Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shake It Like You Mean It

Alas! A breakthrough! A real weekend! So where did we leave off in my life...oh yeah - swine flu. Ok so like uh..a couple other things here and there, I exaggerated a little, it wasn't swine09. I think I can safely say I'm happy about that. It's not like back in April when you could get school closed for a week with this slugger so it's not worth my time anymore. Either way, I stayed at home until Thursday, making it a one day week because we had contactdag on Friday (more on that in a sec). I really just relaxed, not like I needed it or anything, but I figured it was time to go back to school when everything was fine except for a little throat tickle, strangely enough I still have it kinda. I think I watched some quality 90s movies, read my book (I'm currently dual-booking it. Choosing depending on my mood), and uh...spent like 18 hours a day in bed? 18 might be a little low.

OK enough rambling about being sick, it's not different or anything just because I'm in a different country (although my host parents were really great about it all. You hear that it's some of the hardest times when you get sick, but I didn't feel that bad. I know my friends are all having amazing times at college and well, my family is just living, they can't spend every waking minute thinking of me. This kinda forces me into a mode where I am very driven to have a successful year.).

So after I had my ONE day of class this week we had this so called day of contact. We all met up at this bowling alley and these girls from my class offered to bike with me since well, I semi know stuff but let's not push it and pretend I can find a random bowling alley in Veldhoven. Anyways, I thought that was pretty nice of them. Once we were there we bowled and let's face it, I reach a wall so to speak in further description here becasue bowling is exactly the same. Same to the point that I sucked just as bad or worse here. I suppose that is not the point of the day of contact though so no stress. Apres that we went and got some pizza. I must admit, it was good, and rather large to boot. But the real boot so to speak is that we didn't have to pay! The school paid for it. Now that is the correct way to make contacts, if you will. Post-pizza the events were over for a period and I made my way back home. I was sleepy so I slept (profound, huh?).

After typical evening eating rituals I got a call from a kid in my class, Dustin, who invited me to hang out with him and some of his friends before the dance. We went to hang out in the park near the school and chilled. Then we transplanted ourselves a little and met up with some other kids in our class, namely David, Caspar, and Kelvin. It was really nice seeing people outside of class due to the fact I don't think I can give off the right vibe when we're just sitting in school, in Dutch. Then off to the school party! It was uh, kinda like a Shaker dance? No haha it was not. It was all techno-y music and a lot of the kids were dancing but uh, a lot weren't - including myself. We just walked around a little and chilled in the courtyard (side note - they can drink beer at their school party! but only four per person...wouldn't wanna get too rowdy...). When it was over around 12:30 we went into town which was some fun. To reiterate, JESUS bless the fact that know people know me outside of school. Because, let's face it, school is not a good reflection all the time of a person, especially me. So this was a jovial time. Came back home around alarm went off at 7 to get ready to go to Amsterdam with AFS. Needless to say, Saturday was rough.

Like I said, woke up at 7 on Saturday and got myself together enough to grab a bus into Eindhoven (yeah don't even kid, I was NOT going to bike). There I met Ivy and we hopped on a train to Amsterdam (simple, no?), except part of the train didn't work so we had to switch cars and it was jam packed! Then we had to get off at Utrecht (it was supposed to be a direct) and change trains. We got to sit a little and then showed up 45 mins late to the AFS group, but luckily we weren't last so play it off. Then we went on our walking tour of Amsterdam! slightly chaotic. We went to the red light district and the coffeeshops and was a little much to be honest, I didn't expect to be all like that.

I'll paint the scene: narrow, i mean NARROW, alley way. You got prostitutes pressed up again their doors on either side of you. Next thing you know there's a hooker yelling out her door because someone took a picture (big no no) and she's gettin all buckwild like "Children get out of here. Go back to your play gardens. F- you!" Ok then some genius from our group proceeds to cuss back at the hooker. Well let me tell you, that did not make Ms. Fish-Net-Body-Suit pleased. She started spraying a water bottle everywhere like the Pope of the Red Light District! Another thing, hookers roll deep. The second Senorita Fish Net got out that bottle her neighbor ran inside and grabbed like a giant stick that had something metal on it and started waving it in everyone's faces and yelling! As you can tell, Amsterdam 101 was a little overwhelming.

Aside from that I found the city a little cramped and dirty. I understand it is very old and it does have it's beautiful parts but it was not as I had expected. The drugs and sex are very rampant, something I suppose I thought was more contained. Nonetheless there were very nice parts of the city that I liked a lot. After the tour ended at 4 we mosied around for a couple hours then Ivy and I caught a train back to Eindhoven at 9.

We thought we were going to go to bed. Sleep. Rest. Watch a movie. Except we missed our I suggested we might as well go into town and see what's going on. Well we ended up meeting some of the people I was with Friday night and it turned into quite a fun(ny) evening.

All in all I would say this was an extremely successful weekend for me and I am beyond pleased with things right now. Let's see how they all roll out in the next couple weeks (I don't have much planned in the next couple weeks until Berlin. Might go to Francesco's (Italy) house in Alkmaar next Friday and I had plans to revisit Amsterdam with kids from AFS-Belgium but I don't know how I feel about it after seeing it yesterday).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keeping Things Updated

I was going to wait a while to post but there really is no better time than now because I am sick as a dog! So allow me to retell the events of my weekend and Monday so we can all better understand my situation. I must have the swine flu, I feel completely terrible. This is being written post crashing from Efteling and I need to figure out how to sleep through the night! Anyways, on to the chronology of it all!

First I would like to address the negativity of my last blog. I understand it was very down in the dumps and all but you must bare with me. If I am to update this blog as much as people are telling me to then there are going to be some crumby moments! I can't just gloss over it like a person that writes every month and can just exhibit the highlights. I am being real here, sometimes slightly exaggerated real but nonetheless I'm trying. If you would like a happier blog I am 100% available to direct you to one with more smiley emoticons. There will be happy posts (i.e. I have very nice things to write today so cool your jets!).

Friday evening my good friend Ivy showed up in Waalre, we hung out and got our chat on for a little while then decided it was time to go out! We biked into Eindhoven and went to the Stratumseind (which is the longest street of bars in all Europe!). We had fun and were very responsible. Yes. It's true. We biked home and went to bed and everything. All went off without a hitch. The next day we went back into town with Maria (Brasil), it was fun. 

Sunday not much occurred except, oh nevermind I did stuff Sunday what am I talking about. Ok so in the early afternoon we went to this rock concert in Waalre. I was surprised they found a place to fit all this stuff in this tiny town! I was impressed. It was really cool though. Although the music was a little hard for me, it was nice still to do something and the kids enjoyed it. They stayed a little longer than me because there were a lot of activities for children. In the evening I took a bike ride with Erik, we did the lichtsjerout (light route) in Eindhoven. A good 40 some km are decked out with street lights kinda like Christmas but here it's to commemorate the freeing of the Netherlands at the end of WWII. We got like 26 km but Erik is a speed demon on those bikes! Jesus. But it was nice...quite tiring though.

Ok now comes the BIG story. Efteling and my current state! I woke up this morning and was like, "wow, my throat really hurts." But I persevered, I'm that kind of person. We drove the hour to Efteling and it was so cool! I'm going to put pictures on Facebook although I am not in any and it's just the attractions but whatever it was cool. Too bad about an hour or two in I started dying! Headache, sore throat, chills, achy, the whole SHEBANG! It was veritably horrible. I couldn't even go on many rides eventually because I felt so sick - and I do like rides! My favorite part is there were like no lines and it was very different from an American amusement park because when I say it was family oriented, I mean it. Tons of kids and families and very sparce in terms of the obnoxious people that often show up at places like Cedar Point. So we got to about lunch time and we ate. Pofertjes. They are these little fried dough things that are like pancakes and you put syrup or whatever have you on them. I saw them on an add when I went to the Hague and let me tell you, one had never before touched my lips but they were already my favorite food. So we ate those (god like), which there were not enough of may I add. 

After lunch my condition worsened. Not much exciting happened because I was like a walking zombie (I still feel like this by the way). Ok here comes the piece de resistance (ignore my lack of accents, Frenchies). After I could do no more than sit on a bench while they went on rides (I was ok with this, didn't want to spoil their fun). So then, Birgit had been bugging me whether or not I needed a wheelchair, I thought this would be rather silly and turned her down numerous times, until I finally said yes! This is the let me tell you of let me tell yous...It was bliss! I got pushed around a park in a wheelchair! I have pictures and everything, it was too good to pass up. The best part was I didn't even get any dirty looks from people! I was just another kid in a wheelchair. I did feel a little bad because there were loads of people in wheelchairs and they were all handicapped or old...whereas I was just uhm...not. They finished up the park while I sat and people watched in my new throne, some people who had seen me earlier in the day (I never forget a face!) did give me the up down but who cares I was having the time of my life (or at least the timiest of my life I could while feeling the way I did)! It was truly an excellent experience. It's unfortunate I didn't get to truly experience Efteling but I'm sure if I want there will be other opportunities...

Now here is where I post the picture of my favorite part of life:

Before I end this I would like to add one thing. I am very happy with how things are going in the Netherlands as of now. I have my down days, some of which I express on here. But the truth is I really enjoy my family, town, and school. The adjustment is just very difficult and for me involves venting ocassionally. I just do not want people concerned with my state here, like I said, I really care about my family and especially now as I feel completely down and out sick they are being enormously helpful. I hope everyone can understand this roller coaster of emotions and hang in there with me for good times to keep coming (like this upcoming weekend! I better be healthy).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Ask Why These Two Posts Are So Close Together - I Felt Like Writing

And why shouldn't I be able to write when I want to? I'm not intimidated by the people who never update their blogs because to quote Bomani "D'Mite" Armah (Read A Book) "I'm tryna go platinum." Anyways, the past couple days have been sorta rough on me. It's really taking it's toll that I don't have many friends here in school. It's just supremely awkward and I talk when I have the chance but let's be honest - it's WAY more difficult to suggest to walk up to people than it is to do it. Especially these Dutchies! Jesus Christ Almighty it's like a scene from (insert scene of choice where teenagers stand in circles speaking in tongue and one kid is left out not understanding diddly).

Of course the AFSers are now together in full force and we have each other but it only goes so far. I want a friend I've made on my own, not someone my host mom set up for me, and not one that AFS handed me by default. Someone who likes me and I like them. I think a lot of this was awakened by the fact that the weekend is coming up and I won't be doing much...Ivy and I are considering doing something but that's about the extent of it. My host parents want me to go to some rock concert in Waalre on Sunday (gag. ok sorry) but then we're supposed to go to Efteling on Monday! Which is good because a) I hear it's very cool and b) I get to miss gym (yes, I feel like a freshman in high school)!

Life is becoming more uniform though as the one month mark approaches, this is very weird to me. Just around this time I would be leaving Panama, which makes me think how little time I spent there because I barely have my head wrapped around the Dutch yet! Granted, these Dutch are a lot trickier than they look...I'm quite serious about this too. You think you've got them figured out and then you're like "Why am I in this tiny little country in Western Europe that has it's own language, its inhabitants ride bikes everywhere, and yet no on ever seems to notice it (especially how weird it is)!"

Kids in school are interesting but I don't like how I don't have anyone to share my opinions with. I suppose it really takes time to make friends and with the Dutch you should multiply whatever time frame you Americans just had in your heads and multiply it by 3 because they straight up exclusive. I try very hard to show my fun time, smiling a lot and stuff, and then hold in all my wit and sardonics until I can write in this bad boy! I'm contemplating trying to make friends by talking about the Kanye-Swift ordeal (it hasn't made it overseas yet, this is my chance), but once you bring Obama into it (he's right by the way) it's all downhill and we have to talk about politics (luckily the one time I was frank and told them I didn't care about politics they seemed to find that normal, is that because I'm a teenager or American?)!

Some final random thoughts. I did the wash yesterday and my underarmour shorts got tore up like no other! I request back up athletic shorts from across the pond along with white t shirts and my moccasins and anything else I need that I can't think of. Dutch is a very difficult language. I have come to terms with that. I love everyone that is all "hoe gaat het" and "la dee la" with their Dutch and I'm like ok I know that but you don't see me prancing around speaking this ugly language, do you (yes, it's true, some days I grow very bitter with the Dutch language. I'm known to have said a couple times "It makes me pissed off when I wake up and people are speaking Dutch around me." oops)? I suppose I am growing very impatient though for friends and language and should probably stick it out a little longer before the Bitch'n'Moan Express takes me to town.

This was cathartic. Thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I've Been Busy (About Time)!

Well, this weekend was orientation weekend for AFS Netherlands and the week prior was my first kinda full week of school. First I guess I'll start by giving a run down of the first impressions I have of all my classes...let's see here...

French: The first thing right off the bat that is different for me is that the class is all in Dutch! Maybe that isn't surprising to some people reading this but I am accustomed to a French class where I've been speaking French in class for like two years now (And I can really tell it paid off, thanks Madame!). I do like it though because it's one class I don't have to be clueless in besides English but I mean everyone expects me to know English, with French I think it was a nice surprise. The teacher is really funny and animated and yeah it's just fun. This is like the one class I have books for. Oh well.

Dutch: So I figure for about 3 - 4 months this class will be useless. I sit there and he rambles on in Dutch and they've already scheduled a presentation of sorts which I shall take no part in (I'm ok with it). We had to write letters about myself so the teacher could get to know us and said I could write mine in English because the point is to get to know the student and my expression is limited in Dutch (makes sense).

History: My history teacher is pregnant. I know that's like, not an academic point or anything but I think it's interesting. She's a very nice lady and the history that we're studying is like Industrial Rev stuff and eventually we'll progress like through the 1800s and stuff to present time. Woo. Most teachers don't understand at all why I'm here, I think my history teacher falls somewhere in between. She was really welcoming and nice but Friday after class she approached me and apologized for not being able to speak more English in class. I had to inform her that was not the point and I'm content sitting and translating some of the words on the notes here and there but besides that not doing much. I asked for it.

Social Subjects (?): I don't really know what this class is called and it's too hard in Dutch to understand so I just call it Social Studies. It's like a government/politics class so I hope when I learn Dutch it will be pretty interesting. The teacher is also really nice and is always cracking jokes. The one thing he did inform me though was that "There should be a Supreme Court in the Hague to try Bush for what he's done." All you can really do is laugh and say you understand. Not trying to go there sir. Once again, I share my mentor's books in this class and pretend to understand what's happening. Sometimes he asks me about American Government and I feel useful.

Geographie: I haven't been to this class. But I won't finish this entry before I leave for school in ten minutes and have to go to that class so I'll write about it later!

English: I feel a little bad because the English teacher doesn't have a clue what to do with me (would you?). I've only had one lesson but she talked to me for a little bit and the kids did some reading and stuff. I felt bad a couple times because I had a huge smile on my face the entire class and had the church giggles when they couldn't pronounce some English words. My b.

Gym: Not too different than American gym really. We played soccer - I straight sucked, shake it off. Then I learned how to shotput in Dutch (that's right, what did you do today?). It was pretty uneventful although I don't love it. Gosh how universal gym can be.

So those are all my classes. Pretty nice, huh? Ok so now onto the weekend and other practical things about living in the Netherlands:

After school on Friday I got picked up by Catherine (Can) and then we got Chok (Thai) and went to the train station to meet Ivy (NZL) (do you like these nationalities in parenthesis? we'll go with it for now). We took a winding mess of trains and buses and finally arrived at a typical AFS location (hostel/camp style place with lots of outdoor room). Meeting the other kids was stupendous and I'm pretty syked to travel with them to Berlin in a little over a month (And Amsterdam in two weeks!!). There were typical AFS activites and Dutch lessons, we got to talk about the cultural differences we've seen here thus far (I got my piece in about how I don't like Dutch toilets).

Of course there were amazing kids from around the world and I throughly enjoyed my weekend. I learned some valuable lessons though. First one, during a quiz about Dutch culture they asked if we knew their queen (I did, it's Beatrix), after which I tactlessly asked if we could call her Trixie. Didn't go over too well. Luckily it only reached two Dutch ears (four? two pair? whatever.) and I will never say it again, sorry. I also learned that I can eat bread with chocolate sprinkles for days and it will not fill me up. I didn't really take any pictures because I knew everyone else would take them - I was right.

So now I mostly just go on with my week. This Friday is contactdag (contact day) for our class. Meaning we do something to get our bond on and then at night there's a party in the school. The weekend after is Amsterdam for Saturday with AFS and then I honker down until Berlin which will be buckwild.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hello Old Friend

Old friend, you ask? School. Because I just had my "first day" of Dutch school! I put first day in quotes because the legitimacy of the use of the word day to describe what just happened can be very much debated (seeing as it lasted a whopping 90 mins). Ok SO - I got there early, got my roster (I'll post it below), got another tour, talked logistics, then went to my "mentor" class or something like that, I feel like it's homeroom or study hall or a like activity. I was like the not first there which is a good thing I guess? I met some people...kinda. Then she started talking to the class. It went on blahblahblah DutchDutchDutch but oh believe me it doesn't matter what language it is you know when the teacher is talking about YOU (teacher hand motions in your directions, you start recognizing more of the words, all eyes on you, cold sweat).

They dance around the subject of my buddy, or person who's going to help me in some of my classes (It seems I'm not exactly a hot commodity because I saw no hands or competitive jumping up and down to assist me with my LIFE which does, in fact, need assisting in it's current state). So some girl named Lydia offered herself up to the post and is now veritably STUCK with me (ok I'm exaggerating I don't even see her in class again until Wednesday). After class I talked to her and her friend a little bit, she admitted English wasn't her forte (The positives of this? I see far and few. Although I'm sure AFS would just be giddy). I left class and uhm...left the school?

You think I'm done talking about my first day - right? WRONG. So then I leave the school and go to the bike racks (not slightly comparable to their American cousins - these are like bike lots, on steroids), I unlock my bike and try to get out of the sea of metal. Turn right - no way out. Turn left - a group of kids standing right where I need to get out. So I walk over there and don't really know what to say (I'm counting on someone noticing me and moving before I have to open my mouth - yeah didn't work like that), I mutter something to make my presence known and they move...say a bunch of stuff in Dutch, repeat it ("DO I LOOK LIKE I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAYING?!"), and then I proceed to speak to the natives in tongue - "Ik ben Amerikans." Well, let me tell you, that was QUITE the crowd pleaser! The teenagers who were just giving each other startled and dirty looks over the strange kid who appeared mute were overjoyed and dove right in with some English and "how awesome - I'd love to go to America," (I'm not gonna lie, I was so taken aback I dropped my bike - but don't worry, they told me "oh fuck it - it's fine"). They carry on about how I must've only come for the weed and that I need to come to their parties and stuff. So I play along with it then call it a day and bike home.


Yeah I know not really.

But here's my schedule which I promised:

Gym 11:20- 1
English 1:30 - 2:20
Geography 2:20-3:10

French 11:20-1 (RIGHT!?)

Wednesday (I call it day from Hell)
Dutch 8:30-9:20
History 9:20- 10:10
Social Sciences 12:10-1
Geography 2:20-3:10

Dutch 11:20-12:10
English 2:20-3:10
French 3:10- 4

History 9:20-11
Social Sciences 11:20-12:10
Dutch 12:10-1

I don't really have much room to complain though. It's pretty solid if you ask me. And by solid I just mean awesome because it's completely empty so solidity has nothing to do with this (you should see the actual schedule I have - kids look at it and go..."where are your classes?" I say, "So here's the thing...I don't know DUTCH.").

Finally, I also have a video/interview/nonsensical thing that me and Crystal recorded this weekend (This post was so consumed with school that I didn't get to talk about my weekend!) talking about the Netherlands. Maybe I'll post it soon? My voice is super loud in it and the video/audio is delayed but nevertheless it's interesting. Maybe?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lists...and a Short Update.

So I like to think that I have readers and doing something like not posting since Saturday would make them angry - yeah I'm a little delusional. I wanted to think of something interesting to do this entry on instead of just rambling about my life. How about lists?! Everyone loves a good list.


1) Sweet food! Too bad we have NONE in our house. Except for the chocoladevlokken - which are SO good. These little sprinkles you put on your bread for breakfast with butter...except my host family is not down with the sprinkles so we use these chocolate FLAKES! Delicious way to wake up.

2) Temperature. I am not such a fan of hot weather in America. Once it starts weighing down on me in July I'm ready for fall. I also have an issue with the snow. Leaving my conflicted soul nowhere to go - correct? Wrong! There's the Netherlands! Here it barely snows and never gets super super hot. My kind of weather. Lately it's been pretty chilly (I found out that we're about as far north as Northern Canada (right!?)).

3) I guess this goes with sweet food but I love Diksap. I know it's called syrup or whatever syrup is in Dutch but our bottles say Diksap and I'm 12 years old and think it's hilarious. Either way, Diksap or a fruit flavored syrup that you pour in the bottom of your cups and then put in normal water, mineraalwater, or whatever, and it makes it delicious! I guess it's similar to grenadine but they have more flavors. Like appel-zwarte bes (apple blackberry).

4) The biking. Although I am sometimes bitter that we have to bike places (mind you I'm writing this BEFORE I start biking 5 miles to school everyday), I think in general I really enjoy it! My bike is a little bootleg but that's what you get for €75. But then Lord knows you need a €30 BIKE LOCK (they're crazy) plus a €9 kick stand because yours doesn't work. I'll make sure to get my money back at the end of all this. My host mom says I'm getting "fit" and it's not something you can tell yourself. Dank je wel!

5) I wanted to make it an even five of things I like here. But let's face it. I've been here less than two weeks and I've been having a rough time anyway - I'm lucky I squeezed out four!

On to my life: Learning Dutch has moved to the forefront of my home life here in the Netherlands. Birgit and Erik pound me with words nonstop and sometimes it just makes me shut down because I just want to eat my dinner without being quizzed on Dutch silverware names! But sometimes it's manageable. I just can't wait to get to school and have something to do here. These past two weeks have been ridiculous. What did AFS think I'd be doing? Silly silly silly.

There isn't much else to report. Like, take yesterday, for example - I left the house for about 45 minutes total because we biked to the flour mill (not gonna lie, pretty cool) to get flour. It was actually a water mill and stuff! Too bad it was pouring out. The bright side of that, you ask? I got to wear the rain jacket I brought! Goed! Then we went home and I chilled with Into The Wild (something I'm quite frightened will end before schools gets ahold of me. Without a book what am I to do?!).

Today I want to run errands in Veldhoven or Eindhoven or something. I'm supposed to be calling this kid my host parents want me to hang out with so we'll see if that can be made to happen. Here's my list of stuff I need: PILLOWS (here I'm sleeping on like a flat couch pillow and some beanbag-ish thing, not so comfortable), Books (yeah like I said, I need some new ones, and I really doubt my parents want to furnish a trip for like three or four more of my books at home to take a trip to Europe), and a phone card (no money to text or call here in the land of Nether). So homeboy here will serve a dual purpose: companionship and a guide to my domestic needs (how am I supposed to know where to find a pillow?).

And finally, we got word yesterday officially about our trip to BERLIN (gaaaaah)! It will be Oct 22-26 and should be a bucket load of fun! It's only €200 which, for the Americans, shouldn't be that big a deal. Now come from Italy, I guess it may not be worth it (that's like us putting up a stink for a trip to like...Chicago, cool, but not always necessary). I suppose that's good though! The Italians comprise 15 of the 70 kids here right now! That's a lot! We're the next with 10 Americans, and then something ridiculous like the Wallonians (French Belgians)...That's like..."Oh hey guys, yeah I'm going away for a year, I'm doing this thing called foreign exchange in Western Pennsylvania."

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crappy quality. I know. But it's the flour mill!