Settling into my (temporary) new Home

Posted on January 7, 2010

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I have been “in country” for almost a week now, settling in to my stay in the city of Rotterdam. It has been extremely cold and snowy. The sidewalks are coated with ice. The country does not have salt to spread because these conditions are abnormal. According to one account I heard, the convoy of trucks that were sent to Germany to get salt have been stuck in the snow. Life continues as normal though, there are just as many bikes wheeling around the city now as when the weather is warm.

Each day I commute by the metro to the industrial suburb of Pernis. Pernis is home to harbors, shipping containers, and chemical plants. I have been assigned an office on the top floor with a great view of one of the largest ports in the world. While talking on the phone (which I do way too much), I like to watch the ships being unloaded and the containers being stacked. What is in them, who knows? They likely came from Asia. It is a hive of activity 24 hours a day.

In order to get some exercise, I like to get off the metro well before my stop and walk the rest of the way. It is helping me to learn the city and allows me to vary my diet by introducing me to new restaurants. Today, on the way home I walked past Nemo, which is a ‘Coffee’ Shop, which is code for pot. I have seen these shops in Amsterdam, I didn’t realize that Rotterdam also had a fair share of them.

Some people have been asking me what I eat here in the exotic Netherlands. My diet has been heavily skewed towards dairy, as a cheese sandwich is often my meal of choice at lunch. For dinner I have more options, and I have taken advantage of some of the excellent ethnic food in the city, preferring it over the local food. The dutch places generally do not have vegetarian choices, other than cheese sandwiches. Tonight, I got Chinese takeout, veggie udon noodles. Delicious when washed down with a Heineken!
One of my biggest challenges has been the language barrier. At work everyone speaks English, but sometimes I am afraid that what I am saying is being misunderstood. Understanding the words and understanding the meaning are two different things. The Dutch language is hard because it is so different from English and even German, which I have a basic grasp of. The words give no hint to their meaning they are so different. See the door below. It probably says something like ‘fire door’ or ‘keep clear’ but I have no idea. This is a bigger deal with restaurant menus, which I can not read at all. I am very depending on finding wait staff who speak English and can help me out.
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