Sunday, August 31, 2008


Things are going well. I just finished my intensive week of Dutch lessons, and 'real' school starts tomorrow morning. But not really, since the first day of school is just a big partay. New student orientation all day, followed by a concert and partay in the evening. Because in music school, that's just the way we roll. I still haven't gotten my timetable, so hopefully we'll get those tomorrow.....
This weekend was the Uitmarkt in Amsterdam, which is a big outdoor festival that celebrates all the different cultural things in and around Amsterdam. It spans all along the Eastern docklands of Amsterdam, and consists of a series of booths and performance areas. Every single arts organization you could think of seemed to have a booth - and they went on forever. And a lot of them were giving out free stuff, so that was awesome. They were grouped according to which 'art' it was too, music, theatre, dance, museums, libraries....... A lot of the theatre/music booths were selling tickets too, so you could pick up a season schedule and buy your tickets right there. Pretty nifty. So I was wandering all around the Uitmarkt, picking up free swag from all the booths, and I wandered over to the museum quarter and saw a big stage set up for what appeared to be an orchestra. So I found a schedule to see who was supposed to be playing - and it was none other than the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra! For any of you who don't understand how cool this was, the Concertgebouw is one of the best orchestras in the wooooorld. They're based in Amsterdam, but this year they're touring Japan, Italy, and England as well. Since I had about an hour and half to kill before the Concertgebouw was supposed to go on stage, I decided to bike to the Vondelpark and try and read my NL Cosmo magazine I had picked up.
The weather was amazing yesterday (and it's still really nice today), so the park was packed full of people. I found a little piece of grass off one of the side trails, and sat down under a tree with my magazine. After painfully reading some Cosmo (including an interview with Scarlett Johanssen in which she claims she's not sexy, and is just a normal girl), I headed back down to the Uitmarkt. It was a madhouse down there. I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. Near where the Concertgebouw was playing they had an entire field set aside for bikes, but that was full and there were bikes locked along the side of the road for miles. If I had to guess, I'd say a million. But it really only made sense to bike to the Uitmarkt - its sort of off on its own, not close to anything, and the weather was really nice. I also discovered that my school was part of the Uitmarkt, since its on the docklands too (the Oosterdok) and so they were using the three performances spaces in the CvA for Uitmarkt stuff. But back to the Concertgebouw.
They were supposed to go on at 4, but (surprise surprise) the 'host' came on stage at 4 to say that they were going to wait until 4:30, so that the sun wouldn't as much in the musician's eyes. Anyone who's played an outdoor concert knows that although it's great when it's not bad weather, it inevitably means there's major sightline problems due to the blinding sun. As it was, they went on at 4:30 with half the orchestra wearing their sunglasses. It was a good time though. They played Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and then topped it off with a Dvorak Dance. The performance was also broadcast on TV, and so they had a big viewscreen behind the stage showing what they were broadcasting. It was highly amusing to a) watch the pages of the conductors score flapping in the breeze, b) watch the people in the audience try not to look surprised when the camera cut to them, and c) watch orchestra members try to act normal while they have a camera in their face. After the Uitmarkt I biked home and discovered that I had a wee bit of a sunburn. Tomorrow school starts, and the adventure continues.........

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mijn naam is Katya

So I'm beginning to feel more Dutch. Except for the part where I still can't understand any Dutch. But other than that I am acclimatizing very well. I started my Dutch course yesterday morning. I've discovered that the main difference between Dutch and German is the lack of hard Gs. No such thing as "Gah". It's "hhhhh". That sound like you're clearing your throat. So therefor a word such as geboren sounds like "hhhh-eboren". It's kind of fun, actually. Just as long as I remember to pronounce it right. Though right now my Dutch mainly consists of 'Mijn naam is Katya, spiel ik altviool.
I broke down and bought a phone - I was holding out hope for an iPhone, but for that you need a Dutch bank account, and to get that you need a BSN. They call it a "Burger Service Number", but that's not its actual name. Its the number the government gives you when you register. But I haven't registered yet.......I went down there yesterday and I had to make an appointment for their first available date. Sept. 9. But back to the phone. Because an iPhone requires a contract, I couldn't get it without a bank account. And although I'm not really expecting any calls, I didn't really want to go 2 weeks without a phone. It seems wrong. So I went to the T-Mobile store on Nieuwendijk and got a pre-paid phone. The advantage is that you just pay up front, and get the phone. Pretty good for me as well, since I'm not anticipating large amounts of phone calling taking place. But I'm still totally clueless about how phone numbers work in Europe. Seriously, I know there's a country code (033) and a city code (020) but I'm not sure my phone has one. It's very confusing. There's just a sticker on the box that says my phone number is "0681639711". Also, all the instructions on activating my phone are in Dutch. I managed pretty well, but I still don't know how to refill it. Sadly, my Dutch lessons have not yet covered phone set-up. I'm sure that's going to be covered very soon.
I had a fun time after class today hanging out at the AHK's Bureau Inschrivijn (Enrollment Office). I had to get a few forms signed for the Canadian government, one so that I don't have to start paying back my huge student loan, and another so I keep getting my sweet pension every month. But of course they were very busy, what with everybody trying to figure out how to register and pay their fees one week before school starts. Fools. But it's also very weird that the BI is only open from 1-4 every day. You'd think they'd at least have extended hours for the back to school rush. But apparently not. I then stood in line to get my visa sorted out, but because I only got to the BI at 3 (due to the fact my Dutch class went to 2:30) it soon became 4 and the BI closed. So I have to go back on Thursday, because the visa person doesn't work on Wednesdays.
As for the pictures, the first is of the view from my bedroom window. Pretty sweet, no? And the second is the underground parking at the Conservatory. This is the way every new building (in an accommodating climate of course - VANCOUVER) should work. They've made absolutely no provisions for vehicle parking, but there's an underground bike parking lot (that's monitored by security) as well as ample above ground bike parking in front of the school and the public library beside it. It also helps that it's a short walk from Amsterdam Centraal train station. And since you can pretty much catch a train/bus/tram/metro from anywhere and take it to Centraal. Efficient and inexpensive public transit definitely helps with the whole no vehicle thing. Anyhoo that's about all for now. I'm sure I'll have more news later.

Oh yeah. I bought some European Smarties today. They tasted kind of weird. It was extremely disappointing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I have arrived. Well technically I arrived yesterday. But the first day never counts, since you're half delirious from jet lag and just trying to remember your name is a chore. By the time I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday I had been up for almost 24 hours. I had a few fitful hours of sleep on the plane, but plane sleeping is never that restful and usually just makes you feel worse than you were before. My new landlord/roommate Julijana met me at the airport - meeting someone you've never met before and have no idea what they look like is hard. I ended up calling her cell phone from a payphone, since there was just this constant crowd of people at the arrival area. But we managed to meet up, and went to her apartment in Slotervaart. She owns the apartment, and then rents out rooms to foreign students and the like. She is originally from Eastern Europe - Serbia I think - but has been living in the Netherlands for over 10 years. She works for the railway as a security/ticket officer on the trains, and so the apartment is very conveniently 1 block away from a train station. It's 1 stop away from Schiphol airport, and 2 stops away from Centraal Station. So pretty convenient. But I still plan on getting a bike and just biking to school all year. Aside from the up front cost, I'm convinced it will be cheaper than taking the train all year. It's only E3.30 for a return trip to Centraal Station, but that begins to add up very quickly when you start to do the math. I'll probably just become one of those people who lives at school....

My room is quite nice, with a double bed, closet, dresserish drawer units, and a view of the canal. Oh yeah. The apartment building is built on stilts over the canal, and my room just happens to be over it. Not directly, but just to the one side. But still, nice view of the canal and the nearby traffic circle from my window. I've also decided that I'm going to try and work my way through my Lonely Planet Amsterdam City Guide. When you live somewhere, you often don't ever go to the "touristy" places. I may skip overtly touristy places like Madame Toussaud's, but I think it will be nice to go to a new place once a week, like a field trip every Sunday. We'll see how long I keep it up, but the first two places on my list that I didn't go to in June are the Stedelijk Museum CS and Nemo, which are both right by my school. The Stedelijk CS is actually in the building right beside my school. So what's my excuse! It IS 9 euros, but it has the modern classes by people like Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rodin! I guess at 9 euros for all those dudes it's really a steal. Nemo is the museum of Science and Technology, that also has beach on the roof. And it's just on the other side of a little walking bridge that's about 50 feet from my school. Hopefully I'll become all culture-fied, and classy. There's always hope.

What am I talking about. With me, there's no hope. But I'll have fun anyways :)