Monday, December 31, 2007

3rd New Year's Eve in Amsterdam...

Wow, this is going to be my 3rd New Year's Eve in Amsterdam!! I don't think I've celebrated NYE so many times in one location!
This is also a funny and special occasion because it's the first time Arno and I met one another. We didn't say much to one another, but hey it's the first time we learned of the other's existence, and that is pretty special, right? lol. :o)

NYE in Amsterdam is pretty crazy, as you can probably imagine... In addition to the normal Amsterdam craziness, you have fireworks and the rather free and abusive use of them....people started setting off fireworks here about 3 or more days ago - I suppose to 'test' that they work. It's just lovely hearing them in the middle of the night when you're not actually prepared to deal with the loud, exploding noises!

This year's celebration is going to be a rather tame (or lame as some of you may see it) one. We did the club thing last year and, the year prior, the pre-partying and firework extravaganza at the Nieuwmarkt, one of the main squares here.
With the amount of work Arno and I have put into our new place, we're ready to take it easy. We may venture out to another square to watch the firework display, but honestly, it's scary to do so!
People literally set fireworks off overhead from the balconies (which obviously fall to the ground where you are below, thanks to the force of gravity), and from the sidewalk while you're right next to them! I've really never experienced such carelessness with fireworks! As you can guess, I really don't mind staying in and observing the display from a nice distance and away from the ridiculous crowds! I just hope Arno doesn't mind either way.... ;)

Regardless of what you will be doing to ring in the new year, be safe and enjoy!!!

Happy New Year to you!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

We're proud homeowners and boatowners!

All within a week, Arno and I have become official, first-time homeowners and boatowners! Merry Christmas to us! Lol. What more could we ask for, honestly?

Needless to say, these new "firsts" - combined with the Christmas holiday - have kept us quite busy.

We started on the interior of our new apartment today (23rd) and will be continue with it throughout the next couple of weeks...we need to paint, put in a new floor and an entire kitchen! Not to mention, we need to buy some key pieces of furniture! Whew...! I know it will look great when we're done and I am really looking forward to it. You're all welcome to come and visit :)

As I mentioned, we also managed to buy a used boat from one of my colleagues for a very good price! This will be a fun Spring project...just need to get some of the rust off, give it a fresh coat of paint, a new name, and then we're set for some Amsterdam canal-cruisin' :) It's one of the most popular and pleasant things to do here in the city on a sunny warm day!

And, in the midst of all of this, Arno surprised me with a cute and real Christmas tree! This is my first time not going home for the holidays, so I really wanted to make it cozy and Christmas-y in our (current) apartment. We went retro and used color lights - it seems most people go for the all white lights these days...alas, we won't have any presents under that tree though because a house, furniture and a boat will just not fit! (Also, the Dutch have a holiday earlier in December called Sinterklaas and we exchanged some gifts then).

We've got all we wanted and more this holiday and we wish you all the same. May your gifts, friends, family and holiday season bring you much cheer and love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Amsterdam!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ah, 'Par-eee' - early Nov. 2007

As mentioned in a previous post, Arno and I went with friends to Paris a little over a month ago...this was my 4th time methinks. No matter what you hear about the French, the city and country is just beautiful...and this one in particular.

For these shots below, I went for the 'antique photo' look :)

Every time I go to Paris, I can't help but stare and take too many photos of the Eiffel Tower...just like every other tourist, I suppose!! Did you know that the Eiffel Tower is the most photographed monument in the world?

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's happenin'?

It's been a while since I've blogged, but in the meantime Arno and I have travelled to Paris with friends for a weekend, and I have spent the past weekend in Brussels (Belgium). I have to say, I love both cities. Paris is just great with its chic cafes and shops - and general vibe. Brussels is comparably chic, and also boasts beautiful historic architecture.

I hope to have a few photos from these trips soon...but you can also visit some old blog posts on both Paris and Brussels since I visited both in the past 2 years.

In other news, my dad, stepmom, and baby brother Jared will be visiting for 2 weeks next April! Should be a fun trip! We'll be exploring the Netherlands a bit and also travel to some cities in western and southern Germany by car - most likely Munich, Nuremberg, and Cologne...

This is also my first time not being home for Christmas!! Arno and I are going to make our place very cozy and Christmasy, the same time, however, we're get the keys to our newly purchased apartment on the 21st so our Christmas period will involve a lot of home-related events/things to do...I do hope to find a church or event around town that will have a Christmas evening with the carols and feelings I associate with this time of year!!
Anyhow, to be continued....
Wishing you all well this season! :o)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

San Vincenzo, Tuscany, Italy Oct. 6-14th 2007

There haven't been any posts for a while, but that's because I really haven't been anywhere special lately! To take advantage of my last bit of free time between being a full-time student and a full-time worker; however, Arno and I traveled to a small village called San Vincenzo ('c' is pronounced 'ch' in Vincenzo) in the Tuscan region of Italy, approximately 80 km south of Pisa (for those of you who know Italian geography). It was just spectacularly gorgeous. So picturesque. Really, when you think of Tuscany, this place is what you'd envision. Rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves as far as you can see, quiet villas here and there, and the Mediterranean sea in the near distance. So what did we do for an entire week in the villa where we stayed - nothing but relax! We went to the beach one day, walked loads, visited a very yummy Michelin star restaurant overlooking the landscape, played cards, napped, sipped wine, and read A LOT. We had to travel back to Pisa the day before our flight giving us a full day and night in the city. I really liked it! It's a bit rough around the edges but perky - if you can use that word for a city. The leaning tower of Pisa was doing its job and I was surprised to find that there is actually a beautiful Duomo (domed cathedral) next to the Tower as well as some other great, old buildings that are somehow overlooked in peoples' descriptions of the Tower area.

Another highlight of Pisa was visiting the River Arno! Of course we made some photos of the two Arnos together at last. :o)

Take a look at the rest of my photos by clicking HERE!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Amsterdam's Brothels

Amsterdam to cut back on brothels
Amsterdam's red light district (file photo)
The 700-year-old red light district is a big tourist attraction
The Dutch city of Amsterdam is to close one-third of the brothels in its famous red light district.

The city has reached a 25m euro (£18m) deal to buy 18 buildings and turn them into shops or housing.

The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said that although prostitution was legal in the Netherlands, there was too much of the sex trade in the city centre.

He also said that the trade involved exploitation and trafficking of women, and other kinds of criminal activity.

Dirty money

Prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district ply their trade in neon-lit street windows and the area's seediness has always been part of its attraction for tourists.

Under the deal, 51 of these windows - a third of the total - will be sold.

The Wallen, as the area is known in Dutch, is in one of the oldest and most picturesque areas of Amsterdam.

But the city's authorities say the windows are a magnet for crime and money laundering.

Mr Cohen said the move was not intended to get rid of prostitution entirely, since it is part of the area's history.

"What we do want is to get rid of the underlying criminality," he said.

We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women
Metje Blaak
De Rode Draad

However, the plan was criticised by the Dutch sex workers' union De Rode Draad.

"We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women," spokeswoman Metje Blaak told Agence France-Presse news agency.

"If the windows close down, women who are being exploited will be hidden somewhere else where union representatives and health workers can't make contact with them," she said.

Prostitutes hire the windows for around 100 euros (£70, $141) for part of the day. One window is usually used by several prostitutes a day.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Job

Dear family and friends,

I would just like to inform you that I will begin working at Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders in English and Artsen Zonder Grenzen in Dutch) here in their Amsterdam office beginning sometime in October. My start date is dependent on when I get my residence/work permit, which should be the end of September/early October.

For those of you who are not familiar with this organization - it is a well-known, very admirable humanitarian organization which operates around the world providing medical aid in emergency situations, i.e. conflict/post-conflict areas and in regions affected by natural disasters. They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for their work. Also, they cooperate closely with various United Nations' agencies, the International Red Cross, and many more international and non-governmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world.

My role will be to work with the Director of Operations in managing the coordination of the various field operations. The Amsterdam office is one of the main operational centers for MSF so it will be a very exciting and rewarding job. I hope to assume a great deal of responsibility in facilitating the field operations. At this time I will not have to travel to the field, but it may be required in the future if working in another capacity with the organization (which I am not ruling out at this point in time).

To read about MSF and their work, see their website here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This article is slightly disturbing...

Care for some dog or bull testicles? How about an aborted deer fetus? Don't want to go on a national television program like Fear Factor to eat them? Well, I have the restaurant just for you.
By the way, if you can read this article without starting to feel even slightly sick to the stomach, please do not let me know...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rugen Island, Germany 17-20 August

Two weekends ago, Arno and I decided to drive somewhere...the original destination was Copenhagen in Denmark but we decided instead to go to the supposed home of my ancestors - to Rugen Island in northeastern Germany. It is very close to Scandinavia.

Most people are probably not even aware that Germany has some islands, but in fact it does and this one in particular is very beautiful. It is a nature reserve and family beach resort and was formerly part of East Germany. There are a few parts of the island with the good ol' Communist housing blocks. However, for the most part the houses are cute, quaint and beautifully situated.

You may notice that some of the photos aren't so great and that's because we had to use a disposable camera! We brought our digital camera and had forgotten to charge the battery and bring the charger!

Enjoy the rest of the photos by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Groningen, Netherlands

Groningen is the largest city in the far northeastern part of the Netherlands and since I'd never been there, my friend Brian and I recently visited for a day (it is 2.5 hours by train each way to/from Amsterdam). The city was nice with, some rather pretty buildings (in photos below), but it was not too drastically different from many of the nice Dutch towns and cities so I don't have many photos from was good to get out and see a new place, though!

Gay Pride in Amsterdam

One of the best gay pride celebrations happens to be in Amsterdam. What is unique about the Amsterdam gay pride parade is that the floats are on boats and travel down a canal rather than a street! It was really interesting to see some of the outfits - these Amsterdam festivals are always good fun! The photos below include Arno and my good friends, Brian and Jaap.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Our trip to the U.S. 1-22 July 2007

Finally - I am posting our photos from our trip to the U.S. Photos include shots from our road trip to Miami, Key West and our short visits to the Everglades, St. Augustine, and Savannah on our return to the VA/DC area.

Photos from top: South Beach; Jared, Susan and myself; storm in SoBe; Arno and I in Savannah.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I've been Simsponized

Here's my Simpson character. My hair was a little wavy in the photo I used and this is what came out! You can simpsonize yourself at

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sailing around the Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean Sea

Sailing around the Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean Sea....yes, it was just as lovely as it sounds. As many of you know, Arno and I joined some of my friends on a week-long sailing trip which began on the Spanish island of Mallorca and continued to Ibiza, Dragonera, and past some other islands. My friend, Jaap (or Jack), is a certified captain and able to charter sailboats so, fortunately for myself and the others, we sailed a 45-footer called "All of Me" from Mallorca to Ibiza, around, and back. I absolutely loved it. The feeling of being on the open water and (sorry for the cliche) with the wind in your hair was simply amazing. We also got to see some dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the front of the boat! :o)

Arno, unfortunately, became seasick the first day and was actually the only one to become so the whole week (sorry, babe!). The rocking took a bit of time to get accustomed to but once we did, standing still no longer felt so normal! I remember going to dinner on one of the first nights and literally felt like I was dramatically swaying from left-right the entire time strange how the human body can adapt so easily to such different circumstances!

All-in-all it was wonderful and very relaxing. I got a nice tan and learned a little about sailing. I will definitely do it again! Thanks, Jaap!! ;)

Please enjoy the rest of my photos by clicking on this link
and, be forewarned, there are LOTS of the boat and of me and Arno!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Keukenhof flower gardens

Since I clearly could not spend Mother's Day at home in the U.S. with my own mother, Arno and I spent it with his mother and father (pictured below). We went to the world famous Keukenhof gardens located close to Leiden where I go to University. It was a nice day but unfortunately we were just a week and a half too late to catch all of the flowers in full bloom which is apparently spectacular! All in all, a very nice relaxing day with Arno's parents :o) For more photos, visit my kodakgallery site here!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) 2007

Last weekend was Koninginnedag - the huge, country-wide festival is to celebrate the Queen Mother's birthday. Everyone wears Orange because the royal family's name is ORANGE, wow! Basically, the celebration includes lots of street markets, music, relaxing in the park, and beer.

L-R: Robert, me, Arno, Marnix, Nike, Rudy, J
eske, Jeroen

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cycling, Dancing, and the Beach...

The past several weeks have been spent doing some work for the organization I am with part-time, working on my thesis, and spending time with Arno and friends in the nice weather we've been having! I love it! It's not summer weather yet but the temperatures have been those nice, pleasant ones you have in early Spring. Just fabulous. :o) I hope all of you have had a nice Easter! Check out the rest of the photos here!!!

L-R: Mirjam (Arno's good friend, and now mine), me, my friend's friend from Denmark, and Ulla (from Denmark).

L-R: Me, Arno, Mirjam and her boyfriend, Remy.