It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in the Netherlands for seven months now – it seems like only yesterday I was sitting in the Lambs Go Bar drinking tequila shots and then attempting to say goodbye to all of my friends in Oz. And yet here I am, with very little to show for my time in the lowlands apart from a greater understanding of the effects of jenever on the central nervous sytem. Oh, and a new job, which I started this week.
While I’m not in the habit of writing tedious group emails or those horrifying circulars large families tend to send in bulk to their ‘friends’ at Christmas time, I am aware of the fact that I have been remiss in corresponding with dear friends and family, and for this I apologise now. I blame it on Web 2.0, which has forced me to leave this blog languishing at the expense of increasingly meaningless facebook updates – indeed, if you’re reading this at all, you’re probably doing so via FB!
I was toying with making this a password protected post so that only those who were really interested could have access to it but then that would have entailed sending an email to that group of people, which would be an even more tedious exercise. While I’m under no illusions as to the true readership of this blog, I’m also under no illusions as to those two peoples’ interest in reading a blow-by-blow account of everything I have (or haven’t) done since leaving Ruddstralia in March.
And so I’ll just content myself with noting that as of Monday I began work as a Creative Writer/Editor with the Dutch development agency SNV. You’d be correct in assuming that the job title alone makes this a great position for me, even apart from the fact that this is exactly the kind of job I hoped I would get when K and I first planned our move here. And while it’s taken longer than I would have hoped to get a job, I’m really glad to have one now!
As I said, SNV is a development agency (more accurately ‘quasi-ngo’ or ‘quango’ as we say in the industry) with offices in 32 countries and a staff of about 1500 people. I’m working in the head office here in Den Haag but most of the staff are employed by regional offices in the Balkans, Latin America and Asia, plus two offices in Africa. I’m still trying to get my head around all the things that SNV does in these regions but suffice it to say there is a lot going on, which makes my work very interesting.
I’m expecting that the majority of my work here will revolve around writing reports (including the annual report), editing content for the website and intranet (w00t!) and generally correcting any grammar and punctuation mistakes made in all forms of written communications by the office’s (mostly Dutch) staff. All of which obviously means that I’m going to be writing and editing my skinny arse off for the next twelve months or so.
One thing that makes my work very interesting is the staff canteen. Okay, it might sound trivial but as far as I’m concerned, the working conditions I have experienced here in one week completely trump every single job I ever had in Australia. While we’re a small office (around fifty staff) lunch is made available every day for a very small sum, which is deducated from my salary at the end of the month. There’s hot soup, toasted sandwiches, salads and fresh fruit. No sausage rolls, however.
Obviously this is only a small and trivial detail but I think I’m going to like it here. My colleagues are friendly and some of them have even begun to laugh at my jokes (a dangerous precedent). It’s been quite stimulating (though weird) for me to be immersed in development sector jargon (of which ‘quango’ is truly just the beginning). It’s really nice to think also that my skills as a creative writer (and an English speaker) are valued here.
All I really need to do is improve my Dutch. I have started an intensive course at the Volks Universiteit (people’s university), which is extremely challenging but hopefully I will get the hang of it eventually. Encouragingly, I am no longer being told that I speak Dutch with a German accent; instead, I am now often mistaken for a Belgian from the Flanders region. And while that might not sound like much to you, it means a lot to me. Enough said.
Tot ziens, en doei.