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!

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.

Amsterdam Month Four

Tomorrow will mark my 10th week in Amsterdam. It genuinely feels like it was yesterday, when I was waiting for my passport in my tiny bedroom in Hong Kong, all packed and ready to go.

It makes sense that time flew, it normally does when one is very busy and I really hit the ground running, in less than a week after my arrival in the Netherlands, I had already started at my new job, not leaving me with much time to settle in, especially considering that I had caught a horrible flu just before leaving for Amsterdam which ultimately caused me to spend the better part of my the first week, bed ridden.

So far so good.

I nervously walked into the office on my first day of work, it was a semi industrial looking open plan space, walls lined from the floor to the roof with beers from all over the world and the area buzzing with mostly twenty something year olds, all busy with some Tweet or some task.

Luckily the first person with whom I had made eye contact with, was exactly the person that I was looking for, namely Roel, my new manager. At this point we had spent no more time getting to know each other than a twenty minute Skype interview, so to say that I was not sure what to expect, is a glorious understatement.

After some small chit chat, Roel showed me my desk and introduced me to the team, thereafter, we had a one on one where he talked me through the ins and outs of the business and what exactly where I fit in.

I was burning to get started. Some people say that South Africans have a great work ethic which I can definitely related to, regarding my own standards.

I mean I just wanted to get going and be productive, no matter for who I work or who the client is.

I was (still am) hired as a Senior Frontend Developer which pretty much means, I build the front part of the website, which is http://www.beerwulf.com and after about an hour or two at the new job, I was already poking and prodding around the website trying to get a feel of how things were done.

So the thing with Front End website development and any software development for that matter is that there are literally thousands of ways to get the job done. Actually tens of thousands of ways, the reason for this is that there are so many software frameworks and libraries and languages out there, which can be used individually,  separately or even integrated to do the same job, so even someone with several years of experience may walk into a job and would still need to spend a few weeks getting a feel for the project.

Luckily for me with this job, I was familiar with most of the technologies used and got orientated within the first day at the job. At this stage there was not really that much for me to do yet but I spent most of my time filling in some technological gaps and helping out my colleges where I could.

Sometimes at a new work, you feel kind of useless the first couple of weeks as you are onboarded and getting the hang of things, here it was not the case and actually at my previous work neither. I was pretty much productive after a day or two but I still believe that the onboarding process at most companies are not complete and there can be a better of doing it than sitting employees down and giving them a brochure or Word document to read but that is a story for another day.

So I always commit to trying to blog more and I am going to try for a post a day, eventually catching up to the present day, then I want to go back in time a bit and write more about Hong Kong, then maybe even go back a bit more and write about isolated incidents in my life but who knows, writing one post a day might deliver some awesome content. Till tomorrow.