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!

Three nights and counting…

Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, this is all that I have left before leaving for Amsterdam on Wednesday… Or at least so I hope.

I was actually planning on leaving Hong Kong a few days ago, which would have allowed me to spend Christmas in Muiden, a small city outside Amsterdam, with my girlfriend and her family in their super cosy family home.

Unfortunately my dreams of pyjamas, cuddles, Christmas treats and hot chocolate was stopped dead in their tracks before they could ever realise due to a delayed visa.

Actually it was not delayed at all, in fact it was processed in record time but in this case record time was just not fast enough.

About one month ago I was hired by Beerwulf (the lead online craft and speciality beer retailer in Europe)  as a senior frontend developer, this was amazing news.

The process would most likely have been a breeze had, I been an European citizen, but due to my South African heritage, Beerwulf had to sponsor me with a higher skilled working visa and this naturally takes some time.

The process was started a few days after I signed my employment contract and then it took two weeks for the Dutch government to grant me my work Visa. Once granted by them, I also had to follow several steps to get the process going on my side.

I immediately started with process. The first thing that I needed to do was to apply for an appointment at the Dutch Consul in Hong Kong via their online scheduling system and to my horror, the earliest appointment was for the 31st of January 2018! Off course this was out of the question as I had been planning to start my new employment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, no later than the 2nd of January.

I immediately called the Dutch consul and after several conversations, emails and a lot of pleading, I was granted an appointment 09:00AM the next morning, this was Monday, a week before Christmas.

The following morning I was there with all my documentation, passport photos and  the pleading eyes required to get the necessary assistance. In my heart I knew it would be a stretch, I mean just the fact that I was already granted an earlier appointment was already a stretch but alas, upon leaving the Dutch Consul after handing in my completed paperwork, I gave Tracy one more teary eyed look and mumbled something about Christmas alone in Hong Kong. This would surely do the trick, I naively thought.

The big thing is that they need ones passport which I handed in my passport at Tuesday 09:00AM, it then had to be shipped to the back office in Beijing, there it had to be approved, processed, examined, fraud checked and then shipped back to Hong Kong and in order for me to be in the Netherlands for Christmas, this had to happen before Friday, so like I said, “This would do the trick, I naively thought”.

After handing in my passport, I called the Dutch Consul several times over the following days, even my girlfriend called them trying to speed up the process. On Friday they informed us that my passport has been mailed back to Hong Kong but it would not be here before Christmas 😦

In defence of the Dutch Consul, they were always super helpful and super friendly but unfortunately all our calls, tears and prayers (yes we did pray) did not increase the speed at which the government official graced the pages of my passport with their tired stamps.

Hence this post and hence me still being in Hong Kong for Christmas.

So is it disappointing to still be here?

Well I did have my hopes up about spending Christmas with my girlfriend and her family and about making the big move to Amsterdam (I am packed and can be at the airport in 45 minutes) but actually it is ok… I have been invited by my (ex) manager from Palo-IT to spend Christmas with her and some friends, which I am really looking forward to and I also have time to say farewell to Hong Kong and all that goes with it.

It can be easy to forget but Hong Kong has been great and it has also been great to me and it will stay in my heart forever. ❤