Anyone Have Any Brick?

Kolonisten
Saturday afternoon, we headed to Oudewater to finally experience the thrill and frustration of Kolonisten. It’s a game a bit like a mix of Risk and the Sims, as you build up and trade resources and grow your developments and build streets. The title of this post refers to one of the materials you need to build roads and cities. It’s the one material I was always short of the first round. My kingdom for a brick! If you haven’t annoyed your competitors too much with the Robber, you can always try to trade materials with each other. The game is a lot of fun and there’s a lot of strategy involved, as well. It’s also an excellent game to play with friends while nibbling on lots of different cheeses and meats and breads and dips, as were so generously provided by our hosts. We had a wonderful evening of good friends, good fun and good food. If you play board games, I highly recommend this one.

Rather than worry about driving to Oudewater, we decided to take the bus this time. We managed without any real difficulty, other than a bit of confusion over whether we’d properly checked in and out with the OV-chipkart getting on and off the buses. It was charming to see how friendly and cheerful the passengers were with the bus driver, chatting and saying goodbye and thanks as they got off. I guess if you ride the same bus regularly, you start to recognize your driver. Taking the bus also meant we got to walk through a bit more of Oudewater and enjoy a beautiful dusk. The sky at 10 at night was washed with a beautiful mix of pinks, blues and purples.
Oudewater
And this was the view at the bus stop. Not bad!
Bus Stop View

Quiz Night

Mijn Vasje
Since moving here, we’ve participated in a few quiz nights that have been held at the Potdeksel. They’ve always been special occasion evenings rather than a regular event. However, that is changing with the introduction of the Murphy’s Quiz Night, held the first Tuesday of every month. This week was the inaugural quiz night and even though we were a bit tired, we still went and managed to hold our own.

The first time I participated in a quiz night at the Potdeksel, I was on the winning team. Of course, I was also paired up that evening with Kris, the son of the owner of the bar. That helped tremendously, although I held my own on the musical rounds. The second time, G and I were paired up and we came in third out of eight teams. Not too shabby for a couple of expats, considering all of the other teams were Dutch and the quiz was in Dutch. This week, G and I were paired up again and we tied with another team for fourth place out of six teams. If only we could have remembered James Taylor’s name, we would have had fourth place all to ourselves. Still, once again we managed to beat at least one Dutch team. We were also the smallest team, having only the two of us, while all of the other teams had three members or more.

The quizzes are in Dutch, but it helps that we know the quiz master, who is kind enough to translate for us when we’re completely clueless — which is often. The questions themselves were a mix of subjects, such as politics, sports, television and geography. There was also one music round. I think the question I got correct that surprised me the most was the colors of the Angola flag. I have no idea how I knew it — and I can’t tell you specifically what the flag looks like — but I was positive that the colors were red, black and yellow. Funny the things you know without realizing!

Stop Inburgering Me!

Kaatstraat
(the building where I had to go for my appointment on Monday)

A couple of weeks ago, I got a folder in the mail from the Gemeente Utrecht (city offices sort of thing). That’s rarely a good thing anywhere, so I was apprehensive opening it. Sure enough, there was a letter telling me I was invited to begin the inburgering program (Dutch integration program) with an appointment at 10:15 on 5 January.

At first glance, you might not think that’s such a big deal. In fact, it might seem like a good thing — but it’s not. It’s an intensive, expensive program culminating in six 1-hour exams or more, with questions covering more than just history and politics. I’ve heard of questions involving discussion of how to build a shed, along with topics about childbirth, as well. Not to mention various other requirements involving reports or role-playing that are too convoluted to go into here.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to do this program. I also was under the impression that I did not have to do it, because of G being an EU citizen and the fact that I was admitted into the country as his partner. Of course, tracking down official information is not so easy. Ultimately, though, I read enough to make me pretty positive that under EU law, as a partner of an EU citizen, I was covered under the freedom of movement law, making me exempt from the inburgering program.

Despite being fairly positive, I was still a bit nervous this morning when it came time to head off for my interview. All the worrying was in vain, as it has always been when it comes to anything regarding immigration here. Everyone is always very friendly, kind and helpful, and the woman I met with didn’t seem to have any issue when I said that I didn’t think I was required to do the program. She looked at my residence card — which says essentially that I have the same rights as an EU citizen — and that was that. She made a copy of my card and passport, just for the records, and explained that they generally send the letter out to everyone who isn’t an EU citizen themselves, but that I wasn’t their target. As long as G and I don’t break up, I don’t have to do the program.

Ultimately, if I wanted to become a Dutch citizen, I’d have to at least pass some sort of exam, although the program isn’t actually mandatory. As it stands, after five years, I will have almost all of the benefits of being a Dutch citizen, without actually having to become one, per the IND (immigration) officer I met with when we first moved.

So, I didn’t have to use any of my examples to show that I’m trying to assimilate and integrate already. I didn’t have to explain how we came in fourth — out of eight teams — at the Christmas Eve Quiz, beating at least eight other actual Dutch people. I didn’t have to explain how we’d taken part in Sinterklaas this year and even written poems (even if they were in English). I didn’t have to give my scores at sjoelen. I didn’t even have to pull out my ace and sing along to Utrecht Mijn Stad!

Utereg het mooist van allemaal!