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!

Advertisements

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!