Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Many of you out there know or have had the chance to meet Jenn and Ryan Alexander (Ryan was the pastor at our wedding, Jenn sang during the reception). They have a beautiful little boy named Cy. Cy was born with kidney trouble and just yesterday, he had major surgery to help correct it.
The Alexanders have a gift of making an impact on not just those who are close friends, but also those who maybe only meet them briefly. I thought you would like to be kept in the loop. You can get to their blogsite here.
It's amazing what this little guy has gone through in only two short years of life. Please keep good thoughts for little Cy and his family.
Monday, October 29, 2007
What a beautiful night we had last night. Thirty friends in our house. Homemade goulash, potato salad and various culinary ecoutrements.
Johannes Brahms was the guest of honor, with a special appearance by his friend Robert Schumann.
I played both rhapsodies from Brahms' Opus 79, ending with his Intermezzo in E Major from Opus 116. Dutch soprano Maaike Bakker joined in with two lieder by Schumann, and one by Brahms.
It was such an amazing night. Friends and neighbors coming together to eat, drink, be merry and listen to music. Thank you to all who were able to come. I hope to see you again on December 2nd for the next muziekavond.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Dave, N5 and I spent the night in Naarden, a small city 20 km outside of Amsterdam. 20 minutes by train. We stayed at Orly's Bed and Breakfast - which was delightful, had a great date at Good Date Chinese restaurant in the city center, and best of all, we walked the entire perimeter of the city. (Looking at the picture above, you see the star-shaped city. Moving outward from the city is a body of water and then a curvier "ring" that goes around the outside, lined with trees. That's where we walked. It took us about two hours to get all the way around.) It was heaven for all three of us. The sun was out, the air was crisp and clean, there were lots of other dog friends to be met (even one that looked a lot like Senna), and the wooded trail couldn't have been more spectacular.
As you can tell by the first picture, Naarden is no ordinary place. Established in the 14th century, Naarden is the only remaining fortified city in Europe. Some are lucky enough to spy this city outside an airplane window coming or going from Holland.
We couldn't tell who enjoyed this mini-vacation most...the humans or the canine. What do you think?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Vito is the one with black ears, and Spot is the one trying to lick Number Five's tonsils.
Just another day in doggie paradise. Playing around with some good friends.
I realize that my little dog videos can't hold a candle to capturing and publishing a child's first steps or words, but I know I am a sucker for dog videos. Maybe you are, too. (smile!)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Can you imagine my absolute shock and joy to discover a few months ago that not only Bridget, but Bridget plus her whole family were coming to visit us in Amsterdam?! I love Bridget's husband Jim and their three kids, and couldn't wait to see them. (And I think kudos need to go out to B&J for taking on the task of three kids under the age of ten in Europe...WAY TO GO!!!)
We had lots of fun together, most of which just involved being together. We ate out. We ate in (Matzo Ball Tuesday). We walked. And walked. And walked. Dave and Jim went to the Heineken Museum. We took the kids to Vondelpark. We ate pancakes at 9 pm at a restaurant on a boat, all while being entertained by our waiter's magic tricks.
And probably the highlight was The First Annual Hutchinson-Sheldon-Praml Wii Tournament, hosted by an energetic and extremely capable host...Uncle Dave (who missed the first half of their trip due to business travel. The kids had been waiting in great anticipation to play the Wii with their Uncle Dave).
Love you, Sunshine...a big huge hug to the entire Praml clan. We're so glad you made the effort to be with us. Amazing.
What exactly does one have to do to play some tennis around here?
As shall be made clear momentarily, I apparently don't have the answer. But I sure gave it one heck of a try this morning.
I recently was invited to join a pool of tennis players for an ongoing Monday morning session. This morning should've been my first match.
The operative word here being "should've".
I left appropriately early this morning for what I believed was my destination...the Amstel Park, which is only a five minute walk from the RAI stop of metroline 50. Piece of cake. I got to Centraal Station, treated myself to a magazine, and boarded the metro with plenty of time to spare.
Seven stops, two articles and one severly disturbed co-rider later, I got out at the RAI as planned. Looking forward to a light walk before hitting the courts, I approached the park.
Amstel Park is absolutely beautiful. I had never been there before, but will look for a reason to go back soon. There is an enormous kids' playground that is tempting even to a 33 year old, a rose garden, a small zoo (believe it or not), and a lovely cafe.
Hmm. What about the tennis courts?
A nice park ranger informed me that the tennis courts were at the OTHER Amstel Park. (Oh right. The OTHER Amstel Park. Good thing we've got two in this city.) Bus line 62 - the nearest stop being a five minute walk away - should take me there. Just stop at the main entrance of the Amsterdamse Bos.
[Love-15, Amsterdam public transportation.] (I'm down, but we've only just begun.)
Ten minutes later, I'm riding comfortably on the bus, having informed the driver where I intended to deboard.
Now...I must say that trams and trains have seemingly become a part of my transportation vernacular, but every time I board a bus in Amsterdam, it's gets the best of me one way or the other. Don't know what it is. You would think that with public transit being in my blood, this wouldn't be an issue. But for some reason, it always is. The stop I think I should get out at is never the right one.
However, most bus drivers I have encountered seem to break out of their driving-induced comas to help a non-Dutchie out when approaching the intended stop. (That amounts to a glance in the rearview mirror, possibly followed by a slight nod of the head.)
So there I was...listening for clues and watching the stops go by. Time was passing and I texted my friend to inform her that I was still on my way, although now a good 15 minutes behind schedule.
[Love-30.] (Quiet in the stands, please.)
I guess I should've gotten a clue when signs in the distance pointed to the Bos in the direction opposite of where this bus was headed. But I experience a strange phenomena as an ex-pat in these situations. There's some kind of paralysis involved when it comes to highlighting (a second time, in this case) the fact that I'm a foreigner and I don't know where exactly I'm going.
So there I sat. Realizing with each passing minute that I was headed somewhere for sure, but definitely not The Other Amstel Park.
[Match point. Advantage bus driver] (who at this point represents every other public transportation driver in Amsterdam, for that matter.)
A drawn-out 47 minutes later and all sorts of southerly regions of Noord-Holland passed, I swear I never once heard or saw the name of the stop I was looking for.
From my experience driving around Los Angeles, it seems that if you just keep going on what you believe is the due course, you'll either get there or find your way eventually. After what seemed like an eternity, I caught a dose of familiarity at 62's final stop.
Aha! Lelylaan Station. I know that trams 1 and 17 leave from here and go back to Centraal, where my adventure began well over an hour ago.
[15-40. Match point.] (Please remain seated)
I boarded number 1, which stops at Niewezijds Kolk - the stop nearest our house - before going all the way to Centraal. My strippenkaart (the general ticket card you use for all manners of public transport, trains excepted) looked like it had been to war, having amassed a whopping (yet ultimately ineffective) seven punches in one morning. It's bent in four different directions and feels soft in my hand now that's experienced my wicked Herculean forehand grip for the last hour and a half.
By this point, in spite of the victory of figuring out where the HECK I was, it was time accept defeat and text message my apologies to my friend and tell her I'll see her next week. The next stop on my journey would be home.
Well, friends...One small victory for unfamiliarity. But one big victory for the itch of curious exploration that lives - in big or small ways - inside the heart of every person willing to live in a foreign place.
Because truth be told, I think I was just as satisfied getting lost for a few hours as I would've been swinging a racquet at The Other Amstel Park.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
October seems to me Amsterdam's proudest month. Days are short enough to tell you winter is coming, but not so short that you don't want to get out of bed in the morning. The air is crisp like a piece of celery, and the sun is set on medium, allowing it's light to simmer between the leaves before falling onto the pavestones.
Except the blaring absence of Dave on such a fine day as this, today was a perfect day.
Number Five and I did our usual rounds at 7 am, weaving in and out of various small streets near our house. We always seem to take the same path. And somehow I'm always surprised by my favorite sites that await me in the same places everyday.
The first of these is the sight of two houseboats on the Singel. But perhaps it's not so much the look of these things, but moreso what happens in the morning when we round the corner to the place where they are. For the first three minutes of our walk, we are still out of sight from the sunlight, walking north through the street that cuts through our beloved alley.
But once we turn the corner, we hit the eighth bar of Brahms' Third Symphony and the beauty of morning glow washes over.
Today was especially glorious.
After some hours writing and playing (also glorious), N5 and I took the tram (his first) to meet Susie and her pup Pixie in Vondelpark for a walk.
If there was ever a place in this city where people come to give thanks to the god of beautiful weather, it is Vondelpark. Adults, children and dogs are everywhere, enjoying each other, enjoying being outside.
Pixie and Number 5 had never met before. Despite a rather large gap between their material sizes, their puppy play mentality couldn't have been a closer match and they batted and panted with each other for over an hour.
As if that weren't enough, we encountered some other dog friends in the alley on the way home. Vito and Spot - another set of Jack Russells from the seemingly endless supply - never miss an opportunity to chase their favorite furry chew toy around the block. And this was their lucky day...Number 5 was halfway to exhausted already after 90 minutes in the park. They had more than a fighting chance at total victory.
While N5 crashed heavily (I heard him snoring from the other room), I snuck out to get a few groceries. On my way, I saw Jenn, Asif, Aleisi and Eliz at the playground down the block. What a great surprise! They were there for a going away party for friends of theirs. I got to hold Aleisi, which is always an aphrodisiac for loving life, and chat with my good friends for a few minutes.
All of this under the canopy of colorful leaves and a soon-to-retire sun.
And now, here I sit, doing one of my favorite things, drinking a Cola Light (my favorite soda), basking in a day filled with everything I could want, knowing that a few thousand miles away, Dave is also doing one of his favorite things...bobbing in the Pacific, waiting for the perfect wave.
Who could ask for anything more...