Category: Generally speaking

November 12, 2008

2-4-6-8 it’s time to integrate!

Filed under: — Natasha @ 5:28 pm


As the year draws to a close, the City of Amsterdam is apparently obliged to send every immigrant (including yours truly) a letter that says we have to integrate, get to know Dutch society and learn the language. According to an Amsterdam politician friend of mine, the city has to crank out all these letters soon or risk a fine. Basically, they are in a rush to apply a law that was passed in 2007. Better later than never.

Oh but no. First, of all, I already went through this properly about eight years back when I lived in Nijmegen. Oddly enough, I wasn’t obliged or allowed to take Dutch lessons back then because I was here on a temporary resident’s permit. I managed to stay and then the courses were no longer available to me anymore; it was up to me. I learnt Dutch the hard way: at parties and by reading. And now I’m finally learning to write it properly because it’s about time I did. Second, as a Canadian, I am exempt of language lessons as are about 20 other nationalities according to Dutch immigration law. Funny how nobody working with immigrants seems to know that.

Third, Dutch lessons? Help with getting a job? Hello? I’ve been here for almost 10 years and have been running my own business for about eight! The young woman on the phone was very nice and suggested I send her a copy of my diploma just to make sure. I asked her if she could read Latin. Why, she asked. My Canadian university diploma is in Latin and I can barely make it out myself. I told her I wasn’t sending anything to anyone and wasn’t going to take time off work for an “intake meeting” when I could be working. After all, there’s a crisis on and all.

I have this nagging feeling that this won’t just go away. By the way, Amsterdam has waiting lists of three months or so for Dutch lessons as well. It’s a disaster and everybody knows it.

The woman went on to point out three times that many people who have been living here for years don’t speak the language. But I do, so why are you on about this? It has nothing to do with me.

I have to renew my resident’s permit soon or apply for the Dutch nationality. Which is it going to be?

UPDATE Yes, I speak Dutch as a near near native speaker (not a typo) and I do so 95% of my day except with business partners and when I stub my toe on something.

MORE UPDATE Integration test angers old immigrants mentions me as well.

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September 3, 2008

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Filed under: — Natasha @ 1:11 pm
Freezer flambé

Now here’s something that has never happened to me before: my freezer caught fire yesterday. It freaked me out completely, as it could have been a helluvalot worse.

I had turned it off for months, as it’s too big for one person and I rarely used it. Trying to save electricity and all, even though it’s included in the rent.

I bought some sorbet for dessert and decided to clean my freezer and turn it on again. The thing started smoking and making electrical noises you hear in the movies. I turned off all the power in the house and that thing kept going. I went outside, left the door open and called the fire brigade, the whole shebang.

They came in 5 mins, going up my one-way street (they can do that), and six huge masked individuals ran into my kitchen to crush the evil.

The cops came later and told me to go drink tea with the upstairs neighbour. I don’t like the cops much – go figure. And I still think the fire brigade are the best public servants around. They rock.

The fridge that leaks and is not mine and that I want replaced, leaked onto the electricity of the freezer. Or something dangerously stupid like that.

I had bought sorbet because a friend of mine came over for dinner. I hadn’t seen him in a while and pardon the pun, but this was an interesting ice breaker.

I just sent my landlord who lives downstairs and missed the show this picture. Maybe he’ll finally change the electricity in this flat. I also expect a new fridge and freezer set in the near future.

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June 9, 2008

Fokke & Sukke cartoon just for me

Filed under: — Natasha @ 9:18 am

(Caption: Wow! Via Natasha we’re just one step removed from… Kevin, Steve, Ed, Jim & Tyler!)

The reference is to the members of Canadian band Barenaked Ladies from Toronto, which ironically I interviewed and enjoyed live by the sea in Daytona Beach, Florida on Spring Break back in 1989 or so. Jean-Marc Van Tol said he likes them a lot.

I love the Dutch cartoon Fokke & Sukke and the book I had signed was in Russian, hence the Russian title. French translations are coming up and there was even a Hungarian book for sale.

This all took place during last weekend’s Stripdagen in Haarlem, an entire weekend of outdoor comic strips sales, meeting artists, live interviews, guinea pig races and many other fun events. We had two days of sun and it was just great.

Here below some people enjoying cartoons and one of the many artists of the Nieuw Gehoer ‘paddock’, as they call them in the business. It was also nice to hang out with the folks from Rotterdam cartoon mag Zone 5300 of which I know a few people who draw and write for them. I now have some bedtime reading for a while!


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June 2, 2008

Moonster the cat checks out at 21 years, 3 months

Filed under: — Natasha @ 5:43 pm


When I was a little girl we had two cats, Ti-Noir (‘Blackie’) and Ti-Gris (‘Little grey one’). T-Noir was a big tabby that just got too old (16 or so) and Ti-Gris had decided to take off into the woods and never come back one summer. My dad had the nasty task of bringing Ti-Noir to the vet to have it put to sleep. When he came back, he told me something like, “don’t get a cat unless you’re ready to do this, too.”

When I got my first apartment in 1987, the first thing I wanted to have that I couldn’t before was cats. At my favourite restaurant, one of the waitresses had kittens she was giving away. I said yes without knowing what the kittens looked like, all I knew is that I wanted a female cat. I got a whiny pitch black siamese cat called Gala (Dali’s wife’s name) and renamed it Pussyminou, roughly French Canadian for catcat. A bilingual joke on my part.

After a few months of whiny Pussyminou, the black stealth cat that sneaked around corners, I met some classical guitarists that had some kittens to give away. I said yes again, without a picture and ended up with the female Moonster.

Both Pussyminou and Moonster came to the Netherlands with me in 1999. Pussyminou got very ill and was put to sleep – how could I forget – on September 10, 2001. She was 14.

Moonster was put to sleep today and was 21, which is a helluvalot for any cat. After some years of kidney pills and recent heart problems, she had a stroke and was paralysed, so it was time to check out.

Long live Moonster.

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