Saturday, December 19, 2009

What A Decent Emergency Snow Plan Could Do for this Country

After what started off as a slow week, Saturday has finally arrived. The bummer is I am not in Belgium as a planned to be, unfortunately.

Tuesday afternoon I picked up my bud Peggy, exchanger in Belgium, from the train station. Family problems and a 5 hour trek left her slightly frazzled - it's all good. I tried my best to show her some interesting stuff in her time here. We only walked around Eindhoven for about 30 minutes if that then she got on a bus to Waalre and I biked home. That night I got pretty sick which carried into Wednesday, disprupting our plans to go to 'S-Hartogenbosch for the day. What else happened that day? I received a package from home! It was spectacular to feel like I was holding something that came directly from Shaker Heights, Ohio and hasn't been languishing in the harsh winds of Northern Europe. We learned (my family and I) that we will never be communicating via UPS again ($190 on their side and €56 on mine? nah thanks). Even so it had some warm clothes and nice pictures from home which I stuck up in my room to add some color finally.

It also snowed! Now let me tell you, this whole snow subject works as a great segway from Wednesday to Thursday. Wednesday we were stuck inside feeling sick and watching Sister Act 2 (bare with me) and then it was snowing. woo. Now Thursday it was still snowing when we decided to head out on our day trip (instead of Den Bosch we decided to go to Utrecht). It was obviously a warning I did not heed when it took 90 minutes to get a train to Utrecht (unheard of)! When we finally did get on the measly 50 minute direct train (funny story - we had to listen the entire day to the loud speaker in the train station alerting people of changes and cancellations to trains. When they announced our train got switched from platform 5 to 4 (in Dutch, naturally) everyone ran like the tracks were on fire. Funny part? Peggy, living in French Belgium, obviously didn't catch it and was sorta left in the lurch when I took off with the crazed hoard of Dutchmen. Just made me feel slightly...Dutch) and arrived in Utrecht we were both surprised at how pleasant it was. There was of course the feeling that it was a typical Dutch city a la Leiden and Amsterdam, but at the same time it felt very managable while still being filled with stuff to do. The snow also did put a nice little mute on the world, adding something to the canals and bridges that I really enjoyed.

We checked out a church, did some shopping, and observed some really dumb Americans givin' our country a good name by flaunting their marijuana in the street. When all of this kinda dried up and stores began to close we headed back to the train station. Arriving at about 4:40 pm there was something fishy with the situation immediately. Why are all these people walking towards us? It's awfully crowded. Well, I of course looked right away to the giant ticker that sits at the center of the ginourmous Utrecht main hall and guess what? It was empty. The huge station was packed with people. Why? Because of barely 2 inches of snow. We stood with hundreds of other impatient travelers for around 90 minutes. Albert Heijn handed out free pastries and it was somewhat amusing yet at the same time frustrating to watch the same train going to Rotterdam Central switch from Platform 10 to 12 to 11 then back to 12 over the course of 20 minutes. Trains were mayhem. We talked to people that said they had been waiting for 3 hours! Utrecht appeared coveniently to be the center of the Dutch train problem of Thursday. Lucky us. It was only after our third go-round in the station's Albert Heijn did we walk out and see - BY GEORGE - a train to Eindhoven! Happy days!

Not. In my excited state I pushed my way through all the people (I had been waiting for this opportunity to push through the crowds to a train to Eindhoven much like everyone had done to be the past 90 minutes) and sprinted down the stairs and - WOO triumph! - hopped onto the first train I saw. We went to the second, floor didn't even care we were so happy and went right into first class for some reason. Then I read a sign that made my stomach sink.

"'Scuse me sir, where is this train going?"
"Den Haag Central"
pfffffsss train doors slide close. train begins to move. Peggy and Patrick exchange shocked glances as we watch the train to Eindhoven pull up on the opposite side of the platform

Let me just say. That moment was the beginning of one of those what-the-hell nights. The kind man in first class assured us that we could catch a direct from Den Haag straight to Eindhoven. I agreed, having done that trip myself a couple times, that we should be fine. During the 45 minute ride there I chuckled a little to myself, thinking what a funny mistake that was. HAH. Not too long later we arrived in Den Haag Centraal. I ran to the schedule to see that all the trains going anywhere near Eindhoven were not running. Asked the information who directed us to a train to Rotterdam. We ran (it was a running evening, folks) to this train and just got it. Happy happy because we'd be able to get one there. Wrong again. We were told there to get on a train to Breda. We went back we were to just wait when a train worker was yelling that this train heading to Dordrecht would also go to Breda. Yes. We met a nice guy on the train who was talking to us about what a horrible day this was and all the trains he'd been on (boy could I relate). Unfortunately, the train did not continue to Breda. It ended in Dordrecht.

There we waited for a train to Breda. Which was "coming" from about 3 different platforms. Finally it settled on one and we waited there. Too bad it was delayed. Like everything else. We got to Breda. Checked the board. YES! A train to Eindhoven! We went right over there and began to wait. People came and came and soon you could tell Eindhoven was the hot-spot of the evening, the unreachable destination. We chatted it up with people coming from Schipol, a girl trying to get to Eindhoven herself, a girl trying to get all the way down past Maastricht (if you need geographical help during this post pull up a map, you'll be amazed at this journey), and an old guy or two who seemed to be in charge of a group of...other old people. Too bad that train to Eindhoven fell out too. And the one after it. Instead of rolling the dice one more time to get directly to Eindhoven. This mass of people decided we'd better ourselves to just get as close as possible, and hop on the first train to Tilburg. Did it! In Tilburg it finally came, bringing with it a shining light of all that represented hope and love in the world to me at that very moment. The sign on the train read - Eindhoven. Glory be! My sore legs and cold hands finally had an end in sight! Oh wait, the train to Eindhoven from Tilburg was coming at 11:15 pm. Remember when we started this? 4:40 pm. Now the question was - are we going to get a bus home? We got to Eindhoven, which had never felt so amazing. And yes - one more bus would run! We made it home, frazzled, to say the least, at 1 am. I begrudgingly woke up the next morning at 6:55 to bike to school.

and THAT, folks, is why I don't like it when it snows in the Netherlands.

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