Sunday, February 28, 2010

Going Green

We did it! We bought a car yesterday about as GREEN as you can get...and we love it.

But back up a minute. Remember all those sheets of USA stamps I was selling on eBay last year...and the books on, the estate sale, etc., etc.? Little by little, it all started adding up and in the back of my mind, I knew it would be for a car. That, along with the sale of my Honda Civic Hybrid in January, thanks to the oversight of Amy and Dennis in Atlanta.

We could have bought the car a month ago but we decided to wait till my residence permit was approved...maybe months from now. It seemed prudent to wait. What if I couldn't stay?? So when the residence permit was approved so quickly (see my Blue Moon post), I said, "OK, now we can buy our car!"

Believe it or not, we had already done our extensive research last August and did not waver on our choice: a 2010 Daihatsu Cuore in very childlike lime-green. It seemed like an added "good omen" when the exact same car was showcased inside my bank a week ago, as the green way to go!

The short version (16 sec.):

The long version (2:16 min):

Talk about GREEN:
"The Cuore's 1000 cc, 3-cylinder, 12-valve, DOHC DVVT (Dynamic Variable Valve Timing) engine is highly efficient and achieves excellent fuel economy figures of 4.6 litres/100 km [50 mpg]. It also excels in terms of environmental performance by achieving a CO2 emission figure of 109 g/km (achieved by certain 3-door M/T models). The engine develops rich torque throughout its rev range, pulling the car from low-speed driving in the city to high-speed cruising on motorways without a hint of stress. This is an engine that combines ecology and high performance at a high level.... The Cuore clears the latest stringent European safety standards with ease."
OK. For America, this is a small car. For Europe, it's PERFECT. On a scale of 1 - 10 for ecological "green," with 10 being the best, it rates a 9.

We don't have it yet. It takes a week to transport it to our city and put it through it's registration and prep hoops. But guess what: it's paid for! This is the first time I've ever paid for a new car outright and I feel like a little kid.

As Astrid says, we are going for our Joy each and every day. We are happy with so little. Can you imagine how happy we are with much!

Wanna help us name her? We just recently watched Fried Green Tomatoes and Towanda is at the top of our list thus far.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tootin' My Horn

As they say, if WE don't do it, who will!

So, today is my turn at Vision and Verb again and how else would you know unless I tell you. It's about Innocence and relates to a series I'm doing on my photoblog right now about the children of Carnival here in Holland.

I didn't grow up with Mardi Gras/Carnival and really had no clue until my later years as an adult. Words like debauchery and licentiousness came to mind. Get all your wildness and depravity out now before you face Lent and any semblance of sobriety. It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission!

Astrid must have grown up with similar ideas because as she would say, she "has nothing with" Carnival. Or in Dutch, CarnAval. So I had to make a decision if I would go out on my own the two blocks from home to take pictures. I decided to go while Astrid did errands, afraid I'd regret not seeing what it was all about here in Small-town, Holland...before having to wait another year.

My Vision and Verb post will give you a better idea of what the experience elicited from me, but it was the children who mesmerized me, dressed up on the sidelines as though ready for Halloween. Children who believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Children who haven't lost their Innocence...yet.

My absolute favorite of the bunch is this charming lass below. I still stare at her as though I am though through her eyes my own Innocence is regained. Is that possible?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a blue moon
the surprise is so unexpected
all you can do is howl.

Eleven days after our wedding ceremony,
4 days after submitting my application...
I have been given permission to stay in the Netherlands till February 12, 2011,
before filing for a five-year extension.

My faith was unswerving; I believed it would happen.
But this soon??? NOOIT. NEVER.

Rejoice with me/us. You were in the grandstands rooting!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Tipping point(s)

Yesterday was my day of reckoning!

A week after our wedding ceremony, Astrid and I took the half-hour bus ride to Utrecht, Holland, one of the 9 IND (immigration) locations in the country...and our favorite photo-hunt city. If I did not start my residence-permit process by March 5 (3 months after arriving on December 5), I would have to leave the country for 3 months before returning. Our appointment was at 2p. At 1:46 we got ticket T506 and were called in at 2:15p. An hour later we were done...all documents submitted from me first (remember those apostilles!?!) and then Astrid.

So now you understand the urgency of the marriage timing. I want to stay in Holland because I'm married to Astrid.

But here's the sticking point! Astrid is my sponsor. For me to stay in the Netherlands, SHE has to have a work contract for a minimum of 6 months as assurance she can support me. In spite of the fact she has worked at the same company for 15 months now, the economy prohibits them (and most of Holland) from offering contracts to their temp employees. Immigration in turn has every right to simply say, "So sorry. Next!" As our lady said yesterday, they could decide to not even look at my application! I could be a millionaire. Still, "So sorry!"

However, apparently every application is taken case by case. So now I have a special sticker in my passport (ID numbers removed) that gives Immigration 6 months to review and process my request. She says I'll probably have an answer within 1-2 months. If they judge against me, because Astrid doesn't have a work contract, I can then appeal. If they judge for me, I can stay for one year and then renew my application for a 5-year extension. It's all very exact and to the point. The initial application costs €830 ($1,126) and is not refunded if the decision is NO.

Now, the tipping points:
  • Our marriage in Holland. THEY approved and recognized it. Now will they separate us?
  • Our age. At 64 and 55, it's not like we don't know what we want, right?
  • My income. My Social Security income is a monthly "given" till I die and is more "stable" than Astrid's income, if they want to look at it that way.
And now listen to this, two more points we didn't think of till yesterday:
  • My passport. The lady surprised us when she copied every page showing all my times flying to and from Amsterdam since 2007. Never once did she ask why. She made the assumption I made all the trips because of our relationship. It's further proof, she said, of why our marriage is not a fake marriage for me to get social security from Holland.
  • My political asylum??? Because our marriage is a gay marriage which is not recognized in America, Immigration here could consider my case one of "political" asylum. Astrid cannot gain residence in MY country as my wife. So I HAVE to stay in Holland if we are to remain together.

A work in progress...outside Immigration in Utrecht. How appropriate!

We don't know, of course, if anything will be a tipping point. All we can do now is let it go and trust the Universe to rule in my favor. Your prayers and best wishes will help, I truly believe. You will be our cloud of witnesses. I am not here to screw the country I have grown to love!


In the meantime, Vancouver OLYMPICS! Did you watch the Opening Ceremony? Did you see/hear K.D. Lang perform "Hallelujah" at the end? Did you see Anne Murray help carry in the Olympic flag? They were our 2 Canadian musicians at our wedding ceremony. Do we have good taste or what! :)


And in case you want to follow me there, I had my second post at Vision and Verb, yesterday.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

We Did It!


It wasn't possible for anyone to be happier than Astrid and me on our special day last Friday, but Cora, our City Hall officiator sure came close. We still marvel at how beautifully she did the ceremony. At one point, before it started, she said to me, "I bet you wish you were in my shoes, right?" I was asking questions about the order of things (since the ceremony here in Holland is different from what I'm used to in the States) and she thought I was just worried that she wouldn't get it right. NO! I knew I was going to surprise Astrid at one point in the ceremony and I needed to make sure I knew WHEN that would be.

BTW, the beauty for me was that everything was first spoken in English and then in Dutch. But when I surprised Astrid with my holy words to her, I spoke first in Dutch, followed by English.

This is what I said just after we were told we could now kiss the bride...and I first put my finger to her lips: "Astrid Martha Alida Wijdekop. Ik hou van jou met mijn leven, mijn hart en ziel. I love you with my life, my heart and soul. Jij bent mijn Liefste; jij bent mijn Amazone. You are my Dearest; you are my Amazon Woman. Jij bent NU mijn vrouw; ik ben nu JOUW vrouw. You are NOW my wife; I am now YOUR wife. Ik ben zo trots op jou; ik ben zo trots op ons. I am so proud of you; I am so proud of us. Ik hou heel erg veel van jou. I really really love you. Met alles wat ik in me heb. With everything within me. Wij zijn getrouwd. We are married. NU kussen! NOW we can kiss!"

There were 34 of us altogether, 32 of which joined us after the ceremony at our favorite restaurant for a champagne toast and Dutch appeltaart met slagroom (apple pie with whipcream) and koffie.

It was the happiest day of our lives together thus far! If you'd like to see a bit more of it, please let me know and I'll send you our wedding album. It pretty much says it all!

For all your best wishes and congratulations, THANK YOU.
Our hearts are full of unspeakable joy!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's About Time

Friday, 2:00 p.m.
Stadhuis Trouwzaal (City Hall Wedding Chapel)
Gorinchem, Netherlands

That's TODAY, folks. Today is the day we're getting married!

I'm cross-posting with Shutterchance today and have mentioned there that this is the sundial on the side of the Grote Kerk (Big Church) that is 2 blocks from our apartment here in Gorinchem. I took this picture on January 1 when Astrid and I took a walk around the city, cameras in hand, on a delightfully goregeous, sunshiny day. It was the start to our new year.

Do you know how to read a sundial? For how much I love sundials, especially on the sides of old European churches, you'd think I'd have Googled how to read them. This one says 2 o'clock, right? But guess what: on January 1, 2010, we had no clue we would be getting married today at 2 p.m. Don't you love the serendipity of that!

As an FYI, there will be approximately 30 of us, based on RSVPs. A friend of Astrid's family will be taking digital photos of the ceremony and reception afterwards. Another man--an 80-year-young man from our senior complex here--will be taking a DVD film of not only the ceremony but the before and after as well. He has been in filmography since 1952! The other day he asked every question he could think of to make sure he understands exactly when all the details happen, especially the "I will"s. He even planned to call the officiator who will perform the ceremony. AND he asked to ride up front in the car that will take us to the city hall, because he wants to film us going over. What a man!

As soon as possible, I'll start working on images to show you. Trust me, you'll get a smattering of the event soon.

In the meantime, please raise a glass of bubbly to us today if possible. Our reception after the ceremony is at our favorite restaurant nearby where we'll have a champagne toast, koffie and appeltaart (Dutch apple pie) with slagroom (whipcream). It's better than wedding cake any day of the week.

Yes, it's about time! God knows how long we've waited for this day...and how many hoops through which we've jumped. Rejoice with us. That will be your best gift.