I had to buy a new bike! Jesus. That kinda chapped me a little. But it was a necessary evil and now I have an actually pretty nice bike that I got relatively cheap (Ok double what I paid for the last one). Turns out after I got the spokes fixed two weeks ago they broke again and the guy wanted to do a repair of all the back spokes for €50! No way jose. So I splurged and well now I'm significantly happier. I'm still working on the violin and I have a number to call someone to talk about renting I've just been lazy in general. Also, I am so satisfied with how things are going lately. I really am happy here. For the first time ever I thought that to myself in school Friday. "I'm really happy I'm doing this, I love the Netherlands." No joke. It took a while, but everything feels like it's headed in the right direction! It's still a struggle with friends and people in school to find a balance with Dutch (most don't realize I do understand stuff, I just gotta get myself to speak).
This Friday I hopped a train (typical) and went to Roosendaal, where I took a bus to Oud Gastel to spend a weekend with Agustina (Argentina!). We had a really amazing dinner with some sandwich-like thing from Argentina and I literally STUFFED myself with all the meat and fatty foods I don't eat so much here at my home (I'm alright with this, I came to the realization afterward that it would be a desperate situation if I had access to such foods). This is probably something I'd put in parenthesis but I don't know where to add it and it's not really important but I also weighed myself at Agustina's! It sounds lame but I haven't weighed myself in around 4 months (yes as of this Friday I've been gone for 4 months, crazy!?) of exchange and I was pleased to find out I actually haven't changed at all (probably a balance of biking / less snack foods combating the unalterable forces of exchange student weight gain). Either way we relaxed, had a little teensy bit of AFS chaos going on at the house I won't go into, and watched a movie which I feel asleep too so we called it a night (my girl Agustina doesn't really speak English so we speak Spanish, we were watching a movie in Spanish, needless to say after my time with her my brain was a little fried).
Yesterday we got to see Breda (I'll add pictures)! It's a really pretty, old city not too far west of Eindhoven. We just explored really, walked around a bit and shopped (none of us got anything unless you count my Olliebol). In the afternoon we parted ways and I trekked back home, hung out for a bit, then it was time to wind it up again. I had invited my friends over to meet Birgit and Eric and then we'd just chill at my house. So they got here in the evening after a little trouble and we just talked and messed around and they got to meet my host parents (which I thought was important for both sides since I talk about each to the other so often). Around midnight, after some arm twisting (Dustin didn't want to leave before his beers were finished), we headed out to the city. I can make the trip in 20 minutes by myself, but with a group of six it well, took a little longer. We had a couple pit stops (including one in the middle of an intersection in Waalre so David and Dustin could...wrestle) and my camera suffered some damages when it fell out of my pocket onto the road and I ran over it (it's fine, just now has a couple battle scars. I'd take a picture but, well, it's my camera). Eventually we got to town. Didn't really spend that much time there that night because we got there so late but it's still always something down there.
Sometimes I think it's sorta funny that I didn't expect there to be that many differences between Dutch and American culture. Reading forums on AFS groups for prospective students it's interesting seeing other student's advising others that Europe isn't such a different experience or things of that nature. When in fact that's not true at all. I really have just surfaced from culture shock and I realize that. It took me a long time to adjust to life here but it's finally all calming down. I've made a decision to take more pictures because I realize there are so many things I want to see and remember here and it'll be a shame if I can't capture them. I'm going to be hopefully taking a lot of pictures soon because this Friday started kerstvakantie for the beginning of which I'm going to spend in Belgium with Peggy (who comes to the Netherlands Tuesday!), then comes Christmas, after which is a series of AFS student planned things and new years (which I'm not sure who to go with yet - AFS to Amsterdam or Dutch friends in Eindhoven? I'm leaning towards my friends at home because I think that would be generally more rewarding in the end).
I would love to think of quirky, interesting things that make the Dutch different to put in here but when I sit and try to think about it I draw a blank. As you probably remember from earlier in my blog everything was a shock / novelty. Now, if I forgot to mention it when I discovered it, you will probably never hear about it, it's just normal to me now. From strippenkarts and sensors under the sidewalk for the bike traffic light to Albert Heijn and the Dutch rails - it's all becoming part of me. This week I picked up my Dutch ID card - I remember applying for it the 4th of September. They gave me a letter saying I'd be able to get it in a couple months and I remember thinking "wow. a couple months? what will it even be like by that time?" The answer? A lot of ups and downs but significant pace in a good direction nowadays. Having great friends, doing great things - it just makes things feel so together. I like it.
Agustina and I in Breda
Castle in Breda (pretty, huh?)
Street in Breda
Being counterproductive in getting to town
Essence of my life here
ps. I can bike to school now without my hands. If exchange ended there I could live happy.