A peek into my life for my friends all over the world!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry X-mas and a Wonderful 2008!

Almost half a year went through and I haven't updated my blog...shame on me. I guess that as a new year resolution I'll have to ensure that that doesn't happen anymore.

I promise that I'll have plenty to write (not that I didn't have to the past months, it just happen...or actually, it just didn't happen) :-s

On Thursday 20th I'll be going to my beautiful country, Peru. I'll be going back after over a year (I have broken a record!). Where I'll be spending Christmas with my WHOLE family after 9 years (whenever I was back, Antonella was in Aspen)! And we even have an extra member this year, my brother in law: Gus :) I'm really looking forward to it.

Plus, 2 Dutch friends will also be coming to Peru: Joost and Eline. And also my good German friend Martin. And as if this wasn't already good enough we'll be spending 5 beautiful days in Mancora, 1200kms to the north of Lima in the coast, in this beautiful beach where Antonella and Gus got married last year. There will be 33 of us...between Antonella's and my friends: this includes Peruvians living abroad, Peruvians living in Lima and foreigners (besides my friends, Murphy and Jason will be coming back to Peru directly from Aspen).
I can HARDLY wait to be there!

I'm going to leave it here though...and I will tell you all about it next year. And I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful X-mas and a GREAT 2008! Thank you for your friendship during 2007. I hope that we keep it in the year to come and if geographical distance have kept us apart I hope we can meet soon.

All the very best to you and your family.

Much much love and best wishes! Cate

Friday, August 17, 2007

Earthquake in Peru

Yesterday very early in the morning I got a call: in the evening, Peruvian time (while I was sleeping in Europe) there had been a 7.9 Earthquake in my country, in MY home city. You can't imagine the feeling. I was told immediately that it hadn't been very big in Lima, that everything was under control and that my friends had communicated with my parents over Internet and that they were ok. However, the pressure I felt in my heart, the punch I felt in my stomach...I cannot explain it.

I immediately ran towards the phone and dialled my parent's home number and my dad answered the phone. The moment I heard his voice I started crying, tears rolling down my eyes. Everything was ok. And over that phone line I felt the physical distance, the huge ocean that divides me from my family and my Peruvian friends. I also immediately felt relief. However, I'm not sure if you can actually understand this but instead of feeling good about the fact that I didn't have to be there in such a tough time, I actually felt that I wanted to be there. In fact, I still want to be there. At the moment the after shocks are still going on, and over 300 small tremours have been taking place, a couple of them reaching almost 6 degrees intensity this morning.

Lima, the capital city has been lucky and it's been plenty of chaos and people are still scared. However in Ica, 250 kms south of Lima the disaster is massive. So far there there have been 510 deaths and 1500 injured. With over 17,000 destroyed houses, complete families are now homeless resulting in a staggering 85,000 people that have been affected by this disaster. The towns of Pisco and Chincha in Ica have been severely effected with devastation to more that 70% of the area.

As usual, the ones who suffer the most are the poorest people. This is that even though I'm far away I wanted to let you know that there are several initiatives to help out the victims of the earthquake and you can help out. I found out that the "Asociacion Peru-Holanda" is currently receiving monetary donations in their account:

Asociacion Peru-Holanda (http://www.peru-holanda.org/)
ABN Amro
Mention: For victims of Earthquake

If you wish to contribute please do so, if you are in another country contact the Peruvian consulate in your country and they should have a bank account where you can make a contribution. For a list of all the Peruvian consulates in the world click here.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank to all the ones that have phoned, e-mailed or SMS me since yesterday asking about my family. You can't imagine what that means to me. Thank God my family and friends are all doing good, even though they are still very scared. Several of my friends work in the business area and you can imagine that having to go down by the stairs on a shaking building from the floor 19 is not funny. Fortunatly most of Lima buildings are built for this kind of situations so they stay put, but it's obviously not a nice experience to be there.

Lets hope that things calm down and that the support can reach the victims in Ica soon.


For the people in Peru, please read below how can you help:

Las guias scouts tienen otra alternativa:

Pueden donar bolsas ya hechas para los niños damnificados pues no sólo no tienen casas, ahora no tienen nada.
¿qué meter en esas bolsas?

. 1 cartita escrita por sus hijos/sobrinos o por ustedes mismos, dándoles ánimo
. 1 cuento
. 1 polo
. 1 juguete
. 1 peluche
. golosinas empacadas
. y todo lo que se les ocurra.

Estaremos recibiendo además de esto, todo tipo de donaciones (ropa, frazadas, comida no perecible, agua, medicinas), inclusive apoyo para el transporte de las mismas... si las empresas en las que trabajan quieren apoyar y no saben a través de quien enviar la ayuda llámennos.

Todo esto lo entregaremos un grupo de Guías y estará bajo nuestra supervisión para evitar la viveza de gente inescrupulosa.
La idea es congregar a los niños por intermedio de las Guías de las localidades más afectadas y nosotras personalmente entregarle a cada niño la bolsa y a sus familias el resto de donaciones.

Si alguien puede hacer de nexo entre varias personas y quiere que se recojan las cosas de sus oficinas o de sus casas avísenme.

El centro de acopio es:

Calle Zaragoza 131, Urb. La Castellana Surco (paralela cdra 2 Av. Paseo la Castellana a 2 cuadras del óvalo de Higuereta)
Telf: 271-0334

Mil gracias a todos.

Mariana Arias-Ponce Sparrow
Jefa de Recaudación de Fondos del Consejo de Lima
Guías Scouts
cel: 9963-4713

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back to Brussels

The 25th of this month it will be 7 years that I'm living in Europe. It has gone by so fast that sometimes is really weird to believe, but then I remember 7 different summers, winters, birthdays...and so many trips back home....that then it's a little more obvious to believe.

And who would believe it all started in Brussels. I went there to work for a year fulltime for AIESEC, a student organisation that I belonged to when I was at university. I lived in Brussels for a whole year...in a mixture of student and early job life. Looking back now, it was an amazing year! After I left Brussels I used to visit it rather often as I still had some friends living there and also due to the convenient fact that it takes less than 3 hours by train and that it's really unexpensive.

However, you know how things are, eventually the trips started to be more spaced between each other and eventually I realised that the last time I had been there was in June 2004 when I went to Canon Belgium for a business meeting. Luckily earlier this year I found in MSN a really good friend of mine, Queenie, and we decided we had to change that. So we planned for me to come over and to visit her.

I arrived on Friday 6th of July to Brussels north station a little over 20:00 as I took a train straight after work and Queenie went to pick me up. We drove into town and went for some dinner. First reminder: Belgian cuisine is exquisite and the value for money it's so good compared to Amsterdam! So we had a delicious meal with some wine in a nice terrace and by the time we were done we walked to the Grande Place.

The Grande Place is the main square of Brussels. No matter how many times I've been to that square- which is almost impossible to count as I've been there many many times- that place always takes my breath away! The richness of the architecture, the composition of the different buildings, the townhall....it's just so beautiful. We went there because while we were having dinner I remembered that during the summer just before dark they have a beautiful light who with music, which we went to see and that I filmed a little bit and you can see here.

A trip down Memory Lane

On Saturday morning Queenie and Roel (her boyfriend) had to go to a funeral so I decided that I would use my morning to go into town. I didn't realise that this would be an AMAZING opportunity. All the times when I've been back to Brussels I always did it visiting friends, or actually bringing friends over so they could see Brussels. I had never gone back on my own, after I left on July 2001, to go around the places where I used to go during the year I lived there.
I went to most of the touristic places where tourists would walk...but I actually made an effort to take the same route that I used to do while I was living there. You see, while I was living in Brussels I almost never left the centre. I lived in the centre, I worked in the centre, I hanged out in the centre....to be honest with you, I really didn't need to use public transport because I could walk anywhere!

So I went back to la "Rue de L'enseignement" which is the street were I used to live in and I made my way to the office walking a little over 10 minutes in "la Rue Royale". I took my time and remembered things...the places where I used to go, the places where I used to buy the bread, where I had breakfast, lunch, where I did my laundry, where I used to buy books.

I walked through the Botanical gardens which were really close to where I used to work...I went to the Royal Palace (only a couple of blocks away from where I used to live) and just followed a nice route into town passing through monuments, museums, nice buildings. And I would stop, remember things, take photos and move on.

I guess I remembered anecdotes, stories, people that had been there with me and in general the life I had with the guys that were my family while I was there: Luz (Venezuela), Jeff (Belgian), Paulo (Portuguese) and also Marta (Colombia/Canada) and Chayo (Peru). I remembered the trainees we took care of: Marcus (New Zealand), Nairo (Colombia), Andrea (Italy), Juan Carlos (Colombia) and so many more. Below just a handful of photos from my year in Belgium (00-01)...

It was just a great weekend!
I of course remembered how delicious the Belgian waffles are, how many different types of delicious "chocolateries" can be found, the beautiful lace sold in all the souvenir shops, the different types of beers....
We even went to Antwerpt towards the end of Saturday afternoon (Queenie, Roel and me)....Queenie and me chatted the WHOLE weekend. We had so much to catch up on. We had nice walks, nice food, nice Belgian beers ;-). It was just SO nice!
If you want to see photos of my weekend (mainly me taking photos of all the places that I missed so much) click here.

On Sunday, after a really delicious brunch and a nice chat, Queenie and Roel took me to North Station where I took my train back to Amsterdam.
It was wonderful to catch up with Queenie, it was amazing to see Brussels again...but even more the whole experience of going back, remembering, reflecting....it made me think how much I've changed. It reminded me of Caterina 7 years ago, and Caterina now...

Do I miss Peru? Yes. Do I miss my family? oh YES. Do I miss my friends? Yes to that too....would I go back? Just not yet....I do like Amsterdam and my life here, for the moment....I'm in Europe to stay! ;-)

Monday, July 2, 2007

George Michael in Amsterdam

It was 1989, I was a teenager and I my room reflected that: posters of New Kids on the Block (yes I'm not ashamed to admit it, my favourite was Joe), Debbie Gibson (I totally believed that I could sing REALLY good "I get lost in your eyes), Guns and Roses and of course: George Michael. I had a live poster of this gorgeous hunk: with his stoned wash jeans, his black leather jacket, his tiny little cross hanging from an ear, a grown beard, his guitar and his boots. Boy did I have a teenage crush on this man! (lets not go into the time when I was terribly crushed at finding out he was gay...I'm still on denial!)

I've always loved all his songs, back from his time at Wham! going through all his songs to the present. So imagine how excited I was when in March I heard that George Michael was coming to Amsterdam. I was first really bummed when I realised the tickets would start going on sale when I was going to be on a plane crossing the Atlantic on my way to Aspen...however when I was back from holidays I managed to find some tickets. And I was happy to find out that Aissa liked George Michael as much as me. So we got the tickets.

D day finally came last week, Tuesday 26th. Aissa and me met in the metro station close to the Amsterdam Arena. After getting some food among the large amount people forming queues everywhere, we decided to get in. We were happy to see we had quite nice seats in the South part of the stadium. That meant that we could see George right in front of us.

The opening act was done by Sophie Ellis Bexter which was rather nice as I like her quite a lot. She sang for almost an hour...so it was a good warm-up. After that we had to wait for almost one and a half hour. The tension was building up. Close to 21:00 the crowd started making the wave around the stadium (about 50,000 people)...it was fun to participate and you can view a small video of it here.

At 21:10 the music starts, the lights go off in the stage (it was not completly dark yet as it's getting completely dark in this part of the world close to 23:00) and a really nice play of lights starts. Then suddenly you can hear his voice...and suddenly he can be seen in the screens, the crowd goes wild, and he appears in the stage too and he sings "Fast Love". (Unfortunately the video is over 100mb and I can't upload it :-s)

Now...I have been to several concerts in the Netherlands, as a "grown up" and of course I love music and I love dancing and my point is that concerts should be full of people who dance and express themselves...but I would say that I went back several years and I couldn't contain myself, I was screaming!!!! ahhhhhhhh (picture current teenager screaming at Justin Timberlake or something similar). I was happy to notice though that Aissa was also part of this...so it was just easier.

The whole concert was a combination of the old and the new songs from Wham!, songs from his earlier work and the newer ones. As you will see in the photos the lighting in the stage was unbelievable, one of my favorites was when he was singing "Praying for time", it appeared that he was sitting on the sea with a beautiful sunset in the back. You can view the video by clicking here.

After one whole hour of singing and entertaining the audience he went on a 20 minute break after which it looked like a helicopter was getting into the audience, the effect was quite good and after a while he appeared wearing a policeman uniform and he looked SO hot and you must have guessed by now that he sang "Lets go outside". Obviously, Aissa, me and the rest of the crowd went wild!

After 40 more minutes of singing he made the whole crowd sang along to a Wham! hits "I'm your man" and "The Edge of Heaven" and he thanked and then left. For a moment I panicked...my experience tells me that Dutch people are rather quiet, and in all the concerts I've been to, I've NEVER heard them chorus an "encore" (except Juanes, but back then the music hall was full of Latin people so that doesn't count). However the Dutchies rose to the ocassion and not only did they screamed, whistled and shouted as if it were "Queen's day", but they even managed to improvise a little "Ole 0le" song...I was rather surprised. I have been told though afterwards by several other people that this might have had to do with the fact that half of the crowd was gay... considering that I didn't really spot many gays around me I'm not so sure about the truth of that statement.
However I was VERY happy because after about 5 minutes...George came back and did a memorable performance of "Careless Whisper". By that point I almost didn't have any voice left and I sang and sang along (don't laugh at me when you hear my voice in the background of the video) and this brought back memories of summer of 1985...when I was not even close to being a teenager how I loved that song because it was the last favourite song of my grandma.

He then left again and suddenly his band started playing "Happy Birthday" as just the day before he had turned 44. The whole crowd joined in to the song and then George clapped at us and thanked us for our beautiful singing...he then thanked his band, he thanked us and he did the last song of the evening: FREEDOM!!! Which was obviously unbelievable!!

Aissa and me left the stadium at around 11:45....in great joy, totally in George Michael mood and with a hunch of a sore throat for the next day.

It was definitely one of the best concerts ever! If you want to look at the photos click here. This guy is a great performer, entertainer and my God he has a BEAUTIFUL voice, if I ever have the chance again, I'll definitely go and see him again!! :)
I normally wouldn't do this, but I have to because I was RATHER impressed by the quality, considering I was so far from him (I was south and I had the whole stadium to cross): All videos and photos have been taken with my brand new Canon Digital IXUS 75 ;-) (PowerShot SD750 in the American market) I love it already!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Papa: my hero

Spanish version below/version en español debajo
A little over a month ago I dedicated my weekly blog to my mother, as it was mother's day...well this time is Father's day and I decided that I had to do the same.

How to start? Let me put it this way, have you ever had to answer the question of who is your hero? Well, I've been asked that question a couple of times and for me, my hero is my dad.

And I don't mean it in the way that little kids always see their fathers: as the big and strong guy who can make everything well...maybe that was when I was a little girl. I mean it because my dad is one of the nicest persons that I know and he has so many qualities that I value in any person: he's an honest person, true to his word, patient, charismatic, charming, he always tries to see the best in everybody, hard worker, a wonderful friend, husband, brother and of course, father.

When I remember my happy childhood memories he's always there. He came home from work and he would whistle while opening the door! I can remember our Sundays...those were the times when we had more time, he would always take us out for lunch, to the playground, to the beach, for ice-cream...and when we were small those were the days he would bathe us and we loved it! And then at the end of the day (even when I was not that small anymore) he would put Francesca and me to bed and he would tell us a story before bed time. His imagination was endless!

Growing up in a country like Peru things are not like in Europe. Education is not for free and basically the great education, all the endless list of extra lessons, everything we had was due to his hard work.

He's the sweetest person, always smiling, always calming and soothing. Such a nice and romantic person. I'll never forget my last Valentine's day in Peru back in 2000...he didn't only buy roses for my mom, he sent 4 bouquet of roses, each in a different colour...for his 4 "innamorate". (And then you wonder why I'm so picky with men :-s)

So even all grown up now, even when it's the time when we tend to realise our parent's mistakes or faults...I wouldn't change anything from my dad. He's a great guy, he's a role model and he's still my hero. I love you dad! Thanks for everything!

And I also wanted to take this opportunity to wish my grandpa a happy Father's day! I love you nonno!

Version en español (sin acentos a proposito)
Hace un poco mas de un mes le dedique mi blog semanal a mi mama, en vista que fue el dia de la madre…bueno esta vez es el dia del padre, asi que hare lo mismo.

Como empezar? Dejenme ponerlo de esta forma. Alguna vez han tenido que contestar a la pregunta “quien es tu heroe”? Bueno, a mi me la han hech oun par de veces y para mi, mi heroe es mi papa.

Y no me refiero a esto en la forma como los niños pequeños ven a sus padres: como esa persona “grande” que puede hacer que todo este bien…tal vez eso es lo que sentia cuando era una niña. Me refiero a que mi papa es una de las personas mas increibles que conozco y tiene tantas cualidades que valoro y admiro en cualquier persona: es una persona honesta, una persona de palabra, paciente, carismatico, encantador, siempre trata de ver lo mejor en los en los demas, trabajador, un excelente amigo, esposo, hermano y obviamente, padre.

Cuando pienso en los recuerdos alegres de mi infancia el esta siempre alli. Llegaba a la casa despues de trabajar y tenia un silbido particular al abrir la puerta! Recuerdo los domingos…esos eran los dias que consagraba totalmente a nosotras, nos llevaba a preciosos lugares para almorzar, a los juegos, a la playa, a tomar helados…y cuando eramos mas pequeñas ese era el dia en que nos bañaba y nosotros adorabamos eso! Y luego, al final del dia (incluso cuando ya no era tan pequeña) nos acostaba a Francesca y a mi y nos contaba cuentos. Su imaginacion nunca tenia fin!

Al crecer en un pais como Peru, las cosas no son como en Europa. La educacion no es gratis asi que la excelente educacion que tuve y la gran lista de clases extras, todo es fruto de su arduo trabajo.

El es la persona mas dulce, siempre sonriendo, siempre paciente y calmado. Una persona tan maravillosa y romantica. Nunca me olvidare el ultimo dia de San Valentin que pase en el Peru en el 2000…el no solo compro rosas para mi mama, sino que mando 4 ramos de distintos colores a la casa…para sus 4 enamoradas. (y luego se preguntan por que soy tan quisquillosa con los hombres :-s)

Asi que incluso ahora, ya de grande, incluso cuando suele ser la etapa de la vida en que tendemos a darnos cuenta de los defectos y equivocaciones de nuestros padres…no le cambiaria nada a mi papa. Es una persona excelente, un modelo a seguir y es todavia mi heroe. Ti voglio tanto bene papa! Mi manchi tanto. Grazie per tutto!

Quise aprovechar esta oportunidad tambien para desearle un buen dia del padre a mi abuelito. Te quiero mucho nin!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Long weekend in Valencia

Already last year my friend Stephie told me that she was planning something big for her next birthday...this would include a trip. True to her word Stephie sent a mail during the first week of January where she informed us that this year she would be celebrating her b'day on June 9th in Valencia, Spain.
Of course it was several months in advance, but considering the nature of the cheap airlines, this was ideal...the earlier you book the cheaper it is! I have to admit that I only booked my flight a couple of months ago but I managed to get a pretty good deal and I was ready to join Stephie for her birthday!!!
In the end we were 22 persons flying over to Valencia from the Netherlands, Italy, London and Canada and she rented 3 houses where we all stayed. So all was ready for a really nice and fun weekend!

I took Friday off so first thing in the morning I met Aissa on Schiphol airport and we were both SUPER ready to go! All summery dressed with only summery clothes and sandals in our suitcases!

First things first: the beach!
We were one of the first to arrive, once there we met JB (Belgian friend who lives in Amsterdam), Stephie of course and 2 Canadian friends of hers. And of course the first thing we did is get ready and head towards the beach in Malvarrosa! The weather was great (30 degrees), the water was wonderful and blue, the beach was not too crowded....it was just paradise to lay on my towel and think how great it is to hop on a plane for 2 hours and be lying on the beach in Spain ;-) (it even made me happier to know that when I had left Amsterdam I left a very big thunder storm- sorry for the Amsterdammers ;-) )

In general I was at the beach the 3 days that I was there, at different times of the day. I really enjoyed the sun and obviously the beautiful Mediterranean sea. The water was rather warm- at least for me used to the Pacific Ocean close to Lima that is rather cold- and refreshing. There were some small waves...it was just perfect! And of course now I have a wonderful tan! :)

The house
Aissa and me stayed in the house 3 blocks away from the beach! We were sharing with other 6 girls: 4 Italians, one Kiwi and one German. I have to say that even though I thought it was going to be a nightmare to share only one bathroom among 8 girls we managed beautiful and it was nice to wake up in the morning to the smell of freshly brewed Italian coffee (the Italians were from Naples and of course they brought with them their Italian coffee machine ;-) ).

America's Cup
The America's Cup is the most famous and most prestigious regatta in the sport of sailing, and the oldest active trophy in international sport predating the Modern Olympics by 45 years. The sport attracts top sailors and yacht designers because of its long history and prestige as the "Holy Grail" of yachting.
And we were lucky enough that this year it is being held in Valencia! (the first time in over 150 years that the cup is being held in Europe). The names of the teams are actually the sponsors (big EXPENSIVE brands) who "sponsor" a country. At the moment the "Emirates" team (New Zealand) won the challenger's series and will meet Alinghi (Switzerland) later this month.

The harbour in Valencia has been totally re-newed and re-designed to host the top amazing yachts and all the big sponsors had their own buildings. A really modern and beautiful pier had been also built for the occasion. After going through security you could get into this really great place that had all kinds of restaurants, bars, entertainment, discos. And that's where Stephie's b'day party was held!

The Party
Saturday evening all of us eventually managed to gather in "Estrella Damm" the hot club in the harbour. You could tell it was "the place to be" ;-) There were several Spaniards but there were also several foreigners that were in Valencia for the America's cup.

We had a really fun night, having some chats, observing the different people, dancing to the music, making people guess where we were from ;-) and drinking...Stephie got a little carried away buying Vodka bottles ;-)

The party finished at 3am so we all went to "Dockas" a really massive night club where somehow all those Italian people made us jump a queue of about 100 persons ;-) The club was really rather impressive, it was HUUUUGE....I'm sometimes really bad al calculating but there must have been about 3000 people in that place!

The Dutch people were impressed because the placed closes at 7am....if they only knew how it's in Peru ;-) In the end Aissa, JB, Sander and me were the last ones to stay and we left a little after 5am.

I have to say that I was REALLY impressed with Valencia. It's not that I was not expecting much, I just didn't know what to expect...and I found a really beautiful city. A mixture of old with modern, a really nice centre, well kept gardens, beautiful fountains, stunning churches, pictoresque squares...I could recognise the Spanish architecture from parts in the centre of Lima. Definitely a city to put in your "to go" list...and if you live in Europe it's not that far, several carriers fly there and cheaper than the further northern cities!

The Food
The food was DELICIOUS. A mixture of really nice sea food and fish. Tasteful jamones and quesos. Tasty different kind of paellas. Really good wine...AND so much cheaper than this part of Europe. Enough said! When you'll check the photos later you'll see that I photographed some of the dishes.

Corpus Christi
Last Sunday was the Catholic celebration of the Corpus Christi and in Valencia they started celebrating last Friday evening. We were lucky enough to see some typical Valencian dances and songs that started the Christian festivity in an old traditional way, preparing themselves for the big procession on Sunday. You can view a small video of this from last Friday by clicking here.

In general as you can deduce from all this, a really fun and nice weekend. A beautiful city, some really cool people, great food, wonderful weather...and some photos for you to catch a small glimpse of my weekend!

I took an early flight on Monday morning and I was behind my desk before 12:30. In conclusion, I think I have to go to Spain more often ;-)

And a big thanks to Stephie for organising such a great weekend :) sei stata bravissima!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My friends: You can't find them on my "speed dial"

I decided that I will write this post on my friends here in Amsterdam. Several of you have sent me some mails in the past months asking about the people that are characters in my weekly blogs ;-)

So I decided that I'd do a little summary of them, after all me being so far from home, it's in them who I rely for everything: we have fun, we have some interesting chats, we give each other advice, they are the ones that are there for the good and the bad times! They are a little like my family in Amsterdam.

And if you want to understand the title of this blog...you should keep reading until the end :)

Let me introduce you to my friends, in no particular order ;-)


Also known as Joostje (pronounced something like "youstye")- adding the "je" at the end of words in Dutch is an endearment, and it means "small"- something like the "ito" or "ita" in Spanish! As you can imagine he was not very happy when I started calling him that way...but then he realised that it was indeed an endearment and I guess he's fine with it as he doesn't say anything anymore

I met Joost through Arnaud (a Dutch friend that now lives in Peru and one of my very best friends-we met through AIESEC). Joost is a really sweet guy, he works in "Rabobank" in Utrecht and lives about a 16 mins bike ride from me ;-) He's one of my best friends here. He's the kind of friend that I speak on the phone weekly even if we don't see each other just to catch up. He loves all kinds of good music, he knows how to party and in general we have several common interests. He's the owner of "Saxy" the boat that you've seen in previous posts cruising through the Amsterdam canals.

He's also the person that I turned to last year when I almost had pneumonia and I had to go to the hospital. I will NEVER forget that!!! It's hard being ill while being far from home. Since earlier this year he's in love with a sweet Polish girl, Aleks, who is turning into a close friend of mine and I'm SO happy for both of them.


Brazilian girl who I met about 2 and half years ago through Yamil (a Peruvian guy that I actually met in Amsterdam). We've known each other for so long but it's only been about a year since we became closer. It started for a mutual love: the BEACH!

However that's how it started and in the past months we realised that we have much more in common. Like the fact that even though we are both South American we are always on time and we do plan things ;-) We both also share a big love to classical ballet and we've been several times to see some really nice ballet shows in the Opera in Amsterdam.

In general a nice girlfriend to spend my time with, share some girlie chats, some coffees, dinner, and discuss about shoes, work, the weather or men ;-)


Also known as "Petter-cito" is my favorite Swede guy (Linda you are my favorite Swede girl!).

Petter-cito and me met at Canon. He's one of the lawyers there and we started talking more when back in 2003 we decided to organise some post-work drinks with a whole bunch of people. Afterwards we used to go out with the whole "Canon gang" to party wildly!

We became closer friends the past 2 years. He's a really nice and sweet person who is also there always ready to listen to me and also ready for some interesting gossip (who says only women like to gossip).

Petter and me share some "ciggy-breaks" at work...he smokes I just enjoy the company and some fresh air. Another thing quite common among us are our "quiet evenings". Every time we've wanted one of those we've ended up in some obscure bar in the touristy part of Amsterdam at some unGodly hour ;-) in a very high inebriated state :-s AND it wouldn't be strange if he would have lost either his mobile phone or his coat (don't ask how many phones and coats he lost last year only)!

Believe it or not my beloved friend Petter is now a married man and I was so happy to join him and his lovely Norwegian wife (Stina) on their wedding last year. They are a great couple! And Petter is a great friend!


I met Carmen back in 2003 during her assessment centre to join the Canon Graduate Programme. I used to work in HR and I did the interview with the personality test. Since I met her I really liked her and she was my favourite among the candidates. In the end she entered Canon and ended up working as a trainee in my department.

Even though her assignement in my department only lasted 8 months we continued our friendship even when she went for a period to Brussels. She eventually came back to Amsterdam driven by love ;-) and a new job at Ricoh.
This Spanish girl and me shared some Dutch classes together and now of course she is almost fluent and I'm not :-s ...she has a Dutch boyfriend, that's a good icentive! We meet each other every other week for some girlie chats and some coffee or dinner.

Plus she's been my hairdresser for over a year. Every couple of months we have a "Chez Carmen" session actually at MY house ;-) where she dyes my hair, we have a nice meal and a good gossip.


Laurent and me met back in 2001 during an induction day at Canon for newcomers. I was in charge for the organisation of that event and I also delivered the Cultural Awareness training. Lets say that Laurent was the most active delegate ;-)

After that day he organised some drinks with the people that joined the event and I joined them. After a month I left for 9 months to London but we kept contact and when I came back to Amsterdam we renewed our friendship.
Laurent is one of the most intuitive males I've ever met. He has a deep sensitivity and he's a great listener. I guess one of the reasons why we used to have really long and interesting chats over dinner. Then eventually by mid 2004 when Gennaro, my previous flatmate, left I asked Laurent if he wanted to live with me.

We've been flatmates since then and we've managed to get to know each other quite well. He's a really nice and caring person, a great photographer and a great friend. I also think that living with him has been a great training for whenever I'll move with a boyfriend ;-)...what is it with men not picking up the towel in the bathroom? ;-)

Geert Jan

Also known as "Geertje" ;-) Geertje was also introduced to me by Arnaud and he used to live with him and Joost for 2 years in the Saxenburgerstraat REALLY close to me.

Back then the "Saxenburgercasa" as they used to call it was my second home...so much that I kept a spare pair of slippers that I would wear whenever I was there. I used to have dinner there at least once a week...these guys used to have a REALLY nice kitchen so I used to LOVE to go and cook there. They of course loved that!

Geertje is a really nice and fun guy. He's the person who will eventually teach Dutch to me...I know it ;0) I like it when he SMSes and e-mails me in Dutch...even if I answer in English. He will also take me to one of those REALLY house parties of which he's really fond of ;-) Unfortunately he's been living "REALLY far" lately- about a 35 mins cycle ;-) reason why I still haven't been in his "not so new home anymore"still we do see each other, we've had plenty of fun and some really nice times together.


Known as Stephie. Stephie is an Italian girl I only met about a year ago. However since the beginning there was a "click" and we bacame rather good friends. This was obviously highlighted by the fact that the Football World Cup took place last summer and both of us watched all the matches where Italy played together until that wonderful final :)

Stephie, a real entrepreneur, knows SOOOO many people and is a really lively girl. I love her spontaneity and the fact that we can make last minute plans for drinks, dinner, a nice chat or a movie...after all she goes to the cinema about 3 times a week ;-)
I think I'm going to leave the list there...and on another ocassion I'll introduce you to some other friends.

Now you must be wondering, why the title of this post. I decided I would talk about my closest friends and this means that I write about the ones that live here, however there's been so many friends that used to live here but have left. Persons that I've bonded with really fast. After all being away from home means that the experiencies you through with these people are rather deep. I remembered Gennaro, Sara, Emma, Linda, Bea, Martin, Arnaud, Bastiaan...these guys used to be in the "speed dial" of my mobile phone. Even though I'm not supposed to be supersticious I somehow thought it was a little of a "curse" having my friends on my speed dial and they ended up leaving...that's why I don't put my friends there anymore ;-)

Thank you guys for always beeing there for me!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A long weekend in Austria

And again we had another long weekend in the Netherlands...quite some lately huh? Well actually this is the last national holiday there is until Christmas, so stop saying that we have too many holidays!

Anyway, I decided to make the most out of it and about a month ago I managed to find a good deal with one of the cheap airlines and I decided to visit my friend Martin who lives in Vienna. However the interesting thing is that my flight was not going to Vienna but to Bratislava (Slovakia) which is a 55km drive (about 45 mins) to Martin's place.

Martin is one of my best friends in Europe. I met him back in 2001 and he lived in London while I lived there and then in Amsterdam until last year. So we've always been rather good friends and somehow he's been now away over a year and I still hadn't managed to come and visit him. So I was rather happy. As I have already been in Vienna about 1.5 years ago I suggested doing a little travelling around and Martin was very happy to go along!

I landed in Bratislava on Friday at 22:30 and Martin picked me up and we went into town to park the car. We did a very quick tour around the city centre where I saw some really beautiful buildings...it was really nice and cozy. After that we went to have some cocktails and to catch up.
We drove back to Vienna at 1am and we made it back by 2am.

Next morning Martin took me up in the mountains to this really nice place to have brunch and to enjoy a really nice view of Vienna. The weather was REALLY nice. It was over 30 degrees...and as I was coming from shitty weather I was extremely happy. So we decided to go to the Viennese beach. What is that? The old bank of the Danube river has been separated from the main flowing river and it looks like a nice lake in a small island inside the city. People go to this huge park to enjoy the weather and the water. It was rather pleasing to be there enjoying the weather and swimming in the "Blue Danube" :-)

That evening we went into the centre of Vienna for a really nice dinner and a nice walk. It is always nice to see a city in different seasons. I had seen Vienna during Christmas time and I have to say it's one of most beautiful (or the most) cities I've ever seen. So elegant, cozy and Christmasy. And during the summer...it's just stunning. All those imposing empire like buildings,w ith that magnificent lighting. It was really beautiful.

The next morning we woke up at dawn (actually not really because the days are getting so long that dawn it's before 5am ;-s so it was more 7am) and we made our way to Salzburg. The plan was to eventually end there but make a couple of stops on the way. We drove all the way to the area of "Salzakammergut" which is about 50kms before from Salzburg. We had a really nice picnic by a nice lake. Everything was so beautiful...all those green mountains, all that nature, birds singing, ducks with their babies (also of course lots of annoying mosquitoes but I guess it's part of the package).

After our picnic we drove a little further and we went to this small cute little town called St Wolfgang where we found a tiny private piece of "beach" where for €4 we could get in and for €2.50 we got a parasol and some very comfortable lying chairs. We stayed there for about 4 hours and Martin and me hardly spoke to each other...we were both lost in our own thoughts, gazing the view, enjoying the sun, the fresh and transparent water of the lake and of course Martin his Newsweek and me a brand new book bought at the airport.

We liked it so much that after that we decided to look for a Bed and Breakfast in town. We found again a really cozy one ran by this sweet pensioner couple. That evening we walked into town and saw a little of the rest of the town, we had a really delicious meal by the lake and we watched a wonderful show of fireworks. We walked back when it was fully dark at about 11pm and it was such a nice feeling to walk with the sound of the crickets...I'm just not used to this me being a city girl.

The next morning after a nice breakfast we headed towards Salzburg. For me this was something VERY special. My all time most favourite movie is "The Sound of Music" I can't recall how many times I've seen it but if I say that over 300 I'm not exagerating...I know all the songs, the dances, the words in both Spanish and English...you get the point. That movie is based in Salzburg and since I was a little girl I always dreamt about going there. And I WAS there!!! Of course I was extremely disappointed that Martin had NO clue about what I was talking about (he must be one of the weird people who don't know about this movie)...I wanted a singing partner ;-) But it was still rather nice to see all those places that you can see in the movie, includding the house of the Von Trapp family (from far away) and the places where they sang the songs.

Salzburg was BEAUTIFUL It was really breathtaking. The city divided in 2 by the river Salzbach, the castle or rather fortress up on a hill, all those beautiful churches, squares, statues, the really cute streets, the picturesque alleys, the gardens, the fountains. I have to say that it is now on the top 5 of my favourite sities!!! You'll see this and more on the photos.

Right before heading back to Vienna we made a stop in the Sacher hotel so I could have the famous Sachertorte which was really yummy. And then righ after we got ourselves into the car a big storm started- so I REALLY have to thank mother nature for being so nice to me this past weekend.

This morning Martin was SO nice that he drove me ALL the way to Bratislava and then he had to drive all the way back to Vienna to catch a flight to Warsaw. Martin THANK you SO much!!! After a 3-hour flight delay, a rather "entertainining" flight with the whole Dutch Volleyball team sitting in front, behind and next to me (boy are those guys tall!) I managed to arrive safely to Amsterdam and managed to be behind my desk before 3pm.

Now you can click here for the photos. I warn you there are quite A LOT! But the places are just too beautiful not to photograph...and I tried to write some entertaining captions...

All in all a WONDERFUL weekend and one of the reasons why I love living in Europe...a flight a way, a 45 mins drive to another city to catch another flight....different culture, different language...I just love to get away for the weekend and be able to be part of that ;-)