Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 3 Days of Dutch Christmas-I had a good time. I did! REALLY! I DID!

It is late. 2:30 am. Jur is asleep. The third day of my first Dutch Christmas is done.  I had a wonderful time. I did. Despite the way this may read at times. I had a wonderful time. (My New years resolution will be to write only joyous things from now on about Holland!) For now, however, I am kind of relieved my first Dutch Christmas is over. I am having many difficulties tonight. Maybe it was too much Hollandse Garnalen, or to much Sjoelen, or Knuidnoten. I would translate these words for you but I am so tired and at the moment describing them might make me a bit nauseous. Plus it gives you all another opportunity to step closer into my Dutch world experience, right?

Part of why I can't sleep is that on the third night of Dutch Christmas dinner (tonight) between the second and third course and during one of the many rounds of Neuken (which I think also means something dirty) I hit a Dutch Christmas mental wall. I needed coffee and I started to uncontrollably drink it. Switching between wine and coffee is not a good thing. Can you get drunk and wired off coffee and wine at the same time? I never fully felt the coffee "perk" I wanted, which was, at that time, my new Christmas wish.

Well I may not have thought the coffee was working but when I got home tonight I went straight to bed  and I could not for the life of me sleep. It was definitely the coffee. I tried so hard to fall asleep. Sleep was now my new Christmas wish. Please let me sleep Santa or baby Jesus. Please! That was when the Garnalen Stomach rumbles started. It was embarrassing. I laid there wide awake making these loud LOUD gurgle rumble combinations. They sounded like one of those aborigine blow pipe instruments. I was sure they would wake Jur up.

At one point I nudged him awake and said "Jur what are those little gray shrimp things we ate called?" (btw we ate them at Dieneke's on Friday, then again on Saturday and then tonight at Frits and Edward's)

Jur slurred "You mean Hollandse Garnalen....?"

I couldn't fully understand him because he was half asleep and when he said it I had an enormous rumble but I tried to repeat what I heard him say "Well I think I have Holse Garnail poisoning...I am worried"

He said nothing and I then let out my longest rumble yet. I got up to get some milk but when I opened the refrigerator I saw a large tupperware container of creamed garnalen given to us by Sjan. The sight of that combined with the strong stench of Jur's French cheese only made me feel worse!

Hollandse Garnalen are these little itsy bitsy grayish colored (sometimes) shrimp. The Dutch love them. THEY LOVE THEM. I have seen them at every major gathering I have been to since I have arrived here in Holland. I am just not the biggest fan. I can eat them but I would prefer not to. I prefer an occasional jumbo shrimp but not a big bowl of tiny shrimp which most often are covered in some sort of heavy cream and which always seem to upset my stomach. When I look at the bowls of shrimp it just looks like chum. Something I have seen being thrown over a fishing boat to attract "edible" fish. Or they look like something you would see in a vending machine at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere Arizona or something being thrown to the penguins at the Sea World exhibit. I had a lot of time to think about Hollandse Garnalen as you see. This past holiday weekend these shrimpy shrimps were first served at Dieneke's Christmas Eve dinner. I took one piece of bread with the Garnalen and some curried mayonnaise to be polite and smiled as I chewed it (as fast as I could). I still had the cognac, mayonnaise crab appetizer to go, which Jur made so I HAD to eat that, and, then, of course there was salmon for the main course. Did I mention I don't really like sea food?

Back home everyone was having ham, turkey, tamales, Mexican, BBQ, cookies... You were, right? Don't lie! I read all your facebook postings! Did you ever think how painful it was for me to read about your delicious tamale meal or lovely beef Wellington, huh, did ya?

After this tricky meal I was introduced to sjoelen. A Dutch wooden sort of table shuffle board game, but you do not knock people off. You are just going for points. It is loud! LOUD! You shoot these wooden discs down this board. I liked this game though. It was fun and sjoelen signified the end of the seafoodfest meal. I never understood the points system of the game and since in Dutch something like 128 is Een honderd acht en twintig (or something like that) and I was surrounded by eight Dutch people yelling out all kinds of numbers I just kept shooting my discs down this board and playing my own version of the game. I came in last every time. They kept pointing at places where I should try and shoot but it was hard and I had once again been comfort drinking. Also after two rounds of shooting these discs down this board my tennis elbow started kicking in. I think we must have played 25-30 rounds of this. At one point I was sweating from all the excitement. This was almost as physical as rushing to gather the kruidnoten that were thrown in the window on Sinterklaas Day.

The evening was fun tand my first Christmas day at Dieneke's was an enjoyable experience! Danku Dieneke, Wilfred and Angelique. It was very joyous! Oh and Dieneke's Christmas tree was beautiful! Heck she had more decorations then the ladies in Steel Magnolias!

The next morning I woke at Jur's sister Cathy's home. I was sore but rejuvenated. I came down the stairs and there were her three boys with.... the sjoelen board and the bang Bang BANG of those little wooden discs. My Christmas wish was for a cup of coffee and some ear plugs. I did get some coffee. After two hours of more sjoelen (lost every time again), the realization I had a slight hangover and a growing pain in my elbow, I was ready to move on from sjoelen. Jur's sister suggested to go to the beach and walk the dog. I took this as an opportunity to escape the sjoelen board. As I was dressing there were some concerns that it seemed very cold outside to go to the beach but hearing those wooden discs slamming downstairs caused me to ignore my concerns. Cathy, Jur and I, plus Gabor, the dog, loaded in the car. I was busily putting on my hat, scarf, gloves, adjusting my sweater and buttoning my coat when I noticed it was beginning to drizzle and get dark outside. No one else seemed to notice. I thought I heard Gabor moan in disappointment but wasn't sure. I just kept thinking it is cold and raining and we are going to the beach. Who the hell goes to the beach in weather like this? We will be the only ones there! Wrong again Ken! The Dutch go to the beach in weather like this.

It was pretty crowded. What the hell is wrong with these people? I was shocked. We poured out of the car. Gabor's moan was apparently not one of disappointment because he darted out of the car and headed straight for the ocean.

I did yell to Cathy over the howling wind (Who now looked like some Dutch Pioneer Woman) that "BOY IT IS COLD!"

To which she yelled back "NEE IT IS ONLY 3 DEGREES!"

Now 3 degrees in Celsius is like 38 in American and I am from Texas AND moved here form Los Angeles for God's sakes, so hearing it was 3 degrees SERIOUSLY made things worse! SERIOUSLY WOSRE. We trekked on. Cathy, Jur and Gabor kept getting further and further ahead of me. I was the weakling of our herd. My lips were hurting, my nose was running. I was certain it was sleeting or there were chunks of frozen sand pelting me or something. Something was painfully stinging me all over. My imagination got the best of me as reenactments of the Donner Party crept in my head. You know the Donner Party? Those Pioneers that got stuck in a blizzard crossing the Sierra Nevadas and ate each other in the 1880's? This was my own Donner Party. There was also the constant awareness that the wind, sleet, rain and frozen sand ice was to my back, which means when we turned around it was going to be head on. In fact I was so cold that I was actually wishing I was some where warm playing sjoelen. After a half hour of this march the rest of my expedition team noticed I was staggering and decided to turn around. By this point my new Christmas wish was to just make it back to the car. The good news was that I was so cold and numb that my tennis elbow did not hurt anymore.

Side note for those who know me and my nervous right eye twitch problem, well, as I defrosted in the car my right eye AND my left eye both were twitching. That has not happened for years and is not a good sign.

I vow to never go to the beach in the winter again. (Maybe my New Years resolution)

That night Jur and I met up with the Dutch Spanish friends, Manon and Rudy at Club Amsterdam. I don't remember too much of this except I was so tired, it was pretty, it was crowded (the Dutch party), we were the oldest ones there, they played Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas" and I kept thinking I still had the third day of Dutch Christmas to go!

Day three was meeting for bowling with Cathy and the boys which brought back my tennis elbow. I at least understood the scoring system of this game. I love to bowl and bowling with Cathy and her sons was especially fun!

Now I just had dinner at Jur's brother Frits' house. Sounds simple right? Well the first thing I noticed in the kitchen was ramekins piled high with creamed Hollandse garnalen. This was something I was just going to have to deal with. Unlike previous parties where the garnalen were set out along with many other things, at THIS dinner it was served as an individual course. The moment came when it was served. No one knew of my garnalen struggles. Well, Jur did, but I think he was just beginning to feel the effects of three days of Dutch Christmas. I looked to him for support as the bowl of mayonnaise Sea World Shrimp Chum was placed in front of me but he looked so tired and his eyes were blood shot. I was on my own. I told myself to just get it over with and I grabbed my spoon. I took the first bite and instinctively clogged my nose. It wasn't that bad actually. Only about 10 more spoonfuls to go. Then the second was a bit harder and by the third..... for the first time in Holland.....I almost (ALMOST) gagged out loud. I contained it. If anyone had been looking directly at me I would have looked like my nieces having to eat the dreaded Brussels sprouts or creamed spinach before they could have dessert. My cheeks puffed up and I was all red faced and teary eyed. I felt like one of those contestants on a reality show being forced to eat some crazy concoction. Thank God no one heard me. I ate another two spoonfuls but had to stop or they would have heard me (and worse seen me). I will say the soup, the Pork Loin and citrus dessert were delicious! Edward is a good cook! Danku Edward.

After dinner we then played the new card game Neuken but by that time I was done. I was done! I was sore, tired, worried about garnalen poisoning, my elbow was throbbing, I was drunk and wired on the coffee. I was yawning yet wide awake. Both eyes were twitching (slightly, even my eye twitch was tired) I don't even know what my Christmas wish was anymore. Nothing could help me......and that is how I ended up here, now, in the middle of the night, with a rumbling tummy, writing to you about my first adventurous Dutch Christmas. The Dutch like to have a good time and can party!


  1. I hope you're recovering from the shrimp and sjoelen trauma! I haven't actually tried the mini shrimp here yet, but I have played sjoelen! I love it! In fact, as I was giving myself tennis elbow playing tennis and bowling on my new Wii, I found myself wondering if they had a version of sjoelen for the Wii. They should. It might be marginally cheaper than buying an actual sjoelen board, which I gather is crazy expensive.

    Good luck with the twitching and the rumbling! May the new year see the end of both!

  2. Neuken in the keuken was one of the first Dutch phrases my co-workers taught me over beers. It means f*cking in the kitchen. but it sounds better in Dutch.

  3. I so enjoy following your blog! My mother was born and raised in the Netherlands and your amusing experiences dovetail with a lot of what she told me which is so interesting. I ran across your blog while looking for information on, hold your breath, Sinerklaas!

  4. Hey Ken! ..Hope I can call you that. I found you through your writing on Expatica and spent a few hours reading through the rest of your blog, and I must say it has been a fantastic read. I love the way you write and your reactions are funny yet so truthful. As an American contemplating a move to Holland, your blog is refreshingly comedic.

    I have a question, though, what do you think of Dutch toilets? I found out about the peculiar way they differ from American toilets through another expats blog and I can pretty much say at this time, that I am the most nervous about that!

    Thanks for all of your writings, keep it up! Wishing you the best in 2010.


  5. Dear P. Thanks for commenting. Trying to respond to people but I can only do that if they leave me their email address. Like your idea about Dutch toilets. Blog?

  6. I think I'll start a blog about a real depressed Dutchman; it all began in April 2009...

  7. Wait! Jur has hacked my site! Be warned that anything he says is not true. What I say is true! New story coming soon and make it a good day ya'll

  8. I ran into your blog after googling Caga Tio! Such a great explanation that I posted a link to it on my Facebook. Since then, I have been reading your other posts and so many things are making sense to me now. I was raised in a Dutch family(at least my father and his side)...but in California. I actually have a Dutch Paspoort but have never lived there...I've only gone for extended periods of time to visit family. I always thought my family was nuts (especially Oma and Opa) but now I am realizing that they are not completely insane...just Dutch. I used to be so embarrassed about their bluntness and willingness (bordering on excitement) to tell people they are wrong. And the food...sweet jeezus...I was terrified at what Oma might try to make us eat next. Opa complained about not being able to get horse meat anymore...which always left me wondering if he would even tell me if he happened to score some and it was in whatever we were eating at the time. But there was plenty of lekker stuff too. Stroepwaffels, poffertjes, hagel, smoked eel, fried mussels.

    Anyhow, keep up the good work. Tot ziens!