Things are coming along nicely. I have to go to New York to the Consulate General because of some bureaucratic nonsense about the Consulate General holding immigration jurisdiction over Ohio. I’ve told my work that I’m taking the day off, and I’ve made the appointment. Correspondence is still going well, though no news about the apartment. The last email had something about looking for “alternative accommodation,” so I hope that isn’t going to be a problem. Everything else is ready though–I have all my paperwork in triplicate and I just have to get some passport style photos taken and buy the plane tickets. I’ve even got a couple of contacts from friends who know some Finnish people. I’m feeling pretty prepared, at least on the immigration front.
I’m not sure how I feel at the moment about the actual work I’ll be doing. It does worry me that the paperwork suggests that they’re expecting me to at least plan and run a whole study in six months, if not also get it written up in that time. It’s taken me longer to figure out protocol and get ethics approval. I’m hoping the Finns are as efficient and helpful with the actual research as they have been with immigration, and I’m hoping someone has some plans for me that have just not been elucidated yet. I have lots of ideas, but my original plan was to use this grant research to follow up my M.Sc. thesis. Well, my M.Sc. research ended up having a lot of technical issues, and by the looks of the emails I keep getting from the lab in the way of computers crashing, equipment mysteriously getting broken, etc. I take comfort in the knowledge that I’m not the only one who has gotten royally screwed over. I had been trying to work out the kinks in order to re-analyse the original data, but given that this was my first experience with EEG and the associated programs, the necessary work to fix my data is way over my head. I can do it, but not alone. And my M.Sc. advisor, who had promised to help me sort it out, has been MIA for months and ignored several inquiring emails. So it looks like I won’t be getting any more help from him, which means I’ll have to wait until I’m better trained in the intricacies of the programs or I get help from someone else to finish re-analysing the data; essentially, I’m back to square one with my research.
While the professional part of this move is stressing me out at the moment, I am very excited to get into the culture and learn about it and have that immersion experience everyone is always talking about! I’m especially excited to go to the outdoor summer markets. I think the markets are my favorite part about living in Europe, actually. In London I lived right around the corner from East Street Market, which was kind of a scheduled pop-up street market. I got some great deals on fruit (which is REALLY expensive in London–one small container of strawberries, about half the size of the usual box in the US, cost about $6) and other produce, plus there’s an array of every kind of clothing and accessory you could need.
I loved Borough Market best because it was so close to where I lived, and visiting was like stepping into another world. Tall arches of red brick, dirty chalkboard signs, huge vats of duck confit and paella, strings of cured meats hanging in shop windows, vendor carts selling breads, pastries, sweets, sausages, soup, coffee, cider, and the butcher’s corner in the back where you can get quail eggs by the dozen, rabbit, and the best game hens in London. A hobbit hole set away from the throng contains fresh vegetables from a local farm, and the chocolate shop is conveniently located on the corner entrance. In the back, there is an open courtyard with vendor carts full of oils, pastes, purees, sauces, spices, coffee, mushrooms, candies, and my personal favorite, the goat’s milk ice cream cart. I recommend the lemon basil ice cream, the venison sausage, and I learned from the sauce vendor that Sorrel can be used as a glaze on game hen–tried and true, it is delicious. Plus, if you stay till 5pm the best bread vendor starts giving out loaves a pound apiece, which is definitely worth the wait!
The market at Den Haag in the Netherlands was a different experience. Loud, cramped, noisy, and dirty, it’s the opposite of the posh vintage feel at Borough. It’s in a sketchy part of town, but there’s a tram stop right outside so you’re never stranded. At the Haagsemarkt, I got shoved around by other foreigners jostling to get at limited quantities of a lot of produce I’d never seen before. I recognized lychee and durian, plaintains, asian winter melon, and the usual coconuts and local produce, but between the frantic atmosphere and the Dutch names, I was pretty lost. The prices, however, are incredible. You can get a kilo of mushrooms for a couple of euros, but you might have to yell (in Dutch) to get the vendor’s attention. If you get peckish, I would recommend grabbing some lekkerbek at the little stall at the front of the market. Lekkerbek is basically Dutch fish and chips, but it’s a cultural experience and definitely one to try. The fish is more whole than you might expect, but the batter is incredibly crisp and somehow brings out the sweetness of the fish.
The market in Amsterdam is just as large and crowded, but a tad more touristy. Decent prices on poultry, not as much produce, but plenty to make a lunch out of. Sweets stalls sell the typical tourist-trap X-rated wares, and the vendors will catcall you if they hear your American accent, but I think the best part is the knockoff clothing and accessories stalls. I picked up an Italian cotton grey blazer for 15 euros. No tag, but no one knows that except me. Shhhh!
If you want a more low-key and civilized Dutch market experience, my personal favorite was in Gouda. Gouda (yes, like the cheese) is a quaint little town known for its cheese market. I went in the winter, but there was still plenty to see. The market itself is in the town centre square which is marked by a large medieval weighing house. I think it’s a museum now. Surrounding the market square are canals separating cobbled alleyways of apartments that lean toward the streets, giving the whole area a mystical, old-world feel. Facing the square are shopfronts–cute little coffeeshops, candle shops, boutiques, wine shops, sweets shops, flower shops, and of course, cheese shops. In the square you can buy the typical produce, breads, cheese, meats, etc. as well as knockoff clothing, fabrics, accessories, shoes, hardware, and toys. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the little town marching band making the rounds of the square, and you’ll definitely leave with enough cheese to last you till your next visit.
I’ve heard and read about the markets at Esplanad and Hakaniemi in Helsinki, so I’m very excited to see them in the summer. I walked around the Esplanad when I visited last February, but the only thing there was one very cold man selling boots and rugs made out of reindeer pelts. I have to admit, I was very tempted to buy one and I was so cold that I probably would have if I hadn’t been on such a strict budget. Food turned out to be much more expensive than I had bargained for, so I’m also hoping to find some great deals on produce in the summer!
Of course, if you’re stuck in the States and have a hankering for a European-style market, go to West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio. Dairy stalls, fish stalls, butchers, pastries, and a great variety of cultures represented. You can have kibbeh and samosas for lunch, pierogies for dinner, and cannolis for dessert, and then head over to the Great Lakes brewery around the corner!
Any recommendations for markets or other places to visit around Europe? Or the states, for that matter!