Monthly Archives: March 2013

Zoetermeer (Or: Easter tree displays and restaurants)

A few week ago I went with Marco’s mother to Zoetermeer. We went to the shopping area (Stadshart) near Zoetermeer Centrum, mostly to shop and have lunch. We ended up having lunch at Napoleon Brasserie where I had the bal gehakt, which is mainly a meatball sandwich – of sorts. It was pretty decent, although I was expecting there to be some juice alongside. But no, just the meat and the bread (and some mustard packets).

menu at Napoleon Brasserie in Zoetermeer

What can I say – I liked the candles!

I also took a picture of an Easter tree display in one of the stores (maybe Blokker, not sure). You can buy little birds, butterflies, and similar to hang on an Easter tree as decoration.

Easter tree display in the Netherlands

Now if only Spring would come for good. It snowed a little bit yesterday! Though not for long and nothing stuck.

Categories: Everyday purchases, Zoetermeer | Tags: | 1 Comment

Hello Kitty (Or: A display inside an Asian store)

Yesterday we made a trip to a few different places to get food for our Easter dinner – gourmetten! Definitely one of my favorite meals. We bought a collection of gourmetten meats for €10 at Albert Heijn. (Similar to this, but not quite.)

Another place I went was an Asian store in the center of The Hague. Recently I noticed they had a Hello Kitty display in the entrance of the store:

Hello Kitty display in the Netherlands

And since this is a random picture blog post, here’s a picture of a guy in gold:

guy dressed in all gold clothes

Taken in the Spui shopping area in The Hague. He was quite smart – instead of getting gold on his face he decided to wear a gold helmet/mask instead.

Categories: The Hague | 1 Comment

Er was eens… (Or: Dutch lesson 6 of 14)

Last night was my 6th Dutch lesson at the Volksuniversiteit in The Hague. The main topic for this lesson was learning the simple past. The title of this blog post reflects that, as Er was eens… is the beginning of a faerie tale, much like “Once upon a time” starts English faerie tales… [“was” is used for the past tense in both English and Dutch.]

I definitely felt a bit out of my element here even though I had done the homework in advance. There are rules for when you can use the perfect (I have called) and the imperfect (I called), otherwise known in English as the present perfect and the simple past.

The imperfect/simple past is used with description and a description of habits that occur over a period of time. I don’t quite grasp it yet, but you use the perfect/present perfect when you are describing a single moment in time, or a single action. Thus when you ask about someone’s vacation, the answer usually starts off in the perfect before moving to the imperfect/simple past for the description of events. One example:

– Hoe lang ben je op vakantie geweest?

Ik ben twee weken op vakantie geweest. In de eerste week ging ik naar Turkije. De eten smaakte lekker. In de tweede week ging ik naar Rome. Ik vond de stad mooi.

– How long have you been on vacation?

I have been on vacation for two weeks. In the first week I went to Turkey. The food tasted nice. In the second week I went to Rome. I found the city beautiful.

Now, I can already tell you my explanation has holes in it, so don’t think about it too much. Just do!

Some other things: there is no class next week due to the Easter holiday – pasvakantie. (Easter = Pasen). This is cool because it means I can hang out with Roger, as he usually visits on Tuesday nights. ;p

Another thing we did was mention what we heard in the news (to practice our Dutch speaking skills). One tidbit – the Netherlands is now ranked 3rd in the world for its proficiency of English as a second language. This led to the professor telling us a joke about mixing English and Dutch together in unpredictable ways, though it’s unconfirmed. Here it is, taken from Wikipedia:

One of the best quoted examples of Dunglish was said to have taken place between the Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns (a man whose main foreign language was French, the language of diplomacy prior to World War II) and John F. Kennedy. At one point Kennedy inquired if Luns had any hobbies, to which he replied “I fok horses” (the Dutch verb fokken meaning to breed). Likely taken aback by this strangely obscene reply, Kennedy asked “Pardon?”, which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for “horses” (“paarden”) and enthusiastically responded “Yes, paarden!”

With that craziness – until next time!

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Warung Mini (Or: World famous saoto soup)

Yesterday, Marco, Roger and I ordered dinner from Warung Mini. Marco had to be on pseudo stand-by for his work for 13ish hours, which turned out to be even more annoying than he could have imagined (though it all worked out) so he definitely didn’t want to think too much about what was for dinner.

It was my third time ordering from this restaurant but my first time trying there apparently world famous (!) saoto soup, which has chicken, egg, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles and potato bits. The bean sprouts are actually the most interesting addition to the soup since it does give it a bit of a crunchy texture.

Oh, and we mustn’t forget about all of the spices – halfway through the soup it felt like the bottom of my throat was on fire, although my mouth was fine. I went through a lot of water!

Saoto soep speciaal from Warung Mini

Dessert was bakabana – bakked banana. It was pretty good (even cold) but alas, I did not get a picture this time!

Categories: Food | 1 Comment

Colors (Or: Entrance to the Dutch Ministry of Justice)

Last weekend Marco and I went walking around random parts of The Hague. One of the things we came across was the Ministry of Justice building. Check out the entrance:

entrance to the Ministry of Justice in The Hague

If you like color, this is apparently the place for you! What other colorful buildings have you seen?

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Zij zegt dat… (Or: Dutch lesson 5 of 14)

Last night I had my 5th lesson (of 14) for Dutch level A2. This week was more review for me (versus last week when we learned about object/subject forms of “it”). There were 16 students in the class – and 4 of them walked in late enough for it to be noticeable. People also talk a bit too much at times, which makes it hard to hear the teacher or the other students.

Both of the main grammer things we covered this week were things that Marco has already drilled into my head (I can just see him saying “Word order! Word order!” over and over…and over). The first is indirect speech – repeating what someone else has said.

Marcia: Ik ga in de zomer naar mijn vakantiehuisje in Zweden.
Marcia: I go in the summer to my vacation house in Sweden.

Simone: Marcia zegt dat zij in de zomer naar haar vakantiehuisje in Zweden gaat.
Simone: Marcia says that she goes in the summer to her vacation house in Sweden.

(Notice how ‘gaat’ moves to the end. This is typical of most complex Dutch sentence – inversion of the verb.)

Of course, it’s a rule used not just in indirect speech.

Ik hoop dat mijn Nederlands goed is.
[I hope that my Dutch is good.]

The other grammatical aspect that we learned was negating “moeten” or must. That verb gave me trouble for the longest time, because I would constantly ask Marco what the verb for “to need” was. But most of the time you use “must” instead. There is a way to talk about need, though. “hebben nodig”, although the nodig doesn’t usually stick with the verb “hebben” (to have). It roughly translates to the following “to have need”.

We hebben meer tijd nodig.
We need more time. (We have need for more time.)

But when you want to negate “moeten” you instead change the verb to “hoeven”. For some reason no one in the world will ever know, I suppose.

Ik moet vandaag werken, maar morgen hoef ik niet te werken.
I must work today, but tomorrow I don’t have to work.

It is official that the student I mentioned last week will drop the class – she decided to wait for the easier A1 class taught in September. On my end I (and Marco) are wondering if there’s anyway to skip any more levels… especially since there will probably be a break from June to September for the next set of classes to be taught. In theory this means more time to study and practice, but you know how that goes.

Looking over the Volksuniversiteit website, it states that there are another 3 sections to go (B1, B2, and C1) before I reach the level I want. At the C1 level is when they talk about the NT2 examen, program 2. Program 1 (B2) level is for lower level jobs, and program 2 (taught at the C1 level) is for higher level jobs, which complements the Master’s degree I already have. This means that down the road I can apply for higher level jobs.

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La Lanterna (Or: An Italian restaurant in The Hague)

Last night Marco, his mother and I went to La Lanterna in The Hague, for an appetizer, entree, and dessert. His mother and I both had minestrone soup, while Marco went for “inferno soup”, so named for its spiciness. (Helaas [unfortunately], the soup wasn’t an inferno!)

For dinner, I had pizza primavera, with tomato, cheese, ham, salami, mushrooms, and green/red peppers. I just had to take a picture of it because it was so colorful…

Pizza Primavera in La Lantera in The Hague

My tastes lean a bit more towards thick pizzas (as I love the dough), but for a thin pizza this was great.

And then there was my dessert:

citroen ice cream in a hollowed lemon at La Lanterna

Yum! So sour. You have before you a lemon which has been hollowed out. They stuffed lemon ice cream inside, placed a bit of whipped cream on top, and then replaced the “top” to make it look like a hat.

a dessert at La Lanterna in The Hague

Marco’s mother’s dessert. More ice cream!

dessert at La Lanterna in The Hague

Marco’s dessert. Even before you took a bite, you were definitely drawn in by the plate. The bottom of the plate had a thin layer of glass covering the real bottom of the plate, with a tiny bit of space in between. This caused nifty looking shadows with all of the little pieces they threw around the dessert itself.

All of the dessert portions were big. Of course, I kept scraping on the inside of the lemon searching for more ice cream, but had to stop when I realized I was really just eating the innards of the lemon!

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Moss-covered tree (Or: Near the Grote Kerk)

Last week when Marco and I went to an ING bank to open an account, we walked past the Grote Kerk. I was able to take a lovely shot of a rather majestic  tree.

magnificent tree near Grote Kerk in The Hague 2


magnificent tree near Grote Kerk in The Hague

This tree fits in rather well with the urban landscape – it’s in the middle of the city, but you still have cobblestone plaza and old trees growing through the cement.

Categories: The Hague | 1 Comment

Zebra rug (Or: The butt of a joke?)

The only thing that can be said when suddenly, unexpectedly encountering this:


half of a Zebra rug in the Netherlands

view from outside our kitchen window


I suppose it would have been a bit better if we hadn’t been treated to the butt. It even has a cute little tail.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Talking about objects (Or: Dutch lesson 4 of 14)

Tuesday’s class actually had an awesome moment. We had a speaking exercise where we were paired up with our buurvrouw (neighbor, female). We had to roleplay one of us being the one asking for employment (me) and the other being the receptionist from the company giving information (her). So all the groups practiced their speaking bits. I said I was looking for a preschool teacher job (peuterleidster), but that as partly because it was a vocabulary word we learned the page before.

For us, there was a section where my partner struggled a bit with what to ask – describing what would I do at the job. After a few seconds, I spoke up and just stated what I would do (play with the kids and teach them). And then the practice section was done, a bit before the rest of the students. I am not sure if the teacher noticed that, because we got called on…

So we recited our “phone conversation” to the entire class.  I was a bit nervous, as I am used to writing everything down so I don’t forget anything, but I hadn’t done that. As you know, I am definitely not one of the best speakers in the class. The nice thing during the exercise was that my partner switched it up a bit – she asked me what I could do for the job, rather than trying to describe it herself (where she got into trouble last time). So we rattled everything off…

…and after we were done a few people looked stunned and one even said “Whoa.” at what we had put together. Booyah! Niki looks smart when speaking for once.

(Of course, the teacher said it was good and then spent the next few minutes dissecting the conversation and telling us what the mistakes were. Ha.)

This time there were more students (18) than the last time (12). It seems like a handful of them were on vacation last week. It made it a bit harder for everyone to find a seat in the newly improvised “sit in a large square with our desks” seating arrangement, but it worked out. I am sure it was against fire code (people were technically blocked in on all sides), but otherwise okay.

During the break, one of the students went up to speak to the teacher. It seems that the student was finding the class a bit difficult and was hoping to go back down to level A1. The teacher told her to go to the register’s office at the front of the building and see if there was anything they could do. Unfortunately when she came back, she said that the next A1 class wasn’t until September. I am not sure what she is going to do – maybe she’ll stick around.

One of the grammar things that we learned this time was referring to an object as “it” or similar. Of course, Dutch has three variations – de, het, and plurals.

De words (most popular)

Subject form – hij

Object form – hem

* Waar is mijn brief? Waar is hij? (Where is it [my letter]?)

* Hij heeft je brief. Hij heeft hem. (He has it.)

—Yes, if you’re playing along, you’ll realize ‘hij’ is also the word for ‘he’!

Het words

Subject form – het

Object form – het

* Het paspoort ligt op de tafel. Het ligt op de tafel. (It lies on the table.)

* Heb jij mijn paspoort? Heb jij het? (Do you have it?)


Subject form – ze

Object form – ze

* Mijn pasfoto’s zijn niet goed. Ze zijn niet goed. (They [passport photos] are not good.)

* Ik vind mijn pasfoto’s niet leuk. Ik vind ze niet leuk. (I don’t like them.)

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