Newsletter Number Twenty Five - August 2008

The last time I put metaphorical pen to paper was back in April. I remember those days, the skies over Amsterdam were grey, a cool breeze whipped up white caps on the canals and you needed to grab a jumper before walking out the front door. The reality is that after a few weeks of wonderful weather it seems that we are right back where we started. So let me fill you in on what has been happening over the last few months. Before I do, thanks to a few of the avid readers out there who have sent me emails, texts, sms, pokes, nudges, winks and all other manner of cyber reminders that I was overdue in my journal duties. When I look back at my previous editions I have certainly slowed down the pace of publication. Now whether I can blame work, the weather, social engagements or love for the distractions I am not sure….well actually I am – Michael, it’s all your fault!

This will be a long newsletter so grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy!

Meeting the Parents 

So where to begin… At the end of the last chapter I was work on a project in Montreal and getting ready to return for a final 2 weeks on site. Luckily for me I had a pretty good excuse to cut short my stay; Mum and Dad were arriving. What a life the Emdin family leads. I flew to Sydney to drop off my keys for the Amsterdam apartment, told my parents to let themselves in when they arrived and that I’d see them a few days later? Well that was just the start of it. It was great to get back from 10 days working overseas to find the two of them sitting on my sofa. They were here at the start of another European adventure (they can publicise their trip on their own time!). For Michael though this was the start of not only meeting the parents but also meeting the whole damn family (minus sister). It was also a chance for Mum to catch up with her brother Ian who came to visit Amsterdam for a few days.

The timing of their visit was arranged to coincide with Queen’s Day, the national Dutch Holiday when the city turns shades of orange and Amsterdam transforms into one street party. In back editions of these chronicles you can read about Queen’s Days past. We ventured onto the streets early in the day to avoid the crowds and headed towards Vondel Park, the main park in Amsterdam, where traditionally children gather to sell their wares and perform little shows enticing the passing crowd to go “ahhh, isn’t that sweet” and then part with some money. I think there was more ‘encouragement’ than reward for talent. Nevertheless it was a lovely morning. We headed back to the house making our way through the growing crowds, boats, noise and generally frivolity. The best way to convey to you whether my parents enjoyed themselves is quote my usually placid father, “this is f***g amazing!”.



It would not be a trip to The Netherlands without the obligatory visit to a windmill. Well having a Dutch boyfriend has its advantages. Michael arranged a wonderful excursion to the UNESCO listed site of Kinderdijk. The area that makes up Kinderdijk has 19 mills designed to drain excess water from the surrounding lands. For those interested in the history of the site have a look at their web site. There is something quite ‘nice’ about walking through the windmills of Holland. But this was only part of the Dutch cultural emersion that we had planned for my parents.

When you think Dutch what else do you think of? Cheese, clogs, cheapness (well they invented ‘going Dutch) and flowers. Every year there is a lovely flower show at Keukenhof with 815,000 visitors from around the world visiting. I had arranged for the two of them to visit the gardens whilst I was still in Montreal. The finale of the festivities is a flower parade through local towns and villages ending in Haarlem, Michael’s former hometown. We all headed out for the day to see the floral display.


...and Uncles and Aunt and Cousin... poor Michael

After a few weeks break I headed to Tel Aviv with Michael to again meet up with Mum and Dad who had finished their European tour. This time he was about to face the Emdin side of the family. The highlight of the week in Israel was the chance for Dad, Richard and Tessa to be together again after nearly 8 years (I think). It was amazing to sit on the sideline and watch as the siblings reverted back to type. I am sure the boys got their little sister into trouble on more than one occasion. Now hands up if you have ever had a taxi driver who refused to accept your fare. On the way back from dinner at Tessa’s place, and more than a few glasses of whiskey, Mum, Dad, Michael and I bundled into a taxi to head back to our hotel. We all have had those trips where by the time you get to your destination you know all about the cabbies history, his children, possible grandchildren, thoughts on the current state of affairs and received an earful of what ever advice is being served up that day. Well this ride started like most others with me getting marital advice along the way. I did not have the heart or fortitude to let our driver know that boy in the back was my boyfriend. 

As on previous similar occasions I employed a diversionary tactic and told the driver that although I was still single the old guy in the back was married. From there our driver got it into his head that the reason why Dad was a little tipsy was because it had been his wedding that day. I am not sure who he though the ‘other’ women in the back seat was a.k.a. Mum! As a gift on this memorable occasion our driver would not accept the fare.

During the rest of the week we traveled around the country to the Golan Heights, Haifa and Jerusalem. I did not take as many photos as I had on my previous visit but there are a few in the gallery section. Israel was the point where we said goodbye to my parents and made plans to fly back to Amsterdam. After seeing Michael with my Aunt, Uncles, cousins and parents over a three-week period all I can say is that he is one fabulous guy! And they all love him as well… (all together now..ahhh)


Back to Athens

So if spending 4 weeks in Montreal was not enough, immediately after returning I started work on a project for a Greek petroleum company in mid June. This project has me working mainly in Athens for two weeks at a time then back to Amsterdam for the weekend before repacking my bag and heading back to Greece. Not the greatest assignment when you boyfriend moved in with you at the start of June. A nice feature of Michael’s job is that his schedule is flexible enough to be able to join me on the occasional weekend making the time apart more bearable. Well who can complain about a weekend at the Hyatt Regency Resort at Thessaloniki? By mid October all should be back to normal.
We have a mutual friend who lives in Athens so this has been a great opportunity to catch up with Giannis. We also drove to the the temple of Pseidon outside of Athens at Sounion. Bonus points to anyone who can name the poet:

Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where the waves and I can only hear,
Our mutual murmurs sweep..  click here for the answer



The acropolis from the top bar at the Athens Hilton

That was the first of many that night



Amsterdam Pride 2008

August is Pride time in Amsterdam. This year the Lesbian and Gay (LGBT) network at Shell had a boat in the canal parade As co-chair of the LGBT network it was great to see our about amongst those of other companies. Whilst parades in Sydney and New York have had corporate representation for years, this has only been the case for 4 years in Amsterdam. You can click the link to see a few pictures from this year's festivities.

Zurich for the Day
Being apart from Michael has been tough and one down side of his job is that he is also away from home for extended periods. Recently he started a five day stretch of European flying spending each night in a different city. Well 10 min before he was due to walk out the front door and head to the airport I suggested I fly with him to Zurich later that day. Six hours later I was meeting him at Schiphol to collect a ticket to fly with him to Zurich.  Some might say that we lead a fabulous life, for us it is just life! Of course we could not travel without Ieniemienie...

And this is life for the moment. Michael and I heading to Croatia for our summer holiday later this month. Look out for the next edition of this tabloid.


Mark

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