Sunday, October 30, 2011


That means autumn holiday in Dutch. So we were in Mallorca for a few days, and it was soo nice! I don't think I'm going to write a long post about it, because that's not well, about the Netherlands. But it was wonderful and beautiful and I had a great time. Yay :)

Now some more German family is visiting, and they have two kids, a four year old and a baby, and they're really sweet. And I'm able to tell the differences between German and Dutch now, so that's good. I can understand some German words too now.

Tomorrow is Jelle's birthday, and so today we had all of the family over to celebrate his birthday. I've been to enough birthday's that I now know the song that they sing, so I sang it too for the first time today which was pretty cool. But everything is going really well, and I should probably try to blog more instead of writing massive posts once in a while. But it's hard! All of the exchange students have trouble blogging constantly.

So, now for something I've felt recently. I feel like I need to be here this year. I don't know how to explain it, but other exchange students feel the same way. One other exchange student that I talk to a lot about what's going on, has started to feel the same way as me. And she's the reason I'm writing this blog right now.

I came here not really knowing what to expect, which was good. I also came here with no expectations about what it would be like, because I didn't want to be disappointed, which was also good. Yes I thought it'd help me get into a better college, and yes I thought it would teach me to be more independent. But being an exchange student is about a lot more than that, a lot more personal and a real learning experience. This is the first time I've really been pushed out of my comfort zone, and I think it's doing me a lot of good. Being an exchange student mostly comes down to one thing. Being willing to accept and deal with change. You have to accept it, adapt to it, try to understand it, and at the same time respect it, and finally embrace it.

Now, something that AFS posted that really affected me, and truly truly sums it up in the best way for someone that isn't going through this to understand.

I am an exchange student.
How do you know what is a dream if you never accomplished one.
How do you know what is an adventure if you never took part in one.
How do you know what is anguish if you never said goodbye to your family and friends with your eyes full of tears.
How do you know what is being desperate, if you never arrived in a place alone and could not understand a word of what everyone ...else was saying.
How do you know what is diversity if you never lived under the same roof with people from all over the world?
How do you know what is tolerance, if you never had to get used to something different even if you didn’t like it.
How do you know what is autonomy, if you never had the chance to decide something by yourself?
How do you know what it means to grow up, if you never stopped being a child to start a new course?
How do you know what is to be helpless, if you never wanted to hug someone and had a computer screen to prevent you from doing it.
How do you know what is distance, if you never, looking at a map, said “ I am so far away”.
How do you know what is a language, if you never had to learn one to make friends.
How do you know what is patriotism, if you never shouted “ I love my country” holding a flag in your hands.
How do you know what is the true reality, if you never had the chance to see a lot of them to make one.
How do you know what is an opportunity, if you never caught one.
How do you know what is pride, if you never experienced it for yourself at realizing how much you have accomplished.
How do you know what is to seize the day, if you never saw the time running so fast.
How do you know what is a friend, if the circumstances never showed you the true ones.
How do you know what is a family, if you never had one that supported you unconditionally .
How do you know what are borders, if you never crossed yours , to see what there was on the other side.
How do you know what is imagination, if you never thought about the moment when you would go back home.
How do you know the world, if you have never been an exchange student?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

oh my blogg

Wow, So I really have not posted in a long time on my blog. This is because, well, its actually quite hard to make the time to blog! Twice a week we have hockey, and we always bike there so we have to be ready to leave by 7, and when we leave then we are barely on time. And on Wednesday's I get out of school at 4:40, and have to bike home. This is because we have gym until then, so it's pretty late and really annoying because I get home and then its almost dinner time. Also because when I want to blog, I want to sit down and write lots of things down, rather than just a quick today was good post blah blah. But I don't actually have time to blogg today.

Ah, so I never put pictures of Amsterdam up, so I'm going to write this first, save it as a draft and then post the pictures before this. That way the pictures and blog are there, but you read this post first so you can see you need to scroll and look at the blog about Amsterdam!!

But soo tomorrow we all go to Mallorcaaaaaa!! Yayyy! Warm weatherr! So I'll be back in a bit, and hopefully make a blog about that and maybe another one or something.
Soo be back laterr!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Took me long enough to write this post... But here we goo!! Amsterdam!!
This is such a beautiful city, the buildings are absolutely beautiful, and the weather was perfect this day! So I took a ton of pictures, so now when I go back I don't have to take pictures of everything like a tourist. In Amsterdam, basically we spent the whole day getting a walking tour of the city. We really walked everyyywhere. Each tour ended up being different though. Although I'm glad we had the guide we did, because she was the one who made the tour, so we got all the history of Amsterdam and saw everything there was to see for a tourist, while some of the other groups didn't have as much of that, they had sillier tours. So I'm happy it worked out the way it did. So Elizabeth (our AFS guide) started off by telling us to look out for two things, bikes, and trams. As a pedestrian, you are basically the equivalent of a bug,
so you have to watch out you don't get smushed by yourself. No one is going to stop for you. Pedestrians < Bikes < Cars < Busses < Trams. So trams always have the right of way, and their rails are right where people walk so... You really have to keep an eye out. So this building is.. nice. I don't remember what it is, all I remember is that its in the Chinese area of Amsterdam, and that it is now a restaurant and the place we were standing used to be underwater.

None of these pictures are in order, but that's okay, it doesn't matter the order. So these buildings, as you can see are crooked. I first thought that this was because they are starting to sink from old age, but it's actually how the buildings were built. They were built this way so that you could bring furniture into your upper levels. Houses in Amsterdam have very small staircases, so it's hard to move furniture in and out. So if you look closely you can see (for lack of a better word) pieces of white wood sticking off of them, just, the things sticking straight out on the top!! These are the pulleys that are used to pull the furniture up. so, these buildings are built so that when the furniture is being pulled up, it wouldn't hit the house, so they're built a little bit unusual, but for a smart reason
And this is the narrowest house in Amsterdam. It is only 2.02 meter wide, and I'm not really sure how one would live in it, but somehow they did! (or still do..?) But it's a very typical tourist attraction now, so living in it would be pretty annoying. I can't remember if I've mentioned this, but the Dutch do not have curtains on their windows. If you do, it signifies you have something to hide from your neighbors, so if you were to live in a place like this now, it would be really annoying to have tourists looking into your windows all day long. So most houses do not have curtains, and sometimes you see a house with half curtains, but you can still clearly see into the house. That's me in the picture by the way, I don't know which countries the kids that are standing near me are from, because they weren't in my group. Oh and that's also
my school bag that I bought here. Which is typically dutch. Most girls use bags or small (key word SMALL) backpacks at school, and well, everywhere else. They take this bag to hockey with their hockey things in it, to school with their books, and to the city or anywhere. They seem to be pretty durable bags though, since most of their life is spent on the back of a bike in the rain. I really like it a lot.
So the picture above is Anne-Claire, Linda and I. Linda is another foreign exchange student, but she is from Argentina. This picture is of the old city hall on the Central Dam Square. It is now a palace, and has been since 1806. But Dam Square is located in the center of Amsterdam and is apparently one of the largest in Europe. This square is named after the National Monument located in the Dam, which is a marble obelisk that is 22 meters high. This monument is dedicated to soldiers killed during World War II. Here is the monument.
So this is a really important square in the Netherlands, because every year on May 4th they celebrate "Nationale Dodenherkenking", which is a remembrance of the dead. This day commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the "Kingdom of the Netherlands" who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak World War II. So, this includes the other peacekeeping and military missions that have happened since this war. The Queen comes here to this square with the rest of the royal family and cabinet members, etc. At 8p.m. on this day, there is two minutes of silence through out the Netherlands. Everything stops. Public transport is stopped (or isn't running at this time), as well as other traffic. Radio and TV only broadcast the ceremonies from 19.00 to 20.30.
This is a building that is a massive shopping center, and its near the square. But the buildings are really so beautiful here. (And if you're reading this Mr. Eckerson I know why!) This is because of the trade with the East by the Dutch East India company. They were one of the richest nations in the world during the 1700's, and this really framed the architecture of the city. Many of the canal houses were built in the 17th Century during the boom time of the Golden Age. Each of them has a gabled roof facade in a shape that is unique to the Netherlands, and they are just beautiful. So the Netherlands has these beautiful buildings that are under-appreciated because of the label Amsterdam has throughout Europe, and everywhere else. I think it's because people don't really think of going to the Netherlands to
see the cities, even though Amsterdam is if not, one of the more beautiful European Cities I have seen in my travels. So go visit the Netherlands! It was more established and secure in its economy a longer time ago, so the buildings are old and nice and not falling apart like in Athens! The Holy Roman empire lasted a long time remember.. the Dutch were already trading in the East before Germany was even a solidified country. But my point is the Netherlands is really a beautiful country that is under appreciated, and it's a nice country to go visit. SO GO VISIT!! There is just as much history as anywhere else, just, Dutch History. Yeah, a rant, I guess I feel some attachment to this country.
So the picture above is the back of the flower markett, and this is one of the insides! They really all look the same, and seem to all be selling the same things. Lots of seeds, all kinds of seeds, of course tulips and then some places sell already grown flowers too. Okay sooo I forgot to upload a few pictures. But I will just tell you about them. One other place we went was the Begijnhof, which is one of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam. It is a really beautiful and quiet place in the city, and it is a really nice place to see or just to relax from walking in the city all day.
The oldest house is also here, It's an old wooden house that they have restored and it's from the Middle Ages. We also saw the outside of the Anne-Frank Museum which is SO unimpressive I didn't want to put a picture up. It's been modernized on the outside, but apparently a lot of the inside is still the same, but it's not very nice looking on the outside... So this is where we ended our tour, in front of the Rijksmuseum, where this lovely sign I AMsterdam is located. So we of course had to take a picture with all of the foreign exchange students. There might be a few random people that aren't an exchange student, like the guy walking at the end of the picture, but this is all of us. And there is a lott. So it was hard to take this picture because everyone wants to climb all over this art piece. In the picture below of Anne-Claire and I, some random people have already climbed onto the sign, but me and her are below the M arches.
So after this we went shopping in the city with some other AFS kids. It was really fun with Anne-Claire and I'm glad she got to meet all the other students and see what everyone is like and well, why they choose Holland! We navigated the city, me with my map and Anne-Claire by knowing where the shopping street was, leading all of the kids that came with us around. It was a really fun day, and then we all ate and got back on the train to go home. I'm sure I will go back to Amsterdam many times, and see many of the museums there during this year. But that was our day in Amsterdam!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some Birthday Pictures

Some pictures from the tea we had and the girls that came over to celebrate

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First, some culture.

Wow! So things are finally starting to get busy. I find myself not having as much time to sit around as I did in the beginning. But luckily I have notebooks so I can write things down here or there so I wont forget. I think I'm finally used to how things are here, because I've gotten used to the biking to and from school, and going to class and everything. It no longer seems strange. It's still exciting, but now its getting nicer. I also have found a girl to bike to and from school on some days, which will be really nice because being alone isn't as fun on a bike.

So this post is going to be about some culture differences. First off I have to start by saying that this post is inspired by the other day when talking to my host mom. I was talking about the senior exhibit process at FA (if you don't know what that is there is an older post about it) And she suggested that cultural differences would be a really interesting area for my learning activity.

Now, when you think of the Netherlands and the United States, at first you wouldn't think that there would be really THAT many differences right? I mean yeah okay they bike everywhere, but table manners are universal right? Uhh, no. wrong. wrong wrongy wrong. Table manners are one of the things where we have found the most differences. Now, it's not that I have bad table manners or anything, American's just have these typical manners that the Dutch (and most of Europe) do not have.

This is not off topic, its part of the story. The other day Hans and Andrea went for a walk and saw some friends of theirs. Now these friends have an American daughter in law. And they got to talking and mentioned how they have an American living in their house for a year, etc. And Andrea asked if they could tell them about some cultural differences they had noticed. The humor here will be lost, but only because you all back home won't realize you do these "habits" without noticing... But Hans and Andrea found it hilarious that these people were listing things I do.
Number 1. Eating without a knife. When we eat, we use our knife to cut things, and then set it back down. The Dutch use their knife to move food onto their fork, and it remains in their hands at all times and is never set down.
2. Keeping hands on the table when eating. In America, generally when we eat we tend to leave one hand on our lap. This is usually the hand that is holding the napkin (the Dutch also do not put their napkins on their laps, and it is not considered rude if you leave it on the table). So when we're eating, our knife is on the plate and we are using one hand.
Weird to think that you do that isn't it? And those were the two main things that the friends with the American daughter in law said. The other day in a movie, Andrea even noticed that a shrink was eating EXACTLY LIKE THAT!! With his hand on his lap and only with the fork.

Then there's one other thing we do. Closing the door when people leave. Now, this is different for every household in America I think, but in my family we do it on occasion, unless the dog goes outside, then everybody goes outside. So, in America, when people leave your house you most likely say your goodbyes in the house, they walk out the door and you close it. MOST TIMES!! not always, I will admit. BUT in the Netherlands, when people leave, you walk with them to their car, and wave until you absolutely can not even see their car anymore. I do like this method a lot better though, I find it very sweet.

So now this blog post is going to get a bit unorganized because I don't know how to organize these thoughts. But Anne-Claire and I went to Amsterdam on Saturday with AFS, and we had a wonderful day with all of the exchange students. I will try to upload some pictures and do a nice blog soon. But I think it was really nice for her to have the same experience with all of the kids that I did when I came back from the Orientation camp a few weeks ago. So look for that soon.

Now onto random observations:

1 The Weather
So yes, Dutch people love to complain about the weather, but for some strange reason we just went through an entire week that it was hot!! We're talking high 70's here. And that doesn't make any sense to me at all! It didn't rain at all that week, and here I was expecting to be wearing sweaters and all of these WARM clothes by now. That's a no... It is a lot cooler this week, but still no rain yet.. It's coming though...

2 Bikes and Biking
Obviously biking is a very important part of most everyone's life, unless you own a Vespa. But when you bike all the time, you get quite good at it. So good, its almost graceful. This applies to getting off of a bike, starting a bike, and riding on the back of someone's bike.

When dutch people get off of their bike, they don't brake to get off of it. They simply swing one leg over, keep the other one on the pedal and step onto the ground, bike still going. This has taken me a LONG time to learn, but I'm a lot better at it now, while I couldn't do it at all the first month. Starting a bike is the same process as getting off of it, except in reverse. They can ride their bikes on only one foot, and then go from standing to sitting while still moving. The final graceful thing is riding on the back of a bike. When girls ride on the back of a bike (usually it is behind a guy, but sometimes behind a girl too) the bike starts moving before they sit on it. I have no idea how this works at all, but I have yet to see this process fail. And then they sit peacefully on the back of the bike, either sideways or forwards sitting like it is not a big deal at all that two people are on one bike.

Now the next part of biking applies to temperature and biking. I don't know how kids and adults bike to school in many layers in the morning. Every morning biking to school I always get really really hot! Almost to the point that I feel sweaty, so usually I don't wear a jacket, or take it off. And I go by these ladies on their bikes wearing warm coats or scarves or whatever warm thing it is, and they don't look even a bit warm! But I almost always have to push up the sleeves on my jacket or take it off.

This brings me to another point. They can ride their bikes without hands. I have only also just recently managed to do this. And even then, I can't do it all the time. Although taking off a jacket causes lots of swerving on the road. And that's yet another point about biking. The dutch can bike in perfectly straight, perfect lines. This I can not do at all. And it makes me look like a horrible bike rider because I'm always swerving a little bit, especially when going up hill.

So those are just some little things going on. Also that I signed up for a school trip to go to Berlin, Dresden and Prague in the spring and I'm really excited for that! I don't know anybody else who is going yet, but by that time I will speak dutch and can get to know other people on the trip. I'm also going to Dusseldorf, which is a very famous Christmas city in Germany. We're going to go there with school one Saturday in December. I'm also very excited for this. Soo I think that's it for now. So just keep reading my blogg!! :)