vrijdag 27 september 2013

Yes, I know it is September now...

I apologize for the large gap that I have left in my blog- departing the Netherlands was harder and busier than I had expected, as was returning home.

I will try my best to sum up those last few weeks in Holland though! They were of course, amazing and bittersweet at the same time.

As summer grew nearer in Holland, the temperature grew warmer every day- I wore shorts to school for the very first time in my life, and was still too hot! I remember that when the sun came out, several of my teachers moved class outside to enjoy the sunshine. Keep in mind that it rains quite a lot in the Netherlands, and people tend to take advantage of good weather when they can. My friends and I spent one of our free days bicycling to the Alexandrium in Rotterdam, grabbing some ice-cream just because the weather was so nice!

In the middle of June, I had my AFS End Camp- and I had a ball, let me tell you. It had been about ten months since I had seen most of the other AFSer's, and the stories and experiences we shared were inspiring. Of course, all seventy of us were in the same boat at this point- sad to be leaving the Netherlands, but at the same time excited to return home. AFS prepared us for our departure from our lives in Holland, as well as for our arrival home- wherever that home may be. On Saturday night they threw a party, in celebration of the year we all just completed. Almost like a last hoo-rah. That weekend spent with a bunch of foreign kids like me, was an adventure within itself.

One of my favorite evenings was one Saturday night spent with the girls from my class. We all cycled to Shivani's house, where we danced and got ready to go out together. The night was unforgettable for many reasons, including the funniest situation I had ever found myself in! We had all walked from her house to the nearest metro-station, when two of us had to use the restroom-really badly! As I've mentioned before, in Europe it is common to have to pay to pee. At this station, rather than public restrooms where a woman awaits by the door to collect, it was an electronic one-person restroom stall, literally a silver room which you had to put a coin in (one euro or something) for the door to slide open. Now, being the intelligent young girls that we are, we thought we'd only pay once and go in together. There was no reason that we should each pay a euro when we could just split the bill and walk in together. And so we did, Nienke first and I followed. After we were in what felt like an aluminum box-the toilet was silver, the sink, the floor, etc- our friend Naomi knocked on the door, asking if she too could come in together and save herself a euro. I opened the door of course, and let her in. At this point, Nienke was using the bathroom first, and Naomi and I stood by the door, waiting our turn. Out of no where, water harshly sprayed out from the walls, in a fanning motion to sterilize the room! We frantically open the metal door as Nienke hiked up her pants, and all three of us sprinted out of the bathroom quicker than imaginable, and laid on the ground in the metro-station laughing and laughing hysterically. My outfit, the carefully chosen black jeans with a nice black blouse to go with it, were drenched and dripping. Our hair, which we had spent so much time perfecting, was now damp with the faint scent of urinal cakes. A layer of mascara was imprinted under my eyes. The night couldn't have started out any funnier, and the best part was that we joined the rest of our friends on the metro, limbs sprawled out over the seats in attempt to dry out a bit before we went out into the city! It turns out that after every use, the electronic bathroom does a deep cleaning of the entire room, and by opening the door once we were in there, the machine thought we had left- who knew?!

Another great memory of my last few days in Holland was the weekend before I left. My host family and I headed up the road to Concert at Sea, a large music festival with very famous (mostly Dutch) artists performing. I saw Will and the People, Nielson, Blof, and many more great bands! We "camped" out nearby, which wasn't the sort of camping that I was used to, coming from Alaska. It was luxurious, including showers, large heated tents (almost the size of a house!) and much more. We stayed two nights, and the first it rained harder than I had ever seen before- and there we were, Tim, Dennis, Sjoerd, Majorie, Richard and I- listening to the last performance at midnight, drenched in water. The next day however, the sun was shining and it was the prettiest day for a concert outside! Not a cloud in the sky. We were located right by the sea (hence the name) and it was wonderful. Great music, great people, great memories.

My last night was full of both tears and joy. My entire class came over to bid me farewell, and Pascale, Maartje, Fiona and Beau spent the night afterwards. I was presented with the most thoughtful gifts that evening- the girls from my class got together and made me a personalized planner, filled with photos and things that I must never forget from Holland. Beau, Maartje, Pascale and Fiona gave me a CD that they made, consisting of 20 Dutch songs that we had made so many memories with. They also gave me a pure silver bracelet with five small beads on it, representing each of us. I never take it off. They gave me a bundle of laminated photos of them, with different quotes on each one. They are hanging up on my wall here at home now. I received more small gifts as well; it was a very special evening. Looking back on it, I don't think I quite realized what leaving was going to mean, until the plane took off from Schipol Airport the following morning.

Pascale, Beau, Maartje, Fiona, Renee, Tim, Dennis, Katharina, Marijke and Rob all took me to the airport to send me on my way. There, I met Marlo, Kyle and Colette (the other American AFS students) who were about to leave with me as well. My four friends and I kept saying that this wasn't a goodbye, but rather a "see you later." I tried to be strong and hold back the tears, but as I threw my backpack over my shoulder, walked toward my gate and waved goodbye, tears flowed down my cheeks like rivers. The jitters of going home paused for just a moment, as my heart hurt leaving my closest friends. I will never forget how I felt walking away from them. Not knowing when you will see such important people to you again, is an unsettling thought.

The plane ride to New York felt like it lasted for days. The excitement of meeting my mother in North Carolina had kicked in, and it was hard to sleep, read, eat, or focus on anything besides that moment when we were going to see each other in the airport for the first time in a year. I had to spend the night in New York that night first, and fly out to North Carolina the following morning- which made the journey feel even longer.

The day finally came, and there she was in the Wilmington Airport, balloon and flowers in one hand, and my grandma by her side. What a great flashback that will always be. We spent ten days together in Wilmington with my grandma, which was full of dinner parties, swimming in outside pools, shopping, pedicures, and trips to the beach! In other words, it was a fantastic trip consisting of much needed quality time with my mom! Being back in the states felt so weird though- I remember that I was so entertained by walking up and down the isle in the local grocery store, seeing products and food items that I had completely forgotten about while abroad- I was fascinated with the silliest things, like the price of deodorant! I collected a few treats and candies at the store, and sent a care package to the girls back in Bergschenhoek.

Our vacation ended quickly, and before I knew it I was on a plane to ALASKA! The last frontier, the state that I had missed so much while away. My father and sister drove up to Anchorage in the motorhome to pick me up, and we too, had a meaningful, long hug. My dad jokes every day that he has to make up for all of the hugs he missed while I was gone! I laugh, but am thinking the same thing.

This past summer I accomplished a lot, I feel like. When I returned home and got settled (as settled as I could, that is), my sister got me a job as a barista at our local coffee shop- Captain's Coffee. I also got a second job on the spit, selling attire at a fun tourist shop. I registered for three classes at our college, Kachemak Bay Campus: Biology 115, Critical Thinking and Introduction to American Government. I registered for two classes online as well, US History and Language Arts 11. I got my license, which still scares me to death on a daily basis- driving is nerve-racking! I moved into my sisters old room as well, redecorating
it with souvenirs that I had picked up at all of the places I traveled to.

Summer ended quickly, and Maddie went back to Colorado for college. I still cherish every day that I spend with my parents, for I missed them more than I can ever describe while I was gone. We eat dinners together most nights, if I get off work on time. Those dinners are the best part of my day.

Some days I get lonely without Maddie around, but between my job, college classes, online classes and college applications, I've been keeping pretty busy. I believe this to be good though, for if I had too much spare time, I'm afraid that I would dwell on the fact of being so far away from my friends, and my other life.

Often times I get asked the question, "Does it feel weird being back?" Honestly, yes. When I see old friends and acquaintances, I feel like I am living a different life now, looking from the outside in. My life didn't go back to "normal" per se, but rather moved forward, and rather quickly. It is hard to explain, and some times I don't quite understand the feeling myself. There are days when I look to the mountains, and think how fortunate I am to be here and with my parents again- and others, when I scroll through old photos on my phone of the girls and I at Vierkantje, and wish so dearly to be back in the Netherlands. For now, the only thing that I can do is look towards my future, and do everything that I can to make it possible to go back to Europe at some point, whether it be for a visit or to study abroad in college.

How I see this year going, is continuing with my graduation plan and attaining all of my needed credits to graduate on time in May. I am thinking about visiting Maddie in Boulder in the spring, but that is up in the air for now. Within the next few months, I'll be frantically applying for colleges and applications, right and left. Who knows where I'll be next year, I am truly considering all options at this point; volunteer programs abroad, college in the States, Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand, colleges in Ireland and England, etc. etc. I have so many different options and dreams that it will be a challenge to only pick one to start off with.

Stay tuned for now, at least that's my plan anyways.


vrijdag 7 juni 2013

Short update!

Saying goodbye to Maddie at the airport was hard, there's no way to downplay it. But it's comforting to know I will see her in only a matter of weeks! I took the day off from school of course, and Dennis, Marijke and I took her to Schipol. It's weird to think that next time I will be the one getting on a plane there...

Tomorrow I will be going to Maasland with Rob, Marijke, Tim and Renee to go sailing! The sun is supposed to come out, accompanied by a bit of wind. It's been so warm lately, that I've been able to wear shorts to school! Sometimes it's even too warm, like in the 80's...gingerproblems. I have to bring sunscreen to school with me, because we've been having lessons outside.

Can't complain that much, it's better than the rain! After sailing my plans are to bike with the girls to Shivani's. She lives right on the beach (well, a manmade beach), and close to Rotterdam. Many girls from my class will be coming too, so I'm looking forward to it! A girls night is well needed.


dinsdag 4 juni 2013

Amsterdam, Belgium, Pancakes!

The month of May has come and gone, and June is already here! How the time has flown these past few weeks...it's so weird to be able to say, "I'll be home next month!" Home seems like such a relative term these days. I am so used to my life here now, getting up and cycling to school everyday, spending Friday nights at Vierkantje with the girls, being teased by my brothers at home, etc. It feels so normal, but at the same time like a parallel universe that I've been living in, one that will soon just be a memory.

On another note, Maddie and I have continued having the most amazing time together. Saturday we did visit Anne Frank's house, which was well worth the hour long wait in line. The "museum," building of their hiding place, was smaller than I had imagined, yet their area within the building was larger than I had pictured. It was a very emotional visit for us, seeing as we have both read her diary several times and everything we have grown up learning about her life was put into perspective yesterday. Out of all of the museums that I've been to in Europe, this would have been the most eye-opening.

We also walked through the Red Light District, which if it weren't for all the tourists around, would have been a sketchy place to be alone...in every window was a woman, of almost any age, posing in kinky lingerie. Let's just say you can't un-see a seventy-year-old lady in a thong! It was a great area to wander in and out of the tourist shops of course, with bongs and pipes displayed in the windows and weed leaf designs plastered on the walls. Welcome to Amsterdam!

We ate fresh, delicious poffertjes in the center of the city as well as patats- one thing I know that I'm going to miss are the fries here! We ended our day drinking tea at Starbucks, and then hopping back on the train.

Sunday we took out the family for a pancake lunch in Haarlem, where Rob's sister owns a pancake house. They were, hands down, the best pannenkoeken that I have ever eaten in Holland. Maddie and I shared a pineapple pancake and an apple w/raisins pancake, and I swear I could live off of them my entire life. Mhhmm!

Yesterday, we had one of the best days since she's been here. We went to Antwerp! It's still such a shock to me that you can spend the day in a different country so easily....what did we do in Belgium? Drank lots of beer, ate chocolate, ate fresh waffles, ate patats, and shopped until we dropped. The weather was decent, no rain that is, and the food was killer.

Maddie leaves tomorrow! I don't know what I'm going to do without her. Luckily when we say goodbye, it will only be for five weeks as opposed to ten months. She has helped me so much these past few weeks, and I feel like we've gotten so much closer. I'm so fortunate to have such a strong relationship with my sister, and hope that whatever our futures may bring, we won't ever be too far from each other.


vrijdag 31 mei 2013

Waar is da feestje?! Hier is da feestje!

 Thursday was a hit, Maddie and I danced like we were foreigners and didn't have a care in the world at the school party...it was quite entertaining! Dinner at Hello Pasta was superb, we split a mushroom, creamy pasta and Maddie got to know my friends that I've made here.

Even with the age difference, she seemed to enjoy herself. It was so nice to show her another part of my life here, with all of my classmates!
Unfortunately Maddie caught a cold (probably from me), so we postponed our trip to Belgium until Monday, instead of today, giving her a day to recover before Amsterdam tomorrow! Our plans are to visit Anne Frank's House, see the Red Light District, wander into all of the touristy shops, and just explore the city.


donderdag 30 mei 2013

Finally, Some Fun in the Sun

For some reason, whenever I take Maddie shopping here in the Netherlands, I end up buying more than she does...well nonetheless, Monday we had a lovely day walking around the Alexandrium (shopping mall) as well as peeking in Primark. Tuesday sky finally started to clear up, and the sun came out! Taking advantage of the weather, we hopped on the metro and headed to Scheveningen, where we hung out at the beach with Fiona, Maartje and Pascale, eating ice cream and walking along the shore. Maddie enjoyed a mojito on one of the terraces along the strand, making the best out of her vacation in Europe!

Yesterday everyone piled in the car and went to an Indonesian Market in The Hague, where we were surrounded by different booths selling all sorts of trinkets, under a large white tent. The food was to die for, we ate dinner at a "restaurant" also located under the tent. We tasted foods such as fried bananas, Spekkoek of course, and other oriental treats. The different booths sold everything, from incense, jewelry and back-scratchers, to dried fruit, cooking utensils and lingerie. You could even get your fortune told! It was quite the spectacle.

Tonight we have the Eind Feest for school! First, the girls from my class will go out to Hello Pasta (a delicious, but relatively cheap italian restaurant), and wine and dine. Afterwards we'll head over to the Oude Haven part of Rotterdam, and find the location of our school party. I'm so anxious to see what Maddie will think of it! Granted she's older than most of the kids that will be there, but I think we'll still have fun. Looking forward to it!


zondag 26 mei 2013

Enjoying my time with Maddie still!

Since Paris, Maddie and I have been keeping ourselves quite busy. Dennis showed us around Delft last week, where we grabbed ice cream and lunch. I finally showed her Bergschenhoek as well, going into all of the clothing stores and such.
Friday evening we went to Vierkantje with the girls, and we made Maddie order our drinks in Dutch! We all got a good laugh out of it. The bar was more crowded than normal, due to the fact that many high schooler's had just finished their final exams for school. I'm not sure if Maddie enjoyed it, or was just overwhelmed with the crowd! In any case it was fun to show her where I spend all my Friday nights at.

Yesterday (Saturday) we used our Day Train Tickets, which allowed us to travel all day on the train, only paying 14 euros each! We chose Haarlem and Deventer to visit, because Maddie was interested in seeing Haarlem and I wanted to catch up with Marlo in Deventer. We spent most of the day in Haarlem, where the sun was shining and the weather couldn't have been better. We shopped again until we dropped, buying gifts for friends and family as well. In the evening we ended up in Deventer after all, where we dined with Marlo in a nice restaurant. It was so good to talk to her again, we hadn't seen each other in six or seven months! Of course we are both experiencing many of the same emotions around these last few weeks of our exchange, so being able to relate to someone was comforting.
We headed back home on the train as soon as it started to drizzle, and were back in Bergschenhoek by eleven. On our way home, we stopped and had a drink at Braaf, talking about what we wanted to do in the upcoming week.

Tomorrow we are headed to Primark in Rotterdam! I'm hopeful that because it's Monday, there won't be as many people...Tuesday we are thinking about going to Scheveningen, because the weather is supposed to warm up a bit. Can't wait!


dinsdag 21 mei 2013

The City of Love

Paris, France- the home of the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, and much more. Where a crêpe stand is around every corner, or in between a bakery and a hole-in-the-wall cafe. Where couples fill the narrow, stone brick streets, blissfully walking along while sharing a baguette. Where Maddie and I spent what seemed to be, the best five days of our lives together! 

The hotel that we stayed at, Hotel Bonsejour Montmarte, couldn't have been in a more perfect location. The street below us was filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants- where in the evening, were hopping with live jazz music and artsy vibes. If we kept walking down for about five minutes, we would end up at the Moulin Rouge! In this section of town, tourist stands, sex shops and bars surrounded us...which wasn't the best place to end up at night! Luckily, we didn't run into too much trouble or mischief... If we walked ten minutes north from our hotel, we were at the Sacre Coeur! This was an artsier part of Paris, where markets, bakeries, painters, musicians, and quirky/cute stores were located. It was the perfect place to split a sandwich, sit on the side of the street, and watch all of the different kinds of people walk by! 

We got very lucky with the weather the first two days- the sun shone and there was no wind! I thought we were in paradise. Unfortunately, the third day was a bit cloudy, and the last two days it rained. We had a lot of inside activities saved for the rainy days luckily, for example going to museums or churches. 

I'm trying to think of what we didn't do in Paris...but I feel like we packed in everything that was possible in five days! Every morning we'd get up early and go down for breakfast, where we were served bread, a croissant, and hot coffee, by the owner's wife or daughter of the hotel. We'd pick a few things to do on our list that were located in the same district, buy a metro ticket, and head out!

Of course we went to the Eiffel Tower...I mean, who could go to Paris and not see it? We went up to the second floor, where we could see all of Paris. What. A. View. There we sat, on top of the Eiffel Tower, sharing french fries and enjoying what a perfect day and perfect life we had at that moment.

Going to the Love Lock Bridge has to be one of my favorite activities that we did in Paris. It's a bridge located near the Notre Dame, where couples, friends and families lock a padlock to the bridge, and throw one of the keys in the water. We bought a cute lock with the Eiffel Tower etched into it, and fortunately it had three keys- one to throw, and two to keep! Very sentimental, and something that we can always hold onto in remembrance of our time in France together.

The Sacre Coeur was incredible as well. The location made it even better, with the painters and markets surrounding. It overlooks on Paris, which had almost as good of a view as the Eiffel Tower! We went to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Sainte Chapelle, Rodin Museum, Opera National de Paris, and many more! In the evenings we talked over white wine and split an entrée. It was really the perfect vacation, and who better to spend it with than my older sister.

Monday we headed back home on the train, passing again through Belgium. Today we have laid around the house, enjoying being able to relax! I swear I walked more in Paris than I have ever walked in my life...good thing though, we had to burn off all of those crêpe, macaroon and baguette calories somehow! 

Not sure about our plans this week, but I still want to go to Amsterdam and back to Antwerp with Maddie. Stay tuned!