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.
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!
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.