Until about 15 years ago, many people would sue over futility’s. The defendant would file an insurance claim and the insurance company would give a small compensation to the plaintiff. This way the plaintiff would go away and the defendant wouldn’t have to take the time and trouble to deal with the trouble of the judicial system. On account more and more people would scam the system with the consequences that insurance rates sky-rocked and people no longer could afford to just “roll over and pay”. Since then people decided to protect themselves by documenting all applicable policies and terms. The best way of preventing a lawsuit is to put to ink all applicable policies and terms. A well-drafted regulation that records critical terms of an agreement or event can prevent a misunderstanding from devolving into a lawsuit.
Now that I am better informed on this subject it’s easier to understand their ‘You better C.Y.A.*’ mentality. The question is if I ever become accustomed to all the applicable policies and terms and the many restrictions and regulations which comes with that.
Americans might be used to signs like the one at the laundromat: ‘We are not responsible for: bleeding, fading, shrinking, or damage due to weak and tender fabrics’, but I am not. Back home a sign like this would give a whole different impression. It implies that they are the worst nightmare to your laundry. Or what about the instructions manuals, the playground rules or all the forms you have to fill out and sign so you can’t sue them. When I had my eyelashes done in Chicago they would not help me unless I signed the 24 hour cancellation policy even though I’ll never come back!
Over the years I spend a lot of time in the USA. For a long time I was convinced that moving to New York would fulfill a lifelong dream. Today the straw broke the camelback.
I was offered a free pass to the most fancy gym I’ve ever seen; Chelsea Pier Gym. A few days before I dropped by to get some information. After I got the information I asked if I could use the restroom. The guy at the front desk assured me that it was against their policy, but when I would fill out a form and hand over my ID for a photocopy, by the grace of God, I could use their restroom. ‘Please don’t break anything’ he commented.
The boxing class start at 7:00 pm sharp. In pairs we have to do some boxing drills. Immediately I am warned to ‘slow down’ and I am matched to an other partner who is more skilled. Even though my sparring buddy is fine I get an other warning. I can’t give any diagonal punches because there’s a chance that I will hit my opponent by accident on the nose. My buddy tells me that they are so afraid someone gets injured and will sue Chelsea Pier Gym. Fortunately after 30 min I can unload myself with some free style boxing on the bag. This time I am not warned by the trainer but by one of the participants. ‘They don’t like people to kick the bag, you might get a warning’.
I’ve probably seen more of the United States than the average American. There is something about it, especially New York. Since I doubt that I ever get use to all the restrictions and regulations I will not settle here permanently, but I will come back any time soon.
Catch you on the flip side New York… -by Bregje
*Cover Your Ass
I never questioned my heritage. Both of my parents are Dutch and as I recall so are my grandparents and great grandparents.
Remarkably knowing your heritage was important to a great deal of my high school friends back home. It was a hot topic to many. The fact that a lot of them were kids of interracial-couples makes it easier to understand. Some even felt pity for me being ‘all Dutch’.
As an international exchange student in Winfield, Kansas I was frequently called a ‘F**king foreigner’. By asking their last name ‘Valdois, Van Dyke or Vanderbilt’ I could easily invalidate their remark. Over the last couple of years I noticed that knowing who your ancestors are and uncover your ethic mix is a big deal all over the US. No wonder since there is no real American. There might be still a debate about when the first Americans actually arrived and where they came from, but there’s no denial that America is a melting pot of different ethnicity. After German, Irish is the most common ancestry of Americans.
According to recent study, nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits. Fueled by this hype I’ll bet this trend is likely to increase. I fell for it too and ordered the test online.
Doing a bit of research I found out that it’s not possible to tell French from German. The reason is that the people in this region moved around a lot and mixed with each other and with those from neighbouring regions. There is a strong possibility that I am 99% West European. It takes about a month or two to get my saliva analyzed. Even though I have a rough idea what the result will be I am a bit anxious. You never know. There’s alway a chance to inadvertently learn about secretly kept family trauma.
So mom and dad if you have a confession to make, you should do it now. -your daughter Bregje
According to some of my native speaking American friends my written skills has improved since I started my blog last year. I can not judge myself on my written skills, but I do notice that my verbal skills have improved over the last three years. Especially my vocabulary has enlarged. For me the active forms of a language, speaking and writing, are easier than the more passive forms, listening and reading. When it comes to writing I have to admit that I use the spellings control on my smartphone and if I have do not have a clue on how to spell a word I use my dictaphone. To ensure that I will not get a RSI thumb, by writing all my blogs on my phone with only my thumb, I sometimes use my dictaphone as well. The problem with that is my pronunciation. There are many words that sound equal to me or I do hear the difference in pronunciation but can’t pronounce it the right way myself. For example ‘Dough’ and ‘dog’ or ‘goat’ and ‘coat’. There’s only a slight difference in the way it should be pronounced. Like most people I find it harder to grasps and make sense on what I hear than to speak. As in reading English or even Dutch, reading has never been my strongest suit. Despite the fact that my English has improved a lot over time my English vocabulary is by far smaller than my Dutch vocabulary, what really annoys me from time to time.
I just can’t identify with people who do not have the urge to speak the national language. Like the other day I spoke to this Armenian guy who lives most of his life in NY, 27 years, but did not speak proper English. In my job as a teacher it really bothers me that I have to bend over backwards to make myself clear to third generation immigrants because they speak poor Dutch. To me integration is adjusting to the national culture while maintaining your own culture. A great part of integration is being able to communicate in the national language. If it would be up to me you should not be given legal residency or citizenship without speaking the language of the country. – by Bregje
If there would be a lesson in life, this trip really forces me to face the fact that life is too precious to take the good things in life for granted.
Nearly everyone dwells in the past at some point. That’s okay, but some people do it more often and are more likely to get stuck in their own sorrow. What you think comes about. Over time your thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It took me a long time to realize that it is only a mindset to become master over your own thoughts. Of course you have to cull out your gutter at one point but clinging to outdated issues only have a negative effect on you. I met this friendly guy in Chicago. To a certain extent we had a lot in common. The biggest difference is that he still dwells in his past and I moved on.
Everyone has to deal with his own difficulties in life. For me being childless-not-by-choice will always leave a scar, but on the other hand having children will probably be an even heavier burden at times.
My return to Kansas has made me realize even more how vulnerable we are and the importance of appreciating life.
Winfield, the town I use to live 30 years ago lost all its liveliness. I think it disappeared after the non surviving companies closed their doors. I was shocked by the poor state of maintenance and the many abandon places. I was told that in Arkansas, a neighboring town, the degradation is even worse. This might be part of the reason of the high rate of alcohol and meth addictions. As we speak one of my former classmates is in jail, probably for possession of drugs.
But even more so I was shocked by the amount of friends who are terminally sick, fighting their illness or overcame their illness. I wish every cloud has a silver lining. Bless them all.
The other day I had this really open conversation with one of my host ‘sisters’ who fought cancer. I was touched by the way she spoke about how she coped and overcame her illness. She took me to a boxing class. Believe me, she is super fit. You go girl!
I guess the best spirit is to count your blessings. There is no use crying over spilled milk. Move on and as my sister quoted ‘do not sweat the small stuff’. -Bregje
A lot of people tend to look for an authentic trip. I have to admit, I am one of those. I write off entire countries or cities for being “too touristy”.
Nowadays with the greatly increased tourism it’s getting harder and harder to find areas that are still authentic. Over the years I’ve been to several places that were still pretty unknown when I visited. Unfortunately mass tourism destroys all the authenticity. Like Machu Picchu in Peru. I just heard that they take turns to visit the ruins so it will not be over-crowded. How about the long-necks in Burma. Some women have decided to abandon it, choosing a more modern style. Some continue to wear the rings, not because of any dedication to the tradition, but for pragmatic, commercial reasons instead.
My ultimate authentic experience would mean going to places where I would be the only foreigner, I wouldn’t be seen dead amongst loads of annoying tourist who are taking over the entire place by being loud and obnoxious. I rather think of myself as a foreigner than as a tourist. I get a kick out of it when people ask me for directions, of course this makes it a lot harder when I am the only ‘white’ around.
My favourite holiday memories are the times I’ve done a bit of exploring on my own. There’s so much joy in hiring a bike, catching the local bus or just wondering around in out-of-the-way towns and villages where day to day life still goes on as normal. I’m glad I had this opportunity, but it also made me realized that my traveling to rural areas harmed the authenticity of these places. It made me decide to quit backpacking to these rural areas.
Two years ago I went on my first home swap. These swaps and also staying with friends give me the opportunity to still experience a bit of the day to day life. This year I returned to Kansas after 30 years. It’s like time stood still. Just like back in ’87 I did not expect to find any cowboys in Kansas. Gracefully the cowboy culture is still alive and kick’n. I’ve been privileged to enjoy a fabulous stage show by the Prairie Rose Rangers, a true classic country band and to witness a rodeo at the Winfield Cowley County fair.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a second chance to participate in this authentic everyday life of Kansas. -By Bregje
Growing up as a teen in the 80’s in Winfield, Kansas was a huge difference compared to being a teenager in Holland. The biggest contradiction was going out on Friday’s. Back in the late ’80’s Dutch teens were allowed to go to a bars and drink, but weren’t allowed to drive till they turned 18. While kids from Kansas could drive from the early age of fourteen but had the restrictions on alcohol till the age of 21. Which meant that Dutch teens use to ride their bikes to a bar to hang out with peers while kids from Kansas would “drag Main” instead on their night out.
“Dragging Main” was the primary activity on Fridays after the games. On a good night, there would be twenty other cars honking as you drove by. Some nights there were only a handful of cars.There were several solutions on even making a slow night to an adventure.
Like trowing (beer)cans at innocent kids on their bikes, fooling other road users by pulling down the drivers-seat while steering from the middle seat, mooning at other cars or by far my favorite activity the Chinese fire drill. A Chinese fire drill is a prank in which either all the passengers or the driver excluded jump out of the car at an intersection, run around the vehicle and before the light changes to green gets back inside, but not necessarily in their original seats. If one of the passengers lags, the others may drive off without him or her.
After an evening dragging main the wise kids went home and the ‘cool’ kids gathered together to drink at the Grove or some college kids house.
In case you wonder to what group I belonged, the right answer would have been ‘the wise kids’. By Bregje
To start with I’ve been communicating a lot with the lady I am having a home swap with. She is so incredibly nice. I think she one of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. I have to admit that she’s original not from Chicago but for a small town in Kansas.
The last couple of days I spend a lot of time in the outskirts of Chicago and I am glad to admit that there is a totally different vibe compared to downtown. Many great and cosy places to visit and most important of all, people are really friendly and helpful.
Like today I spend a great deal of time in Chitown greatest neighborhoods: Ukrainian village, Buck town and Wicker park. Thanks to their welcoming demeanour I had such a great time. Seen and done thing I would never had figured out on my own.
I reckon nobody likes to be proven wrong. But when it comes to adjusting my meaning on the Chicagoan, I am happy to do.
Who would want to miss out on seeing this ‘awesome’ fountain?! -by Bregje
For most of my friends it’s hard to believe but I used to be quite shy. When I had to buy a bread I rather went to the supermarket and grab one, than to ask for a bread at a bakery. I remember one day, instead of putting down my money on the counter and run off, I made contact with the cashier. A whole new world opened up to me. If I’ll be nice and open, people open up to me.
Ever since I arrived in Chicago I felt the same kind of shyness as I did when I was younger. I’ve been here five days now and seriously I had only one conversation. It’s like everyone is so caught up in their own lives that they literally don’t even hear me call out to them. Eventually if I ask for help people are willing to help. Unfortunately I get the feeling it’s to fulfill one’s obligations rather than they like to be helpful. As soon I’ve been helped I am ignored. On a few occasions I had a hotbed acting like she’s doing me a big favor just for doing her job.
Believe me I tried. I attempted to make conversation to the woman on the bus stand, the cashier at the Target, the old man behind me in line and so on. Not to brag but making conversation is my second nature and if I can’t make small talk nobody can.
It took me a week to realize why I felt this kind of shyness. Suddenly it occurred to me, it is not me, it’s the standoffish attitude off the Chicagoans toward me.
Does it make them bad people, of course not. It my personal experience and I love to be proven wrong. -Bregje
To everybody’s big surprise I graduate High School in 1987! Thanks to my mom, she was a great support. After graduating my mom offered me to go to the US to improve my English. I did not think much of it, but agreed. Up to today I’m so happy that I went. Of all places the exchange program dropped me in Kansas. At first I cried my eyes out. Why? Why Winfield, Kansas?! Why not Florida, California or a city like New York?
Looking back on my exchange year I feel advantaged. Advantaged in a way that I had the opportunity to experience the authentic Midwest living. Cowboys and cowgirls still exist in the late ’80. Except for the part that they redeemed their horses for pick up trucks.
A while ago I did this virtual tour on google earth all around Winfield, Kansas. Like time stood still, it hardly changed in the past decennia. Once a year there is this big blue grass festival. I would love to go there some day.
During my High School year ’88 I stayed with three different families. The first one kicked me out after about 6 weeks. Up to today I do not know the reason why I could not stay with my first family. I can only speculate. The following week I managed to find myself a new place to stay. I did not want to worry my mom, so I called her after I had everything arranged. Being a teen I choose a family with lots of freedom. A single mom and a daughter my age. The last month I moved to Wichita, where I stayed with a big Mexican family. A widow mom with 8 daughters and one son. I had a wonderful year even though it wasn’t alway easy being a seventeen year old far away from home in a different culture than my own.
It’s hard to realize now but back in the ’80 there was no internet. My classes I spent writing letters to friends and family. Once a month I had the opportunity to call home for only 5 minutes to reduce costs.
It impossible the imagine a life without internet now. In a way it makes my world a lot smaller being able to be in contact all the time, but it also makes it so much bigger. Sharing my blogs to all these known and unknown people all around the world. -Bregje-
The other day I met this really friendly guy, JJ, in the Washington square park. He overheard me talking to this couple next to me. He tells me he is going to Amsterdam in a few weeks. He shows me the apartment he is going to rent. Darn, they really under charged my guests in my apartment.
JJ is is a musician. He also has a 9 to 5 job to pay for most of his expenses. After a long and hard day at work he usually goes to the park to jam with other musicians to unwind.
When I cross the park a few days later I see JJ with a couple of guys jamming.The crowd is getting bigger and bigger. Lots of people are familiar with the lyrics and join in. The guys sure know how to entertain. What strikes me, they play just for fun, instead of making money. It’s almost midnight when they stop. JJ invites me for a drink at the Reggio’s café, a bar Bob Dylan use to hang out.
Making music has always kept JJ going. In good and bad times. It helps him to relax after day at work. He does not have to keep up an appearance like on his 9-5 job. He tells me a story about a timid boy who asked if he could sing too. The boy seemed to have a golden voice. One of the treasures of an open stage in the park.
After we met, I saw JJ preform twice with two different groups of musicians. Some are pretty good musicians. Like the guitar player who played at my request some blue grass. Lots of people in the park enjoy the free music.
The beauty of making music is that it does not matter what kind of job you have neither is it based on race, sex, salary, education, religion, ethnicity or disability.
Suddenly the homeless man is a band-member. Music bonds. -Bregje-
Tonight is my last night at 1, 5th Ave. The night sift doorman is in the lobby. I ask him if I could sleep at Keith’s place tonight. Little surprised his asks me if I know the guy. I tell him that I’m sure he won’t mind, he’s never there. ‘Just give him a buzz please.’
Unbelievably, Keith Richard bought his apartment on 1, 5th Avenue two year ago for $10 million. Mr. Richard has only used his apartment a couple of times over the past years and is now selling for $12,23 million.
I’ll bet Mr. Richard will not mind me using his place for just one night. Can you imagine me pretending to be miss Richard for one night without Mr. Richard being around. That would be a great way to end this wonderfull stay in New York.
Bye Bye New York. Gonna miss you… Thank you for the marvelous time. I’ll hope to be back soon. -Bregje-
‘How are you today?’ is the most common way people will greet you. Irrespective of if you know the person or not. Just an answer like ‘Fine, how are you?’ will do. They do not expect an extended explanation. Back in time I use to make up some weird answer to see if they were even listening. Don’t even bother, most of the time they do not. A sufficient farewell would either be ‘Bye’ or ‘Have a good one’. But of course there are many more. If a momentary conversation has taken place one can use ‘Nice to meet you’ or ‘Nice talking to you’. It’s that simple. Make sure that if you come across someone on the street and you are in company of others, do not forget to introduce them. If not, they consider you being very rude.
‘Please’ is the magic word. We Dutch do not use that word as often. Not that we are not polite, we just pay more attention to the tone you use.
Different cultures have different codes on social behavior. Typically, you shake hands when you meet someone. This is common most everywhere. But one additional thing is, here it is common to hug a person, even when you first met. Just a light hug, where you just put arm around his or her back and just touch your head lightly. Cheek kissing is very common in most parts of the world except for English-speaking Canada, the United States and Asia. A single kiss is acceptable in the United States, but it’s mostly a big-city phenomenon. Like when I was introduced to the owner of the ‘Omars la Ranita’. Here it’s not done to kiss anybody else, except your partner, on the lips. Even not your own kids! So many cultures, so many habits on whether to kiss or not.
Except for French kissing, this seems universal as far as I know. -Bregje-
There is no doubt if I am my moms daughter. I resemble her both in terms of appearance and in terms of character. One of the most significant similarities, I am proud of, is that we both are extremely curious, sympathetic to others and like to write.
There is one big difference between my mom and I. I refer myself as a philistine, cause I don’t read lots of books, I am not as interested in music, arts nor politics, compared to her. Visiting New York for my mom means spending as much time as possible on arti, musical and historical stuff. For her it’s unthinkable to ‘waist’ precious time while being in this big cultural city.
I am the opposite. During my holidays I do not like to be on a tide schedule and I rather blend in with the locals by having a nice conversation over a coffee than seeing all the high lights. I like to know what their life is all about and how they coop with curtain issues. For me to interact with locals makes my holiday so much more interesting instead of hanging around other tourist.
For example. The other day I did go to the MoMa. In a way, even though I am a grown up, I did not wanted to disappoint my mom. I have to admit I did like, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the almost 700 snapshot-like portraits of Nan Goldin taken herself elsewhere in the late 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. I also liked ‘the mapping journey’ of Bouchra Khalili. A series of videos that details the stories of eight individuals who have been forced by political and economic circumstances to travel illegally.
But… most of my time I was fully distracted by the hordes of tourists taking their selfies in all kind of posses, probably to post on social media. Completely absorbed in their activity they had to be warned several times not to molest the art. As specially in the pop art section they were hard to ignore.
I wonder how many of these annoying tourist went just like me to the MoMa just because they were guided by their imposed values instead of doing what they really like.
Maybe I am not a philistine after all, just like my mom. We both share our cultural interest, only each in our own way.
Why this topic. I am invited to a dinner party. I asked around what to bring. First I went into the flower shop but ran back out when I heard the price on a tiny bunch of French lavender. Sweet baby Jesus they charge twenty dollar! Wine it would be, even though the prices on alcohol are outraged as well. Curios and exited what to expect I arrive with a bottle of wine at seven. According to the doormen the dinner party is on the roof. Luckily I changed into my little black dress, still being underdressed. There aren’t many people yet. I introduce myself to the hostess. I am quite surprised that Nathalie herself is not trowing the party but one of her neighbors. Since Nathalie is not there yet I excuse my self and go down to Nathalie’s. Guess what! I went to the wrong party! Nathalie is having a dinner get together with friends and I am invited.
Apparently I interpret the word ‘diner party’ differently. Luckily I did not give my precious wine to the wrong hostess.
For me speaking a foreign language like English is easier than listing to a foreign language. When I speak I use words, phrases and expressions I know. Reading is the hardest part for me.
Not all peoples have the same experience. The other day I spoke to a woman who finds reading so much easier.
I write most of my reports on my IPhone. Luckily I can switch my phone to English. This makes writing so much easier. Although it will not correct words sounding similar but with different meanings like ‘allowed’ and ‘aloud’.
I just realized that when I first arrived in New York, and also last year when I visited San Fransisco, I am surprised how easily words and phrases pop out of my mouth. After a week or so I start feeling ashamed and get more and more frustrated of not being able to express my self the way I can express myself in my native language ‘Dutch’.
Trying to find the right words, even in my sleep, can be really tiring.
Diner is nice. Nathalie’s friend is from Bagdad and is also not a native speaker. He chares his embracing moment. Growing up he learned English by watching American movies like the Tarantino’s. Back in Irak he once referred to an Afro American soldier as a ‘nigger’. Not knowing the impact of his word choice. He did not know he would be insulting the man. He liked this man!
I remember being seventeen and getting into the ‘Taco Tico’ a Mexican restaurant with some friends. Obvious they had been cleaning, the whole place smelt like ammonia. Instead of saying it smelled like ammonia I said: It’s smells like a maniac’. -Bregje-
If you live in New York City you probably don’t have a backyard that your dog can access through a pet door when he wants to go out and stretch his legs or use the “facilities.” And if you’re like many dog owners in the city, you want your dog to be able to go for a walk when you as a doggymammy or doggydaddy haven’t got the time to walk your own baby. That’s why they have these masculine drop-dead gorgeous dogwalkers. It seems like they are picked on their looks. Many operators in the industry are individuals that conduct their entire business alone, including organizational and administrative tasks and walking the dogs themselves. I read somewhere that they probably make more money than we do.
They are recognizable by their green shirt and their belt w/ karabiners on the side. Still looking pretty hot I would say. But…. even little babies need to poop some time.
The other day we saw this good looking dog-walker picking up the poop of one of his furry clients and holding this poop bag as if he was going to faint. Believe me even a handsome guy turns into a dateless loser all of a sudden. -Bregje-
Finding a public bathroom in New York City can be a big challenge. Why is finding a basic necessity so difficult in New York City? You manage to find that t-shirt you’ve been looking for, you successfully navigate the subway system without getting lost, but finding a (clean) restroom while you’re exploring the city can be a difficult task.
The NYPD issues between 20,000 and 30,000 citations for public urination each year. It’s not clear who really is at fault—the person who is relieving him or herself, or the city. Public urination is a response to a significant infrastructure in New York. It is one of the hardest urban problems to fight. Over the years there were several activist organizations. Safe2Pee, is one of an activist organization who says “It’s a fundamental human right”. PHLUSH, is an other group fighting upstream, like a salmon trapped in a river of urine, to get public restrooms installed in cities.
Yet it’s proved incredibly difficult to construct sidewalk public bathrooms. In New York, the density of people on sidewalks is much too high to stick a public restroom every four blocks. Restrooms are expensive. A similar restroom like the Portland Loo costs about $60,000 each to construct, and another $1,200 a month to maintain. To install a few thousand of these around New York could veer into the tens of millions of dollars just to install.
In brief the solution: Either buy yourself some diapers when you like to explore the streets of New York or use the link below. -Bregje-