Goodbye Zulu

Today was a very tough day. We had to put down my brother’s dog Zulu. She was 12 years old.

Brent and Zulu

Zulu came to our family in January 1997 through our friends Angela Lee. Zulu was ultimately my brother’s dog, but she was welcomed into the family and we all loved and cared for her very much.

Zulu as a puppy Zulu's first wash with a young Matt and Brent!

She was a very intelligent and kind natured dog. She was great around children and loved having human company. She was also a very good guard dog (some might say too good as her barking was legendary!). She took one of her tasks of barking at the mailman very seriously!

She always loved going for long walks along the Margate shoreline. She would usually pull the cord very hard to get the beach as soon as possible! We felt a few times she might pull you off your feet if you were not careful! She usually settled down once you got the beach and then enjoyed the walk and the view.

She always enjoyed a nice treat every now and then. She was crazy for those Smacko treats. She would do anything for them!

Zulu watching over her domain Zulu seeing something downstairs

As the years ticked by and I moved out of home and did my travelling, I didn’t see as much of Zulu as I would have liked. But she was always there to greet me with a little present (usually a stick or a rock) and a vigorously wagging tail whenever I dropped by to visit. She loved being petted and stroked and a good old fashioned belly rub.

In the last few months, her enthusiastic moods gave way to a more relaxed nature. We then found out after several tests that she had cancer and tumours in her stomach and jaw respectively. After we exhausted all options, Brent opted to do the humane thing and release her from any further pain.

This was a very tough decision and of course it was a very difficult process to go though but it was for Zulu’s benefit.

One of my favourite shots of Zulu!

One of the reasons why I am glad I am in Brisbane instead of Holland at the moment was it allowed me to say goodbye and to get closure with Zulu.

So goodbye Zulu, may you be in peace and be playfully chasing Kruimel around in pet heaven somewhere! 🙂 You will always be in our memories and our hearts forever. We will miss you.

 

I have included some of the digital photos I have taken of Zulu over the last 5 years.

My first digital shots of Zulu on Nov 2003. Zulu at the gate Brent with Zulu Brent playing with Zulu  Me with Zulu on a walkFemke with Zulu on a walk  Zulu enjoying herself at a party Brent and Zulu at the beach Brents favourite photo of him and ZuluOne of the last photos taken of Brent and Zulu

Wally

Now I am settling back in at home in Australia, thought I would post a simple update.

Around our pool area there is a lizard that appears occasionally. My folks have christened the lizard as “Wally”.  According to them, Wally likes to hang around the pool. He has been known to swim through the water, drink from it and generally stands and poses (in an upright position) next to it.

When I first came home I saw him a few times and thought it would be good to get a zoomed in photo. For the next week, whenever I came out onto the back veranda I would look for Wally. But he was nowhere to be seen. I began to wonder if he has gone. Recently I did see him a few times, but by the time I got my camera he was gone.

Yesterday during very heavy rains I was finally able to capture him. He was just sitting next to the pool in the pouring rain.

It was a bit hard to focus through the rain, but this one shot below came out ok. So here’s Wally, the guardian of the pool!

Wally the Lizard

Journey back to Australia

I am now back in Australia.

I am glad to be back, but I just wish it was under better circumstances and that Femke was with me. 🙁

After a great weekend at Scheveningen, sadly it was time to go. 🙁

On Sunday the 1st of Feb, we all drove out to Amsterdam airport. After checking in the bags we had a final lunch at the airport. Fem and I spent some time together at the lookup at the airport when it started to snow lightly. It was like Holland was saying farewell.

We met up with her parents again and we all had a tearful goodbye. I then went through customs and eventually I was on the plane to Bangkok. We left about 2:30pm Amsterdam time.

This first leg of the journey was 10 hours and I was in a comfortable seat. I could not really see the main TV screen which ended up showing chick flicks back to back (including the movie “The Women” where Meg Ryan has interestingly almost completed her metamorphous into the Joker from Batman), so I spent most of the time reading.

We arrived in Bangkok and then had to wait about 1 hour before the transfer to Taipei. Then it was another 3.5 hours to Taipei. I was in the same comfortable seat and the seat next to me was vacant. Yes! So I enjoyed that part of the flight as well.

We arrived in Taipei and I confirmed that I had an exit row seat on the isle for the final leg, and then had to kill time for 9 hours. I walked around the Terminal 2 and had some Subway. It was nice to see that Subway’s order to put as little food on the subs as humanly possible was a global one. I was going to object to the 2 tiny strips of lettuce that was put on my foot long sub, but decided not to out of pure apathy.

There were some free internet terminals so I was able to check my emails on there. My internal body clock was now at 5am in the morning and I started to get very very tired. I didn’t want to go to sleep on the couches in the main concourse as that meant someone could steal my bags or put something in them. So I decided to go up to the Evergreen Hotel and paid about $AU80 for a room for 5 hours. I went into a deep sleep which was very good.

Thankfully I woke up in time and freshened up and went down to wait for the plane.

I boarded the plane and went to sit in my seat and realised immediately that I could not fit properly width wise.

“WTF?” I thought. I had come over on this same plane when I had first come to the Netherlands and I was fine? I asked the air stewardess if I could change seats and she said the plane was full.

“Oh… so what can I do?” I responded.

“Just stay in your seat for take off and we’ll sort it out in the air”

So for the next 30 mins I was very uncomfortably crushed into this damn seat. Once the plane levelled out, I took of the seat belt and just stood there reading a magazine. After a little while a stewardess approached me and said that no-one in the isle rows wanted to swap. I remember thinking “You have asked everyone? Hmmm I don’t think so”. I said that I was been sitting on the seats on the other side of the isle on the way to Europe without a drama. We asked the passenger there to get up while I tried his seat and I realised I fit ok in that one. “ahh so I just need to be in this seat.”

But the fool didn’t want to swap with me. I didn’t catch his reason. I think it might have been something like “Because I am a stupid moron”.

We checked with the other passenger on the other isle seat and he didn’t want to swap either. “Sigh”.

I said how about I just sit on the floor in the emergency row where there was a lot of room? Not ideal, but way better that my initial seat. This lasted for about 15 mins before the head stewardess came over and said I had to move as I was blocking the exit row. I was starting to get annoyed now.

“So where can I sit?”
”How about your seat?”
”I don’t fit there.”
“I’m sorry but there is no-where else, try sitting on the edge of the seat.”
“I would rather just stay here, I’m not in the way.”
“I’m sorry sir, but that’s against the rules.”

I eventually relented and tried sitting on the seat edge and that was also very uncomfortable. I tried to alternate between standing up and sitting on the edge of the seat. I could see this was not going to work too well either.

I started getting desperate and I began to think “Hmm this is a early morning flight, most people will be asleep soon so maybe I’ll just sit in the toilet they had from time to time.”

After one hour after take off, I got a tap on my shoulder. There were two American twin girls of Indian appearance. They had been watching this whole thing for a while and they were frowning.

“They can’t treat you like this!”
“I know! but what can I do? I know I’m a big guy but this is just horseshit.”
“Can’t they find someone to swap with you?”
“They said they have asked people. But I don’t think so.”
”Ahh that’s crap. We’ll ask around!”

So these girls then asked some people on the isles if they wanted to swap. The first two said no, but the girl directly behind eventually agreed after a lot of persuading.

Ahh a breakthrough at last.

So we swapped and I was able to put up the arm rest to be seated in relative comfort. My leg room was not the best, but I was able to just fit in. I was then sitting directly next to the two Americans. I gave them my deepest thanks for their efforts, they said they would have gone all around the plane if they needed to. This brought a big smile on my face and my respect for yanks went up one notch.

They both then went soundly asleep and while I was awake after my 5 hour rest at the Evergreen Hotel so I just watched 3 movies back to back to pass the time.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We landed in Brisbane 9 hours later.

The total flight time was 22.5 hours, but I was now back home.

My mother was there to greet me at the airport and so was the now infamous Brisbane heat and humidity. I was very glad to see my mother again, but not too glad to experience the humidity!

I am back.

Scheveningen

On the weekend before I left Holland, Fem and I decided to go away for one last weekend together. We went to Scheveningen which is on the coastline near The Hague. This is a very popular spot to go to in summer for it has some great beaches here.

We were staying in the Kurhaus which is one the most exclusive hotels in Holland. It’s website is here if you want to look at it in more detail.

All of Femke’s friends and family have heard of the Kurhaus but none have actually stayed there. They were happy and jealous for us when they heard we were going to be there for one night!

So on Friday 30th of January, we woke up, got ready and caught the train and then tram to Schevenigen.

The hotel itself was stunning!

Kurhaus sideKurhaus front

Hallway to our room

The insides were very fancy and elegant so we really enjoyed it. Silly me didn’t get any photos of the main dining area where it is truly stunning. So you’ll just have to go to the website for that.

After we settled in we went for a walk along the strand which is the beach front directly behind the hotel. It’s a very long walkway with lots of eateries and restaurants all along. It was nice but it was so cold and there was a strong north sea breeze blowing. There was even frost on the sand on the beach (in the shade)! Frost? On Sand? Never seen that before!

Frost on the beach? Us on the beach with the Kurhaus behind us The pier on the beach The front of the Kurhaus at night

After a long walk we then went to a popular sauna next door to the Kurhaus and spent several relaxing  hours there. After that we had a very enjoyable meal in the main dining section of the Kurhaus. We spent half the time time chatting and the other half of the time just looking up in awe at the size of the room. Very impressive indeed!

We decided to go for a stroll along the strand again at night, but I had left my beanie behind (stupid stupid stupid) and my ears were starting to go numb. There was also hardly anyone else out there as it was so cold and windy. Needless to say it was a short walk!

The following morning we had an incredible buffet breakfast in the same area where we had dinner the night before. I was annoyed that I was getting full so early as I wanted to try more of the plentiful food!

We went back onto the strand again and this time walked out along the pier.

Looking north from the pier Looking out on the pier itself Looking south from the pier

It was a great day, but again it was rather cold!

On our way back to The Hague we got off the tram at an attraction called Madurodam. This was a large miniature village. It had most of all the landmarks in the Netherlands. I thought it was a good way to see some of the things I would miss. We spent a while there just walking through and checking out the structures. They were very well done! There were a lot of structures that I had seen in real life and I was impressed with the attention to detail.

Minature worldDen Bosche church Fem in oversized clogsMe in oversized clogsA tall building! See our reflection? Minature world The RijksMuseum in Amsterdam The Dam Minature world Minature world ING headquarters Palace for the Queen Us at Minature world

After we finished up there we continued on to The Hague. In The Hague right next to the train station was one of the buildings that was in the miniature village. I took some photos of it and below I have one from the miniature village and one of the real thing. Can you tell them apart? 🙂

Is this a model or real?Is this a model or real?

When we returned to Waalwijk, we met up with Erik and Elske who wanted to say goodbye to me and they had a nice present as well. 🙂

I then had to pack up all my stuff for the plane trip. While I was doing that I found my beanie. It was in the outer pocket of my camera bag. Which I took with me to Scheveningen.  So I had it on me the entire time and didn’t know it. Sigh…

We then had a farewell dinner with Femke, Marijke and Auke at a good local restaurant. It was yummy food as usual! I received some farewell gifts from them as well. It was a nice dinner but a shame it would be the last one with the four of us for a while.

The following day I had to go back to Australia. 🙁

Visa drama fizzles out. A new chapter begins.

Well. the last few weeks have been fun.

With all the paperwork in place, the only thing that was needed was for Femke to get a job with a 12 month contract. After the few remaining possibilities closed off to us one by one (some to our surprise too) we were out of options. I have to go back to Australia. 🙁

So why did this fail? Basically it’s very hard to sack an employee in Holland. There is a lengthy process to follow so employees are keen to get the right person for the job at the start. By offering a 6 month contract it gives them a get out of jail free card by being able to remove that person if they are unsuitable for the company. Other than that, it’s not like Australia where you can say “Sorry, but we have let you go” with relative ease. So giving someone new a 12 month contract from the start is rare unless you know the new employee well.

Another reason we think, is the current economic crisis. Companies are not hiring as much as usual. Most companies seem to be shedding staff worldwide and a lot are also going under. Not really the best time to be looking for work!

<rant>

The thing that really annoys me is that I can understand the requirement for a 12 month contract job in the “typical” case for a couple who are living by themselves and would probably be having trouble making ends meet. But in my particular situation:

  • Femke had a 6 month contract
  • We were living with her parents which are more than happy to co-sponsor me as well to guarantee I would never need the welfare system here.
  • I had a job waiting for me.

I really feel that the combination of those three factors should have made the IND more lenient on the 6/12 month job contract length issue, since I would not have been a burden to the government in any way.  But they would not budge an inch, even after multiple calls pleading our case.

</rant>

I had to inform the company who offered me work that I would not be able to make it. The job was still there, and they were sad for me, and did say to keep in touch if I ever come back to Holland. This was nice to hear.

Back to Australia

So instead of now relaxing and enjoying Europe for 1 or 2 years, we now have to look at the visa situation for getting Femke into Australia. Thankfully the immigration website is rather well put together and they have booklets and checklists you can use for your paperwork. The bad news is they require a hell of a lot more paperwork that what was needed from the Dutch point of view. So what’s going to happen?

  1. This weekend I will fly back to Australia. Femke will stay in Holland and continue work at her current job.
  2. I will need to get a job in Brisbane.
  3. Once I have a job we will finalise all the paperwork required. I will most likely have to send some “certified copies” of papers to Holland.
  4. Fem needs to call the German Australian Embassy in Berlin to arrange an appointment (Netherlands has an Australian Embassy but they don’t have Visa capabilities – sigh)
  5. Fem goes to the appointment with all the papers. If everything is in order, then (hopefully within a few weeks) she will be granted a temporary spouse visa. This is valid for 2 years.
  6. Fem organises and executes her move to Australia
  7. After 2 years, we supply additional paperwork to immigration for that period to show us still being together etc and the temporary visa is upgraded to a permanent spouse visa.

It sounds so simple when you look at it at a high level! 🙂

Steps 2 and 3 will be the tricky/painful ones. But other than that, it looks pretty good. Here we go again. Round 2.