Washed Out (literally)

So THIS is what Amsterdam rain is all about! I really thought our apartments were going to blow right into the bay this weekend. Downpours started Friday and haven’t quit. Did I break my umbrella, try to deal with a broken umbrella, and then break it worse? Of course! Did this hinder my weekend plans? Of course not! Except I do need a new umbrella, so that might hinder my weekday plans…

I’ll dork out for a second to talk about my Friday computer practicum for Food Production– we got to use a program to model crop rotations of a certain amount of years, and see how certain crops and fertilizers changed the environment and production of nitrogen in the Netherlands and also in Spain. It was really interesting and a lot of fun. I am also now a member of Students for Sustainability Amsterdam, which is a city-wide environmental group. Although the group is mainly Dutch, the coordinator said they would be happy to have an English speaker to work on the divestment campaign. I did some work for a campaign like this at Pitzer (trying to divest from fossil fuels), so I feel like I somewhat know what I’m talking about. We’ll see how this goes, I’m meeting with them this week.

Incase you were curious, this is what my commute to campus looks like while riding through the more industrial part of Amsterdam: am_commute

Friday night was a relaxing night of drinking with friends and going to a very local bar right in the middle of Westerpark (where the market was last weekend). It’s called Pacific Park, and they play lots of oldies. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is young and so very Dutch (typical). My partner in crime, Natalie, was off to Ukraine so I enjoyed time with other friends in my building and had a really awesome night. It ended with warm tea in the Cal(l)um apartment which was perfect. The only picture I have is this very eerie picture of the giant table and chairs that are also in the middle of the park. am_table

Saturday was homework, pizza, and rain-filled. So I’ll just leave that there.

Sunday, I ventured into the city center for retail therapy (specifically more sweaters… necessary!) and this is where I saw pure chaos. Broken umbrellas were flooding the streets, and the street cleaners were out just to take care of them. The wind was insane, but tourists were still out and about.  I would see tourists walk out of gift shops with brand new Amsterdam-themed umbrellas (rainbow, marijuana leaves, anything that was left) only for the umbrellas to immediately invert and break. So sad, but also kind of funny? I enjoyed roughing it alone in the rain and getting out of my apartment. Leah was gone for the weekend and I did some deep cleaning and organizing (finally). Although I sense another IKEA shop coming upon me (probably when the rain stops).

Once returning home, I went to my very first Canadian Thanksgiving. I didn’t know this was a thing until my Canadian friend, Devon, planned it. Either way, it was a great excuse to eat yummy mashed potatoes and salad and some steak (no turkey…) with some sweet Canadians. Unfortunately, Taylor (an actual Canadian) and I had to leave dinner early to head to the Washed Out concert at Melkweg. The wind was still insane, the rain hadn’t stopped, and buses were on weird schedules. Callum, Nathan, Taylor and I might have gotten lost in the rain a few times before finally arriving for the show. We caught the end of the opening act, Amateur Best, and then saw Washed Out. He/they were so good, really incredible. Their popular song is “Feel it All Around” which plays at the beginning of Portlandia, you’ll recognize it– song is under the picture.

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Still smooth sailing apart from adjusting to daily hurricanes. After my Dutch exam this Thursday, visitors from Copenhagen and a music festival this weekend, and an exam on Wednesday, I’ll be off to Dublin. Two months until I’ll be back home. I honestly can’t imagine only being here for a semester. Oh the things I would miss. am_stickers

Here’s a bonus picture of my breakfast from today, just for fun. It’s orange, like this country and me. am_breakfast

Tot ziens!

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Something about it.

Cycling over the bridges of West Amsterdam after a hard rain. Car lights are on, but it’s not completely dark yet. It’s that time of day I’ve always hated; although everyone is heading home from work or cooking dinner or in the market, everyone is alone. Some leftover rain is hitting my face but I don’t really care. I realize I’ve never experienced the beginning of autumn. And no autumn will ever be like this cleansing, crispy, lonely-in-a-good-way autumn again. Het leven is mooi. That is all.

Silly Little Dutch Things.

I’ve reached that lull in the semester that although I’m still greatly enjoying my time here, I have a schedule down pat and and I am busy with classes and homework. This whole month will be insanely busy with a final Food Production paper, two final exams, friends visiting, the Amsterdam Music Festival, and planning a trip to either Dublin or Poland for mid October. November will be even more busy with an added class and GIS lab once a week and a trip to Prague in early December. I did the math and my commute to and from Science Park is a total of 10 miles. That will be at least 40 miles a week next block to school alone. That doesn’t include daily biking around the city for groceries/my culture class/anything else. After biking this much, how could I ever drive a car again?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Food Production course, particularly our guest speaker series where we talk and debate with GMO professionals. Now my opinion on genetically modified food is all jumbled and I don’t know where I stand; I thought the Netherlands would have been against this. Oh well, you find out something new every day here.  I will have the rest of this semester to learn more about these food issues and of course that’s why I chose this program. My Dutch course is also winding down, and I have enjoyed it so much. I’ve gotten to the point where I ask my Dutch teacher random cultural questions that usually spin the class off onto a tangent, but what can you do when you’re a curious little exchange student. We talked about biking last week and googled all the different types of wagons people attach to their bikes. We also talked about bike theft and my teacher left us with the great wisdom that “if you’re a junkie, you’ll do anything” when we discussed bikes stolen from infront of police stations. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I’ll continue learning on my own of course.

Since I do have a more boring life now (only more boring than what I originated with, not more boring, but calmer) I decided to dedicate this post to silly little dutch things that I’ve been seeing lately. Kind of like a “day in the life” segment.

1) I mentioned biking earlier, actually twice, so it is obviously no joke here. We usually lock up to four bikes together if we’re all leaving somewhere at the same time. No one wants to deal with a pile of bikes. Taking your bike on a train or the ferry is usual, and there are definitely less people without bikes than with bikes on ferry rides. I saw the kids in the last picture today at the Westerpark Sunday Market, notice the tiny ones that don’t have training wheels. They get done with training wheels by age 3. These kids are incredible. In fact, as I am writing this, Natalie just sent me a picture of the Dutch model Doutzen Kroes walking around New York with her two and a half year old son on one of the “walking bikes” little kids use! The Dutch are spreading!

The "chain gang," or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

The “chain gang,” or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

Bikes on the ferry!

Bikes on the ferry!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park... typical!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park… typical!

2) Hedgehogs are a real thing here, and walk around. I have yet to see a real one, but I ate one made out of chocolate and saw hedgehog food for sale, so I know they are a thing. I WILL see a hedgehog before I leave, and I WILL try to catch it. I don’t think they are very fast. I will be doing more research on wild hedgehogs (Anna) and see what I find out.

Me and my hedgehog.

Me and my hedgehog.

I found this video while in Amsterdam when Miley Cyrus’ new video came out. Also some hedgehog symbolism. What does it all mean!

3) I thought I had a love of boots before, but the love has grown. And not even for just leather boots, but booties and baby boots and rain boots too. I thought I would put up a little tribute to my cycling boots that are perfect for the rain. They are my best friends, and the laces even match my rain coat. The felt boots were at the Sunday Market as well. How cute! I wish I knew someone with a baby that I can buy them for. Well actually… I just realized I do… get ready, Sahar!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

How cute!

How cute!

We love our city, and ice cream, and the weird things that includes. Here are the last of my random pictures from today.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

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Lunch today, yummy street market food!

Lunch today, yummy street market food!

And for the final surprise… a flea market find from two weeks ago! Anyone that knows me knows my obsession with the Sims, can you believe I found it in Dutch!

The Sims in Dutch... at a flea market...

The Sims in Dutch… at a flea market…

That’s all for now. I hope for a week of good weather and good adventures! Tot ziens!

“All good things come in threes, therefore love, drink, and sing:” OKTOBERFEST!

…That is a  translation of a German stein quote, and it describes my experience at Oktoberfest in Munich quite well. Although I spent a total of 2 days in Munich, I managed to acquire a new fondness for beer in large quantities, cross “kiss a European in Europe” off of my bucket list (it was on the cheek, everyone can calm down), see some ladies that I was missing greatly, and most importantly, travel to a new country alone. Margaret, Katie and I arrived in Munich around 10 on Friday evening and travelled thirty minutes to our hotel. We ended up taking a cab and I experienced the complete chaos that is  the German Autobahn. Started off on a great foot at almost 200 km an hour!

After spending hours catching up in the hotel, we woke up early to start on our journey to the fairgrounds. Now I feel fine with being blunt because this is my personal blog and therefore my personal opinion, but it became pretty clear that 1) Germans definitely live up to their reputation of being rude and 2) the way their city looks might be why. Breakfast at our nice hotel would have been over 20 euro (no thanks!) and the front desk man said “nothing’s free, only the death.” What does that mean?? The bus was easy to navigate but incredibly difficult to pay for. We didn’t have enough coins (of course the dingy little machine only took coins, and our total was 10 euro for the day for 3 people) so we snuck off the bus and down into the metro. Getting a ticket there was easier, and we were on our way! Sidenote: the amount of alcoholics on public transport was kind of astonishing, not even because it was Oktoberfest. Screaming, rambling, drinking, this doesn’t occur in our buses in Amsterdam!

Oktoberfest was busy even at 9am. We started our day with “frische waffeln,” warm and definitely fresh. Carbo-loading was a good idea because we started drinking at Hofbrauhaus before 10. The weather was cold but we sat outside and ordered our first liters, and then were joined by a huge Italian family that fell in love with us. There were 10 of them, a mixture of fathers, uncles, cousins, sons, and they were insane. They all made shoes for a living and this was their third time at Oktoberfest.  Our whole table ended filling up with Italians, and they were all so crazy but fun. They insisted we eat their prosciutto sandwiches, croissants, salami straight from Italy, and they bought us each another liter. They ranged in ages from about thirty to seventy, and we particularly liked the 65 year old “playboy” of the family. Kissed him on the cheek, not even slightly embarrassed to be in their family photo album (most likely). After our grand Italian adventure, we walked around the rest of the fair buying wurst and cinnamon nuts and more beer in a more restaurant-type tent. Every twenty minutes the live band would play the German drinking song, “Prost,” and you have to toast as many people as you can before the song ends. It was so much fun and we met more Germans and, surprise, more Italians. Seeing Oktoberfest was definitely something everyone in Europe should do. There is so much country pride despite the cranky morning we had in the hotel and on the bus. Supposedly in the inside of Hofbrau is where all of the college students are but I was pretty happy we didn’t end up in there, that seems like a giant frat party I don’t care to be a part of. We had a enough of a fratty time with the italian playboys for sure.  Another highlight of the day was hearing two American girls ask a German waitress if they “have any other alcohol than beer.” Come on, ladies, no. After a long day of adventuring around the festival and getting back to the hotel, we enjoyed long naps and dinner near where we were staying.

Frische waffel!

Frische waffel!

First beer of the day at Hofbrau, it was actually delicious. Who knew I liked beer? Europe will change a girl.

First beer of the day at Hofbrau, it was actually delicious. Who knew I liked beer? Europe will change a girl.

Margaret, me, and our Italians.

Margaret, me, and our Italians. Can you spot the playboy?

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1/2 meter of wurst, it wasn't even filling enough!

1/2 meter of wurst, it wasn’t even filling enough!

The ladies enjoying our afternoon beers. We loved singing "Sweet Home Alabama" while standing on the table.

The ladies enjoying our afternoon beers. We loved singing “Sweet Home Alabama” while standing on the table.

Katie and I explored downtown Munich while Margaret slept more after dinner. I felt so bad saying this, but I missed Amsterdam. The Munich city center was less than eventful, even on a Saturday night, and I realized I am so spoiled to live in a beautiful city, with beautiful surroundings and canals and people. We cut the night short because I had to get up at six AM and was still exhausted from a day of festivities. The Munich countryside on the way to the airport looked surprisingly similar to east Texas. All in all it was a great weekend with some great girls, but I couldn’t help smiling on the train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal. I was going home to my beautiful and happy city. I’m unsure what my future weekends hold, but I know inner-Holland travelling is a must. I’m jealous that Katie and Margaret are planning a lot of travelling for this semester, but my Pitzer friends will be in Europe next semester so I can see them AND more cities. I think I will get to Dublin, Scotland, and Prague before I go home for Christmas. And lordy, that will definitely be enough for now.

Munich at night.

Munich at night.

More Munich at night.

More Munich at night.

G'morning Munich train stop!

G’morning Munich train stop!

I just had my first Dutch test and it went very well. I had a full conversation with Harry, my Dutch friend that goes to Pitzer. I can’t believe how much I understand! I will be speaking so well by the end of spring semester. I’m missing everyone and am  trying to get myself together enough to write postcards to my gigantic list of people. I’ll already be attempting to get a huge German stein back to the states in December, but if more souvenirs are desired, let me know!

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Museums 2+3: Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder en de Oude Kerk

Thought I’d fit in a quick post about my latest day trips before I set off for Munich tonight (and fill my mind with a lot of new great exploring-based memories). I took time this week to explore a few museums on my own and ended up having a super spiritual journey by visiting Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) and de Oude Kerk (The Old Church). These are two of Amsterdam’s most famous tourist spots located RIGHT in the Red Light District… go figure. Not surprised to find where Rembrandt’s wife was buried right next to a brothel. Welcome to Amsterdam!

A collection of my favorite views of Amsterdam thusfar.

A collection of my favorite views of Amsterdam thus far.

Our Lord in the Attic is a tour through a winding canal house that happens to have an entire Catholic church built into it. When Catholics were prosecuted, they could come to this hidden church to worship. Priests live in the house (technically two houses) and then the church occupies a large middle portion of the house. The house also included a confessional and dressing room. I’m not sure if all canal houses are built like this, I’ll have to go to the canal house to museum to investigate, but I found there is basically one route throughout the entire house that you have to take. There are tons of tiny staircases to climb up and down and around, and none lead to you a common room of sorts, but new higher rooms. How exhausting, but it makes for a fun maze. I loved seeing the box beds where the priests slept (basically bed-rooms) and their kitchens were completely decked out in blue and white Dutch tile. This house had a room just for washing clothes and dishes, which is an excellent idea. So smart and condensed here!

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The third floor of the church (yes, three stories of just church room)

The third floor of the church (yes, three stories of just church room)

View from the attic, I would go to church just for this every sunday!

View from the attic, I would go to church just for this every sunday!

The Old Church was equally incredible and nothing like I had seen. I don’t spend too much time in big old churches but I feel like this one was special. First of all, the floor is made up entirely of tombs. You walk around literally on where people are buried. Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia, is buried in the Old Church and you can go stand on her grave too. The stained glass windows were detailed and beautiful, and I was particularly impressed with the wood carvings. My favorite part by far was the choral section that had all of these little seats with little people engraved in them called misericords. Maybe these are common in churches, I’m not sure, but these ones enacted Dutch proverbs that were quite funny. I couldn’t help but laugh at the one of a little man “excreting” coins with a description along the lines of “I don’t have money coming out of my arse,” only at a Dutch church!

Not my picture, but what the Old Church looks like!

Not my picture, but what the Old Church looks like!

Inner Oude Kerk

Inner Oude Kerk

Saskia's grave.

Saskia’s grave.

My favorite misericord. The description: "It's like trying to out-yawn an oven door," or don't try to accomplish the impossible.

My favorite misericord. The description: “It’s like trying to out-yawn an oven door,” or don’t try to accomplish the impossible. But honestly, Dutch, who came up with this.

These museums only make me want to study more Dutch history, so I’m getting more and more excited about my Dutch Culture and Society class next block. There are so many museums to see that I’m a little overwhelmed, but I’ll get time. Annie, a friend from Hockaday that is studying abroad in Florence, came into Amsterdam last night and we met for drinks at my favorite bars. I lent her my museum card for the weekend and I’m jealous she’s seeing the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh before even I get to! I hope she enjoys them, who wouldn’t!

One Dutch MONTH down!

Absolute insanity. After having some tea with Nat last night, we came to the realization that we’re the luckiest girls on earth to be able to spend a whole year here. We outlined our weekends a bit and realized there is such little time left in the semester. School is busy, days are getting shorter, but somehow the city is still so crowded and happening. It makes getting to our destinations by bike a little more chaotic (I’ve only hit a person once, so that’s fine) but at least we’re never lonely. My week was quite busy academically but I still managed to see a museum (see earlier post), buy a new pair of rain boots (soaking wet feet are less than fun), learn more Dutch, and eat more pancakes.

I had regular class along with two labs this week for Food Production. We tested which foods had genetically-modified corn or soy, which is quite scary but expected nowadays. Days like that, when I’m in the lab or class and learning from a Dutch person about their opinion on GMOs, remind me of what a great choice I made by coming to the Netherlands. I love making Dutch friends in the lab and speaking to my professors during downtime. While talking to Hans, the lab director (who looks exactly how a middle-aged, fit, Dutch science man would look), I learned more about the weather here and how much people enjoy ice skating in the winter. I’m excited! He said the freeze doesn’t happen until December, so I have some time. Biking to Science Park five times was a little less than enjoyable, especially with rain pounding at your face, but at least I faced my fear and don’t care about rain at all anymore. I actually quite like it. My mom said I’ll miss it when I go back to either Texas or California, and I think I will. Everything stays so clean.

When I wasn’t in a lab, I was definitely experiencing the feeling of being super Dutch. I still can’t get over how nice biking at night is, and how I love to be bundled up. Listening to music makes the journey to SP less dull, but don’t worry parents, I still pay attention to cars and pedestrians; I only hit that person because I saw my friend from Hockaday walking, and I forgot that turning around prohibits you from seeing what’s in front of you. I was so excited to see her, hit the person, and my friend didn’t even see me. Oh well…

I felt super Dutch again while at Trouw on friday night. It’s the best nightclub in Amsterdam and completely FULL of stylish, attractive Dutch youths. It wasn’t creepy or anything, just the place for young people in the city to be. The music was great, the company was fun, and I look forward to going back. Yesterday, Catherine, Nat and I went exploring in the city. We found cute used clothing and yummy pancakes. I’ve never had a savory pancake, but Pancakes! in Amsterdam has some amazing ones. They even give you a little Pancakes! clog key chain when you pay.

Pancakes!, another amazing pancake restaurant. Yum. I had one with spinach, goat cheese, garlic oil, and pinenuts. No pancake will EVER be the same. We've peaked in Amsterdam.

Pancakes!, another amazing pancake restaurant. Yum. I had one with spinach, goat cheese, garlic oil, and pine nuts. No pancake will EVER be the same. We’ve peaked in Amsterdam.

Walking around the nine streets. Translation: Oh Amsterdam, you're beautiful.

Walking around the nine streets. Translation: Oh Amsterdam, you’re beautiful.

That’s all for now. I’ll be travelling next weekend to Munich but will have plenty to share. Hope I survive Oktoberfest!

 

Museum Trip 1: Amsterdam Museum!

FINALLY went to a museum in the city of museums! The Amsterdam Museum has so much to explore, ranging from old history to showing the lives of children in the Netherlands throughout time (the museum used to be the city’s orphanage, go figure.) Weirdest part of the museum would have to be the real cocaine that they had on display, but what would you expect to be in the drug history room? I liked learning that the purpose of less harsh laws for marijuana is to maintain the strict attitude towards hard and more harmful drugs, that just sounds so smart. Here are pictures from the trip with Nat. Anyone that visits the city should go, even if it’s only to walk around a building with lots of little staircases and old stuff.

The depiction of Amsterdam as a woman. Note Anne Frank in the lower right hand corner, pretty sure she's smoking a joint. The other figures are either historical or some of the artists that worked on the piece. This sums up what I've known about Amsterdam thusfar.

The depiction of Amsterdam as a woman. Note Anne Frank in the lower left hand corner, pretty sure she’s smoking a joint. The other figures are either historical or some of the artists that worked on the piece. This sums up what I’ve known about Amsterdam thusfar. I like the guy in the lower right that is known for screwing a hole into his head in order to expand his consciousness…

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Natalie in this orange hallway, kind of creepy but also cool. Learned that orange is the color of the royal family, and therefore the color of the country because of the lineage of the current family, starting with Willem van Oranje.

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Not sure if the rat is supposed to be saying the quote or not. A modern artist was commissioned to have this in the museum, in the main corridor.

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Another one of the museum’s modern works, with this pill representing more of the drug culture. These were in the same main corridor sitting on top of some classic works. It was a weird constrast. Everything in Amsterdam is weird.

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An unfortunately not so great picture of one of the dollhouse-type exhibits (this is for you, Mom!) How cute were/are little Dutch apartments.

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One of the “white cars” in Amsterdam, which is a personalized form of public transportation. I swear I’ve had a conversation with my dad about having individualized cars on the metro to give people a more private commute without having to have their own car. Of course Amsterdam already did this in the 1950s… not surprised.

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The main exhibit at the museum is the huge rug you are encouraged to walk on. The artist used prints of textiles from around the world to make a huge carpet. It looked pretty neat. Note “Goliath” in the background.

Now I have my museum card and look forward to visiting many, many more. I still need to go to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh, but also to the Tattoo Museum and Electric Ladyland, a museum of fluorescence. So many adventures, and thankfully a lot of time. I’m holding off on the Anne Frank house until Margaret gets here.

 

 

Discovering Zoethout Tea and the Positives of Being Sick Abroad

Finally, a somewhat relaxed and regular week, but only because I fell ill! The cold rain got me as soon as it started and I’ve battled a serious cold for five days now. Luckily, after countless cups of tea and kippensoep (chicken soup) I am almost completely healed. Zoethout tea, which I bought based on some purplish flowers on the box and not the name, is actually liquorice tea. I’m not surprised that I like this at all, I thought it tasted so normal, but Nat came over and thought it was magical. After looking up the Dutch name online and finding it on websites such as “Things Dutch People Like,” we realized we’re picking up some cultural norms without even knowing it! Nat and I also found a coffeeshop where we are now regulars (after two visits, so that shows how small our neighborhood is) with amazing iced coffee. Bagels and Beans. Basically a Starbucks but not a Starbucks, so I don’t feel guilty. Haven’t been to one here, so maybe I’m not the typical American that is caving into my comfort foods. Sidenote: we did go to McDonald’s last night where I had a cheeseburger, but I also had a banana milkshake which don’t exist at McDonald’s in the US! Mickey D’s here also has stroopwafel mcflurries which are incredible.

Look at this old man outside of Bagels and Beans! He was smoking a cigar too.

Look at this old man outside of Bagels and Beans! He was smoking a cigar too.

An amazing pastrami bagel. Not Dutch, but still amazing.

An amazing pastrami bagel. Not Dutch, but still amazing.

I thankfully didn’t have to miss any classes and even got some exploring in; by exploring I mean learning the bus route to Science Park because biking in a cold downpour was not exactly what I wanted to do with an aching body. My friend that was an exchange student at Hockaday for a year from Lithuania, Gaby, told me that biking in the rain is the only way to build up immunity! I’m from Texas, and if not there, California, both of which don’t have cold rain or huge biking cultures. I’m giving this period of illness to myself as culture/weather-shock and therefore a freebie. Immunity building will start now. On one of my worst days, I received my first package while here! Emily, my great friend from Claremont Graduate University, sent me a fabulous Moleskine planner, card, and picture for my wall. I opened the door in the pouring rain to be greeted with a little bit of California sunshine. Love love love mail, so feel free to email me and ask for my address!

My mail (and random things) wall, always waiting for new additions!

My mail (and random things) wall, always waiting for new additions!

I am absolutely in love with my Dutch classes. Although three hours is a long time to take in a confusing language, I really enjoy it and Dutch is so much more simple than the last language I learned–Russian–so, so far so good. We have a lot of work, but I gain the respect of my Dutch peers immediately when I tell them I’m learning, so the faster the better. They’ll help me practice also. Since I was stuck in my apartment when I wasn’t travelling to class, I had plenty of time for homework and Dutch exercises. I biked to my Dutch class on Thursday night because I was already feeling better. Biking at night is so nice. The air is fresh, barely anyone is out and about on my route from Spuistraat to my neighborhood, and you can see the city surprisingly very well.

Last night was Pål’s birthday, so we gathered at his room for pre-drinks and celebration. I love that I’m still close with the people I met the very first day. It’s comforting. Since I was finally feeling better, Nat, Jas, Devon, and I decided to do some night exploring to another bar pretty much only known by locals. Before we got there we heard crazy loud music coming out of a side street and found an Amsterdam gay pride festival/parade/celebration that we just had to stop by. This always happens to us. We end up stumbling upon the most random places and see a side of Amsterdam we weren’t expecting; I guess we were kind of expecting to see this side, but on a planned occasion. We ventured off to find Bloemenbar Nachtcafe, an incredibly cozy bar with tons of young Dutch people. Super “gezellige,” Dutch for cozy and quaint. We talked to some Dutch kids our age, one of which is studying to be a maritime officer. Who does that? The bar was playing Tupac’s “California Love,” so it felt just right. I particularly loved the flower diagrams/illustrations behind the bar, but couldn’t take a picture or I’d feel too touristy for such a hip place.

Just a HUGE pride flag, found at our parade

Just a HUGE pride flag, found at our parade

Bloemenbar exterior. From my favorite website, www.awesomeamsterdam.com.

Bloemenbar exterior. From my favorite website, http://www.awesomeamsterdam.com.

Inside of cozy Bloemenbar, my own picture this time.

Inside of cozy Bloemenbar, my own picture this time.

For my online Pitzer class, my next assignment that’s due is a photo journal of things around the city that aren’t from a tourist view. I’ve decided to show the whimsical, cute side of Amsterdam that is such a contrast to the drugs/prostitutes/common impressions that people have of the city. I’m focusing on families and decorated bikes and fun things like that; I’ll figure out a way to share my final product on the blog. Must work on that today! Thanks for reading!

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”

From the Dutch man himself, Vincent Van Gogh. I actually stumbled upon this on the internet yesterday, but it really stood out to me. The weather has changed just to spite me; I complained that it was too hot, and how its cold and raining. I have been sick these past few days, but still go to class and explore parts of town. You’ll hear from me again in a few days, but just wanted to put this quote out here as I am learning to love many, many things in this great city (while also thinking about the things I love at home).

If You Take a Tumble, Get Up and Ride Again.

Ah, started classes with an actual bang. Some of the girls and I met up for lunch at Brug 34 on Wednesday, where Nat’s Dutch friend works. He makes a mean iced coffee, even though those don’t really exist here. Wednesday was my first Food Production lecture at Science Park and I really enjoyed it; it’s difficult to understand Dutch accents sometimes but that hasn’t caused much trouble yet. Nathan and I were cycling home through Centraal during rush hour and I took quite the fall off of my bike– but it was bound to happen one of these days! A man biking in the opposite direction was trying to pass the person ahead of him (therefore getting very close to me) and our handlebars hit each other. I, of course, went flying forward off of my bike and have the scars to prove it. Just last night I watched Nat get caught in the tram lines and fall off of hers, and I keep giggling thinking about how silly bike accidents look, so I hope someone at least got a laugh out of mine. The only thing you can do is get up and keep riding, even if you’re terrified of any bike coming in your direction for a while. Still went to Coco’s on Wednesday night after the accident and enjoyed all of my international friends!

My wounds from the fall, they look worse in person.

My wounds from the fall, they look worse in person.

Amsterdam was incredibly hot this week, maybe even worse than Texas right now. It’s humid and there’s no escape from the heat, even at night. I spent Thursday around town finding my Dutch language books as well as so many cute little stores on Spuistraat (Anna, a present will get to you eventually). Despite the crazy heat, I mustered up the energy to cook on Thursday night and made an excellent risotto. I want to take time now to focus on my cooking skills, which have dramatically improved! I really enjoy cooking, and especially enjoy finding deals at supermarkets and grocers. I had to go back to Science Park on Friday for a refresher lecture on genetics and an introduction to what we’ll do in our lab. We’re actually going to go grocery shopping and do DNA tests on the food to determine whether the corn or wheat was genetically modified–I’m really excited! I took a train to Science Park this time which I ended up being so happy about as it started pouring on my way home. I’ll eventually start riding in the rain, but I wanted to see what Amsterdam rain is like first. Friday night, some of us (Nat, Jas, Devon [new Canadian friend], Leah) went to Amsterdam Roest (where that Moderne Hippies Markt was) and it was so hip I couldn’t even stand it. Since Roest is pretty far north and removed from the city center, absolutely no tourists go. We actually ended up seeing some of our young UvA global exchange mentors there and hid from them. One thing about bars here is that people of all ages go and have a really great time. We’ll definitely be going back to Roest when they have live music.

Chicken and veggies, southern chili, mushroom risotto, and a huge salad to heal me after Grand Marnier poffertjes

Chicken and veggies, southern chili, mushroom risotto, and a huge salad to heal me after Grand Marnier poffertjes

Amsterdam Roest, that guy definitely wasn't American but I asked for a picture of his hat

Amsterdam Roest, that guy definitely wasn’t American but I asked for a picture of his hat. Note the six-fingered handprint

Saturday was our second splurge on poffertjes, but I have no regrets. The Roest girls and I took the tram and got stuck behind the protests against the US involvement in Syria. I had received an email from the US citizen services to stay clear of the embassy because of these protests, but they definitely seemed peaceful. It was interesting to see. We shopped around Leidseplein for the afternoon only to come back for naps. Then an insane night began.

Nat, Kaitlyn, Ivanna and I decided to meet up at the most popular bar in Amsterdam for beers on tap from Belgium. It’s called Cafe Belgique and is known for being incredibly small, but for some reason everyone was standing outside of the teeny bar and there were open tables inside (out of the two tables that existed, we got one). They are known for their eight great beers on tap and over fifty bottled beers. Ivanna and I got the beer of the week, which was Hommel. Still confused what Nat’s contraption was, but I think it’s tradition. We ventured off to an Irish pub (O’Reilly’s) for their first Karaoke night of the season and naturally we had to participate. We chose “Hey Jude” which was a crowd pleaser for sure. Then the night got really weird so I’ll just do quick points: 1) exploring the Red Light District seemed like a good idea at the time, and we were definitely the only females in most of the bars on our miniature pub crawl 2) we went to another Irish pub only to watch a man fall and smack his head into the floor twice because he was very gone, and the bartenders said it happens so often due to marijuana and alcohol combined (but all they need to do is sit outside afterwards?) 3) we met four dapper males (one Dutch, three English, one of which studies at Amsterdam College and the other two at Oxford) near this pub who were determined to take us four young ladies university bars that aren’t Coco’s, which was interesting as bars start closing at 3am and that’s exactly what time it was. We went home shortly after seeing this new university-bar scene because there wasn’t much to see, but it looked like a good place to be in the future. Being friends with very outgoing people pays off.

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Nat and her fun beer

Nat and her fun beer

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The ladies at O'Reilly's, pre-karaoke

The ladies at O’Reilly’s, pre-karaoke

Second Irish pub, Murphy's

Second Irish pub, Murphy’s

Dutch classes start tomorrow and I’m so ready to get started. I don’t have much homework, but paying attention in classes is incredibly important. I am waiting until I get my resident’s permit to determine if I can get a real job or not, I definitely want to look into it. The other Future Planet Studies kids and myself are trying to find environmental groups around UvA, but so far no luck. This semester will go by so quickly, and Margaret will be here before I know it (she’s coming for Halloween!)

From A-Town to Haarlem and Back Again

Witnessed a beautiful Dutch beach and a Dutch drug scandal and arrest in the past three days, so I think I covered some of the biggest aspects of the Netherlands this weekend! It’s been two weeks and I have something exciting to see every day still. Nat and I decided we will do one touristy thing a week, and try one new bar a week. My readers will be as up to date on hot Dutch happenings as someone that lives here is!

Saturday was a beautiful day for the beach. Although slightly chilly, a combination of ISN friends and Gevleweg friends planned an outing to Haarlem where we went to Woodstock 69 at Bloemendaal beach. Haarlem is a 15 minute train and then a 15 minute bus ride away from Central Station, so very doable and also cheap. Woodstock 69 is a beach club that looks like a much larger Cosmic Cafe (for my familiar Dallasites), and last Saturday they hosted the Making Waves music festival. Small bands performed onstage while the audience could sit on cushions and couches on the sand before them, or at picnic tables outside of a cool indoor bar. We stuck around for Third Floor Magic and Aestrid, then walked along the beach. The Atlantic (or technically North Sea…) was absolutely freezing so we only got our feet wet. Still, it was great to get away from the city for a little bit with some friends. We got back in time to make dinner and have a girls night out (Nat, Jas and me) at Sugar Factory, only to finish the night at a fries shop at 4am. They even had Dr. Pepper, so basically, it was heaven.

The group before leaving Bloemendaal, what a glorious (but chilly) day!

The group before leaving Bloemendaal, what a glorious (but chilly) day!

Woodstock 69 (shout out to Jim, again!)

Woodstock 69 (shout out to Jim, again!)

Some Dutch boys (frat boys, we assumed) who were more than happy to pose for my picture

Some Dutch boys (frat boys, we assumed) who were more than happy to pose for my picture

Sunday was a nothing day for me, but like I said before, those days are necessary. I mopped the apartment (which is still dirty from the previous residents, ew) and gave away one of our two fridges to Iga. I also decided to make some good southern chili, minus the green chilis because those don’t exist here! Skyping with Zack and my parents at night was pretty necessary; I miss everyone at home but at the same time absolutely love it here. I had to see Pixie’s little face since it had been a while.

Ah, Monday was another day of adventures! Since winter is coming (GoT anyone?) Nat and I figured heavy-duty rain jackets (or macs, as she calls them) are really necessary. We went to some expensive outdoor stores but ended up finding good ones at a Sports Authority-equivalent. Mine says stuff about sailing and “marine” so I think it’s a quality wind and waterproof purchase, which is exactly what was needed! On the hunt we stopped in an adorable miniature Central Market (called Marqt) for some breakfast, and I found the huge clogs that are on Instagram and below that I just had to take a picture in. We cycled into the city center to find a vintage store, Zipper, that Nat had been to the last time she was in Amsterdam. It was the best one I’ve seen in a while. Plenty of 80’s windbreakers, overalls (that I tried on but didn’t buy, kind of regretting that now) and flannel. We also stopped at the only Aldi close to our neighborhood to pick up cheap basics (the Aldis here win awards for their fruit and vegetables, who knew!) which was good and fun until Nat’s shopping bag, then bottle of fabric softener, got caught in her front tire and sprayed the entire street. I couldn’t stop laughing. That night was fajita night at a friend’s apartment; I contributed some queso, which was made with Gouda and again no green chilis, but I tried. At least we had fun talking about which concerts are must-sees this semester.

Adorable sparkling juice at Marqt, of course the Dutch would package things like this!

Adorable sparkling juice at Marqt, of course the Dutch would package things like this!

Hanging out in supersized clogs, must find one big enough to sit in!

Hanging out in supersized clogs, must find one big enough to sit in!

Today was a solo adventure for me, and I loved it. I started with trying to find a yoga studio in South Amsterdam (right near the Rijksmuseum) that has great student deals, but I believe they were closed. I will find out eventually, and have unlimited yoga classes to keep me calm and happy when winter hits. When I failed at ringing their doorbell multiple times, I took refuge in a cafe for a sparkling iced tea (these are my newest addiction, which, out of the addictions possible in Amsterdam, isn’t too bad. All drinks here are sparkling, but sparkling iced tea is pretty good!). I had noticed a man pretty much passed out outside of the window, but he had an Albert Hein bag so I thought maybe we was napping from a long day of grocery shopping. I quickly figured out he wasn’t supposed to be there when two bicycle policemen showed up (policemen here are very attractive if I might add) and handcuffed him. If I spoke Dutch I might have learned what was happening, but I honestly have no idea. I assume drugs. What was my next move? Take a picture of course!

My entertainment for midday

My entertainment for midday

After the scandal cleared I walked around Leidseplein (my first time during the day) and found many cool shops. I bought some postcards of Dutch art at Art Unlimited and ended up strolling around where all of the galleries are (they all had 1913-2013 banners, so I assume they are supporting the centennial of the Rijksmuseum). While I walked down the street, a woman on a bicycle’s purse flew off, and I decided to run into the road and get it for her. I know this will happen to me, so I figured I might as well gain some good karma while I can.

Keith Haring (and my feet) at Art Unlimited. Also the steepest staircase ever. Love how all the stores are multiple floors here!

Keith Haring (and my feet) at Art Unlimited. Also the steepest staircase ever. Love how all the stores are multiple floors here!

My first class started tonight; oddly enough, the Tuesday night portion of my Food Production class is only focused on “academic English” since most kids in my class are Dutch. The class focuses on how to write good academic papers, and the miniature assignments total 20% of our grade for Food Production. So yeah, it is slightly a waste of my time, but I get to meet cute Dutch people and maybe even help them with writing. They are the same people that are in my seminar class and lab, and as soon as I saw them, I realized they are exactly like the students I go to school with at Pitzer (natural, messy buns, sandals, the environmental science “look” must be universal). I cycled to Science Park with Nathan and Catherine, both Americans (from the South even) in my program. We took a route that stayed close to the north coast of Amsterdam and it was very beautiful. Usually I bike there past the zoo, so at least this time the journey smelled a little better.

I’m expecting a good end to the week and another Dutch adventure this weekend, probably to the outdoor Dutch history museum that is quaint and touristy but also fun/necessary. We’ll see how much I can keep up once real school lectures start tomorrow, but I will always make time for at least a few lengthy paragraphs ;]

So Darn Lekker

My free week completely flew past me, but definitely not without some good adventures and memories added to my Amsterdam story. It’s just about time to start classes and I had two introduction meetings this week, one for the Faculty of Science and another for the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies. Both programs are in Science Park, a portion of Uva that is east of the city, and about a 40 minute bike from my apartment. Am I super thrilled about that? Not exactly. What I am thrilled about is that my Dutch language course is twice a week from 7-9pm, and my science courses are Tuesday and Wednesday from either 7-9pm or 5-7pm. No morning classes! Coming home at 9 really isn’t a big deal, and I’ll be finished with these classes before the evenings get too dark and miserable. Also, I have to understand that this amazing science facility wouldn’t be possible in the middle of the city, so in order to have the resources, I have to travel a bit. After my science meeting I went into the city and did some shopping at Kalverstraat, the biggest shopping area in the city center. I needed to buy some cute little sneakers because good biking shoes are a necessity. One can only wear motorcycle boots during warm days so often.

The courtyard of my science building, so beautiful!

The courtyard of my science building, so beautiful!

I have yet to decide what I will do during the day when I don’t have class. I applied for the Global Exchange Ambassadors Program (fingers crossed, 15 international students get the jobs) that will allow me much more interaction with different parts of the University. I know teaching young kids English, or at least doing jobs where school children could come and hear me speak English is a big thing here, so I’ll either look for that or environmental internships. The first 8 weeks will take some time as I will get adjusted to classes and the workload. The follow eight weeks, however, I might add on another course to gain enough credits to skip block 3. That would allow me more time in Dallas before I return after Christmas, and I could spent a little time travelling. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday night, a few of Nat’s friends from Manchester arrived and we decided to show them some of the city. We went down to Rembrandtplein, one of the most popular squares for clubs and bars. The Three Sisters Pub has kind of become our place in Rembrandtplein (been there twice in the past 4 days); the bar has a nice location in the square, a cozy inside, and isn’t as overwhelming as some bars can be. I love the social life that is simply getting a drink or two and talking for hours. We were on a mission to find me some cider, what those crazy kids drink in England, and we found some at an Irish bar also in Rembrandtplein called St. James Gate (shout out to Jim!).

I had to work on an assignment for an online Pitzer course on Wednesday, but we revisited Coco’s that night for their weekly international deals. I had to go to the almighty Albert Hein on Wednesday afternoon, only to find that a fire was burning in the parking garage under it! The entire street smelled horrible, and I also couldn’t get to the store. I went to the other market down the street that is much smaller and mainly sells produce. At least three people were in there just to buy quarters of watermelon… not quite sure what that was about. Coco’s is a great place to see our ISN friends and even our coaches were there (kind of weird because they are about thirty, but that’s ok I guess?).

Me, Kaitlyn, and Divya at Coco's

Me, Kaitlyn, and Divya at Coco’s

The next day I returned to Science Park for another introduction for IIS and learned more about the building. I finally met my mentor-ish girl that helps me register for classes and such, which was a relief. After returning home (another long bike ride, where this time a car only honked at me once!) I went with Nat to get her bike fixed at the little shop down our street. The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday so we stopped for a beer at one of the neighborhood bars, Mensjelief  Cafe (which means “Sweet Person”) and tried some beer brewed about 10 minutes from our apartments. The brand is De Prael, a really ethical company and we plan on taking a tour of the brewery soon. Each beer is named after a Dutch folk singer and has a quote. Nat and I took the bottles, collected flowers from outside of our apartments, and made centerpieces for our kitchen tables. So lekker. Note: “Lekker” is a Dutch word for anything good, tasty, cool, anything positive really. We overuse it.

De Prael beers

De Prael beers

This dude... infront of a neighborhood snack shop

This dude… infront of a neighborhood snack shop

Thursday night was our neighborhood welcome-international-students BBQ, and let me say that Dutch BBQ doesn’t compare at all to what we have in Texas. It was still good to actually see the people that are living around us, meet some new faces, and check in with those we saw briefly on the first day moving in and haven’t seen since. The dinner was overlooking the pier, which is really incredible. I get more amazed with this city every day, even days when I barely get out of my room (that’s only been one so far, but I’m sure when it snows there will be more).

The backyard!

The backyard!

So here I am, living the Dutch life. Tomorrow is a beach day, and then who knows what’ll come. I just got back from more welcome meetings for Global Exchange students and then had dinner (my first dinner out actually, and only for about 5,50 euro) with my girls. Despite the incredibly creepy Italian waiter that kept telling me that he’d “seen me before,” we had a great time eating and drinking in our beloved Rembrandtplein.

One Dutch Week Down

Officially one week in Amsterdam as of about 8 hours ago, and I honestly can’t believe it. My favorite things thusfar include:

1. Saying aloud “I picked the best city in the world!” when seeing something cute

2. Yelling “DING DING DING” to people standing on the bike path, but this was before I got my bell

3. Finding cool things to do on websites such as http://www.awesomeamsterdam.com

4. Spending time with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

First, I’ll share pictures of the apartment now as it’s in a little better shape. We just found out we have a bit of an earwig problem and found some gross mold, but I will talk to the caretaker about it tomorrow hopefully. It still needs to feel like home, but as my family and friends know I spend all of my time in my bed anyway, so I’ve been mainly concerned with my bedroom.

Our sad living room!

Our sad living room!

Our kitchen, barely used (as of now!)

Our kitchen, barely used (as of now!)

Suitcase as table, so hip.

Suitcase as table, so hip.

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Desk area, candles are a must

My little sleeping corner!

My little sleeping corner

It is only Monday, and I have this entire week off. I finally received an email from my science faculty about an introduction meeting I have tomorrow. I was starting to get worried that my registration hadn’t gone through or something; the university is so large that you must determine your scheduling yourself, without any email prompts or instructions (even for international students!). I’m on the right track now, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable. The weekend flew by, just as the days do. Saturday night, my building decided to take it easy and do a group dinner with some of our friends. We ate at the Callum flat (two Callums live there, Callum and Calum). Iga (from Poland) made an amazing mushroom risotto, and Callum showed off some major cooking skills with a potato omelette and some roasted zucchini/tomato something or other. A few girls made salads and I provided the stroopwafels for dessert. I was majorly impressed with the cooking skills displayed, and I have been inspired to become quite the cook. I have the time and the resources, so why not. The night was filled with good food and good company, a table full of international students that will be at the university anywhere from one semester to three years, ages ranging from 19 to 25, and home countries ranging from the west coast of the US to Norway, to the Czech Republic.

Nat and I were on the hunt for flat decorations and decided to venture to the markets on Sunday. Unfortunately, not a lot of markets are open on Sundays, but we found the Moderne Hippies Markt in East Amsterdam online and it was fantastic. Getting there by bike wasn’t as easy as finding the market online, but we are incredibly great at getting lost but eventually finding our way. We finally found the market in the yard of Amsterdam Roest, an awesome bar that is definitely the most hipster place we’ve found in Amsterdam thus far. It’s in a somewhat deserted warehouse district. Nevertheless, Nat and I will be returning. The market sold a ton of dreamcatchers, jewelry, used clothing, and massages, amongst other beautiful things. Unfortunately, this market was a one-day event, but it was great to see.

After a cloudy/rainy morning, we decided to try to find famous Dutch pancakes. This prompted another adventure as we rode through town and happened upon Nieumarkt, another Sunday market that was open and busy. We spotted tapestries from the street and knew we had to stop. Markets are full of imported goods, lots of Rasta-inspired items, military surplus, Dutch antiques, and shitty tourist stuff. You have to pass up a lot of stuff, but if you’re looking for imported tapestries, any market will do. We each bought two; Nat needed one to keep the sun from blaring into her room (that’s a problem here in the mornings, at least for now) and I wanted wall decorations and one to cover a horrid lime green chair that came with my room. We wanted to find pancakes again, and continued biking through the city.

Moderne Hippies Markt

Moderne Hippies Markt

Inside of the bar

Inside of the bar

After a while of no luck we found ourselves in the way south, and I found calm in the AMERICAN APPAREL FLEA MARKET that I didn’t realize was still in Amsterdam!! Sorry, Mom, I had to go! It was absolutely heavenly and cheap. One of the girls working there suggested a pancake place right near the market that had the “best poffertjes in Amsterdam” and yes, yes they did. De Carrousele Pannenkoeken. Nat and I couldn’t even talk; we sat in silence eating these heavenly pancakes after a day of riding like madwomen through a city we’re still getting to know. But honestly, there’s no other way to get to know your way around. I feel so much more confident after our adventures.

The best things you'll eat in Amsterdam (mine on top, Nat's under)

The best things you’ll eat in Amsterdam (mine on top, Nat’s under)

Monday, today, was another day of exploring (also known as getting lost) and shopping for cheap things for our apartments. Leah and I went to Blokker (discount home goods store right near our home) and Albert Hein, the grocery store, where I picked up healthy and cheap things that I’ll cook tonight. NOTE: something I didn’t understand when I moved here was that the city center (about 10 minutes from our neighborhood) is the only part of the city that accepts MasterCard and Visa. The little shops where we live only accept Dutch bank cards (one of which I don’t have yet) or cash; the cash machine at the Albert Hein won’t even accept my Dutch MasterCard! Learning where to get cash when you can is key. After returning home, Nat and I met up and headed to the housing office and Waterlooplein, again in east Amsterdam. We were almost hit by cars or trams only maybe twenty times. We found cheap and silly postcards/movie photos at Waterlooplein for decoration, then headed home in crazy traffic. We’re getting around, and that’s what matters most. On our way home we stopped at a Hema again (basically a Dutch Target) for basic home things, and got ice cream (softijs- something?); what I didn’t know is that they call rainbow sprinkles “disco dip” and this is possibly the best thing I’ve learned about Dutch people so far.

This little toaster car that we see on our way to Central Station, how cute!

This little toaster car that we see on our way to Central Station, how cute!

Softserve with Disco Dip

Softserve with Disco Dip

Sometimes I can’t help breaking out in a huge smile while biking around, and I know I look like an idiot, but I can’t help it. It happened more times today as Nat and I almost died in the tram lines while carrying around an old movie poster of Kevin Bacon, but it generally happens because I’m having a really great time. I can’t wait for my Dallas friends to arrive in Europe and experience these things with me, but in their own countries. Only a week and I know that I’ll have an unforgettable year.
Just a perfect Dutch family I was biking behind... couldn't resist the picture!

Just a perfect Dutch family I was biking behind… couldn’t resist the picture!

Feeling Local

Sixth day and I’m already feeling a little local. Biking is my new favorite hobby, but that might get old pretty soon. The last activity of my introduction week was last night, and it was the biggest party for international students of the semester. What an incredible week it has been.

Wednesday was the second day of introduction activities. Before arriving at Uva (known as “Oofa” around here) I visited Central Station for my stipend card and the phone store for a SIM card. Rokin (which leads from Central Station to Dam Square) is so touristy. Dam square is beautiful though, even with all the too-friendly fat pigeons. After a Dutch brunch of hard bread and Gouda with my introduction group, we had our “Dutch Crash Course” and learned some basic Dutch phrases. I’m trying, and I’ll get better once my actually intensive Dutch courses start, but right not it all sounds like the language that the Sims speak. My favorite thing about the language thusfar is that waffles are pronounced “vah-fels” and shops are said as “vinkels.” How adorable.

Dam Square, unsure of which exact buildings those are

Dam Square, unsure of which exact buildings those are

More of Dam Square

More of Dam Square

We saw the city by taking a canal cruise that afternoon, which is where most of my pictures came from. The canals and houses along the canals are truly incredible. I learned that they cost millions, and sometimes a family will buy two and combine them. Note: families are such a big thing here. Yesterday we went to the zoo, and I saw the most adorable families and children that I’ve ever seen. Don’t even get me started on what happens when I see the babies on their parents’ bikes. The houseboats were really neat too, some of which had cribs right next to the easily-opened doors.

Canal Cruise

Canal Cruise

I experienced my first pub crawl on Wednesday night. We went to four different bars, and then met at the club which hosts international student nights every Wednesday. What wasn’t so fun was the shot my introduction group leader bought for all of us in celebration; which consisted of Everclear with tobasco sauce. I don’t even think that’s a Dutch thing! I love talking about what drinking culture is like in everyone’s home country, as we are all well into college and have difference experiences. Americans are known for their pong and cup games, whereas Europeans like chants or speaking group games (of course those are popular in the States too). That was the first time I saw the Red Light District at night, which was basically what I imagined it to be, aside from the fact that the women will open up their little windows to talk to you. We still don’t know exactly who uses them, whether they be tourists or locals. After quite a long night I enjoyed a toastie with my English friends; they aren’t Dutch, but we did use Gouda.

Thursday was quite cloudy, but in general still a fun adventure. We bused to the zoo, which is in the middle of the city. We walked through a pretty cute neighborhood to get there, and you could hear piano being played through an open window. It was absolutely perfect. The zoo also had strange animals that I hadn’t seen before, like the beaver rat. One was a ginger and we (my group) named it Lily.

Me, the Beaver Rat

Me, the Beaver Rat

While walking to a bar for an afternoon beer, a few of us ventured off to find bikes. Waterloo Market is a fleamarket of sorts that sells clothing and a few bikes; we are pretty sure they had been stolen but I think that’s the norm. I ended up getting a great quality second-hand bike (one that looks like every other bike in Amsterdam, as you’re supposed to do) for 100 euros; the lock and two lights (necessities) were included. I aboslutely love riding around the city, and I’ll get to that later. Thursday night was our chance to see a comedy performance at Boom Comedy. They are an American comedy troop who definitely likes to make fun of Americans. They also made fun of Dutch things, such as product names that are absurd. Too many to list, and also too inappropriate.

Friday consisted of chores, but they were necessary! I had my “Getting Started” appointment at the University, and there I interacted with the most beautiful Dutch male being I have witnessed thusfar. Since he checked me in and therefore knows my name, I really hope he never sees this. All of the international students have decided that you must be attractive to be a resident of the Netherlands. These beauties work in coffeeshops (the actual cafes, not the “coffeeshops”), so you can catch them everywhere. I biked to my meeting, which was terrifying. You have moments were you say to yourself “if I don’t ride up onto this curb and try not to fall over or stop my bike by breaking with my exposed toe on the pavement, I will no doubt get hit by a car or bus,” and then you do what you have to do. The most exciting moment was having to ride between a truck parked in the bike lane and a moving tram, inches from being smashed. But that’s why Amsterdam is so fun!! After my meeting I sat down for a cappuccino at a cafe, so local. I alternated between watching Dutch people drink beers at 10:30am and listening to an American couple, who were trying to explain to the waitress how she wanted her eggs scrambled, and how in America, you can choose between bacon or sausage with breakfast. Yikes. Friday was also my first day to ride the train and the metro as Leah and I ventured off to Ikea. It was quite the journey, but when you live in a brand new city without much money or towels, per say, you don’t have a choice and suck it up. It was actually easy, but really only because I have internet on my phone now, the transportation company’s app, and the guts to ask around when I need help.

My bike, she doesn't have a name yet

My bike, she doesn’t have a name yet

The final party was incredibly crazy but so much fun. This was the first time I saw Leidseplein, one of the two squares known for their bars and clubs. Melkweg, which used to be a dairy factory I believe, was so huge. It was one of those nights where I just needed to leave the party and sit by a canal to get some air, and that’s what I did. What else are you supposed to do when a party is actually scheduled to go until 5am?

My university's student center, how pretty!

My university’s student center, how pretty!

Jasmin (San Fran), Pål (Norway), and Me at Melkweg!

Jasmin (San Fran), Pål (Norway), and Me at Melkweg!

So Busy but So Lucky!

Oh my goodness, these past few days have been the roughest but also most exciting days. I arrived on Monday morning at 8:00am, and yesterday I had my first introduction day for the International Student Network (ISN) program. This program will continue until friday; I’ll then have a week to get even more settled in, then classes will start.

Sunday-Monday: Leaving was harder than I anticipated (shout out to Zack and my family, also to Pixie) but the flight was surprisingly quick. I was very excited flying in and seeing some sheep from the air, but the nerves really hit me at the airport (and especially once I saw it was already raining, and hard). I only got lost trying to find my luggage once, and eventually found the UvA desk where we could be taken to our housing office for free and directly– I definitely couldn’t have handled the metro at this time! I paid my first month’s rent at the housing office (so weird doing that for the first time, and completely on my own, in a difference language), and got the keys to my apartment. Walking into my apartment was the most terrifying moment I’ve experienced in a while. I was tired and hungry; I opened the door to an incredibly bland, empty, muggy apartment. The internet could only be accessed by a cable in the common room, but that wouldn’t matter anyway as my family and friends were still asleep in America. The bedding provided for us consists of an airplane-quality pillow, and a stiff comforter and cover. I had no towel, so a shower wasn’t an option. I attempted to get some sleep.

Spanndammerstraat, where our grocery store is.

Spanndammerstraat, where our grocery store is

Roommate: But alas, an hour into my nightmare living situation, my roommate Leah showed up. She’s an American (yay!) from Salt Lake City. Luckily we were both scared shitless and so tired, so we spent the day sleeping and slowing walking to the grocery store (Albert Hein, see photo!) to buy ham and Gouda that we weren’t even hungry for. Our building felt so empty and we hadn’t run into other exchange students, at least that we knew of. This housing is a mixture of regular UvA students and international students, but it felt so empty coming in.

My Dutch Angel: ISN offers a buddy program that I decided to take advantage of. I was paired with Lisa, a Dutch UvA communications student. We had been talking before I arrived, and she offered to come to my apartment that first night and just talk and make me feel better. She really is an angel. Lisa brought me a towel (score!) and helped Leah and I figure out where exactly we needed to go on our first introduction day. After meeting with Lisa, I slept well through the night.

ISN Day 1: Leah and I met some fellow exchange students at the skatepark behind our building (yes, it is somewhat scary) and we all decided to travel to the ISN registration together. A small group of us (two English kids, Leah and me, and a guy from Norway) decided to walk, which took about an hour. We didn’t exactly have a map and guessed the way; I hadn’t even been to the city center yet, so all of my trust was in their hands. Luckily we made it to registration. I had to sweet-talk a security guard into getting me some water as I felt I was going to faint (I was wearing jeans and a sweater and boots in August, in the sun,  and it was warmer than I expected!) I felt so stupid but I was still jet lagged, not used to walking, dehydrated, and overall scared; I made it work. We were split into orientation groups, and luckily one of the British kids, Natalie, was in my group. We met everyone, exchanged numbers, walked to lunch through the city center and Dam Square, went to an orientation talk, and ate dinner together. I even saw some prostitutes, during the day ;).

The church were we had our official opening and lectures by the Dean of UvA.

The church were we had our official opening and lectures by the Dean of UvA

Sidenote: I discovered shortly after getting to Amsterdam that my cellphone 1) doesn’t like to connect me to free public wifi and 2) has an international SIM card which is the most obnoxious thing in the world. I thought I was being smart, but having a local Dutch SIM card will be much easier to deal with. I am trying to get my public wifi fixed today, so as all other students could contact family and friends in our downtime in the city, I felt lost. This was a sobering moment as I realized just how connected to my phone I am. But talking to family at this time is incredibly important, so fixing it is essential.

After dinner, my British friends (Natalie and Callum), Leah, and I trekked back to our building to refresh before the night activity. We spent some time in Callum’s room listening to music, meeting new people, drinking Polish Bison Grass Vodka, and eventually hiking to the ISN party. We were all expecting a somewhat lame gathering, but no, Amsterdam really knows how to party. This was a full-scale club with 800 international students dancing like crazy (and taking advantage of the lowered drinking age). We were supposed to dress to represent our countries, but no one brought anything. I found a few people with American items and connected with them.

Odeon, where our first party was as ISN students

Odeon, where our first party was as ISN students

Today will be another crazy busy day, but things are looking up. Once I fix my phone, I will start my day of a dutch language course and a canal cruise. Thanks for hanging through this incredibly long post, but I felt the need to let everyone know that I’m alright, surviving, and taking in the city. You’ll hear from me later this week!