Den Haag (The Hague), The Netherlands
From Amsterdam Schipol Airport/Train station, Den Haag (also known as The Hague) is only a 30 minute train ride south. It was really nice to have a change of scenery. From my first impression through the windows of the train, Den Haag was more of a commercialized, business city (completely opposite of Emmen) with the luxury of space (opposite of Amsterdam). It is more modern with sky scrapers, but also filled with a lot of outdoors space like parks and walk ways. It was a really cool city, from what I have initially seen so far... But after a great birthday week in Emmen and then leaving a great weekend in Amsterdam with Bert, I just felt extremely lonely. I was signed up for a course for work in Rijswijk (a ten minute tram ride on the number 9 from Den Haag), but this was the first training course in which I did not know anyone in the city... With this feeling of loneliness in a city where I have never been to and no friends to keep me company, I felt a bit homesick. My friends are always envious of the travels I get to do for work, but they don't realize the down sides to it. Many times, I do have to travel alone! Usually the loneliness kicks in at the beginning but fades away, but this time I just wallowed up in my hotel room (which was also a Handicapped room... Why do I always end up in a handicapped room when my company books my lodging? Are they trying to tell me something?!?!?) and laid in bed missing home, missing my friends, missing my family, and especially missing my Dog Bruce... I called Micah and just talked untilI felt a bit better and decided to Man Up and get over my feeling of loneliness.
What's the point of wallowing in my sadness in this handicapped room when I can be taking this time outside exploring this beautiful city? So I got myself together and just decided to walk out and get lost around the city. There is such a mix of cultures and architecture in this city. Modern skyscrapers are juxtaposed with medieval churches, shopping centers right next to outdoor antique markets... There was also a biking outdoor art show going on in the city this past weekend, so I got to, not bike, but walk the art show.
Exploring this city definitely lifted my spirits, especially since I found a bubble tea shop while walking along the windy streets (helped reduce my homesickness!). I stopped for a quick lunch and a beer by myself at an outdoor cafe to people watch and soak in the city surroundings. This job has truly allowed me to be tolerant and even enjoy eating by myself and having time on my own.
It's amazing how there are so many cultures and ethnicities here in Den Haag. While walking around, I even found a HUGE Chinatown! I was so ecstatic to find a Korean Restaurant, so of course I had to stop. It was by no means authentic, but there was kimchee and when you're desperate and homesick, kimchee is kimchee. The kimchee completely got rid of all my homesickness!
For the rest of the week, I attended a training course for work. I was the least experienced and the youngest by far; I was truly the baby. I was surrounded by higher up managers from all over the world, and they nurtured me and my learning. It was such a great learning experience to be taught and mentored by these experienced and knowledgeable men that have been working in the oil industry for over 20 (and even some 30 years)! I truly enjoyed our daily dinner meet ups, while drinking and listening to all their crazy stories and words of wisdom. It was such a meaningful time not only for myself personally, but also for my career. Food and beer always bring people together :)
There are a lot of Indonesian influences (since the Dutch colonized Indonesia), especially in the food. So I forced everyone to come with me to try rijsttafel, which literally means "rice table" in Dutch, at Warung Bude Kati. The restaurant was a family owned cute little restaurant in a very humble corner of Den Haag slightly past Chinatown. The decorations are minimal, but reminded me of normal house decorations in Brunei. The rijsttafel was a mixture of various sambals, meat satays, pickled vegetables, and all sorts of other small plates placed on top of hot boxes heated by candles. With a side of Bintang, this meal was great! It's a very sociable family style meal, which is something that I enjoy! I love how food always brings people together. I truly believe the saying "love is sharing food" and sharing this meal truly made my coworkers and I a bit closer!
What I thought was going to be a terrible week, ended up being an unforgettable experience for me and a huge step forward for my career. It's amazing how much mentality can change your emotions and perception. Although it was gloomy all week and I was homesick and depressed at the beginning of the week, I am glad I was able to experience my time here. I learned a lot about myself and about things I can improve in my profession.
Unfortunately, there were many things I didn't get to do or see due to the weather, but.... until next time, Den Haag!
For anyone wanting to visit, definitely try these restaurants:
- Warung Bude Kati: great for rjisttafel, affordable, and extremely friendly staff
- Popocatepetl: perfect for when you're craving Mexican and wanting a really good Margarita
- The Fiddler: Great burgers and fries with a massive selection of beers
- Brasserie Buitenhof: a cute modern French place with amazing coq au vin!
- eazie: a fast, healthy, Asian inspired place, similar to Genghis Grill where they get all the veggies, your meats, and carbs and either make a soup or a stir fry out of it