Aug 25, 2011

Our First Month in Amsterdam, Part 2: Misadventures, Amusing Anecdotes, and the Sad, Sad Truth

Aside from some exploring and a few excursions, the reality is, most of my time here has been spent with my appliance manuals and Google Translate, trying to figure out how to wash our clothes and use the oven. Or translating utility bills, or deciphering what it is that I just bought from the grocery store and how to use it. Google translate is like the Facebook affair for new expats.

"Figuring it all out" has been the main focus of our time and energy for the past month, and trust me, there's been a few mishaps. I'm sure there will be even more to come, but here are a few tidbits so far:

As I mentioned, figuring out appliances has had a steep learning curve. There was the Exploding Butter incident during the 2nd week, in which we learned that our stove here burns much hotter than our old one. Also, that taking time to convert 3 cups into metric units might turn your easiest recipe into a minor catastrophe. Better to estimate. Oh, and just a few pats of exploding butter can really go a long way in kitchen coverage. You'd be surprised.

There was the little "issue" with PayPal, in which I kind of screwed up a money transfer, and I got investigated for international money laundering. That was fun.

There was the day I was yelled at in a park, by an overprotective grandmother who seemingly thought that I wasn't supervising her granddaughter properly. I say seemingly because it was all in Dutch and I didn't understand a word. Funny thing, being yelled at in another language isn't nearly as bad as you might think. For all I know she was telling me much she liked my shoes, just with a really forceful, angry tone. Which is why I responded, "Thanks! $14.99 at Target!"

People keep asking, how are the kids? Super awesome, as it turns out. Mia's thumb sucking has fully regressed; it's almost constant now. Sam has suddenly developed a nervous nail-biting habit, not even neglecting his toenails. And Nate has taken to speaking gibberish while out in public. And the current two most popular phrases at our house are: "I hate Amsterdam!" and "That was off the hoozle." So obviously, everyone is really well adjusted and totally thriving.

I'll be honest; some adjustments have been tough. I'll summarize:
We live in a lovely apartment.
On the 2nd floor.
With wood floors.
And no yard.
Yes, we chose it. It really was our best option at the time.
Since we've arrived, Amsterdam is experiencing an unusually rainy Summer.
Which is to say, we've been stuck indoors. A lot.
Our shipment (with all our toys) hasn't arrived yet, so the kids have almost nothing to do inside besides watching TV.
Amazingly, even that is getting old.
Yesterday I printed out over 40 pages of mazes for them to do.
They finished in 10 minutes.
This combination of boredom, confinement, and copious precipitation has inevitably led to lots of fighting, yelling, door-slamming, stomping, and general dysfunction.
And did I mention that we live in an apartment? With wood floors?
Lord bless our downstairs neighbors with acute hearing loss.

Yes, poor, poor us.

But here's the sad part.
We have absolutely no friends here. None at all.

Which is why I pour my heart and soul out to Google Translate on a daily basis.

It's pathetic. In fact, I've started posting on expat forums, begging for people to hang out with. It's like online dating, but for friends. "Insomniac mother of 3 and suspected money-launderer, enjoys running, Jane Austin, and quoting Bill Murray movies. Seeks friendship with like-minded mother. Must love long afternoons at the playground, political satire, and translating appliance manuals. "

I have some dates set up next week, so the big question is: what should I wear?

But first, I have to tell Google Translate that I'm kind of dating again.


Courtney @ Ordinary Happily Ever After said...

How do you say "I would love to stand here and talk to you, but I'm not going to" :)

You can say that next time Grandma gives you a hard time... BTW, name that movie :)

Shelly said...

You make me laugh. And not much in my little boring life does, so thanks. I need that google translation thing for morons. Do they speak that language?

MAB said...

No friends? We've had two couples to our house for dinner and we met with 3 different couples at a separate dinner. No chums yet but maybe in a few years...Oh and the guy I keep seeing on his bike in just the see through speedos, I consider him a friend. We've had many conversations in my head like, Me: "What if you crash?" Him: "Does it look like I'm going to crash?" Me: "No, your legs look very smooth and scar free."

Bardsleyland said...

Groundhog Day! Here's my favorite quote: "Isn't there a line just for emergencies? Or celebrities? I'm both. I'm a celebrity in an emergency."

MAB- Well, maybe you should invite Speedo Bike Guy for dinner one of these days.

Carrie Beckstead said...

Donna - I so remember my first months in Germany and begging people to invite us over to play. I probably scared people with my eagerness to drive 45 minutes one way to play for only one hour and then turned right around and drove home 45 minutes (which I did on several occasions). Trust me - the friends will come.

Julia said...

When I was visiting Prague back in the day, I went to McDonalds so I could order a familiar-tasting breakfast. The menu was in Czech, so I ordered three things, hoping to end up with something like an egg mcmuffin, some juice, and maybe some hash browns. What I actually ordered: three sizes of french fries. That was a good breakfast. Hang in there!

Aimee said...

This was hilarious! Loved the translation. :)

Do you guys have an ipad? I just read about an app called converse that looked pretty great for translating.

thespangenbergs said...

We'll be there sooner than you know and we can commiserate together! ;) Hope things have turned around for you guys!