Koninginnedag (Queens Day) is almost upon Holland once again.
No, this does not mean myself and my fellow men all over Holland will be getting out our dresses and applying enough make-up to pass for Mardi Gra dancers. It is in fact the birthday of the Dutch Queen (Royalty not drag). It’s a national holiday and the whole country joins in on the festivities. Amsterdam becomes one big party with beer tents, food stands, market stalls and live music performances every where. You will never see Amsterdam more crowded on any other day and you will also never see so many people wearing orange. Since it is the national color it is every where at the moment. I even had a special Koninginnedag donut with orange icing today.
Koninginnedag would normally be on the 30th but when it falls on a Sunday (like this year) the powers that be move it to the Saturday. This is probably to avoid the productivity of the country taking a sharp nose dive on the Monday when everyone is far to hung over to work. It also avoids people telling their bosses to blame the Queen when they phone in ill.
This weekend is also the last weekend my current flat mate will be in the country which give us both another reason to go out on the town. Once my head and liver have recovered I will report on the days festivities.
There are a few stories that I am well known for amongst my friends. Stories like the time I got stuck in an elevator in an empty building, or the night I was lost in Amsterdam for several hours with a broken ankle. However, there is one story that has always out shadowed the others. It is the story that I am most well known for amongst my old college friends. It is the story that has become known as; The Hair Dye Incident.
The Hair Dye Incident
It all started one day when I was still in College. I was in the student art shop looking for (strangely enough) art supplies when I was suddenly approached by a very upset girl who was wearing what seemed to be a scientist white lab coat. She was almost in tears as she explained her situation and asked for my help. It turned out she was a student on the beautician’s course and it was the day of a very important practical exam. The exam involved dying someone’s hair. It sounded simple enough. The only problem was it had to be someone with a light hair color and the person who was originally going to be her model had fallen ill. She needed to find a replacement fast. She had been frantically searching when she had spotted me. My light coloured ginger hair made me the perfect replacement. While fighting back hopeful tears she begged me to stand in for the missing model.
I couldn’t really say no, not without being a heartless mean person. I figured there was no harm in getting my hair dyed anyway. It might be interesting to see what I looked like with dark hair. Maybe I would look cool. So I said yes. In her excitement she gave me a hug and thanked me. She told me where and when the exam was, thanked me again and then left. I felt good about myself. I had just made someone happy. It’s good to be selfless once in a while and help people… especially if you are a single teenager and there is chance of getting their phone number later.
The Exam and The Surprise Question
When I arrived at the exam location later that day she was relieved to see that I had kept my word. After all I was a stranger and might not have shown up. I sat down on what looked like a doctor’s examining table while a stern looking examiner started to take notes on her clipboard. The girl gave me a nervous smile, probably just pre exam nerves… Then, just as we were about to start, she suddenly asked the question…
“Would you prefer to have your eye lashes or eye brows dyed?”
“WHAT THE HELL?” shouted my brain.
“Hu?” came out of my mouth.
There was fear in her eyes as she repeated the question. I suddenly had the fate of her whole exam in my hands. If I walked out or made it too obvious that she had not informed me of the options up front she would probably fail. Had I been tricked into doing this? Had she just forgotten the details in her roller coaster of emotion that morning? I tried my best not to let on that something was wrong and told her I wanted my eye brows dyed. She quietly pointed out that dyed eyebrows might look quite strange. It seemed to me like I was going to look strange either way but agreed loudly (for the examiners benefit) and told her that I had changed my mind and wanted my eye lashes dyed. I figured I could just wash the eye lash dye out afterwards anyway.
So I sat there with my eyes shut as she applied hair dye to my eye lashes. Ten minutes later it was finished and I was able to open my eyes again. As everything slowly came back into the focus the examiner was happily taking notes again. The girl asked me if I had any questions so I asked how easy it would be to wash the hair dye out.
“Oh… it’s permanent,” she nervously replied.
“WHAT THE HELL?!” went my brain.
“Hu?” came out of my mouth again.
Everything was a bit of a blur after that. I think my brain had shut down a bit and entered a state of mild shock when she had muttered the words, “It’s permanent.” Unable to process what had just happened I simply answered their questions, shook their hands and left as quickly as I could. I never found out if the girl had forgotten to give me all the details of the exam or if she had held them back on purpose. I didn’t say anything to the examiner about my suspicions either. I simply didn’t know what to say.
It was not long before my class mates were enjoying the joke of what had happened. They were quick to point out that I looked like I was wearing mascara. For the weeks that followed I wore sunglasses whenever I could. I had to explain to everyone who asked why I looked like a Rocky Horror Show fan and I spent every available moment in front of the mirror trying to pull out my own eye lashes.
And that is the story of hair dye gone wrong known as the Hair Dye Incident. I never got the girls phone number. It was probably for the best anyway. Misdirection and hair dye is not the best bases for a good relationship. All I know is she better have passed her exam and become the world’s best damn beautician for what happened to have all been worth it.
I’ve already written about one of Hollands well know vices, the drug culture. There is of course another vice which the country is very well known for. Something that brings a particular kind of tourist to certain shady areas of the country to indulge themselves in special ways. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m going to talk about windmills.
Alright. I’m not really going to talk about windmills. I’m going to talk about the sex industry in Holland. Holland has a very open view towards sex and prostitution is legal and regulated in most cases. If you want to see just how open the dutch view towards sex is (or you are on a stag night) you will find no better example then the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It is a network of alleyways containing hundreds of tiny one-room apartments where prostitutes wearing just underwear or bikinis offer their services from behind glass doors. Its also a place where you can find live sex shows, peep shows, sex museums and shops that sell the kind of toys you wont find in London’s Hamleys. Amsterdam has the most well known Red Light District but a lot of towns have there own versions as well. Its also not unusual to pass a sex shop in the main street of some towns.
If you come from a more reserved country the red light district is the kind of place you have to see to believe. In someways it is a tourist sight seeing attraction and that is why a lot of tourist go there for a game of Eye-Spy-Ho. Even my parents want to have a look around when ever they visit (at least that’s what my dad tells my mum). I’ve seen other families walking around there too to see if all the stories they have heard are true. However it is still a sex industry area and has its seedy side. You will often see men lined up out side prostitutes doors waiting for their turn and illegal stuff does still happen.
Visiting The Red Light District
I had a look around a few days after I first arrived in the country (and I’ve only ever looked). It was a time when I still looked very much like an out of place tourist so as I walked down one of the alleyways all I heard behind me was doors opening and calls of…
“Hello English boy.”
“Over here Ginger boy.”
“Hi red head.”
…I just kept on walking.
When my friends come to visit from England they also want to do a bit of window shopping (even the girls) because like everyone else they can not believe it until they see it with their own two eyes. This is how I ended up going to see one of the live sex shows. This might sound very seedy and in someways it was but in others it was quite an eye opener. I don’t mean that I finally found out the true story of where babies come from that night. I mean I was surprised to find out the place was more high tec then some normal theaters I have worked for in the past. They even had a revolving stage and a lighting set up which would make most bands envious. Not all the clientele were brown rain coat wearing men either. Again there were a lot of tourists and couples who just wanted to see the show for the novelty/curiosity factor.
As for the performance itself? Yes, there really where two people on stage having sex and sometimes just a woman alone with more of those toys that are not stocked by Hamleys. Some of the performers looked very bored as if they were following a script which they had done a thousand times before (which is probably just what it is like for them).
Part of the show was interactive as well. There was the woman who fed a banana to a member of the audience but she was not holding it with her hands or even her feet. There was a scary moment when she almost picked me and a friend out of the audience but we sank very low into our seats at that point.
If you are ever in Amsterdam the Red Light District is one of those places you have to see just so you can say you have seen it. However, don’t take any photos unless you want a very angry prostitute trying to take your camera away (cameras are banned in the area).
We’ve just had our land lord visit to check if everything is in order with the house before we move out next month. Its the first time we’ve ever met the man face to face since we’ve usually dealt with another member of his family. I woke up early this morning to tidy the house even though I was feeling a little hung over from a night of drinking with co-workers and making drunk plans to challenge other games companies in a series of dance offs.
Our landlord runs one of the Italian restaurants in town which also seems to be a family business. He’s a man of few words and seems to prefer wearing suits. This all added to the effect of him looking like an aging Don when he arrived with his wife and a plumber in tow. We suspected if he really is a Don the plummer was actually a hit man who is involved in ‘wet work’ that does not include pipes and water.
The whole process had to be done in Dutch since they did not speak much English. Luckily my Scottish flat mate is flaunt in Dutch but this meant I was reduced to smiling and nodding. However so was he when they started talking in Italian amongst themselves.
The reason for the plummer was to check the damaged shower (and luckily not to whack us). We where never able to get them to do anything about it before so I had to fix it myself in my own un-skilled way. Now they are going to have to take the whole floor out to see where the shower is leaking and fix it. The good thing is it seems like they are not going to charge us for it. Maybe it was the day of his daughter’s wedding when no Don can refuse to do someone a favor.
However this might mean Don Landlord will ask us for a ‘favor’ in return one day.
http://www.invadingholland.com/So you can get to know a bit more about me I have put together a list of random Stuart facts. However, to make things a little more interesting one of these facts is a lie. See if you can spot which one:
– I was born in 1978 in England.
– I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
– I don’t smoke.
– I drink socially but still sometimes too much.
– I’m right handed.
– I’m dyslexics.
– I can’t spell dyslexic with out the aid of a spell checker.
– I’m not a morning person.
– I get sun burn easily because I’m a red head.
– The cartoons on this site are all my own work (the ginger kid is me).
– I moved to Holland in the summer of 2001.
– I work for a computer games company in Amsterdam.
– Since moving to Holland I suffer from a lot less migraines then I used to.
– I love movies.
– Horror is my favorite genre.
– I really like movies with a clever twist at the end.
– Ghostbusters is still my favorite movie from my childhood.
– I hate l33t speak.
– I broke my ankle and walked around on it for eight hours with out realizing.
– I got stuck in the elevator in the office once after everyone else went home.
– I have operated a real bomb disposal robot.
– I worked in the theatre business as a designer.
– I’ve also worked as stage crew.
– I worked at the Millennium Dome before it closed.
– I accidentally got hit in the privates once while on stage during a live show.
– I played the clarinet at school because it got me out of sports lessons.
– I once went bungee jumping for a bet even though I did not want to do it.
– I think South Park is one of the greatest social commentaries on the world.
– I once had my eye lashes dyed to help someone who was in trouble.
– I’m very organized.
– I’ve been trained by a member of the magic circle.
– I love Chinese food.
– I’ve lost at strip poker… and I mean completely lost