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 !!