Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cooking with the Jansens

Tante Coby, me & Trees
Yesterday was a very special treat. Jaap's mother has been giving me Dutch lessons a few times each month. I travel to Oirschot for the afternoon or she comes to Maastricht. We practice my Dutch, sometimes I help her with her English homework, we have lunch, and usually end the day with a little bit of shopping. :) This week was a special lesson. Trees arranged for me to have a cooking lesson with Jaap's aunt and godmother from the Jansen side, Tante Coby. (Tante means aunt in Dutch). What a treat! She showed us how to make erwtensoep, a Dutch pea soup. I felt like an anthropologist. How many American expat women get to have these experiences? It was great.

We had a lot of fun and even though it wasn't our typical Dutch lesson, I had to practice speaking in Dutch because Tante Coby really doesn't speak English. As soon as we got to her house Jaap's father said, "And now we speak Dutch!" And so it began. I did the best that I could and was actually surprised how much I was able to communicate. It was really good practice for me. We talked about cooking, food, our families. It was pretty basic, but good practice. I'm grateful to have Jaap's parents who switch over from Dutch to English so easily and translate for me. I started to realize how much my personality changes in these situations. I'm usually a lot more outgoing, talkative, and friendly when meeting anybody, but having to say things in Dutch makes me a lot more shy. It's strange. But, I do feel that my Dutch is gradually improving and yesterday was a great learning experience. 

I'm always impressed by how many languages Dutch people speak. It's quite embarrassing as an American sometimes. When we went to Germany, Jaap was told by a German waitress that his German was excellent. I was very jealous. And he does it like it's no big deal. We'll see what happens when we go to Paris. Haha!
A few hours from now we're heading to Amsterdam and flying to NYC. Woo hoo! We'll be home with the Pardos to celebrate Turkey Day and other Pardo traditions including cutting down the Christmas tree. Not to mention non-stop yelling and screaming at each other. Sorry, not yelling, 'talking'. Jaap brings earplugs when he visits my parents house. Poor guy. That's why I love him!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A band geek's dream

Living in the Netherlands must be a band geek's dream. Last night we went to a local band concert in Heer. Jaap used to play in the band before he moved to NY and many of his friends still play in it. I'm amazed at how much community support local bands have in the Netherlands, particularly Maastricht. In a city of about 250,000 people there are somewhere between 20 and 30 community wind bands. Can you believe that? We used to live in a city of 8 million people that had less than 5 community wind bands! Haha. It's incredible. Not only are there a lot of bands in Maastricht, but many of them are really good too.

There's so much community support and tradition with Dutch bands. How refreshing! The band we saw tonight, Koninklijke Harmonie van Heer, is about to celebrate their 160th anniversary. And...Jaap's band in Oirschot is even older. I love it! The band that Jaap and I used to play with is only 3 years old. A slight different tradition, but still lots of fun. I miss that group. 

For now Jaap and I are playing with the community orchestra at the university. It's a good experience for me because I've mostly played with wind bands. I have to play the piccolo (sad face), but's good for me. Eventually our goal is to join a wind band or harmonie in Maastricht. 

I suppose that band geeks are a special breed. We're all over the globe. That's comforting. It's nice to know that people from different cultures, languages, and ethnicities still celebrate and appreciate the same music I do. One thing we have in common is our love of beer and socializing. Ahhh... musical traditions. I am grateful I never had to wear a uniform though. :)

Clip of German march from last night's performance.

Here's a pic of our old band in Brooklyn.

Grand Street Community Band, 2010: Photo taken by Kenji Mori/

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rain, Dutch, holidays, and more rain

Onze Lieve Basiliek (10th-15th century)
I think it's safe to say that I have officially experienced what Dutch weather is really like. Riding the bike was rough this week! Today and yesterday I have come home wet and completely soaked. Not fun. However, on the bright side, cycling is free, good for the environment, and burns those extra calories of hot Chocomel. Yay! But man, riding in the rain stinks! I'll get used to it though. Not to mention the wind. Today I felt like I was pedaling and not getting anywhere. A good workout though. 

I did notice lots of traffic on Thursday night when I was leaving my Dutch lesson though. Hmmm...coincidence? I'm guessing people looked out the window and said, "Yeah...I'm taking the car today." However, I love that people don't complain about the rain. (Well, except me). It's the Dutch way of life. I showed up at Dutch class wet and cold, as did everyone else in my class, and everybody was still cheery. I love it. Not to mention I really enjoy my Dutch class at the university. My class is full of such interesting people from all over the world. Talk about diverse. Everyone in the class comes from a different country throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East. And then there's me, the lone American. I love the class and I feel that my Dutch is improving. Jaap and I are starting to use more Dutch at home as well. We've made a deal that in the future we will speak Dutch on certain days and English on others. Yikes. I'm scared. But hey, that's how I'm going to learn. 

I went to the market today and for the first time I started to feel like the holidays are coming! I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who let's me play Christmas music starting the first week of November. I know I'm a dork, but I'll blame that on being a music teacher. Haha. And not just Christmas, but Carnival too! Even though Carnival is not until March this year, the eleventh day of the eleventh month is the official start of the Carnival season. There were tons of people out and about last night as I was riding to my second Dutch class. And Carnival is only celebrated in the southern provinces of the Netherlands in Brabant (where Jaap is from) and Limburg (where we live). Fun for us!

Here are some pics of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Basiliek. It's the oldest church in Maastricht. I went there this morning before I went to the market. 

Delicious stuff at the market. This is before a 2 by 4 piece of wood fell on top of my head at my favorite fruit stand. Ouch. It wasn't anybody's fault...just the wind. I did get some free apples because they felt bad. Added bonus. 
Yummy meat stuff at the market
Random pics from my Tuesday afternoon bike ride. 
Waldeckpark near St. Pieter
St. Theresia off of Tongerseweg, built in the 1930s
Sint Lambertuskerk at Koningin Emmaplein, built during WWI

Monday, November 8, 2010

A lazy weekend

Yay for lazy weekends! The weather has been less than beautiful here the past few days. I got caught in the rain riding to the supermarket on Friday. I hate bike riding in the rain. I also went to the open market and accidentally bought too many mushrooms and salmon. Some things were lost in translation. Ooopps.

Despite my laziness I have had some great culinary accomplishments this weekend. Jaap's friends Nicole and Martijn came over for dinner on Friday and I made a yummy Italian feast  from recipes I found at The Italian Dish. I wish I took pictures of the evening. We had a great time.

Saturday we went to the movies to see The Town. Oh Boston, how I miss you!

My favorite new stand at the market
de Hoge Brug
Bakeries in Wyck

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands

That's right. I speak a little bit of Dutch. I've come to terms with the fact that I will be studying Dutch for many years to come and perhaps the rest of my life. I must say, I have much more sympathy for people moving from another country who don't speak the language. It's been a humbling experience. Even the smallest tasks like buying groceries or ordering a cup of coffee can be a challenge. On top of that, we live in Limburg and the native Limburg dialect can be very different from Dutch. Fun for me! Luckily, the Dutch speakers that I encounter most often i.e. Jaap's friends and family, do not speak dialect.

So, to begin... I enrolled in a course at a small language school in early October, which meets once a week. I've met some nice Americans in that class who live in our neighborhood. Added bonus! And this week I started my second course at the university. It meets twice a week for six weeks and moves at a pretty fast pace. I'm enjoying both classes and gradually things are improving. I think I've already surpassed my knowledge of German from when I was living in Vienna, which doesn't necessarily say much.

I've had to develop a tough skin because of my teachers' directness. (The Dutch are known for this). As it was so kindly pointed out to me, "Americans are not familiar with learning languages." Thanks. I already knew that, but thank you for being brutally honest. That's the Dutch way! I'm learning not to take moments like these personal. But in my defense, let's not group Americans all together okay? It's a big country!

In addition to the two courses, I meet with Jaap's mom, Trees, once a week for another lesson. She's a retired teacher and knows how to teach beginning Dutch students and understands the learning process. It has been a huge help. Getting three different types of instruction is giving me a well-rounded introduction to Dutch. Not to mention my previous instructor Mari from NYC. She was my Dutch teacher last year while I was still living in New York and was a tremendous help. Thanks Mari! But if it wasn't for Jaap, I'd be completely lost! He helps me fill out all my paperwork, practices with me each day, and corrects me when I'm wrong. I'm lucky to have a Dutch partner.

But even when you are a native speaker things are lost in translation all the time. Just the other day I told my father (in English) that Jaap and I went for a walk and had a slice of pie at a café. He thought we ate pizza. Hmmm? That's a New Yorker for you. Love you Pop!

These pictures have nothing to do with learning Dutch, but why not enjoy some more views of beautiful Maastricht. :)

Sint Janskerk
Sint Servaas Basiliek

Monday, November 1, 2010

Movies, tapas, jazz & more

Friday market
What a great weekend. Even though I couldn't celebrate Halloween in costume this year, the weekend was full of good times! Friday morning I went exploring around the market and bought some fruit and a yummy cheese spread. The market is beautiful and there is so much besides food....clothes, flowers, handbags, fabric, linens....the list goes on. I was tempted to buy so many things, but resisted. I was also nervous about buying meat and cheese because I'm still not used to grams and kilos and I'm not really sure how to go about ordering these things in Dutch yet. There's a goal to work on! Afterwards I had lunch with Céline, someone I met through the International Women's Club of Limburg. It was a nice way to spend the day in Maastricht. Here are some pics from the market. I starred at the pies for about three minutes before walking away. Yummy.
Friday night we went to go see The Social Network. Good flick. I insisted we go to the theater at least 20 minutes in advance. (I hate getting bad seats at a movie). I thought there would be a crowd but we were the only ones there early. I'm used to crowded NYC theaters and being sold out of shows. I remember when Jaap and I went to go see Avatar we got to the theater an hour ahead of time thinking we would definitely get a ticket. The show was sold out for three days! Hahaha. Jaap said there are probably a million people who could potentially see a movie in the theater we used to go to, as opposed to Maastricht where there's probably only a few thousand. Good point babe!

Afterwards we walked back towards Céramique for some Thai food at a restaurant in our neighborhood. It was packed and instead of being told a wait time of 10 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. we were told, 'Sorry' and gestured to leave. Hmmm. Then we walked across the street to a Spanish tapas restaurant (which was delicious by the way) and before I could take my coat off, the waitress wanted to know what I wanted to drink. I said I didn't know yet. Then she didn't return for 10 minutes. Hmmm. You gotta love this customer service. However, dinner was great and I'm lucky that we have so many nice restaurants in our neighborhood.
Excited for tapas
Jaap's friend Joost came to visit on Saturday for MECC Jazz Maastricht. What an incredible night! We heard some amazing music. The Roy Hargrove Quintet was by far my favorite. I'm a fan.(Although Pee Wee Ellis played St. Thomas, which just made my night). I'm by no means a jazz expert or even slightly knowledgeable, but I think we heard some phenomenal performances. It was a great night! Here are some pics of the festival.
Roy Hargrove Quintet
Count Basie Orchestra
Wayne Shorter Quartet
Jaap & Joost enjoying some friets
Trijntje Oosterhuis
Yesterday's weather was warm and sunny so we had to make sure we got out of the house. Maastricht was gorgeous! The bridge that has been closed for construction the past two months recently reopened, so we walked over and took some nice pictures of the city.
View from de Hoge Brug
He's so handsome
Hellport, 13th century
Stroll through City Park
Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek
We stopped at the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein for some drinks and a slice of vlaai for lunch. (It's like a fruit pie). We both got strawberry and mine came with a little too much slagroom. Oh well. Had to eat it. It was the perfect day to sit at an outdoor café. A women that I met at the International Women's Club said that she loves living in Maastricht because of its southern Europe 'feel' and luxurious café culture. Ahhhh. It reminds me of Vienna. I could get used to this.

And one more thing...HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear friend Shannon! I wish I was there to celebrate with you. Love you!
Strawberry Vlaai for lunch
Onze Lieve Vrouweplein
View of Bonnefantenmuseum