Tuesday, January 16, 2007

deventer and the ijssel river

living in colorado, we got really used to sunshine. we took it for granted. and so on sunday, when the sun was shining ALL FREAKING DAY we decided to take advantage of the amazing weather and make a quick outing to nearby deventer, just about 35 minutes or so up the road by train.

(a cool sculpture near the church. in nederlands it says de maatschappij en de mensheid beginnen bij ieder van ons. we think that translates to "society and humanity begin with each of us.")

deventer is a lovely, picturesque town on the banks of the ijssel river. the movie "a bridge too far" was filmed in this city, even though most of the true-life events in that movie took place in arnhem, a city to the south of us. unlike hengelo and enschede (we're located right on the german border), deventer's city center was somehow spared during world war two, and the city has a lovely historic feel to it not too common in this part of the netherlands.

the edge of deventer is defined by the ijssel river, which is somehow an offshoot of the rhine and which also drains into the ijsselmeer. the ijsselmeer (the huge watery chunk of the netherlands that amsterdam is located on -- that big offshoot of the north sea that looks like a humungous lake in the middle of the country) has a very fascinating history which i learned about on wikipedia... back in the day, like as in the days of the romans, the ijsselmeer was known as lacos flevo ("flevo lake") and was more of a connection of lakes and marshes, which over time was eaten away and eventually just merged into one continuous body of water. later (i don't know when) this became known as the almeer, indicating that it was still more of a freshwater lake at this point. then in the 13th century there was a terrible flood -- there was a huge storm in the north sea, and the storm surge crashed through the dikes and subsequently flooded the almeer. it was after this flood that the almeer became known as the zuider zee, or southern sea, because it became full of saltwater and was essentially an offshoot of the north sea now. it was because of this natural disaster that the village of amsterdam became accessible to boats on the baltic sea trading route, and the city gradually grew into the bustling metropolis that we know of today. there have been a few more disastrous floods in the zuiderzee since then, one in the 13th century in which 80,000 people died and another in 1421 when upwards of 10,000 people perished when a storm surge broke through another dike.

in 1932, a 32 kilometer dam was completed on one end of the zuiderzee, and the area became known finally as the ijsselmeer. meer means "lake" and it is now a freshwater body of water once again, thanks to the ijssel river which feeds this large lake. all of this is relevant, you see, because we live in the overijssel province, which means basically that we live over the ijssel, or on the other side of the river.

isn't that fascinating? man, i love the internet. sooooo full of information.

basically we spent sunday walking around, eating french fries, watching little boys play soccer in the market square, and drinking beer in a very gezellig monastic-themed bar in the shadow of the big church. incidentally, reading the dutch sign on the side of the big church, we learned that there was another church built nearby in this area sometime in 780, but the first stone was laid for this church in about 1040 by some bishop from england. i couldn't find the way
inside (because it was so enormous i just got tired of walking around it in search of a door!), but i don't know if i could have
found my way out again even if i did make it in there. it was HUGE!

oh, we also saw a hill. that was pretty cool. that's the first hill i've seen in holland since we got here i think.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


on wednesday, the US president will be making a speech calling for more american troops in iraq. follow this link for an amazing, brave, poignant commentary on the meaning of "sacrifice."


get active! you can make a difference!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

well, i got a job.

well, i got a job.

my massage room is all set up, and i went to the kamer van koophandel (the chamber of commerce) to get a permit to own a business here. but still, i haven't had any clients call me for a session yet. so instead of sitting around waiting for money to come to me, i decided to get off my duff and go get some money myself. (oh yeah, i've also recently had an interview with a fysiotherapist out here, but that didn't really go anywhere and made me feel like i almost have to "dumb-down" my expertise out here. being a massage therapist is not a very educated job in the netherlands, and even though i know about as much as the fysiotherapists out here, i don't have a certificate in that field, so i'm apparently unqualified to do the type of work they do. but i don't know how to do anything else. i don't know how to only give a relaxing massage -- but i do know how to stick my elbow in your piriformis to help ease your sciatica. apparently i can't do that here -- or at least, i can't say that i do that. sigh.)

it's hard enough to find a job in a small town, no matter what country you're living in, and it's even harder when you don't speak the language. (in fact, trying to find a job here has really made me appreciate the challenge that spanish-speaking immigrants -- or indeed, any immigrant in the US -- have to overcome in order to find fulfilling and meaningful work.) i went to a couple of temp agencies, but they told me that without a proper understanding of the dutch language, there was very little they could offer me. i went home feeling depressed and worthless, wondering when i would be able to earn a paycheck and help out with our expenses. moving here really set us back, and i am definitely not a fan of debt.

anyway, on tuesday night i got a call from one of the temp agencies, telling me that there was a receptionist job for me in enschede, if i wanted it, and could i start first thing tomorrow. he didn't know any details really, but said that he'd drive me there in the morning so that i could find it.

i showed up on wednesday morning, expecting to be a receptionist at a desk, greeting visitors and watering plants and directing phone calls. but in fact, the job is not that at all. what i'll be doing is screening calls for the technical help people for some internet router product from the UK. basically, my job is going to be to determine if the customers who are calling fit the criteria to forward them on to the technical support team. if not, i direct them to a different department, or give them a different phone number to call. so it's not really a receptionist job at all! there must be a difference in translation there that i didn't get. anyway, i showed up on wednesday, not really knowing who my boss was, where i was at, what i was doing, who i was doing it for, how long i'd be doing it, and how much i'd make. i'm still not quite clear on a lot of it, but i think it's a fairly new position and they don't quite know themselves.

the funny thing about it is that this is the exact opposite job that i want. this is the job that made me go to massage school. cuz like in massage, right, you spend one hour with one person, and it's slow and intentional, and you light candles and listen to enya and just basically chill. and in this job, it's all about how many calls you can take during your shift and how quickly you can get off the line with the customer, and it's all done in a big, noisy, windowless room with computers. it's full time, but that also means i will have the evenings and weekends free to try to build my massage practice. and it's temporary, so i didn't have to sign a contract with my employer that commits me to a certain length of time. so when my massage business gets going steady enough, i can turn in my notice and just focus on massage instead.

my supervisor is really chill and the lady who is training me is wicked funny and smart, and the people there seem cool enough. i felt like the new kid at school all over again, because everyone knew what they were doing, they were all really young, from all over the world, and then there's little ol' me, who can only speak one language and doesn't even know what her correct job title is. funny. i figure i'm going to give it a good month before i decide if i'm going to keep it or not, at least to help us get caught up on our expenses from moving here, and to get a better feel for what this job really is.

i feel privileged that i have that freedom to say, "i'm giving it a month, and if i don't like it i'll move on." that's a real rare thing for someone to be able to say that, to feel financially okay enough to not work if the job is too spiritually draining. and i'm definitely aware of that, and grateful that i have the freedom to choose this job. to choose to stay or to go, to know that if i walk away we will not be evicted or run out of food. but also, to know that i have another job waiting for me (massage) makes it easier to not get so stressed out at my call-center job... if i make a mistake, or if happen to spend more time on the phone with the customers than my quota "allows" me to, i know i will always be able to work as a massage therapist, under my own terms. so i guess i feel like i can relax a little bit in this fast-paced, high-stress, demanding new job, because my future doesn't really depend on it. it's just a job, you know? and today, i'm grateful for it.

anyway, that's the scoop.