Thursday, June 30, 2011

Little Difference #1

As I've been adjusting to life over here in the Netherlands, I've realized that while it's not that different to life in the States (I'm sure I would be in much larger culture shock in the Middle East or Russia or China or Tanzania), it's still different. Most of the differences aren't that big, but they do take getting used to.

The first little difference I noticed, both on my spring break trip and upon return, is the amount and type of fluids consumed. I'd always heard not to expect ice in your drinks when visiting Europe, but no one told me to expect a drink to last like four sips!

Look at a typical day in my life (during the school year) of drinks....
  • A can of Diet Dr. Pepper on my drive to work in the morning....or sometimes an iced drink from the convenience store.
  • Once at school, I would fill up my 32 oz. water container with tea.
  • I would fill up my other 32 oz. water container with water.
  • Both of these would be mostly gone at lunch.
  • If it was a cold morning, I would also have a cup of hot green tea first.
  • I would then refill just the plain water one to finish in the afternoon.
  • Once home I would have more tea and/or water during the evening before bed.

Needless to say, I drank a lot of liquids! And I don't feel that I'm alone. It seems everywhere I looked in the States, people had drinks with them. Going on a car trip? Have to stop and get something to drink first. Out running errands? Let's stop and get a coffee first. And water bottles? Everyone always has one or two or ten (ahem, Michelle) in their cars.

Here, though, it just isn't so. Sadly, there is no Diet Dr. Pepper. I know. I'm adjusting to drinking Coke Light when I need a fizzy caffeine hit, but it just isn't the same.

Also, when you buy a drink the amount is so small. Bottled drinks come in half liters. That doesn't last very long....and restaurants? Don't expect much there. Yes, they'll usually give you refills, but when we went to eat with Sammy the other night, I had to get like six (not even exaggerating) refills of my water (without gas...they seem to prefer bubbly water). The only place we've found where you can get a true large drink is the movies...and then, I guess it's worth it because you get all 32 oz. because it has no ice! Haha.

So, like I said, no big deal. Not that big of a difference, just something that takes some getting used to. I still drink tons of water at the apartment, I just have to refill my bottles more often because the bottles don't hold too much!

Tot ziens!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday Funday

Since we went to Amsterdam last weekend, this was my first real weekend in Enschede. It was full and busy! We had a fun, full day on Saturday with our little outing (see post on Rutbeek Outing). Then, on Sunday morning I had the privilege of going to the ITC International Christian Fellowship church service. Oh my. It was amazing.

As I have mentioned before Jay is going to school with students from ALL over the world. The service 100 percent reflected that! I am still processing it all: the music, the outfits different individuals wore (their Sunday best), the warmth, the snacks. It was all very open, welcoming, and just how I imagine a place of worship should be. One of the interesting aspects of their service is at the end. They do announcements and then ask if there is anyone visiting them for the first time. They tell the person not to be shy, they want you to know they are sooooo glad you're here. Of course, Jay had prepared me for this, so I raised my hand. I went to the front of the church with everyone applauding. Then, after I introduced myself, where I was from, and what brought me to worship with them, the choir started singing a welcome song.THEN, every single person in the congregation came and greeted me. Handshakes, hugs, kisses, and, "You are welcome." You know, you might think it would make you feel uncomfortable to be put on the spot like that, but it didn't at all. It made me feel very, well, welcome. I am excited to get to know them better and worship with them each weekend.

That evening our friend Sami invited us to dinner. Sami is from Saudi Arabia (he gave me the gift I dropped in front of EVERYBODY back in March) and wanted to get us away from campus. Sami rents a car every weekend! Being the true Americans that we are, we were so excited not to be riding public transportation. Pathetic, I know! It just felt right to be in a car...haha. He took us to eat at a wonderful restaurant and then, since we were only a couple kilometers from the German border, we drove across it.

Thanks, Sami for a great dinner and a fun Sunday drive!

The borders are open throughout most of Europe, so this was the only "notice" that you were leaving Holland and entering Germany...a sign saying the border was 150 meters ahead. The sun was so bright, but we were so excited to be out and about! We are also very excited to meet Sami's family who are arriving Tuesday to spend summer vacation with him.

Tot ziens!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rutbeek Outing

On Saturday Jay's class took an outing to a local park area. The plan was to cook out, swim, and relax. Unfortunately, when we woke up Saturday morning it was drizzly and cold, so our plans had to change...a little. A few people backed out (because of the weather), but a group of us decided to go check it out anyway.

We punted on the grilling. {This turned out to be good for two reasons: 1. It was a 1 kilometer walk from the bus stop to the beach site, which is a long way to carry your grilling supplies! 2. We found out you aren't allowed to grill there...How upset would you be if you just carried all your grilling accessories over a kilometer and then couldn't use them?!} We took some light snacks, bundled up, and headed out in the rain.

We loaded the bus to head to Rutbeek (pronounced root-beg) Park.

Walking from the bus stop to the beach actually reminded me of Iowa. Very green, lots of trees, and corn!

Once we got to the park area we all had a good time. There is a beach, lots of grassy area, a playground, and a restaurant.

A fierce game of soccer {I'm told it's called football here...} broke out.

Then, despite the weather...and it was cold, notice the umbrellas and jackets...a few decided to take a dip.

They are only running because it's freezing, but doesn't it look a little Baywatch?

After we made it home and warmed up, everyone came over here. We had a great Saturday!

Tot ziens!


We finally got to see one up close!

Tot ziens!

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Passed!

Apparently school testing and the stress of passing them is not unique to the U.S. Ok, I knew it wasn't. Below, a little glimpse of testing here in the Netherlands.

Here in Holland school is not out until the beginning of July (end of next week) and their summer holiday lasts until September 2. Last week on my walks around town, and especially to the park since it's through a residential area, I began to notice an interesting sight outside of some houses.

I noticed a few of these in Amsterdam too.

Do you see it? Take a closer look.

A Dutch flag with a backpack and balloons attached.

So, of course it got me curious, and this is what I found...

At the end of certain grades students take tests to promote to the next grade. At higher levels, the results of these tests also determine which type of school you will attend the next year (college track, trade school track, etc.). So, as a way of celebrating and sharing the good news that you passed and did well on your exams, the Dutch will hang a Dutch flag out a window and then hang their bookbag or backpack out the window with it. We always talked at school about celebrating students' successes...Here's something we didn't think of. I like it!

Tot ziens!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Dutch Practice Book

Several of you have asked what I do with myself during the day and how I am progressing on picking up the language. Well, actually, that is some of what I do with myself during the day!

I ordered Rosetta Stone back in March so I spend some of my time working on that. I am doing much better!  {And my kids at school would be pleased to know I finally passed Lesson One. They thought it was hilarious that I was stuck on het meisje (the girl).} Unfortunately, no matter how rockin' you are at a computer program, it is not the real world. I still have no clue what is going on around me, but I am starting to be able to pick out a few words here or there.

The other "tool" I've recently started using is this.

Don't laugh! This was a free book at the grocery store for purchasing over a certain amount of food. It is a summer activity book for kids! Now I do feel a little foolish for working on this during the day, but I'm not just completing the puzzles. I am using translation tools to learn some really basic, but important vocabulary!

Hahaha. I know it's funny, but it makes me feel confident because I'm having success! Hopefully you can see my notes off to the side. That's where I was guessing what the animals were and then looking htem up to see if I was correct.

dog= hond (pronounced hoe nt)
horse=paard (pronounced pard)
cat=kat (pronounced cot)

Tot ziens!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amsterdam Part 2

On Saturday morning we took a canal cruise. It was a great way to see the city from the safe confines of a boat (i.e., no getting lost!). Amsterdam is an amazing city. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. So old. As we were both walking around and on the cruise we noticed some of the different buildings and canals had dates on them from the year they were built. 1600s and 1700s, people! I just kept comparing it to the events I teach in social studies. *Oh, that building was built in 1620...the Pilgrims were just landing at Plymouth.*

We continued to walk around after our canal cruise. After our never-ending walk the night before, Jay studied the map well. He's great at those "directional" things, so we did much better on Saturday!

I have about a hundred pictures of the canal houses. They are just so pretty!

Jay looking very...American? We enjoyed playing a game trying to guess who the Americans were. There is just something about Americans. They look differently than Europeans. Their clothes? Their shoes? The way they walk? We never could put our finger on it, but we were almost 100% correct when we guessed. (We would walk closer to them or let them walk by us to hear them speak).

See how the building is leaning? Much of the Netherlands is land they reclaimed from the sea. The land they build on is soft sand, so as you can imagine, there is a lot of settling!

St. Nicholas Church

This church is literally 100 meters from the house Anne Frank and her family hid in. It is also the church that Queen Beatrix married in.

Saturday evening we got to tour Anne Frank's house.

Wow. It was by far the best part of the trip for both of us. As you know Anne and her family, along with another family of Jews, went into hiding in an annex of a house in Amsterdam. They hid for two YEARS. I have read about her, read parts of her diary, and I've had numerous kids do reports on her. Saturday, though, it became personal.

Her dad was the only family member to survive once they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Eventually he published her diary and worked with a group to later form the museum connected to the house and annex. When he got back all of the furniture was out of the annex, and he decided he didn't want the museum furnishing it. It is all empty except for pictures on the walls and some quotes from her diary on the wall. It is so haunting.

It is difficult beyond words to comprehend how something like that happens. How one human (or a group of humans) treats another (or another group) so terribly.

I would definitely put visiting her house on your list of things you MUST DO! It's that powerful. Unfortunately, but understandably, there are no pictures inside the museum.

There are, of course, some seedier parts of Amsterdam. Most people first think of these when they hear you're visiting Amsterdam. You know, the Red Light District and the fact that smoking marijuana is legal and, well, everywhere. Well, it's all true! No pictures of that, though. :)

This is "Old Church" and was built in the 13th Century. It's the only picture we got of that area of town!
Amsterdam was a great first adventure for us. We saw everything but the museums, but it's so close we figure we'll make another weekend of it! On to the next great adventure.

Tot ziens!

Amsterdam Part 1

This past weekend Jay and I boarded the train here in Enschede and headed to Amsterdam. We weren't planning on going until Saturday morning, but Jay got done with school early, so we headed out. It is a quick two hour train ride, and voila! You are there.
We stayed at a hotel called Citizen M. They have them all over the world, I guess, but it was a first for me. It is a very sleek, modern, low maintenence place for travelers to stay. Very minimalistic and no-nonsense. Here's Jay checking us in...

You don't even talk to anyone. Just swipe your credit card and put in your confirmation number, kind of like at the airport. It prints you a receipt and a key!

The hallways look like something that would be on a ship. The rooms are awesome. Again, it reminds me of of a ship. Very tight and compact. You control everything in the room (lights, tv, blinds) with one remote. The shower and bathroom are right in the room, but have circular doors you close and can't see through. It's crazy.

That's the circular shower on the right...abuot 4 feet from the bed!

That night we headed out to explore the city center. The old part of city is called Dam Square and then all the streets and canals wind out from there. The streets are so narrow, the buildings so close together, the streets so winding. Of course we got lost! We walked and walked and walked. We made it back and because the days are so long (still some light at 11 pm or 23:00 as they say here) we didn't even realize how long we had been walking!

In Dam Square in front of the Palace. The Royal Family doesn't live here, but uses this for business when they aren't in The Hague.

On the other side of Dam Square, this is their National Monument.

Sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Dam Square, looking back at the Palace. We sat down to have a drink and a guy leaned over and said, "You are Americans, right?" (See Amsterdam Part 2 for more on that). We started visiting with him and it turns out he's from Texas!

Isn't it just amazing?

Tot ziens!