Sunday, May 23, 2010

I realize that I haven't posted in a long long time. I have lots of things to write about including Queen's day, Aix en Provence, Dad's visit, and the lovely spring weather. Unfortunately, I am a bit too swamped in work to spend the time writing something that isn't my papers. Right now I'm in the Coffee Company on Waterlooplein with my friend Rose finishing up paper number one. I'm writing about surgeries given to intersex babies. Next up is a paper for my film class which will be on cult classics. I'm going to compare Harold and Maude to The Graduate. Then I have another paper for my prostitution class on male prostitution.

I'm hoping to be done with most of this work by Wednesday, because my good friend Byron (aka Sneaky) is coming to visit! He's studying abroad this summer in Maastricht, so he decided to come a few days early so that we can expore A'dam together. After he leaves I'll only have a couple days until all my papers are due, and then just ONE MORE WEEK in Amsterdam!!!! I cannot believe that the semester is almost over. I have very mixed feelings. I'm really excited for the summer at PSUBefore I get back to my paper writing, I'll make a short list of things that I'll miss about Amsterdam.

  • Biking everywhere
  • The study pods in the library
  • Albert Heijn
  • Being able to say "hella" all the time with my California friends and not getting funny looks
  • Doppermarkt (outdoor market by my apartment)
  • Poffertjies
  • Frites with mayo
  • Only having class 3 days a week
  • Adorable Dutch children playing outside my apartment all the time
  • Dutch people singing on bikes
  • Dogs in saddlebags on the backs of bikes
  • Pasteries with sausage inside
Back to work!!! More to come once I finish all my papers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Volcano Eyjafjallajokull

Natural Disasters:
My best friend and roomate from home, Miranda, who is currently studying in Ireland was supposed to visit last weekend, but the volcanic ash over the continent thwarted our plans. Then Dad was supposed to arrive yesterday morning, but again, the volcanic ash has other ideas. Hopefully Miranda will be able to come another time, and Dad has already re-booked for Friday. Fingers crossed on that.

I did well on the midterm paper that I wrote about in my last post. I got a 7.5, which is some sort of B. I am told to be happy about this grade, so I am. I have done my presentations for each my classes, all of which I think went very well. For my cross-cultural-sexuality class my partner and I made a documentary in which we interviewed Dutch parents and teens about their experience with teen sexuality and parenting. Very interesting project- it was a bit intimidating at first to ask strangers about such a topic, but the Dutch were very willing to talk and shared a lot. I think that conducting the same experiment in the US would yield much different results. (Which was kind of out point.) When I'm home again I can show anyone interested the video. I won't post it though because many of our interviewees explicitly asked that the footage didn't end up on the internet.

I'm a little intimidated by the amount of paper writing that I have to do in the near future. For my cinema class I'm going to write about cult classics and how they oppose mainstream hollywood, especially regarding morality. Possibly focusing on Ed Wood? I think that for Sexuality I might write about transgenderism... not sure though. Still brainstorming about Prostitution.

Amsterdam Friends and Fun Times:
From left to right: Max (Portland, OR), Me, Lauren (Austin, TX), Sarah (somewhere in Vermont), Rose (San Fransisco, CA).

I meant to write a while ago about the fantastic night I had with my friend Kasey a few weekends ago. She and I decided that we hadn't seen enough of Amsterdam's nightlife- we usually just stick to the same couple places or end up staying in. So we decided that we would start at Haarlemmerstraat and see where the night would take us. We found some cool places, met some nice people, and ended up at a really awesome Jazz bar called Cafe Alto on Leidseplein. We saw a great band called San2 and his Soul Patrol. Here is a link to their music- they also have a myspace.

A few friends here and I decided to give each other surprise Study-Abroad-Birthdays, since none of us will celebrate when we're actually here. My Study-Abroad-Birthday was a few days ago, and my friend Sarah tricked me into coming up to her room under the guise of dinner-making, but when I got there she and Kasey surprised me with a dinner they had already cooked, and plans of a night at a club we've been meaning to go to. So the three of us and another friend, Kathleen, went to Paradiso for 90s night. It was fun, but I think that clubs just aren't so much my scene. Very loud, usually bad music, dark, a zillion people... eh. Afterwards, Kasey and I were biking home when she spotted the singer from the San2 and his Soul Patrol. I think I forgot to mention that he's really cute and I was a little smitten with his vocal talent. So we stopped and I said hi and told him that we saw him the other night. Turns out that this bar was having some live music (not San2), so we decided to stay for a bit. It turned out to be pretty mediocre, and a really drunk Irishman was an annoying presence, so we left after not too long. But the nice was a lovely surprise from my great friends here. I'm sure going to miss them when I go home, but I sure miss people at home when I'm here. Is this win-win or lose-lose or both?

One more story for now: A few weeks ago I went to a Pub Quiz for international students with Kasey. She befriended a group of guys, so all of us were on a team together and WON! Out of 10 teams. Kind of a big deal... We won a large quantity of alcoholic beverages, which we consumed several nights later when we all reconvened with friends for a celebration of our victory. I met a ton of new people from many different countries: South Africa, Portugal, UK... there were probably a few others. Here's the winning team in all our glory: (The girl in blue next to me is Kasey from Pacifica, CA)

Well that was a pretty scattered and lengthy post, but I guess I had a lot to catch up on. I'm sending much love back to the US! (But not my plane, because I'm afraid the flight would be canceled)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caves and Pastries

I'm in the middle of a very low-key weekend. Almost everyone in the program is traveling, including my roomate, so I have the room to myself. I'm having a glass of Albert Heijn brand Canernet sauvignon merlot. Albert Heijn is the big grocery store chain in the Netherlands. I don't have any plans for Easter- maybe I'll make an egg hunt for myself. I did decorate my window with some springtime decorations from Aunt Em- thanks so much for the care package! It made my day!

My friend Rose's dad is visiting her. Last night we got together with our friend Max and played cards for a while. Rose taught me her family's game of choice- Liverpool. I also play a lot of Spades and a new game I learned, Set Back. I always want to play Hearts but no one else likes it. I also get in the occasional game of Backgammon. I beat my friend Sarah pretty badly the other day. Sarah and maybe Rose know Cribbage but we don't have a board...

Last weekend our program took a trip to Maastricht. Here are a few pictures:

The other girl chomping on a delicious pastry with me is Rose. Those were Maastricht's signature pastry. We tried 3 varieties: cherry, apricot, and something similar to rice-pudding. We only stayed in Maastricht for one night, but we packed a lot of activity in. We went to a very nice dinner the first night, then a bunch of friends and I explored the nightlife. We had a really really nice hostel with a bar, pool table, and mini-restaurant. I got to know some people in my program on the trip who I otherwise hadn't spent much time with.

The next day we got up and took a boat to some man-made caves nearby. Here is a picture of that:

Then we walked back to our hostel through the country side. It was really nice to be in grass and see animals again after being in the city for so long.

Apart from this relaxing little vacation I've been pretty busy for the last couple weeks with school. I just wrote my first paper for a midterm in a class. I think it turned out pretty well. Then I had a presentation to give in the same class. Now it's time for me to start thinking about my final papers. I feel like I'm going to have a lot of work to do soon.

Tot zeins!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Un viaje a ParĂ­s

We had a few admirers in Paris: understandable.

Hello all!

I made a flickr account so I can post all of my pictures. Here's a link:

So as you'll see in my pictures, some friends and I just went on a trip to Paris. We had such a great time- we saw the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Dali Museum, ate escargot and crepes, saw some great live music. Here's a video:

We engaged in some nightlife activities and met a bunch of French people. I honestly didn't expect to really like Paris that much. I thought it was probably over romanticized, and we all know the stereotypes about French people. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the French people I met were much friendlier than the average American that I'll run into at home, with the exception of the curmudgeonly staff at our hotel. The food was delicious, and I found the city to be quite charming. This might sound ridiculous, but I was also skeptical about how cool the Eiffel Tower would be. It's just so hyped up that I couldn't imagine it living up to whatever expectations I had. But we climbed as high as they would allow us (not to the tippy-top, but 2/3 of the way up) and it really was worth it. In conclusion, it was a great weekend and I would love to go back sometime. But I would still rather live in Amsterdam- it smells better. Flickr only lets me add so many pictures a month, so I have some more of Paris to come.

In Amsterdam news, my classes are still going well. I gave my first class presentation last week with a friend. I had a midterm paper to write this week which I am very efficiently procrastinating. At least my room and the desktop of my computer have been cleaned.

My bike is a little broken, so fixing that is at the top of my to-do list. I've had a bit of a cold so I've had a pretty uneventful week, but I'm feeling much better now, and the weather is getting really nice. So I really should finish my work and go outside and play.

Today some little Dutch children dressed as cowboys pretended to shoot 2 friends and me. Then they stood and stared at us as we struggled with the key to our apartment: strangely intimidating...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No Rain

It is a beautiful day in Amsterdam! Mid 40s and sunny, and most importantly, NO RAIN! My bike riding today was very pleasant, and I actually spent time outside chatting with friends. The past few weeks have been very very rainy and cold and generally pretty miserable weather-wise. It doesn't bother me too much, but I certainly welcome the sun.

The inevitable has happened. I fell off my bike. I was riding on the correct side of the bike lane, but a mother and her two children were coming towards me on a huge bike/child carrying contraption. I didn't think there would be room for both of us to pass, so I thought I would just go up on the curb. But I guess the angle of approach was unacceptable, and I fell. Slowly and embarrassingly, and in front of children. Slight wound to the knee, and small rip in my jeans. But I got back on my bike and rode to Dam Square like a champ. Other than that though, biking is becoming almost pleasant. I can turn now.

I finally made it to the Windmill brewery right next to our apartments. I went with my friend Sarah with the intention of just getting a beer, but ended up staying for a free tour. So now I have some beer knowledge. It's a great spot, and convenient for my cultivation of a taste for beer. I feel that I will be back for much beer sipping, peanut and cheese snacking, and card playing. Another new spot that I hope to frequent is a bar that Aram took me with pool tables upstairs and booths overlooking the street for prime people watching. It is conveniently located next to a nice looking Indian restaurant.

Sarah, my new friend Kasey, and I went to the Niet Normaal art exhibit near Dam Square yesterday. It was really interesting, but I wish that I could have read the Dutch explanations or had gotten the English audio-accompaniment. The art was in all forms- film, photography, walls full of little sticky notes and napkins with writing on them, sculpture, fake inventions... One of my favorites was the "non-traceptive": a "condom" that did DNA testing, and the tip would dissolve in the absence of genetic (or other) disease. There was also a video "documentary" of a fake disease in which metal hip replacements, etc would grow and eat away a persons body. Another movie was about disabled people riding in an airplane, one about an OCD and anorexic girl who only ate free samples of things. One about old women trying to hold on to their beauty and youth. Very eclectic.

I am about to go dye my hair dark brown. This is an attempt to dissuade myself from piercing my nose, which I'm sure would royally piss off my parents, but I'm mostly afraid of it leaving a scar. But if I'm ever going to do it, this is probably the only chance I'll have. Time is running out for youthful rebellion. Also, the blonde is growing out and starting to look goofy. I guess the jury is still out on a temporary nose piercing. Feedback is welcome.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ups

I'm told that I am supposed to be going through a bunch of ups and downs of culture shock or something... but to be honest its been all ups for a few weeks now. Everytime that I wake up here I'm a little awestruck at how amazing my life is and how lucky I am. Even bike riding doesn't bring me down. Which I am getting a bit better at by the way.

Classes are still going well- interesting discussions, lots of reading.

My big bro Aram was here for a few days for a conference. (Or so he claims.) We had a great time hanging out. He introduced me to some of his favorite spots here, and we went to an area called Jordan for some shopping. We were on a quest for a gift for Kami. Let me tell you, it is difficult to shop for a 4 month old in this city. But we found a really neat pop-up book at an artsy furniture store. And I found some baby socks at the Doppermarkt- the outdoor market near my apartment.

I'm about to go to the grocery store to pick up some things. But I realized I hadn't written anything in a while so I wanted to update everyone.

Tot Ziens!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not In Kansas Anymore

Hello international friends and family! Life in Amsterdam is going very well. My classes are all very engaging, and I’m making some great new friends. I’m learning the city slowly but surely. Here are a few highlights of my past week or so:

Utrecht take two:

A bunch of my fellow IESers and I went back to Utrecht with one of our coordinators to go to a Dutch pancake house. This was no IHOP, this was really serious pizza sized full-breakfast-in-one-pancake pancake hose. I got banana and ginger, but I sampled many others such as apple and cheese and bacon/cheese/egg. See pictures for details.

After our pancakes we went to a Huis Doorn, a previous mansion, now museum for a very interesting tour. Wilhelm 11, the last German Emperor and previous owner of the mansion was a very unique character. If you’re interested in the history, here is the wiki:

In culinary news:

I have had French fries with mayonnaise. Generally, I am anti-mayo, but I see the appeal with fries. In small doses I can handle it. Another Dutch snack is Bitterballen. They are deep fried balls, 1-2 inches in diameter, filled with thickened beef broth and meat inside, often served with mustard. They can’t be good for you, but they’re pretty tasty. The Dutch are also really into kiwi-beverages, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, but they’re really good. As I looked through the chip isle at a local store, I was very amused to find “Cool American” Doritos. You may know they as “Cool Ranch,” but ranch must be uniquely American, hence the name.

Queer Nightlife:

I have only gone out on the town a couple of times. One night we went to Drag Queen Bingo night at a gay bar. This was my first experience with either, and it was a ton of fun. I even won a round and got a rainbow-striped hat, which is very practical as it is very cold and windy. Some other prizes weren’t so practical, and I’ll leave it at that. On the flip side of the queer world, I also went to a Drag King party a few nights ago. There was no bingo, but it was equally as fun. Coming from Bedminster and State College, I’ve never experienced a lot of this culture. Certainly a lot of eye-openers.


Today, I bought a bike. It only has one gear, and back-peddle breaks. I was very nervous, not having ridden a bike in almost 10 years, and being left in a sling after that last time. I’ll be honest- I am terrified in traffic, and I’m probably the slowest biker out there. But my friends are very patient, and I’m told that in a week I’ll be more comfortable. I hope so, if only for the sake of my anatomy that constantly bounces on the seat while going over cobblestone streets. Painful.