Monday, November 28, 2011

Hij Komt, Hij Komt, De lieve goede Sint

Sinterklaas!! So things have been busy lately, I will explain more later but a few weekends ago, Sinterklaas came! (to Bergen Op Zoom and lot's of other places all over Holland) And he came over from Spain, and he brought all of his little Helpers with him. They are called Zwarte Piets in Dutch (zwarte means black and Piet is just a name) And it was really really nice to see. All kinds of people are dressed up as zwarte piets. There are acrobatic zwarte piets, bike riding ones, newspaper ones, mail collecting ones, all kinds of people with makeup on their faces helping Sinterklaas. It is a very cool tradition for little kids, and they are all so excited to get candy and things from the zwarte piets as they are walking into the city center.

It's a really big parade in the city, he walks from the docks into the city center, because he arrives on a Steamboat. He walks with all of the people that came from Spain with him, but also with people who are welcoming him into the city. There are many bands playing Sinterklaas music (the title of this blog is a song). It's also really cute to see all of the little kids who are dressed up in Zwarte Piet clothes. So he arrived the 12th and he will stay until December 5th in Holland. It's really a big holiday, on TV there is even news about Sinterklaas and TV Shows about Zwarte Piets. I don't know really why, but every year, something happens to Sinterklaas. Such as they turned right instead of left, or that they forgot all the presents or silly things like that. This year he forgot all of his Zwarte Piets and had to turn around and go get them.

So that's basically Sinterklaas summed up.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Another New Home

So recently I have changed host families. I don't really want to spend too much time talking about it though. So to everyone out there who's reading my blog, you should know that I'm okay now haha. So last week I was living at my liaison's house, and now I'm in a new family. I still get to go to the same school, and my bike ride is still the same amount of time, just to the north of the city instead of the south.

But things are good now, I have two new brothers that I really like, and I enjoy the parents too. We live in a city called Steenbergen, which is really funny because that is also the last name of the family. We have a dog, which is really nice because I had missed having a dog around the house. I have a really nice room, and I still haven't gotten around to unpacking yet... But that's a good sign that I'm busy, rather than having more than enough time to write marathon blog posts that take a good half hour or more. And it's too hard to try and write small posts every now and then, because there are so many little things that happen that it is very hard to document them all.

So that is why I haven't been blogging in so longg! I have to make a post about Sinterklaas, and an AFS Novemeber weekend that was last weekend. My dutch is coming along pretty good now, I can have little conversations and understand really a lot.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Friday, November 4, 2011


In the last post I didn't really talk about Efteling, but we went there with the German family that came. Efteling is the largest theme park in the Netherlands, and it really is bigg! It is also one of the oldest theme parks in the world. (It opened in 1952!! so that's older than Disneyland Resort in California!) But the coolest part about it, is that it's fairy tale themed!! It is one of the most beautiful theme parks I have ever been to, because there are trees and woods and gardens everywhere. It's very much a nature park, even though it is also a theme park. But even all of the buildings and walls fit with the theme. It's not just only roller coasters or places trying to get you to buy things from them. This is the entrance to the park, and Anne-Claire and Stiina walking together.

So since we were with little kids we mostly spent our time in the areas that are for their ages. So, this was a day for Stiina, the four year old little girl. So we spent our time in Laaf Land, the Fairy Tale Forest and the Carnival area. So Laaf land is a made up "land" of these little people who live in this Village called "Laveleer" and you can walk through their village. There is a ride going over the entire village so you can see the different buildings, and then on the ground you can walk through them and see them working and doing daily things. Like here are the bakers making dough. It's all animated, but they're really beautiful designs and music. All of the music in Efteling is written for Efteling. I don't know who writes the music, but it's all personal to the rides and areas and the park.

Then there are carousel rides and swing rides and all kinds of fun rides for the children in the Carnival area. There is also a ride that is similar to it's a small world after all, but it's not in a boat. There are also playgrounds throughout the park. So this is just a building where you can buy food or things, but see the architecture of it? You are allowed to bring food into the park though, so that is different than American Theme parks.

And now the Fairy Tale Forest! Or Sprookjesbos in Dutch. So wikipedia explains it best, so I'm paraphrasing from that. The Fairy Tale Forest has 25 scenes. And there are three different types of scenes. Indoor with a commentary telling the tale; buildings too small to enter, but can be viewed by visitors through the windows; and open-air attractions such as the fountain for the Frog Prince.

Sometimes the tale is presented via electronic voice-over; and in other cases the tale can be read from a book provided nearby that has the story in Dutch, German, English and French. Some scenes are specific events, like Little Red Riding Hood at the Door of her Grandmother's house, while others are more general like the Dwarf Village. But all of them move or talk or do something. In this one, the witch climbs up Rapunzel's hair, not all the way, but then she also climbs back down. Almost all of the scenes have origins. And I will list them for you so you know what came from where. There are ten scenes based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: The Wolf and the Seven Young kids, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Mother Hulda's Well, The Six Servants, Rapunzel, The Frog King (we say Prince in our tale), The Wishing Table, and Sleeping Beauty.

Then there are three scenes from Mother Goose's Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault: Tom Thumb, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella. Four scenes are from Hans Christian Anderson tales: The Red Shoes, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale, and The Little Match Girl. Then the rest of the scenes do not have a matching tale, such as the Dwarf Village or the Sprookjesbom which is based on a character from it's tv series. Or a tale was created afterwards, such as the Magic Clock. This is a picture of a knight sleeping outside of Sleeping Beauty's palace. There are even sound effects of him snoring, and this one really looks like a real person!! The other really cool thing is how the designers developed a way to keep the park clean. These are called the Paper Gobblers! There are apparently 11 talking waste disposals and they are all throughout the park. Children take trash and put it in the disposals to hear them talk. They call out to you saying that they need to trash because they're hungry, or can't sleep before they eat and things like that. So it encourages the kids to put trash away. The most popular one is Hollow Bulging Gijs, and he makes a gobbling sound when he "eats" garbage and thanks the donor, while Captain Gijs fires a canon to illustrate "his enthusiasm for the guest's tidiness".

And this picture is of the Pagoda and the gondolettas. So that was Efteling!! Anne-Claire, Andrea and I went on a few rollercoasters, an inside one and then the Flying Dutchman which is inside and outside. The Flying Dutchman, everyone knows that name, not necessarily the story, but did you ever make the connection, oh right that's a story about a man from the Netherlands? Well I didn't... but that is similar to pirates of the Caribbean in Disney, because you're walking through the same sort of thing with the barrels and the rooms you are in. AFS goes back there in the Spring, so I will probably go again so we can ride more roller coasters, and see more of the park since we only stayed in one section! But if you want to read more about the fairy tale forest (it's really interestinggg!!) you can look at this wikipedia article.