Monday, October 26, 2009

And In More Recent News...

Ok so I didn't think it was possible but I have reached a stage where I am semi busy / don't really have a lot to blog about so it results in more spread out posts - such as our current situation. I have two weeks of happenings to cover so I'll try my best to recount them as accurately as I can. Since my last entry I have just been going to school and keepin it real in the hood (this is why I haven't updated - sorry). I don't think much interesting happened the week before last except one day during school we went into town and I got the air taken out of my tire! Luckily, the Dutch, as you may have heard, are fond of biking, so it wasn't to hard to get it fixed back at school.

Last weekend I hung out with friends on Friday and it just felt surprisingly normal which I guess is a good thing right? I would assume so. Saturday night Ivy just came over and we got our bake on with some peanut butter cookies which were quite good. Watched Star Wars (the video collection in this household is limited - I don't hold it against them) then Zodiac (on the computer) and went to sleep. It was probably closer to what I'd say a normal weekend would be at home, if you transferred it to my life here.

Stuff got a little rough last weekend with my host family and a lot of stuff culminated into one day and yeah, wasn't easy. I can write about it with a pretty level head now and like I have written earlier, I want to keep this portrayal of my stay as accurate as I can, which means mentioning stuff like this. I won't dig into the details of the situation but it started when my host mother approached me telling me she didn't think I had enough culinary skills to tackle a Thanksgiving dinner, an effort which, in her opinion, I should forgo. Obviously that didn't sit too well with me. We got our chat on later that night and I think things will get better around here. I can honestly say it is a really hectic household and sometimes I'm not sure if it's for me but I believe that I can do it. I really think Birgit and Eric care about me, I feel comfortable in the house, and I would really not prefer to leave my school or Eindhoven.

Last week in school was, well, not a full week! I left for BERLIN on Thursday evening with AFS!! Around 9 o'clock Ivy and I met about 14 other kids from the south of the Netherlands at Eindhoven train station to get the bus (easy for me, huh?). We pulled out and headed north to get the students from the central and western areas and then went up more to get the people in the north. Then we actually started driving towards Berlin - at midnight. Ok so here's the deal, obviously sleep was hard to come the end I slept about the last two hours of the ride on the floor. We got off the bus at about 8 at got some breakfast. Bus left and then we started our walking day (it last until 9 pm! I was not a happy camper when that bus pulled away that morning).

I could recite which sites of Berlin we saw but honestly I don't know their names except the parliament building (I think) and some other stuff. Of course we got to see the wall and Checkpoint Charlie and important stuff like that and of course it was amazing bonding with other exchangers who I must admit, are quite fun. Saturday we went to a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. I thought this was a super nice thing to see and I know in the future it'll be something very nice and special to be able to say I've seen. After learning about that kind of stuff in school forever it's kinda surreal to be there and I'm not completely sure it clicked when I was there, luckily I took plenty of pictures. Sunday we continued to walk, went to see Charlottenberg palace, which I really liked. Took a boat ride, blahblahblah. I know it sounds crazy to say blahblahblah but honestly I was so tired by that time that I was trying my hardest to be social and appreciate Berlin that a lot of events are sort of melded together in my memory now - either way a veritably excellent trip. I hope to see a lot of the other students in the future - I think I am going to Groningen with Ivy in a couple weeks to see some people and the following week I hope to go to Alkmaar for Francesco's birthday. After that I have a weekend orientation camp and the following week would be Thanksgiving weekend, when I hope to have some stuff arranged so my life isn't completely void of a holiday I didn't realize I held in such high esteem.

As you can tell I have a lot of stuff lined up for the next couple weeks so I hope everything works out. They say that the third month is crisis month so I'm going to try really hard to get myself going and together. I want to search out some stuff to keep myself busy with soon. I know I have just explained the busy weekends which lie ahead of me but I still feel bored time and time again. At home I really never faced this problem - especially once I started working at Panera, and after I got that down my life really reached a great point. I hope I can find something here to stay interested in. Please tell me this post wasn't a disappointment because I feel slightly dissatisfied with this one but I just don't know what to say right now. But at least it can give you a good idea of what's going on in my life right now. k houdoe.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Entry Is a Shout Out to Erin Bozarth

Hey there. I decided that although not much has happened in my life (although I can summarize what has) I will use this entry to do something to address Dutch cultural differences or some hoo-hah like that. First thing first, whatchu been doin' Patrick? Since my last entry I have been going to school (duh) and considering picking up some additional classes. I have been presented with the choice of adding Math (at the lowest level, C), which would be like statistical stuff, as well as the option to choose between Economics and a type of Management class. Gotta get the energy to go up to the department office and be like "give me more classes please." Because well, let's face it, it takes a lot to want to go somewhere to sign up for classes. People in school are still consistently nice which I find very good. This past weekend on Friday I had dinner at a classmate's house, Thomas. It was really great in my opinion - he's got a nice family, scrumptious food, and we watched TV!!!! It was like Jesus showering kisses all over me for being a good person.

This brings me to a very sore subject - Dutch weather. I despise it. Already. It rains way too much for comfort and when you are biking as much as you do here in the Naythurlinds it really does stink. I got drenched three times during the week and when I wanted to leave Thomas' around midnight it was raining pretty hard. Luckily here when it pours the Dutch strap up in their rain jacket and yes - rain pants. So I borrowed some of those suckers and fiet-sed (that is my anglicism of biked) it home. But seriously, I hear the next months are rather rough so I'm trying to mentally prepare. I have a rain jacket but I doubt that will sufficde. We'll see.

The rest of the weekend was pretty normal I guess you could say. Ivy and I wandered downtown Eindhoven for a while on Saturday and then I went home. Later that night I met people in town and it was alright I suppose. I definitely like the people here more than the way in which they party. Personal opinion though. Sunday was generic sitting around and then this week started. I am trying really hard to find something to do because well a lot of the activities I held as really important at home have been swiped out right from under me. Between homework, Panera, and friends all of those have changed significantly. I can't work a real job, can't do actual homework, and although I have friends, I miss the feeling of being part of your friends life (waking up to a text message or phone call, spontaneous activities, just less thought in general). I hope this changes with time because I'd love to be a part of some of these people's lives - I truly like them a lot. I have become rather determined to prove that one can have something to do if they don't participate in sports since our society holds it as such an esteemed pastime. I wish there was some good volunteer work or internships I could find in Eindhoven. Could be great for my Dutch seeing as homework is a nonexistent entity.

Oh I said I'd do something focusing on Dutch stuff in general didn't I? Ok let's think here...5 things that make the Dutch dutch.

1) I'd start with bikes, but how cliche? Instead I'll talk about something my host parents were telling me about. When Dutch people sigh, it has a very specific sound to it. They all go "ah-ha" with different inflections in their voice for each part. It doesn't particular bother me nor do I find myself infatuated with the situation but it is true. I was slightly skeptical when my host parents told me about it, but sure enough, tons of kids in school do it!

2) This website shows a map of the Netherlands and the clouds that are uhm...floating on the country at the current time (due to my lack of proper education for the past six months, I have lost most linguistic eloquence). But in fact it is quite a handy device, if it looks unpredictable outside I give this website a quick check and some days I can be pretty useful. My host parents use it, kids seem to just laugh and nod when I mentioned it at school, and when it started pouring Friday night all we needed to do was put that baby up to see that well, the rain wasn't stopping any time soon. Curse the rain, but let us give thanks for

3) Ok we all knew I couldn't hold out that long before I mentioned something about biking. The Dutch amaze me with their tact, grace, and composure on bikes. They can bike in multiple layers without looking the least bit uncomfortable, while I bike to school with a sweatshirt on freezing cold mornings and still feel gross and hot when I get to school - not ok. On top of that boy can they make straight lines with them bikes! I can't stay straight ahead for the life of me! I weave a lot and truth be told I find it fascinating that on the bike paths there is a dotted(?) line in the center to divide it - like a road. So I can often be found weaving my bike in between these lines. Reckless - yes. Fun - yes. Something 18 year olds do - no. It really reinforces the idea that I have that I am mentally a Dutch 4 year old. Between my cycling skills, the diksap, my Dutch knowledge. So here's a sad story. Biking out to town on Saturday night, an unfortunately late 12:30 am, my FRENCH teacher sees me as he is biking the other way. He just smiles at me and I know I will regret this on Tuesday when I have French. Sure enough. Today, in front of the whole class, he talks about seeing me swerving every which way into town at midnight thirty. Needless to say he thought I was intoxicated. I regretfully informed my surrounding classmates I'm just really terrible at biking. I think I'm giving off this image that Americans don't know how to bike - Sorry everyone.

4/5) Yeah I'm lazy and I'm going to combine these two because frankly I don't think I could continue this exercise otherwise. Four and five are rather boring so don't say I didn't warn you and if you want feel free to skip down a little when I finish. Pin pass and Hyves. Two things that honestly I have never heard of/ doubt I would have ever heard of before being here. Pin pass along with (CHIP) are credit card/ payment methods. I don't have much to say about them except most stores except this instead of credit cards, making it rather difficult to go about one's daily business without taking out money left and right. I'll survive - possibly. Hyves is like the Dutch version of Facebook because, typical Dutch, no one can just conform and be like oh sure we'll use the same social network the rest of the world uses and make everyone's lives easier. No. Not even close. Eventually I'll probably be forced to conform. Jesus.

Ok so you gotta gimme props, I kinda finished that list. That was like the most mental strain I've had in a long time. Thinking of five things that make the Dutch individuals. So that begs the question, who should be more embarrassed, the Dutch or me? Okkkk well I'm going to relax my mind after all that strain. T-minus 9 days until Berlin!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pursuit of Happiness

So I figured I'd keep strong with this idea that I'm going to update on or around Sundays of each week. First thing first - I want to know what people think about this blog / how I could spice it up. I want to do new things on here or show off what people want to see. Obviously since I'm writing this I include what I can but I don't know what I'm leaving out of my experience! I would think a key component would be pictures (I'm sorry about this, really. I am not that big of a picture person sometimes, especially of late. I'll try and change this). So got it? Suggestions, please!

My life has sort of normalized, or is, at least, well on it's way to becoming normal. I feel as though I have found friends who I think are pretty cool and whom I feel comfortable around, I feel ok with the host family and within the house. I'm starting to understand what they're thinking and where they're coming from. Another thing I'm realizing is why I came here. I'm reading this really great book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, where this rich, little Parisian girl is considering killing herself and setting fire to her expensive apartment unless she finds something meaningful in life before that point. It's really getting me to look past little, silly things in life and focus on people and sort of the motion of the world (I use that word because it's something she talks about a lot, and I understand it sounds relatively silly to write this all in here and attempt to sound so profound but I've really been looking at stuff differently lately). What I'm saying boils down to this: I am beginning to understand why I put off college. I wasn't ready to sit with a bunch of American students for another year and go through the typical motions. I needed something I would remember, something that I couldn't hold onto but would still be there with me. I hope the experiences that come as a result of this year really help me learn about what's going on around us. That when you get rid of the pressure of school, grades, the social circle you've known for years, you can take notice of the little things that make us operate in such unique fashions. (I really hope this all didn't sound like a silly mess, I've been thinking it just unsure how to pronounce it).

Since last week I've just had another week of school - the difference, you ask? Friends. You don't notice how crucial a role it plays in everyday life until it's pulled out from under you - then you miss it like crazy. Fortunately I feel this issue has been resolved for me, and for that, I am grateful. Class, however, is still class (except in Dutch). Dutch is coming I suppose, though I wouldn't say quickly (yet I wouldn't say slowly either). I finally ordered textbooks and they came, something I surely could've done weeks ago, but who cares. Everyone in AFS is getting all worked up because Berlin is only 2.5 weeks away and Lord knows what an episode that will be.

I'm also excited to say I'm planning some other travel! This week we had our buitlander reis (something along the lines of trip abroad) meeting in the evening. In VWO5 or HAVO4 you take a trip towards the end of April with the class. At Van Maerlant (my school) we can choose from trips to Barcelona, Rome, London, Southern Spain, Berlin, and a trip of the Outdoor variation (on bikes, somewhere not so far - pass). Hopefully I will be able to get on the trip to Rome because the Latin students get priority and the rest must compete for the remaining spots (luckily my contact/mentor/go-to-woman Mevrouw Henry says she will work her tushy off (not that exact phrase, she's German, so we don't mince words, although she is a very nice lady) to get me on the Rome trip, thanks bud). Other possible plans for the future is a trip with Ivy to Dublin in December (this is highly in the works, but hopefully it'll all be fine) and something after Berlin with my host parents (they said "well I'd say max somewhere 5 hours away, so have your choice from that"...seriously!?).

Jesus I get so worked up into little things I forget myself on here (just working my fingers to the bone)! Friday after school I jumped on this little invention seldom used in America known as the train. It took me to Alkmaar, a mid-sized city not too far from the Atlantic to spend some time with my good friend Francesco (Italia que BELLO!). It was a great time. Right when I arrived at his house we started cooking! Raphael (Venezuela) and I were his assistants in the kitchen, which was no laughing matter ("I love cook because in kitchen is like orchestra and I am conductor"). So we made Carbonada and fried eggplant (try not to pee yourselves readers, I actually enjoyed it) and well, it was just dandy. Then Rafael said doei doei and Francesco and I took a walk around Alkmaar, a nice, old, pretty city. Not much was open and I don't think there was much initiative on either side to party or anything of the like so we just returned to his house. We played some games and relaxed and by 12 I was out like a light.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went back into Alkmaar (after a relaxing morning) with Andria (Indonesia) to do some shopping and general exploration. We had lunch on the windy streets in the city and just enjoyed ourselves. Around 4:45 Francesco and I hopped a train going towards Eindhoven except he got out in Amsterdam to get to a far away town to visit another Italian here. I biked home and like a lame-o got in bed and just chilled. Today has been relatively quiet, except there was a kite festival right by the house so I walked over there to check it out and takes a few pictures (returned with camera after most of the kites were down). So now I'm just still in the process of relaxing before school. I'll include some pictures from today. Until later - oh and don't forget, what should I write in here next?