Garbage in, garbage out

Don't you hate it when you are in the supermarket and in a split second before you can say "no bags please" they have your bags wrapped inside other bags inside other bags and only put a couple of items in each bag? Sometimes I feel like I come home with more plastic than I do product!

I try to recycle as much as possible at home however I feel like we can always do more. In Europe this is this is almost a reality with everyone brining their own bags which has started to take off in New Zealand.

In Germany I believe if you need something from the deli you just bring your container and get them to fill it for you. Cool huh.

The only exception to this phenomenon has been in New Zealand news recently and that's the one of "food will kill you, you will die" and it needs to be hygienically sealed before hitting the shelves. What ever happed to safe cooking? Except for a few fruit and vege everything in Europe is wrapped.

The supermarkets play their party too hosting machines for recycling. Instead of leaving your bottles in a box on the footpath you take them to the local supermarket and stick them into a machine that can identify a Grolsch Wit beir bottle from a normal Grolsch bottle. The machine then spits out a credit for you to redeem at the checkout. You can also recycle batteries which a lot better throwing them out with the normal rubbish.

I congratulate the Europeans on their stance and I doubt its just a show like the original recycling attempts of some fast food chains in NZ where the recycling bins were just emptied into the normal rubbish.


Winter is coming

P1070565 A little over a week ago I looked outside and and there in the middle of the greenery there was a patch of orange. With summer officially over we are into Autumn and the trees are very quickly preparing for hibernation.

Even though we have been blessed with clear skies the temperature rarely gets above 18 degrees. In the sun it is warm but the the shadows are cold.

Everyone is now dressing in their winter clothes with big coats and scarf's but its not actually that cold.... yet.

It's strange to think that if I was in New Zealand I would probably be on a mountain skiing in similar conditions. Perhaps in a t-shirt in September.

Update: Autumn has struck with a vengeance. A couple of weeks later and the days are misty, the roads are covered with leaves and the trees presenting with a colourful display or gold and orange.


Snake in the Grass

Yesterday whilst we were riding in the forest I saw my first real live snake that wasn't in captivity. I've seen plenty of creepy crawlies over the years in various countries but never a snake even in Australia.

280pxAnyway, it turned out this little fellow is the stock standard Grass Snake ("Ringslang" in Dutch) identifiable from its distinct yellow/black neck markings. It was actually pretty cute measuring about a metre long but only about 15mm at its widest point and it was curled up like snakes do. I found it in the middle of the road so herded it to safety with my bike safe to live another day.


Update I remembered I have seen a sea snake in Fiji too.


Op je fiets (On your bike)

The entire time I've been living here we have only used the car once to go somewhere local. Hey it was a rainy night and we felt like curries (Mmmm, oh how we miss Sages).

We literally go everywhere by bike and why not? The steepest street is up a bridge over the river. Fietspaden (cycle ways) are footpaths especially for bikes and scooters. At major intersections they have their own traffic lights but normally bikes have the right of way. This is pretty scary at first deliberately biking into the path of an oncoming car but they stop. Glad I'm not coming from Holland to New Zealand.

Nijmegen is a student town so there are a lot of young people but its also home to many older people and disabled (I can't remember the current politically correct term). They are just as quick on the fietspaden with their supercharged mobility scooters. Maybe Top Gear should do an episode of them. I wonder how many scooter vs. car accidents there are.

The local constabulary often patrol the streets on their bikes and will sting you 20 euros for every light not lit if you're riding at night. Other than that there aren't many rules. Helmets are not required so even in the forest and road riders hardly ever wear helmets.

If you need to catch a train you ca either lock your bike up in a special garage at the station or better yet just take a fold up bike.

dutch kids on bikePeople ride around town, two bags full of groceries on the back, two kids sitting in child seats, one front and one back. One hand holding an umbrella, one holding a cigarette whilst talking on their mobile phone. The children that are old enough to double hold onto their parents like Koala bears.

Except for the hot weather biking (fietsen) is a fast and safe way to get around town and even between towns or countries. Often you can get somewhere faster by bike than by car.

Auckland needs to certainly needs to buck up their ideas and add more dedicated cycle paths. I don't mean the kind that doubles as a bus lane. Buses and bikes don't mix.

For me biking in Holland is a fantastic way to get around. I still need to learn the Dutch way of riding slowly hand in hand having a chat along the way.



Food, glorious food

Kaas and brood (Cheese and bread) is the staple here for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner.

Unlike New Zealand the supermarkets are considerably smaller with the local Albert Hein XL (which everyone comments "how great it is to have a large supermarket") is only slightly larger than the local 4 Square. Due to the small size of these establishments the selection is somewhat limited. For example, you can reach to both ends of the cereal section without moving a foot. This is quite unlike the 50 metre isle 2 stories high at the Pak N Save next door with 100 different types of cereal. Where this is "turned on it's head" (opposite for Dutchy's) is the Drop (Dutch licorice) isle.

Kroketten from the wallUnlike myself in Kiwiland who drives to the supermarket next door buys huge amount of food to last me a month, the Dutch go daily to buy what they need for that day and perhaps breakfast the next day. This may seem inconvenient but I don't know how I could fit my normally load on the back of my bike.

Of course there are lots of fast foods as well. Whilst out on the markets of course there is fresh Stroopwafel (honey coated waffles), Haring (salted raw Herring) and of course Dutch Kroketten which you can get out of the window or as takeaways with fries and mayonnaise.

I feel like a kid in a lolly shop as the saying goes. So many new products to try and finally its easy to purchase all those items its difficult to get in NZ such as fresh figs and prosciutto. It's all just there waiting form me to try out new recipes.

PS: What is the world coming to when you buy McDonald's tomatoe sauce in the supermarket like you can here?


A litre of petrol...

Texaco Petrol sign in Nijmegen, Netherlands In Holland petrol is €1.56 per litre whilst in New Zealand it's about the same but in New Zealand dollars. That's about half the price so count yourself lucky kiwis.

Petrol is so expensive on the motorways that they don't even advertise the prices. At the smaller stations some unmanned you just use your cash point card and are played ads on a TV screen at the pump as you fill up.

One of the guys in my Dutch class, Ali comes from Iran and recently petrol has increased from 3 euro cents per litre to 8 euro cents per litre in the last few years.

Most people in Holland use bikes to get around or public transport. Of course if you live you live in one place and work in another town off the main rail links people still drive.

Every morning the news shows a map of Holland with all the traffic jams shown in red and measuring hundreds of kilometres. In winter it can be up to 800kms which is more than double the height of the country!


Double Dutch

In Holland it means using two different types of contraceptive but I've ways know it as something that is confusing ("This is all double Dutch").

Learning Dutch has been both good fun and hard. Good fun because its learning something new and talk in a different language but difficult because everyone speaks English and you never know the exact words to say in Dutch. I can't exactly have a conversation with Renate after a hard days work "Hallo Renate, Ik ben Antony", its more like "ok, and so the person's foot has rotted away because they weren't taking their medication correctly.

P1040611Everyone in the Dutch class were there learning Dutch for themselves rather than having to learn it as part of living in Holland. We came from a wide area including Estonia, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Romania, Thailand, Turkey, Colombia and of our me from New Zealand. Our tutor Peter did a great job although I can imagine the frustration at times.

We took a couple of trips to help us with our integration. One to a Kaasboerderij (cheese farm) and the other to Den Bosch.

 P1020024  P1020048 

Learning Dutch I felt like I was 2 years old again learning new words, asking "what is this", "what is that" all the time like my nephew Sam. My first Dutch word book (a gift from Renate's parents) is a picture book like something from Richard Scary.

It started off easy enough where you can pretty much substitute words in Dutch for English "Ik ben Antony" is "I am Antony" but it quickly gets a bit more complex:

  • When telling the time you say its "half tien" (half ten) its actually 9:30 and 8:40 is worded "tien over half negen" (10 minutes over half past eight).
  • Many words have several completely different meanings. An Ezel is an esil but also a donkey.
  • Squirrel translates to Eekhoorn (pronounced Acorn) where as an Acorn is Eikel which is also the head of a penis.
  • Shop sales on Monday (Easter etc) are called Sale Sunday but on Monday.

There are also lots of funny literal translations so here are just a few:

  • Letter box (brievenbus) translates to "letter bus".
  • Pocket (kontzak) translates to "bum sack"
  • Snail (slak) translates to "slug" but a slug translates to "naked slug" (naakt slak)
  • Hospital (ziekenhuis) translates to "sick house"