Ik ga niet meer naar volleybal

(Well I meant to post this on 25th October so…why not 2 months later? It’s just as relevant)

There, I said it. Volleyball is no more. I know some of you had high hopes for my international sporting career but it’s all over; I apologise. But please, let me explain.

While I have definitely been enjoying having a go at a sport I haven’t played since Year 9 P.E., I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the whole ‘everyone-is-speaking-Dutch-and-using-Dutch-sports-terminology-and-I-don’t-remember-learning-the-words-for-spike,-net,-or-incoming-ball-in-Dutch-class’ thing. At first it wasn’t too diffcult to understand because everything we were learning was pretty simple. Unfortunately, like Amanda Bynes, we’re now onto the harder stuff, and I spend most of the lessons looking confused. It’s got to the point now where I feel like I am anoying absolutely everybody when I have to ask them to translate, or when I do something wrong, so I think it’s best just to respectfully bow out. I’ll stick to Zumba instead.

I think I moan a lot

Bleurgh, I’m ill. I thought I’d mention that in case this blog is more horrendously written than usual, and also so that I may get a little sympathy from you readers. I’ve never thought about it before but, as it turns out, being poorly whilst on your Year Abroad sucks. Sitting alone in a dark room all day and talking to your mum on skype for 20 minutes just doesn’t cut it when you know that if you were at home right now, you’d be watching TV and lounging about on a sofa, while being waited on hand and foot. As you can tell, I’ve had it good.

However, I’m not going to let this blog post be a massive moan-fest, although I would like to mention that this stupid illness meant that I missed an awesome ‘black and white’ themed party last night because I was shivering so much I couldn’t move, and I didn’t think the whole ‘blue lips’ look would fit in with the theme. There – that was my final word on the matter. On to happier and less whiny topics.

On the last Saturday of September, Layton, Terhi and I joined many other international students on an excursion to Eijsden, the Pietersberg caves and Maastricht. We were told to convene by the International Office at 8:15am, and that if we were late then the bus would leave without us. Since Terhi is a very punctual person, we arrived there 15 minutes early. Everyone was ready and accounted for on time and we were all raring to go (in spite of the cold, the rain and the early start). Unfortunately, by the time it got to 8:45, the bus hadn’t yet arrived. We were all getting very agitated and I feared that if our transport didn’t turn up soon then we would have a Lord of the Flies situation on our hands (Sidenote: having never read this book, this reference could be totally out of place. However, from what I saw on a Lord of the Flies inspired Simpson‘s episode, it works).

Finally, at 9am, the coach arrived and we formed a ‘Dutch queue’, as I like to call it. In other words, a massive gaggle of bodies attempting to shove themselves through a small entrance, and something I will never get used to. Once on the bus we were told that we had been tricked. The organisers of the trip didn’t expect everyone to show up on time and thus informed us that we would be departing earlier than we actually would be. Sneaky one, guys.

About an hour and a half later we arrived in Eijsden, Limburg, where we spent some time exploring the magnificent Castle Gardens. With the autumn light illuminating our surroundings and peeping through the openings in the tree-lined avenue, everything looked somewhat ethereal. I adored it.

very short ferry trip across the Maas was followed by a short coach trip to Pietersberg, which was followed by a short but mighty steep walk to the Pietersberg Caves. Having to walk up an actually noticeable incline was, for once, not a bad thing. It was, in fact, a rather refreshing experience as I hadn’t even seen a hill for over 6 weeks at that point, let alone walked up one.

The caves themselves were enjoyable, but not my favourite part of the trip. Whilst I did learn some interesting facts, I didn’t feel they warranted as lengthy a tour as we received. Therefore, I shall write about them for the amount of time I felt we should have spent there…

Moving on, we arrived in the centre of Maastricht at about 2:30pm. There’s just something inherently appealing and quirky about every Dutch town/city I have visited so far, and Maastricht was no different. The cobbled streets, the old buildings, the bridges stretching across the water; it had everything going for it. We soon got to take a good look around the city with a tour guide. Our group was given a lovely girl who was in her second year of study in Maastricht. Despite her amiable disposition, it soon became apparent that she had never given a tour before and really had no idea what she was doing. Her most used phrase was “This is [insert place of interest here]. I don’t really know what to say about it…” Neverthless, it was still a good tour and with her as our guide, we didn’t get lost!

Our tour guide

Cool book shop in a converted church in Maastricht

A pink mini being used as a wedding car – schattig!

Later on we were given free time in the city. We used this time to go shopping (I bought Alles is Liefde – my fave Dutch movie – in Blokker for 2.99!), sight-seeing and to eat in a quaint little Italian place. All in all, it was a fun day, but I think we were all happy to get back to Nijmegen in the end – nothing can compare to our little home from home.

The following Wednesday a fair few of us (minus the boys) headed down to the cinema for a Ladies Only Night. We had been promised free food, free drinks and impressive looking goody bags. This turned out to be 2 free drinks (score), 2 free yet disgusting marzipan coated cakes, and a couple of gummy sweets. The film showing was a new American chick flick The Bachelorette. It was a funny film and I enjoyed it, but it did seem to heavily promote the use of cocaine…

At Ladies Night – looking slightly dishevelled from cycling in the torrential rain

Having been somewhat disappointed with the amount of free consumables before the film, I still naively held out hope for the goody bags. Upon walking out of the cinema, however, we received a small packet of M&Ms. To make matters worse, they were peanut M&Ms which I just can’t stomach. We had been duped.

The following night there was a party at Piecken. In honour of World Animal Day (don’t worry, I’d never heard of it either), we had to dress up as an animal. As usual, we had a pre-party at Caitlin’s place. Caitlin, Terhi and I went as a bundle (I don’t think this is the correct collective noun but I so wish it was!) of black cats because, well, it’s the easiest costume! Karlijn came as a lovely ladybird and Tom and Layton came, of course, without a costume. Layton did let us draw on some whiskers though so he joined our bundle, and I dubbed Tom a Party Animal – badass.

The pre-drinks and the party at Piecken were both a lot of fun, especially when people had had enough to drink that they were attempting the dance to Gangnam Style. I, of course, was far too demure to do such a thing…

Sadly, I had to leave the party earlier than I would have liked since I was flying home the next day and still had some drunken packing to do. It turns out that this is the best way to do packing – I didn’t forget anything and I was very relaxed whilst doing it. Give it a go! [I do not advocate heavy drinking of any kind]

I spent a wonderful weekend at home and managed to visit Jack in Sheffield as well. Highlights from the trip – other than seing my family and Jack – were seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I highly recommend, eating my mum’s cooking (especially the roast dinner) and shopping in Topshop. Oh, how I had missed Topshop. My baby, my one true love, my…okay, I’ll stop now. If living in The Netherlands has taught me to value anything about my homeland, it’s British fashion. It’s not that Dutch fashion is bad, it’s just something that I can’t pull off. It’s very casual and often involves jeans and practicality – three things I never consider when purchasing clothes.

As my weekend at home drew to an end, I dreaded the journey home. But, after waiting in the airport for 2 hours and then managing to make it out of the EasyJet scrum alive and be one of the first people on the plane, I figured the hardest part was over. We took off and I enjoyed watching all the little buildings diminish in size until they looked like a toy town, and then I waited to be taken up past the clouds into the heavens. Only, that never happened. We flew low for a good while but I didn’t think much of it until I heard the ominous crackling of the aircraft intercom: “Hello, this is your captain speaking. Some of you may have noticed that we’ve been flying quite low and the reason for this is that the right engine is not working, so we’ve had to shut it off and we will be returning to Liverpool within the next 5 or 10 minutes”.

I sat there, reading my Cosmo and trying not to panic. Then the captain spoke again: “Just informing you that the fire brigade will be present on the ground when we land, but please do not be alarmed”…HOW COULD I NOT BE ALARMED?! At this point, I was panicking. I pulled a ‘scared’ face at the Dutch woman sat on my right, hoping she would sympathise. She did not. Fortunately, we landed safely and just had to wait an extra 3 hours for a spare plane to be flown up from Luton. Not the best flight ever but at least I didn’t die; the lesser of two evils, I’d say.

By Wednesday I had recovered from my ordeal and my tiredness, and I was ready to set sail on the good ship Pancake. If I were to translate that from Pirate English to Dutch, it would be the Pannenkoekenboot, and that is what we actually cruised on along De Waal. Now, I love boats, water, pancakes and cool people, not to mention hundreds of statues of mermaids with their boobs out (seriously, who decorated this boat?!) and so to have all of these things combined was a dream come true.

Really?

View of the sunset through the front window

On this boat you pay an entrance fee and then you’re allowed to eat as many pancakes as you want. At the start of the hour-long cruise we were informed that the most pancakes eaten by a male during the voyage was 20, and the most consumed by a female was 12. “12?” I thought, “pah, 12 is nothing. I can beat that. Let’s do this”.

By pancake number 3 I was eating my words, and by pancake number 4 I was nearly vomming them back out again (lovely image, I know), so I decided to leave it there. I’d like to meet the girl who ate 12 of those bad boys and I want to shake her hand. Nevertheless, the pancakes themselves were delicious, and the choice of toppings was great! I’d definitely voyage on the pannenkoekenboot again.

Other than that, I’ve been busy being ill. I spent most of yesterday in bed but as my fever improved, so did I. Terhi also made dinner for a few of us because her friend, Laura, is visiting from Finland. I was just happy to have some human contact after a day spent in the dark, and I like meeting the friends of those I’ve got to know here. For some reason, it’s rather interesting. Terhi’s food made me feel much more like a normal, healthy person too, so hopefully I’ll be able to venture out a bit more this weekend. Or do some work…we’ll see.

I’ll leave you with a picture I ‘hipstergrammed’ this week of the beautiful (if a little boring and flat) view from one of the Erasmus Gebouw windows. Tot ziens!

What day is it again?

So, I’m going to level with you. I love writing these posts, but recently I’ve been putting off having to put pen to paper (or more precisely, fingers to keyboard). I think it’s been over 2 weeks since my last entry and I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about what I’ve been up to. But…that’s the problem: I can’t remember everything I’ve done. I’ve been off having the most memorable year of my life and I’ve forgotten what I’ve done. I am a disgrace.

Now I’ve got that little confession out of the way I can proceed to tell you how I plan to amend the situation. I have decided that in this post I shall recount my favourite experiences of the past 2 weeks, as they are the only ones I can remember. I would like to mention now that these may also be out of order. All the days seem to have blurred into one recently.

I left off last time with the excitement of trying my hand at volleyball hanging in the air. It was just a short while after publishing my new blog post that I received a message from Gabrielle (who was on exchange in Sheffield last year), asking if I’d like to go to Kickfit before volleyball. She also said that she had read my blog and “ik heb me helemaal kapot gelachen”, which I believe means ‘I laughed my ass off’. I just thought I’d include that so that a) I look awesome and funny, and b) so that you can all learn a new Dutch phrase.

Being the incredibly sporty person I am (pah), I agreed. It was really lovely to see Gabrielle again and Kickfit was a mighty good work out as well! It has become a weekly appointment.

Volleyball followed shortly after. One minute after, in fact, and so the warm up I had to do was not well received. The whole lesson was also in Dutch which proved quite difficult, but luckily when I let it slip that I was English to one of the other participants, he kindly translated bits of it for me. He’s probably starting to regret ever doing that now because he has to do it every week! He (Rob) is very nice though, and upon being told that I lived near Liverpool, asked me if I was a ‘saucer’. After some further discussion I soon got to the bottom of it and realised he meant ‘scouser’. That one did tickle me.

I may have scoffed at calling myself sporty before, but come to think of it, I’ve spent a lot of my time at the sports centre during the past few weeks. One day I did Kickfit, volleyball and Zumba, one after the other. I felt like an Olympic athlete. Or, at least, I did feel like an Olympic athlete until I came home, ate some crisps and realised I had a weird bruise on my arm from the volleyball ball (is the second ball necessary?) smacking into it too hard. What a whimp.

Anywho, the next evening I went for dinner with Mel, Rach and Glenn at Mr. Jack’s resteraunt in town. It serves both Greek and Italian cuisine but I thought I’d give the former a try. Everyone was so full after that meal but we all still decided to head to our fave ice cream place to get an after-dinner scoop. That, I have to say, is the only ice cream I have regretted eating since my time here. I suppose you actually can have too much of a good thing.

Later on we met up with Sav, her friend, Phil, from back home, plus Terhi, Layton, Noemi and some of her flatmates, and Frank (a Dutch guy who I think may be a friend of Dzoanna’s but I really can’t be sure). We had a few Rosébiers at my new favourite pub, De Blaauwe Hand, and enjoyed music from the Popronde festival in several different venues across the city. The best band we saw played in Underground but I swear they mustn’t have been older than 15. I’m surprised they were even allowed in the club!

On Saturday, Terhi and I did our usual weekend gym sesh and then went bowling with Tom, Layton and Shannon. The bowling place is about a 5 second cycle from Hoogeveldt and we could easily walk it, but somehow that just feels so wrong! As per, I either played really well or really badly, but Layton and Shannon must have some sort of ‘Americans only’ bowling super powers because they were amazing. Fred Flinstone himself would have had some competition that night.

As is tradition, we all went back to hang out in a kitchen. This time it was Terhi’s. We played some good games, including ‘Who am I?’…I’m not actually sure if this is the correct name for it but I think it’s fitting. See below if you’re not sure what it is.

Both Tuesday and Friday evening were spent in Terhi’s kitchen as well. It’s seen a lot of love. The former was a predrinks which never really ended, and the latter was a group-made dinner. Noemi brought olives and sun-dried tomatoes as appetizers, as well as some garlic bread for the mains, Terhi made meatballs and pasta, and Layton and I had prepared Orea-stuffed chocolate chip cookies earlier on in the day. I’m sure you must put on about 5 pounds everytime you eat one of those.

The whole of Friday was quite busy actually. In the morning I went to take a test to see if I was eligible to take part in an Advanced Dutch Language course, funded by the Faculty of Arts. It was a pretty stressful test for me but luckily I passed and made it into the same group as my fellow Sheffielders – phew! Then I met Layton to go food shopping and to get our bake on, before going to meet my Dutch mentor for the first time, at the Cultuur Cafe on campus. He was really nice and answered the few questions I had about Nijmegen life and just had a general chat. He was also impressed by my Dutch, which I was quite pleased and surprised about because I feel like I’ve learned more Finnish since being here than Dutch! This was all before I rushed off to join the others at Terhi’s for dinner. Look at that, we went round in a big narrative circle.

Now we come to Saturday (15th September, in case you weren’t keeping up). I’m not making a big deal out of this because I like Saturdays – although they are undeniably delightful. No, I’m mentioning it so pointedly because it was the day we went to Utrecht. My travelling companions were Layton, Terhi and Tom, and what a nice little group we made too. We didn’t visit any museums whilst there (though I fully intend to visit the Nijntje museum when I return), but instead mainly wandered round and took in the atmosphere. And the food. PLUS, and yes I’m very excited about this, I bought a water bottle with a built in distiller so now I can drink the tap water. Best purchase ever.

Once you’ve recovered from that exciting piece of news perhaps we can continue with my tale. We probably did about two cultural things in Utrecht. The first being that we visited the Dom Tower (but we did not climb it because we grew too hungry and decided to eat instead) and the Cathedral of Saint Martin, which used to be attached to the tower before a great storm in 1674. Secondly, we went on a boat ride on the Oudegracht (the old canal that runs through the city). Since we sat on the outside portion of the boat, we couldn’t really hear much of the commentary, crackling out of a speaker beneath the seats, so we mainly just talked and looked around. Utrecht is a truly stunning city and seeing it kind of made me wish I had taken up one of the possible places there instead of Nijmegen. I don’t regret my choice though because I love it here as well. For those of you who have never visited Utrecht, it reminded me of Durham.

Following our trip around the canal, Noelle – who kindly tutored me in Dutch last year at Sheffield – came to meet us. It was nice to talk in Dutch with someone I felt comfortable making mistakes in front of (she’s so used to it now!) and I loved seeing her again after so many months. I hope it won’t be the last time we meet up while I’m here.

Once we arrived home, the party didn’t stop. We hung out in Terhi’s room and played some very spirited games of cards.

On Monday night, Jack came to visit me. He stayed until Saturday afternoon and it was exciting being able to show him for the first time all the places I had been talking about over skype. Especially Vincenzo’s ice cream parlour. LUX was also a favourite hang out for us and we saw 3 films during his stay. If you’re at all interested we saw Detachment – excellent but very depressing; My Sister’s Sister – also very good but kind of weird as well; and Ruby Sparks – by far my favourite of the three and a film I would see again. It was ‘very meta’, as Jack would say.

It was also interesting introducing Jack to the friends I’ve made here. Thursday night with them was pretty fun though. Terhi, Tom and Layton came over and hung out in my tiny kitchen. A lot of wine (and hot chocolate) was consumed and, as usual, cards were played.

Sadly, Saturday came and Jack left. I got on the same train as him as I was going to meet Layton, Caroline and Terhi in Arnhem. I thought it would be a bad way to say goodbye, on a moving vehicle where you have a ‘goodbye time limit’ but in reality I thought it worked quite well. It meant that I couldn’t cling to his leg and beg him not to go, I just had to say farewell and get off. It was also good meeting my friends straight afterwards as it kept my mind off things. Thanks for coming to visit, Jackothy.

Arnhem is a wonderful place, though I think I prefer Nijmegen. Arnhem did manage to seduce me with one thing though: the amount of shops. Oh yes, now I know where to go if a shopping spree is in need. Luckily for my bank account, however, we didn’t stay in the city centre for too much longer. Instead, we got the bus to the Openluchtmuseum (open air museum), which uses buildings, stories, objects, windmills, etc to show The Netherlands during the past 200 years. It was a fascinating experience, but what made our visit even better was the fact that there was a ‘food and drink’ or ‘farmer’s market’ type of event going on in the middle of the museum. We wandered around for a while, attempting to consume as many free testers as we could. We also ate poffertjes that afternoon, though we did have to pay for them. I’ve been excited about having poffertjes since arriving in The Netherlands but hadn’t managed to until then. It was amazing.

Bees making honey

So peaceful…

A couple were getting married at a chapel in the museum!

They even had a temporary La Place at the market. This place gets everywhere!

Mmmmm he’s making poffertjes

Later that night Terhi, Layton, Tom, Caroline and I popped round to Caitlin’s to meet her friends who had come to visit from Belgium. They were all very cool but speak some crazy Flemish that I can barely understand (not that I can even understand standard Dutch very well). I decided I liked them even more when they suggested we play Jungle Speed, and they had their own set. Yes. Plus Layton and I added some new words to our Dutch vocabulary, such as vuistje (I think) and nootjes (possibly). We took these to mean ‘fist’ ie ‘fist bump’, and ‘nuts’. Some very useful vocabulary.

Seeing as I’m an awesome person, I’m very popular, so Wednesday – as with most of my days – was very busy. Although I was being sarcastic about my popularity, I was completely serious regarding the busyness of my day. Obviously going to uni took up most of the daylight hours, but when the sun went down I was high in demand. Steps class at the sportcentrum was my first stop. I met up with Gabrielle and ran into Karlijn, one of my mentors. We all took the class together and thus teetered on the edge of death together as well. Following a shower and clothing session, Terhi, Tom and Layton came over to mine to make some delicious pancakes. Unfortunately I had to leave the party early to head on over to Rachel’s 21st birthday soirée. I met up with Glenn and Savannah, and together we attempted to find our way to the distant land of Vossenveld, and we picked up Rachel’s boyfriend on the way. Rach seemed to have a good time and everyone there made for a lovely bunch so the night was a success!

This evening I had dinner with Maya, my French flatmate, and her boyfriend. It was supposed to be a flat dinner but somehow it didn’t really work out. I suppose we’re just a couple of outcasts! Hopefully we’ll manage to organise a meal with everyone at some point next week. Despite this though, I had a lovely time and ate very well! Good stuff.

And that’s about it. Oh dear, it seems like I remembered a lot after all. I can only apologise for these incredibly long blog posts. I shall remove the word ‘succint’ from the Best Qualities section of my CV.

Tot ziens!

I spend my life at the Erasmus Gebouw

Thursday had nothing on Wednesday. In fact, the daytime was super boring. We had a library tour, which would have been useful had our tourguide talked loudly enough for the rest of the group to hear. This was followed by a talk from the Faculty of Arts which was mainly things we had already been told.

Later on, however, it was our Mentor Dinner. Everyone had to bring some food from their own country so I took Tiffin again since it went down well last time. Other dishes included Spanish omlettes, a German apple cake, Mac and Cheese, a German breakfast dish (delish but I’ve forgotten the name), Dutch Stamppot and curry. Boy was I full that night!

It was lovely seeing everyone again and getting a literal taste of other cultures.

Marta and Noemi

Carolina

I suppose that the terrible weather on Friday morning was a bit of pathetic fallacy. I got up at 8am and headed to the gym alone on my bike, battling against the wind and the rain. When I finally arrived, I got my locker and swiped my card at the entrance to the gym. I thought I was doing it wrong since the turnstile wouldn’t open but after several tries I gave up and went to ask the front desk what the problem was, only to be told that my membership didn’t activate until the next day. I was sure that I had been told that even though this was the case, I would still be allowed instant access to the gym. How wrong I was. Anyway, I pedalled back and lay down in bed for a bit, feeling somewhat sorry for myself.

To make matters worse, when I went to the Erasmus Gebouw (Erasmus Building where the Faculty of Arts is located) with Layton later on that day, I tried to enlist the help of the Dutch secretary with enrolling for a module. But, when asked by a different secretary if she had time for an international student, she replied in Dutch (probably assuming I couldn’t understand) that she would like some weekend. How arsey is that? Bear in mind that it was 2pm as well! Anyway, she made me write a few details down without telling me why and then ignored me so I left feeling rather disgruntled.

The day brightened up weather and mood wise as soon as we left campus. Layton and I headed down to HEMA to buy some ‘school supplies’, as he puts it. There, we bumped into Caroline and so we hung out together. I also bought a lovely burgundy jumper from H & M which I’m rather proud of. Then, in the evening, Layton, Terhi and I went to see Moonrise Kingdom at LUX. It was a truly spectacular film; quirky, funny and a self-awareness that was really enchanting. Iwannaseeitagain! I couldn’t help downloading some of the music. I am in love with the version of Cuckoo by Benjamin Britten use in the film. Listen to it here.

Saturday was workout day to make up for the malteasers consumed during Moonrise Kingdom. Terhi, Caroline, Caitlin and I partook in Body Workout at the gym. The first half was cardio which wasn’t too bad, but the second half was core work and it really did work you to the core! I was pleased that I managed to hold my plank ok at the very end though – I’ve been practising that one.

The Body Workout crew (plus Thom and Layton) came together again to visit the supermarket and to make a healthy lunch bij elkaar. Unfortunately, the back wheel of my bike decided to give up on the way back and so I had to walk. Lovely Layton was so sweet and walked back with me while the others headed back to Terhi’s kitchen. After a nutritious lunch of salad and pesto chicken (or spaghetti bolognese for the boys) I went in search of a bike repair shop I had found online. Again, Layton was kind enough to come with me and help me out. We found the shop just in time and they told me they could fix it but that I couldn’t collect it til Monday.

Lack of a bike meant that I had to take the bus to and from the city centre on Sunday. For some reason this seems like so much more hassle than jumping on a bike and peddling away. I’ll definitely miss cycling when I leave. Anywho, the bus journey was definitely worth the effort to get to the Nijmegen Samba and Salsa Festival. Terhi, Rach and I accidentally ran into a parade and it was fabulous! So much vibrance, so much music, so much booty shaking – it was hard not to join in!

The rest of the day included listening to some intense drumming, shopping, Terhi leaving, eating delicious falafel, listening to more drumming, shimmying around a bit, eating ice cream, sitting by the river and then visiting the tropical market. All this finished off with an arty/indie film called Take This Waltz at LUX. It was strange to say the least and by the end of it I just wanted to give the main character a good old shake. At least Seth Rogen was in it (surprisingly). He’s beautiful.

Mmmmm falafel

Bridge across the de Waal

Cool lamps in the LUX bar

Monday was supposedly my first day of lectures but the only one I had (Second Language Acquisition) has been cancelled this week and could possibly be cancelled altogether. Great. I spent the day completely rearranging my schedule and swapping and changing modules. Things seem to be much harder to figure out here than in Sheffield.

One good thing happened on Monday though – I got to pick up my bike. I was so happy as it had felt as though I was missing a limb! I nearly cried as I tried to peddle away though as there was no resistence whatsoever. I took it back to the shop and the man there fixed it for me and managed to fix my gears so that I now have 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear instead of just 2nd and 3rd, and he did it free of charge as well. Things were looking up. I even cooked my first proper meal alone in my kitchen since being here. It was some rubbish pasta but the taste didn’t really matter to me. I was just pleased that I’d finally done it. That may sound silly but it actually means that I’m starting to feel a bit more at home here.

Yesterday morning I arrived on time for my 8:45 lecture in English As a World Language. We waited and we waited for over 40 minutes until we decided that perhaps the lesson wasn’t on this week and everyone went to get a coffee. Most of the Sheffielders hung out together for the rest of the day and it was lovely seeing some familiar faces and having a bit of a joke. We had to wait around for a bloody long time though as the module Rachel and I had next was Egyptian Religious Text at 1:45. This seems pretty interesting and I like the professor because he was nice and wore a bow tie so he’s ok in my book. Moreover, Terhi is in this class as well which I didn’t realise so that’s just a bonus.

I saw Layton in the evening as he wanted to pop to HEMA and I think to get out of Hoogeveldt for a bit as well. It can get pretty dull when you’re here for too long. We visited our destination and got more ice cream. I think I need to stop mentioning when I have ice cream in this blog because when I write it down it just seems like so much. IT’SJUSTBECAUSETHEWEATHERISNICESODON’TJUDGEME!

Yesterday morning our lecturer actually turned up to our 8:45 class, thank goodness. It was a shorter one than usual though as it was just an intro to the Dutch Culture lectures we would be receiving. We were also told that the pass mark here is 60% as opposed to the 40% we have to get in Sheffield. Whislt at school I think I would have thought of 60% as a bit of a failure, but since being at university I’ve started to view it as being very difficult to obtain indeed. I hope I can manage it here!

After being told that we need to photocopy certain articles from the library each week for Dutch Culture, a few of us headed there to find the folder and to get started. The photocopying took quite a while but we managed it in the end. Then Glenn, Rachel and I nipped back to Hoogeveldt before going to town for some lunch. Naturally, Back Werk (esentially Greggs) was our first choice. By this time it was around midday and we had a lot of time to kill. Thus, shopping and walking around ensued. We wandered down a street I hadn’t been before but where I will definitely be returning. It was filled with boutiques and little vintage shops. My favourite was a faux-vintage store called La Belle Epoque, although the expensive prices meant I didn’t stay in there for too long!

The street had some comedic value as well. For example, I was quite amused to see a shop with Wild-West decor selling cowboy boots situated directly opposite one selling Native American related items. It was as though they were in a face-off. I wondered if they had done this on purpose. I also enjoyed the eloquently named shop, Wood for Home. I wonder what they sell.

Anywho, I have the day off today (and tomorrow) but don’t really have much planned for the next few hours. In the evening though, I have beginners volleyball to try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Doei!

Onze reis naar Amsterdam

Wednesday dawned with the light of a new day and the hope of a fun trip to Amsterdam. We – meaning me, Terhi, Layton, Shannon, Caitlin and Cemre – met up pretty early in the morning, keen to arrive at our destination. The high ticket prices  made us, perhaps, a little less keen but we carried on in spite of this. Amsterdam is Amsterdam. We left from Nijmegen station on the bottom half of a double decker train (the top was too full for our posse). Most trains here seem to have two levels and I love it. I have a childish admiration for these newfangled trains, like a toddler seeing bunk-beds for the first time.

The journey took an hour and a half, which seemed to pass by quickly. I enjoyed the free wifi on board whilst the rest of the group enjoyed the free time to catch up on the sleep they had missed that morning.

Instagram photos I uploaded whilst on the train – love free wifi

Upon arrival at Centraal Station, excitement ensued. The building which houses the station is magnificent so I’m glad we went there by train. As we made our way into the city centre, I started to recognise places I had come on my first visit to Amsterdam and it gave me a nice feeling. I enjoyed that trip.

Soon we went our separate ways. Layton and Caitlin visited the Anne Frank Huis, whilst the rest of us went to get some lunch. Shannon, Terhi and I didn’t bother going to the museum because we had all been before, and Cemre had just never heard of Anne Frank.

Once our tummys were full we went to check on Caitlin and Layton’s progress. They had just got to the front of the queue when we arrived so we skipped off and had a look round a nearby church before going to do something really cultural: winkelen (shopping). It turns out Amsterdam has a fair few English shops. River Island, for example. I was secretly pleased about the familiarity as well as the labels displaying UK sizes instead of these confusing European ones.

Next stop was the I Amsterdam sign. Grammatically questionable but I’ll move on. It was dog eat dog amongst us tourists trying to get a space in the large lettering, but we just about managed it and got a few sneaky shots.

Whilst the gang went to look at the Van Gogh museum (Terhi and I had already been), Cemre was adamant that we visit the Red Light District. We made our way there, slipping into a few shops on our way back through the main area, but it was about 5 o’clock in the afternoon so there wasn’t much going on. I was quite relieved as it’s not exactly my favourite place in the world. However, Cemre was pleased when we saw at least one half-naked woman in a window. I was pleased when we headed back to Dam Square to meet the others.

I really enjoyed my day in Amsterdam but there is one thing I disliked about the place. Being such a large city, with so many hip and interesting inhabitants and a huge amount of bicycles, I couldn’t help but get Bike Envy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bike I have here in Nijmegen. It’s a little rusty and it’s not the most attractive shade of blue but it’s comfy, has gears and a basket and it gets me around. No, there’s nothing wrong with ol’ Pom Pom (short for Pomegranate – don’t ask me why I called it that…I don’t even know!) but around every corner was yet another beauty that I wanted to hop onto and ride away. But I couldn’t, so I took pictures instead.

We, of course saw many stereotypical things in Amsterdam:

– Tulips (though I think we all now know that they originated from Turkey)

– Clogs

– Windmills

– Canals

– Lots and lots of flowers at the Flower Market

– And of course, weird looking drugs shops

I was going to include the rest of my week in this post but it seems a little long already and so I shall leave you now and talk about all the exciting things I’ve been up to since Amsterdam in another post.

Groetjes!

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!

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!