Tuesday, December 22, 2009


so you know all the news youre hearing about the massive delays and cancellations and utter chaos that is going on at all the European airports because of the huge european snowstorm, leaving travelers stranded at the airport and train station for days? yeah, im caught up in all that. i wasnt supposed to be posting again on this travel blog BECAUSE I WAS SUPPOSED TO GO HOME but here i am, in Frankfurt, for whatever reason, and not in Canada.

its pretty amazing how quickly we get used to our lot in life. right now my lot in life is to wait in lines. for hours. wait in one line for three hours, get told to go to another one. i think they do it to keep us busy. things happen, like me needing to use the bathroom, or wanting to drink some water, but we dont want to lose our spot in line. it could be worse for me, i guess. im scheduled to fly out this afternoon - hopefully that will actually happen. other people dont even have a flight re-booked. other people who had only intended to pass through Frankfurt and dont have a visa to enter germany cant even leave the airport and have to spend the night sleeping in the airport. some travelers have been at the airport on standby for days now. i have my Dutch residency card so they put me up at a hotel, which to be fair, was pretty nice because at least i could watch the news on TV and learn about all the other travelers trapped at the airport like me.

i still dont know where my baggage is, so i only have my purse and my backpack with me at the moment. wish i packed some underwear instead of ten CDs. i immediately called up hotel reception and said, 'you see this sign that says if ive forgotten any of the following items (toothpaste, comb, shower cap, etc.), youll bring it up for free? i want one of everything. No, i dont know what i will do with a cotton pad right now but i will just take it.'

gonna head back to the airport now and hope my luck goes better today. wish me luck. Frankfurt is a nice city and i love the Germans, but i do not want to spend Christmas or my 25th birthday here. and i miss my family and my friends. AND KOREAN FOOD.

Friday, December 18, 2009

my last ASG night

last night i checked out the "Undercover Night" party that was happening at Cafe Sappho. Folks from the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild all performed interpretive covers as diverse as Bright Eyes, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison, Elliott Smith, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Death Cab for Cutie, Simon and Garfunkel, and Feist. and also a dutch folk song that the singer assured all of us anglophones that we would not understand. the fun thing about a good cover is if you do it right, you've got the whole bar singing along. i saw a lot of my usual favourites (like Ro, Eoghan, Roger) but got to see a lot of new faces i haven't seen before. so many talented musicians in Amsterdam!

i think that's what i really like about the atmosphere at Cafe Sappho. it's just so cosy and friendly. i've gone enough times now to be familiar with many of the faces there, and it's almost starting to feel like a second home to me now. plus i scored free soup from the bartender! i think i'm going to miss Cafe Sappho, and the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild the most when i move back to Canada. that, and Wok to Walk. looks like i'm really going to have to find an excuse to move back here.

can someone please give me a job at the International Criminal Court in Den Haag, alstublieft?

Ro sings the Boss's "Used Cars", with Luke backing up on piano

bedankt voor uw gastvrijheid, Amsterdam Songwriters Guild and Cafe Sappho.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ninja adventures through the snow

it's snowing in amsterdam. for reals. the fields and canals look magical. my apartment, however, is not so magical, since my landlord for whatever reason decided to remove my heater.

growing up in the Canadian back woods of the Greenbelt outside Ottawa means that i am pretty good with winter. i know how to build a snow shelter and survive through the night if i have to. i am used to driving sports utility vehicles through dark blizzards. i can sense deer approaching the road before i even see it. i wear pajamas under my jeans and still feel sexy.

what these Canadian winters of my childhood have not equipped me for, however, is surviving Dutch winters. yes, surprisingly, it does snow here, and while it's no "-20 degree, 20 centimetre of snow" ottawa, it is actually still terrifying to bike through snow, especially the dark, unploughed wild terrains that compose the town of Diemen where i live.

i don't bike this time of the year in Canada. i either drive the SUV or resign myself to public transportation. in Holland, however, i've got this little rattly bike that i bought for 50 euros, and i'm not sure if bike snow tires even exist. i watched a girl on a motorcycle wipe out right in front of me tonight and go sprawling across the pavement, which was scary motivation enough for me to bike really slow. but still not slow enough to stay behind the snow ploughs. seriously, they go so slow i pass them on a bicycle.

it's also painfully cold. as i mentioned before, the only way i've been able to get the nerve to bike twenty kilometres a day through the frost is to wrap myself up and cover my face like a ninja, and blast Wu-Tang Clan. it helps me get into the ninja mindset. you never hear about ninjas feeling cold. unfortunately my ninja-biking powers got me pulled over by the cops for biking too stealthily. or rather, i need a better bike light. still, all part of the ninja adventures. tiger style.


every time i visit Germany i get this this feeling that sometime i'm going to go there, get caught up in its awesomeness, and never actually leave.

when i woke up in Köln, the sun was just coming up. there's not a lot of sunlight these days. as i went out for a walk, i saw that the clubs were still going full blast. i guess Christoph was right when he said that Köln is a party town.

visiting james in hamburg was great. it was a cold brisk night, so we kept ourselves warm by drinking gluvine (that ridiculously sweet german wine) and eating these sugar-coated doughy pastries that reminded me of Ottawa's Beavertails. we walked by the harbour, and through Hamburg's seedy red light district where the night clubs sex shops, and strip clubs were. james says he finds straight night clubs weird, and i could see why he doesn't hang around this place much - it sure gives Amsterdam's Red Light District a run for its money. but seen at 2PM on a Monday afternoon gives it a whole new odd light. we also walked through the hipster area for an amazing brunch, and james had to practically tear me away from all the boutique shops that would have been disastrous for my credit card.

and when we woke up the next morning, it had snowed. pictures will come soon, i swear!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


there are many similarities between German and Dutch. this would only help me if i understand Dutch in the first place.

so i decided to take a trip by myself to Germany on a whim. an important lesson: taking trips on a whim is very expensive. backpacking is not what it used to be.
my hostel is located by a bunch of designer boutiques. this is not good news, especially since i spent the day in the Negen Straatjes in Amsterdam yesterday, shopping heaven. must...stay...away...

still there is some fun in spontaneous unprepared trips. i arrived here with no guide book, no friends, no agenda, and also, as mentioned, no understanding of the German language whatsoever. i did find a city guide at the hostel, however, at least i assumed it would tell me about the museums and restaurants to visit. as it turned out, however, over half of the guide is dedicated to information about escort services. i'm not really looking for *that* kind of adventure, but i suppose it is useful to know that i am probably too short to be an escort in Germany - they're all like five foot ten.

made it into Cologne today, or as the locals keep insisting on remind us Anglophones, Köln. i decided to go to this city solely on the Christoph's advice, who told me that it was a great city because it was known to be Germany's gay capital. Not that, he assured me, he believes that i "drink from the furry cup", but a good gay scene is pretty indicative of a fun city. and who am i to disagree with a German? especially a German who used to be my karaoke buddy at Ottawa's best gay bar?

did a bit of exploring today, taking a lovely walk along the Rheine river and checking out the various Christmas markets within the city and feeling in general excited about the holidays. Köln is all decked out in Christmas lights, and in my festive mood, i stole a festive mug from one of the apple cider stands. at least i assume that the 2 euro deposit on the cup was optional. along with my festive apple cider, i had a delicious German sausage along with a German beer.

i also experienced a bit of the joys of watching German dubbed television. "How I Met Your Mother" is, regrettably, still not funny in German, but "Malcolm mittendrin" is just plain gold no matter what language.

Friday, December 11, 2009

starbucks in amsterdam

amsterdam got its first Starbucks about a month ago. actually, other than the one in Schipol Airport, I'm pretty sure it's one of the first Starbucks to open in Holland. it was pretty great to watch. The Dutch people were really excited about it, with lineup extending out the door and wrapping around the store. the newly-trained barristas were nervous, and you could see them silently begging you not to order a complicated drink ("Americano? i can do Americano!"). it was fun to see all the excitement about it.

still...Douglas Coupland calls McDonald the Taint, but i really think Starbucks is "The Taint" in Europe. Europeans generally make good coffee - they don't need a Starbucks. sure, back at home in suburban Canada, i'll willingly drive to the Starbucks and pay five bucks for a fancy espresso drink just for the hip atmosphere and to have a decent cup of coffee, but that's because regular North American coffee sucks and you have to pay the extra to get the reliably good coffee, at Starbucks. In Europe, you can get a damn good cup of coffee even at a bar. there's no need for the Starbucks here, except maybe to promote the North American idea of "coffee to go" (a concept that Europe is still just learning). But i thoroughly disapprove of the Americanization of Europe, even though it might be inevitable. Fight, europe! Fight! Rage, rage against the dying of the light! Do not go gentle into that good night!

McDonalds, on the other hand, are already a dime a dozen around here. My favourite McDonalds snack in Amsterdam? Bitterballen.

music is my radar

apologies for my prolonged absence. after my epic month of traveling, i became bedridden with some very strange stomach bug for a week. well, after watching every single episode of the Big Bang Theory, i feel better now and have been seeing a lot of shows around Amsterdam.

Sunday night, there was the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild Showcase featuring beloved local artists such as Lake Montgomery, Case Mayfield, Max VanRemmerden, Brian Neubauer, the famous DJ Lucky Fonz III, and the band Chin Up:

i was particularly impressed by Chin Up's set, which despite closing up a pretty folk music themed night, ended on quite the rock-and-roll note, with microphone stands hurled off the stage and the guitarist moshing in the crowd on the dancefloor,his glasses flying off and broken guitar strings flailing. i take back my premature remarks about the Dutch not really rocking out and dancing at shows.

Tuesday night was the weekly open mic night held at the cosy Cafe Sappho, reuniting a lot of the ASG folks again. i played a pretty fun set and learned an important lesson: your audience is much more likely to pay attention to your music if you forget to wear a bra on stage. i do NOT have video footage of that, but i did manage to capture Eoghan's lovely Christmas song, with Ro Halfhide and Brian Neubauer spontaneously backing up on vocals.

God bless the Irish, every single one of them.

Thursday night was Lake Montgomery's birthday show at the Jet Lounge. i've only discovered her music recently but absolutely adore her style. i'm usually pretty good at describing what i like about musicians but she just leaves me speechless. she is amazing.

can we somehow convince her to come to Canada? please?

Ro Halfhide is backing her up on drums in this video. i don't know why he pops up in all of my videos. probably because he's the founder of the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild, which is, by the way, one of the best things i've discovered since moving to Amsterdam.

in one day, i head off to germany, on a mini-tour by myself to Cologne and Hamburg. in ten days, i move back to Canada (sob). in fifteen days, i turn 25 (nooooooo....)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

reflections while hiding from the cold rain

there is no ladylike way to eat french onion soup.

November in Paris

The Miles Davis exhibit at the Cite de la Musique, shopping in the guitar store district (YES THERE IS ONE HERE), checking out Martina Topley-Bird at the Elysee Montmartre for the Dub Festival... visiting Mel in Paris makes for a wonderfully musical adventure.

November in Paris

The Miles Davis exhibit at the Cite de la Musique, shopping in the guitar store district (YES THERE IS ONE HERE), checking out Martina Topley-Bird at the Elysee Montmartre for the Dub Festival... visiting Mel in Paris makes for a wonderfully musical adventure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

i was kind of hoping it was the Freemasons

so there is this club that i pass by every day on my way home from downtown, and i've always been curious about what it is. it looks like a normal residential house, but there are hints that it is some sort of special place, like the fact that i occasionally see people getting out of taxis and going into the place, and also the fact that there is a big black bouncer in a suit that stands outside. yet it doesn't actually seem to be a regular club. you don't here house music pumping from outside, and there are never any lineups to get in, and there are no windows to peak inside, and also, it's in freaking Diemen, my neighbourhood, which is in the middle of nowhere and no self-respecting club that wants business would be located there. rob and i have hypothesized several times that it's probably some secret society stonecutters lodge or a Eyes Wide Shut-esque sex club.

well, it turns out it's a sex club. today as i biked home i squinted hard past the hired help smoking on the porch and saw that there was by the door a very discreet sign that read in very small letters the name of the establishment. and then i went home to google it. and yeah, really, it's a sex club. with free finger food and pick-up service from your door.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

southern france

a weekend in marseille with olivia and theresa...yes, we are playing a game of "how many racist comments will the Asian trio get in France?" you don't want to know what our scores are right now. we scored points within minutes of arriving in Marseille.

Marseille is charming in its own quaint, ghetto way. when we asked one of the locals for directions, he immediately, URGENTLY, told us the same thing five times, kind of like this:

attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs
attention a vos sacs...

okay then.

yesterday we had a lovely evening drinking french wine and eating french pastries while watching the soccer game between Marseille and Paris. Unlike last weekend, there were no riots. I have to admit I'm a little bit disappointed. there's always tonight though...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Ah, coke and whiskey," said Christoph as we sat down at the bar. "this is what preserves my faith in America, and humanity. There is nothing, absolutely nothing natural about this drink, neither the Coca Cola nor the whiskey. Yet it works so perfectly together. America invented it."

Christoph comes from the country that contributed the Jager portion of the Jagerbomb, also another concoction which has absolutely nothing natural about it. He's been living in Spain for about four years now though, and took it upon himself to kindly show us around his adopted town as the perfect tour guide.

at first i thought he was suspiciously taking us down an awful lot of narrow back alleys, until i realized that a large chunk of Barcelona's Gothic quarter is full of narrow back alleys. Both Christoph and our hotel dude assured us that Barcelona is perfectly safe, minus the odd pickpocket. i was relieved to hear that, until i watched a guy get stabbed with a guy holding a broken beer bottle in one hand and a belt buckle in the other. we decided to give him some space.

my Barcelona weekend was a pretty exciting adventure though, featuring:
  • a flamenco show, featuring an amazing flamenco guitarist that reminded me of Inigo Montoya, a singer that literally brought tears to my eyes, and this very very intense male flamenco dancer that scared the audience with his, well, intensity. the bar was totally packed with an entire cross-section of the local population, from the young hipsters literally hanging from the rafters, to the old Spanish ladies squinting to catch a glimpse over my shoulders. this is where i came to the sudden conclusion that flamenco actually does equal sex, and that there is nothing wrong with men who grow their fingernails long.
  • Tapas. one of the best concepts in the world. the only way it could be better was if it was free, which is apparently is in other parts of spain. my favourite part of tapas is the beer you drink with it. We also tried Basque tapas which was gluttonously delicious.
  • La Sagrada Familia. I have seen a lot of amazing things in my life (and i know that Leila thinks i overuse the word "amazing"), but this Gaudi-designed building is possibly the most amazing building I have seen in my entire life. it's huge. i'm also in love with the idea of it, this building that is taking almost a hundred and fifty years to build. because it's still not complete, you watch the building in progress. it is literally a story being told. the story of Jesus, in one respect, but also the story of, well, a building being made. because it's taken so long, it's got a really interesting blend of styles, from gothic to more modernistic styles, depending on what angle of the building you look at. i just can't describe it. here are some pictures.

  • Gaudi's Park was also pretty mind-blowing as well. it took us forever to climb the hill to get there, up the stairs of Gloria (i'm not kidding, that's what they're called). By the time we reached the very top, the sun had just set so we were treated to a beautiful view of the Barcelona cityline at dusk. it was very romantic for me and rob...and Christoph. exploring the rest of the park was no less exciting in the dark. one day i am going to come back to this park during the day time and i will shoot a music video here. the surreal structures will be so overpowering and beautiful that no one will notice my crappy music that is set to the scenery.
  • Strolling down La Rambla, where, to my satisfaction, i did NOT get my wallet stolen and also found tacky souvenir of the Shitting Shepherd. I loved the palm trees that lined this walk. Palm trees are essentially my Prozac.
  • We snuck into the backstage of a noisy outdoor Latin jazz concert. There's a heck of a lot going on in the Barcelona nightlife.
  • paella. much more satisfying for me when there aren't creepy prawns staring at me as i work around the rice.
  • We checked out the Market which Christoph warned me was not for the faint of heart. Spaniards, for whatever reason, don't like to cut the heads off their meat, whether it be chicken, duck, pig, or bunny. luckily i was practically raised in Chinatown so it did not bother me. What bothered me was one of the vendors throwing ice at us, accusing us of stealing her sole (yes i said sole, not soul). i wanted to explain to her politely in Spanish that i had no interest in her sole, but the only Spanish words i knew for that context were swear words.
Our crowning glory, however, was the last night, where we went to a bar where there were taps at each table and a giant TV screen showing how many litres each table is drinking, sort of to foster a friendly competitive spirit between tables. we were in the lead until twenty-five Dutch teenagers walked in. there was a moment of tension. i'm proud to say that even though there were only four of us, we still won.

(and the night was only beginning...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the Berlin Wall

i'd been excited for weeks about the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Berlin Wall coming down, particularly for the long line of 1000 giant blocks set to fall like dominoes to mark the occasion, because, come on...even without the exciting political history, giant dominoes are pretty cool to watch.

as the final moment drew closer and closer, however, and as the rain kept coming down, and my feet got more sore and wet until eventually they lost all feeling, and also as colin got sicker and sicker, the idea started to lose its novelty. it seemed like the speeches (by famous folks like Hilary Clinton, Gordon Brown, the president of Russia, obviously the Chancellor of Germany, and even a video conference from Obama) and the music (including Domingo) were going on for hours - which they were. plus this rain...you'd think that living in the Netherlands i'd be used to it, but there was a particular cold bite to the Berlin rain that was especially disheartening when you had no chance of shelter, one that soaked right through your skin and made you feel like you'd never warm up again.

and then finally the speeches were over, and the domino walls came down.

i watched everyone around me celebrating, people coming in from all over the world, britain, france, russia, canada, poland, america, all cheering wildly. it was an amazing moment. you know, i could try as hard as i can, but i think none of us but the Germans will ever completely understand how November 9, 1989 must have felt for the people of Germany. to be divided and living as two peoples and then to suddenly have that gone. we watch the BBC footage of young people dancing on the wall and people flooding through the gates east to west, and we feel some of the excitement, but to be there, to have lived with and after the wall...that feeling i think is something that cannot be replicated by media or stories or anniversary celebrations.

can i tell you a silly secret? my secret dream is to one day see North Korea. i don't need to go there (i can't), but i would like to just get a glimpse of this forbidden land that where my roots lie. it's been so long, and south koreans don't even seem to want reunification anymore, and relations between the two Koreas have been deteriorating so much that sometimes i wonder if there is any hope at all. maybe i read too much Douglas Coupland, but some morbid part of me believes that one day we will wake up and North Korea is going to be gone, whether due to some unforeseen disaster or nuclear war or World War Z-like consequences. and even if one day that massive rift that is the DMZ does disappear, i think it will be too late to feel what the Germans felt twenty years ago, because everyone we knew and had any connections with will be long dead.

over half a century ago, both my mother's mother and my father's father traveled down to the south when the split happened, and found themselves on the wrong right side of a conflict that was not going to end, separated from their entire family and everything they had ever known in what is now North Korea. they were only eighteen years old. they have never seen or heard from their family since.

and that is why i want to see North Korea, even if it's just to stand on in a safe building along the DMZ. i want to look at where my ancestors came from, where i probably have cousins living a completely different life from me, family that we have never spoken to. and that is also why i found the events of the Berlin Wall so moving for me, because even if i cannot know how it felt to be a German when the countries reunified, i think i know what it feels like to want so badly for it to happen. i'm not sure if i'll ever be able to partake in the celebrations when, or if, it happens for Korea, so i was happy to share it with another country where this dream did come true.

Monday, November 9, 2009

then we take Berlin

i would move to Berlin in a heartbeat. if it weren't for the cold weather: average daily temperature is nine degrees) . If it weren't for my extremely poor German. I have been talking to store clerks in Dutch hoping that there are enough similarities in the languages for them to understand. but Berlin has now become my new favourite European city, replacing Budapest. there are just so many ghosts here.

i wandered into a random alley in East Berlin and found myself in an old junkyard that had been converted into an gallery exhibition for street punk art, curated by an underground free art school in Berlin. This city has all sorts of rabbitholes and mirrors like Alice in Wonderland, wardrobes like the Chronicles of Narnia, but only if Narnia and Wonderland were haunted by the ghosts of Fascism and Communism. i drifted into a workshop that smelled strongly of spray paint and rubber, decorated by radical punk slogan art, altered vinyls, and an old grand piano sitting in the middle of the room. i struck up a conversation with one of the artists, an ageless man with dreadlocks and no teeth but a surprisingly impressive command of English. we talked about Vancouver and the upcomig Olympics and the headache it is causing. he told me that he found Canada to be knee deep in colonialist culture, which was a perspective new to me, and scrawled on a piece of paper for me a list of things to check out, things not found in guide books. i bought some of his vinyl art.

we found the spot where Hitler died. it's been converted into a parking lot where nearby apartment owners keep their Audis.

we asked a German kid where we should go out, and he told us that on a Sunday night, there were only two parties worth going to: an old school techno rave or a sex club. there was no point in going to a sex club (seeing as how we live in Amsterdam), so we headed for the hard core techno club located in the dank, almost pitch black basement of an old power plant in East Berlin. it was a strange place for our senses, although maybe it should have been everything to expect from a techno club in Eastern Europe. the atmosphere was a cross between a bunker and a dungeon, with cages, long dark hallways, pipes hanging out of the ceiling, and pretty much no attempt to hide the fact that we were partying in a power plant. i dug it. documentary films have been made about this legendary club which helped fostered the techno scene in Berlin since the late 80s just before the Wall came down. The club had a peculiar loyalty to Carlsburg beer, which i found curious given the countless fine German brands of beer.

We spent a chunk of the night sitting in the upstairs bar, trying to guess the ages of the clubbers (were they actually old, or had the years behind the Wall aged them prematurely?) before we realized with through our glassy eyes that the clocks read 3AM. it seemed like the club had all sorts of secret passageways and corners - we watched guy after guy disappearing behind a particularly mysterious pair of red curtains. the last time i peeked behind a set of curtains in a club that looked like that, i found a St. Andrew's Cross and a sign warning me that i *might* come across unusual activity (that was in Toronto, by the way, and not Amsterdam). Colin and i threw back one more beer to get the courage to sneak behind those curtains, but all we found was a giant, heavy locked gate, as though nothing had ever been there. one day i'll go back there and i will know the magic word to get into Wonderland and find out what is so alluring there.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Waiting for kenny

Let's see how far I get in Berlin without any money.

On my plane ride here i've been reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse five. Rob says this is ironic to read while traveling through Germany. Our Berlin guidebook suggests not mentioning World War II here with a particularly arrogant tone ("So...zero out of two, eh?") but I can't help being struck by how different and removed the hardened, cruel Germans in WWII novels seem to be from the polite, civil, efficient yet down-to-earth Germans I have met in my life. I've not yet had the bad sense to bring this up to any of them, but the movies and books certainly seem to be talking about a different country. Which they are. Germany, and especially Berlin, and seen a lot of change this century-something I'm sure I will learn all about tomorrow when I watch the celebrations at the Wall, or what is left of it at least

pieces of Rome

Having Internet access only through my iPod means a lot of short quick updates.

"So what do you want to see in Rome today? Old stuff or older stuff?"
"Yeah, you'd think they'd do something about these old crumbling walls."

if the Vatican thinks that lack of a toilet seat will stop my from doing my business in the bathroom at St. Peters Basilica, they dont know that I am Canadian, I was conceived in BC and I was born knowing how to pop a squat in any wilderness.

"what's the first thing you want to eat in Italy?"
"You think I'm joking."

I saw more popes' bodies yesterday than I thought or hoped I'd ever see.

"Yo, there's all this art by the Ninja Turtles here!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009


when i was 3 years old, my parents took me to Toys R Us. I stood there, looked at the aisles of toys, and promptly peed on the floor in excitement. i might do this again next week when we go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. featuring celebration with the heads of EU states, a Morrissey concert, and a 2km line of giant domino blocks falling alongside the remains of the wall.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

the Monroes / Pony Pack

caught the Brand at Bitterzoet series on Thursday night, a semi-regular showcase of Dutch indie bands that i really enjoy. this week it was the Monroes CD release party, with Amsterdam band Pony Pack opening for them, both off the tocado record label.

both of them were quite entertaining, but i especially liked the opening band, which had a satisfying Bikini Kill-esque riot grrrl aesthetic to them. they were energetic, tight, and made me wish i could write pumped up punk songs like that. the drummer packed a surprising amount of power, given her small frames.

(she even looks like kathleen hanna, swoon)

i first got into the Monroes solely because i really liked the frontwoman's guitar. their recordings sound fantastic, but their live performances had a bit of a shaky start, and some problems with the soundboard, although eventually they were bouncing their catchy surf pop sounds with much more ease and convincing everyone on the dance floor - including somebody's parents? - to dance their feet off. which was pretty impressive, given the fact that nobody was dancing to Pony Pack, despite their awesome high energy performance, although to be fair, nobody dances to the opening act. i am beginning to get the feeling that people don't really dance at the dutch punk shows here? maybe it's because most of the venues here serve as concert halls only until 11PM, when everything is converted to a night club, so everyone's saving their dancing feet for later. or maybe swaying is dancing here. i mean, given the fact that i was nearly beaten to a pulp in a mosh pit in Seattle, this might be a safe if not welcome change for me...

The Monroes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tourist in my own city

sorry i haven't written in a while. my friends Hayley and Gabe visited from their home in London for part of the week, so i've been doing all sorts of tourist sightseeing in the city i live in, and trying all sorts of "dutch" things:

-hutspot - which, as potatoes and carrots and sausages, seems like perfect comfort food
-pea soup, with that odd cold soft bacon served on a real rye bread
-MORE PANCAKES (the Pancake Bakery on Prinsengracht is now a new source of happiness)
-krokets, of course
-Hayley and Gabe were brave enough to try Febo
-helping drunk passed out tourists lying on the ground (this is a common Dutch custom)
-janever - dutch gin. i hate gin of any culture, really, so i can't say i loved it, but at least it didn't have a strong nasty tast
-Indonesian food. since Indonesia was a former Dutch colony, Holland does Indonesian food quite well, kind of like the way the English can make a pretty good butter chicken. We went for the full menu at Puri Mas and was so satisfied with what we got, i can't wait to go back there and tackle the spicy beef again.

we also went on a super touristy boat ride along the canals, a tour that included all you can eat cheese (awesome), all you can drink wine (romantic), and a walk through the red light district (bizarre, as can be expected). we finally got a good close-up of the houseboats on the canal. i really want a house boat now.

while Hayley and Gabe saw the Van Gogh Museum. rob and i biked around Vondelpark, which was simply breathtaking, especially on a rare sunny day today. we could enjoy the warm but crisp air and the autumn leaves and the dutch children screaming like banshees with rabies. Amsterdam is not very green or naturey - mainly you hang out in the City Centre to see the impressive manmade canals, the cobblestone streets, the inexerienced stoned tourists blindly stumbling into the bike paths. so having giant greenspace like Vondelpark full of trees and lakes is quite refreshing to someone who spent the summer on West Coast beaches , even if Amsterdam parks are rather manmade and immaculately manicured.

i also had the pleasure of exploring the Jordaan this week. i am so in love with this neighbourhood. i want nothing more than to become a yuppie and move into one of those beautiful, high ceiling, spiral staircase, trendily decorated, 300 euro per month apartments. i have not felt such strong feelings of adoration and longing since i disovered Queen Street West in Toronto - and now i have $1000+ ward robe and credit card ebt. seeing how i had to be steered away from a $150 Euro sweater yesterday, the Jordaan may be bad news for my wallet. but it is such a cosy neighbourhood, far away from the tourist traps, where real dutch people go about their normal lives, meeting friends at cafes, shopping at the cute boutique shops, catching a local band performing at the record store. and boy are there some great record stores in the Jordaan....now i'm going to have to find some way to bring back all the CDs i keep buying. oh well, at least i've resisted the urge to update my vinyl collection, although i've discovered this great soul/funk/blues store that makes vinyl pretty tempting...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

my cultural, if not legal, education in Holland

well, this weekend was culturally and musically educational, if not, you know, academically productive.

i had a take home exam over the weekend, but instead, allowed myself to be persuaded by my friends to go to an all night dance party that i didn't know anything about, hosted by some deejays i'd never heard of, in a location that i still can't quite remember. it turns out that it was part of the massive week-long citywide Amsterdam Dance Event. this is a huge electronic music festival, featuring all sorts of big names like Armin Van Buuren and Fat Boy Slim and all sorts of other folks i've never heard of, mainly because all my beats-driven electronic music is as Canadian as maple syrup (Kid Koala! Woodhands! MSTRKRFT! Crystal Castles! Holy F---!).

the night was featuring homegrown Dutch deejays, and the club Panama was huge but packed - it was pretty fun to party with the europeans, because we all know europeans love their techno house trance stuff (which has made me appreciate hiphop on whole new levels since i moved to Holland). but i still maintain that i will never understand how europeans love this kind of music so much without being on drugs. we love this kind of music in North America too, but in the context of raves, where nobody would think about attempting an all-nighter without the help of E and eight dollar bottles of water (also, being permanently stuck in the 1990s). because europeans don't seem to do as much drugs as the tourists do, and yet i think that psychedelic drugs are the only way that you can suspend disbelief long enough to not think about the fact that you are listening to the same synthetic riff over and over again for five hours. i say this with love.

despite only leaving the club around 4AM, and still having three questions on my take-home exam to answer, i decided it would be worthwhile to check out this dutch indie pop band i've been following lately, the Madd, who were doing an in-store acoustic performance today at this record store called Phantasio in the beautiful Jordaan area. quite a change from last night's music; these guys are a catchy band that has studied well their influences (the Beatles, etc.). plus their organ player was playing a melodica, so they totally won me over, especially with their cute Dutch accents.

i like this band particularly because they sing some of their songs in French (including "Ce Soir Je Vais Boire" - probably an anthem for exchange students everywhere). i've already expressed how impressed i am at the Dutch ability to compose songs in a second language; so having songs in a third language is all the more neat. plus there's something awesome about hearing French with a Dutch accent.

afterwards, i went to the beautiful public library, where a guy was tinkering away at the public piano. usually folks are playing some crappy Vanessa Carleton or schmultzy lounge jazz - or, in my case when i'm playing it, the same old Leonard Cohen song that i feel inexplicably compelled to play over and over again in my strange bouts of nostalgic patriotic homesickness. but this guy was playing a bewitching composition that was reminiscent of Steve Reich; followed by a faster paced Thelonious Monk-inspired jazz piece; and finally concluding with a honky-tonk blues interpretation of Aretha Franklin's Say a Little Prayer. needless to say, this random guy totally won my heart too. it made my wait for the elevator much more pleasant...so much that i missed my elevator twice.

okay, back to studying i guess. studying law is nowhere near as fun as studying physiotherapy, which is what my floormates do. when i walked into the communal kitchen today, i saw that they had pushed aside all the furniture, and this boy in his shorts was lying spread eagle on the kitchen table, while girls were gathered around him, poking and prodding him in various places while consulting their textbook. i wonder if i should tell them i have whiplash...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

you could feel the blood in yoru veins looking for a warmer palce

i've been living at the library for the last week (welcome to exam hell) so i don't have a lot to report. except, of course, my trip to the hospital a few days ago, after i inexplicably fell and hit my head in a public bathroom. for the record, this is the second time that, when i passed out, i had visions of an infinite white arctic landscape while Maybe Smith sang to me to stop waddling around like a penguin. i'm so artsy that even my brief experiences of the afterlife/unconscious are accompanied by a soundtrack.

there's a certain hour in Amsterdam where all its Dutch hospitals are filled with tourists who've gotten into stupid accidents like me - some kid that's separated his shoulder in a bar fight, some guy that's scraped his face in a bike accident. makes for good company. didn't think i'd be spending my time in Holland exploring their hospitals and library, but then, i didn't sign up to be a tourist right?

took another trip to the grocery store today. there are two words i absolutely do not know in Dutch: Drano and loofah.

Monday, October 19, 2009

sinead minus meg

sinead came to visit me in amsterdam this weekend. as you may have gathered from other sources, it was quite the eventful weekend. if only megh could have come too, as this video set to the fine music of Los Campesinos will attest to.

featuring the one and only megh, Canada's Next Great Prime Minister contestant, freelance journalist, that darling face in those movies about Ottawa, and also that really cute bartender at Mike's place that you probably hit on Friday nights.

Friday, October 16, 2009

dutch speakeasies

apologies for the exam-induced time lag.

Wednesday night. after being pushed out of the bar at the containers at the ridiculously early last call of 1AM, we found ourselves drinking at the Doos, a dimly-lit little speakeasy tucked behind an unmarked bar in the side of a building on Weesperstraat. the idea of an underground unlicensed bar in a country where prostitution and marijuana is legalized and pretty much anything goes so long as you pay your taxes and treat your workers well...it's somewhat mind-boggling. i think the thrill of being in an illegal place where you can do anything you want is somewhat dullened in Holland. still, it's a nice place to hang out in the cloudy smoke for the night, tapping your fingers to american-imported blues, nurse your one euro beer, and have a drunk Dutch boy fall asleep beside you on the grimy couch.

the bar was going to shut down forever after this night. apparently somebody had alerted the authorities about the place and so they were shutting it down. i pictured a more exciting scene maybe from a 1920s Hollywood film, where the feds swarm in with their batons and whistles and the ladies struggle to find those awesome hats they wear and the hot jazz band scrambles off the stage with their battered instrument cases. maybe the bar manager flicks a switch and all of a sudden the entire place is converted into a harmless-looking pet shop. but no such drama here; just a bureaucratic warning, dutch-style, and the only scrambling involved trying to figure out where to stash the sound equipment after the doors locked up. so we drank to the Doos, using three joker cards as coasters (we explained to the Italian that Canadian poker uses three jokers which trump all). i'm going to be sad to see the place go, i guess, even though it's not in my area at all. who knows; maybe once the man has moved on, the bartender will flick that switch and the Doos will be back up and running again sometime?

i think the word for pages in dutch may be Pagina. i think.

in the wisdom of pulp fiction

sometimes travelling is just about going to the McDonald's in every country just to see if they have a bacon cheeseburger.

(i suspect Israel will not)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

reflections on the european toilet

Simone DeBeauvoir dedicates at least a chapter of her famous feminist piece Le Deuxieme Sexe to the theory that women derive their sense of inferiority to men due to the deeply rooted resentment at the male ability to urinate while standing. or maybe i'm making this up. at any rate, the quote "No teapot without a spout felt so forlorn" is a phrase that constantly reverberates in my mind.

i thought perhaps this age-old resentment might finally be resolved with the introduction of the female urinal - which exists at my school, as i've discovered on one of my trips to the school cafeteria bathrooms. no, i did not accidentally walk into the men's room. yes, i decided today to give it a try. no, it did not revolutionize my world. it was surprisingly unremarkable. what's the big deal? what is so different about female urinals that they don't require locks (stockings still go down, right?)? what's the point when you still need to use T.P.? what do the other Dutch girls think when they swing into the bathroom and find the female urinals actually in use ("oh, those nature-loving Canadians...")? and how come the Universiteit of Amsterdam decided to modernize their bathrooms when the lecture halls still don't have enough electrical outlets?

i have much to say about the ways European toilets perplex me, but i fear they are not proper things for a lady to publicly comment on. let me just say that in the conflict between conserving water in order to save the environment, and having enough water in your toilet bowl to feel properly comfortable and civilized, i would shoot a seal* and opt for the latter.

*with a camera! with a camera! put that megaphone down, Greenpeace...

Monday, October 12, 2009

happy (Canadian) thanksgiving, expats

yesterday, me and my fellow canadian expats decided that even though we are many time zones away from our mothers, there was no reason why we couldn't have our own Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in Europe.

well, actually, as i discoverd at my beloved Albert Heijn grocery store, there were a few reasons that we couldn't. most importantly: lack of turkey. apparently, turkeys are not native to Europe. i should have figured this out before from various hints (ie, the Pilgrims came to America and ate turkey there, or, the French word for turkey is "from India"). but i figured that in today's age of globalization, this would no longer be an issue. apparently not. i can get kimchi in holland, but good old Al Heijn doesn't even carry turkey cold cuts.

nor are was there cranberry sauce available. it took many minutes of painstaking translation to discover this ("no, not cherries, cranberries! you know, the juice you drink for urinary infections? hmmm...i don't know how to say urinary infection in dutch..."). this surprised me; it's not like cranberry sauce is all that exotic. but now that i think of it, i don't know what we North Americans use for cranberry sauce other than for Thanksgiving dinner. i briefly considered a disgusting but creative alternative (pitted cherries in cranberry juice?) but realized that nothing can replace the tarty deliciousness of cranberry sauce.

we learned to make do without. instead of having turkey, we invited Theresa over for dinner. and used chicken breasts. and for whatever we lacked in cranberry sauce, we made up for with an excess of stuffing, gravy, and wine, and amsterdam cakes to help us consume all the feast food. and some Canadian music in the background. my Neil Young, Rush, and Men Without Hats vinyls were all left back in Ottawa, but i did have some Tegan and Sara, Broken Social Scene, Kid Koala, Grady, and Kathleen Edwards to provide an appropriately patriotic background.

and in the end, isn't that what thanksgiving is about? not necessarily the turkey or the cranberry sauce, but spending time with good Canadian company (plus a few American and Italian hanger-ons - Canadian wannabes), good wine, good conversations (about hockey), and good food that puts you to a happy, happy thankful sleep.*

rob the chef

a feast, prepared by a Cordon Bleu trained cook.

digging in

can't forget about dessert...

the food was so good, jeff ate the leftovers with a knife. i have an awful lot of photos of jeff eating.

*i unfortunately did not get to partake in any of this happy happy thankful sleep. due to poor academic decisions this week, i had to immediately write an assignment that was due twelve hours later, after my thanksgiving dinner, so i ended up having a tired grumpy sleep instead at 5AM. still, the few blissful hours i got to spent wining and dining with my Canadian boys made for a pleasant Canadian Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

moss CD release party, with special guests the Secret Love Parade

we went to go see a couple of dutch bands performing at Melkweg last night, which is one of the more popular arts venues in Amsterdam. It's an old dairy factory converted into an arts centre that houses music, theatre, dance, film, photography and media arts, tucked in the heart of liedesplein just past all the noisy bars and tourists.

the opening band was the Secret Love Parade, who i enjoy more and more every time i see them. i met Janna through the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild and i've been continuously impressed by the production quality of their record, which the girls recorded themselves in their jam space. they have a sort of female Postal Service sound with a cute Tegan and Sara look to them. but with much less angst.

Excelsior Recordings' Moss was the main act of the night, celebrating the release of their new album. they played a really tight show; it was immediately evident that this is a band that's got their pop licks down pat, because they definitely know how to pound out a catchy melody - once you get singles like "i like the chemistry" in your head, it's going to stay there for a few days. they put on a good rock show, as one of those rock bands that remind you of a handful of bands without sounding too much like any given one. the crowd really seemed to enjoy it, although there wasn't as much dancing as i would have expected for a show like this, not like the crazy dancers back in toronto. but given the fact that i had the crap kicked out of me in a mosh pit in Seattle, this might be a good thing for once.

it made for a pretty good night overall, a nice change from the usual clubs we've been going to lately. as a bonus, most of the concert venues here seem to hold their shows early so that afterwards they can convert the place into a nightclub for more dancing. i'm a big fan of this policy. maybe it's a sign i'm aging, but i'm not a big fan of bands that come on stage at midnight or 1AM. some of us have to work in the morning. not me, i sleep in till noon, but i'm sure some of us out there do.

i now have a paradiso membership and a melkweg membership.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

this kimchi is on fire

what an adventurous night.

1. WE FINALLY ATE KOREAN FOOD LAST NIGHT. olivia and i decided we couldn't bear our cravings any longer, so we googled what was probably the only Korean restaurant in all of Amsterdam. our minds were made; we were not going to let anything stop us. it was a ridiculously far trek, almost all the way out to amstelveen; but we did not let this stop us. we got seriously lost at least three times (THANK YOU AMSTERDAM AND YOUR RELUCTANCE TO POST CLEAR VISIBLE STREET SIGNS, OR ANY SIGNS AT ALL); but we did not let this stop us. it was unbelievably expensive, 18 euros for chajangmyun when in toronto it's usually about $5-7; but we did not let this stop us. Olivia's bike tire broke in the midst of the journey, leaving her stranded in a sketchy tunnel; but we did not let this stop us (she rode on the back of my bike). and i swear, when they brought out our banquet of banchan with bean sprouts and gamja and kimchi and kkakdugee and korean pancakes and mandu and bulgogi and ukejang and manduguk, our hearts and our minds and our tummies were happy. our wallets, not so much, but who cares about that. it was as authentic a restaurant as you were going to get in Holland, and we rode back downtown (olivia on my back again), the warm smell of kimchi on my breath, i felt a peace of mind that only a feast of kimchi tofu could bestow on a tired world traveler...

2. we went for drinks at a fancy bar in a beautiful theatre building in leidesplein. i've been here before and i absolutely adore its classy interior, wide open concept rooms, chandeliers, grand staircases, two euro Heineken beers....then the bar caught on fire and everyone had to evacuate.

3. ...but the police would not let me leave the building with my beer, so in answer to your question, yes, i did stand inside a building on fire so i could chug my beer.

4. almost simultaneously, the politie (dutch police), in a not-so-polite move, were giving a serious beat down on some guy getting arrested outside the building. being the tourist minded folks we are, we took pictures.

5. at some point in the night, jake whipped out a wolf mask and chugged a glass of beer. i have no idea where this mask came from. he then pulled out a bottle of wine from nowhere and proceeded to fill some Heineken beer glasses.

and the night just went on from there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

my life in google street view!

so i know i'm totally behind the times, but i've been tinkering around with google maps tonight and think it's totally nifty that i no longer have to bring my camera around when i travel - i can just post google street view screen shots instead. i don't even have to travel. i can just post a google street view of a busy street in Croatia and tell you that i was there. it would certainly save me the money of flying.

i kid. but it is pretty neat to show you my daily life:

this is my neighbourhood, in middle Diemen. the sparring horses are not featured in this photo.

this is where i go to school. this is the nice end of the street. my school is in the red light district, and on the other end of this street are all the sex clubs and the hookers dancing in windows (makes for an interesting study break).

Cafe Sappho, where i try out my lyrical chops once a week and hang out with dutch men in a lesbian bar.

the containers, where we party on wednesday nights. this is where dutch boys go to try to pick up international girls. unfortunately for me, the pickup lines i get are along the lines of, "hey, are you chinese? i like chinese people!"

bring on the rain, mutha nature!

i think i need to announce that i rode the entire ten kilometres back to Diemen last night, on my bike, while holding up my umbrella in the rain. i also hissed at an old man who was in my way on the bike path. i am now truly dutch.

my photos of my trip to Sweden and my trip to Belgium are finally online. i know they were way overdue.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

oh, diemen

i think i should also mention that my apartment overlooks the Dutch countryside...specifically a farm field where four black horses graze, day in and day out. i get my morning kicks by sitting at my window with my tea, watching them fight each other. horses can be pretty vicious when they're sparring.

the other definitive aspect of Diemen is the fact that every time i want to park my bike i have to kick away all the beer cans and shopping carts that are in my way.

Canada Day without the Canada

rob is here visiting me, so i've been teaching him important survival skills to distinguish himself from other tourists, such as the proper technique for glaring at pedestrians who get in your way on the bike baths. actually, rob is still (re)learning how to ride his bike, since it's been a good twenty years since he last rode one. it's totally amusing to watch.

on Saturday, we went to the nearby city of Leiden with some friends to check out the festivities that the city puts on every year to celebrate the end of the seige that the Spanish had imposed on the city, several centuries ago. yes, i do realize the irony of taking your Spanish friends to a festival celebrating the end of Spanish oppression, but we're all friends in the EU now, right?

the city had pretty much been converted into a giant party. we walked around downtown for the entire day, expecting to hit a quiet street at the fringe of the festivities, but the party seemed to stretch on forever. it was unbelievably crowded. everywhere there were deejays spinning electronic music and bands performing on makeshift stages, spontaneous dance floors, dozens of food stands offering traditional dutch fare like krokets, baked pastries, and hutspot. oh, and carnival rides! nobody would go on the rollercoaster rides with me.

feeling overwhelmed by the crowd, we ducked into an alley, only to find a dutch band playing a show there on a raised stage. we had a beer and resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to deal with a million elbows and knees pressed up against us all day. it was a pretty cool concert venue, actually.

by the time rob and i started back for the train station, the night street parties had kicked off as the young people turned up, and the streets became a vast sea of electronica beats, sweaty bodies and endless garbage. sort of like Canada Day in Ottawa, only with more techno. next time we'll have to stay longer.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


i learned my lesson about last minute flights. i have now booked my trips for:

rome (sort of).

and soon plan to confirm
zurich/st. gallen
select southern spanish cities
FREAKING MOROCCO. yes, i will make this happen.

and at some point, will study as well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

awkward i

i'm trying to be a good student, i really am. i've spent every day this week at the public library. the problem is that there are so many fun things to do here in amsterdam, that even being at the library is distracting. there are a bunch of good parties and shows on any given night INCLUDING THE ONES AT THE LIBRARY. last night when i was trying to study diligently, there was a reception going on at the library upstairs and about a hundred metres away there was a live performance going on with a girl playing on a beautiful guitar, recording for a TV show.

also, the library serves beer.

i know when not to fight fate, so after a few hours of studying i went to the awkward i CD release party at Paradiso, one of the cooler music venues in Amsterdam. i already liked awkward i's music from before, but i was not prepared for how enjoyable the live performance would be. it was a packed house and the stage was just as packed, with cello, violin, trombone, pedal steel, loads of guitars, drums, a vintage organ, and even an autoharp and A SAW.

i'm always amazed at the Dutch's talent for writing music in a language that is not their native tongue. you forget when you listen to the recordings, but when you go to the live shows and all the stage banter is in dutch (and everyone is laughing except you), you definitely remember.

afterwards i biked over to the party at the Containers and ran into Ioanna and Marie who were sitting on the shore watching the harbour. i joined them for a bit and we talked a bit about the universal language of music. Marie told me about how she traveled through Cuba without knowing a word of Spanish, and then one day she saw some musicians standing near a piano, and asked if she could jam with them...and ended up playing for hours, even though they didn't speak Danish and she didn't speak Spanish. i also found out that Ioanna used to play the accompanying music at the circus in Romania. i love these random characters and their random stories.

Monday, September 28, 2009

now i know what happiness tastes like


it was a generic asian store in chinatown (which for whatever reason is located in the red light district), so the selection of actual korean products were quite limited. but i did manage to find some chili garlic sauce in case i decide to cook my own ma po tofu. i am also now heavily stocked in 신라면. no chappaghetti though. then i walked over to the Wok to Walk and had some delicious noodles. there are asian restaurants around here, but for some reason nothing satisfies me like the local takeout place.

i miss korean food. i love cheese and fresh baked bread but after a while one gets tired of eating cheese sandwiches...and if i lived on the other stereotypical dutch food (bitterballen, krokets, pancakes, stroopwafels) i would grow to be a very large woman indeed. i have not yet found a korean restaurant here, although i hear they exist. when i went to Stockholm, i found a Korean restaurant and was very excited about it until i realized that they pretty much only served Japanese food...wtf? Stockholm, by the way, seems to be quite in love with sushi. you pretty much can't throw a rock without hitting a sushi place. if only the rest of the world had the same passionate love for 순두부찌개...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

swedish shenanigans

i'm packing my bags to get ready to move on to Stockholm today but i figure i have a few minutes to post...and to try to piece together the various events in the last few days to figure out how i keep getting this raging headache...i suspect following a swedish guy back to his apartment to sample the local whiskey was probably one of many contributing factors. but i've always been about sampling the local cuisine.

a few comments first:
  • they sell tampons in the H&M here.
  • the Swedish word for "cake", apparently, is kaka.
  • following my love of street meat, i tried a "french hot dog" that the chip stands were selling. i've been to france, and i have never seen this "french hot dog" there before, although strangely enough i do remember seeing something like it in Vienna. Suffice it to say that it vaguely resembles a regular hot dog, only it seems far more impressively obscene. i will try to post pictures later.
  • i don't know if it means something else in Sweden, but the grocery stores here appear to sell potted salvia.
  • McDonalds is always good, in any country, after the bouncers send you out of the club
i had a wonderful time yesterday. i got a good walking tour of the city as well as the university, and then i joined sinead and her dutch and south african girl friends for Taco Night. i can't express how unbelievably welcome this Taco Night was in my life. last weekend i spent the weekend in Belgium with the boys, so most of the time was spent chugging beer, and talking about girls and bowel movements. fun, but after a while you start worrying that you're going to grow an Adam's apple. this weekend was a interesting inverse, hanging out with pretty girls who sip wine, cook delicious taco from scratch (I HAVE BEEN MISSING MEXICAN FOOD HERE) and carry discussions about Yugoslavia and apartheid (interesting to hear about from a dutch girl and a south african girl). then we went to a club called Heartbreak Hotel and lost all pretenses of being proper ladies....although i have to say, no matter how much we let loose, i feel like we just cannot compete with some of the Swedish girls here. i wonder how many of them realized that they forgot to finish dressing last night? like, forgot to wear pants?

one of my favourite moments: we dropped by a party nearby, where a bet was made and a Canadian was shotgunning a beer. this was no difficult task; i feel like we canadians are taught these skills as children and it's probably one of the requirements for immigrants writing a citizenship exam. while he was shotgunning, the three other Canadians in the room started singing O Canada at the top of our lungs. in both official languages. it was a proud moment. i'm having a great time out here, but no one can tell me that i've forgotten my roots.

off to take the train to Stockholm now. Sinead has promised me a crazy time. given the fact that we spent the last two nights hunting for after-parties at the wee hours of the morning, i shudder to think what a "crazy time" is going to be...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gävle! Waterloo!

well, once again i find myself in a country that speaks a language that i do not understand. not a single word. well, at some point last night somebody taught me to say "cheers", but after many cheers-ing, i forgot. this situation is worse than dutch though. i don't even know how to pronounce the name of the town i'm in (apparently it's yav-leh, rather than gavel like i thought), nor do i know what to do about all the extra little symbols the Swedes put over their vowels.

still, i was excited to go to a country that i'd never been to before. would it be full of snow and blonde girls dressed in christmas elf costumes? would everything look like an Ikea display room? would i get to have some swedish meatballs?

well, sweden's been keeping me pretty busy since i arrived here yesterday - mainly busy converting swedish kronas to euros in my head. i'm staying with my girl friend Sinead, who i met while i was in Kamloops, a totally amazing character, a piercing artist/ belly dancer / geomatics student at the University of Gävle / general awesome person.

the first thing i noticed was that once again, i had not packed properly for the weather. i don't know why it is such a surprise to me that Sweden is cold, and like a non-Canadian idiot i only packed a hoodie. it's certainly no Belgium here. the second thing i noticed on the train ride over was all the nature...actual natural nature. i guess because the climate is similar to Canada's, they have similar greenery here, and after spending all my time in manmade Amsterdam, i remembered how much i missed the wilderness. and then, i remembered that i'm allergic to nature. so, i can't report on what sweden smells like because my nose is plugged up and i always look like i'm crying. it's Victoria all over again.

we went out to the Pubes last night, which is what the students call the neighbourhood bar here (it's actually called Pubenpuben), where i tried some swedish (i think?) cider and chatted with an assortment of swedes, germans, and finnish folks. Sinead also introduced me to The Dance, i guess their version of the Macarena or the chicken dance. i was very impressed at how an entire bar of beer drinkers could suddenly perfectly coordinate their dance moves. pretty amazing.

after the bar, we randomly crashed somebody's party, where the house was so packed, you could barely breathe. a kid was deejaying in a dark room using youtube. the german boys were drinking tall thin glasses of pink margaritas with a relish that comes from coming from a country, i guess, where men can drink tall thin glasses of pink margaritas while fully confident in their masculinity. we were all having a good time until the cops were called in to throw everyone out - sinead and i snuck out and went home, sneaky as cats.

and then, sometimes you wake up the next morning groggily and discovered you have inhaled an entire bag of potato chips in your sleep.

i'm going to go into town now to hunt for ABBA. must resist the urge to shop.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

i posted this on facebook but...

dear Schipol Airport:

i like having my boobs roughly handled by a middle aged lady in uniform as much as the next girl, but isn't it time you invested in handheld metal detector so you don't have to cop a feel from every traveller with a face full of metal?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

late night junk food cravings

we went to burger king and discovered that here in amsterdam they do not have dollar menus nor bacon cheeseburgers, but they do have these deliciously disgusting things called King Snacks, which are more or less deep fried chili cheese.

in a few hours i will wake up and fly to sweden.

Monday, September 21, 2009

15 things i actually remember about Belgium

we got back from belgium last night, but i haven't quite fully recovered enough to have the energy to post about the weekend. i'm sure brussels and bruges are still recovering from the canadian storm that hit them too. it was all whirlwind, heat, and flash, to quote my favourite band. and educational too. i learned all sorts of things about myself, my friends, and the belgians.

1. after you travel to many new places, you start seeing things like this (yes, he's wearing sunglasses) and not blinking.

2. Belgium has some of the best beer in the world. however, you stop noticing the fabulous taste after ten of them and instead find yourself standing on a table in a bar at 4AM.

3. if you stay at a hostel right in the heart of downtown Brussels, you take on the risk of heading back home one day, only to find a bunch of uniformed soldiers shooting cannons down the street towards your hostel. do the belgians find our love of ketchup on french fries that offensive?

4. Brussels...really excited for some reason about statues of little boys peeing.

5. i have this theory that "flu power flu" must mean something to the people of Brussels, but despite my basic French-speaking ability, i have not yet figured it out.

6. white people in blackface...not quite yet an offensive thing yet for Belgians. not quite sure this would go over as well in north america.

7. Delirium beer is an excellent part of a complete breakfast. Also an excellent part of a complete breakfast: a walk around the chocolate shops to get free chocolate samples everywhere.

8. okay, for people who like a more traditional breakfast, Belgian waffels - every bit as awesome as the hype builds them up to be. even waffels off the street.

9. my french gets much better when i drink. or at least i think it does. this skill is not particularly useful in countries where people speak Dutch, however, in Brussels it came in handy to be able to ask NATO workers at the bar where the *real* NATO headquarters were, and what NATO *really* does. and whether they have a bat cave with a batmobile

10. i was quite sad to leave Brussels and find out that French is not the dominant language in Bruges. i've been spending so much time, here in amsterdam, not knowing what people or signs were saying, that it felt very nice for a while to not be totally clueless in the french part of Brussels. when we moved on to Bruges, i was sadly back to not understanding what a single thing on the menu was.

11. ...but not that sad. i mean, despite the frenchlessness, Bruges turned out to be a very quaint, breathtaking city.

12. playing hearts is an excellent way to pass the time on the train, as long as you don't mind the fact that you suck incredibly hard at it, despite years of playing it on the computer as a child.

13. abandon all hopes of a cheap meal if you're wandering around tourist traps. also, avoid all hopes of efficient respectful customer service and free things. we learned this with our waiter who very condescendingly told us that we do not do mashed potatoes or tap water here in Europe...and then immediately offered to sell us weed. i guess he didn't know we live in Amsterdam.

14. be careful when you order mussels. you might get a lot of mussels.

15. 11AM check-out times always seem so reasonable at the time. i don't care if my traveling companions are weak. going to bed at 6AM and checking out in time is so do-able...just not for us.