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Dinner and talk

dutchnight.jpg

I am finally getting into the rhythm of working. I got a good night sleep and I am timing the arrival of the bus better. It is a clear and colder today. The sign at the accounting office next to the bus stop said 5 degrees Celsius / 45 degrees F. I looked out the window this morning to see the weather and noticed that the cars were misted over, but it was so nice to not have rain or wind.

The bus ride is interesting. It goes through Voorschoten and then winds through edge of town before joining on Voorschoterweg. Along the way, the bus passes several large mansions. One of them appears to be the headquarter of Mexx, a clothing store similar to The Gap. There is also a Tuincenter (garden nursey) and a couple of fields. One of the fields always has several fat sheep with thick coats lying in the morning sun. This morning you can see their breath in the morning light.

Crosing over a large canal, you leave Voorschoten and enter Leiden. There are several gas stations before you enter the "centrum" or center of town.

After work, I went to Delft to have dinner with a co-worker. He lives in a communal apartment house. This type of housing is not that common but there is usually one in most of the towns. His complex is made up of four apartment houses angled at 45 degrees to a square. On his floor, there are two communal kitchens and a large communal living area used as a living room with a TV. Off of these rooms are the private apartments which have a living room and upstairs a bedroom. I joined his group for dinner which was a yummy curry with naan, lassi and a cucumber yoghurt salad.

Conversation quickly turned to American politics. Everyone in Holland asks "Is George Bush going to win?" My answer, I hope not but I don't know. It will be close. The Dutch are so knowledgeable in the work happening especially compared with the US. Kerry does not seem to be well known and they don't feel he can solve the quagmire in Iraq. But many do not want George Bush to win again. We also discussed the effects of privatization on many of the social services that have been provided by the government in the past. I had noticed a difference in the trains. The trains are still very efficient and run on time. But there is a bigger emphasis on self-service ticket machines and fewer agents available to purchase tickets directly. Unfortunately the self-service machines only take Euro coins or bankcards and my bankcard does not work. It has to be a member of Cirrus. There is a surcharge of .50 cents if you purchase your ticket from a ticket agent instead of using the self-service cards.

We also talked about healthcare. They are amazed that there actually Americans with out health care. They wonder what those people do for health care. So do I. Their system is being privatized and they are worried not so much about losing services but the effect of the change. Will there be heavy advertising for the medical carriers? This happened when they privatized the electrical system. They were bombarded with advertisements from the different companies to be their electricity provider. In the end, the prices went up and they wondered if it was because of the cost of advertising?

We also talked about travel. One of the neighbors had been hiking on Lofoten Islands, a series of islands in Norway above the Arctic Circle. His pictures showed the stark beauty and hardness of the land.

After dinner, we walked to the Grote Markt in the center of Delft. The skeletons frames of the market stands were setup for the weekly market and square was gently lighted. The square was very similar to Haarlem with the Grote Kerk (church) at one end and the Stathaal (town hall ) at the other end. The Grote Kerk in Delft has a special significance in Holland since the royal family since William of Orange has been buried there. We dropped into a cozy bar 't Kloosters just off the square that specialized in beer. They had a couple of beers on tap and a wide selection of bottled beers from Belgium and Holland. It was a tough decision but I ended up having a Faro which is a gueze style beer flavored with brown sugar. My friend had a Chimay tripel. Both were tasty although the Faro is quite sweet almost taking like a soda but with a slightly sour after taste.

We walked back to the train station and I caught a stop train to Voorschoten.

Comments (1)

Marta,
I enjoyed reading about your Dutch colleague's living situation; I'd never heard of communal apartment houses before - except at the college roommate level. It sounds like an interesting way to live. Everyone would have to be very good at cleaning up after themselves in the common areas, wouldn't they??
Loved the photo, too...

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