Sorry about that last entry - I just wasn't feeling it to be honest. Anyways quite a bit has happened in the past three weeks since I wrote in here (by that I mean a serious entry). I'm going to try to tackle this chronologically so I can hopefully remember the most. By the way after my computer was all screwy without Windows for a month it's finally back but for some reason I downloaded Dutch Mozilla and now all these words and currently underlined in red so if there are typos I apoligize. The day after I wrote my last full entry I had a really exciting day with Ivy - we decided to use our expiring day cards for the train and just do what we felt like. We started the morning in Delft, a beautiful, old city that I had heard so much about and a place I want to visit again because it'll will be a good place to pick up some Dutch-y souvenirs at the end of all this. It was still pretty early when we got there so we got breakfast-y like food and just wandered a little. When we lost interest we went over to Rotterdam for the first time, but since we kinda had a fleeting attitude that day we couldn't focus ourselves on Rotterdam since it was so gigantic and we just had no clue what to do. So we left. Ivy had this undying urge to see the ocean so we went to Vlissingen, a 90 minute train ride from Rotterdam, where we literally crossed over a lock for the ships and looked at the ocean. Too bad moments later it began hailing, making us slightly bitter we came all the way for this. We took the same train to Roosendaal when we left so we could meet everyone for Agustina's going away party! It was a great party and it was nice to say bye to all the Shopers who always assured us this place wasn't as bad as it seems during our first months here.
The Southern Hemisphere students leaving signals a very definite moment in the year for me and hopefully some of the other people in my group. In 3 weeks the new students will come, homesick, shocked, and bewildered. Many of us are uncertain we can calm their worries the same way the SHOPers did for us back in September. Do I feel I could confidently tell someone that in a couple months you'll understand all the Dutch and language will stop being a daily battle? No. I am just reaching a point where I understand a vast majority and can use it when I choose (although I can admit I am a bad exchange student and use it infrequently outside the walls of my host family's home). It also means that I now have 5 months of exchange to look back on. What do I see? To be frank, I don't see anything, because I don't look back anymore. The only thing I look to is the future, these last few months in the Netherlands (I plan on terminating early for various reasons including a summer job and orientation at Tulane, staying until July is just not viable for me), a fresh start with a new family, and all I have yet to do here. I keep my chin up everyday and am beginning to see things I didn't see before. I already see some of the things I am learning; when my parents used to tell me just to take it one day at a time, I had no clue how, now that's all I survive on! I think about today and only today (ok maybe tomorrow or next week, if I'm like, making plans, but you get my drift).
It's difficult for me to write the way I used to in the beginning of this blog, where I found humor in all corners of this country and the differences I could see in everything. Things become mediocre then worse and the stress I feel everyday from my current living situation has taken a lot of fun out of exchange life for me. My advice, to anyone on exchange this year or anyone bound for AFS in the future, as it was told to me by a spirited, helpful Argentinian: "Don't forget, this is your year. You can't always live for others and their pleasures and worries. Do this for yourself." I am trying to combine this entry with sentimentals as well as the general update of life on exchange because like I have always said, this is a documentation of my journey, which given my current situation, has had little humor in it recently. I need this back. It's come to this point where I over analyze most actions I take in this country because I feel like my whole being in general has come under seige in the past few months. I'm going to end this paragraph because it's not a nice thing to talk about - I understand this. But I won't apoligize for discussing the rougher parts of exchange, something I know a lot about.
Either way - I have managed to squeeze in fun weekends and schooldays with AFSers and friends. I'll continue with that and the lighter parts of my life now. Last weekend I spent another day in Rotterdam with Francesco, Timoteo, and Ivy. We shopped a little (I'm lying, a lot) and then explored some more, got to see the Euro mast (I know nothing more about it except that it's some big tower in Rotterdam, we struggled there in the snow). Ivy and I came back home and I met up with Caspar and David to go out - I'd say it was a successful night. This past weekend I spent at Ivy's getting to know her town of Helmond seeing as she's stayed at my house a bunch and I've never once slept at her house. It was superb. We went out Saturday night then Sunday just pigged out and watched movies and stuff and blahblahblah it was cool.
Stuff with my Dutch friends is going well. I still hold true that I feel lucky to have found my friends. I think they're awesome people and Dustin (or his mother...whichever way you look at it) even offered to let me move in with his family. I am thinking I won't take this option though because I hear living with friends can be really hard and I don't want to spoil a good friendship...especially with someone I have every class with. The hardest part though is definitely the whole Dutch thing with friends. I've been trying to prove to them recently I can actually speak pretty good Dutch and I guess they get the picture but who knows if there'll ever be a day we just look at each other in the morning and begin speaking Dutch - could happen, no? Either way I'm currently in the middle of another proefwerk week for my school (exam week) which means for me...I do nothing. Hopefully I can take a couple day trips to relax and stuff, then I have two weeks of school and then another week off - this time for CARNIVAL. I'm really excited about this and I hear it's just a splendid time. For the second half of this vacation hopefully I can go somewhere - I'm a little surprised with myself how little I have traveled during this year but I guess what they say is true - AFS is not a travel agency, and they have enough bureacracy and red tape to stop you if you try and prove otherwise.
I think I want to write a couple quirky things about the Netherlands that I appreciate just to pump up my spirit:
- I have an everlasting hate for gym class and it takes more than an appropriate amount of effort to get myself there for two hours on Monday mornings. But I have to admit, trampoline? ice skating? This is not freshmen gym everyone. It's pretty different for me. I guess in America they just take the approach that a lot of people hate gym so why should they try? I get it but in my opinion it just made it worse. Either way, it makes me feel better about my lack of sports aptitude when barely anyone in my gym class is good at ice skating!
- Have I written in here that I have discovered I'm intolerant to fructose? Maybe I have, I don't know, but I'm around 90% sure it's true. I took fructose out of my diet about a month ago and things with my stomach have gotten so much better here. How does this exemplify my appreciation to this low-lying country of crazy people? I can easily go through a normal day without encountering fructose. Besides turning down fruit after dinner, it's really a lot easier than one would think. I know if I found this out in America I'd have to battle the inner fat person not to eat my normal foods. I'll tackle this topic again maybe when I get home - I know you're dying to find out how my gastrointestinal story ends.
- I have a second home on the Dutch rails. Every time I get to Eindhoven station I know that there is something interesting just going to happen. Someone is coming in or I am leaving. And when it's me that's leaving, when that train pulls out of the station and rushes towards wherever I'm going, my worries are left behind on the platform. I forget about the stress of exchange and know that this is what I came here for, adventure. When I step off this train I will be somewhere I may never before have seen, and if I have, I'm sure something will happen that will make the trip worthwhile. I love the ugly, green seated double decker stoptreins near Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the large, blue seated, newer double decker intercitys that make me feel at peace, or even the old, orange seated, single level intercitys that replicate the first time I ever boarded a Dutch train.
- This experience has made me certain of one thing for sure though - I love the United States of America, and I am an American. No I don't want to wave the stars and stripes wherever I deem fit, nor do I like to associate my patriotism with some bad decisions my government has made in the past few years. What do I want? I want the 4th of July, unreliable public transportation, abrasive friends, boring nights we make our own, macaroni & cheese, and being at home knowing, for certain, I am proud to come from where I do. You can tell me we're obnoxious, our accents are intolerable, we get treated differently for only saying where we come from, we dominate the media and popular culture of our modern world, but I really don't care. After all, it could be worse - I could come from Tasmania.