It's back to New York
Now it appears I'll be coming back to the "states" on 7 April. It's nearly impossible to maintain a visa for long in the Netherlands, and I've already been here for 2 1/2 years. IFOR is sending me to our branch in Upper Nyack, NY (FOR USA) for 3 months, time enough to renew my visa. I'll be living and working at the Shadowcliff, a 42 room mansion and FOR USA's head office / conference center. They're buying me a DELL laptop to take along, with my publication software loaded, so I can continue working as usual. I have a new assistant, Kim (from Phoenix!), who will handle things I can't do online. So, it's back to New York, but this time the Big Apple is only an hour away.
Since returning from Norway in December I've been exploring more of Holland's cities, like Maastricht (one of the oldest) and Rotterdam (one of the newest), and visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Rijks houses Rembrandt's "Night Watch," a huge painting, so large that when they moved it to Amsterdam town hall in 1715, a two foot section was cut off the left side, so it would fit on the wall between two entry ways, ha! And I've been ice skating again this winter... what else, the temps were in the -10s (ºC), snow and thick ice remained on the streets and sidewalks for months.
A few months ago Arjan and I went ice skating for the first time this winter at de Meent Alkmaar, the same place where I was skating last year with my neighbor Marique. The ice-park sports a "halfoverdekte" (towering roof with an opening to the sky in the middle), a wide 400 meter baan (track), and a full-size competition rink. I tried-out my new 2nd-hand Ving skates, that were nearly as nice as the pair seen on their website and felt great, much faster than my hockey skates of last year. And, I only paid 10 euros for my Ving's, again at Kook tweedehands winkel, and they looked as good as new (still in the box).
Over the Christmas/New Year holiday (two weeks) I hung-out here in Alkmaar, seeing a Dutch film sub-titled in French at the Provadja (independent arts theater), of which I visit at least once per weekend, and spending time with John Schot, IFOR's Director and one of my best friends here. John has been a great friend, taking me to places I would have never ventured, i.e Sauna Oase Heerhugowaard (Industriestraat 5-7), going to the movies with me every Tuesday ('kortingdinsdag' at the now JT Alkmaar), and just hanging-out together on the Waagplein sipping Dutch beer and my usual Royal Club Tonic (similar to Schweppes Tonic Water). I was also hoping for some more ice skating on the “grachten” (city canals) before I leave. Yes, I did see a little ice forming on the Singelgracht at the end of our street on a few evenings! Of course, I attended "Kerstavond" (services and entertainment) at de Grote Sint Laurenskerk on Christmas eve, as in the past two years.