Today, April 30th, was Queen’s Day. I’ve been excited for this all semester long, and that still didn’t prepare me for this packed event.
Queen’s Day is a royal holiday in which the Dutch celebrate their Queen Beatrix by wearing lots of orange, getting drunk on Heineken and Grolsch, and turning Amsterdam into one big street party.
I didn’t get into Amsterdam until 2 pm, for various reasons. First, I was up late the night before. Second, I have people visiting, so it always takes exponentially longer to get moving out the door in the morning. Third, it just didn’t matter. Once in Amsterdam, I split up from Joy and Nicole and arranged to meet with them later. They had a lot on their agenda, including the Sex Museum, Anne Frank Huis, and smoking pot. I figured I’d be better off meeting up with kids from school here and hanging out.
Unfortunately for me, I was not to meet up with my friends for quite awhile. We all have cell phones here – the program requires it, and gives us 180 euro to purchase phones and minutes – so we usually stay well connected. The hitch? Try having the streets packed with tons of ppl . . . trying to use their cell phones to connect with their friends. T-mobile’s network was packed for the entire day, so I felt lucky when I could shoot off a text message, nevermind a phone call.
The trams were also not running today, so I did a ton of walking. I went to the Rijksmuseum to take a break from the heat and the noise (both of which are unhappy elements for me) and to “study” for my Dutch Art & Architecture exam. Dorky as it was, I tried to go through the paintings and think about significant elements. My final next Tuesday is an oral test where I answer questions about slides Steef will show me, so the more art viewing I can get in, the better.
* I've got "friends" visiting from Spain again. These are girls I know from school, but I never really hung out with them; mostly, I took dance with them. They're nice girls, so it should be fun, but they're here until Tuesday. At least I have no qualms about handing them a guide book and letting them go off on their own, because I really need to study.
* My school email system is down. Again. What is it about school email that screams unreliable at times? Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but an email system for a university should go down less than 99% of the time. I mean, isn't there something wrong when hotmail works more often than my school email? And the most frustrating part of it is that the interface just refuses to load. I wish that, when the email server went down, a new interface would pop up with 'technical difficulties'; then I'd know that I wasn't the one doing something wrong.
* I am really tired. I will be excited to be done with finals so that I can sleep for a day and then go relax in Ireland.
* I go home in . . . . 2 and a half weeks. Wait!! Two and a half weeks!!! Ack. I am so not ready to be done living in Europe. I don't want to go home anymore.
I woke up this morning to an unexpected, but not unpleasant, phone call from a friend in the US whom I have talked to twice a week this semester until just recently. It was nice to hear from him again, because it's been awhile. And even though I didn't get that last half hour of sleep, at least it got me up and moving, because this morning was busy.
Once I finally woke up and got dressed, I hung up my laundry. Here, I have a washing machine, but no dryer, so everything must be line dried. It's actually not that bad, but it does require a little planning to make sure I have enough clean clothes. I'm excited that I only have two more loads of laundry to do: pre- and post-Ireland. Then I got ready to go into town to finish my photography portfolio.
Last night, it poured. Of course, that had to be the only night this semester that I left my bike outside. I also finally took the plastic bag off the seat of my bike yesterday; in retrospect, it was a dumb move. So, on went the plastic bag again so I could bike. The morning was grey and drizzly, and I wasn't excited to go out and take photos. Still, rain or shine, the photographer has got to be there (could we get any more cliche? I think not.)
So, skip to the train station. I parked my bike under an awning so it wouldn't get soaked (like I was . . . thank god for gortex). I walk into the train station to do my drill, just like any other day. But, unlike any other day, this time a security guard approached me. I pulled my standard "Ik sprek geen Nederlands," routine, but he wasn't having any of it.
I just got back from the train station, which is my "24 hours" location for my photography portfolio. I've done pics now at 4 am, 7.45, and from 5-8. I still have a lot of hours left to cover, and I need to do them all tomorrow (while working on my Spain paper).
Anyway, while I was at the train station, the weirdest thing happened. There are several bums that reside there through the night, presumably for the shelter from the cold and wind that is prevalent in the Netherlands. One of them walked right up to me as I was taking photos and started talking to me in Dutch. Even though I don't have the best understanding of Dutch, I kind of got the gist of it, but I had no idea what to say. I told him "Ik sprek geen Nederlands," but he just kept going. Over and over, he kept telling me that I wasn't allowed to take photos here. I tried to tell him that it's all good (which is about my mastery of Dutch), but it didn't work. I tried to walk around him, but he kept blocking my path. He wasn't mean, or threatening . . . just insistent that I should not be taking photos.
Finally, I told him (again, in broken Dutch), that I had a class, for photos, and I had to take photos for the class. Really, I think what I said was "i have . . . class of photos. I have photos have for class." After that, he let me go.
I finished up my photos around 4, and I think I got some cool shots of the completely empty place. I came back down from the platforms and was packing away the tripod and just watching the action. There were only five people in the train station. There were two obviously homeless guys sitting on a staircase, a cleaning guy, someone standing near the ticket kiosks (I think he was just waiting for his train, which was in something like 20 minutes, because trains don't run often at 4 am), and another homeless guy just wandering around.
The cleaning man was sweeping the floor and putting trash in the cans. The wandering around homeless guy was digging through trashcans for food. That is a sad sight at 4 am. I wanted to take a picture, but the lighting was awful, and I didn't want to get yelled at (or worse) by three homeless guys at 4 am. Instead, I biked back home through the beautiful, surprisingly mild night. Now, it is time for sleep, because I will be up all too soon to work on the Spain paper.
Here in the Netherlands, I've had to cook all my own food for dinner. Without a host family or a student cafeteria, we're all on our own. This has both its upsides and downsides. I haven't really eaten much "typically Dutch" food other than pancakes (which I usually get in a restaurant). So, unlike my friends in Spain, I'm not quite sure what the standard cuisine is in these parts, although I've been told it includes lots of vegetables. It also costs quite a lot of money to feed oneself for the semester, which takes from my money-for-travel budget. Also, there are just some days where I don't feel like cooking, but I hate going to restaurants, so I eat some crap pasta or mac 'n cheese. Don't get me wrong: those days can be great. But not when they occur multiple times per week.
Literally. This has been one of the easiest semesters of my life, and I still let things slide. I suppose it's the way things work, but I'm a little disappointed in myself. Over the entire semester, I have just two papers due. Sure, I had several drafts of my Art & Architecture paper due, but the final version isn't due until next Tuesday. When my Spain country report is due for Pieter. Damn.
So, right now I am hauling to get some significant work done on my Art & Architecture paper. It's not difficult, but it will take a good chunk of time. I've been working on it for the past hour, and I'm going to try and work on it some more tonight before I need to sleep.
Tomorrow, I have a field trip to Het Loo and Kroller-Muller, which are a palace and a modern art museum, respectively. They are located on the other side of the country, so I will probably take some Dutch Art & Architecture reading with me to work on in the bus. Yes, bus. I guess the sites are pretty far away from the train station. So I have to take a bus instead of the comfy Dutch trains. I'm a little bummed.
Unfortunately for my dedicated readers, that means that the rest of my Paris story won't come out until Saturday or so (hey, I have to take breaks from writing the papers!). Ditto for the photo captions.
Still, I hope this is enough of an entry that it will prod Izzy into updating his own site.
At least my photo portfolio is almost done. I put some good work in today on it, and I'm finishing it up on Monday. I can't wait to get home and scan in some of my slides; that will be a great photo album.
I arrived in Paris from a Belgium class fieldtrip on Thursday night. The train ride was lovely; I was on the high-speed Thalys train, and it takes you effortlessly from Brussels straight to Paris. The seats are cushy, the bathrooms are . . . well, at least they have them, and the people were pleasant enough.
Upon my arrival in Paris, I dumped my bags at my hostel, which HostelWorld rated as having "high character." It took me no time to find, primarily because of the flashing neon lights outside the bar the comprised the ground floor level of the hostel. The check-in man was blunt (which is what I've decided the French are: straightforward, tho not rude like Americans often assume), I couldn't figure out which bed was mine, and I had a mixed experience sleeping directly above a bar while I was in Brugge. However, Peace and Love ended up being a great place to stay.
After I dropped by stuff off, I wanted something to do at night. I was on my own for the evening, because Bob (my traveling partner from my school here for the Paris trip) wasn't due in until later that evening. So, I made my way to the Eiffel tower.