I saw the first word on the US news services, then the BBC picked up the story. Seattle, a maritime city that usually gets a dusting of snow for a day before it gets washed off in rain the next day, was in for a storm. It’s been over 20 years since the last snowfall like this: it always meant toppled rhodies, downed power lines, and cancelled school and work schedules. This year was no exception. The good news is that the 7KW gas generator we installed after the 2007 storms forges through the worst weather, and there are no kids in school any more (although Karen still teaches) .
As predicted, six to 14 inches fell, depending on wind patterns, and the city ground to a halt. The best story came from my neighbor, Mike: Today, as I was snowboarding, my dog was chasing me. We collided. We rushed him to the vet. Now he's in a cast. That's right. My dog is in a cast due to a snowboarding accident.
We haven’t seen any snow in either Maastricht or Cambridge so far this season. The Alps are buried, having a wonderful ski season this year and burying the higher villages, but it hasn’t drifted north through the low countries at all. So, rather than skidding through the streets as I was last year at this time, I’ve been gradually wrapping up engineering and in-town activities, catching up with friends in the evenings. There have been several new arrivals over the holidays and it’s delightful to get to meet the new family members – hard to believe that mine were ever this small.
I’ve also taken inspiration from the IamExpat post Yes! 2012 can bring fluent Dutch! The core of the article is that you have to build and keep momentum. That means daily practice, not weekly, and sustaining it over months. I have the materials at hand, I have to pass by the end of the year to keep my promise to the Gemeente who is paying for my lessons and the opportunity to nail the permanent residency. (Side story –happy ending: After 7 months, IND has finally sent me the letter to come to Eindhoven and pick up the new card from my 2011 visa renewal).
So I’m spending an hour or so a day streaking through the end of the Rosetta course that I was given three months to finish. It’s hard to learn vocabulary and grammar only by example, but with a word book and grammar book at my side, I’m deeply enmeshed with subordinate clauses, word order, and tenses this week.
I’ve also found a great set of podcasts on the RNW (Radio Nederland Wereldomroep) site. Klare Taal is particularly good; I access it through the exercise bike (which has web access built in) or download it to my music player each day.
And the Welkom in Nederland book arrived, the vocabulary is pretty basic, so there’s no problem with reading and picking up the ideas. They match a lot of my experiences anyway (except for taking kids to “zit op” basisschool and middelbare school - they don’t “studeert aan” school until they get to the University).
So, it’s moving ahead well. The only issue is that an hour or two spend on Dutch is an hour or two away from something else: the day is a zero-sum schedule. “Prioritize” doesn’t mean “Finding what to do first”, it means “Letting go of what I won’t have time to do.” I used to hate it when our corporate VP told me “Dave,Strategic Planning is deciding what not to do.”, but I’m finding that there’s some truth in it after all.
Separately, while thumbing the news, I found that the International Baccalaureate program is the latest institution to come under conservative attack in the US. The IB program, available to qualified students in many public districts, intended to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.” No less a newsmagazine than US News and World Report has determined that critic al thinking and cultural awareness “Undermines US Founding Principles”.
A curriculum crafted in Europe, with a decidedly non-American and non-Judeo-Christian outlook on the world…not merely to impart knowledge or teach thinking skills, but rather to develop "citizens of the world" with "universal human values."… —presumably including activities not endorsed by the United States.
I think I need to stick with the weather pages. Or MasterChef.