Saturday, August 29, 2009

Things Are Looking Up!

Yes! It's true! I am in a much better place right now. So it's Saturday, the weekend. Restful? Doubtful. I biked like 20+ miles today! That's some Lance Armstrong shit. So my host mother and I biked to Belgium today which was wonderful. We went to this monastery which kinda straddles the border and criss crosses here and there. We pulled our bikes in and parked near the cafe in the monastery (because how else are monks going to make money? just wait). Then my host mother informs me there is a BEER supermarket attached to the monastery. Yes, my friends, it's true. The monks brew beer in their spare time. They are not saying the rosary or whatever else the Catholics try and make a front with. They are playing PONG.

Ok. Slight embellishment.

It was really cool though, I'm not going to lie. There were all these different beer classes of the different Belgian beers and sometimes my host dad makes runs down here when they're feeling some Belgian holy alcohol. With the children ocassionally (they told a funny little anecdote where they went all they way down there and Erik is paying for it and Dennis just goes "But Dad, that's ALCOHOL!" laughlaughlaugh). We biked into the closest Belgian village and it started to pour so we took refuge under the entrance to a restaurant. We went a little further and I decided Belgium was boring so we turned back. Saw some REALLY pretty Dutch scenary (Check Facebook if you're my friend - if you're not, I guess you can creep and add me).

Besides that, yesterday I got to talking with my host parents for a while about traveling and such (I suppose I'll try and keep it a little hush hush because I know AFS disapproves of such talk - but I want to travel a ton here). As a VWO5 (my track in school) there will be a trip this year! I get to choose between Rome, Oxford/Cambridge, Barcelona, Paris, and Berlin! I already think I know which I'll choose but who knows, if they're on different dates maybe I'll meander my way into more than one. I'm really excited for the AFS trip in October to Berlin and even the orientation in two weeks! Fellow AFSers are always just really helpful in exchange and I can verify that on many levels. With my host parents we've talked about travel around Belgium, Germany, and hopefully I can see some people like Julia and Lauren in Paris.

Yesterday I also got to hang out with a fellow AFSer, Catherina van Canada. She was a nice girl of 15 who is also here for the year and is relatively close by. So I creeped and called her up and asked if she wanted to hang out. We sat at her house and talked for a little then wandered around Valkenswaard, the town she lives in just south of me.

I don't anticipate anything exciting happening in the next week really...My host parents have friends coming in next Saturday who they said love art so we may be going to some museums in Eindhoven. Besides that...just waiting till school. Oh yeah, and we're gonna go talk to the people at Van Maerlant this week to see if they don't mind me coming there this year (so what if I chose the farther, bigger school? It looked the nicest on the outside - and that's what really counts, right?)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"My Infinity Summer"

This has been the summer that's lasted forever. Let's put it into perspective. I stopped classes at Shaker Heights High School on May 7th, after which the normal senior year events followed (i.e. lawn day and senior project). I start school in a week in a half here in the Netherlands. That's 4 MONTHS. To the T. Jesus. Next summer will be a little less than half this summer. Early July to late August. But that's too far away to think about right now.

Today we're supposed to be finding me a bike - finally. I'm still bored through my skull here, although my trip to Zoetermeer was superb and a 24 hour highlight of what has officially been about a week away from home (I put the pictures on Facebook, it's much faster than Blogger). I'm having a tough time though, really. Like I said before, I can talk to my host parents until I'm blue in the face and bike until my legs ache but besides that there isn't much to do!

I think that's the hardest part. I haven't even reached the half way point in my Dutch summer vacation and I already just ache for America because of the nonstop going which I had there. I understand all my friends are doing their own things at college so I think that's why I'm not that torn up about not seeing them, I wouldn't be seeing them anyhow. Here's what I miss: My parents and My American world. I always had something to do, here I have nothing (I'm destroying the 09 Tulane summer reading. purpose you ask? none)!

I asked my host mom a while ago what's kinda the norm in terms of Dutch kids hanging out (just walk over? or what?), because I thought the neighbors she took me to meet were pretty nice. She told me she really didn't have a clue and that most AFSers just wait until school starts (ok but that's TWO WEEKS AWAY) and that's probably my best bet. I'm very interested though in how frank they are with their words. When I got home from Zoetermeer yesterday the kitchen was pretty empty and she was asking me what kind of vegetables I liked (hmmm...). I had to inform her that that list was scarce to non existent. She replied "Well if there had been a check for doesn't eat vegetables on the AFS application, well, you wouldn't be in this house!! laugh laugh laugh.

Either way. Zoetermeer was tons of fun! We traveled into the Hague which was a town I was really hoping to be placed near, and it lived up to all my expectations! I loved that it was an old city right on the ocean. I don't feel like many cities in America are like that (if you think of one, keep it to yourself), they all are touristy and sensationalized! We walked on the pier and had something to drink nearby, it was loads of fun.

Once again between the beginning of the post and the end of the post something has changed: My host dad informed me there will be no bike buying today, which kinda erks me a little bit. They're looking on the equivalent kinda of eBay and they can't find anything right and refuse to go to the store and look at bikes. So I remain immobile.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Few Days In

So I've been here a couple days and I'm still learning to settle. It's summer time for a while still (2 weeks, but when you're not doing much it feels like a while). I wanted to post a couple pictures here and there of some things I've been up to.

I'm really excited though because tomorrow I'm taking a train to Utrecht then Crystal is picking me up to hang out in Zoetemeer for the day! It's been pretty lonely around here seeing that the kids are young/only speak Dutch (I'm slowly but surely trying) and well, I can only talk to my host parents so much. It'll be nice to see a familiar face and should help to break up the monotony of summer (ridiculous thing to say, isn't it?).

My birthday went by without much excitement...I got to choose a cake, which I have to say was delicious. But that was about the extent of it. We ate tacos for dinner and I called it a night pretty early on.

At this point I'd say I'm adjusting fairly well to the time difference but I feel like I slept like a log yesterday! I had a lot of dreams though. One where I yelled at some people in Chipotle because of a bad burrito. Oh well.

ANYWAYS, yesterday we went to the...uhm, Papagooienpark in Veldhoven. That would be the Parrot Park. It was funny at first, thankfully they were caged up, my host mother was giving me the impression that they were flying around all free and whatnosh and kids just played on playgrounds beneath swooping tropical animals. Not the case. We fed them nuts which the children slightly begrudgingly shared with me. It was kinda gross though with the plethora of feathers and pooping birds; it was - personally, a bit much.

I've been taking walks/bike rides with my host mom to explore the area. She's nice to talk to and whatnot, just to get out of the house/break the togetherness. It's typically the latter part of the evening after the kids go to bed and usually puts at just the right level of exhaustion to retire for the day.

Today we went to the City Council of Waalre to get me registered - it wasn't interesting or anything I just thought I'd include it.

I guess I'll go study Dutch now.

Ok nevermind I'm not going to upload pictures it's taking forever.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First day - Birthday

Hoi all,

So it's about 11 am in the Netherlands on my first day otherwise known as my 18th birthday! All the travel here went rather smoothly, the flights seemed short and checking luggage went off without a hitch. Upon arrival at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam we waited for our luggage and passed through...well, nothing. There didn't seem to be any customs when you passed through the sign that said customs, only a mob of eager AFS people to greet us. I finally found the sign that said "Welkom Patrick" and made my way over to Birgit (my host mom). We hugged and an AFS volunteer approached me and handed me a bag with my Dutch course in it and informed me we'd have our orientation in 3 weeks. I can't wait to see the other kids again and meet the ones from all over the world (I'm also impatient to meet Dutch kids my age but as far as I know there are 'neighbor boys' who I will be set up with).

Typical of my life meeting host families, I was the first to leave. No emotional goodbyes on the part of us ten Americans, seeing that we were swallowed by our Dutch families. It took 2 hours to get to Waalre, during which Birgit and I made good conversation. She is a nice woman with good English. Yesterday when I got here we used mostly (all) English to communicate because Oma ( German) was in town and she only speaks German, the kids speak German and Dutch but no English, I speak English - no German and (let's be real) no Dutch. Luckily Birgit and Erik speak German, Dutch and English so there was a slight translation game up until about an hour ago when Oma headed home to Deutschland.

I have learned a few things already about life here in the Netherlands. Let me outline a few: There is no such thing as 'I don't care,' make a decision and stick with it. I have already many times been told upon saying I don't mind/I don't care that "well, that doesn't quite work." Ok, fine, I'll decide. Another thing, biking 6 km into Eindhoven for school is child's play (Erik's hobby is making bike maps with GPS, he claims biking 25-30 km away (mind you there and back making it around 60) is just enough for him and any further is too far, right). My bed was comfortable though a little hard.

OH and JESUS IT'S COLD HERE. Sorry, I just remembered that that is a large portion of my shock here, IT'S FREEZING. I am wearing a sweatshirt and could easily wear pants. Ridiculous. I didn't think I'd miss the heat but I really do. I just unpacked and I realized just how much I brought - alot. But that's quite alright with me. I just gave them their gifts from Shaker/Cleveland and they seemed to appreciate them, although the children might be slightly abusing the harmonicas. Dennis is fun and so is Sonja but I really need to get cracking on Dutch to get on with them. Dennis has decided that today he will not take his ritalin so we'll see how that all unfolds!

I miss everyone bunches but I suppose thus is life. I start school in two weeks (I know, it's going to be a long haul until that point), after which things will hopefully start rolling along at a nice pace. I guess I'll spend some time today with AFS NL's Dutch program and Birgit said she'd take me to the supermarket for some stuff.



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"I've always found my way somehow - taking the long way around"

Today is my last day in Shaker. The Shaker I have grown to love and consider my hometown. I would not have guessed five years ago the immeasurable sorrow I feel leaving this world I have made behind. While there is such sadness in leaving, I look ahead and see this adventure, my adventure - waiting to be taken advantage of! I love my friends in Shaker more than anything and I wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors.

In other news, the suitcases are packed, they've been weighed at UPS (cutting it close), the goodbyes are beginning to be said, all that I have left to do is pack up my toothbrush (and such) as well as the residence permit paperwork. I will depart for JFK at 1:10 pm tomorrow to sit through an orientation I've already braved, I will then fly to Zurich and arrive in Europe around noon Friday. By 2:30 pm I will be in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I'm ready to meet the Albertsmeiers and get down to life in Waalre but I understand how much I will miss Shaker, my friends, and especially my family.

So cheers - to friends, to family, and to adventure.

See you in the Netherlands.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gezin - Finally

I finally got a host (welcome...i guess) family! It's nice to rest assured for the next six days that I know where I'll be for the first two months of my exchange. I'll be living with the Albertmeiers, which consists of Birgit & Erik, and their children Dennis (9) and Sonja (7). They live in Waalre, a small town of 16,000 which reminds me a lot of Shaker. The town is very close to Eindhoven, a city of 200,000, easing my mind a little bit. My host mother seems to be some kind of Microsoft Office expert, which means I doubt it will be hard to keep up with people during the trip! They seem very nice from the minimal corrspondence I've had with them in the past 24 hours and they're happy to have me! My placement with them depends on how well the children adjust to my presence at the house - if all goes well, I stay! If not, I move to another family in Waalre. Below I've added a picture of my house! The small window on top is my room, another year on the third floor - score.

Well, now I pack and get ready! Less than a week. Here goes nothing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Still no Family...

9 days from departure. Still no family. Trying to be patient, it's not working so well! I've been shopping a little and stuff and just preparing to say goodbye to everyone. AFS Netherlands says it's working to get everyone a family by the time we get there. I'll keep you posted, don't fret.