Gym and yoga

Today was a good day for my health and fitness, not only was I in the gym at 07:00AM but twelve hours later, I found myself in a Yoga studio on the banks of the Amstel river, slowly lowering my bum and straitening my spine into the all so famous “downwards facing dog”.

Gym was great today, my first rep felt like I was superman, I had a lot of energy and performed with exercises with intense explosion and absurd focus but then round two this seemed to waiver.

After doing my second round of ten pull ups, I needed to take a little break as I felt that I might be a bit sick, which is strange as this rarely happens. I mean I did push myself as I always do but never does my body react with nausea. The nausea soon passed and I was able to finish my workout but I could feel that it took a chunk out of me and I left the gym drenched in sweat feeling slightly dizzy.

Work was uneventful and frustrating, as I am working with some really high level concepts where the setup alone requires you to read manuals of 600 pages per concept and then if you dare miss a single line, the chances are pretty good that it is exactly that line that will cause your code to break.

Then after work it was yoga, hence me finding myself in the downward facing dog position.

I left work a little late and had to cycle like a maniac to be on time for the yoga class, which turned out to be a small mistake as the class was super relaxed and we only started a little while after I arrived.

This intense cycling caused me to for the second time that day be drenched in sweat and the already sweaty clothes from the gym the morning caused my clean yoga clothes to also be wet and sweaty.

Let me preface my yoga experience with the fact that whenever I practice yoga, I become really self aware of EVERYTHING. My breathing, my body, the yoga positions, my short pants (is it hanging out?!),  my sweat and my body odours. So in this case where I arrived kind of sweaty already, I seemed to be constantly worried a bit about how sweaty I was and how it smelt.

There was not much that I could do about it and I proceeded with the class as best as I could and it was a very small and intimate class, we were only five participants and the instructor, which made for an amazing experience.

Unlike other yoga classes, where they harp on the physical side of things, I found todays class a lot more meditative and relaxing. One exercise was to compare ones mood before and after the class and I definitely felt a lot cooler and calmer that before I had arrived.

The class was also prefaced and concluded with some breathing exercises, the ending exercises closely resembled the breathing practice that Wim Hof teaches, where one breathes in intensely and then holds ones breath.

Overall it was a great experience and I will definitely go again, I met some really cool people and we had some tea and snacks afterwards. It feels nice to kind of put yourself out there and meet new people especially when you are of a different culture, different continent even.

Tonight is definitely not the last time that I will be attending Julie’s yoga classes. That about covers the fitness part, as for the health part, I consumed a fully vegetarian diet today consisting of lentils, beans, green beans, asparagus, chilli and eggs. This was both my supper and lunch and it was delicious.

I have decided to cut down grossly on my meat consumption and also on all dairy consumption, especially milk. I have always thought that milk is not as healthy as they want you to believe but I will leave that for its own little write up.

Kings Day, Work Outing and Bevrijdingsdag.

So much has happened over the last two weeks, this will be a real catch up post. My last entries revolved mainly around the race that I ran and some pseudo intellectual rants, its time to get back to the basics and document what has been happening these last two weeks.

Kings Day 2018

Kings day is an annual celebration of the Kings of the Netherland’s birthday. It is the one day that everyone takes to the streets or to the water via boats and takes part in the yearly festivities. My girlfriend tried to explain the magnitude of the festivities but this had in no way prepared me for what it was really like.

We left the house at around 10:00 AM after making some sandwiches and packing some beers for the day. Upon leaving the house, hundreds of people had already taken to the streets, some just walking around and taking in the atmosphere, whilst others resorted to side walk commerce, selling all types of things from blankets and tables all along the road.

People sold all sorts of things, apart from the obvious food and drink, it also served as an opportunity for anyone to have a mini garage sale, so you could purchase all kinds of second hand goodies. I saw people were selling clothing, shoes, furniture, cutlery, art, actually anything that you can think of but what did stand out for me was the children. They also ran little side walk businesses selling home made lemonade, cookies and sweets. It was cute to see the little ones partaking in the festivities.

We walked around in the East a bit more and later met up with some friends, with whom we started the big trek into the city centre together. It was now around 11:30 AM and we had opened a few beers. It was great to walk around in the city, seeing everyone with their faces painted and their orange clothing.

Everybody  is Dutch on Kings Day.

We kept walking through the streets just enjoying the sun and the festive atmosphere until we finally reached our house party in the middle of the city. We spent a couple of hours there, as there were around seventy people, just hanging around and having fun. We ended the night with some delicious take Thai Food and the next day was definitely not as festive.

Work Outing

One of the points that came up during one of our development team meetings was that we should celebrate more. As a development team we had achieved rather ambitious goals, like becoming independent of all consultants, starting to manage our software releases on our won and achieving work which was planned for the year in a matter of five months.

So to celebrate, our business analyst found us an escape room in Utrech, which is a city about twenty minutes outside Amsterdam and a great tapas restaurant for afterwards. So we left work on Friday at 15:00 and did the escape room at 17:00.

It was fun, it is really a nice team building exercise, which takes a lot of communication and working together to get out of the room. With that said, we did make it out of the room but it took us around fifty two minutes which is not record breaking but not too bad either (judging by the times of other teams on Facebook).

We had some hindrances  which prolonged the situation such as faulty apparatus of the escape room and out of frustration at one stage we veered off slightly and started doing our own thing individually but eventually we managed to pull it together and escape the room!

We then headed to a tapas restaurant which was ten kilometres out of the city, myself and another college did not make the car pool meaning that we had cycle all the way, which in a way was good because I ate more at that tapas restaurant than I had eaten the entire previous week!

The tapas restaurant was great, here we really blew off some steam, made a lot of jokes and just enjoyed each others company. It is great when you work with a team you get along on a personal level as well. We all are different ages and come from vastly different walks in life but somehow we all get along really well.

Actually “get along really well”, is almost an understatement, there is not a standup meeting where we don’t laugh, make jokes and  try to help each other with the work load.

Bevrijdingsdag 2018

Bevrijdingsdag is another festival day in the Netherlands, dedicated to soldiers who fought in wars. It was once just in remembrance of everyone who fought in World War Two but has since become a day to celebrate all soldiers who have been in war.

This was on a Saturday and once again, just like on Kings day, we were super lucky to have amazing weather. South Africa also has amazing weather but a cool thing about the Netherlands is the ridiculously late sunset.

I am mean as I type this, it is 21:35 but the sun is still out and it is still light outside. It will probably be fully set around 22:15. In South Africa, as I remember the sunset was never really later than 21:00.

Bevrijdingsdag was no exception, the sun shone brightly and only retreated to its lonesome home on the horizon well after 22:00. We started by going to the market close to my house in the East, enjoying some ridiculously good sandwiches from the local corner store. The owner was very friendly and gave us some cheese and cured meats to try before buying a sandwich.

The shop must have been there for the last thirty years at least, you can see that the neighbourhood has gentrified but that corner store looks exactly like it did thirty years ago and the best part of it is that they are proud of it. I am definitely taking my parents there once they arrive.

From the East we cycled to the North of Amsterdam which is a ferry trip but definitely worth it, there we met up with Jytte’s sister, her boyfriend and some of his friends. It was lovely sitting in the sun and enjoying some beers.

Here we parted ways as Jytte had a festival to attend and I had made plans with a friend from South Africa, whom I had not seen in years, I think actually it had been fifteen years.

We met in Westerpark, it was hard to find each other with will all the thousands of people around but finally we managed to track each other down close to the main stage.

I did not think it was going to be weird seeing each other again after all these years, for some reason, I just knew that it will be ok and it was absolutely great. We started talking immediately and could not get enough words in fast enough.

Five minutes later a college from my work joined and we found a quite spot where we could just hang out and catch up a little bit. We hung there for about an hour and then headed to the gin bar and on the way another college joined us.

We git some gins and once again moved to find a nice spot to chill. The night started moving quickly, we headed from stage to stage, bar to bar and eventually made our way to a live performance of what I am sure was a dutch band. We literally spent the entire evening sitting on the grass, drinking beers and talking about everything from artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles. It was clear that we tended to be a little more introverted than the friend of Melissa who was also there, he ran around, danced a bit and mostly avoided our conversations of the latest technology.

At around midnight the festivities had died down and then we went to Melissas place for a final night cap. It was about a twenty minute Uber ride and I left my bike back at the park.

We arrived at her place and she offered us a glass of wine, it was actually from South Africa, a delicious wine from the farm Springfield, which I frequently visited when I was in that wine region. She also had a dog which had travelled with her all the way from South Africa, to Switzerland and now to Amsterdam.

At around 03:00 AM we called it a night and got an Uber back to Westerpark. Luckily my bike was still there and I cycled the 20 minute route home in 30 minutes. It was a good night!

Tomorrow I am setting a new personal running record.

Tomorrow is a special day, I will be running a 14 kilometre charity run with a few colleges. The run will take place around 20:15 tomorrow evening and I plan to end before 21:15, which means that I will need to run at least 4 minutes and 28 seconds per kilometre.

4.28 x 14 = 59.92 

The above equation is the slowest average per kilometre distance that I will be running, the cool thing is, even if I do run this slow pace, then I will still make the 14 kilometres in under an hour.

But that is not the plan. I plan on averaging at least 15 seconds below this and even pushing some kilometres to way below the 4 minute mark. The thing is, I can do it, I am extremely fit at the moment, doing some form of exercise at least once daily and I have not touched a cigarette in months.

4.00 x 14 =56

Now this equation I like… Its simple, its rounded off and it easily achievable. Tomorrows new personal best will be at time of 4.00 minutes per kilometre for 14 kilometre.

But off course I am always open to do it faster, check in tomorrow for an update.

Birthday weekend.

My birthday was this past Saturday and we went way for the weekend to celebrate the occasion,  hence the title. It  started off rather rushed as I had overslept a slight bit due to a work occasion the previous night, which was Thursday night as I took the Friday off from work.

On Thursday evening it was a colleague’s last day at work, so we went up to the roof of the office building for some drinks and snacks and the fact that we are an proudly beer selling company, the supply of top quality craft beers were not limited. Hence me missing my normal 7:00 AM gym session and sleeping in till 8:00AM.

Once we left Amsterdam station and were on the train to Antwerp, the rushed feeling and slight stress was immediately replaced with excitement.

Antwerp is a magic little town in Belgium, famous for one of the biggest ports in the world as well as a flourishing diamond trade, which both contribute to the cities wealth. Wealth which one can see, throughout the city and its residence, it has an air of ‘well being’ which is not easily experienced everywhere.

Antwerp is full of little squares surrounded by cafes and restaurants.

We arrived at the magnificent central station, known to be one of the prettiest in the world and quickly made our way to our AirBnb. It was a few minutes from central station and upon arrival we were met by the owner, Grethe, who sat us down for a quick Antwerp information session.

She was very sweet and just meant well but it felt like she was talking forever, elaborating about the history, the people, the food and she eventually called it quits, after sharing several restaurant and specific meal recommendations at the said restaurants.

When we greeted her she mentioned her age, 73, she looked no older than 57, maybe 59, good genes she said.

We circled Antwerp several times, looking for the perfect restaurant until we eventually settled on the restaurant recommended by Grethe and the food was delicious.

The rest of the day was spent visiting breweries, shops, parks and several historical sights in town. We ended the day with a delicious meal at a French restaurant, I had a steak and it was probably one of the best steaks that I have had in my life. Jytte had the vegetarian lasagne, to be honest, I am not a vegetarian but I would order that lasagne any day!

French cuisine.

We called it an early evening with retired at around 11:00AM. The next morning we were up bright and early and visited the city market. It was an amazing mixture of sights and smells, with the most delicious food and snacks that once can imagine.

What really grabbed my attention was the alcohol consumption, all around the market and surrounding restaurants, people were drinking anything from beer to wine to champaign. This must have been around 8:00AM in the morning and coming from a country where it is illegal to sell liquor before 11:00AM, I was quite surprised.

So I order two beers and a shot of tequila.

Just kidding but what I did order was a delicious Turkish wrap with honey, olives, cheese, sun-dried tomato and artichokes. It really hit the spot. Jytte had a few bites but it was not up to her tastes.

As the day before we spent the rest of the day eating, drinking and enjoying the amazing Summer weather. We also rented two cycles which I would definitely recommend, its so easy to get around on bikes.

Give a Dutch persona bike and the sun and you get that face of pure bliss.
Exploring Antwerp!
Antwerp from the sky!

The evening we decided on a piquant pizzeria looking out over a busy piazza surrounded by several restaurants. We both had pizzas which were equally amazing. I swear the food in Antwerp is just on another level.

Food!!!

We decided to have desert elsewhere and seeing that I am not entirely a desert person, I was in no rush.

At one stage Jytte got frustrated and said that the only reason that she wanted desserts was to ask them to put candles on it and then I could blow it out as it was my birthday. Super sweet!

Eventually we did find a place and Jytte went to place our order, 2 coffees and one creme brule, she also went to ask whether they can put the candles on the dessert.

She can back flustered throwing the candles on the table, telling me that they told her that they don’t do such things here like lighting candles. I almost told her  that we should just cancel the order and leave and she said “No, lets just drink the coffee”. Sure.

A few moments later the lights started flickering and I could hear the loud song ‘Happy birthday…. ” Ah, she got me…

So the staff did not agree to the candles but had their own sparkles! They marched through the restaurant singing happy birthday while the whole restaurant clapped hands. They messed up my name but that did not matter as the table of ten next to us, literally gave a standing ovation and kept clapping long after the song was finished.

It was great!

We returned home after this as we still had big plans for Sunday. The next day we went back to the market for some snacks and soon after left Antwerpen for Rotterdam. It was a great Summers day and the weather was even better in Rotterdam than Antwerpen.

For some city was buzzing with excitement and energy as there was a soccer cup final taking place later the day but for myself the excitement and energy translated to fear and anxiety as we were surrounded by hundreds of screaming, drinking and rowdy soccer fans.

The police detained the entire train whilst they got everything ready to search all passengers upon exiting. It was a scary experience seeing all the police and dogs and people being searched.

Once we cleared the search we headed into Rotterdam which is airy city which felt very green, spacious and modern and reminded me a lot of Pretoria, South Africa.

We walked through the city and eventually came to a street called “Witte de Wit”, where Jytte’s father once lived, many moons ago.

The street was a mix of trendy bars, cafes, clothing stores and restaurants lined with green trees almost forming a roof above the road. We headed over to “Paneke Bar” of which Jytte knew the owner, who I then met and we enjoyed a cold beer. The owner , Wim, was slightly nervous as he was not sure what type of crowds the soccer game would attract and apparently it can get pretty messy.

Our last stop for the day was “Felix Food Factory”. This is a sort of market in a old shipping building right on the water. One can buy all kinds of food and drinks there and then sit on edge of the river enjoying the food and the view.

We bought an amazing cheese platter and two craft beers and sat with our legs dangling over the piers edge. We could see “Hotel New York” from where we were sitting which is an old hotel which looks like it came right out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Jytte’s great grandfather was actually a project manager and worked on constructing the hotel.

So back to the title of this post, birthday weekend. As you can tell I did indeed have an amazing action packed birthday weekend!

Hotel New York, straight out of a Wes Anderson film.
Beautiful Rotterdam!

Midweek beers and midweek cheers.

 

I never made it to the gym this morning, as I had planned, but one needs to be ok with the fact that things do not always work out the way that you want it to. It is like my old college Cedric always said:

“The secret to life is that you should really want something, have an intense burning desire for it, but if you don’t get it, you should be happy with that too.”

This is great advice and it stretches way beyond missing a gym session or not getting retweeted by Beyonce.

The universe has a way of working both with you and against you. It is a lot about what you put out there and then in contrast what you internalise.

Lets use a metaphor:

Good grapes make good wine, good soil make good grapes, good nutrients make good soil… And one can go on and on but I am sure that you get the drift.

Lets get to the title of this post. In all honesty, I have absolutely no creativity when it comes to the titles, it is really the first thing that comes to mind, so in this case, it is Wednesday, which means it is midweek and I am drinking beers. Therefore, Midweek beers and midweek cheers.

Normally I would not be drinking beers on a Wednesday but a college of mine had a motorbike breakdown, so I hung around with him waiting for the tow truck and once he and his bike was loaded, I returned to the office to finish some work and do this blog post.

With that said, its about time I head home!

 

 

 

Tiring Tuesday

I am struggling to keep my eyes open as I type this, today has been one really long day, starting at 05:30 with some ready, meditation, a brisk nine kilometre run and followed by a gruelling ten hours of work.

I wish that there was someway to get a bit more out of a day, with that I mean, I wish that I did not get tired, fatigued, lose my concentration and maintained consistent high energy levels throughout the day.

I strive to realise this wish, through healthy eating, consistent exercise and limiting the amount of carbs and sugar that I consume but I am yet to achieve optimal performance. I have also started taking some melatonin to succumb to a deeper sleep which may also lead to better energy levels.

But as of yet, its still constant experimenting, tweaking and self medicating to try and get the most out of each day.

Art gallery in Eindhoven.
Art gallery in Eindhoven.

So today was great, I love my morning runs to work, I do not do it everyday but at least once a week, I will run both to work and back. The nice thing is that Amsterdam is flatter than the top of Table Mountain, making running a fun and relaxing activity as opposed to Cape Town and its tumultuous ups and downs, mincing away at your legs .

I run with a backpack which is normally stuffed with work clothes, toiletries, several notebooks, work shoes and my laptop. It slows me down but I also think that it makes me stronger as I run with at least an additional five kilograms weighing down on my calves.

I think that it was this morning during my run that I realised that Amsterdam can really become my city, I mean where else can you live on the one side of the city and still be able to run and cycle to your work on the other side of the city? Definitely not Hong Kong.

Apart from the ability to run to and from work, the charm of the centuries old architecture, the long Summer days and the beers on the cafe terraces are really also growing on me.

I think I shall start looking to buy an apartment real soon, my lease on the current place that I am renting expires in the next four months, which gives me a perfect window to start looking for a place to buy.

Blossoms in Springtime.
Blossoms in Springtime.

Monday the long day

I am one of many expats at my company. Out of the 38 employees, I would guess that around 15 are not Dutch, which makes sense as we are an international company, operating across several different countries.

We currently have online stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the UK and Germany with plans to expand to several more European countries in the near future, we may even take on the Asian and American markets one day.

With that said, the company has been kind enough to have gotten us a Dutch tutor to teach us the Dutch language. The only condition is that we pass the entry level Dutch language proficiency exam or else we pay for the lessons ourselves.

The lessons start at 17:45 and end at 20:15, hence the reason that Monday is so long, especially if you arrived at work around 08:15 AM, then you clock in a solid 12 hours. But I guess it is relative as I have had many jobs where working a 16 hour day was the norm.

My day was not quite 12 hours as I arrived a little late this morning. The reason I was late was due to a gross miscalculation of distance on my part. Instead of checking the distance between two locations on Google maps, I just did an estimate based on how far they looked from each other on the map, which was a huge mistake and I realised this as soon as I arrived at the first location which I estimated to be no more than two kilometres from the second location but it ended up being a bit more than twelve.

See here in Amsterdam, you take your bicycle everywhere and with everywhere, I mean really everywhere… Clubbing? I will cycle. Job interview? Let me get my bike. Dinner with the in laws? Let me just hop onto my bike. Emergency and need to go to hospital? Let me just find my bike keys… Moving homes…

You get the point…

Unfortunately my bike was stolen last week, so this morning I wanted to go to the gym before work so I borrowed my girlfriends bike, which was not at her house or at mine but at a bus stop which I assumed was close to the gym (location one), this was the first mistake, as the bus stop was eight kilometres away from the gym. The second location is my work, which was twelve kilometres away from the gym.

This would have been ok if the bike was any good but the bike of my girlfriend was salvaged from the pre European Union era and not much has gone in the way of care and maintenance, causing the bike to creak and crack with each peddle and as soon as one settles into any kind of rhythm, the chain slips off the gears, leaving you with no way to stop as the bikes only way of breaking is peddling backwards.

Needless to say, the careful biking and stopping to replace the chain, turned what Google maps promised to be a thirty minute journey into a fifty five minute slog.

I arrived at work sweaty and my hands covered in oil from replacing the chain.

When I explained to my colleges, they were happy that I made it to work in the first place, as the area where my bike constantly “broke down” was apparently not the best neighbourhood to be stopping with a laptop on your back. Luckily all was well and I was only about twenty minutes late.

So what did I learn? Plan better, read maps better, double lock your bike to protect theft and several Dutch words and phrases.

It is now 20:37 and I have ran out of time for today as I literally have eight items on my to do list. As per yesterdays post, on quieter days I will back peddle and write about the past but whenever something slightly significant happens it shall take president.

P.S. The photo is of my old bike, the one that was stolen last week.