Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beer tasting party



The Facts:

55 beers were emptied
24 beers are still in my fridge
15 attendees (13 tasting-experts, 1 pregnant lady, 1 dog)
4.2 bottles average beer intake
2 severe hangovers

The Story:

It was back in July, warm summer evening, I went for dinner and drinks with Bart and Erik. One thing led to another and I learned that it was not only my Dad experimenting with home made spirits. Erik and his Dad were trying to brew their own beer. Attaboys! Of course, I had to twist Erik's arm to promise that when the beer is ready we will try it.
Fast forward a couple of months...Erik reported that the beer is ready, it was time to taste it! So we threw a beer tasting party!
(But not before I secretly tasted the home-brewed-liquid gold...and gave it two thumbs up ;-) ... )

To be honest, I did not expect who knows what from the party. I recently hosted a Wine tasting party too and I was wondering if people won't just think of me as an AA...lol May be I am not far off on that last statement, but I was wrong on my expectation...
I was so happy to see with how much enthusiasm everybody embraced the idea. Each of us was supposed to bring 5 unusual beers. Most of the beer came from Belgium (God Bless Belgium!), but we also had beer from Japan, Tanzania, Mexico, The Netherlands - including some local Utrecht beer!, Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Australia...and the most unusual one was the Coconut beer from Germany/Gana!!! Aside from Coconut and hop, we also tasted berry, cherry and banana beers. Strength-wise, we went from 4.6% (Corona) to 10% (Maredsous). Bottle sizes varied from 330ml to 750ml. Amazing variety, any way you slice it!!!
The Pragt's beer was a total success too...judging by the fact that even my hidden reserve bottle of it was open and gone... :-)
Good job, Erik!

To wrap it up, I'll simply say...I had an awesome time! With friends like that life is festive, fun, fabulous!!! With or w.out the beer... :-) Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed it too!

The Photos:

The evening in photos...CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

babies



It's been a while since the last time a friend had a baby. But this year 5 friends are buying dippers, strollers, pacifiers and all that jazz. One in US, one in UK, one in Spain, and two in the Netherlands! Amazing!

Today I was very happy to hear that my friends Diana and Don had their Joshua on the 16th of October! Congratulations! :)
Diana is my best friend from the time we started playing with science. We've had so much fun times in Sofia, Japan, Alaska, Vegas and Washington...Andi, shall we go again to Thomas' land? :-)

I'm looking forward to adding four more photos to this blog ... :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

let's play

I promise to explain this post soon, but for right now...let's play :-)
Would you spear just a moment of your time and particilate in the pole to the right -

Will I move yet again to another country, and this time...to Australia?

Thanks for your vote!
:)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For whom the sirens go off

The other day a friend twitted: 'De sirenes van de ambulance zijn geweldig om te horen, zelfs 's nachts. Elke keer denk ik: weer potentieel een leven gered!' / 'The sirens of the ambulance are great to hear, even at night. Every time I think, again potentially a life is saved!'
The moment I read it I experienced an overwhelming realization and a flashback...
A realization why exactly I've always liked the sound of ambulance sirens, and a flashback from my childhood.
I must have been 5-6 years old, we were in the city with my Mom, and an ambulance with the siren on drove by.
I'd never seen ambulance before, so my Mom explained that ambulances take sick people or pregnant women who are about to deliver to the hospital. Perhaps in my childish mind, 'sick' was already scary word, so I said 'I hope this ambulance was taking a lady to the hospital to have a baby'. And then I clung to my Mom's arm.
And only the other night I realized that every time I hear an ambulance, I hear hope...
Thanks Erik, for putting it so simple, yet so moving...

Fun fact - Did you know that the ambulance siren sound in UK and US is different from the one in continental Europe? :-)
For the US/UK click here and for Europe click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn morning

I love today's October morning.
Spotless blue sky, Sun is out, air is cool and fresh, but not yet chilly.
I have wrapped myself in a blanket of calmness, and I sit in the the garden with my morning coffee, and a cookie.
My face is one big smile, my eyes are smiling too...my hearth beat is steady and strong.
The street is quite, but from the distance comes the ocean-like sound of the cars on the highway. Life out there continues.
I hear the doorbell, my ride to Diakonessenhuis is here.
...
Two hours later I'm back home - the heavy white 'knee-to-toe' cast is left behind in the hospital. Pfew!
What a relief!!!
I have a new cast now - but much smaller one, as small as I could negotiate with the cast-maker. Good job, Iliana!
It's blue and it almost looks stylish compared to the big chunky old one.
And I can actually walk on my own - short distances, but still, a BIG step forward!!! For longer distances I'll still need the crutches.
I am not allowed to drive, but I am allowed to bike. OK, I won't try it right away, because the foot muscles need to warm up for a day or two, but I'm on the way to healing...3 more weeks!
But let me tell you how GREAT it feels that I can walk again, I am not prisoned at home anymore, I can go on the street and see people, I can slowly go to the park and look at the beautiful Autumn colors...I can even go to work (but tomorrow!)...
Ah, the sweetness of freedom! The promise of the Autumn morning...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

choices



It's been 7 days with crutches. All along my friend Mette is telling me it's time for me to learn to enjoy just sitting on the sofa and do nothing. But can I? While I started to get used to the fact that I will be slow physically in the next three weeks...I could not slow down my mind, so I thought of the choices we make and how they shape us...because if I had not chosen to wear high heels for my date on Sunday, I would have (probably) not broken my feet and so on...
So, here are the choices I thought of...feel free to add yours...

Go on a date with the guy YOU LIKE, or with the guy who LIKES YOU
On a sunny day, sit on the COUCH with your cast, or sit in the GARDEN with your cast
On a rainy day, sit on the couch and munch on CHIPS, or sit on the couch and eat an APPLE
Have a COFFEE, or have a TEA
Wait for your friend to COOK FOR YOU, or JOIN YOUR FRIEND in the cooking process (as much as you could)
Read a BOOK, or watch TV
Expect your friends to CALL YOU, or CALL A FRIEND far away who would be happy to hear you on the phone
Have your friends ASK YOU how your feet is feeling, or ASK YOUR FRIENDS how their days go
Have SEX, or MAKE LOVE
See a DRAMA movie, or see a COMEDY movie
TRUST your friend to drive your odd car and take you to a party, or STAY HOME in the safe zone
BE DISAPPOINTED with the people who didn't check on you, or RESPECT THEIR CHOICE not to call you every single day
ASK questions, or ASSUME answers
Focus on the POSITIVE, or let the NEGATIVE take over

Choices, choices, choices... :)
This week I learned to ask for help, I learned to accept to be helped, I learned to be patient (somewhat!)...
What I also learned is...I have chosen the best friends! Again! :-)

ps. I even chose to keep my Saturday flowers promise! Thanks, P.!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

life with crutches - Part 2

Day 4. Cabin fever is taking over. I must escape! Determined to keep my dental cleaning appointment I call a cab to take me to the dentist office...which by foot is merely 650m away, but the one way streets and the park in between makes for a fun 2km ride.
Before I know it my teeth are clean and I can go home. The light fog, the mellow weather, the smell of the Autumn captivate me and I decide to go home by foot, and by crutches. I mean, c'mon, it's only 650 meters, I can see the park from the office's front door, and my house is just on the other side of the park...It can't be that difficult!
Well, surprisingly...it can! It took me about ten stops to rest, and 30 minutes to get home. My face dripping with sweat, my t-shit soaked too!

On the positive side - I saw a couple of picture perfect spider webs (and their habitants), sprinkled with morning dew; a few golden leaves danced for me before landing on the wet green grass; I filled my lungs with fresh Autumn air. I love Autumn!

Curious observation - five people offered sympathy to my slow motion movements. All five of them were 60 and above years old. I guess, they are the ones that can relate, they know we are not invincible, their life is more in sync with the pace of my walking...
Harmony at its best! :-)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

life with crutches

Have you ever wondered what it is to be in a wheel chair? Or to have a mobility disability?
I have! And these days I am getting some answers...
On Sunday, after a wonderful afternoon in Amsterdam, I picked my bike from Utrecht Central Station and...fell off of it, ending with a broken foot bone and a cast. That last sentence actually summarizes a few hours of running to the doctor, radiology, first-aid, etc. etc....and the same friend who recently saved my broken spirit (see blog I had it) now helped with my broken foot. Will I ever manage to say a proper thank you? :)
Anyway, aside from a very sincere thank you to all my friends who are helping me these days with the grocery, with the food, and entertaining me, driving me to places, being 'there for me' in person, of via the internet...I also want to share - life with a cast and crutches is a pain in the neck! (not only in the foot!)
Every simple chore you do on a daily basis becomes a big effort, many extra muscles get involved, your healthy leg get exhausted from taking all the weight, showering is tricky, you can't even bring a glass with water to you table...because you have to hop...and before you know it, the water is spilled on the floor...Just try it and you'll see...
But, nothing I can do about it, 3 1/2 more weeks in the cast...and all the fun that comes with it! :-)
I can't wait to be back on my feet - literary! And appreciating it in a very new way!

i want to know his story





Do you know this man? I want to know his story...

His shoe polishing stand is on the South exit of the Amsterdam Central Station and one could easily not notice him amongst the crowds of people getting in and out. I actually never seen him with clients, but he is there every time I go to Amsterdam...
The first time I spotted him, a few months ago, he seemed to have just arrived. I would guess he came from Turkey.
He was wearing a simple suit and a light shirt, buttoned up to the neck. He was standing by his shoe stand, tall and proud, hands together on the front, patiently waiting for clients. He looked clean, close shaved, well combed hair, nicely trimmed mustache. He was observing with curiosity, but also with modesty the passing by people, which made me believe he is new to town.
In the following months, he seemed more and more relaxed, and at ease, and finally, this last weekend, he was sitting on a stool and rolling a cigarette. Routine must have settled. Yet, he kept his professional look - looking clean and well groomed, the shoe stand well organized, ready for the next client...
What caught my eye the first and every other time though, was this man's face and presence - I saw confidence, self-respect, and determination. I saw a strong personality. I saw a professional shoe-polisher - proud of his line of work. I was captivated by someone at peace. And I want to know his story...

The picture below is from Istanbul - a few shoe-polish stands by the Spice Market. They had more business than the man in Amsterdam. But I wonder, would any of them dare to go on their own, step outside of the comfort zone and try to make it in a new world? Would they have the strength? Would they have a story?

Friday, October 01, 2010

today I had it

It's not the first time in my life I've felt weak, but today I had it. I normally deal bravely with living in a new country, using a new language on a daily basis, money shortage, emotional turbulence, work boredom, but these last couple of days mixed a strong cocktail of all listed ingredient and escalated the pressure in to the point of waking up this morning ... short on breath, heart beat as if I've ran for dear life, and a paralyzing terror - can I handle it all?!
After a shower, coffee and a grapefruit juice, fully awake, I realized that the terrifying feeling that I'm losing grip is still with me.
So it wasn't just a result of a nightmare. I was really on the verge of losing it...

I needed a solid stone to step on, a safe place where to catch my breath, a trusted friend to look me in the eyes and without words to reassure me that I will be o'right. Given the day and time, almost everybody was not available. Expect for one, who coincidentally was coming back from a business meeting, and on his way to take his 8 month pregnant girlfriend to the doctor.
It took 5 minutes altogether, to sit with a cup of espresso, to look me in the eyes and smile. I took his hand for just a moment, and a wave of peace came over me. The power of the human touch! No words necessary. And then I smiled too, pressure was gone, I gained clarity...

I needed a tiny alignment to gain strength, and I've found it...a mental switch from a very bitter 'today I had it', to a blissful 'today I had it all!'