Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy 2007

Wishing all of you a happy 2007. May we live long and prosper ... ;-)

God Bless

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Ah, the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas...

"Sinterklaas or Sint Nikolaas in Dutch or Saint Nicolas in French, is a holiday tradition in the Netherlands and Belgium (both Dutch and French speaking parts), celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve December 5 or, in Belgium, the morning of December 6. The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children."

I copied that first paragraph from the Wikipedia page on Sinterklaas. Please read the rest of the article on the tradition on that page since in my opinion it covers it completely and thoroughly. At least better than I would be able to do in a simple blog post.

Something interesting that the article only briefly mentions is that Sinterklaas is also the basis of the present day Santa Claus. "Santa Claus" is actually a simple mispronunciation of the Dutch word "Sinterklaas" by the English settlers of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York). Children placed (and to this day still do) their straw filled shoes at the chimney every winter night, and Saint Nicholas (who, unlike Santa, is still riding a horse) rewards them with candy and gifts which - after the British seizure of New Amsterdam in the 17th century - evolved into the current Christmas tradition of hanging socks or stockings at the fireplace.

Since in the Netherlands the giving of presents is Sinterklaas's job, presents are traditionally not given at Christmas, but commercialism is starting to tap into this market (and since my dad is a retailer I can't rightfully say that I don't approve of that on some level...*smile*).

In the Netherlands presents given during Sinterklaas are often accompanied by poems, sometimes fairly basic, sometimes quite elaborate pieces of art that mock events in the past year relating to the recipient (who is thus at the receiving end in more than one sense). The gifts themselves may be just an excuse for the wrapping, which can also be quite elaborate. Just ask Rachel and Rebecca after the House Church Christmas party... ;-)

A tip if you are ever in the Netherlands in the 4 to 6 weeks prior to December 5: try to see if you can catch the 'arrival of Sinterklaas' in the city you are visiting. It's quite the show. For those of you with a broadband connection, just type in 'Sinterklaas' on and you'll see what I'm talking about...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Visa Update

Today after I got back from my trip to Grand Rapids (which was awesome !!) I found an email from my immigration lawyer. The PERM (Labor Certification) has been approved !! This is the most important step as it qualifies that there is no reasonable supply within the US (region) for my job position. The labor certification is the hardest step, but with the new electronic filing it is interestingly the quickest part of the whole process.

The next step is the time-consuming part of the actual Immigrant Visa Petition. That could take a while, so we're not out of the woods yet... ;-)

This does NOT mean that my current non-immigrant visa situation is changing however, so I'm still going to the US Consulate in Amsterdam on January 2, 2007 to see if they give me my new non-immigrant visa.

Keep you posted !

Monday, December 04, 2006

House hunting

I'm going to move...

Not sure when and not sure where to, but this winter will (most likely) be my last winter in downtown Cleveland. I'm hoping to find a new place closer to North Canton where most of my live has been taking place lately.

I'm actually going to look at a house tomorrow in Barberton, OH (just west of Akron). Looks kinda cool (click here) and seems to be a very decent price. I'm gonna make an appointment with a mortgage specialist in the next few weeks to see if I'm not aiming too high. I hope not... ;-)

I'll keep you posted on the progress

Visa stuff

Had an interesting incident with my visa about 2 weeks ago. I had to apply for a new Dutch passport since my previous one was expiring on Jan 4, 2007. The previous one was heavily used and saw action in Europe, Canada, Mexico and the US (including the trip to the Arctic). During all that travels the plastic card wasn't fully attached anymore to the rest of the passport and that I washed it once (accidentally) didn't help either, but it was still working fine. More importantly, the US Visa in that passport, valid through July 2008, wasn't damaged at all.

However, the Dutch authorities felt it their duty to keep the old passport under the rule that it was 'damaged'. All nice and dandy, but the US doesn't re-issue a Visa...

So I'm kinda stuck between a rock and hard place now with two countries saying that they are following their rules. Normally that is not a problem at all, but with cross-country visa and citizenship it becomes a BIG problem.

Now, after consulting with my lawyer for the permanent residency (for which the application for the Job Certification has been filed last week), I made an appointment at the US Consulate General in Amsterdam, NL on January 2, 2007. It happens to work-out nicely with a previously planned holiday trip. The only uncertainty is if I have all the right paperwork to get the new Visa. I'd like to get back to work and see my friends again...

Guess we'll find out !!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A few changes have been made

Since my last a few changes have been made in my life, partially by me, but more importantly by God. Unknowingly I have been walking a path that He set out for me before I was born and only recently have I been invited to knowingly follow it with Him. I joined a House Church in North Canton, OH and have an amazing group of people around me to support and guide me in His ways. A made the decision to get baptized and become a member of Gods Family. It still feels a bit foreign to me at times, but my outlook on life has changed for the better. It is no longer centered on me, but on Him. No longer on earthly possessions, but on following Jesus. Not to say that I'm giving up on my current life and become a missionary, but rather enriching my current life with the blessings and teachings of the Lord.

In the post below you can find my testimony. I first sent it to the people who God has chosen to lead me in the right direction. Now it's time to share it with the rest of my friends. Some of you might be a bit surprised, for others it has been an answer to prayer, but above all it is the start of a wonderful journey.

A spiritual journey back to Christ

I was born into a family that went to Church on Sundays and I can remember my mom reciting Christian lullabies to me at bed time. I also vaguely remember going to Sunday school and during the week I attended a Christian elementary school. All of this was literary within 1 block; the Church on one end, my home in the middle and the school on the other end.

When I was 7 years old my sister was born and shortly thereafter we moved to another village about 20 minutes away. We didn't go to Church there and I was going to a public elementary school so that was the end of my early-church-era. I was very fortunate though to be in a loving family with wonderful parents (mom and dad are still happily married for almost 38 years now) and my sister and even though we didn't go to Church we led a good, enriched and moral life. I have very fond memories of the five years we spent in that village and of all the wonderful time spent with my family and my friends.

At the age of 12 we moved back to city where I was born, but in a different part of town. I finished elementary school for the last few months and went on to high school, but all were public. I don't recall there were any Christian High Schools in our immediate area at that time. I ended up going to a school where my dads sister went to, about a 20 minute bike-ride away.

During my time in High School I started working at my dads photography shop on Saturdays to make some extra money. I was very lucky to be raised to value money since I had to earn most of it. I think it kinda planted a seed in me that you should spend your money wisely and I saved most of it for my hobbies, at that time mostly being music. I also remember a few visits from my mom's two aunts and uncles who were (and are still) living in Canada. Especially those visits started a fire in me to visit Canada once I had the means and opportunities.

In the mean-time, two of my uncles were truck drivers and the youngest (who is only 11 years older then I am and lived with us for two years after my Grandmas divorce) was pretty much my older brother. With him I started to explore the world from behind the high-up position of a semi. At that time I was living in the Netherlands and saw most of that country and most of Europe throughout the years of my numerous trips during my school vacations. That, combined with the family vacations to Italy, firmly planted the travel-bug in me.

Once I traveled through most of Europe and having English lessons in High School the fire to visit Canada became stronger and stronger. Finally at age 21 I took my first ( 5 week) trip and loved every minute of it. I visited Montreal, Toronto, New York and the lesser known city to people outside the Dutch community of Grand Rapids, MI. My 2nd cousin Chad was doings his Bachelors Degree at Calvin College and we (his Grandparents - my Grandma's older brother and his wife - and me) went to visit him for a camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes while his Grandparents took the temporary dorm-supervisor role. What an awesome trip. I even felt 'reverse' homesick when I boarded the plane back to the Netherlands.

In 1997 I went back to Canada, this time for 8 weeks on a big transcontinental travel plan. Starting in Montreal, through Washington to the Tampa Bay area and from there to Seattle for a 2 week camping Van-tour of the Canadian Rockies followed by a Greyhound expedition from Vancouver to Toronto. Back in Ontario I visited Chad again since we had planned to goto Lake Placid in upstate New York. Unfortunately he was unable to make it due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, but a buddy of his, Joel was willing to go with me. At that point I had no idea how big of an impact that would have on my spiritual life later on, but we had a great time on a crazy trip.

As of 1998 (now out of college) I was able to go at least once a year to Canada and make good use of those wonderful opportunities. I met more and more people through both Chad and Joel and since both of them were Christians I also started to go to Church with them on the Sundays I was with them. That was pretty much the first time since a good 15 years that I went to Church other then for a wedding, funeral or photo-shoot (with my dad). Since both Joel and Chad are of Dutch decent they went to the CRCs (Christian Reformed Churches) which are usually pretty strict and resembled a service from what I remembered.

At that time it didn't do much for me, except looking back now, God was warming me up again to the idea of being a Christian. I pretty much lead a life of adhering to the 10 commandments and followed a course of abstinence, but was not going to Church other then when I was visiting my friends and family in Canada. However, every time I went to Church there was a period of reflection but after I got back to the Netherlands that period ended. It wasn't until late 2000 that another event in Gods master plan was being revealed to me.

In October 2000 I was fortunate to start a job for a Dutch subsidiary of Penske. Penske is a large US-based logistics and truck rental company and the opportunity to use my English, my education in IT Management and my familiarity with logistics was too good to pass on. It also opened the door for a more prolonged stay in North America other then the vacation-trips I was able to make and after 3 years, in July 2003 that was realized and I moved to Cleveland, OH. Since Canada was now only 4 hours away I made many more trips to my friends and family and rapidly developed a group of friends in the Toronto-area.

It was on one of those trips that Joel and I were going to meet his cousin Rodney and his friend (and landlord) Gary. Gary is a worship minister at a local Baptist Church. We went to a service at this Church and that was when I first got introduced to 'contemporary worship'. Until that time the only service-type I knew was in the sense of the 'Frozen Chosen' of the CRC, which is predominantly Dutch and very conservative. I was amazed by the use of such modern things as overhead projectors, full bands, complete studio-style mixing equipment...

Gary and I both come from an engineering background and both have a big interest in music. It was as God's master plan had completed another phase... I went back a few times afterwards and found that there were more Churches like the one Gary was working at. I was still a bit taken aback by it. I had no idea that this even existed. Unfortunately, to this day, it still doesn't in most Dutch Churches.

From that day I was getting more and more receptive of becoming a Christian again, but didn't have the drive to step out of my comfort-zone to take the plunge (funny, since I moved from Holland to the US without much of a fuzz...). I continued to hang-out with my Christian friends in Canada and continued to go to Church with them whenever I was there. However, every time I was back in Cleveland I missed the drive to search out for a Church and build a Christian family in Cleveland.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I realized why... My personal future was not going to be in Cleveland. God has a different plan in mind and first showed me a Church about 35 minutes away. This was a rather large congregation (2000+) and after only one service I realized that 2000+ would be a safe place to re-start my Christian life, but it wasn't what I was yearning for. God apparently agreed and through one of his children showed me a House Church in Canton, OH. After a few visits it became very clear to me that this was the place that God had in mind all along for me. It is the end-station in finding a Christian Family and the start of my new life as an adult Christian.

It's been about 2 months now that I've been going to this House Church and some very important steps in my walk with Christ have happened. I re-learned the meaning the fellowship and more importantly I got baptized in front of the congregation. The baptism was a very powerful act, but is nothing more than an act. It is the process that preceded the baptism (this whole story) and the comforts I hope to enjoy in my walk with Christ and my fellow Christian Family. This past week I was fortunate to facilitate a theological exercise (the term is big word for a group-discussion in a Church setting) on 'Forgiveness' and it was a bit daunting for me when I agreed to do it, but again with the help of my Christian Family I hope to enjoy many more of these discussion to continue to grow closer to God and being a better servant for His Purpose!

It has also taught me that I was right in feeling an emptiness in my life. I had a lot of earthly possessions, a comfortable life through a good job and a body of friends (albeit too far away for any true spiritual guidance). I have since learned that even though being responsible with money is a deed that is appreciated by God (see Matthew 25), but it is but only a small part. Becoming a Christian means to me that my life no longer centers around my earthly desires, but it should instead by focussed on becoming more Christ-like since John 14:6 tells us that "Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (TNIV). We cannot take our earthly belongings into heaven, only our love for Jesus. Fortunately, that is exactly what is needed to enter the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Toronto and Niagara - Sunday

The final day of our weekend-trip north of the border. We got up a little earlier today and decided to goto Tim Hortons for breakfast. The hotel breakfast was excellent, but also about $15, so Timmies is a bit cheaper and just as nice. Hey, I'm still Dutch... First action point of the day was to look after the needs of Might Mouse (my car). He was a bit thirsty and a bit dirty. That was easily fixed and we went on our way to Timmies.

We ened-up at the Tim Hortons on the QEW and Winston Churchill Blvd (pretty much driving right by Joel and Carolyns place...) and after some good bagels, coffee and some cookies and timbits for the road we took off towards Niagara.

The drive was an easy hour and after the two skyways (Burlington and St. Catherines) we headed for Niagara-on-the-Lake. After about 5 kilometer we stopped at a vineyard that was still open, called Chateau des Charmes. Beautiful grounds and an impressive old-looking new builing in Chateau-style (...) presented itself.

Inside we tried to get onto the tour, but they were already in the middle of it and since my French is not good enough to play translator we opted for the wine-tasting (at 11am !!) and I ended-up buying a nice Cabernet. So if anybody is interested, just drop by so we can share a glass (but don't wait too long...)

From the Chateau we headed for Queenston and the Niagara Parkway. We made numerous stops along the way; at a scenic lookout overlooking the (lower) Niagara river, at the flower clock and at the Whirlpool Rapids. Sorry Dad, but I think I just made the shot you were hoping to make last year...

Once in Niagara Falls we drove along the river seeing the Falls and looked for a good spot to park. The parking at the river turned out to be $12 dollars so alternative arrangements were thought up. I remembered where I stayed with Mom and Dad two blocks after that Days Inn hotel there was the Hockey Arena with free parking. Only 1 mile away and that just saved us $12.

We had the distinct pleasure of walking through Clifton HIll, which is absolute madness. Weird contraptions that somehow have absolutely nothing to do with the Falls, but hey, it brings in more people so... We walked to the river and took some photos. We decided not to walk all the way to the Horseshoe Falls and after using the zoom on the camera we turned around heading back towards the car.

On Clifton Hill walking back one of the most unbelievable things happened. We ran into the same Dutch couple we met on Saturday on top of the CN Tower!!! What are the changes of that? Especially since it wasn't exactly a slow day on either of the two days... We just said hello and continued on.

Back at the car we grabbed some timbits and cookies and headed back onto the Parkway towards Buffalo. After about 10 minutes we started to see the snow appearing and more and more and bigger and bigger branches that snapped during the snowstorm of Thrusday. All along the Parkway residents were cleaning up their yards and driveways. That must have been one pretty nasty storm... Especially since in Niagara Falls there wasn't any evidence of even the smallest branch or snow flake.

One reason we drove down to Buffalo was because the Rainbow (border) bridge in Niagara Falls was completely full and traffic wasn't moving so I opted for The Peace Bridge. Turned out to be a good decision since the bridge was clear and we only waited for maybe 10 mintues before it was our turn. Another easy crossing later we were back in the States and on our way to Cleveland.

Like in Niagara Falls, on the main highways there wasn't a single sign of the storm anymore. Later we found out that I-90 re-openeed late on Friday so they have had two days to clear everything out.

A good 2.5 hrs later we had completed the Lake Erie Circle Tour and were back in Cleveland. Tired, but fulfilled by a good trip I dropped Kaushal off at this car and went home where the task of putting up the pictures was awaiting.

Since that was the biggest time consumer (typing these three posts was a little quicker) I opted to get that out of the way first. I really like that now, since I'm now gonna do absolutely nothing but getting some food and watching some shows on TV.

Relaxation time...

Toronto and Niagara - Saturday

Saturday we slept in a bit since breakfast was untill 10.30am. The hotel had an excellent breakfast. Very good hash-browns, bacon, eggs, sausages, but also croissants, serial and bread. Accompanied by excellent coffee and fresh OJ we had a very good start of the day.

The plan was to drive from the hotel to Yorkdale Shopping Centre, park the car and take the subway to downtown Toronto. This time the plan worked, or in the words of the unforgettable Colonel Hannibal Smith (A-team) 'I love it when a plan comes together...'.

We got the day-passes and took the first train to Union Station. First stop: CN Tower. What else? So we took the Skyway and at the tower bought the tickets to go up. Piece of advice, don't take the experience, just the observation deck and (optionally) the Skypod. Use Wikipedia to read up on the story of the CN Tower and you save yourself some nice dollars.

The ride up is quick (at 15mph / 22km/u) and gets you to 350m / 1100ft / 113 stories) where the observation deck is located. It holds a number of things. Among others, a restaurant with an astonishing view, plenty of look-out oppertunities and a glass floor. Especially the latter is an 'interesting' experience for those of us who have never been on it.

During the ride-up I thought I spotted a Dutch couple, but didn't get a change to talk to them. While taking some shots from around the observation deck I ran into the male-part of the couple and talked to him for a bit. They were doing a North America tour and already visiited NY, Boston, Montreal and Ottawa. We talked some more on things to do in Toronto and said our goodbyes.

After the talk I had a voice mail from Joel. We was calling to see what the plans were to meet-up for dinner. We settled on the Old Spaghetti Factory (we have a bit of history there - not to be disclosed here...) around 5pm since the Leafs were playing the Flames at 7pm (that's the NHL ice-hockey teams Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Calgary Flames for those outside the Americas) and they all like to get a bite to eat before the game.

During that call Joel mentioned how cool it would for me to meet some fellow Dutchies on top of the tower. Well, he hit the nail on the head there. On the other hand, you can find Dutchies in northern New Hampshire on a mountain pass in the middle of May, so meeting a few on the main tourist trap in Southern Ontario wasn't that much of a strech...;-)

The views where amazingly clear and by far the best I've ever encoutered. We even had a very cool view on a strom rolling-in from the West (see the photo-link, just click on the blog-title). It turned-out to be a nifty rain-strom and we decided to let it run its course and watch it go by from within the observation deck.

Being a tourist-trap they smartly have the elevator down end in the middle of the gift-shop. All kinds of interesting looking contraptions can be found there. Some actually useful, other absolutely not, but almost all a bit overpriced. I find it a sport to find a useful, normally priced item and this time I acutally found something.

The tour of 'le tour CN' completed we headed for downtown Toronto and were looking for one of those Tour Busses that show you the major things in 2 hours. There was one directly on Front and John street. However, the booth was there, but no agent. We called the number and a friendly voice told us the agent was coming any minute. After about 15mins still no agent, so we decided to skip it and fall back on plan B - just do most of the items on foot.

About 2 mintues later the agent came running up, but since the tour wouldn't start until 3pm and took 'at least' 2 hours it would interfere with our dinner plans, so we decided to continue on foot. Since walking takes energy we stopped at Tim Hortons to get bagels and Hot Chocolate. I called dad for a bit and while talking to him it started to hail. OK, plan C.

Plan C: this plan uses one of Torontos nice features, the underground PATH-system that basically connects all the major downtown buildings and sights including the Eaton Centre, City Hall and some of the Subway stations. We entered at Union Station and exited at City Hall. We then continued our tour above ground to the Eaton Centre and stopped/shopped for a bit at Indigo bookstore.

Walking through the Bay (depaartment store of the Hudson Bay Company) we exited at Queen street and walked on Yonge Street heading towards the Esplanade where the Old Speghetti Factory was located. We veered off a bit to Old Town to get some perspective before heading to one of the must-see items if you want a taste of true Canadiana, the Hockey Hall of Fame in BCE Place. We took some interesting pictures there, including a few shots of a small World Press Photo exhibition (co-sponsered by two Dutch firms... go figure).

Since it was rapidly approaching 5pm we headed towards the Old Spaghetti Factory and put our name on the list since there was about a 40 minute wait. We headed to the bar to have a drink while waiting and it turned-out that Joel and Carolyn where already there for a few minutes and were quite a few place higher on the list already. So the change was made and after about 5 mintues our table was ready.

Since it was the 'Spaghetti Factory' we had to get sonme of that. While waiting for our order they brought some delicious bread and the garden salad is also a nice appetizer (oh.. don't go for the upgrade to a Ceasar - it's huge and the main course is more then enough...). The spaghetti was awesome and over and after dinner we had some delightful converstaion on about anything you can think of. As a desert we ordered some Spumonti, a small bowl of ice that is NOT on the menu so remember to ask for it the next time you're there.

Since Joel is a big hockey fan he had it in his mind to see what the scallopers would want for tickets once the game was started. He was looking for anything under $20. Yeah right!! Turned out the cheapest ones where about $100. Not much over the regular price, but steep for a game already in progress. No surprise, but still... So we decided to go watch it in a bar. Well, where is a sports-bar when you need one...

This was the start of an interesting adaventure. We decided to go somewhere closer to the Hotel (and closer to Joel and Carolyns place as well) and since they drove down we took their car. In a momentary lapse of reason (good Pink Ployd album by the way...) I forgot that my car was still at Yorkdale so we had to go back and get it. That nice little detour costed us most of the first period of the game (2-0 Leafs). While at Yorkdale we decided to quickly look for some swimware for me, but again finding something like that in the off-season when you're in a time-crux didn't really work. Well, for $50 CDN it would have, but to pay that just to take advantage of the Hotel pool-option was a bit much.

We then tried to see if there was a store at Yorkdale that showed the game, but unfortunately not a single one did. There was one on Dufferdin, but since we still had to drive we decided to drive to the same bar we had dinner last night in Sauga and we ended-up there during the intermission between the 2nd and 3rd period of the game (score now 4-3 Leafs).

We got a good spot at the bar and ordered some wings to nibble on during the game. Since it was about 3 hours after dinner already that was much appreciated. The Flames actually scored the equalizer before Leafs captain Mats Sundin - short-handed - scored his 500th goal in sudden-death overtime to clinch it for the Leafs.
Afterwards we watched the conclusion of the Montreal Canadians and the Ottawa Senators, which - sorry Sean - went to Ottawa after shoot-outs.

Now approaching about 10pm it was time to say goodbye to Joel and Carolyn and we headed back to the hotel. I watched some of the third game on Hockey Night in Canada, but fell asleep halfway through it.

A good end to an interesting day in Toronto.

Toronto and Niagara - Friday

Another week(end), another trip. This time we went north of the border to Ontario. The plan was to leave Cleveland around 4pm on Friday and to show Toronto to my fried Kaushal and to meet up with a former co-worker of ours Sean who now resides in the Toronto area. I als gave Joel and Carolyn a call to see if they would be free to meet us somewhere sometime this weekend.

However, the good Lord decided that it was time for a bout of winter on Thrusday-night and he blanketed the Buffalo, NY region under 2 feet (60cm) of snow. Normally that wouldn't be such an issue since Buffalo is used to getting some snow, but getting this much, this heavy wet snow, this early in the season was new. It left 300,000 people without power and the main Interstate (I-90) closed in a circle of about 45 miles around the city. Since the normal route from Cleveland to Toronto goes over that road and through Buffalo we were forced to take a bit of a detour taking the Detroit-Windsor border isntead.

No troubles at the border (not even had to show our passports), but the drive from Windsor to London, Ontario is soooo boring. Flat, straight and pitch-black at night. Those first 110 miles (185km) are no fun. After London things lite-up a bit and you get a sense of civilization back.

From London to Toronto is about 75 minutes and it is an easy drive. I booked a room at the Courtyard Mariott in Mississauga (Dixie and Eglington W) so once off the 401 it was only 5 minutes to find the hotel. We checked-in and called Sean we arrived. He showed-up about 30mins later just in time for us to get soemthing to eat.

It was about 10.30pm since the detour via Detroit adds 1.5 hrs to a normally pleasant 4 hr drive and neadless to see we where starving. We tried the Belfast Lounge, but their kitchen closed at 10pm so they were helpful in pointing out that basically across the street there was a bar called 'Hoodoo McFriggins' that seerves food 'till midnight. Yes!!

In the parking lot getting the car we were approached by a very frantic looking guy who was trying to get money to get his wife and kid a bus-ticket home from the border where their car had broken down. He had about $ 80 CDN on him already and was about $ 10 short. His story actually sounded credible and sincere so I gave him $ 10. Good deed for the day fulfilled.

After that we went to the other bar and indeed they served untill midnight. We got a table next to the fireplace and ordered some Ribs and Wings accompanied by some local Sleeman Honey Brown (one of my favourite beers). About 10 mins after the food that same gentleman from the parking lot entered and sat down at the bar. Somehow he spotted us and immediately left. Guess a guilty conscience got the better of him. Well, he probably left for another bar...;-)

We had some good conversation and catch-up time with Sean over some well appreciated food and drinks. It was getting late fast and a little after midnight we decided to call it a night. We drove back to the hotel, dropped Sean off at his car and went to bed for some shut-eye.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A trip to Dayton

Last weekend it was time for another road-trip. This time the destination was the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. Sunday-morning at about 7.15am we left from Beachwood. Around 9.30am we stopped at Tim Hortons in Columbus for a some breakfast since we were both starving. It was Kaushals first time to a Tim Hortons and we have 'm converted..;-) He loves it now...

About 10am we left Timmies heading for a Wafflehouse in Dayton to meet-up with Jen, Jen and Aleena. Unbenownst to each other both me and (one of the two) Jen where in the same area (both hours away from home) so we decided to have some food and fellowship. We had a great (but too short of a) time!

After seeing the girls off to Michigan again we took the backroads to the musuem and with a little help from the GPS got there pretty quick. The musuem is free and the only charges are for IMAX movies and some 'thrill-rides'. The IMAX-movies are worth the money, but forgo the other ones. Just focus on the planes and the rest of the exhibits.

One of the highlights was the Modern display with planes like the B1, B2 and F117 Stealth Fighter. You can see 'm in the pictures I put up on my own website (click here) so you can see what I mean.

Taking pictures in such a dark place was a bit challenging, but with the use of a manual mode and some steady objects to keep the camera still for long exposures (up to 5 seconds...) we got some awesome shots. Long live manual controls. Even in the digital age you can't always live without them.

After the 2nd IMAX movie we were kindly reminded that it was 6pm, closing time and we should be heading out before they'd close the gates on us.

On the way back we stopped in London for some $1.99 gas. Wow, that was a long time ago we saw that price. It sure is nice though... Including the pitstop it took us a little under 3 hours to get back to Beachwood and stopped for some food at PF Changs. Nice ending to a beautiful Sunday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The end of the internal combustion engine - for real ?? today posted an article on a new engine-type that sounds like it could replace the internal combustion engine all together at an engine-build price marginally higher, but a substansially lower running-cost without any reliabilty on oil. The article mentions a number of details on how the new type engine will run, but not the who and how the required infrastructure (charge-stations) will be handled.

All-in-all, very interesting article. Let's see if its true...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Grand Rapids

Last weekend I went to Grand Rapids, MI to visit a special friend of mine. Left work early after another one of those crazy weeks. Pretty easy drive and since I've done it a couple of times on-route to Holland, MI I decided to see how good Verizons VZ Navigator actually was. Lets just say I was impressed. I can recommend using it. OK, back to topic at hand... as I said the drive was easy, rainy, but nothing special. Stopped in Lansing to pick-up a little present and then continued on to GR. The last hour was pretty interesting since the rain really picked-up and as the icing on the cake I was treated to a wonderful lightshow. Long story short, after a good 4.5 hrs I got to GR. We just hung-out and chatted a bit until it is was time for some well-deserved shut-eye.

Saturday-morning I slept-in and - looking at the forecast - we decided to do the outdoor-activities in the morning since it would rain for the rest of the day. After a quick stop at the post-office we went to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. What a beautiful place. We especially liked the Orchid Wall... Never knew there were that many varieties (according to the guide > 200,000) and in that many shpaes and colours. Wow! We also saw the worlds largest seeds (two coconuts seeds). They are huge... At first they looked like rocks (hence we missed them the first time around) but the guide (thanks again!!) pointed it out for us.

After the seeds and a lovely walk to the sculpture garden we decided to splurge and take the VIP (...;-) guided-tour. Since the tour will point-out many things you will miss on your own - including the artists thoughts behind the objects - I would highly recommend taking the tour. It was well worth it... for more reasons then just the excellent narations.

We decided to give one of the highlights of the tour - Nina Akamu’s 24 feet tall 'The American Horse', created in homage to Leonardo da Vinci's original commission by the Duke of Milan a closer look. Very impressive.

After the garden (sorry, no pics this time since I forgot my camera...) we went to Pannera for lunch. Since we wanted to play Settlers of Catan for a bit we decided to skip the first one (way too busy) and opted for one with an open booth. The game and my opponent were very imposing since I hadn't played in a while versus my oppenents multiple times a week. I had to add some Dutch in the mix in order to compete. We decided that every number had to be pronounced in Dutch and since I'm the only Native Dutch speaker that equalized things a bit...;-) Oh, for those interested... I still lost that game, as with all the other ones. The next game we decided to try French... That didn't help either, but we had lots of fun and re-discovered some talent we didn't think we had...

Around 5.45pm it was time for church. God decided to make throw us an obstacle course... I was raining like CRAZY!!! Wow!!! At church we even had to wait a bit in the car since it was raining way to hard. It finally let up a bit and we decided to make a run for it under the cover of my jacket. It didn't help much...

Once in church the unusual things kept coming. How about the announcement of a Counrty worship-song accommodated by actual line-dancing? Not crazy enough? How about an evacuation due to a Tornado warning? Well, one of the more memorable services I've ever been to...

The evening didn't end there... Oh no... Next stop: Wealthy Theater for a performance of the River City Improv. We met-up with a friend at church and headed over to downtown GR. We got the tickets and scored front-row! What an impressive show. Absolutely hilarious on numerous occasions. Never heared a line 'the white men stole all my candy' just level the place and (the same sketch about a girl selling lemonade) in the style of a late-night religious fund-raser was an instant classic. If you're ever in GR on a night when they perform, go see them! Check their website for the latest schedule.

Since we did church on Saturday, Sunday-morning was a nice and relaxing time filled by some more Catan. This time the Cities & Knights expansion version. Makes it very interestng I must say... Still lost, but that was more to my fierce opponent...;-). At 1pm it was time for some football, another mutually liked past-time. Found a nice Buffalo Wild-Wings that was showing the Bears vs Vikings and had a great time. Thanks to the Pittsburgh fans for their impressive cheering! After we saw Brett Favre throwing his 400th career TD-pass on another screen we re-focussed on the Vikings, but a late 4th quarter INT lead to a TD for the Bears and a loss for the Vikings. Well, can't win 'm all.

Time flies when you're having fun so time to leave GR (which was bright and sunny again) and head back to Ohio. Wish I could have stayed a while longer, but since I promised the boss to check-up on a few things at work I had to leave. It's still a 4 hour drive so...

Thanks to everybody who made it a weekend to remember...

Gas under $2.00 !!

Our prayers have been answered!!! *smile*.

Both Cleveland and Canton now have gasprices of under $2.00. Found $1.95 in Cleveland and $1.97 in Canton. Interesting how this sounds to my European friends, especially since they pay about $7.00 per gallon.

Have a great day!

A happy (long-distance) driver...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

US Open 2006

One of my buddies from work - Kaushal - was telling me he was planning on going to the US Open 2006 in Flusing, NY. I always wanted to see a Grand-Slam match, so consider the exitement when we were able to secure tickets to the Mens Semi-Final matches on Saturday. Leaving from Akron-Canton Airport on a direct 1hr flight to La Guardia we were in Queens around 9.30am. We took a cab to the USTA Tennis Center and got onto the grounds at around 10am. After grabbing some brunch (not often you can get a good Greek-style Gyros with garlic-sauce in the morning) and listing in on an interview with Nick Bolleterri (owner of the Tennis Academy which produced players like Sharapova, Seles, Agassi, etc...) I bought a polo-shirt from the Arthur Ashe foundation to support the cure for Aids. I thought it was fitting after having tickets to the games at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Plus, I wasn't willing to spend almost $100 for a Ralph Lauren polo. Sorry, but my money goes to the ones needing it more...

The two games where Federer - Davidenko and Roddick - Youshny. The Federer match was a bit of roll-over, but the 2nd match was a real match leaving Roddick with the right strategy to appear victorious in 4 sets. The weather was again awesome and I picked-up a nice tan. Me, the blond white guy from Holland now finally has a tan. Oh, of course I ran into some Coggies living in NY... After freshing-up at the Hotel we went to the East Village on Manhattan to get tickets to the Blue Man Group and some food. We ended-up in a nice Chinese Restaurant a few blocks down from the Astoria Theater on Lafayette Street, setting outside enjoying a dish listed as 'Chefs-mom special'. Well, gotta have that..;-)

The Blue Man Group was awesome. Very impressive use of every day objects in a musical and comedic setting. Add some twinkies, toilet paper and a lot of audience participation and you can imagine we had a great time. I can strongly recommend seeing the show. Its worth the ticket-price. For those in NE Ohio: Oct 7, 2006 they will perfrom in the Quicken Loans Arena at 8pm.

The Sunday was a real relaxing day with getting up in time only to get breakfast and then a free shuttle back to the airport. Hopefully to be back in Cleveland in time to catch the Finals of the US Open. Result: Federer won that match and his 9th career Grand Slam. He only has 5 players ahead of him on the all-time Grand-Slam list and he's only 25 years old. History in the making...

Good night!

Summer of '06

The clog-files have been MIA for the Summer of '06, so I feel its time for a short recap:

My good friends Joel and Carolyn Vriend came to visit me from Canada in a rare moment where they both had time to come down from beautiful Ontario. It was Joels second time visiting me, but his lovely wife made her first trip to Cleveland. We visited Amish Country and had a lovely drive through this beautiful part of NE Ohio. And treats to die for...;-). Also the drive through University Circle, Fairmount and the Chagrin River valley was a nice way of showing how great this beautiful city can be.

When they left my buddy Chris Leaney came down for the Sammy Hagar concert at the Tower City Amphitheater. After two false-starts and some oscar-winning performance getting rid of some excess tickets we enjoyed ourselves with a great show by an almost 60-year old performer. If you ever get a chance to go see him... you will not be dissapointed!

After the devastating blow delt to us in the World Cup it was time to get some good 'ol camaraderie going again at the ceremony at the USS Cod in downtime Cleveland. This sub was responsible for the only international submarine-to-submarine rescue in history rescueing the Dutch submarine O-19. The commencement ceremony at the harbour involved the Dutch Honorary Consul and a very special privilige to stand on-deck while the fired the aft-cannon in salute to this historic occasion. It does re-iterates the word 'deaffening'...;-). After the ceremony I met up with some fellow cloggies and we visited the Tall Ships Fest next to where the USS-Cod is docked.

We hosted a party to some Dutch exchange students from Neyenrode University, majoring in International Law. We had the good fortune of having a beautiful evening and had the luxery of sitting outside on the patio of the Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio City. It was midnight before we knew it and closed the evening in the Warehouse District on West 6th until closing.

The yearly company picknick was at the Geauga Lake amusement park in Aurora, OH. Free lunch and free entrance to the park. Well, we Cloggies are known to be a bit cheap, so this was one oppertunity we had to take advantage off...;-). Another gorgeous day and great success.

The last weekend...:
Save the best for last, so I took the Friday off for an even longer weekend. It turned-out that after working a long week with odd hours I was able to leave at 10.30am on Thursday, so this was quickly turning into a nice mini-vacation. I took off for Ontario. First meeting up with my cousin Chad to deliver some part for his '83 Honda Shadow bike he's restoring and then on to Joel and Carolyn since we would go camping the next day. After a relaxing night with a movie we loaded up the car the next day and left for Port Burwell Provincial Park on Friday. We knew that it would rain on Saturday (remnents of Hurricane Ernesto), but the rest of the weekend was there to make up for that.

On the Saturday we did some fishing before the rain got real heavy. When the rain and the wind picked-up we all got together in the dining tent and played some board-games. Catan, Rumus and cards were available, but the real blessing was the fellowship and... here it comes... an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS authentic Chinese dinner prepared by our Chinese Canadian friends who came along. By far the best campsite-dinner I ever had... Sorry Mom, sorry Dad!!. Dumplings, Chinese soup, noodels, sweet-and-sour pork, spicy sauces and all of that prepared in the pouring rain! Thank you, Gao Family!

The Sunday - after a church-service on the campground - we played bodgy-ball until we had to stop to prepare dinner. Maybe the Seniors have a point there...;-) Of course all the campfires where a nice icing on the camping-cake. Hope to see you all next year!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

We're done...

Its a sad day in the Netherlands. We've just lost a war... Yes, a war. Really I hear you asking? Yes, really. A soccer/football-war. Both sides sustained heavy injuries with in total 4 fatalities. All of it under the command of a mad Russian.

For those of you who tuned in to CNN instead of ESPN to see the war-coverage, Holland lost 0-1 to Portugal in a brutal match with 12 yellow cards and 4 red cards. For the statistically inlcined among us, yes, that's a record...

Holland was the better team, but Portugal was better at deceiving the referee and killing the game. Since - as the saying goes - all is fair in love and war, it doesn't matter anymore. The result stands and Holland is done. The classic under-archievers have not been able to break free as the Euro '88 team - with a center-forward called Marco van Basten - was able to do.

Since that squad - with besides van Basten, also having Ronald Koeman, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Arnold Muhren - beat the then Soviet Union in the final I guess there was a rather frustrated Russian watching that game. Payback's a bitch...

Better luck next time.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A trip to the Motherland - Working days

Wednesday and Thursday were working days at the office in Roosendaal, NL. Nothing exiting happened, besides that I sold my Digital Rebel that day. One of the co-workers who bought my first Digital Rebel had a brother who was looking for a Digital SLR. Since I wasn't using it all that much since I bought my Powershot S70 I was able to get a good deal on it. Since one of the co-workers from the Netherlands is in the States this week, transport to the Netherlands is taken care of.

Tuesday-night after work we had dinner with some co-workers in downtown Roosendaal. Again outside, since the weather was only getting better. After dinner we met a few more people for drinks on the patio of a local bar on the main square in Roosendaal. Around midnight we moved to another bar for some Darts (and some more beer). Thanks Jeffery, Mat, Ingrid, Frank, John and Steven. We had a blast!!

Wednesday-night I met with Mesut and Johan for dinner at an Indonesian (or Balinees) restaurant. Those restaurants give you great food, lots of it and it's more than you can handle. Garuanteed!! Afterwards I went back to Helmond where Grandma and one of my aunts were waiting to say goodbye. Tomorrow we're flying back again!!

A trip to the Motherland - Monday / Tuesday

Monday was a day to finish-up my affairs in Belgium. Closed the bank-account in Lanaken and withdrew the money. Went to Maastricht to transfer the Dutch bank-account from there to Helmond and deposited the money from Belgium. Afterwards we had lunch on one of the most beautiful squares in the Netherlands in my favorite city in the Netherlands; the Vrijthof in Maastricht. Outside in the sun enjoying a beer and a good soup. Gotta love that!!

When I'm in Southern Limburg there is one stop you just HAVE to make. Just outside a very small village in a valley called 'Epen' on the way to Vaals there is an ice-cream stand where you get the most and best ice-cream. It doesn't have a name and it's just a gravel parking lot and a market-stand, but for $3 / EUR 2.50 you get an ice-cream cone that's big enough to kill any appetite you might have. Even a US appetite!! You have a choice of 15 different flavors, fresh fruit and whipcream and more... Ask any resident of the area and they will direct you to it. Word of caution: if you're there on a weekend or holiday, prepare to wait and walk. The parking lot will be full so you'll have to park elsewhere and get in line for your treat. Trust me, its more than worth the wait!!

We took the scenic route back to Helmond through the Limburg and German country-side. Dad bought some shoes in Venlo (where I studied and worked before joining Penske) and after dinner we went back to my parents place.

Tuesday we played the tourist and visited the Royal Palace 'Het Loo' in Apeldoorn. Beautiful grounds, nice Palace, but you're going for the back-yard. Gorgeous. I've got plenty of pictures on my website Again, took the scenic route back and had dinner outside in downtown Helmond which came with movie-tickets so we got to see M-I-III for free. Very decent movie, but what a terrible and disapointing ending.

A trip to the Motherland - Weekend

On Saturday - after dropping Dad off at the store - I ran some errands for myself. I went to see the new Piazza Center and the Media Markt in Eindhoven. The Media Markt is the Dutch equivalent of a Best Buy or Circuit City. I just browsed around a bit and was able to score some Dutch music CDs which are very hard to get (or expensive to get) in the States. You got to be able to pop-in some Rowwen Heze when you're in the mood to party!!

After picking Dad up at the store we had dinner - yes, outside again - and got the place ready for the big B-Day party. Since the whole backyard is now redone and over 50% covered we held the party ouside. A good 30 people showed up and the beer flowed happily from bottle to stomach. The last people left at about 2.30am....

Sunday was a nice quiet day. I watched the Formule One race and some other sports which are rare on US TV. You need to have at least one relaxing day, just kicking back and relaxing.

Happy Birthday Mom and Dad

Last week - during the trip - May 7: Birthday of my mom.
Today - May 13: Birthday of my dad.

Happy birthday to you both and may we have many more!!


A trip to the Motherland - First day

In honor of my parents birthday I took a quick trip to the Motherland from May 6 to May 12. Flew in to Brussels since Amsterdam was either booked, too expensive or via a rediculous route. The whole gang was supposed to pick me up, but due to an illness of the help in my parents shop my mom had to work, so only Dad and my sister where there. No issues with the flight, eventough it turned out that there was a fire in a hanger on the Airport in Brussels.

To combat any jetleg I drove from the airport to the shop to meet Mom. I also went on a little shopping spree to a local Sams Club to look for a bigger suitcase since Mom and Dad had some things for me to take on the way back.

Shopping done, time to see the remodelling of my parents house. They completely re-did the backyard and... to pick-up Grandma for dinner. While my sister, supervised by Grandma prepared dinner, Dad and I quickly went to downtown Helmond to look for some new shoes for me. Somehow that's something I always do in Holland. Found them after a good hour and went back home. Mom was done in the shop as well, so we had a good dinner outside on the patio.

Outside? Yes, outside. The weather is cooporating very nicely! 80F / 25C and sunny!

The Queens Birthday

In the Netherlands the Queens Birthday is celebrated on 'Koninginnendag'. This is not only celebrated in the Netherlands, but also by the Dutch communities abroad and oversees. I had the pleasure of attending the Queen's Birthday celebration 2006 in Ohio organised by the Netherlands Ohio Chamber of Commerce. For more info on 'Koninginnendag', please visit the Holland Ring site on Koninginnedag.

It was a fun evening with familiar food and drinks. Eventough Heineken is available pretty much everywhere, other Dutch delights such as Bami Pangang and Kroketten are more rare in the States than a native American in downtown Manhattan. Funny, when we left that place to the Britsh there were plenty of them... Ah well, back to the party.

After the food and drinks we had the pleasure of singing both the American and Dutch national anthem to kick-off the musical part of the evening with two bands and a DJ. The bands were from Ohio and ... Bavaria. Interesting, a German band on a party for the Dutch Queen. Well, the bands were great. Especially the one from Bavaria.

The DJ was an American from the Akron/Canton-region who studied in Groningen for two years so was able to speak and understand Dutch and, more importantly, had a whole range of Dutch music to choose from. Which we did with pleasure until the whee morning hours.

Hip Hip Hurray for the Queen !!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Victorious People

It's amazing what you can find on the Internet these days. For instance there are numerous sites that explain the origin of your name. Sites like or Just type in 'Name' followed by your name in Google and you get plenty of sites to choose from.

Of course I Googled my own name 'Niels'. It is of Danish origin and is a derivative of the Greek name 'Nikolaos' which means "victory of the people". 'Nike' means victory - now you can finally understand why a popular sports brand choose that name - and 'Laos' meaning people.

Saint Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop from Anatolia who, according to legend, saved the daughters of a poor man from lives of prostitution. He is also known as Santa Claus (from Dutch Sinterklaas), the bringer of Christmas presents. He is the patron saint of children, sailors and merchants, and Greece and Russia. Nicholas was also the name of two czars of Russia and five popes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


One of my shows I always try to watch is the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Its on at 12.30u after Letterman on CBS. Very funny, just a great show to end the day on a fun note.

Tonights episode, however, was very different. Craigs father, Robert Ferguson, died of cancer at the age of 75. The show was done in the form of a Scottish / Celtic wake. Not a seance, but a show about the person with all its quirks, idiosyncraties, etc..

For whatever reason this show struck a serious nerve. The strange thing is that - fortunately - my dad is still very much alive. I guess hearing Craig talk about his dad made me miss mine. The reality of living on the other side of the Atlantic never really gets to me much, but this time it hit me hard.

He talked about the time he spend with his dad when he was a kid, the little things like watching TV together and his dad putting a hand on his hand. Thats a true male way of saying 'I love you, kid'.

Watching Craig do a bit of a tribute (with a touch of a roast...) to his dad made me aware of the great bond I have with my father. We don't talk for hours over the phone or otherwise have long conversations, we don't really need to. We just 'get' each other. We get along perfectly. But at times like these I truely miss the oppertunity to just 'drop in' on my dad and hang out with him for bit.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: 'I love you, Dad....'

Your son.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The sound of (good) music

Today I tried the sound-system for the first time. Short version: After some initial tuning I was absolutely blown away... Man, that one sounds good. Those of you who have been here to Cleveland know that I'm a bit of a music lover and have some nice 'tune-reproducing' equipment sort-of-speak.

This car-audio system (the factory-upgrade) sounds superb. Very detailed, clear sound with an excellent, pronounced but not overpowering, clear bass. Very good reproduction of the higher-range frequencies and an overall clear and detailed field-of-sound.

Initially, with having no CDs and only FM radio as a source, you might be a little dissapointed. But as soon as you load a good CD (it holds 6 discs, either CDs or MP3) it starts to shine. And how it shines. I don't get 'hyped-up' about something easily, but this system is one you gotta hear to believe.

For all of you looking of getting a new Ford (Fusion) or Mercury (Milan), spend the extra dollars for the upgraded soundsystem. You will not be dissapointed...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New car

I've taken the plunge and bought a new car in the States. First time buyer on this side of the Atlantic. I was basically looking at a 4-door sedan, not to big, but not entry-level either. Since I don't like a car that is in the shop a lot either I opted for a new car.

After some initial broad list I'd narrowed it down to two cars; the new Ford Fusion (NOT the same as the European Ford Fusion - entirely different car...) or the new Hyundai Sonata. After looking at both of them in more detail I decided to go for the Fusion. Eventhough the Sonata was nice and had the better warranty, I liked the look of the Fusion beter. And since I was able to use the Supplier Discount Program at Ford I got a good deal on a top-of-the-line, fully loaded Fusion SEL V6.

It's got a black exterior and a tan interior with faux wood inlays. Looks really sharp. I could have driven it off the lot if I wanted to, but I'll take delivery early next week. I test-drove two versions, one with the 17" wheels and one with the 18" wheels. Both drive nice and firm and with the 18" wheels you hardly notice the lower tires and the overall stickiness improves over the already above-average handling (see various reviews). I like the 6-speed automatic to get quick accelaration if needed and nice low revs once on cruising speed.

If you wanna check out a few pix: Click here

It has all the tools and toys on it, so 'daddy' is happy now...;-)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Staying a little longer - Permanent residency application filed

After receiving the new L1b-visa back in May I'm able to stay in the USA until July 2008. After working on that visa for a little over 3,5 years the time has come to take a next step and commit towards a Permanent Residency permit (better know as a 'Green Card'). It used to be a green-colored card but after they changed the color the nickname kind of stuck in the minds of everybody. Even the Visa Diversity lottery being held every year is unoffically still called the Green Card lottery.

Penske has offered to start the process. It is a long and drawn-out process which is expected to take at least 1,5 years. The biggest hurdle for the process is the 'Labor Certification'. That used to take over a year but a few months ago this process changed to an all-digital, 45-day process. I'll believe it when I see it. Anyway, since my current visa is valid to 2008 I've got some time.

I'll keep everybody updated on the progress, but I don't expect too big of an issue getting the certification and the subsequent approval of the permanent residency application.

This permanent residency was something that was always in the back of my mind as a possibility to explore once I was working in the States. Most co-workers in the Maastricht office joked that as soon as I left Europe I would probably not come back. I guess they were right... To be honest, I might have lead them on a bit to that thought.

Like I said, I'll keep everybody posted on any progress.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Building an Igloo

A view friends had an idea to build an igloo. They are from Canada (at least most of them) and while everybody in Canada is working hard to breakdown stereotypes we decided to push back a little and actually build an igloo.

You don't need much, a good amount of sticky snow, a mold to create the building blocks, a saw to mold the blocks when needed and a general idea of how to build it up (the walls should continuiously slope inward for the dome shape).

We started by using the full blocks out of the mold for the first two layers, then moved to 2/3 for layer 3 and 4 and then moved to 1/3 for the final layer and roof. We continuiously enforced the joints by creating as much touching points between the blocks and filling up any spaces that were left.

With 4 guys it took us about 2 hours for our first attempt and it actually worked. Here is a link to the photos...