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Home from Amsterdam

Back home. Several things decided to break while I was gone; both my home and colo fileservers went down and my truck battery was completely drained after sitting three weeks. The latter required a lengthy jump to get it to successfully start, but there wasn’t enough spare amperage to run fans much less the AC on the way home. Driving home with the windows down was a great way to get reaquainted with the heat and humidity. Fortunately the battery wasn’t shot, just needed a full charge. My radios must be providing a phantom load which drained it..

We flew first class from Amsterdam to Houston, it was very nice. International flying is an order of magnitude better than domestic flying; you may still have the middle seat, but you have a good 4-6 inches of extra room around you. First class service kept us well fed and well hydrated the whole way home.

When we landed in Houston, our plane was boarded by customs agents to detain some passenger and take him off. He probably had drugs in his bag or something. After customs, in the main terminal we were greeted by the smell of burned popcorn, fried food and urine, and loud obnoxious fat Americans. “Welcome to the United States!” The flight to Austin was a miserable experience, hot on the plane, a good 45 minutes before we even left the ground. As soon as we stepped off the plane we were assaulted by the incredibly heavy Austin humidity. If the ongoing theme in NL was “it’s just nice”, our ongoing theme here is “it not nice.”

I miss being in Amsterdam terribly. On top of the truck and hardware problems, I was sad to be back in Texas. My apartment seemed like somebody else’s, full of random meaningless fuh. When I woke up, I didn’t recognize where I was at. It feels quite lonely here now; there’s no street level cafe to go people watch, no hotel bar at which to go sit and rot away on a laptop while catching a football game. The good thing about coming back from NL is that “sleeping in” translates to fully waking up at 7 AM here without an alarm. I started putting away my things from the Seattle and NL trips and it snowballed into a major cleaning effort. I threw away five milkcrates of old books, college textbooks and other random electronic fuh I haven’t used in years. After discovering linen on the trip, I decided I hated t-shirts and threw away two garbage bags worth of clothes.

There were a few side effects of being in a non-primarily-English country for so long. I caught myself saying dank u vel and other Dutch phrases a lot while shopping. It was also a little weird being immediately spoken to in English by random strangers. I realized today that as a person that doesn’t speak & comprehend Dutch, I only concentrated on phrases to get the job done. Everything else was a blurb of another language. Listening to the radio today I noticed I was drawn into listening to commercials and other materials I didn’t care about. In another language, what I didn’t care about was tidly unrevealed to me.

Looking back on the work we did, it provides a real sense of accomplishment. When we started, it was just an empty tile-floor room. When we finished, a well-organized structured cable & fibre optic plant was in place, many cabinets of servers were moved, the old suite shut down and gutted. We had our own supply shipping problems to contend with, but we we did it all with absolutely zero impact to customers or site downime.

Two nights before we left, we pulled a late night and hit the Rembrandtplein to go clubbing. Our first choice of venue, Club Nasty, was dead. We followed the crowds and found ourselves at a packed club nearby blaring electronica music. The entire club was about the size of my apartment, had only two tables and a bar. The rest was absolutely packed with people. Interestingly, it wasn’t just couples and girls out dancing; single guys and girls both were equally in motion. Sure, people in the sidelines were still doing their own minor moves, but they were moving with the beat and enjoying themselves. I certainly enjoyed watching the blonde dancing on the bar, throwing tricks on a pole. It turns out we had stumbled upon a pub crawl gang. As soon as 2 AM hit, the whole herd moved next door to another club. We followed and hung out until 3:00-3:30, then we couldn’t keep up anymore and called it a night.

People poked fun at me the first week I was there because I was usually wearing shorts. It got too cool a few times and after realizing nobody was wearing shorts I decided it was time to buy clothes. Before leaving, I only packed some t-shirts, jeans and shorts. I didn’t give much thought to the looks, I was just there to get a job done. People wearing t-shirts stood out, most everyone else was wearing button-up shirts or fitted tops. I made it out to Albert Cuypstraat, Waterlooplein, and Kalverstraat for clothes. I found some trousers and shirts at a great price, very comfortable at that. Quite a few people were wearing linen clothes as some not-too-distant parts of Europe were very much cooking in the summer. I bought some linen shirts+trousers to wear there and I’m especially glad to have them back here in Texas where it’s been over 100 F this weekend.

We had the opportunity to hang out with a few natives. We met up with acquaintances from AMS-IX and Telecity on two occasions. It was worthwhile to chat with them and find out how the Amsterdam people tick. Apparently you can go up to two years without paying rent before being evicted; some government agencies will try to help you out before a crew shows up with bolt cutters and saws to forceably relocate all your belongings into “storage” (read: a dumpster).

The people at the hotel were always interesting. The hotel staff was always very pleasant (ah, the freckled blue-eyed blonde and the brunette-redhead) and we got to know each other well. Every few days we’d get a crop of new guests. Beginning on the second week we had a group of track & field people in for the Amsterdam Open. Quite a few were participating in the pole vault as their rental SUVs all had long tubes for their poles. There were many fit young girls there, some from the states, but sadily no Allison. I discovered on random nights starting around 11:30-12:30 after the last trams ran, the hotel bar exploded with action. Tons of young people filling up the place, lobby, and front patio seating, all hanging out chattering away. I had a short lived, bizzare fling with an Italian girl I met at the hotel. I would say it was memorable, but I’m committing it to memory here so I can remember it two years from now for a chuckle.

Food Almost all food we had was good if not great. Here’s my laundry list of food reviews:

Krokets are the Nederlandse answer to artery clogging goodness; they’re rolls of minced lamb meat, gravy, breaded and deep fried. Put it between two buns and you have a broodje kroket.

New York Pizza on Leidstraat was great, like having a Homeslice Pizza in Amsterdam. Tandoori chicken pizza was certainly damn tasty.

The Dutch seem to like their beef cooked rare. At a Dutch-food restaurant, the biefstuk I ordered cooked “medium” was what you’d get if you ordered “rare” in the states. Their mussels were super. At another Argentenian steakhouse by the red light district, I had a great steak, but it too was a bit on the rare side. Also notably, the waitress had the most amazing smooth, tan, full cleavage, rawr.

Vlaamse frites (french fries) were always great; freshly cooked, dusted with salt and smothered in frietssaus (mayonaise). They shouldn’t be a meal on their own, but the portions are huge, even for a “small”.

We visited Kantjil & de Tijger twice. The first time was good, on the second visit the service was incredibly slow even by European standards. Both times I had the nasi goreng Kantjil (fried rice, pork kebabs, stewed beef, vegetables). It was tasty and a lot to eat. Neverthless, probably won’t go back.

A popular lunch stop was Tig Barra on Overtoom. Prepare for a two hour lunch, but the food was always very good. Apparently Expedia.com ranks it as the #2 Irish food cafe in Europe outside of Ireland.

We tended to mix breakfast up a bit. Some mornings we went to a small sandwich shop on Middenweg where a very accommodating woman cooked us up basically a modified uitsmijter, fried egg, cheese, ham in a small loaf of wheat bread.

On the last week of the trip we visited Bagels & Beans a few times for breakfast. They have bagels the way they should be, hard and crunchy on the outside and very soft on the inside. In the US, they’re hard as a rock all the way through. It’s also the only place I was able to get tea with honest to god loose leaf tea in a teabag and not shitty powder.

I’m not a fan of Dutch pannekoeken (pancakes). It’s basically a large, dinner plate-sized crepe, about 1/8″ thick. You fold it up like a soft shelled taco and eat it that way. Perhaps next time I should take my griddle and make my own.

The Chinese food we had at a place on Middenweg was outstanding. It was still the same o’ beef+broccoli or chicken, except it had an order of magnitude more flavor to it. They always made interesting garnish for us, once it was flowers made from radish, another was a little smiling turtle carved from a huge carrot. Also a great place to rack up a 100 euro lunch for three people.

It was difficult to find good tea. The Chinese place served great jasmine tea, Bagels & Beans had a selection of good tea bags. Other places served up uninteresting generic tea bags. “Lipton Iced Tea” was horrible, it was basically (it probably really was) powdered instant tea in a bottle.

We steered away from the Tex-Mex places. They were always empty which usually serves as a sign that it’s not good. We did read about a Mexican place that promised to serve interior Mexican food, operated by two brothers from Mexico. It sounded promising, like something we’d find in Austin. We never made it, but it’s on my list to give a try.

Our favorite eetcafe was De Beiaard. We considered it to be right in our back yard since it was just up the 2 tram at Spui. Grolsch was heavenly to drink. They had two hot sassy, fun blonde waitresses. At night in quiet corners the mice would come out and eat discarded food off the floor. That’s what really sold the place to us, it’s just not something you normally see.

Europub at Dam Square was a decent place to hang out late at night. By then the Brits were pretty drunk and singing along with their music.

I’m hooked on Bojo’s Ayam curry. Eat the chicken, dump the rice in the curry, then dump in the prawn crackers, eat until nothing is left. In total I went there four times to eat. The last time I went on Wednesday I said farewell to my usual server and chatted over dinner with a couple from Wisconsin who were in Europe for the first time, on the last leg of their Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam trip.

Girls So many outstandingly friendly attractive girls. The random hot 6′ blonde waiting on the jetway when arriving. Tanya, the freckled blonde with piercing blue eyes at the hotel. The brunette at the hotel. The blonde working at the first Argentenian steak house; food was horrible but her pressed white linen shirt and black choker made her so hot. The sales girl working at the KPN phone store, so cheery, always at least waved to us when we came in. The small, yet curvy brunette at Sky Sports wearing the tight cyan shirt and tight pants that hung off her hips which planted nice thoughts. Nice smelling French girls. The two waitresses at De Beiaard. The waitress with the superb rack at the second Argentenian steak house who hated us asking questions about the menu. The very leggy Czech girl we saw on Amstelveensweg. The two Austrailian girls we met at Sky Sports who had a travelling juggling(?) show (which we later saw), who claim Michigan is the KKK capital of the world.

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