August 26, 2011


I started this blog almost 7 years ago, when blogs were all the rage. It gave me a place to write little stories about things going on, which I thought was good, to keep exercising my writing muscle occasionally. Over the last couple of years, I've had less inspiration to post. I didn't want my blog to die though, like so many others had, so I tried to keep a rule of posting at least once a month. I've had a really hard time sticking to that this year though. So I thought it was time to close the book on Bubbly Red Stuff.

I decided I did want to have a blog still, but with a different focus. I wanted to focus more on stories with photos included, especially from trips I've taken. So I've started a new blog called Picturesqueties. I invite you to have a look.

May 4, 2011

How I've Spent My Week

April certainly didn't go according to plan. I last wrote about how busy the month was going to be, but many of those plans were wiped out when B was not allowed back into the Netherlands after we returned from Ireland. It was not something I imagined would happen, certainly not when I had come straight back into the country a couple of times before I was living here legally. But after such a wonderful week in Ireland I found myself going back to Leiden on my own, unable to really comprehend that I wouldn't see B for at least a few months. He's written here about the whole experience of being sent back to the US the next day.

So, subsequently April was not spent visiting the tulip fields and showing him Amsterdam on Queen's Day, but instead figuring out what the hell we were going to do with this situation. I began to look into whether he could get a residence permit based on our relationship, repeating the process I went through to get here, but now I was playing the Dutchie. It was a bit surreal to be looking at the same sort of requirements I needed to meet 10 years ago, but now from the sponsor point of view (and as the one who could understand Dutch. There has been some progress over the years). Fortunately I'm in a rather strong position as a permanent resident with a permanent contract for a full-time job. Once I confirmed that I could sponsor B even though I'm not a Dutch citizen, that my permit is enough, then we were pretty much set for meeting all the requirements. B booked a ticket to come back at the end of June, once 90 days out of the country had passed, and I told him to get copies of documents like his birth certificate.

Monday though everything changed again. It started off well. I went into an IND office near my work and spoke with someone who was helpful and knowledgable, and who went over the application with me, pointing out the parts that would need to be filled out and the documents we would need. I left excited, being pretty sure that B would be able to get a permit. I got to work though and I decided I should finally give the Military Police (Koninklijke Marechaussee) at Schiphol a call to try to confirm whether B would indeed be able to return to the country after being gone for 90 days.

I got a guy on the phone who didn't seem all too thrilled to help me out at first. He said he could only speak generally and what he said couldn't be a guarantee of anything. He told me that B should call the Dutch embassy in the US. I told him that B had called them and they said to call the Military Police (and even gave him the number). So, the guy eventually sighed and looked up B's record in their database. Once his info was pulled up, he told me that there would be a "very high" chance that if B tried to come back he would not be allowed to enter the Netherlands. He told me he should look into getting a visa in the US, explain to the embassy why he'd want to come back, explain that there is our relationship and he's trying to be with me. I hung up and felt utterly deflated. It slowly sunk in that simply coming back in June was not likely an option and the issues regarding applying for the residence permit were nothing compared to this. It's only gotten more complicated from there.

For the last couple of days, I've been learning about the rules surrounding overstaying in the Schengen area and trying to find out what visas B could get when an American doesn't normally need one. B has been fighting with getting an answer out of the Dutch embassy, who have been really unhelpful. I shouldn't be surprised, but still, they first kept pointing him back to the Military Police and now they tell him to go talk to the IND if he needs a visa. He's found out that the ticket he bought is non-refundable and expensive to change, so a lot of money may be lost because we didn't wait to find out this information before he booked a flight back.

Going back to the Schengen area rules, they don't look promising for his situation. I fortunately found a site called Vagabond Journey which is full of real details about people's actual experiences of trying to get into various countries, and advice from Wade, the guy who runs the site and is a perpetual traveller. First of all, the Netherlands is apparently one of the most stringent countries in the Schengen, along with Germany and Switzerland, so Amsterdam was one of the worst places we could have returned to after Ireland. (At least it wasn't in Switzerland though where, along with being sent home, he would have had to pay a $500 fine.) So yes, things have definitely changed from when I first moved here. But I also found out why B would likely be refused again if he tried to come back. By being denied entry, he was likely entered into the Schengen Immigration System (SIS), which should be used by all Schengen border controls to check if someone has overstayed before. The penalty for overstaying is a 3-year ban on being able to enter the Schengen area. So B may have this ban hanging over him. Which is very bad news indeed.

Right now, we are weighing up our options and trying to learn as much as we can to see how this can work and if he can get a visa in the US so he won't be denied at the border if he tries to come back. I found the address of where you can write to the police here to find out your status in the SIS and he'll send a letter to them to at least find out if he's banned. In the meantime I am also looking at places that offer free legal advice and will try to get whatever help I can from them, especially since the actual officials are of course pretty hopeless.

It's rather needless to say that the past few days have been completely stressful and overwhelming. I partly wish I could go back to the lovely weekend when I was still in happy ignorance of all of this, and partly that I had found out about it sooner so we'd have that bit more time to work things out before B's planned return date at the end of June. There is the bright spot that we'll see each other when I visit the US in June. But I hope everything can be worked out for him to move here. I refuse to believe that one mistake such as this cannot be fixed, especially with the argument of us having a relationship. But then I know a couple of tough stories of people trying to keep their partner here, and losing. I just have to keep my fingers crossed.

March 21, 2011

Bring on spring!

It doesn't seem like there are many years that we have so much sun this early on in March, and while it was not exactly anywhere near 20 degrees yet, during the weekend I at least tried to make the most of the sun. On Saturday, B and I joined everyone flocking to the terraces. We decided to have lunch at the V&D and managed to nab a table that was just barely in the sun still. After sitting there for awhile though, we were fairly chilly.

After being reminded that the full moon on Saturday night was meant to be a "super moon", we took a walk in the evening to see if any noticable gain in size could be seen. Unfortunately a Dutch city is just about the worst place to look at the night sky so I'm not sure the moon actually looked that much larger, but it was certainly a clear and bright night. And cold, it was like a typical winter night again. We headed over to a windmill that I've never really gone to check out and, while the windmill turned out to be on private property so we couldn't get that close, I made friends with the dog that had started barking at us as we came up the drive. He was large and looked intimidating, but once I got him to come over, he plopped in front of me and welcomed some attention. He was just a big softie really and it made me miss having dogs around, especially big, huggable ones.

On Sunday, we biked out to the lakes to the north of Leiden and were determined to have a picnic lunch even though we were freezing. One of these days we'll finally be able to sit out in just t-shirts. On the way back we stopped by another windmill which was guarded by an angry Shetland pony.

And now my week is rather quiet since B went off to Prague. Once he comes back though it'll kick off a very busy month. First we'll be spending a week in Ireland and attending a wedding. Then B's parents will be visiting for a week, at the same time a friend of mine will be visiting from Germany. After a brief break, we'll be going to Barcelona for a few days, and just a few days later will be Queen's Day. I should enjoy this down time while I can.

February 13, 2011

Video game goodness

I went to the awesome Arcade exhibit yesterday at Mediamatic. It's been going on for awhile already and they keep adding "levels". First was some interactive stuff, then arcade games, then a slew of console games. Next up will be handheld games.

Two of the interactive things were memorable. One of the best things of the entire place was this racing game you could play in your living room which used a projector on the ceiling and any object would become an obstacle (it could sense an object and you could change the course constantly). There were four cars controlled by wireless controllers. It was in battle mode where you could shoot the other cars with the lights from your headlights.

Race video cars in your living room

The other was a tea cup into which you drop this rfid tag that you got when you paid admission. The tag was registered to you, so with your tag in the cup, it would search online for your registered name and then sentences found with your name in it were projected around the cup. It was supposed to be spilling the secrets of your online life.


Oh, there was also Pong for smokers, you controlled the paddles with a lit cigarette. Of course someone was in there with a joint instead.

And then a bazillion consoles and arcade games to send everyone on a nostalgia trip. Oh, and weird Japanese stuff, like one where you are trying to uncover a nude photo. I also was totally winning a Mortal Kombat-like fighting game not knowing at all what I was doing, I just was slamming the buttons a lot. I couldn't even figure out how to jump and I still won two fights.

A couple of photos below; more are here.

Original Nintendo with Super Mario

Racing arcade game

December 16, 2010

The Christmas Season

Looking back at things I wrote a year ago, I was rather Scroogy in most of the lead-up to Christmas. I didn't really want to do Christmas cards, I hated all the shop displays and Christmas songs –- I just wanted to hide until it was all over. I got into things eventually, but this year I haven't had much of a Scrooge period. Ok, I bristled at Sinterklaas and was glad for that to be done with, but for Christmas itself, I've accepted it pretty well.

If you are in more of a grumpy mood though and are fed up with the holidays already, you might appreciate the polls going on over at Tomato Nation, the NC Double Scrooge. There are various divisions per type of Christmas season annoyance, including one solely for all of those horrible, horrible Christmas songs we wish never existed.

Speaking of Christmas songs, there is one listed which people either completely loathe or have never even heard of: The Christmas Shoes. I fall into the latter category and I'm sort of curious to hear just how bad this song is, but I am also afraid that once it's heard, I'll never be able to wipe it from my memory. I really wish I could wipe Wonderful Christmastime from my memory, which I now have in my head just from reading the poll. gah.

November 28, 2010


I know I sound like an old fart saying this, but I can't believe it'll be December in a couple of days. December, as in the last month of the year. Just a few more weeks and we close the book on 2010. I'm not quite sure how that's happened.

While November was rather quiet, I did take a trip to Germany to see my friend, AM, in October. We hadn't seen each other in about 7 years. Her oldest daughter, who was a baby when I last saw them, is now in school and taking ice skating lessons and learning to speak German. AM was the same as ever and it was great to hang out and catch up. We went one day to Trier which was quite pretty with a quaint German center and Roman ruins. Her oldest was excited to show me around the cathedral, which they'd visited before, so she led me around while AM and her younger daughter took a rest in the pews. The next day, after their ice skating practice, we hit a nearby outlet mall. Her daughter was now excited to help me shop, so she looked at clothes with me at Desigual, then came with me as I tried them on and offered her opinion. It was really sweet.

I had time to kill before I headed back on the train that Monday, so I went to work with AM, which meant I went to school. She teaches middle school home ec at one of the Air Force schools. So after going through security to get onto base, which included having us get out of the car while they checked through it a bit, we headed over to the school building. Parents walked by in uniform. We entered the school lobby right as the pledge of allegiance was being said over the loudspeaker, so we stopped and faced the flag in the lobby. That was so weird for me, I felt like a fake, so while I put my hand over my heart, I didn't recite the pledge. We got to AM's classroom which felt like we could have been in a school in the US. There was an American flag on the wall and American textbooks. I watched her teach two classes while sneaking handfuls of Golden Grahams from the box in her desk. It was strange being in a school setting again and I wondered how she handles dealing with pre-teens everyday. The whole experience was so warped: sitting in this piece of America dropped into Germany, remembering what it's like being in school, the military angle on everything.

Now, as we get our first wintery weather of the season, the holidays are picking up and December will likely be busy. I'm not sure what I'll be doing for Christmas yet, but only a few days after that B will be arriving in time for New Year's Eve. I plan to take him up to Amsterdam to experience the madness there. He'll then settle into Dutch life for a few months, yes, dealing with the winter, but also getting to see the colors of spring, as well as some concerts (The Decemberists!) and Queen's Day. It should be an interesting time.

October 22, 2010


After spending another thrilling Friday night at the laundromat, my brain latched onto the idea of beef and broccoli in oyster sauce. I didn't quite order that, but Chinese food had to be had. When my order came (suspiciously after only 15 mins) the delivery guy, some older dude, asked me "this is house number 17, right?" I said, yeah. And he said all excitedly, "that's strange because, look, you live in house 17, your order is 17 euros, and..." (gesturing enthusiastically at the order ticket) "...the receipt is number 17!" I, um, didn't quite know what to say to that. I just laughed and said "how odd." I gave him a good tip though.

Maybe it's something in the air. It's the full moon tonight, the full moon of October. Since it's a prime number, living at number 17 has always felt a bit strange in my mind. Though it is the 22nd today and 22 is my lucky number.

(This is what you end up with when you have a mom who still to this day throws salt over her shoulder when she knocks over the shaker and who doesn't like to look at the full moon.)