Friday, May 27, 2011

The Amsterdam JoVo's

We first met the Amsterdam JoVo's (Young Adults) at the New Year's Eve Dance in the Amsterdam church.  They went all out to decorate and wear their best "bib and tucker".

You can never have too many potential dance partners.  Neal is certainly cultivating a fan club.  We didn't realize that he would eventually be our High Council representative for the center.

Ramon and Vincent talk with Katja between dances.  Ramon (center) is the Amsterdam JoVo President.

Fast forwarding to April, we go to the country-wide volleyball tournament in Groningen.  This is the Amsterdam team.  We had the only JoVo team to enter the competition.  Teams come from wards and branches all over The Netherlands.  The play is fierce and only the truly diligent (who actually practice) make it to the final four.

Yes, this happy missionary couple are enjoying the games.  (Their smiles have nothing to do with the empty row of Heineke beer bottles lined up behind them.)

The JoVo team members include Roland, David, Jan, Lieuwe, and Ramon.   Equito and his brother escaped before the photo was taken.

The next country-wide event was the "Orange Dance" held the Friday before Queen's Day (April 30th).  Everyone was encouraged to wear orange in honor of the Dutch Royal House of Orange.  The dance was sponsored by the Rotterdam JoVo's.

Those who aren't dancing find plenty to gab about.   (Why would you come to a dance to sit around and talk??)

Elizabeth Roberts, one of our Amsterdam JoVos, has accepted a mission call to Greece, Athens.  She received her endowments at the Hague temple prior to entering the MTC on May 9th.

The JoVo's gathered to give Elder and Sister Pankratz a rousing send-off  before they left to go home to Utah.  Sister Pankratz made her 'fabulously delicious' pizzas for the final time.

We took supper outside - it was fun to get out of doors.  Winter has been l-o-n-g.

Ian and Nikki with Sister Pankratz.

More of our zany group with Elder Pankratz. 

"I'll miss you!" Sister Pankratz tells her 'girls'.

Ian, Kim, Joyce, David, and Brian.

How about a game night everyone?  The young people played several  indoor games to determine an overall champion.  Elder Robinson squares off with David for a round of table tennis.  David squeaked out the victory.

Here we see Ramon and Lieuwe competing in a game of pool.

It takes fast thinking and faster hands to keep the opponent's ball from scoring.  Lindsay and Anouschka face off with  Kim and Elder Schulte. 

The fourth playing area was darts.  This game requires a steady hand and a keen eye.  Serena proves that this is an area where the girls can shine.

A new set of foosball players.  They are certainly into the game.

Ramon tries to keep Lindsey and Anoushcka honest with their scores.

Elder Beckstrand tries on the pool triangle.  Hey!  It's a perfect fit!

Sister Beckstrand with Roland and Elder Schulte.  She is watching to see who'll get the exciting grand prize of a bag of M&M peanuts!  Ah - our final winners:  Serena and David!  It appears that a fun time was enjoyed by all.
These are such delightful young people.  We are so lucky to be here! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alkmaar Cheese Market

Happy Day!  We went to pick up a new car in Capelle a/d Ijssel.  It's an Opel with 'suicide' doors (they open towards each other).  But it's NEW and it doesn't have a stick shift.  Elder B. is happy as a clam.

You can't acuse the Dutch of not having a sense of humor.  While we were driving to Alkmaar we ran into some road construction.  There were signs every kilometer telling drivers how much longer they had to 'endure' the torn-up roads.  The sign translates to:  Still 5 kilometers. 
As we neared the end of the construction the signs started to have a happier face.  Now there's only 2 more kilometers.
We survived the construction and arrived safely in Alkmaar - a very old city about 45 minutes north of Amsterdam.

We're getting quite good at spotting the water towers.

The boats can get around easier than cars today - not nearly as much traffic on the water as on the roads.

We enjoyed strolling along some of the back streets.  It reminded me of Venice, Italy.

More 'connecting-with-heaven' roofs.  I wonder if it works.....

This is the location of the Friday morning Cheese Market.  The building is the 'Weigh House' where the cheese is weighed before being taken to the sales floor outside.

What a colorful scene.  The cheese is in large, round wheels - each weighing between 12 and 13 pounds.  This little sleigh on which the men transport the cheese would weigh over 125 pounds, counting the sleigh.  They ran with it to entertain the crowds, and crowds there were.

Each cheese company that sells their product at this market has their own color.  The men, all dressed in white, had a colored band around their hats that identified which company they represented.   There were four colors in all:  red, blue, yellow, and green.

The cheese that was purchased was loaded onto these racks to be put into waiting semi-trucks.

The men who transported the cheese to the waiting trucks didn't get to wear as colorful costumes as the ones who carried the sleighs.  They should protest!

Here a worker pushes this wooden cart loaded with cheese from the salesfloor to the trucks.

That's a whole lot of money you see sitting on those mats.

The woman in yellow had a microphone and explained the procedure to the tourists in several languages.  The men in white coats were the inspectors.  They evaluated the taste, smell, and quality of the cheese, which directly affected its price.

I couldn't believe how much cheese was laying out in the sun.  Is that okay???

These inspectors have cut open a wheel of cheese and are scooping out samples to test the flavor, creaminess, etc.  The cheese in this shape is called Gouda cheese. 

As different pieces are purchased, the carriers take it to the trucks.

Yes, that's yours truly.  I loved watching this fun tradition!  The market has been operating every Friday morning in Alkmaar for over 400 years.  Our country isn't even that old!

A lovely Dutch girl in native costume.  She was about 6 foot 2 inches tall.  The country of Holland has the tallest people in the world.  It's not uncommon to see men over 7 feet tall.  (And we do quite often.)
Some of these carriers weren't spring chickens.  I wonder if their backs hurt when they're thru for the day.

Loading the wheels of cheese from the sleighs to the carts would also be back-wrenching work.

Giddy - up!

Another girl in native costume.  The crowds love the color and the show.

We were able to buy a chunk of fresh cheese for 5 Euro.  Elder Beckstrand couldn't resist.  It was really good!

He's really putting his back into it.....

The loaded trays are electrically hoisted into the trucks.  Soon the cheese will be on its way to markets all over Europe.

After the market closed we took a little walk through the city. 

The architecture never fails to interest me. 

At the end of the block is a huge church.  Every Dutch city has one.

This area was pedestrian traffic only.  On Fridays there wouldn't be room for cars in the centrum.

Many people are shopping and enjoying the atmosphere, just like us.

This fine old fellow is doing a good job of scaring off tourists.

Back at the car, we say goodbye to Alkmaar.  What a fun morning!  We were even able to find a sporting goods store where we could buy some pool cues for our JoVo FHE game tournament on Monday. 
All in all - a very profitable and enjoyable morning.