a synonim in English.

The level of the class is quite different and some people drop by and join just for one or two lessons, so she needs to be very flexibile. I don't know about others, but it disturbs me a bit - but just a bit as otherwise I am really enjoying lessons.

I know that I should practise and study German more (especially with a German home :P), but sometimes I tend to be lazy and there is also not so much time... So these weekly classes are very useful (and free) way not to forget the knowledge I have and hopefully to improve a bit as well. I noticed that my German is not so bad as I thought and I can understand more than I can say.

Still, it's not really enough to have a full long and serious conversation in German, but at least my German is still better than my Dutch and I can have simple conversations with Michael's parents - and that's also important. :)



No time to write any blogpost as I am still catching up with unanswered e-mails between my work, boyfriend and social activities after the work.

Now - drinking caipirinha and answering to e-mails which should have been answered a week ago :(


Letters to family

I just returned back home from our Portugal trip (comments about that will follow in the next days) and one of the first things I did was not sorting out pictures as some of you might think. No, I did what I am doing every week - wrote a letter to my grandma.

Here, I don't know what are your relationship with your grandparents and if they are even alive. I am a very lucky person, because I had three great-grandmothers when I was born. Unfortunately none of them is alive by now, but I still have a grandpa and both my grandmas alive, so I use any opportunity to visit them when I am back in Latvia.

Grandma from my father's side (so his mother) used to be a teacher of Latvian literature and language, so she had a very big influence for my love to ... Latvian literature and language. Although I was already six years old when I learnt how to read (which is quite late), I have been addicted to books and writing since the childhood. My grandma passed to me her passion for all of that.

So now we exchange letters, and it has been a tradition for several years - it started already back in 2007 when I moved to Malta. Every week or so I receive a letter from her, and write her back - and the other way around. We chat about books both of us have read, recent happenings within the family and close friends, my trips abroad, her cultural activities (she often visits different exhibitions and theatre performances) and news from Latvia.

It is a nice gesture to feel closer to your family if you do not see them every day. I do not like to call so much, so letters are a perfect way to keep in touch. And it's one of the rare occasions when I still use a pen and paper, not a computer. :)


IamExpat Soirée

A couple of weeks ago IamExpat where I am working organising its first event - IamExpat Soirée, which now will be followed on a monthly basis.

The video of the event has been published and, if you look carefully, you can see me in around 00:20 min. :)

IamExpat Soirée from Spiral Move on Vimeo.


My photo in an exhibition

A couple of weeks ago I found an information in Dutch that Het Grachtenhuis (Canal house) has a photo competition for their upcoming exhibition "‘Amsterdam Canals - gateway to the future".

I didn't think twice and simply submitted my picture. I am not a professional photographer, but had nothing to loose. I also thought that it is an interesting competition, so forwarded the information to couple of friends and wrote an article about it in English. I think that we were the only who covered this information in English. :)

Today I got a reply from the organisers that ... my picture has been chosen as one of 25 photos which will be shown in the exhibition from April 1 onwards! And that's not all - it is also one of the 10 pictures which qualifies for the main prize - 2500 euro. Specially selected jury will choose one lucky winner.

To make it even more funnier, also Michael and my colleague Sergios got e-mails saying that their pictures are qualifing for the exhibition. So I am sure that on April 1 all my office (including me) is going to the exhibition together.

Will you join us?


Restaurants for a cheaper price

This week here in the Netherlands we have annual Restaurant Week, when loads of restaurants all over the country offer a special menu for a set price - 27,5o euro for 3-course menu (drinks not included).

I discovered this wonderful idea back in 2009 and went with a few friends to one of the restaurants. This year I decided to repeat the idea and go to other restaurants where usually I would not go.

Unfortunately none of my friends in Amsterdam was able to join this time, so we had nice romantic dinner together with Michael. I was browsing through the huge list of restaurants in Amsterdam and picked two ones. We couldn't choose which one to go, so ... we simply went to both!

On Monday evening our host restaurant was "Casa Peru". It was quite small and empty, but that didn't matter. We were even able to choose which dishes to have (which is normally not the case during the Restaurant Week) and opt for different ones for each of us - so we could taste more of Peruvian cuisine!
The food was delicious and enough even for Michael who is eating a lot. :) I am not sure how authentic it was, but either the chef or the restaurant owner is from Peru, so I hope that it is traditional indeed (no, I do not remember the names of the dishes, sorry).
Unfortuntely the service was not so good as the waitress took me the wrong main dish and in the end of the evening gave out less change than she was supposed to. No tip for her then, sorry.

Yesterday - on Wednesday - we went to "Nomads", which is some kind of Turkish-Arabic restaurant. It was completely full of people and it was a very interesting experience. We were sitting on a large mattress instead of chairs and there were no tables - but a very, very big plate which the waitress put on the mattress (the same one where we were sitting). There was also a bellydancer (with coloured white hair and fake smile) dancing around, a woman with taro cards and a girl offering massage.
The food was served in several small bowls and was not outstanding, but still interesting.
There were quite a lot of waitressses almost "running" from one mattress to another and in total we spent in the restaurant almost thre;e hours as it took a lot of time to get the food.

In the end, I enjoyed "Nomads" more because of the atmosphere and I would definitely recommend "Nomads" as an interesting experience to group of friends or couples who like to be very close to each other (as the mattress is not so huge).

I am not sure if I would go to those restaurant in an ordinary day both because we do not dine out of house so often and because it is not so cheap. But that's why there is Restaurant Week!


First fondue

In the weekend I tried to make cheese fondue for the first time in my life.

Result - it was edible, but need to be improved :)

The idea came in my mind while shopping, so I had no idea what to buy and what is needed for fondue. All I knew - cheese and white wine, so bought two different kinds of Dutch cheese and the chepeast white wine.

Back home I checked the recipe (written by one of my favourite professors Kārlis Streips) and found out that I am missing some ingrediants - e.g., cherry brendy and nutmeg. However, I still decided to go further and that's what I used:
- 250 g of "belegen" Gouda cheese
- 250 g of "extra belegen" Gouda cheese
- 1 glass of South Australian Chardonnay wine
- a bit of garlic
- a bit of white pepper
- half of a teaspoon of mustard

I did not have the rest of the ingredients, so simply needed to skip them.

I do not know why but in the end the cheese got stuck together and I couldn't melt it. So we were simply eating very fast (with French baguette and sausages).

Next time I will make sure to read the recipe before going to the shop! :)


Slēpošana zem jumta

Domāju, ka šoreiz manas pārdomas vislabāk saprast spēs tieši latvieši, tāpēc ieraksts latviešu valodā.

Sestdien (vakar) izmēģināju, kā tas ir - slēpot iekštelpās! Netālu no Amsterdamas ir mākslīga slēpošanas trase zem jumta "Snow Planet". Pirms kāda laika bija akcija, ka varēja iegādāties kuponu, ar kuru slēpot četras stundas (ieskaitot inventāra īri) par puscenu. Nevarēju noturēties un iegādājos!

Diemžēl gaidītais brauciens izvērtās atziņā, ka tiem, kas bijuši Alpos un tur ne tikai slēpojuši, bet pašā sākumā arī iemācījušies slēpot, šādās mākslīgajās trasēs īsti nav, ko darīt... Trase bija tikai viena - 230 metrus gara, pa kuru lejā varēja nobraukt aptuveni vienā minūte (labi, varbūt divās), pat Žagarkalna trases ir garākas par šo. Vienā trases pusē sniega gandrīz nebija, otrā tā bija pārpilnām - tad nu varēja izlemt, kas labāks... Par laimi, cilvēku nebija tik daudz, lai būtu jāspiežas, bet izbaudīt nebija, ko - augšā ar padibeņa pacēlāju bija ilgāka braukšana nekā no "kalna" lejā.

Lai gan biju gatavojusies tam, ka temperatūra ir auksta un uzvilkusi divus džemperus un silto jaku, tomēr nosalu. Mani ziemas cimdi nebija gatavi -5 grādiem bez saules stariem. Ilgāk par pusstundu izturēt nevarēju, bija jāiet garderobē sasildīties. Otrajā reizē arī ilgāk neizturēju un gala rezultātā četru stundu vietā noslēpoju maksimums pusotru.

Nezinu, kāda ir pieredze citās slēpošana trasēs zem jumta, bet šķiet, ka man ar šo pietika. Nākamreiz - uz īstajiem kalniem ārpus Nīderlandes!


Participate in Public Relations European School 2!

I PRES2. What do you do?

Yes, exactly you!

We live only once. We also die only once. So why not make the best you can out of your life and do something you love?

Do you want to communicate across borders? Are you involved in a European-wide youth organisation? Do you love PR and communications and want to get even better at it? Are you free on May 8-15? And - the most important thing - do you PRES2 with us?

If you shout out loud YES, then there is only one answer - you are ready to participate in Public Relations European School 2 (PRES2) Novi Sad and learn more about PR on a European level.

What? AEGEE Public Relations European School 2 (PRES2)
When? May 8-15
Where? Novi Sad, Serbia
For whom? For you and 24 other young Europeans, who are already working or about to work in communications/PR on a European/international level in their organisations
What is the focus? Communications/PR on a European/international level
How much does it cost? 90 euro, including full program, knowledge, fun, accomodation and meals
Is there travel reimbursement? Unfortunately no

How to apply? Fill the form till March 18 23:59 CET and press the button "submit". The results will be announced within 10 days and you will receive a personal reply from us by March 29.

In case of any questions - write to anita.kalmane@aegee.org and academy-board-l@lists.aegee.org!


Anita, PRES2 manager, and her amazing team


My pimped bike

Every now and then I take part in different online competitions, where you need to answer to one simple question and you can win tickets to some events in Amsterdam.

Several weeks ago through such a possibility on Amsterdam Magazine's Facebook page I won... the possibility to get my bike pimped!

So in the middle of February I gave my cute bike to them, answered to some questions how do I want my bike to look like (something about travelling, of course, and nothing pink, of course) and started to learn how to walk again :) I also asked them not to make my bike black as my cute boyfriend is saying that I am wearing too much black clothes already now.

And then the magical moment came... I got my bike back! The Dutch artist had made it all yellow with one sentence in around 10 languages (unfortunately no Latvian, but there is Korean, Polish and others) - "My boyfriend says I am wearing too much black". That was so funny! She said she likes to work with quotes and that quote in several languages symbolises my love for travelling.

Now the article is published and you can either drop by Amsterdam Magazine office in Amsterdam and get the printed copy for free or read it online on their webpage (page 56 for the next three pages).

That's not all... This month my cute boyfriend also won in the same competition and his bike is being pimped right now by a different artist! Let's see what (s)he will come up with!


Upcoming trip to Portugal

Although I have a few topics in mind, I do not feel like writing at the moment, so I will simply say ask if anybody of you has ever been to Portugal, has some friends there or can suggest something to do there?

In less than two weeks we are going to Portugal for 10 days and it's one of the few European countries I have never been to - so looking forward to the trip very much. We are arriving in Porto and leaving from Faro, so planning to visit different cities and couchsurf everywhere. I wrote to all my contacts in Portugal, but not all of them are responding (and I didn't have so many anyway).

Any tips and contacts will be appreciated!


Pancake Day

Did you know that today is not only International Women Day, but also Pancake Day?

I had no idea that such a Pancake Day even exists before this evening when one of the girls in my choir brought this topic up. It turns out that Pancake Day (also known as Shrove Tuesday) is the last day before fasting (also known as Lent) before Easter. It's the last day when you can eat everything you want, including all sweets and also pancakes.

My family is not religious and also Latvians as a nation are not very religious that's why I have just basic understanding of religious Easter traditions. I always colour eggs and make paskha with my grandma, but I have never fasted or gave up anything because Easter is coming and you need to sacrifise something.

How about you?


Donating blood

Today I had my blood test at Sanquin to check if I am allowed to donate blood etc.

A few years ago, when I was in my first year of the university I joined a friend of mine who wanted to donate blood. At that time they didn't let me donate as they told that with my 55kg I will faint - although the official limit was 50kg.

This time I decided to try in the Netherlands. After finding out that there are two places where you can do it, I decided to opt for the one which had website in English. :) I filled a form and waited for around a week before they called me and arranged a blood test after three weeks - as no earlier date was available. There I noted the first difference - in Latvia they immediately take your blood already in the first visit, while here they just check it.

Today I arrived in Sanquin, filled the form (available also in English, great) and tried to remember if I ever had blood transfusion , which non-European countries did I visit in the last three years and some other a bit tricky questions if you are not very sure about your health and travel history (like me).

Then I had a talk with a doctor who assured me that they require 51kg and mine 55kg are definitely fine. She confirmed that being born in Latvia is fine (as it's in Europe) and doesn't create any problems for donating blood and asked some other clarifing questions.

After that, she checked my hemoglobin level and ... there was a problem! According to her, it's fine if your hemoglobin level is above 7 and mine was 7,6/7,5, which is completely OK. However, for blood donors they request 7,8 to make sure that the donor will not suffer from anything. In around two months they will invite me to a blood test again and if my level will be higher, I will be allowed to donate blood.

Luckily I was still able to do blood test where they check if I have any of these - Hepatits B and C, HIV, syphilis and HTLV (the leukaemia virus). They will let me know the result, but I shouldn't have any of them, of course!

So that's all. Now we just wait and see! At least I know how this process is happening here and that there are several differences between Latvia and the Netherlands in terms of selecting appropiate donors.

While in Latvia they also pay three lats (around five euro) to donors, here they don't - but there are still cookies and coffee available. And they have a wonderful view!


Word plays of "bok"

How often do you notice the word plays between English and other languages? Or simply other languages? I think about them quite often and it always makes me laugh.

The last example happened on Wednesday evening when quite an international group gathered for some drinks in a local bar. We had Turkish and Swedish visitors from Lund who ordered a local beer. After the first glass they wanted to know what's the name of the beer as it was so good. The bartender (always a bit tipsy) said: "Bok".

At that point the Turkish guy who is actually living in Sweden started to laugh a lot and we couldn't understand why.

Then we got an explanation. In Turkish "bok" means "shit", while in Swedish "bok" means "a book". So not only he was drinking a beer "shit", but also he remembered seeing in Sweden "bokfestival" - which you can translate yourselves :)

And that's not all. At that point somebody said that in Portugal is a beer, called "Super Bock". The laughing didn't stop for even a longer time.


Run, run, run

This week is going really fast! I have always been telling to myself and others that I can do a lot of things at the same time and that I need to keep myself busy all the time, but seems that I am either getting older or starting to realise what does it mean "enough" for me.

In the last weeks and months most of the time I was spending at home, so I had enough time to do all the things I mentioned before. Now since I have started to go to the job and spend there all day, suddenly I have time for ... nothing. Apart from the basic daily duties, of course.

This week has been quite busy because of evening activities I have arranged beforehand, including weekly choir and Dutch class. Because of that, I haven't had time to read all the newsletters I am receiving (about great happenings here in Amsterdam), check on Facebook what my friends are doing, answer to all e-mails (including urgent and long ones), read news what's going on in the world, do homework for Dutch class and simply relax. And it feels very bad, because there is always a feeling that something is not done.

As the day has only 24 hours, not more, and as I am getting older and I need more sleep than before to feel good, the only solution is to quit something. Just need to decide - what...

So far I have quit the things mentioned above, but some of them are quite important (like replying to e-mails and doing homework). So I guess it will end in having less visitors (including CouchSurfers) and attending less events.

Or maybe you have some other ideas for me? :)


Maastricht carnival

If the classic Russian movie Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! (The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!) has the legendary phrase "Every year with my friends we go to the sauna," then I have my own legendary phrase for the Netherlands: "Every year with my friends we go to Maastricht carnival."

That's how my first article for IamExpat starts! Click here to read and comment the full version!

I will not post all the articles I have written in my blog as that'd be too much (today alone I had
two published), so just follow my profile on IamExpat and see the articles there! Sometimes I will post the most important ones also on my blog, but not all...

And - do not forget to attend Maastricht carnival, it'll be amazing!