Photo taken by Ellie at the Cape, summer 2010
As many of you know, I have a cousin (Ellie) who is going to school at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland. Ever since we knew we’d be in Europe at the same time, we have been planning to exchange visits. Since I have 4 day weekends every week, this was very easy to do.
I plan on going to visit Ellie twice while I’m in Europe. Once in October and once in November.
Photo of Switzerland taken by Ellie
Each flight (round trip) cost around €45 or about $63. I’ll have to take a train to and from each airport, but I don’t mind spending money on that since the flights were so darn cheap. I used RyanAir to find these flights, as this is the cheapest way to travel via plane in Europe. I did mess up the first flight (the one for October) and accidentally clicked the earlier flights that day instead of the latter ones, so figuring out trains that early might be a task. Somehow I’ll manage. I tried to change the times for that flight as soon as I realized it, but it wanted to charge me an extra €70 just for switching. I decided I’d just stick with what I have and figure it out from there.
Mondays AND Tuesdays off? Looks like I’ll be doing some traveling on weekends. When I ask others in my building about their classes, I find out that each country and school has different requirements. Some have to take 8 classes, while others may only need to take 4. Usually people fall in the middle with 5 or 6 classes on their plate, but everyone has at least one day off in their schedule. When I first found out I had a 4 day weekend EVERY week, I thought I was doing something wrong. I’m used to Champlain classes where you need to show up to one class twice a week (which totally eats away any opportunity for a “free day” you might have had). I guess things are a little different here.
When you live in a 1 bedroom apartment, the table is usually set for one. For me, cooking dinner consists of anything I can make small amounts of or grab from the fridge without any effort. Occasionally I’ll make a dish that I save in Tupperware containers for future meals, but this is very rare. Living like this makes me miss being home.
Last night we tried something new! About 8 friends all gathered into one apartment to cook a big pasta dinner. Dan hosted and George was the mastermind behind the recipe. His sauce was to die for and left everyone with a very happy stomach.
While everyone was cooking in the kitchen, I got that cheesy “warm and fuzzy” feeling that people in cliché drama movies talk about. I felt like I was home. After this night, I realized how much I truly value having great friends and family to spend my time with.
Some people don’t get along so well with their families, and I really feel sorry for them. Many people here are staying through New Years, until their rental contract is up on January 9th. I made sure I got a flight home earlier so I could be home for Christmas dinner. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I realize it doesn’t look so pretty from the picture, I just couldn’t help myself. Once I took the first bite, I just couldn’t stop eating it! This is an Indonesian pancake. I ordered it from a place called the Pancake Corner, which has really great reviews on their pancakes. This was more like a crepe than an American buttermilk pancake and was filled with chicken fillet, onions, mushrooms, and peanut sauce. It was served with a side of Indonesian style salad.
Typical Cup of Coffee
My aunt Jennifer was right when she said that there were a lot of great Indonesian dishes served in the Netherlands. I had no idea! Pancakes and peanut sauce are two of my favorite things; I would never have thought that combining them would create something absolutely exquisite. This plus a cup of Amsterdam’s famous coffee was just the cherry on top of a great meal. The cups are small, but the coffee is strong; just the way I like it. Although, I do occasionally miss my overly sweet, watered down iced coffees from a good ol’ American Dunkin Donuts…
Amsterdam’s Vondelpark is the closest park to where I live. I had no idea it was so cool! It would be a great place to take your bike, your kids, your dog, or your running shoes. As we were walking though, admiring its beauty, we ran right into a stage with a band playing music. When we realized what it was, we started laughing pretty hard. It was a cover band singing English songs in Dutch and all the little kids were dancing. I picked up a program to see what kinds of bands play for free in the park, but of course it was all written in Dutch. Thankfully, my Dutch 1 class starts on Friday. Hopefully reading signs, menus, and magazines will become a little easier. There was even a restaurant in the middle of the park where you can grab a cup of coffee and just hang out. I’m really surprised we hadn’t stumbled upon this place sooner; I’ll definitely be coming back.
Oh, how very Dutch we are! Cheese is a common snack to have on the side when drinking a glass of beer in the Netherlands. The cheese tasted wonderfully potent.Very good with pepper on it! We tried this at the Brouwerij’t IJ Amsterdam, a brewery attached to a windmill, which is also very typical of the Netherlands. Now all I need are some wooden clogs…
I found that the zoo in Amsterdam was on the mediocre side. Since the zoo started as a museum in 1838, and is one of Europe’s oldest zoos, I though that maybe it would hold up to its reputation. In my opinion, a zoo is a zoo. They all seem the same to me. I think many of the international students felt the same way, as they come from Sydney, San Diego, and other places with much better zoos. Despite this, it was a very enjoyable day. The zoo was a great excuse to gather good friends. I found that we did more talking about potential upcoming travel excursions than looking at animals. We also got free lunch through ISN! I’d say it was all worthwhile.
The International Student Network has sort of lost my interest. At the beginning, it offered some cool activities, but the end is near. Tomorrow there is a trip to the zoo along with the “final party,” which is the last event and should be quite big.
Tonight was the Dutch ‘borrel’ culture night. ‘Borrel’ means ‘drink’ in Dutch, so basically it just shows the international students the Amsterdam bar culture. What really mattered were the people I experienced it with…
I’d say the groups of friends I’ve made in the Poeldijkstraat building are pretty solid. We always do things together and have made some great connections. We’ve even taught each other awesome French/English phrases and slang words to bring back home!
Just purchased my pay-as-you-go phone today! It cost me €25 for the phone and then I had to pay for my minutes. Now I can finally get in touch with the friends I’ve made here instead of wondering where everyone is all the time. I will also feel much more comfortable if I’m in a situation where I’m walking around the city alone.
Amsterdam folks, call me @ 06 44 013 741
Today’s excursions consisted of a city walk with a tour guide, a boat ride, and the Van Gogh museum. On the city walk, we came across a cool looking flea market and some wonderful flower shops selling bulbs for tulips in every color imaginable. We also walked through districts and areas which I have explored many times already. On the boat ride, we saw many house boats that were permanently docked on the sides of the canals. Some of these houses had entire gardens growing on the decks. The boat ride was relaxing, but it was enclosed so we all just got really sleepy. Once we got off, I grabbed some coffee then we headed to the Van Gogh museum. This is something I had been wanting to do for a long time. The collection in this museum is just incredible. It includes pieces from his very early stages as an artist (paintings by others in the Hauge School, which he attended and charcoal drawings) to right before he died. After spending some time in the museum I felt quite inspired and amazed to be standing right in front of the original paintings of an artist I have loved since the first grade.