Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Food for thought. Or ducks...

When I came crawling gently out of blog retirement about a month ago, it was with the intention of writing weekly. I would keep the people back home informed of the happenings whilst I'm studying in a foreign land, tell of the cultural changes I have noticed, the language I have picked up and the exotic cuisine I have sampled.

I've since realised it's much easier just to post every time something funny happens, so here goes...

I've been here about a month now, and feel properly settled into life. The first few days were a bit shaky, if not amusing to look back on.

I went out to buy some bread the second morning I got here. I walked into the bakery across the road, picked up half a loaf and walked to the counter with it, where the woman serving started shouting at me and pointing at the bread. I had no idea what she was saying, and so apologised and said I didn't speak much Dutch (which was a lie, I speak none).

She told me this was 'bread for animals'. It was really cheap, and there was a long queue behind me, so not wanting to lose my place I replied, "Yeah, I know. I'm going to feed the ducks." At this point she smiled, looked down to what was in my other hand and said "Are you going to butter it for them as well?"

When I had finally got over the sheer embarrassment of being mocked out of a shop by a group of mothers, it was winter. Or at least it felt like it, the South-Easterly wind blows across Holland pretty hard most days. It gets bitter at times.

Anyways, a few days later I went for a walk into the city centre. I hadn't quite worked out the tram system yet or acquired a bike, the preferred choice of transport over here. This meant walking. I knew roughly where the centre was, but by the time I'd got about half way there it had already take me about eight days.

With this in mind, and wanting to explore a bit, I decided to take a shortcut. I took a right off the canal and was immediately down a small side street. I was sort of following an elderly man in front of me. He was wearing a suit, and so something in my mind told me he would be heading back into the centre. He stopped about 10 metres in front of me to look in a shop window, and just out of curiosity I went for a look after him. Suddenly, realising I'd inadvertently wandered into the red light district, I jump back in shock. It was less the shock of seeing four semi-naked women behind a window, but just the fact I wasn't expecting to see anyone at all.

I've never seen such a ridiculously shameful situation as being laughed at by four prostitutes. Four women who sell their bodies for money, mainly to fat, old, seedy men were laughing at me in mockery. If I could have got over the shame, I would probably have confronted them about the contradiction of the social situation.

I decided maybe I would go back one day and do so.

Instead I just took round some sandwiches. Joke's on them, the bread was made for ducks.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

BMI: Baggage Mislaid Indefinitely

I left you in the last blog gripped in suspense after revealing that my bag had been lost on my journey from Manchester to Schipol Airport near Amsterdam. I've come over to study for 4 months in The Hague in the south-east of the Netherlands, so it wasn't off to the best of starts.

Firstly I arrived at the airport and was informed by the woman behind the counter that because I hadn't checked in online I would have to pay an extra £10 to register my passport. I asked if she would accept a song instead. She didn't laugh. She then asked if I had any baggage. I told her I had 2 children from a previous relationship. Not even a smile. Finally she wanted to know if I'd packed my bag myself. By this point I was fairly sure she'd had a humour bypass recently so resisted any further temptations involving my terrorist butler packing it for me.

Then I arrived and my bag wasn't on the carousel. I was starting to regret joking around with the one woman who had the power to control the destiny of my belongings. Had the baggage joke been a final straw? Had she snapped and sent my bag to Africa?

In the end it worked out as a bit of a blessing in disguise, as although I couldn't shower or change clothes (whats new?), I didn't have to lug my bag around and it was delivered the next day by a man in a small white van smoking a cigarette. (The man, not my bag.)

And so, the moral of this tale is if you fly with BMIbaby from Manchester, and need to deliver, say, a new heart to a dying child in the Netherlands, buy a ticket to Peru. It's probably got more chance of getting to where you wanted it.

Either that or just don't go to the check in desk where Eva Braun is the assistant.