I received a letter from the IND Front Office last week, conveniently on a night when I had a few Dutch friends over for dinner. I turned to Micha and asked "hey, would you mind translating this for me... Oh wait, nevermind, they also sent the same letter in English" (can this get any easier?). It had these beautiful words:
Hierbij berichten wij u dat uw verblijfsdocument is binnengekomen.
Your residence permit is ready. We would like you to collect the permit.
I had to pick up my permit in person, so I went to the office today (at Orlyplein 141-147) with my letter and passport. About 90 seconds after I walked in the building, I walked out with my residence card, valid until the 9th of June 2009 (it matches my work contract dates). It's so official! The card is the same size as a US Drivers License and is pretty much the last step I need to take in making my life here "real." Now all I have to do is change my address to my new apartment so my mail will go to the right place. The one other administrative step I might take is obtaining a Dutch drivers license. I would honestly be perfectly happy to never drive a car again, and I have zero plans to ever own a car as long as I'm in Amsterdam. But some American friends told me that if I go within the first 6 months of my residency here, I can simply trade my US license for a Dutch license, without having to take any tests. I suppose it couldn't hurt – if I ever wanted to rent a vehicle for some reason, it would be nice to have that convenience.
Today was incredibly rainy and pretty chilly in Amsterdam, but I've mastered a system for making it through my commute to work. I bring an extra pair of jeans with to work in my (water-resistant messenger style) bag, and I keep an extra pair of shoes at my office. Hair goes back in a ponytail, and my bangs get pinned back. Headphones go on (I wear over-the-head headphones to listen to my ipod in the morning, as earbuds don't really work for me), which also helps hold my bangs back, and the headphones somehow help keep my hood firmly in place. After five minutes of entering my office, I had changed into dry pants and shoes, my hair was brushed and in place, and since my (waterproof) jacket kept the top half of me dry, no one could have guessed that I rode through the pouring rain this morning. I have to admit though, this 2-pairs-of-pants thing is a little annoying, so on my list of things to do is acquire a pair of rain pants.
While I'm on the topic of cycling, let me take the opportunity to recommend a fantastic blog: Amsterdamize, which I believe was inspired by Copenhagenize. If you're a bit obsessed with bicycle culture or have a thing for pictures of bikes, it's quite possible you could spend an entire day (or more) going through those two blogs and following the links to other blogs and watching the videos and so on. I love Amsterdamize because it's published by a native Amsterdammer, and he writes about bike culture here with just as much love as I have for it - but provides the type of insight and background that I wouldn't be able to do (well, not yet, but give me ten years).
I missed my bike while I was visiting friends in Berlin this past weekend. Berlin is really bike-friendly and I would have loved to explore the city on 2 wheels, especially since I was hanging out with a good friend from Amsterdam while I was there. Having 3 people and two bikes never would have stopped us from taking bikes anywhere in Amsterdam (she's ridden me on the back of her bike before a few times), but the Berlin bikes aren't really built to carry extra people. We attempted to ride together anyway, with me on the seat and her standing up on the pedals - it worked for a little while but eventually we gave up. Anyway, despite not having a bike, I had a fantastic time in Berlin. It was my second visit there, so I mostly just hung out with friends and stuck to their neighborhoods. The most notable thing that happened was running into a guy from New Paltz at a friend's house party on Friday night. I grew up in New Paltz, New York, and it is not a big town. And even stranger than running into him at a party (which was being hosted by someone I've known for about a month), I ran into him again (!) the next day at the Berlin wall. Nice guy, and hey - if he happens to read this - sorry I didn't call on Saturday night, my phone ran out of credit.
Which reminds me, on my list of things to do: get a real phone contract.