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Washington D.C. Almost two years after my first trip to the capital; I was back. There is something about that city that amazes me. When you walk through the city it doesn’t look or feel like any other place that I’ve experienced. It reminds me of why I am here. Why I’ve always wanted to be where I am right now.
When I arrived I felt that I already knew the city quite well since we had spent 6 days here and had explored quite a bit. I feel that it has helped me make this trip feel more relaxing and free. I was alone, I didn’t have to go anywhere. I had a list of things I might want to see and I didn’t plan more than a few hours ahead. I love to plan my vacations because you want to get the most out of your time while you’re there. You’re paying for your trip and your place to stay so you have to make it worth it. On the 4th of July I was standing in line outside of the National Museum of American History while the crowd for the parade accumulated on the sidewalk. Parades are really not my thing and I had no interest in standing outside in the summer heat to watch a few middle aged guys in convertible classic Mustangs rev their engines while going 5 miles an hour… (Yes I know that that is not what parades are all about but that cracked me up, even more so when people cheered for the ‘revving of the engines’, nothing says freedom like…) So anyway, I was in line behind a family that was discussing their ‘plan’ and they were talking about which things in the museum they had on their list. They we’re only there for 2 days and wanted to see as much as possible of what they actually cared about. Their daughter summed up: Lincoln’s hat, The Star-Spangled banner etc. “We need to be as efficient as possible!” I smiled. “That’s me!” I thought. Maybe not so much the disregarding other things you might find in that museum but on a larger scale: yes, that is me. But I was so glad that it wasn’t me right now. My schedule was full of possibilities and it felt great. No specific plans, just to do whatever felt right at that moment.
Since I arrived in the states, I was set on learning more about U.S. history and the country’s politics. Because how can you have a normal conversation or discussion about something you agree or disagree upon when you are under informed. Plus however short the history of the United States may be, it is still very interesting to learn how such a vast nation can form out of so many cultures in such a short amount of time. A few weeks before my trip; I started looking into U.S. history. I watched a couple of documentaries and movies on the subject and I found Crash Course. It was created by the brothers Green whom I knew from their Vlogbrothers video’s, Mental Floss, Mental Floss on Youtube and of course John Green, who is a novelist who has become quite popular (the book and now movie ‘The Fault in our Stars’ ring any bell?) So on Crash Course they make webseries on different subjects like: literature, biology, psychology, ecology, world history, chemistry and U.S. history. It is very visual, funny, educational and full of great trivia. I’ve enjoyed their courses and it has really helped me become more interested in educating myself. I seem to be making some progress on U.S. history. I’ve bought a couple of books on the subject in D.C. and I will continue to delve into the history of this country.
Regardless if you agree on the country’s morals and ideologies; it is a fact that The United States has a big influence on the rest of the world. So when I decided that I needed to do something for me on my holiday weekend it was an easy decision to book a trip to D.C. So I booked an Airbnb (my first time) in Arlington, Virginia. The apartment was very close to the US Marine Corps memorial, Arlington National Cemetary and the Rosslyn Metro Station. Every morning I bought a half liter bottle of milk, took my tupperware bowl, spoon and ziplock with cereal with me to my starting point of that day. Why spend a lot of money on an unhealthy breakfast and sit inside. I wanted to go to this city, so I will be in this city and enjoy it as much as I can. I went to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe where I ate two tables away from where I had dinner with Kayleigh 2 years prior. They will look at you funny when you ask for a table for one. I walked all the way back from 7th street to Rosslyn via The National Mall in the rain. Which didn’t bother me at all. It was empty, dark, sort of silent and the temperature was fine. They really do a great job with the lights on the monuments. I had breakfast at the Marine Corps memorial. I strolled through Arlington National Cemetary and watched the changing of the guard without any other spectators. I went to the National Museum of American History. I spent the day and night on an NEP Denali truck during the concert ‘A Capitol 4th’. Went to the Museum of American Indians, the Newseum, a sportsbar (The Netherlands versus Costa Rica) and went out to a club. I had a great time. And other than the NEP truck: I didn’t plan anything beforehand. I just made suggestions to myself and did what I felt like doing. And that is a part of me that has very rarely come out before going on this adventure.
So on my first 4th of July I was on a U.S. entertainment TV-truck: California. I expected to go to lunch with the engineers and get a quick tour while they got ready for air and then be on my way. I did have lunch and I did get a tour, but it was far from quick. I met a couple of great people and the Tech Manager on site took me everywhere on the compound and showed me what U.S. entertainment television was all about. He introduced me to a lot of great people and taught me about the life in the entertainment industry. This branch of television was much more familiar to me than sports. Because other than soccer, hockey, cycling and bobsledding I have had little experience in sports television. Most of my experience has been entertainment and cultural; and the similarity between what I had experienced in The Netherlands and how it works in the states surprised me. After the apprenticeship program who knows where I will end up. There are a lot of different options. But why speculate about the outcome of the program, when I would much rather travel from experience to experience and see where I end up eventually. Setting some goals can disappoint in the end and I for one would like to appreciate where I will end up, so no planning.
I used to have a skewed view of the U.S. versus The Netherlands. Just because I wasn’t in the place I would like to be most; I favored the U.S. over my place of birth unfairly. Neither of these countries are superior to one another. I love The Netherlands because of its government, social security, rights, liberalism, great infrastructure but above all because of my familiarity with it. It is all I’ve ever really known. My family, friends and trusty television industry. And I love the U.S. because of its seemingly endless opportunities (if you play your cards right), great cities, colorful history, its power to attract people from all ethnicity’s and culture, the fact you can drive for days through all sorts of climates without leaving the country and the possibilities that the television industry harbors due to its place in American culture.
Having moved thousands of kilometers away to my ‘promised land’ has confronted me with the reality of the greenness of the grass. Yes, a part of me is starting to feel fulfilled by taking on this challenge. But another part of me is has taken a beating. Reality struck me. Skype connects me to the people I love most. But it also distances me from them. It’s a tease to my emotions. It let’s me be with the people I love but confronts me with my decision whenever I hang up. When I close my laptop it is final and I can’t just reinstate the contact by driving over to them. I can’t sit next to them or show up at their door. Or go on an impromptu adventure with them. I can only reach out by sending a message, text, voice, photo or video. My only consolations are knowing that I will see them when I fly over and vice versa. And that I’ve only been gone for close to 3 1/2 months, I don’t know how I will feel and deal after 6 or 12 months. So after 3 1/2 months: I have reached the conclusion that the grass is green. Just green.
“O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
~ Written by Francis Scott Key and Composed by John Stafford Smith
Happy birthday! I was going to post this a couple of months from now. But I recently realized that it is quite hard to go to birthdays from overseas. So this will be my contribution.
If you’d have told me 3 years ago that I would be able to save fifteen grand in a year and a half I would’ve laughed. Simple as that. No. The little bit of money you earn next to your study comes into your bank account and finds its way out of it faster than the end of the month could ever arrive. I had saved up some money before; but only for a new computer or a pair of sneakers. And that meant setting a goal and working out how much I would need to save. Nothing fancy. I’m just glad that I never owed anyone any money, I just had an occasional lack of money sometimes. And whenever that was the case it wasn’t that challenging to survive.
When finally you get the chance to live on your own and make your own living; you take more pride in your achievements money-wise. You have a responsibility to yourself and of course you finally have a say in the grocery list, so you’d better make sure that it is money well spent. After living in Hilversum for a couple of years and being an intern at Dutchview for a few months I met a a ‘prompter girl’ at a program that I worked on for its entire season. The positive energy that seemed to hang around her was quite attractive and after the season’s ‘after party’ a Facebook friend request ensued. After a desperate plea to borrow a circular saw and me offering up my parents their saw; a deal was made. I offered to bring the saw to her house and I was supposed to come over at a later time to enjoy a beer with her. I think I arrived at seven thirty in the evening and I left during the night/early morning. I knew immediately that I had gained a new friend.
After months of seeing each other at work and on our days off we spoke a lot. And somewhere along the way advice started to pour through. And the financial advice intrigued me. ” Pay yourself first” she said. I started taking 10% out of my pay the moment it came in and putting it in my savings account. I started keeping record of all of my expenses in Excel in columns so I knew exactly what I was spending my money on. Apparently smoking was pretty expensive and I spent lot on little things that you don’t really notice add up to a lot monthly. I kept a sheet with my monthly income and on the 27th of every month I mad up what the balance was in all my accounts, CD’s and cash. I was up to date on my net worth. It became a sport to me. If I had money left in my spending account at the moment my salary would come in; I would transfer that to my saving s account as well.
I remember that on multiple occasions I contacted the prompter girl in question to ask what the hell I needed to do with the money I had left. That was usually when I had done a lot of overtime. I saved because I wanted a buffer just in case. I knew I could rely on my parents if I really needed to, but that was never something I would gladly want to take advantage of. In The Netherlands I never needed a car of my own. I rode my bicycle to work, public transport to other places and I could always use my parents’ car. But I started saving up for one, just in case. Since it became a sport to me; I might have been in too deep. That’s when another rule for my financial system came in: “You can save on material things, but never on experiences. If you really want to go to the concert: just go!” More valuable advice that I still treasure.
When I got the e-mail from my current employer asking if I would be interested in becoming an engineer at NEP I chatted with her until early in the morning. Asking her if I should really risk throwing away what I had built in the last 2 years against an offer. I made a decision that night in August of 2013 that I would pursue the opportunity because I would sure as hell regret it if I didn’t. And guess how that turned out.
Since I arrived in the stated two months ago I have managed to buy a good car and pay it in full, payed the security deposit for my apartment, furnished my entire apartment and have only spent 2/3 of what I had saved up. And yes about three week into my stay when my first paycheck came in: 10% found its way into my new savings account.
She changed me for the better. Remember watching the Queen’s Jubilee? We completely trashed the first half of the concert because none of the camera shots made sense. And we thought it looked horrible! I miss spontaneously coming over at 8pm and staying up ’till 4 because we lost track of time. Having heartfelt conversations, 70’s/80’s music duels and philosophic discussions. I wish I could still do that. We’ll try it with Skype sometime, see how that pans out.
What I really want to say is: Thank you! Thank you for being you, wonderful, positive, worried, laid back, sad, happy, frustrated, honest and genuine. I wouldn’t be where I was now without you! And it is bittersweet that I am now out of reach physically but very happy with what I’ve accomplished. I know your accomplishments have improved in the last few months. Less prompter and more classical music at the office. You’ve been doing amazing things and that tall man of yours is your biggest proof. I’m proud to call you my friend. Happy birthday Eva.
“Never forget your first prompter girl”
~ Eva Mulder (The Netherland’s best prompter girl and upcoming music adviser) January 5th 2014
Go beyond borders. As October 2008 neared its end; I caught the flu. I don’t really get sick all that often or at least: I don’t call in sick that often. But this flu was genuine and not going away anytime soon. So the only thing you can do is make the most of it right?
The fluffy red couch at my parent’s house was my absolute savior during the day. You reluctantly get up in the morning, stumble down the stairs and park yourself on the couch. When you’re sick you can really appreciate being under the care of your parents. So we’ve got the location covered, now what can you do to keep the boredom at bay? Reading can give you a killer headache when you’re sick, so I guess you need to look for something that doesn’t make your brain cells work too hard. And once again; television won. And it was just my luck that I was restricted to the couch in the eve of the upcoming elections. There is only one channel I wanted to watch in this period. CNN.
Everyday was filled with endless reporting on the elections. Different anchors on multiple shows that seemed to flow into one another. Mostly because of the lack of priority in other news. The colors red, white and blue seemed to stick to the screen in every broadcast. I was hooked. The broadcasting process was amazing to me. As my days on the couch progressed I developed a goal. I wanted to work at CNN. Following the elections I continued watching CNN International every day and researched what working in broadcasting would be like. Every time I turned on the TV I would always tune into CNN at least a couple of times. Probably also due to my crush on news anchor Hala Gorani; but mainly I enjoyed trying to find out more about the programming.
A few years later I found myself studying for a degree in vision engineering. I was exploring the opportunities in broadcasting and was still interested in pursuing a career at CNN. When I decided to visit my aunt in Atlanta I knew one thing for sure: I was going to visit CNN Center. I booked one of those VIP tours and dragged my friend and my aunt with me. I was absolutely amazed at the size of the building and the number of channels broadcasting from there. The tour was slightly disappointing to me, but that was probably because of the fact that I would rather have seen more of the control rooms and the technical facilities that the building houses.
We did get to walk into an HLN control room that was about to go live. And the tour group was given a chance to ask the director some questions. After listening the rest of the group ask questions about “what all of those monitors were for”; I couldn’t help asking a question myself. Of course I didn’t go all the way to the U.S. to go on a tour at CNN to keep my mouth shut! “Where are the video operators located? And do they paint the camera’s and act as an engineer? Or are those two separate positions? And how did they get to work at Turner Broadcasting?” The director looked at me in wonderment and the room was silent for a moment. The technical director broke the silence and smiled at me.”You get brownie points!” After answering my questions the tour guide shooed us out of the control room; promising that we would pass the video operator along the tour. Sadly that wasn’t the case. And the tour didn’t cover CNN International either.
I was still extremely happy that I had gotten a chance to see this place. But in the months that followed I realized that CNN wouldn’t fit me as well as I had hoped. The thing I enjoyed the most from my internship at Dutchview was going out on a job with a production truck. Even though a fixed studio environment is very interesting and has its own challenges; it doesn’t have the same appeal to me as setting up this huge machine that can be fit to size for every production. Those trucks can be molded into whatever the project needs it to be. It is very satisfying to be part of a team that is innovative, flexible and committed to make the product whatever it needs to be.
That degree I was studying for has been conquered. I’m receiving my diploma next Tuesday. And those trucks are not just in my future anymore; they are in my present.
“From here and everywhere; this is CNN.
~ CNN International 2009
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And it might be one of the last ones that I’ll have in The Netherlands. (Don’t stress that towards my mother…) A Dutch Christmas isn’t anything like an American one, or at least; that’s my experience. The family gathering and the joy seems equal. But it doesn’t seem as emotionally loaded as the American equivalent. That might just be pop culture fooling me though. (Hello Arnold Schwarzenegger and Macaulay Culkin.) You still create your own Christmas cheer and I guess that it will be just as magical as you wish it to be. Out of character as it may seem for the work-a-holic I am, I took this Christmas off. And I’m glad that I did.
I will not try to recreate any past Christmas feelings this year. These last few months won’t be forced into anything that I want them to be. I’ll be glad when all the arranging goes as planned and that I am able to get settled in Pittsburgh easily. But I guess most of all I genuinely wish that leaving everything behind doesn’t hurt half as much as I’m expecting it to. Nothing lasts forever, the gap of the ocean can be bridged and the unknown can be conquered. I’m sure of it.
Happy holiday of choice, whether it be commercial or religious. I’m a sucker for this time of year regardless of its origin. Ignorance is bliss.
“I’ll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams”
~ “I’ll be home for Christmas” Written & composed by Kim Gannon & Walter Kent. As performed by Bing Crosby.