Back from Paris, re-packed suitcase, then off to the Hague via Amsterdam I went… Our original plane’s pilots must have eaten some wrong kind of brownies, or maybe they had just been blown off by the strong winds in the Netherlands that evening, but in either case it turned out that I had made it to the airport well in advance for the first time in recent history completely in vain – the flight was delayed by an hour. Oh well, I just went to heaven then after checking in to wait for my fate. Eventually, I boarded the plane that was originally destined to fly to the UK, but the important part was that it made it to the final destination written on my ticket.
Netherlands. Day one – actually, evening. Train to the Hague from Schiphol. Luggage drop-off at the house then out we go – I had been cordially invited to my friend’s sister’s place for the birthday party dinner. Didn’t expect the Netherlands to welcome me with a gastronomical treat! I happily OD-ed on some delicious international food and the three kinds of cakes, washed it all down with some green tea, annoyed a lovely little girl and finally got to relax and rejuvenate. I also discovered that I had forgotten my hair dryer – not the best item to leave back home right after freshly dyeing the hair, especially any shade of red, but I’m a survivor and I made it through!
Day two – watching some of the performances (singing, dancing, acrobatics and even martial arts) at the city hall – it was the Chinese new year’s day celebration. Unfortunately, we have overslept the parade with the paper dragon and the fireworks, although it would never occur to me that those two could possibly occur any time before sundown (well, maybe I could agree to the dragon, but fireworks???), or at least at some reasonable late afternoon hours… Thus, no pictures, but I am sure you would forgive me this time.
In the evening the warm-up session for the upcoming festival had been officially kicked-off with a zouk party: I was lucky enough to arrive in time for this once-in-a-month event. I was unlucky enough to forget my safety pins, so my ultra-comfy but (sigh) strapless stretch overall kept creeping down all the time. I kind of gave up on trying to make the rim remain above instead of below the general bra level a little through the party, so I just fixed it not to fall any further than that and pretended that was exactly the style I intended to rock that night :D.
Day three: God presumably rested on the Sunday, and I sort of started the day accordingly – lest it is not by hazard that I have a PhD in procrastination – but then I finally had to buckle up for an all-night-long session of passionate…typing on the keyboard of my laptop, as I was facing the final deadline for the essay I was unable to force myself to finish in Paris, due to the fact that my mind had become over-preoccupied with the brilliant idea of mine – that which I do not speak of (ha!) until the time when I will…
This extremely un-entertaining but necessary to go through experience has kept me busy all the way into the almost monday noon, when I had finally wrapped it all up (all the 20 pages of editing and 15 of typing) and went on to amuse myself with compiling the up-date on my experiences in Paris the week ago. Then I finally retired from the living room sofa and got to sleep, only to wake up in the evening to some more chilling and procrastinating – this time well-deserved. Finally, the day had been wrapped up by a zouk workshop.
Day five started off by waiting for Godot… Godot, this specific time, was a friend of mine who currently studies in Utrecht and who promised to drop by to hang out with me (and bring a hair dryer along) around 2pm. If you know the tale, then you know what happened… (If you don’t, up-date your classics reading list 😛 ). While busy doing that, I have tortured myself by listening to 3 of the 7 parts of the interview of my absolute new hero (simply for the fact that he didn’t slap that woman on her face not just within about 25 seconds of starting to talk to her but for like over an hour in total I truly believe he deserves a monument built in his honor with some sort of stoic or patience-related inscription) Richard Dawkins with Wendy Wright (what a name! One more ‘w’ somewhere and she could well be replacing the Wicked Witch of the West, whom we dubbed ‘www’, in the script that we had written on par with my friend back when I was 12 in the summer language school at Cambridge for the Wizard of Oz Play… Oh, and it was I who did the part, of course 😀 ). I must say I was uncertain of my abilities to remain calm enough not to smash my laptop into pieces after this exemplary portrayal of distilled ignorance so I hadn’t finished watching the remaining 4 parts right away and switched to a slightly more digestible, although still profoundly disturbing, religious educational documentary. Purely for the sake of the laptop, of course.
All the while, I was checking the phone for the promised to me text message from my lovely friend who was meant to send one upon boarding the train… Up until about 4.30 pm when I had finally decided to use the rare sunshine day for picture-taking. Oh, and she wrote that she had to finish some school work so my date was off for the day… Except after having taken two or three shots of a particularly picturesque bike parking, I had realized that it was too bleeping cold for my fingers, went to the train station to get my ticket to Utrecht, aborted ‘mission photoshoot’ till better weather and returned back to the casa, stopping by the supermarket on the way – I had promised to introduce my friend to my personal version of the bachelorette ‘quick-tasty-and-filling’ dinner solution – washed my hair, dried it as well as i could with the towel, listened to yet another utterly brilliant speech by my hero and set off to do the elaborate cooking. Unfortunately, Dutch stores may have a wide array of products available but the key ingredient to success – the cheddar& mozzarella grated cheese mix – available at Prague’s Tesco stores – was lacking. The alternative cheese option turned out rather saltier and more poignant than I would ideally want it to be, so we have agreed that next time if occasion arises I would bring the proper cheese along.
Oh and if you’re wondering what the recipe is, it is absurdly simple: cook some pasta (whatever excites you the most. I like multi-colored or whole-grain versions, as they have more taste of their own); once it’s done, add olive oil (ideally. Practically any oil or butter would do – you only need a bit so that the pasta doesn’t stick and so that the rest gets mixed in well), grated cheddar and mozzarella (I am fond of this particular coupling because of its smooth, mild taste and richness at the same time) or whatever else gets your toes to curl, some soy sauce (make sure to not overdo this one, especially with more pronounced variations of cheese – better to add in a few drops later than to be stuck with overly salty breakfast/lunch/dinner… :P), multi-colored pepper (it DOES matter, taste-wise, if pepper is just one kind or the mix, but heck, if you don’t have the mix… substitute to your liking 🙂 ) and mix well. Make sure to do all of the above pretty quickly as pasta has a tendency to cool off fast. As a final touch, you may opt to then mix in a raw egg-yolk, but you don’t have to – thy shall be forgiven if you don’t. The whole ordeal from the moment pasta water boils and you throw it in takes roughly 15 minutes. Bon appetit :).
The mock version of the dinner behind us, we have ventured into the evening for another zouk workshop. In theory, it was meant to finish earlier than it did and leave some time for social dancing. In practice, it finished just about 15 minutes before I had to leave to the train station… Meh… Good strategic thinking on our behalf resulted in some dancing on the side while any music was playing during the workshop though, so it was not a visit paid completely in vain :).
45 minutes later in Utrecht… I finally saw the pretty face of my lovely friend, whose hair dryer I never got to use… She took me through the cold, dark night all the way to the college campus on her bike, on which I froze my fingers and my ass, but it was definitely a fun and worthy experience :). Once there, we had some gnocchi and went to the student party at the bar right there on campus (what a kick-ass cool university!). Since the last time I attended an organized party affiliated with an educational institution it was back when I was 14 or so in the UK (summer language school), this was quite a funny experience to observe the scene – it reminded me more of high school than college. The music was fine though so it didn’t matter – we left to catch some snooze at around 3am.
The following day after the breakfast and some chatting I had returned back to the Hague. This was the day scheduled for unwinding and properly utilized for that relaxing and recharging purpose. Oh, and I had been converted to becoming a devoted addict to the Ben&Jerry’s ice-cream after the very first try of their chocolate-chip-cookie-dough variation on the theme. This stuff is pure sweet-tooth-ers’ cocaine!!! It’s so good it must be banned! YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!
Thursday began lazily and rainy-ly and ended up in manic attempts to pack the suitcase before the tram left. The tram won the race… So it had been agreed upon to catch the next one. A short while later at the station, having managed to not miss the ride I was certain I’d miss, I hopped onto the fuschia-colored train (Barbie train??!! lollll) that took me to Amsterdam to our lovely host from last year. As it had been the case last time, it was all about food once again – not that I’m complaining though :). This was the Spanish omelette evening, which we then went to dance-off at the congress pre-party. The pre-party was small and didn’t last long – definitely not the greatest value for the 7-euro price of the entry – but it was a nice way to kick off the weekend.
Having gotten off two stops before the one we actually needed, for whatever reason (even though we’ve taken the same exact bus back many times last year), we wandered around a bit being very lost within the approximately 200m range from where we were staying. Taking the right street would’ve helped, as we had later figured out from the street maps (practical Dutch people put area maps at all bus and tram stops with ‘you are here’ pointers – gotta love them!), so we were home sleeping, after raiding the fridge for some yoghurt, about an hour in total later than we could have made it.
Friday afternoon I’ve met with a friend of mine for a coffee to catch up on her news and latest successes and developments. I’ve been also shamelessly seduced by the most good looking lemon muffin. It wasn’t probably as exciting as a space-cake could’ve been, from what I’ve heard, but it did the trick for me in its own ways :). Later on, it was Chinese dinner’s turn.
Then, finally, here came the first festival night. It is amazing how tiny the dancing world is – at every festival you meet people you’ve seen before, the friends from around the world, share the news, the dancing, the atmosphere… And this is also the first night of being spaced-out. Sadly for all the sensation hunters out there what I mean by ‘spaced-out’ has nothing to do with many of the interesting things Amsterdam has to offer on its menu. I mean being spaced out by dancing – quite literally so, too, when one of my favorite of all times Dutch dancers made me fly up and down and around in the air for a couple of songs once again – wheeeeeeee :):):):):):). I had been waiting for this ever since last November!!! And I want more again soon!!! Hehe :). The only unpleasant part of the night was the strict shut-down of the party at 4am sharp. One would reasonably expect the party to go on till at least 5 but nope… In addition, it was the last song when the DJ announced the last song. In case you don’t know, the festival unspoken rule is to have the ‘last song’, then have the public demand one more and have the real last song (or, if you’re lucky, two) play. But this was it when they said this was it :(. How very Dutch :(… lollll… At least this time we got off at the right bust stop.
Saturday afternoon I went to search for a pair of black shorts – mine have been left at home along with that damned hair dryer and I needed them for the Saturday night glamour dress-code do (pictures pending…). Then I had the most delicious apple pie with a couple of friends, some fun conversations and generally spent the time rather pleasantly away from the misery unfolding outside weather-wise. I was back at the house exactly in time for the dinner – pesto pasta, tuna salad and a few other little things. After the dinner I actually stretched (wow, I’m proud of myself) properly, then got ready and set off for more dancing.
This night there were more people and less free dancing area, which is probably why I received a decent hit on the nose right at the start, but even that didn’t spoil the mood. This night the music was more to my liking as well, and I’ve gotten to dance with all my favorite dancers plus several of those I didn’t dance with before – what a treat! Spacing out continued through the night and culminated in the final several songs interpreted on-par with Ant. By this time there were fewer survivors on the floor, so we took our improv to the next level and it ended up being an amazing creative collaborative effort that is exactly that kind of a high that is worth dancing for :). That is not, of course, to dismiss the similarly psychedelic in their own ways zouk sessions with the rest of my lovely Dutch dance team – guys (Roger, Jasper, Odin, Yon) you all RULE my dancing world! 4 am came way too fast that night, but everything has to come to an end, even the best spacing-out sessions…
So here was Sunday with its late afternoon wake-up call, packing, flight back to Prague and catching up on some unfinished urgent business… Right now it is half past 7am on February 15th, the morning after the best v-day ever: I slept in late, went to class and then straight to the v-day zouk party at the Church, where we had a great deal of fun. I reckon I better get to bed, as I would eventually need to get up some time in the afternoon to fulfill some other urgently pending tasks. Therefore, I salute you and in the true anti-valentine and pro-valentine spirit (just to maintain both sides of the perspective), present you with (if you haven’t seen them yet) some appropriate for the occasion treats :). Enjoy!