Monday, May 27, 2013

I say hurray, my body says no way

Being a weekend away without Michael was weird. For one, because he was gone anyway. But I felt that when I would be back home, that he would be there waiting for me. But he wasn't of course. That's a strange feeling. Also, it was weird because Michael would never come with me on a horse back riding weekend. So no matter if he would be in the Netherlands, he wouldn't be there with me either way. So in that sense I was happy that I was doing something where he wouldn't be present anyway. As if that somehow makes it better that he's not my country any more.

This sounds like strange babbling I am sure. But that nicely represents how I felt. Don't worry though, I didn't dwell too much on it, I mainly enjoyed my holiday.

our group -1
It's always tricky when you leave for a weekend with a group of people. Having strife among the group is almost inevitable. All in all though, we had an excellent time. There were no fights, and not many gossips. Every now and then some cheeky moods scattered some tension in the air, but after a deep sigh and a firm thought aimed at my inner self to me to keep my mouth shut, I could stay calm. And of course it helped that I could call Michael and tell him all about it. He's about the best calming effect there is in my life.

some of us prepping the horses
So yeah, as far as groups on holidays go, this went pretty well. Could have gone better, but not much. When you all share the same hobby, in our case horses, there is always some topic that can safely be discussed or used to diffuse a situation. And when we were on a horse we were all best friends. How can't you be happy when you ride such a magnificent beast, in a beautiful landscape. The sun was shining against all expectations, so with the sun in our face and the wind in our hair we galloped through the woods.
everything hurts by now

If that isn't a lovely image to keep in your mind I don't know what is. I'm sad it's over, but glad I can face chat with Michael again. And the horse back riding is not over yet, tomorrow evening and that evening after there is more horse waiting for me. I say hurray, my body says no way! Sorry body, I win. We're going anyway.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Horse weekend

Well, not only sadness now Michael is gone. This weekend is horse back riding weekend! We just rode an hour outside and the horse that has been given to me is awesome. Enjoying myself thoroughly. The people here take such good care of us. A delicious dinner of fresh white asparagus with a cream sauce and scrambled eggs. Some fries on the side. Icecream with whipped cream as dessert. Om nom nom...

Every evening the horses get to roam the fields, instead of spending the night in the stables. They just throw their stable doors open, bar the way they cant go with rope, and let them gallop to freedom. I can't wait to have my own fields with horses. What a great dream to pursue. And the best part is that the horse sport isn't restricted by age. Even a 70 year old japanner participated in the olympics and did well.

Now we have a nice social evening planned. Drinks, games and snacks.

Ps. My pee smells! Asparagus....

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sanctuary Defiled

Been home for a few days now, recovering from my jetlag and from the usual bacteria I catch during my flight. Somehow I always get a little sick. The disease fest that the airport and airplane are manages to trump my immune system every time. This flight was not as bad though, I only have a mild cold. The jetlag however, is just as bad as it always is. I think I've finally got rid of it. It is now midnight, and I'm about to go to bed. 

I've constantly been setting my alarm at 10 am everyday, but until today I haven't managed to get out of bed till 12. Tomorrow is the first day I'll be working again. Those days will be rare from now on, my hours have been reduced by almost half. This means I will have to actively look for an extra job. I don't have a choice, we are both low on money and we simply got to do what we have to do. Michael hasn't found a job so far, but he's been very productive applying for them. I haven't been as productive as he has been, it's about time I am. 

My mother has had the cleaning itch all week and has been chasing me all around the house with stuff she finds that's mine. I'm not even safe in my room any more, she just barrels right in! I suppose it's for a good cause, a clean house, but I rather like my sanctuary here. And now it has been DEFILED!

I miss my boyfriend terribly, it's only been days and I already want to go back to the States. Every small thing reminds me of him and makes me a little emotional. I'm just a big ol' softie. We do facechat everyday, as often as is reasonable. No Skype for us, somehow Skype always pings out on us. For a program that solely focuses on videochat you would think they would be the best. But Google videochat trumps Skype every single time. The quality is a little less, but it's so much more reliable.

Friday, we had a small dinner with my mother, her boyfriend, my sister and her husband, and me. Normally Michael is always there so it was a sad prospect, a family dinner without him. But when they called me to come down and join dinner I was just in the middle of videochatting with Michael. As I have a laptop I proposed, with a twinkle in my eye, if he wanted to join us for dinner! Michael responded with a big grin and I carried my laptop with Michaels face on the screen downstairs. There, he was greeted with cheers by everyone. We all had a little chat, showed him the cats, and then it was time to close him out. It was getting a little uncomfortable! Still, we should do that more often. It was nice, in a quirky way.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Delta Airlines may meet Murphy's Law instead


I guess I had a minor case of Murphy's Law today. It was one of the more unlucky and miserable trips I have made yet. As I think I mentioned before, Delta Airlines made me pay the extra baggage fee again. Even though I had paid it already through KLM. However, they assured me if I had actually paid it (which I did) I could get it back easily.

Here comes the long version, but for the people who go "woah too long didn't read it chika" the summary is: Delta Airlines and KLM have communication issues, they send me on a wild goose chase and I suffered because of it and on top of it all I apparently decided to follow Murphy's Law today. Yihah.

So, double paid luggage. Delta in Brussel told us to go talk to KLM Brussel to get our money back, KLM Brussel told us to talk to KLM online. That's alright so far. Nothing I can complain about yet. I go on my holiday and stuff, have a good time. 2 days before I leave the States I have some online contact with KLM. And I do have to say that they were helpful and polite.

Their conclusion was, that because I paid more money at Delta (70 euro, I paid 56 euro for the baggage at KLM), it would make more sense to ask THEM for my money back. I could see the logic of this and called Delta.

Now before I go on, I have to get off my chest that I was under the impression that the USA companies always treat their customers as kings. Apparently I was mistaken.

I called Delta and this woman on the phone was short with me right off the bat. Well good morning to you too lady.
She had a hard time understanding my problem. Once she did understand, she made it very clear that she thought it was all my own fault. "Well you should have brought a receipt with you that showed you had paid for it. AAALWAYS bring the receipt with you, I always do." Yeah great lady, just what I want to hear right now. Anyway, she put me on hold and made a call. Then we struggled through the various numbers on my receipts to get her the proper information and after a couple of annoyed sighs and tsks we finally managed through that.
Now here is where she sees that I paid cash. Oh God forbid, I paid cash. How could I.

"Well I see here you paid cash, is that right?". "Yes, that's right.". "Well there's your second mistake, never pay cash. Always pay with credit card, cause how else are we supposed to refund your money?".

First of all, is she serious? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to ASK FOR MY ACCOUNT NUMBER and transfer the money.

Secondly, I don't like this lady talking to me as if I'm a child. Telling me I made mistakes, no kidding Sherlock, that's why I'm calling. I don't need you to tell me I have a problem. I'm clearly aware, and contrary to you I'm trying to solve it.

I stay polite however, I gently suggest that they could perhaps just ask my account number and transfer it digitally. Well... Apparently that's impossible. Almost unthinkable. I think I might have caused minor brain damage with that suggestion. She goes on and on with giving me attitude how she doesn't see how they can solve this.

I sigh. One of those deep ones you know. The one your mom used to make when you gave her a headache.

My brilliant and enlightened suggestion of giving the money in cash back to me on my flight back baffles her, and she decides it's the appropriate action. She puts a note in the system besides my name so they'll know I have talked with them before and get my 70 euro back.

On the day we fly out, I have everything ready to go and I'm prepared for an argument. I get at the Delta Airlines Kiosk and merrily tell her of my quest. Of course, it starts with a deep frown and a deep sigh. She might actually have to work today. We go through the 5 minutes back and forth of "it's impossible". This time the argument is that I paid in EUROS and not DOLLARS, so how is she supposed to give my money back. It seems they have never heard of currencies. She convinces us we have to do it in Brussel. She prints out a paper which says Delta owes us 70 euro.

Well that's something, how can it go wrong, I got proof and all. This is where it was starting to be clear that Murphy's Law was being invoked.

Michael and I part ways, we cry, we're sad, yadayadayada, that's not important right now. We're focusing on my anger towards Delta here, stay with me.

After being sent from Delta, to KLM, KLM, Delta, Delta, - I was "referred" 5 times by now- I was having a bad time. I take my flight, which went well. The Delta people on the plane were marvellous. Nice and so kind. I was mind blown with the difference of the ground personnel. If only everyone was that nice.

When we land it appears that the Belgium Luggage workers are on strike. I can't even blame them, they had a good reason. How it affects us; we are delayed 1.5 hours because everyone goes on the ramp to locate their own luggage. See picture. We went with 10 people at a time, so it was slow going. Bad luck, but it happens to everyone. So after a 21h travel time by now I was exhausted and tired. I missed my train already, and I still had to get my money back.
getting our baggage ourselves

I make my way to the departure hallway where the Delta Airlines Kiosk is located. This is what I see when I arrive.
the front line, I never saw it move and I was there 15 min

the middle line (same line still)

An almost endless line. I'm so sick of it by now. I want to go home, and I want my freaking money. The proof is right there in my pocket, dying to get out. But there are at least 40 people with luggage in front of the line and it isn't moving. Because of the strike, every kiosk is lined up to the fullest. If I was going to get in that line, it'd be 2-3 hours more before it was my turn. And then I just had to hope they would actually give my refund for once. I decided to go to the KLM kiosk which was empty for some reason to ask them for help. After all, I originally booked with them. Shouldn't they solve this?

Well, this French Belgium KLM guy was incredibly mean and rude. Unbelievably so. I can't believe they put people like that in a customer helping position. He tried to tell me that KLM (his own company) was in the wrong for selling me the extra luggage because I was flying with Delta. He claimed it didn't matter that I booked with KLM, I should have booked it with Delta. I should go to the online KLM site and get my 56 euro back. I would never get my 70 euro from Delta back he said.

NO.

I want my 70 euro back.

Never, impossible, were the uncaring words he threw in my face. I just broke down. I called my dad and cried and raged and asked for help. All he could offer was that he would try to call KLM for me if I gave him all the papers. But that didn't help me NOW. Then I called Michael to cry and rage at the injustice of it all.
Normally I wouldn't be so emotional, but I just left my boyfriend behind to not see him again in 6 months and I was fed up and exhausted. Michael couldn't help me much either but promised to call Delta Airlines and get it figured out. I told him he should get someone fired up there for all my troubles and hurt and then hung up.

With tears half drying on my face and trying to calm my self down I got my suitcase that I had been dragging with me everywhere and briskly made my way to the train. After ten steps a news crew stopped me, hoping to get a good story about the strike out of me. I guess the tears gave them hope. "Has the strike affected you?!". I already knew where this was going and assured them that my story had nothing to do with their untimely strike. They still wanted the summary. After I gave it to them they all looked disappointed and walked away.

Great, my misery isn't the "right kind of story". Asses. Throwing salt in my wounds.

Bought my train ticket. When I arrived in Antwerpen it was clear I missed my connection by half an hour. I was going to have to wait for 1.5h until the next one to the Hague came. Shrugging, I simply took the slow train to the first city over the Dutch border. It maybe took an hour, but I didn't have anything else to do anyway. When I finally arrived in Holland I could use my internet on my phone again and communicate with my boyfriend. The train came, I got on it and asked Simon to pick me up from the station.

He said no problem. But unfortunately he got called while we was getting ready so ended up leaving 15min too late. Then he texted me that the road was under construction and he had to take another way. After half an hour of waiting I call him and ask where the F he is. He was at the wrong station. He read my text wrong.

Of course that would go wrong too. So finally he picks me up at the right station and I get home at a quarter to 4 in the afternoon. Completely beat up. A total of 24 hours of travelling, door to door.

Never again please.

And you know what? Still don't have my 70 euro.




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bye Michael, see you in a couple of months

This is the moment I've been dreading all this time. Time to leave Michael behind. I don't want us to be apart, it really sucks. I know it's the right thing to do, have everything in order. No more mess ups, this time we do it right. We got the proper paperwork, so the visa will be sent as soon as I get my passport photos to Michael.

I've said goodbye here to most people, but I hate goodbyes. It makes me feel so awkward. My favored tactic is just not saying anything at all and disappearing. Skip the emotional moments. My goodbye with Michael will be emotional and heavy enough for a whole orphan center.

Time to become a sensible grown up and do the right thing. It just makes more sense for me to stay in the Netherlands while we deal with the visa forms. This way I won't be a drain on our resources, cause I'll be working. With any luck I will be able to save a little money so I can afford all the visa costs myself. That will be a lot! The first one, the k-129 form (fiancee visa) will cost 340 dollars. And that's just the start. My estimate was that all in all, everything will cost about 1800 dollars to get me a fiancee visa. So that's not even the permanent residence visa. I am going to procrastinate looking at those prices for sure.

Now I start packing. Like always, at the last moment.

I'll land in Brussel around 8-9 am, Wednesday the 15th. Then I will take the train to the Hague and everything will be back to "normal". Normal but for the absence of my boyfriend...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Shark!


"I want to see a real Florida beach". What I had in mind were snow white sand beaches with flowing palm trees and skinny girls in bikinis on roller-blades wheeling on the boulevard. I'm sure those exist too, but we went to Saint George Island in the "armpit" of Florida. A Gulf of Mexico beach. It was in a state park, and not touristy at all. And it was so beautiful! The park had no houses, everything was natural dunes and forest. Amazing.  

The beach was white, but a more subdued white and I was surprised at how small the beach was. The sand area between the dunes and the water is tiny. Now the tide was coming in, so that could have something to do with it, but I'm fairly sure that even if that wasn't the case it wouldn't be much bigger. 

So we got in our swimming clothes and put down the towels. Michael was melting by now, because the sun was shining like a girl on her first date. He put his glasses away - note this detail - and went in the water. Soon after he came scurrying out with a weird look on his face. I think I saw a shark, he said. Just for everyone's information: There are no sharks in the North Sea back where I live. Sharks are more like a fairy tale, just like scorpions, rattlesnakes and bears. They just don't happen in the Netherlands. 

right before he took his swim and sighted the shark
Michael without his glasses can't see much. His eyes are terrible. So for him to see something he could identify  means it was awfully close. When he said shark, I was thinking that had to be a joke. I do know there are sharks around here, but really... sharks? Come on, there are no sharks around ME. Buuuut, I looked. And there I saw it, a dark grey/blackish fin popping up. Just like that, smoothly gliding out the water to show us his fin, to glide back in it again. 3 more times did I see it. A FREAKIN SHARK. Like, sharks that eat their baby brothers and sisters in the womb shark. 

Crazy. 

And to imagine that thing was right in front of Michael.

I immediately had visions of me or Michael being ripped apart, and me futilely trying to punch it in the eyes, or barely escaping and walking around with shark bite scars for the rest of my life.

But he ensured me that a great white shark is light grey and not dark grey like this fin was, and that the size of the fin indicated it was a relatively small shark. (Later he confessed that he made the color thing up and only told me this to alleviate my fears.) Still you know, sometimes they think you are a seal and BAM. There you go. I waited a good 5 minutes, studying the waters to see if I saw it again before I chanced the water. I didn't dare go deeper than hip deep, so I just sat on my but to immerse myself in the water.

So I wanted to see a "real"  Florida beach. Seeing a shark in the first 5 minutes of arriving can certainly qualify as "real"  in my book. 

I do seem to have a habit of being relentlessly exposed to new things when it comes to it. Like that time I was in Alabama on my first visit. I was terrified of cockroaches. But they were everywhere, in the trees, under houses, everywhere. And of course, as soon as I sat down (on the very first day/hour) a cockroach jumped on my arm and bounced away. Scared me to death. I was almost crying. And if something happens immediately as you arrive, you start to extrapolate and think, oh dear, they will jump on me every hour. And if it's that common, I don't think I'm going to be cool with that. But I'm just unlucky. The rest of that month not one other cockroach had dared to approach me. 

As such, I right way extrapolated for the shark, figuring if we saw one upon arriving I would surely see one every 15 minutes. And who knows when it'll be a great white. But of course it's not like that. Just unlucky, just coincidence. I simply have a habit of being thrown in the deep. It's kind of cool really.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Musings

While walking and driving through Gainesville, it struck me that the surroundings almost look like a cartoon. The sky is a deeper and more vibrant blue, the flora is different from home and resembles the plants drawn in cartoons. The contrast between the sky and greenery is very sharp. At home things seem to be more muted, pastel like colours.

It might be because the sun has a more direct angle due to the latitude. But it just as well could simply be Florida.

The palm trees were a lot more abundant in this city. I presume this is mainly because of landscaping, but the average temperature is also a little higher because Gainesville is further of the coast than Cross City. So that might encourage palm type like trees to flourish better.

I have surprised myself while being here with the questions I ask myself. I have a bachelor in Earth Sciences and I vowed to have nothing to do with it anymore, happy that I had finally finished it. But here I am, holding sand grains towards the sun and wondering how pure it is and how much calcium it contains. Wondering how that normal looking grass survives salt water and how long it takes the hanging moss that I see everywhere to kill a tree.

While in Gainesville I also met 2 of Michael's friends, and Michael showed me where he studied for 5 years. At first I thought I could never live in Florida, but I have to admit that I wouldn't mind Gainesville much. So if the dice happen roll that way, no big deal.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

That's different

To be honest, it stays weird to me that everything is so far apart here. You need a car to get to anywhere at all. But even when things are close by, they take the car anyway. Walking is not done. You walk to and from your car, and that's that.

For example, Michael's mother works at a school about a 5-10 min walk from here. Sometimes we want to borrow her car and we walk over there to go get it. And every time we do, people exclaim in surprise and offer to drop us off. No no we say, it's a short walk not a problem. Alright.... They'll say with a look that says you are crazy. It's super nice of them to offer, but a 5 min walk is so normal to me that I shudder to think about taking a car for that.

Of course I knew this already, but it just keeps surprising me. Just like I knew that the States has crappy bread. But then I come here and poke at that spongy rectangle they call bread and I cringe. How do people even manage to get bread that soft. It's unnatural!

Another thing that shocked me - but then realised that it made sense for them - was when I saw Michael's 4 yr old nephew shooting a BB gun on his own. He was just sitting there on the swing chair, cocking it and merrily trying to hit plant pots. Mind blown here. But almost everyone here hunts, and I guess it makes sense to get your kid familiar with guns in a relatively safe way. They teach him where to aim and not to aim, to put the safety on when he lays it down etc.

I mean, I tried to shoot it when he walked away, and it took me a good few minutes to figure out the safety was on. After that I asked him to show me how it worked and we shot at plant pots together. Isn't that hilarious? A little guy of 4 years old taught me to shoot a BB gun!
So complete different worlds for sure, once I move here it's gonna take me quite a while to get used to everything.
and this little guy is 2 years old!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Doni vs. Bacteria 0-1

Apparently my stellar immune system is not up to the job here in Florida. I must have caught some sort of stomach bug, because I have been having problems since Saturday morning.You can say with ease, that I sound like a tortured velociraptor whenever my body thinks it needs to get rid of the food and water I had. I was waiting until I felt better to write a blog, but after 3-4 days of minimal recovery I figured it's time. I suppose this is also part of moving to another country. Different bacteria my body doesn't know how to deal with!

Michael on the other hand, says he hasn't felt better in ages. It seems like his immune system knows exactly how to deal with this environment. That also means though, that he is not at all sympathetic to my cause. He seems to think I'm weak and inferior. Hurray.

I refused to let my stomach problems keep me in inside for long though. So on Saturday we went to a seafood buffet with his brother and girlfriend, for only 10 dollar per person! All you can eat food ├índ drink. A Dutchman dream come true. We might go back this week and do it again, because I didn't have the opportunity to enjoy it fully then.

Sunday we went to church with Michael's mother. I was very interested to see how it all went down, because this kind of church is very different from Dutch ones. For one, it's located in a normal building, not a church building. And the service itself was far from traditional, way more modern. I'll write more about the church here after coming Sunday. There is going to be a church gathering (the revival?) which we will attend. After that I'll have a better idea of how everything works.

Sunday afternoon was spent taking walks on the first reasonable sunny day. The whole week has been cloudy, and for Florida standards also pretty cold. It's slowly warming up now.


Yesterday we went to Michael's college town Gainesville. I got the grand tour, and met 2 of his friends. It was a very beautiful day. Unfortunately I was stupid enough to eat at a burrito place, which has made today such a blast.



As soon as I feel better I'll write an actual interesting post. This will have to do for now!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fashion Fiasco

Well, that was embarrassing.

Apparently Walmart employees wear brown pants and a blue shirt. I was doing groceries with Michael - at the Walmart - as I just wondered around looking at all the goodies they sold. Then this lady who works at Walmart (she had a name tag), looks me up and down quizzically and asks, do you work here? So I say, uhm no I don't. Oh alright she says, 'cause you are wearing our colors! I look down at my brown pants and my blue shirt, and then look at her brown pants and blue shirt.
Oops.
Oh sorry I didn't know, I mumbled while making my great escape.

Great, so I looked like a Walmart employee. From that moment on doing groceries became an adventure. I was sneaking past employees, afraid that they'll think I'm not working hard enough and was loitering.
I was  trying to look as unwalmarty as possible whenever a customer laid eyes on me. Hands in my pocket, looking idly at some products. And as soon as they looked away quickly changing aisle before they changed their mind and started asking me questions!
I felt so awkward.

WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME MICHAEL. Oh look at that, he answered me, you ARE wearing Walmart colors, I didn't notice.

Lesson learned Doni, lesson learned. When going shopping at the Walmart, no brown/blue combinations!

my outfit of the day
walmart uniform





Thursday, May 2, 2013

A breath of fresh air

I managed to wake up at a reasonable hour, so the jetlag is slowly fading away. Now I'm sitting on the front porch with some water and toasted bread with peanutbutter, listening to the birds. It rained all night so the humidity is nice and low and it feels refreshingly cool outside.
Yesterday we saw most of Michael's close family. They were all so happy to see him, that felt good. His mother and father had to work but we hang out with his brother, fiancee and the kids the whole day. We drove to an island/beach and drove past salt water marshes. My ol' earth sciences love kickstarted again and I couldn't stop myself from analysing everything!
I feel very welcome here and that's such a relief to me. After all, I'm marrying into his family and will live closer to them than my own. If I didn't feel comfortable here I'd feel quite alone. It makes me a little less nervous about the coming migration to be so welcomed. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No palm trees

Even though I have been to Florida once before, I was somehow under the impression that the place was littered with palm trees. It isn't, its resembles the Netherlands more than it does my image of Florida.
As you probably already concluded by now we made it into Florida! Even better news, Michael hasn't been banned Or fined. Such a relief.
It surprises me though because while we were in line for customs I took a good look at Michael. I could tell he was nervous, so nervous. His shirt had huge sweat spots, his forehead had beads of sweat dripping down his face into his eyes. His neck and face had big red stress patches on them. And to add on top of that, he was shiftily looking around. All together he looked like he had swallowed a kilogram of dodgy substances and was afraid to get caught.
Fortunately the customs officer waved Michael through without a problem. We were stunned. He even stamped his passport besides the other stamps, so he obviously did see Michael had stayed longer than allowed. I guess we were lucky!
So this is really good news. Michael can come back to the Netherlands anytime he wants! Woohooo!
Michael is relieved!