Wednesday, 25 June 2008

It stopped raining... down to 3 jobs.

Last Thursday was a very good day. I spoke to Wayne about the new project and was excited to be working with him again. Our previous project together was such a positive experience, I was eager to be a part of this new one.

Thursday evening I went for a long walk. I had a lot of nervous energy I needed to expel. I had a large project ahead with a tight deadline (1 month) and I needed to wrap my head around the best way to attack it. A little bit of exercise and some fresh air has always proven to be the best solution when I need time to think.

Friday was a hectic day. My first deadline with Wayne was Tuesday afternoon which left me 5 days to reach the first milestone. But before I could touch that project I had to clear my schedule. That meant working 9 ½ hours on Friday for Stefan, clearing everything off my plate. That bought me 3 days to work on the project without interruption.

So far, it seems everything is just falling into place for me with little effort on my part. Due to a schedule conflict, Nina and I had planned to spend this past weekend apart. That worked out very well because I needed the whole weekend to get a solid start on my project.

Of course, I did leave a little bit of time to go out and enjoy myself. Marc, my Dutch roommate, and I have become good friends. We have started hanging out outside of the apartment and get along very well. He has an interest in expats (which explains his Canadian and Lithuanian roommates) and joined me on Friday night at an expat meet up.

On the way to the bar we noticed the police were setting up a mobile command post in a small park along a main road. The riot police and a mounted squad were setting up and we couldn’t figure out why.

The expat meet started off as a small group of us at a bar near Vondelpark and as we grew we migrated to a popular bar in Leidseplein — one of the many entertainment districts. I met some nice people, but to be honest, I had a lot on my mind. I had just worked a long day and was excited about starting my project. I called it an early night so I could have an early start Saturday morning.

As I cycled home I followed the same route Marc and I had taken when we headed out 3 hours earlier. There were a lot of cars on the street honking and waving Turkish flags. Apparently Turkey had tied with Croatia, giving them the points they needed to move on and kick Croatia out.

As I passed the park with the police it all started to make sense. There was a lot of commotion on the road, many cars honking, people cheering and the opportunity for a clash.

Saturday I was up and working at 8am — something that is not too uncommon for me over the past month (8am, not working on the weekends). By mid afternoon I was ready for a break and knew exactly what would fit the bill; seeing some of Amsterdam’s private gardens.

A month ago Nina and I had been looking into events in Amsterdam and discovered there was an open garden weekend. I had read about the many gardens that lie behind the apartment buildings and canal houses. They are 100% private as the buildings are lined up side-by-side encircling the city blocks. From the street it looks like they are solid buildings. But most of these blocks are hollow in the middle with lush gardens for the residences. For one weekend a year they are open to the public. Unfortunately, Nina had wanted to come, but it happened to fall on the one weekend when we couldn’t be together.

So Marc and I jumped on our bikes and headed for Centraal Amsterdam. We bought our tickets and received the map showing the 28 locations within the inner canal circle. Over the next 2 hours we rode to 12 of the locations, viewing many different types of gardens. The theme this year was art, so all the gardens incorporated sculptures.

This is a bewildered picture of Marc in one of the gardens.

Some of the gardens were small and overgrown, lush with vegetation. Others were perfectly sculpted, beautiful to look at, but not very utilitarian. Others were a perfect combination of the two; well cared for and inviting.

Three of the gardens were in canal houses that have been turned into museums. We went to two of the three. All three are beautiful mansions that have been donated to the city by the wealthy families that once owned them. They are perfectly preserved as if it were still the 1700s with the same furniture, art and household objects. We got a small view as we made our way through to the gardens in the back. I saw enough to know they are certainly worth a proper visit when I have the time. I think it may be something fun to do when Mom visits in the fall and the weather will probably dictate being indoors.

Saturday night Marc and I went to the pub to watch the Netherlands vs Russia game. This was Holland’s first game in the quarter-finals and it was a massacre. As it is now old news, I am sure you all know Holland was forcibly removed from the competition. I would like to be angry about that and call it a disgrace, but the simple fact is; Russia played much better than Holland.

From the first 10 minutes, you could tell this game would be a challenge. Russia was organized, played as a team and showed incredible determination. They barely let a pass or shot go by them, they were on the ball. The only shining star on Holland’s team was the goalie who prevented some awesome shots on goal from going in. In fact, if Holland had been able to keep Russia at bay for another 15 minutes, it would have gone to a shoot-out. Then Holland might have actually stood a chance at winning.

Sunday morning was my second shift at the cruise ship terminal. It’s a fairly remedial job, but I actually quite enjoy it. That could be because it is only every 12 days, or maybe I am just starved for public interaction.

Sunday night I continued working on my project and was wondering if maybe I was in a little over my head. I had made commitments to 4 different employers and now I was starting to realize that something had to give. I didn’t want to quit any of them because I had made promises regarding how much time I could offer them.

Like clockwork, later that same evening I received an Email from my boss at Greendayz café. Regrettably they had to lay me off due to a lack of business! I was so relieved. I only took that job to interact with people a bit, which wasn’t really happening due to how slow they were. And, of my 4 jobs, that one paid the least, so it was the obvious one to ditch. Of course, I didn’t ditch them, they ditched me.

I have been let go from many jobs over the years. The more people I speak to about that, the more I realize that isn’t normal. I know I am not the easiest person to work with, but I balance that with the fact I give every job 100%. That’s just the way I am. So it feels like a certain milestone that I have now been let go of a job here. I don’t know why, but it feels like that is the proof that I have established myself and my life here. I lost my most expendable job to make way for my most important (and career defining) job. Balance is restored.

I had been keeping in touch with Wayne since being away. But to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a project with him so soon. Then again, I wasn’t expecting to find a job in my industry within the first week in Amsterdam either. Over and over, things keep happening that conform coming here was the right decision.

Tuesday was my first milestone in my project. Wayne and I had a meeting on Skype and discussed what I had accomplished and what my plan was for the rest of the project. I made some suggestions for ways we can add more value to the client and discussed a few issues. It was a great meeting and we both felt good about what I had done up to this point. With only 4 week and a lot of work to accomplish, having a plan of action was more critical than on any previous project.

I went out afterwards to celebrate. The previous evening I had gone for a walk and found a sushi take-out restaurant. It was closed, but the décor and menu in the window gave me hope that it was pretty authentic. I know Vancouver is renowned for having some of the best sushi. I have seen sushi restaurants here before, but none that gave me enough confidence to try them out. This one looked like it could have been plucked out of the West End. So Tuesday evening I hopped on my bike and eagerly headed over to indulge in something I had been sorely missing for the past 3 months.

How surprised was I when I walked in and saw a blond Dutch woman behind the counter rolling sushi! The sushi she was producing looked every bit as good as what I was used to, so I eagerly placed my order. I chose two rolls; salmon and salmon with avocado. Along with a bottle of water it came to €10, which is not too bad. I could eat my fill and still get change back from €20.

I headed the 3 blocks over to Museumplein where I sat in the expansive park between the Rijks and Van Gogh museums. I watched a group of men playing a casual game of soccer as I ate my dinner. I didn’t realize I had to ask for the ginger, soy sauce and wasabi as none were included in the bag. So I enjoyed the natural flavours of the sushi and it was as good as anything I have had at home. I was pleasantly surprised. This place will be logged in my memory and visited on a semi regular basis.

Since Holland is no longer a contender in Euro2008, I am now rooting for my second choice; Germany. Marc and I headed to a pub that had been so busy when Holland was playing, we could barely find room on their patio. Now, we sat inside with a dozen other people with a great view of their big-screen TV. The game was excellent. It incorporated everything you want in a game; high energy from both sides, a lot of passing, attempts on goal and an even level of talent. I heard that most of Turkey’s A players were injured and this was mostly their B team. I am glad their A team wasn’t playing as the results of the game would probably be quite different. Germany came out victorious, but Turkey put up a very decent fight. However the final, tie-breaking goal by Germany was so well crafted, it earned them the win.

In Germany where there are a lot of Turks, and an anti Turkish sentiment. So this game was politically charged. In the end, it’s probably better that Germany won. If Turkey had won and the Turks in Germany headed to the streets to celebrate, there would be some tension.

In the past week and a half I have watched 4 matches (which is not like me) and there is something I have noticed. I have heard people joking about the dramatic reactions when players get hurt, but now I can totally see it. Thanks to the instant replay you can see sometimes there is barely any contact made. Yet the player is writhing on the ground. Until the referee decides there isn’t a penalty, then the playing is back up and running around again. The dramatics don’t need to be there. Although, I would rather watch that than two men beating each other in the name of hockey.

This weekend I am off to visit Nina and take a well-deserved break from work.