I wanted to be a writer...

How often do you think about the past? Your memories? People who were your friends or inside your social circle? Your thoughts and life back then?

I think about it too often. Just pops in my mind again and again...

One of those memories is about me being a teenager and my biggest dream - wanting to be a writer. Publish my own books. Earn living with it. Be recognised. Feeling jealous reading about any high school girl whose book got published anywhere in the world and wishing to be in her place. Writing stories till the midnight one after another.

A few years later, I started to work. As a journalist - as you can guess.

In the beginning, I was thrilled - I was earning money with writing! It got published! Did not matter that I was writing about facts and real life, not fiction.

After the first months, I felt guilty. Whenever I was back home and tried to write a story or a poem, nothing came out. Emptiness. No ideas, no feelings, no wish to write. Tried a few times again. Zero. Damn it!

Then I started to tell everybody that I am not writing fiction anymore and developed my own theory - one can not be both a journalist and a writer. It's too much of writing. You need some rest. And once you write about the reality, the fiction world and your ideas disappear. Or maybe it was just me.

Nowadays I do not feel guilty anymore. I feel sad. Every few years I find my old stories and read them - and still find them fascinating, at least a few of them. Pity they never got published.


Neraža ar laikapstākļiem

Par Latviju viss ir vairāk vai mazāk skaidrs. Laikapstākļus tur varētu definēt kā "kad mēs augām, tā nebija" jeb "globālā sasilšana padara vasaras karstākas un ziemas - vēlākas". No rīta, izejot ārā no mājas, vairāk vai mazāk ir zināms, kāds būs laiks, vai lietussargu un jaku vajag ņemt līdzi vai labāk atstāt mājās.

Par Londonu arī vairāk vai mazāk viss ir skaidrs. Grozies kā gribi, vienmēr ir auksts un lietains, izņemot pāris laimīgos brīžos, kad ir vērts izvilkt ārā saulesbrilles.

Toties par Nīderlandi ir skaidrs tikai tas, ka nekas nav skaidrs un somā ir jābūt - lietussargam, jakai, saulesbrillēm un drēbēm gan siltam, gan aukstam laikam.

Pagājušās nedēļas beigas - ceturtdiena/piektdiena. Jaka un garie džinsi neizbēgami, vairāk par +20 grādiem diez vai ir ārā - nu labi, +22 kā maksimums. Katram gadījumam kabatās man ir cimdi - jā, es esmu uzaugusi siltumnīcā.

Svētdiena. Parādās saule. Precīzāk izsakoties, termometrs uzlec par nepilniem 10 grādiem augstāk un savas rudens drēbes es varu nomainīt uz bezroku kleitiņu.

Pirmdiena. +30/+31 grādi. Gribu emigrēt uz Skandināviju un atsvaidzinos, slēpjoties mājās, kur ir vēsāks nekā ārā.

Otrdiena. Daži pasākumi Hāgā tiek atcelti gaidāmās vētras un lietusgāzes dēļ, tāds pats laika sagaidot arī Amsterdamu. No rīta - apmācies, karsts, bet var just, ka drīz sāks līt. Ap pēcpusdienu lietus vietā parādās saule un +30 grādi.

Turpmākās dienas. Laika pareģi sola maksimums +20/22 grādi dienā un ap +10 grādiem naktī. Atā, tropiskā vasara!


BB 30-1

A few glimpses from Michael's birthday party in blue tones!

After a long discussion about endless amount of topics and themes for the party this was the one we came up in the end as blue is his favourite colour.


Another article, another website

My first article for a cultural online magazine Overdose.am.

"Although I am not a (very) religious person, there is one event this weekend I do not want to miss: Kerkennacht (or Church Night) Amsterdam. It is an event not only for religious ones, but also for those who simply adore architecture, darkness and unusual happenings."

Read all the article here.


Lie To Me

For the last few days I have been watching TV series "Lie To Me", bringing back memories from my time in Brussels.

It started while I was living in Brussels - every now and then me and a couple of my housemates would get down to the basement, where we had "film screening nights". Together with chocolate and a bottle of wine or bacardi we would be watching various films and TV series. In the first month it was a lot of "How I Met Your Mother", still remember that! Haven't seen the last seasons, so I still do not know how did Ted meet his wife :(

At some point in the end of the year we started to watch "Lie To Me" and I really felt for the series. I am not a huge fan of TV series or even watching films as I often feel like wasting time, but this was both entertaining and useful, you could learn - or you thought you could - about people and psychology.

We never finished "Lie To Me" as we had only the first season and half of the second season available. Now I have found the second and third season as well, so watching them whenever I have time. :)

For those who do not know - "Lie To Me" tells a story about a company who is specialised in figuring out if people are lying or no, as it depends on their body language (what a surprise) and microexpressions on their faces. The good thing is that every time there is a different story (sometimes two in one), so it is not a problem watching one if you have missed the previous one - although the relationship between the main characters in the company develop throughout the film as well.


Bank account

After getting a SOFI number, my next step was trying to get a Dutch bank account. As it is not possible to do it if you do not have a SOFI number, before I did not have it and was able to obtain it only now.

Bank No. 1 - As I have ING card from Belgium (where apparently you do not need anything apart from the passport), my first idea was to get ING bank account also here, but a colleague of mine told that ING here are not "expat friendly", so this option was left out.

Bank No. 2 - ABN/Amro. As I have heard that one needs an appointment to open a bank account and you can't just walk in the bank, I called to their customer service line to make an appointment. Unfortunately after trying a couple of times I gave up as it seemed that nobody in the customer service line wanted to speak with me...

Bank No. 3 - Rabobank, suggested by the same colleague. They picked up the phone immediately and were kind enough to make an appointment for me. In the end of the conversation the guy was explaining me all the documents I need to take with me for the appointment.
- ID / passport - no problem.
- SOFI number - no problem.
- Employment contract - wait, wait! I do not have it! (I thought that my internship contract will not be taken into account)
No contract - no bank account in Rabobank. Damn it!

After posting the situation in my Facebook status, I got several suggestions, so I decided to try my luck again and go to ABN/Amro myself. That seemed to solve the problem as they were kind enough to give me a bank account just with my passport and SOFI number. Thank you!


If I would be a dog...

... Then I would look like this.


SOFI number

After being in the Netherlands for so long time, finally it was time to get SOFI number.

What is SOFI number?
SOFI number - social security number - is needed if you want to work in the Netherlands, although it is not a working permit. For EU citizens it is quite easy to get it once you are registered with the city council. However, I am not registered, so it was a bit tricky to find out what is the procedure...

How did I get it?
Luckily it all went much easier than I thought...

1. Call 0800-0543
2. Ignore the voice speaking in Dutch and press "3" at first and "4" at second
3. Tell that you want to apply for SOFI number (not BSN number - do not ask me about the difference between both)
4. Tell to the lady that you are from another EU country, have just arrived in the Netherlands, about to start a new job and need SOFI number. No more info needed.
5. Make an appointment for the meeting (I scheduled mine for their Amsterdam office in Sloterdijk).
6. On the day of the meeting take ID/passport with you.
7. Go to the reception, get a number and wait. Once they call you, you just need to fill the form and you will get a paper with SOFI number within five minutes.
8. Be happy and find a job!

Easier than I thought :) No more questions, nothing. Happy with my SOFI number!


My articles in XPat Journal

Nice, nice, nice!

Just received the latest issue of XPat Journal ("the premier English-language magazine for expatriates living in the Netherlands"), where there are two my articles - Events Diary & Arts Diary.

Some time ago at work I was told that IamExpat.nl has a cooperation with XPat Journal, therefore for their summer issue IamExpat.nl is supposed to provide them these two articles. As my position there is Lifestyle Editor, I was happy to hear that I was the one to write them and select the most important summer events in the Netherlands!

Those eager to read articles in full length, should buy the magazine themselves - unfortunately there is no online version, but a short summary is available here.


Top 5 places in the Netherlands

Some months ago I wrote about my favourite places in Amsterdam, but this time I thought about revealing my favourite places out of the city - but still in this beautiful country.

1. Hoorn - although I have been there only once, this small and cute town left a big impact on me. I still remember strolling around almost empty streets, admiring old buildings from several centuries ago and falling in love with the yachts in the port. Around half an hour away from Amsterdam (by train), Hoorn feels like a different world without tourists and yet with its own beauty.

2. Maastricht - this city and me met several years ago, even before I knew that I will ever have a chance to live in the Netherlands. I went there to visit a friend of mine for the weekend and instantly felt that I like it, although it might be too small to live and work there. Since that I have been back to Maastricht several times, including three carnival editions when the city turns into a wild street party and seems so different from other, more peaceful times.

3. Leiden - I believe that AEGEE people (those who had a chance to participate in Spring Agora Leiden 2010) will object, but I really like this small student city. It has a special beauty and its canals remind me Amsterdam, but luckily there is no huge crowd of tourists. The special feature is the endless amount of poems on the walls and last time I even managed to find a Latvian one!

4. Naarden - thanks to another friend, I had a chance to visit the medieval Naarden. When I was there for the first time, it was a silent and empty afternoon with almost no people on the streets and we were wondering around the fortifications and exploring "almost forgotten town". My second visit was just the opposite - it was full of Dutch people, enjoying their sunny day, shopping and sitting outside. Nevertheless, it was possible to feel the special vibe of the small town.

5. Zaanse Schans - I hope that locals will forgive me for mentioning such a touristic place, but I can't help myself. Several working windmills in a raw and extremely cute and sweet houses from fairytales sell good, and I am one of their victims. Typical Netherlands in a nutshell!

Now you all know how much I love history and cities / towns which look like nothing would have changed in the last few centuries!


New president's private life

Probably foreigners have not heard about it yet, but some days ago Latvian parliament elected a new president (yes, it's elected by the parliament, not the citizens).

The new president Andris Bērziņš will start his term on July 7, but already now mass media are writing about it like crazy. Just pity that mostly it's about his private life, not his plans for the next four years and his professional experience...

Apart from the fact that Andris Bērziņš is one of the most common names and surnames in Latvia (and we even had 2-3 other politicians who are called exactly the same, including a former prime minister), there are also some other interesting details.

For me the most interesting part is the fact that mass media are very much eager to cover two aspects of Mr Future President life:

1) His partner who is ~25 years younger than him and not married with him. They have been living together for almost 10 years (if I am not wrong) and have a kid, but they are not married. One can read in Latvian news portals opinions of various "specialists" who are saying something like "OMG, how is it possible? What will happen when he needs to go abroad on a visit? Will he take his partner with him or no? What is her official status and how should we call her?"

2) His children. Apparently all government officials need to fill out declaration every year stating how many children do they have (don't ask me why) and Andris Bērziņš have written down that he has three children (also from his previous marriage). However, there are rumors that he might have 1-2 children more he has not mentioned in the declaration, although it seems like he has been paying money to them every month. The media are not yet revealing the names of those poor kids (who seem to be in their 20ies or so), but yelling about him not telling the real number of his children.

Well, the point 1 is ridiculous and point 2 might be important if he would not care about his children and do not bare any financial responsibility - but it seems that he is doing so.

So... How is it possible that mass media are writing so much about his private life and nothing about his professional one? Are they too lazy to find information or there is no information? Is it more interesting for them to dig in his past without thinking how relevant it is? Or are they simply looking for celebrity scandals instead of analyzing him as a president?

Usually I do not care about politics and I have no idea how good or bad president will Andris Bērziņš be, but I believe that everybody's personal life is their own business.

Thanks to Google for his picture!


My own shop

I have started a new business in Amsterdam and opened my own shop. :)

The fact that I do not smoke does not forbid me from selling tobacco to others, right?


Manna or semolina?

Today I made semolina porridge for breakfast and it reminded me one of my first days in Malta, already a few years ago.

I had just moved from Latvia to Malta and it was my first time in Maltese supermarket, buying all the necessary food. I was looking for semolina porridge and couldn't find it, so asked:

- Where do you have manna?
- What???
- Manna. I want to make manna porridge.

The local Maltese were looking at me puzzled and then started to laugh, telling that I can find manna in the church, but not in the supermarket.

- No, no, no. In Latvia we have manna and I want to make manna porridge.

We did not manage to understand each other, so I left home without buying any semolina... Afterwards, telling this to my Mum ("Those Maltese have no idea what is manna porridge!") and Googling, I found out that actually Latvian word "manna" in English is "semolina" :)

I was so sure that it should be the same also in English - simply because it did not sound Latvian at all!


The truth

Maybe I was eating a bit too much lately... :)