So after a long day of work (got back to the house at 2230), I have decided to make this entry about peculiar things I have found in Holland.
First, the Dutch really seem to love Ben and Jerry's and KFC I have seen more KFC's here than in Boston and every little store has a big Ben and Jerry's sign outside. Beer is not that exciting in Holland, apparently Heineken bought all the small breweries so the only beer you can get is Heineken (of course there are some exceptions like Jupiler and other but they aren't great). Fortunately I'll be visiting Brussels soon, and my friend is taking me to Europe's best place to drink beer, more of that to come in a later entry.
Also, there is a huge Turkish/Moroccan influence in Rotterdam and so far I have been able to find 2 or 3 mosques but no catholic church! (im sorry Will!). Also my friend informed me that some of the "typical" Rotterdam foods are actually stuff like Shoarma and Kapsalon (or even Turkish Pizza) which are Turkish. The dutch don't seem to have a food of their own, the only thing that comes close is this fish they eat every friday called Herring, one of my coworkers says its half-rotten and a delicacy.
Rotterdam is incredibly bike friendly, bikes get their own road (separated from the car roads and painted red) and there are places to leave your bike all over the city. Also, Rotterdam is pretty flat so that makes getting around in a bike easy. However they are also strict on bike laws, for example, if at night you dont have lights in your bike you can get a 50 Euro fine! (thats about 75 bucks!).
But bike laws are not the only thing that the Dutch are strict on... They are also VERY strict with non-EU immigrants!! (surprise, surprise... seems that I don't get a break anywhere I go...) So, yep from my very first moments at the airport the dutch apparently cannot believe that a latino kid (half palestinian) got a job in the Netherlands that does not involve illegal activities!
Some guy at immigration wanted me to open up my email and show him my e-ticket back to the states before he let me in the country, also they did not stop asking me if I had a green card, even though I told them many times that I DID NOT NEED ONE BECAUSE I AM NOT A RESIDENT OF THE US. But yep, apparently the words "latino-USA-green card" form a love triangle anywhere you go. But that at the airport was just the beginning!
The dutch authorities have been denying my work permit for weeks now. My first week in Rotterdam I tried to go to the City Hall to register as a resident (so I can get paid and insurance) but NAAAHHHH... after two times in the city hall they tell me I need to go through a ridiculous VISA process that requires getting MIT to agree to give me credit for the internship (so it can satisfy my unrestricted electives, I am getting 1 credit P/F at the end of the summer). Then two days later I get a letter from the police (in Dutch so I had no darn clue what it said). But I asked almighty Google and she said that I had to go to the "Alien Police" (this is what it literally translates to) and get a sticker in my passport that showed I was a valid visitor... so great! I got the sticker thing done last week (it was actually less of a hassle than I thought) but they also denied my work permit again because they say that they don't want the internship to be "extra credit", so my advisor wrote them a letter that says that the unit I will be getting will go towards the number of unrestricted electives that I have to fulfill (1 credit! yay!) I hear back from them TOMORROW (Wednesday) so please pray that it gets approved so I can get paid and avoid changing my remaining dollars into Euros (very bad deal let me tell you...) And after tomorrow, I really don't know what else to expect from my permit, I think I am going to have to go back to the city hall (for a third time) and hope for the best.
AND on top of all this stuff I got stopped by customs about two weeks ago. So... the van that the project leader drives is this sketchy-ass white van with a french license plate (it is so sketchy that the owner has been offered drugs on the street about 5 times... and not the legal kind). It also turns out that where I work is close to the big ports in the west of the city so apparently the police have the right to check vehicles whenever.
But yep... there we were coming back home on a friday afternoon, when all of a sudden this car comes up to our left and stations itself in front of us with "STOP!" flashing in red lights. Some policemen/women get off the car and start talking to us in french. They ask us to step out of the car and they start questioning the driver and inspecting the back of the van. Meanwhile, a female officer comes to me and m friend (also an MIT student) and starts asking us random questions (where are you from? what are you doing in the netherlands etc) after she heard that I was from El Salvador all the other questions where directed to me. She also asked me if there was anything "special" in my backpack and I had to open it and show her my super "illegal" laptop and notebook (racial profiling at its best!) Finally they lest us go without any hassle .
After they left we learned that one of our coworkers that was cycling along with the van was able to catch this precious moment in camera! so yeah you can watch our "ordeal" here:
You can't really hear or see very well, but at least you get a view of the sketchy van and the interrogation going on. (the extra sketchy part where I am behind the tree is when I am showing the contents of my bag to the officer). So yeah those have been my interactions with Dutch culture so far! I will keep you guys updates with what happens next!
The entry is getting pretty long so I will stop there and I will write to you guys again soon!