Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Sinterklaas Dag...

It's beginning to look a lot like Sinterklaas Dag,
Everywhere we go.
You can tell by the Zwarte Piets,
Loitering in the streets,
And oliebollen sold in every square...

Ah...can't you just hear it? Bells ringing. Children singing. Packages rustling as happy shoppers head for home. The sweet patter of kruidnoten dropping on the floor.

Sinterklaas has officially descended upon Amsterdam. In fact, he and his white horse arrived in Centraal Station last weekend - along with his black Petes - after a long trek from his summer home in Spain.

Yep. It's Sinterklaas season. And I'm all in this year.

I just returned from the Amsterdamse Golf Club after spending three hours providing the live soundtrack for Sinterklaas's arrival.

Santa Claus does a bit of a costume change when he charges over the Atlantic. That red velvet sleeping cap is replaced by a tall pointy pope hat. The elves get some relief as the black-faced Petes act as his helpers. But other than that, a lot of the story stays the same.

Equipped with a book of Sinterklaas liedjes, I entered the ring of festivities fully hoping that my Dutch skills were sufficient enough to slide unnoticed into this cultural cornerstone. With the help here and there of some sympathetic volwassen (adults), I don't think the kids had a clue that there was (shhh!) an American at the helm.

Well, until Sinterklaas himself invited me to shake his hand and chat for a few minutes (with a microphone in hand). After a few moments of witty banter, I became named "Miss America" by Big Red and remained the occasional butt of holiday jokes throughout the night.

[Here's basically what was registering in my mind: (in Dutch) blah blah blah blah blah....(in English) isn't that right, Miss America?!...(cue: LAUGHTER)]

Well, the opportunity to lead a roomful of Dutch folks in rousing choruses of "Hoort wie klopt daar kinderen" and "Zie ginds komt de stoomboot" (just to give the full picture, the Sinterklaas songs sound not unlike what one would swing a stein to at Oktoberfest)...priceless. It was great.

I hope that your next week is full of chocolate letters, thoughtful poems from your family, and that you've been good enough this year to avoid being shipped off to Spain (that's where all the naughty children go) (how's THAT for political correctness?!??!).

Ho ho ho,

Thursday, November 8, 2007

International Man of Mystery...

Recent weeks have unfolded in not-uncommon ways, but just yesterday, it dawned on me how fairly NOT common our not-uncommon days are. Well, at least compared to the way of our lives only a few years ago.

In the last four weeks, we have hosted numerous business guests for dinner. Sergey and Myrina from the Ukraine, Andreas and Monika from Hamburg, along with their two daughters. Although the husbands in each of these scenarios spoke reasonably understandable English, the wives and children had to make do with hand gestures and facial expressions.

I'm becoming pretty fluent in these. You wouldn't believe what the Ukrainian hand gesture for "what do you do in your leisure time" looks like.

We also had the chance to catch up with Jerde senior designer David Rogers over a nice leisurely homemade dinner and bottle of wine. He was on his way to Stockholm having come from England the day before.

In the midst of these social-business gatherings, Dave has managed to make his way to five different countries...from the U.S. to Romania to Belgium to France, with Sweden and England thrown in there.

Last but not least (and this one just put me over the top), Dave is in London today to meet a client who has been communicating with Dave's colleague in Hong Kong. So check this out...American-born Dave, living in Amsterdam, is going to London to meet with Israeli clients who are interested in a project to be built in India.

I mean...are ya kidding me?!??!?!

Wishing I would've paid more attention in Geography lessons all those years, I do my best to at least know which country my husband is in at all times.

I don't know how you do it sometimes, Dave. You're the best R-Moe that is.

Love you...