Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 1

The past few days have been busier than expected. Since we supposedly had a week off I thought I’d be bored stiff and be scrounging around for something to keep me occupised. It has, in fact, been the opposite.

As I mentioned in the last post, on Sunday we went to a museum: Museum Het Valkhof. I was acutally quite looking forward to this but unfortunately it was just another boring museum. I did quite enjoy looking round the exhibits located downstairs though in the Vrede van Nijmegen (Piece of Nijmegen) section. I especially enjoyed the portion made up of white walls where children have been allowed to draw different things associated with Nijmegen. It was even possible to see one of these young artists at work!

I also previously mentioned that I learned a little something about Dutch art during our induction lectures (ie child = nice family photo; dog = brothel). I was able to put some of this high-brow analysis into action whilst in the Valkhof and I stumbled upon this puzzling picture:

It contains both children and a dog. What does this mean?! I’m not sure I want to know.

Moving swiftly on, on the upper floor – amongst all the olden age bling and tombstones – there were telescopes which you could use to look out across the city. I thought that was quite a nice idea since a lot of the museum was pretty much to do with Nijmegen.

Terhi scoping out the city

Perhaps now is the time that I should stop with all this museum talk, otherwise you may feel as though you were actually there. We left at lunchtime and went in search of food appropriate to such a period in time. This was more difficult than you would think because it seems as though everything shuts down on a Sunday. It’s a strange feeling, walking around the empty streets because it’s not like this is a small town in southern France, it’s a city! The main street, despite no shops being open, was very busy indeed. There was a Medieval festival going on – the Gebroeders van Limburg Festival – so there were people dressed up, market stalls selling armour and weapons, sheep and geese plastered around and general merriment. There was also the relaxing sound of guitars turned up to 11 blasting out from the rock festival taking place in a distant square. Due to the rain, we decided to head home instead. Cycling in the rain, by the way, is no mean feat. And when there’s wind involved, it’s a deadly combination. During a rainstorm (and I think there will be a lot of them) I don’t think I should apply any effort to my make-up, hair or the bottom half of my outfit again. Rain coats are not invincible as I had originally thought. Damn you, Paddington Bear, you lied to me!

A nice shot of Nijmegen during a short respite from the rain (I have climbed that tower – just saying)

In the evening there was some eating, some drinking and some partying. YOLO.

Monday was a pretty chilled day (you’ll get that joke in a minute). I mainly stayed home and did some admin and writing, but I did go to town for a couple of hours with Rach and we had some delicious ice cream (now you get it).
I think I needed that day just to let my mind catch up with my body.

Tuesday afternoon I met up with Caitlin, Terhi and Suvi for lunch on campus, and then later we (minus Suvi) went shopping for food so that we could make dinner together. Caroline, Terhi’s Sweedish flatmate who is on exchange from Gothenburg University (such a cool name!), joined us too. We made a pretty scrumptious pasta if I do say so myself. Then for dessert, Terhi pulled out the big guns: Finnish choclate. Well, by the time we were done, it definitely was FINNISHed!…oh dear, I’m ashamed of that one.

Pre-drinks for a party at Piecken soon ensued and too much wine was had by all. When I say all, I mean me. It’s the first time I’ve been drunk since we’ve been here and we only went to the party for about 20 minutes in the end! Pre-drinks were much more fun and we also had to get up early the next day to go to Amsterdam. That wine didn’t seem like such a good idea in the morning.

I suppose you’re expecting me to write about Amsterdam now, aren’t you? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I shall write about that and the rest of my week in a separate post – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stylee.

Groetjes!

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Basically my week in real time

The beach was hot. In fact, everything seems to have been hot here for the past week but the Dutch seem just as puzzled by this fact as I do so it’s clearly an unexpected heat wave. I’m not a lover of terrible weather but I will take anything over scorching heat when you have to cycle all over the city for different parts of our orientation days.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely time at de Waal and feasted on a delectable picnic made by myself, Suvi and Terhi. It consisted of sandwiches, clementines, biscuits, iced tea and boiled eggs. Lots and lots of boiled eggs! I accidentally bumped into Glenn who is also doing Erasmus here via Sheffield, for the second time in two days so he came and joined the three of us on the sand and then later Savannah arrived. It was nice to see some friendly faces from Sheffield and to hear about their first experience of Nijmegen.

Unfortunately I didn’t swim in the river since the only swimwear I have brought with me to Holland is a monstrous black one-piece that I wear for lane swimming and which looks as though it wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1800s. Thus, I decided to keep the small fraction of dignity I have left and just paddled in my playsuit. I couldn’t help but find it amusing when a couple of raindrops fell from the sky and everyone stood up and began a mass exodus. It reminded me of home.

In the evening, several people from our mentor group and some of Terhi’s new flat mates all met up in Caitlin’s kitchen before moving outside to sit on the lawn. Caitlin is from Belgium – the Dutch-speaking part – and she’s lovely and very sweet. She also lives in the same building as me so it’s very handy too. I’ll probably try to oefenen mijn nederlands (even that is probably wrong) with her as long as she doesn’t mind!

The next day there was a lot of waiting around; waiting for registration, waiting for others to finish registering, waiting for people to get their bikes and Dutch sim cards. But in the end I didn’t mind because I got to meet more people from my mentor group. I got to know them more later on at the BBQ which was just outside my room in Hoogeveldt, and then even better when we played introduction games on the grass afterwards. Thanks to a helpful game I can now remember everyone’s name – score! If you care to know, we have Gabriela, Layton, Fatih, Terhi, Carolina, Caitlin, Marta, Joanna, Shannon, Noëmi, Fanne, Thom, Martin, Amy, Cemre, Elena and Maxine; or at least that’s all the people I’ve met so far. If you aren’t interested, well, I suppose it doesn’t matter as you’ve probably just read all those names anyway…sorry.

Op dinsdag it was time for some lectures about ‘Dealing With the Dutch’; essentially some info on the Dutch, geography, Dutch culture and a little bit of Dutch language – all of which I have already studied during my 2 years at Sheffield so it was less than scintillating. However, I did find out a new fact: if there is a child in a Dutch painting then it is a wholesome painting of a family home; if there is a dog in a Dutch painting then it is usually a brothel; and if it is Flemish art, there will probably be some naked people. For some reason, I thought it would be the art from Belgium that was more reserved but I suppose the was just my stereotyping. We were then treated to some presentations about university admin and given a campus tour. I left early due to having felt ill for the past 2 hours as well as the fact that our tour guide was not exactly what I’d call charismatic…he meant well though and showed us a nice view so it wasn’t all bad.

Anywho, I recovered in time for the kroegentocht (pub crawl) around town that evening and enjoyed drinking some Rosé Bier and having a boogie.

I really enjoyed the next day. I went to Albert Heijn with Caitlin in the morning to pick up ingredients for tiffin and attempted to make it using the tools that I had. Then in the afternoon everyone went to the City Hall for a welcoming speech from the Vice-Mayor (loved his bling), and following a city tour and dinner, we went to the LUX Culture Festival. The latter was my favourite thing we’ve done all week.

In the Stad Huis

The name chain we made on the city streets during the City Tour

LUX seems to be a giant version of the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield or FACT in Liverpool. It has so many different screening rooms plus eating areas and a music venue – what more could you want? I watched some short films (or as I learned from my French friend, Gabriela, ‘un court métrage’) which were fantastic! I especially liked a French one called L’Accordeur (The Piano Tuner). It was only 13 minutes long and it blew my mind. Watch it if you can.

I also listened to the delights of Chef’s Special, a band who were playing in the gig space. They used an eclectic mix of musical styles but it really worked and I think we all agreed that they were pretty damn good. I’m definitely going to be spending some time at LUX during my stay here. The night ended up – as it seems to do so often now – with a few of us chatting in Caitlin’s kitchen. Lovely end to a lovely day.

Thursday was sports day, a day on which I even surprised myself by enjoying it so much. We tried aerobics, zumba, korfball, hockey and ultimate frisbee. I got pretty into them all except, perhaps, ultimate frisbee. It wasn’t really my cup of tea – frisbees are just too unpredictable!

The evening was spent at Karlijn’s place where we ate healthy fast food, Belgian waffles and my Tiffin (which everyone seemed to like – yay). Then we played the drinking game we all know and love, I Have Never… I have never really been a fan of this game (geddit?), often finding it intruding and a little embarrassing, but this time it was undoubtedly a hoot and we all now know each other a little better than we should!

Whilst many people went away on a special orientation weekend beginning Friday, when I heard it would mainly involve sleeping in bunk beds, the traffic light game and a lot of alcohol, I decided to opt out. Instead, I have taken part in the alternative weekend. Friday daytime was free so I met up with Rachel (from Sheff) in the afternoon and we went shopping and for dinner. We accidentally managed to choose the only English type resteraunt in the place – Notting Hill – but it was delicious nonetheless. Plus we ordered in Dutch! Having swallowed down our typically English meals, we hopped on our bikes and hung out at mine until it was time for Magic Bowling – hello fun! We (well…Rachel) won free shots and I managed to get us a balloon which is quite clearly just as good.

Then yesterday I met up with Rach again and we went shopping. I think we have a problem. I did buy useful things though, such as a raincoat (several sizes too big but it was in the sale and I rock that look), a bike seat cover for when it rains and a screwdriver set. I think I was very restrained. After our haul we cycled to Rachel’s, where we played cards, talked and made dinner together. She lives in Vossenveld and if I’m honest, it took so long to get there I felt as though I’d cycled a stage of the Tour de France! But it was worth it and now I know how to get to Rachel’s abode…kind of.

And now we arrive at today. Today the rain has truly arrived and the Dutch weather that I was expecting has decided to stick its middle finger up to the sun and show that overrated star what it’s made of (…water apparently). Luckily we’re going to a museum in a bit to learn about some things. I’ll inform you of what precisely once I’ve been. Then there’s some sort of festival events going on and I do hope they’re inside!

Kash, ready to face the rain

Anyway, I’ll leave you now. If you’ve made it through this much text then I salute you. I’ve not exactly done great at keeping things ‘short and sweet’ but I’ll try and work on that for next time.

Tot ziens!

Dag iedereen!

I’ve been here in Nijmegen for just over 2 days. Well, I think that’s right but all the days seem to have blurred into one thus far. Hopefully they’ll become easier to decipher soon.

The first full day I had here was a massive rush but I came with my parents (with my 11 year old brother in tow) and despite my initial reservations I was very glad they were there. Not only did they provide some reassurance, they also had a car. Oh, the benefits of a car. After taking about 3 hours to register and get the keys to my apartment, we managed to get to town and buy a Dutch phone, as well as a second-hand bicycle. It’s not exactly the old-fashioned mint green bike with a white whicker basket that I had imagined but it’s low enough that I don’t feel as though I’m going to topple off it all the time and it has a (sadly, metal) basket. It even has 2 breaks, which is apparently not the norm in Holland. The man who sold me it said that most Dutch students have bikes with either one or no breaks because it’s more expensive and they have to fix the break wires. Instead, they just peddle backwards to break…er, no thank you!

Having driven my 2-wheeled purchase back to my accommodation and purchased provisions from Albert Heijn, the clean down of my room begun. Let’s just say there was a lot of Dettol and Bleach involved. Now it’s as clean as a hospital. Thanks Mum!

Being left alone for the first time was quite nerve-wracking but I managed to get an interrupted sleep thing going until morning.

Gisteren, I met up with a lovely Finnish girl called Terhi. She’s living in Hoogeveldt like me so we took the bus to the train station together to meet another Finnish girl from her university, called Suvi. They had arrived the previous day together and got the train from the airport with two American international students who I will hopefully meet soon as they are in my mentor group. Terhi and Suvi were both lovely and their English is amazing! I feel bad that I can’t speak to them in Finnish at all but after hearing them speak it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before!

Michelle, Terhi and Suvi

 While we were looking for their bikes we ran into another international student called Michelle. She said that both her English and Dutch weren’t great but we managed to communicate okay and she came with us to town afterwards. We spent 8 hours out and about in total and the weather is well above 30 so I spent the day melting away. Today it’s supposed to get to 37 so we’re going to cycle to the beach for a picnic. I’m more than a little worried about properly cycling for the first time as I’ve only ever ridden on the pavement or at Centre Parcs, not to mention how terrible my sense of direction is! But Terhi seems to know where she’s going so I’ll trust her to get us where we need to go until I get the hang of it.

Now to make some sandwiches.

Groetjes uit Nederland!

A cute teapot I found in a department store whilst shopping – I want it!

P.S sorry if this first post is a bit dull, I’m tired and overwhelmed but hopefully they’ll get a bit better soon

P.P.S I’ll start using my DSLR camera for pictures soon but I’m too scared to take it with me on my bike in case I crash!