Monday, August 29, 2011

Some pictures!!

my host family took these pictures for me so I had pictures of my arrival at the airport

the doors we came out of after baggage claim

the sign they made for me!!

all of us together at lastt :)
from left to right: Hans, Jelle, Me, Anne-Claire, Andrea


So today was a very important day. I found out my class, schedule and got my books. So my class is V5D. Which is VWO 5, or grade 5 in VWO and class D. All of the students in the room (except for me and a younger boy who just moved back here from Sri Lanka) had their schedules and classes already. So all of the students, grades 5 and 4, sat in this big room while the principal spoke to us.Anne-Claire and her friend Gloria came with me to this meeting, which was good because they could sort of translate things for me. After the principal spoke, the classes were called so they could all find out who was in their class and get their books. As we were sitting in this room Anne-Claire was pointing out alot of her friends, because a lot of them had not passed the year. And at first hearing this, one would think that it means that those people were not smart, but apparently alot of people don't always pass, because school is really really hard... especially level 5... haha. So as the classes were being called she was telling me, oh I hope you're not in that class or oh I really hope you're in that class! And she hoped I was in either class C or D, and I'm in class D, so that's really good! What this means for me is that alot of her friends are going to be in my "class" and this is kind of like having an advisory, but in a much bigger group. So I will be in an "advisory" group (they call the adviser a tutor) with alot of other kids. Once a week we meet and it can be a free time to do homework and ask questions, so it's nice that there will be alot of people in my class that are Anne-Claire's friends meaning they will hopefully be willing to help me with my dutch.

It took a while to get my schedule, and the Sri Lanka guy also had to wait to get his, but he got his first, and I had to wait alot longer. It also took a long time to get my books, but I eventually got those too :) So right now we are all in the process of wrapping our books. We have to do this because we have to sell or give back our books at the end of the year, so the books are in the process of being covered in wrapping paper. One of her close friends was wrapping books here too for a while with Jelle because they are in the same class. It's kind of a pain but you have to do it. Anne-Claire has sooo many books and soo many classes. She's taking 14 classes this year, so that seems like so much compared to my 8 or 9. So now I'm going to write my schedule out, because everyone I show my schedule is very jealous, so I'm very very lucky.

Order of Periods(each class is 50min) and Start times
1) 8:30
2) 9:20
3) 10:10
AM BREAK- 11:00- 11:15
4) 11:15
5) 12:05
PM BREAK- (Lunch) 12:55- 13:20
6) 13:20
7) 14:10
8) 15:00
9) 15:50- 16:40

Maandag (Mon)
Am break
5 History
6 Management and Organisation (M&O)
7 M&O Double period
8 Econ.

1 General Science
3 History
am break
pm break
6 General Math

2 English Literature
3 English Literature (Double period)
am break
4 History
pm break
6 Dutch Literature
7 M&O
8 Gym
9 Gym (double period)

Donderdag (Thurs)
2 General Science
3 Dutch Literature
am break
4 Gen. Math
5 Econ
pm break
6 Mentor period (advisory group)

1 Gen. Math
2 English lit.
3 Dutch Lit.
4 Test period
5 Test period

So that's my schedule for the week. So all those free periods that are in the morning, that means I don't have to be at school until my first class, and then I get to leave at my last class. So like on friday, if I don't have a test, I get to go home at 11 or 11:15. Those two periods are reserved for tests, so I can have either a two or 1 hour test. Then on Monday, I don't have to be at school until 12:05. So that is reaaaally reallly cool. Also, general math and general science are classes that everyone has to take unless you choose a profile that has higher maths or higher sciences. Since Anne-Claire would like to be a doctor, so she takes biology, and chemistry and physics, instead of general science (Every year!!) because hers is more focused on sciences. So I am pretty happy with my schedule so far. I won't be able to bike home most days with Anne-Claire or Jelle though, so the first week we will bike together though so I can learn the way completely since I've only done it once. I don't know what the kids will be like in my classes, but the girls I met from Anne-Claire's class seemed really nice and talked to me. Anne-Claire also drew me a map of the school and where my classes are located, so hopefully I won't get lost my first day. I don't know what my locker number is yet though, so for the first day I will need to find out where that is.

So school starts Wednesday, wish me luck!

Friday, August 26, 2011


Soo this past week has been preeetty busy, filling out paperwork. We had to go apply for my temporary residence permit, and that involved lots of things like going to the local government to get papers and really quite not interesting things. But we do get to bike alot so that's really fun. But the day we went to get the temporary residence permit was kind of fun because we had a little time in the city (Den Bosch) and there was a fair there!! all throughout the town. so that was really cool to see.

Then yesterday we went to the school that I will be attending with Anne-Claire and Jelle, and got all my classes organized. I will be taking nine classes!! that's alot more than I'm used to, but that's less than normal for the Dutch students. So I'm going to be in VWO, which is a school for pre-university education, which is really good for me to be in. I'm in grade 5, which is the level below the final exam year which is grade 6. So for each typical Dutch student, they take alottt of classes. They all take: Dutch, English, another second language (French or German), general science, History and Social Studies, Cultural studies, Mathematics and P.E.
So since i'm hear to learn dutch and not German, so I wont be taking another language. I will be taking English however because they read books in that class, so I think it will be fun to read with the rest of the class. So then in addition to those classes, I have to choose a profile. and these profiles are what the kids want to do in college. So my sister Anne-Claire wants to study medicine in college, so she her profile is "Nature and Health". I decided to choose Economy and Society, for two reasons. I don't have access to these classes at home (like economics)so I thought it would be fun to take that. And I also didn't want to take Culture and society because they take like 3 or 4 languages and that would be way too hard. So school starts next Wednesday, and on Monday we will go to get my locker and bike parking spot (they have so many students that they have to be assigned a spot!!) and find out who my class teacher(that acts kind of like an advisory) will be. So I'm pretty excited to start school, but I'm also worried because my dutch is definitely not strong enough for school!! haha OH right, I haven't talked about biking hardly at alll!!! So obviously we bike everywhere. And that's because there are bike paths everywhere!! And here everyone rides next to each other on their bikes instead of behind the person in front of you. So we bike pretty much everywhere that's close enough. We didn't bike to Den Bosch because it was way to far to bike so we drove there... but I have to bike to school everyday. I'm sooo glad I worked out at the gym biking because otherwise I would NOT have been able to make it to school. Coming back was alott harder because I had to ride there and back with my host mom in less than like 3 hours. so that was sooo hard. but she keeps saying I will get used to it, and I'm sure I will.

Today for the first time also I got really kind of sad. But instead of isolating my self in my room I went downstairs and talked to Jelle and Andrea. I think they could sense that I was kind of upset because they were asking me how I was feeling and we were talking about things I missed and things like that. But Jelle was like, do you like monopoly?! And I lovee monopoly so we played monopoly for a very long time and that was a really good way for me to feel better. So I feel really grateful that they are doing so much to make me feel welcome and happy because I have to say that some of the other exchange students seem to not be doing so well... and I don't know if its a personal thing or a family thing, but I feel really lucky to have such a wonderful host family. I'm sure I've said this at least twice now, but I can't even stress how important it is to have a good host family. And I've been telling my host family stories from the AFS facebook page and saying how some kids aren't doing well at all... So I feel like I'm doing really well :)

Monday, August 22, 2011


NOTE: so I meant to publish this yesterday (sunday) so its a little bit late, but its written as if today was sunday

So I'm finally all moved in an settled. I have my own little room, and today we just hooked up my computer to the internet. I'm starting to unpack, but I'm not all the way done yet. So it is my third day here in the Netherlands and already I feel like I have seen quite a bit. The family and I have been talking a lot which is nice and we both get to learn lots from each other. Last night a girl that the family grew up with at their old house stayed the night because she was driving from France and was very tired. So this morning we all had breakfast in the garden, talking and eating. We spent almost the entire morning and some of the afternoon outside because later we had tea, coffee and cake outside. It is soo warm right now, and today there was even a little bit of humidity which is very unusual weather wise. After the guests left, all of us but Jelle went bike riding. Anne-Claire said what we did was about half of the distance to school!! So we biked and rode past this windmill!! (I got to see a few windmills driving home from the airport too so it wasn't my first) But since it was Sunday, the windmill was open to go inside! so that was really cool to be inside of a windmill because you got to see all the wooden structures that grind the wheat into flour. The windmill we were in is being worked on a little bit, but it still can make flour even though people are working on preserving it.

I feel like I have done so much already but I've only been here 3 days! But the first day we did not do too much because we had to drive home from the airport. Anne-Claire and Jelle do not like car rides because they feel very long to them since they are not used to driving everywhere, even though this car-ride was an hour and a half. But unfortunately it was rush hour too so all the cars were driving home from work so it took even longer. Then after we got home we ate pizza, but not pizza like we eat in the states... We made it ourselves and picked what we wanted on it but there was not alot of cheese on top like american pizza. They put ham and pineapple on my part, and then we had another pizza that had seafood on top with the ham and pineapple. It was very interesting, but it was really really good. After dinner we went over a couple of AFS things like how to lock the doors and safety things, but the neighborhood is very safe and they leave all of the doors open when it is nice enough out. So far everyday the doors have been open. Yesterday it was 25 Degrees Celsius which is about 77F. Friday I also gave Anne-Claire and Jelle their presents, and the family the United States book. Jelle was very happy with the comic book because it will help him to learn English better. Their english is very good, but we have trouble with a few words that the translation is a different word. But we always figure it out and I'm able to help them with the correct words. Anne-Claire liked her charm bracelet and nail things and she hasn't had the charm bracelet off since. It is a nice present because she wears a lot of gold anyways. Everyone loves the united states book which is so nice, and they have been to some of the places in the book too.

Saturday morning was not difficult waking up, but I ended up locking my self in the bathroom!! The shower room and the toilet are divided, so after I got out of the shower, I couldn't open the door! I learned fast not to lock that door... Everyone was standing around the door trying to help me open it and Jelle told me how haha.

I feel so lucky to have gotten this family. They're so happy to have me here, and they're very happy in general. I have an entire week before school starts which is good because I don't think I would do well in school otherwise. I can pick up a few words here and there, but that is it. There's a lot of three letter words that I don't understand what they mean or the differences between them.

After breakfast Saturday (which was bread with toppings. First you always put butter and then your topping. They have sprinkles and jam and nutella or peanut butter (which I don't eat) and we also have tea and juice. After that we went to Bergen op Zoom which is the bigger local town and where my school is. I got to see the outside of the school that I will be going to next year. Then we walked to the city market center where we met their grandparents (opa and oma) and an aunt and cousin. We had tea with the grandparents and one of their friends, but the aunt and cousin had to go because the cousin's birthday party was that afternoon.

Where we sat was beautiful. It was sunny and everyone was walking around there was a bell tower in the square. A really interesting music cart went by, and Anne-Claire and I went around to look at the front. It was basically a giant music player that played the old style of paper with holes in it. So he had all these paper books that had the holes in it for the music cart to play. The cart would play each page, and the page would just unfold and drag in a line behind the cart. We heard the cart all day long in different areas.

Hans's grandmother told us that the Markienzenhof (the bergen op zoom castle) was free to go to after 12. So my family and I went to the castle which is now a museum. A duke used to live there I believe. So there were some really cool things to look at in the museum even though I couldn't read the dutch. There was a diorama of Bergen op Zoom and lots of paintings and a really cool hologram thing. There were 3 dolls wearing old fancy clothing and you could press a button and a hologram would appear. So the three people would each take turns talking (in dutch) and one of the actors being the doll was Anne-Claire's cousin that we had met earlier that morning! That was really cool that she was part of the museum. But Anne-Claire was telling me that she plays a character in a sort of parade every year, and dresses up in older clothing and sings and there is a parade I think. I'm not really sure what it is or what it is celebrating but Anne-Claire thinks I could be a character in it too! So that would be really fun. But also in the museum was this fair area, or what they call Kermis. This had all these miniature dioramas of fair rides that moved like a Ferris Wheel or roller coasters or carousels. That is Andrea's favorite part to see she said.

After we left the museum we had to buy the cousin a birthday present because we were going to her party later in the afternoon. The castle is right near the center where we had tea, so it was a short walk to the shops. The shops were really cool to see, and the prices of clothing looks normal with the exchange rate.

Listening to people speak Dutch is kind of hard. They speak very fast, but I'm able to pick up a few words here and there so thats good for me to listen to. But most people will speak a little English to me, and the family translates a lot of things for me. So this happened at the birthday party, because all the families were speaking dutch, but most of them knew I was their new foreign exchange student. So I learned some things about culture at this birthday. For example, you have to say gefeliciteerd (this means congratulations) to everyone when you arrive at the party, and you have three kisses on the cheek switching sides every time, instead of the two that I'm used to from Puerto Rico. Anne-Claire says that she does that with her friends too, so it's not just a family thing. So then you sit down and you have to eat cake. They ask you if you want any, but you're supposed to say yes and eat it anyways at the beginning because that is polite. Also it is tradition for the Netherlands to buy cakes instead of making them yourself. But Andrea (host mom) usually makes the cakes in her house because that is a German tradition. I met a lot of people at the party but I didn't understand the things they would say to each other, but they were all very nice and luckily interested in talking to me. They all ask me where I live (and I'm glad I live near DC or otherwise they would have no idea where I live) and why I chose the Netherlands as my country, things like that.

Also, Birkenstocks are a hugeee fashion trend here. But not the ones with the straps that you would think of, they're very fashionable and apparently a huge fashion statement. At the birthday party everyone had them and there was a big pile of them by the front door. They are not only fashionable though, apparently they're really really comfy shoes so they're nice to wear and nice to look at.

Monday, August 1, 2011

my new home!!

copy and paste!!,+Hoogerheide,+Netherlands&hl=en&ll=51.430748,4.32798&spn=0.003846,0.009645&sll=51.430532,4.327983&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&layer=c&cbp=13,31.1,,0,0&cbll=51.430405,4.327864&gl=us&t=h&z=17&iwloc=A&panoid=tyl1t_AEr1jaDosBqJMeRw