Working & Volunteering

Time slips away (Or: It’s been six months?)

On Sunday I realized that I was now at the six month mark for working at home (13 March to 13 September). I’ve got about another four months to go, unless the return to office is delayed again. I will be going into the office however later this month – to get a new work computer. That came as a surprise to me! On the one hand I’m glad as I hope it will be faster. On the other hand I am worried because it means I need to hope all of my existing software reinstalls properly. But I did pick a day that will hopefully be less busy, so I will just cross my fingers.

Of course there are a lot of rules, which is a good thing in my opinion. Only two people can share the same time slot to pick up their computer, you need to wait in reception to get picked up, you can’t wander around (with the exception of getting coffee, since hey, they aren’t evil), you need advance permission to visit your desk, etc. etc. etc.

Let’s go for some public transportation related news today:

  • Erasmusbrug closed after overhead tram cabling collapses from dutchnews.nl. This happened yesterday morning. It sounds really bad, but luckily there were no injuries. The bridge was re-closing (after having opened for ship traffic) when the cabling fell down. The bridge was able to re-open for pedestrians and cyclists on Monday evening.
  • A campaign by the Dutch public transportation branch, called “OV OK”. Two things to know if you’re not from the Netherlands: OV means public transportation in Dutch and it is pronounced oh vay so that you get the rhyme oh vay oh kay. See also this article from ov-nl.nl: Het licht staat op groen voor het openbaar vervoer (Public transportation gets the green light). I can see where they are coming from, to a degree. While we are told to work from home as much as possible, we are currently allowed to use public transportation. The rules are that you need to wear a face mask and that you should avoid rush hour wherever possible. But for now I view it as something to use if absolutely necessary (even though it pains me to say that, as I love riding in trams!)
Erasmusbrug from the nhow hotel
Categories: Rotterdam, Transportation, Working & Volunteering | Tags: | Leave a comment

Just a tree (Or: One lonely tree)

Today’s photo is of the tree in the Centraal Park (at least, that’s the name Google Maps gives it). This park is not far from Centraal Station and the Malieveld.

But it’s one little tree, all on its own:

But it does provide some nice shade, that’s for sure.

My coworkers and I found out today that we will be working from home until at least January 2021. That is a very long time, but it was to be expected considering the circumstances. Mostly I think: ooh, January. Hopefully cooler temperatures! (The Netherlands is still in the middle of a heatwave at the moment.)

In other news: Ad falls flat: Coca-Cola to remove ‘inappropriate’ Amsterdam tourism banner (dutchnews.nl). The rather large ad says Ik zeg nooit meer ‘er zijn te veel toeristen in mijn stad’. Or, in English: I will never again say ‘there are too many tourists in my city’. The problem is that since the tourists came back, the issues with drug and alcohol use has skyrocketed in parts of Amsterdam. Because of that some local residents aren’t that happy with tourists at the moment.

Stay cool, everyone…

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A new “control” phase (Or: Dutch press conference on 6 May)

News articles had begun to appear in the last few days saying that the government would be shifting to a new phase of “what can you do” versus “what can’t you do” during these corona times. By yesterday it became apparent that the government would holding a press conference tonight, again with the prime minister and healthcare minister. As expected, a lot of the information leaked yesterday evening and today, so there weren’t too many surprises.

The usual rules stay in place (for example, keep 1.5 meters distance, sneeze and cough into your elbow, stay home if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands often, work as much as you can from home, etc.) The one big rule change in this new phase is “avoid busy areas as much as you can” as a replacement for “stay at home as much as you can”. Which I think is a huge shift already.

Here is the relevant information page from rijksoverheid.nl in Dutch, with some points in English below.

From 11 May

  • As already reported during the last press conference: elementary schools can open, daycares can open, children can exercise and partake in sporting activities outside (teenagers can as well, if they follow social distancing rules)
  • Adults are now allowed to partake in non-contact sporting activities outside as long as they follow social distancing rules and shower at home, with no games allowed
  • Most “contact” jobs are now allowed, including hairdressers, beauticians, driving instructors, acupuncturists, etc. Where possible social distancing rules are followed and appointments are always required, with clients and staff needing to confirm that neither are sick.
    • A bit of a shock: face masks are not required, but can be used if desired provided they are not medical face masks
  • Libraries are allowed to open, provided they follow social distancing rules and limit the rate of visitors accordingly
  • Only use public transportation if you must, and avoid rush hour. It is advised that you wear a non-medical face mask (with this becoming a requirement on 1 June due to the government expecting an increased amount of users by then).

Sometime in June

  • The government expects to be able to test anyone who asks for a test (they hope to allow this from 1 June, but cannot give a precise date yet)

From 1 June

  • Non-medical face masks are now a requirement in public transportation, and public transportation operators are required to have a full schedule by this date
    • Public transportation workers can request testing to make sure they don’t have the coronavirus
    • Medical face masks are not allowed as there is still a shortage of those in The Netherlands for healthcare workers
  • Outside terraces by restaurants can open again
  • Movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, museums and other cultural institutions can open, with reservations required and agreement between the client and staff that neither are sick; with a maximum of 30 visitors and staff combined at any one time

From 15 June

  • High schools can take exams

From 1 July

  • Public restrooms and showers can again open at camping areas and vacation parks
  • The maximum of 30 visitors for movie theaters, restaurants and similar is increased to 100 visitors
  • Church services, weddings and funerals of up to 100 visitors and staff are also allowed

From 1 September

  • Fitness clubs, saunas, wellness centers, coffee shops (drug shops) and casinos can open again
  • Contact sports and inside sporting is allowed, for everyone
  • Sporting events can again take place, but without public. This includes paid football games.
  • Around this time a decision will be made about events with lots of visitors, including festivals and concerts.
from rijksoverheid.nl

The prime minister was quick to caution that the above steps are only possible if the coronavirus is kept under control.

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Waiting game (Or: Press conference in the Netherlands tomorrow)

Tomorrow the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte will announce what coronavirus measures will be lifted, and in some cases what measures will be extended. For us normal folk, it’s a guessing game.

One expectation is that the ban on events will be extended. Some Dutch mayors are hoping for an extension of the ban until 1 September: Burgemeesters willen tot zeker 1 september een verbod op evenementen (nos.nl, article in Dutch). This one I do expect to happen as it’s unlikely that the government would ignore them.

Another measure that people are quite interested in is the re-opening of schools. Scholen open of langer dicht? ‘Zelfs leerlingen beginnen school nu te missen’ (nos.nl, article in Dutch). The headline reads: Schools open, or closed for longer? Even students are beginning to miss school now. Yikes! Meivakantie (“May vacation”) begins next week, from 25 April to 3 May. After that… working parents everyone are looking for a break. If we see any change here, it might be the elementary schools opening first.

The other big one is whether or not restaurants will be fully open, rather than just open for takeout and delivery. This one I don’t expect to change any time soon. June at the earliest. However, that doesn’t mean restaurants can’t plan in the meantime. For instance, some restaurant owners on the Scheveningen beach have presented how they see life in the ‘1.5m society’: Strandtenten klaar voor serveren op anderhalve meter: ‘Zee aan ruimte’. (nos.nl, article in Dutch).

Work is another interesting dilemma, especially in the office – that one I can’t predict. I don’t think they are ready to lift the ‘work from home if you can’ advice, so I expect we will be working from home a bit longer. But perhaps they will remind businesses that now is the time to start thinking about how it will look in the future.

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Birthday cupcakes (Or: Delivered at a safe distance)

I am one of the lucky folks who should be celebrating a birthday during these corona times. Officially I’ve said I’ll celebrate it later in the summer (I mean come on: when will I ever have a chance to celebrate my birthday in the summer again? Who could pass up that opportunity?).

On Friday I received an email from my workplace’s HR department, wishing me a happy birthday and telling me they would be delivering cupcakes on Saturday (yesterday).

The delivery itself was anti-climatic but still tinged by the coronavirus: Someone rang the doorbell. I open the door. The box of cupcakes have been carefully left on the doormat, with the deliveree standing at the edge of the stairs at a safe distance. She points to the box, we exchange the standard pleasantries, and then she is gone again.

Cupcakes! Yum!

Categories: Working & Volunteering | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

An empty Malieveld (Or: Coronavirus trumps good weather)

Ahh, weekend! It’s an early one, but we’re getting four days off. My work gives both Good Friday and Easter Monday as paid holidays, and Marco took tomorrow off and gets Easter Monday as a paid holiday. This has been a long work week. It’s not the work itself, just the constant working from home situation, I think.

This is the end of week #5 for working at home, and my expectation is that we’ll also be working from home in May as well. Or at least partially working from home so that the social distancing and 1.5 meters rule can be enforced on the work floor. For instance by saying only half the workforce can go into work each day, and alternating who goes in each day.

So hopefully that explains the long walk Marco and I took in the afternoon yesterday – sometimes you just need to get out and stretch. Here is a look at Malieveld – unbelievably empty on a day when temperatures reached 71F / 22C. It was the first time I took off my jacket in many months, I must admit. And the first time in a while that I wondered if I should have put sunblock on…

There were a few people in the grass in the distance, but not many. You can also see that the grass still hasn’t completely recovered from the farmer protests back in October of last year. Check out this aerial photo: Reddit link.

Looking forward to sleeping in a bit tomorrow. And maybe stretching my legs and going for a socially distant walk at some point.

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Decorated Christmas cookies (Or: Bring on the holidays)

Check out the Christmas cookies that my colleague decorated on Friday. They were decorated during a themed ‘Ugly Christmas sweater’ event:

And they are just as tasty as they look! I had part of the one in the upper right – peanut butter and all spice, if I remember correctly.

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Photos from a work Christmas party (Or: Oh – THOSE are crackers?)

A few weeks back Marco and I attended a Christmas party for my work.

table-at-a-christmas-work-party

A look at the table we were sitting at

christmas-crackers-in-the-netherlands

The red and white tubes are actually Christmas “crackers”, although all of these are broken open already. It’s basically a tube which two people pull apart to make a noise like a firecracker (“cracker”), apparently with a witty saying inside. Mine was something like “The things you dream about can’t keep you awake at night” or similar.

Ever since I moved to the Netherlands I thought these items were actually crackers – that is, food. Imagine my surprise when a coworker said we should take turns pulling them apart. Haha!

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A different kind of workshop (Or: Making a gin and tonic)

Last Thursday some coworkers and I were invited to a cocktail making workshop. The cocktail in question – gin and tonics! Not something I drink very often. Upon entering, we were given a choice of red or white wine:

wine-glasses-red-and-white-wine

After we were told that we would be making gin and tonics, we were shown three mystery gins. There was obviously a difference in taste – some herbal, some floral. Not something I would have expected.

choice-of-three-mystery-tonics

Sampling each of the three gins – a small shotglass of each

And here’s a look at the three gins used:

three-gins-at-a-gin-and-tonic-making-workshop

Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire and Gordon’s (my favorite was Gordon’s).

After that we sampled three tonics, still mystery style like the gins. One was Mediterranean, another Indian, and I don’t remember the third. The Indian tonic was my favorite as it had a bit of carbonation behind the flavor.

After we had chosen our gin and our tonic, we could add either wet or dry ingredients.

gin-and-tonic-making-workshop

the table with wet and dry ingredients (not everything was shown here)

I kept my drink rather simple, opting for only the slightest hint of basilic basil syrup in an attempt to give it a bit of color and red peppercorns for a bit of spicy after taste. Also a lime wedge, but that was just garnish.

gin-and-tonics

A coworker and I’s inventions – mostly the same, except that she chose the Mediterranean tonic and a lemon wedge. Unfortunately the color from the syrup didn’t really come through, but I was trying not to make it too sweet.

I never drink gin and tonics, but I might have to give it a try after this workshop!

Oh, and a bit of final trivia: the prevailing theory is that gin originally came from the lowlands (Netherlands and Belgium). All gins use juniper to some degree. The Dutch word for juniper is jenever, which became genever in old English, which was later shortened to gin.

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Amaze Escape in The Hague (Or: Time to get locked up)

On Monday and I had a team building event with work colleagues. We decided to go to Amaze Escape, an Escape room. You can read more about them at Wikipedia (English | Dutch). In short, you and the rest of your group (coworkers, friends, etc.) are locked up in a room for an hour or an hour and a half and you have to solve puzzles to get out. Each room has a different theme.

Amaze Escape Lounge The Hague

In our case we had 9 people so we went with the two competition rooms (Black and White). Whichever team gets out first wins! You are both solving the same puzzles. The best part was that halfway through you realized you could hear (and see, a little bit) the other team so it got pretty tense. My team ended up winning, but only with about two minutes to spare.

Amaze Escape 1st place trophy The Hague

It is a great team building exercise – everyone brings something to the table. I’m proud of the fact that I figured out the last clue to unlock the trophy (and others, of course) – there wasn’t much time left and we were starting to panic. All in all a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend trying an escape room near you!

A few sights on the walk back – a windmill:

Windmill in The Hague

And a sign for a restaurant on the side of a building:Restaurant De Kikker The Hague

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