Then they actually came! Ok, I'm not going to lie at first it was weird. Actually being with them after 7 months, it certainly makes me excited to see all my friends, considering it will be another 8 weeks before I see them (8 weeks!? 55 days!? who's counting though). So here's how our week went: They touched down in Schipol Friday morning where I met them and we set off for beautiful (if screwy) Amsterdam. Luckily for us, our apartment was within shouting distance to the Red Light District and plenty of coffeeshops (much to Michaela's pleasure). I can attest to the fact that I showed them a ridiculous amount of the city - we walked our asses off. We did the Van Gogh Museum (but left because they were jetlagged and falling asleep on the benches there), the Anne Frank house, the Heineken Experience (haha), and of course did some shopping.
Monday morning we set off for the second leg of the trip, our apartment in Eindhoven to use as a base to see Belgium/the southern Netherlands. Their presence I guess made me look at things differently again. You get to look at things through the eyes of someone whose never been in the Netherlands before. They loved hagelslag, stroopwafels, and vla. Which essentially just confirms that I have had the right to be a fat person this year (except I'm still losing weight, testament to American lifestyle). Through the week we ventured through Den Bosch, Antwerpen, and Maastricht. Really overall it was just amazing to see my family but really it was a wake up to how far I've come in this experience and a hint of what ít'll be like when I go back to Shaker. I'm ready but I'm scared. I'm attached to this place I am now but I've never felt so detached from my surroundings in my life. In the next few weeks I'll go back to Antwerpen with AFS, go to Rome with school, (hopefully) travel to Copenhagen and Stockholm with Zudik (Costa Rica) and Rafael (Venezuela), have family weekend with the Slokkers in the Ardennes, and maybe by then be slightly prepared for the inevitable.
Shortly after my parents left (actually instantaneously) I went off with the Slokkers for Easter weekend in Friesland. Driving up to the northernmost province of the Netherlands we stopped in Volendam, a typical Dutch fishing town, and the afsluitdijk, which connects North Holland to Friesland and made the IJsselmeer. Once we arrived at our caravan (read: trailer) we then proceeded to spend a large portion of the weekend seeing Friesland (lots of water, not so much to do). It really was a great weekend, one of the first time I've felt immersed in Dutch, seeing as I had no access to the computer and we didn't watch that much TV. It was great. Downer? People at school really think I don't speak Dutch. Little do they know I speak the most English at school because people talk down to me like I can't understand them. This segways to my next thought.
Friesland - we went on a safari
Hinderlopen harbor (if I'm not mistaken)
Sloten (once again I think, we saw a lot (understatement) of Fries villages that day)
Windmill in aforementioned village
I've been developing something I'm simply calling the Dutch inferiority complex. It's a strong and prominent social influence in the Netherlands which tells the Dutch people that no one wants to or does speak their language. In turn it encourages them to be as good as they can be in English so they can communicate in the international business world as well as with pesky tourists looking for the nearest coffeeshop. At the same time if one tries to use Dutch that is anyone less than perfect or fluent sounding, you'll get a response in English. How does this affect/bother me? It makes it really difficult to be an exchange student in said atmosphere. There are sounds in the Dutch language that I'll never be able to make and for that I'm automatically recognized as a foreigner the second I open my mouth. But are we foreigners? I can understand everything you just said, know that if I want a cart from the Albert Heijn I have to put a little token in first, know that there will be a train to Den Haag from Eindhoven station 2 minutes past the top of every hour and the half. If there is one thing that I can see after the silly culture shock I wrote about in the beginning has worn off is that the Dutch people have no pride for their language and themselves as a culture, in my frank opinion. So if any Dutch people are reading this that tend to speak to me in English - drop the act, I'm tired of it (I say that will all politeness possible).