Thursday, December 2, 2010

Decembery things.

Today's will be a short one - just a couple quick things to share.

First: Biking on ice.

Biking on ice and seeing people bike on ice is absolutely hilarious. I think that Icebiking should be the extreme sport of the netherlands. Picture it, if you will; 25 children all wrapped up in scarves and hats and mittens, biking very slowly to school in one big group. They've all got road bikes, the ones with the skinny little tires and not much grip. The first kid falls down.

Haha that happened on the way to school today, and even though everyone was moving really slowly, no one could stay upright! It was a slow motion pileup.
First kid: Ohh nooooooooooooo....... bonk
Second kid: oh NOOOOOOO bonk bonk
Third to 24th kids: AUUUUUUUGGGGGHH bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk skiiiid.
the very last kid saw the pileup, and tried to go around it, but his vision was impaired by all the scarves he was wearing and he biked straight into a streetlight.

If that's not a good way to start the morning, I don't know what is! I'm still laughing even just writing it down.

In other news, I got accepted to college today!! YAY! When I was a little kid, I used to think about where and who I'd be the day i'd get the letter saying whether I got in to college or not. I tried to picture what my life would look like when I was that (gasp!) old! It seems crazy to me that I'm not home to open it - who've thought I'd be off on an adventure?

:D 'till later!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things to add to November!

Oops, I didn't do this last night when I was meaning to! Oh no, the whole month scheme of my blog is now messed up. Well, I guess that is ok.

More stories from November! Somewhere in the first little bit of November, my last host mother took me and my friend Cindy to "de Eftelling", a dutch fairytale park that is essentially dutch Disney Land. Ohmygoodnesssomuchfun! Really, it was amazing! We skipped a day of school together, so there were not many people at the park, and none of the rides had line ups. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee! There were so many cool things there - if you're ever in Holland and have an extra day to fill, go to de Eftelling!

And here's a kind of fantastic picture from one of the more modern museums we visited in Den Haag.

And also in Den Haag, I got to watch the Sinterklaas parade where Sinterklaas and all his Zwarte Piets come in from the harbor to get ready for Dec. 5th. Sooo cool! And that same day we all walked down on the beach and on this big boardwalk thing that came out of the beach and over the ocean... great day!
I really should've used tumblr for this blog instead of blogspot. Putting pictures on here just took me an hour. Haha enjoy them!

P.s. I did my rotary presentation today! All in dutch, I was so happy that I made it through without choking on a scary "Gkh" or an equally scary "ij" sound. I love rotarians, I got the funniest questions afterwards. My personal favorites? (I was displaying a map of Canada at the time) "Can you show me on the map where that Sarah Palin lady in your government is from?" and.. well this one requires a bit of explaining. Every week there is a wine lottery at my rotary club, where one member brings a bottle of wine and everyone who wants to buys a lottery ticket for one or two euro and then someone wins at the end of the night. Because I was doing my presentation tonight, I arranged to bring a bottle of Maple Syrup for the lottery. I explained what it was, and then I gave it to a very bemused winner, who after several minutes of closely inspecting the bottle asked me "What is the alcohol content of this?Is it seriously 100%?"
Nope. That sticker says 100% Maple Syrup. No alcohol... sorry.
Rotary meetings are so much fun!

Tot zo,
I'll write about Decembery things as they happen!

Monday, November 29, 2010

100 days

8,640,000 seconds.144,000 minutes, 2400 hours, 14 weeks, 3 months and a bit

I've been in the netherlands for 100 days now!
It's been one crazy rollercoaster, but I'm so thankful that I've had the chance to experience it- and there's so much left to come! I can't believe how far away August 22nd seems now - was it really only three months ago? So much has happened since then. Lots of new people are in my life, I've made some truly amazing friends, and my most frequent thought has gone from "umm what did you just say?" to "I totally understand that!"

I figured today would be a good day to tell you all what my november has been like. I'm at home from school today because I have a really bad cold - thank goodness for my mom sending me Advil cold&sinus to combat the misery!

Earlier this month there was a weekend in Den Haag where all the exchange students got together. Those weekends are always so much fun! We had a Sinterklaas celebration where we all drew names and then found a 5e gift for that person, and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet came to visit us in the evening and hand out the gifts. I got Cindy, my friend from the USA, and we went shopping together, which was tricky and wound up with some really funny attepmts to distract her while I stealthily bought her gifts. Later in the weekend we all went to a bunch of museums, including the one where "The girl with the pearl earring" is. It was really cool to see that painting in real life! I kind of thought it would be bigger though, considering what a big deal people make of it. That museum had some other paintings that I thought were amazing, like a life size one of a cow. During the whole Den Haag weekend we (4 canadians, 2 americans) stayed with a wonderful host family. They had 8 year old twins, but they also had twin guinea pigs and twin cats! The kids (the parents too, actually) were tons of fun, and at the end of the weekend one of the twins drew a picture of everyone who stayed there.
This is her picture of me! I like it :) at the top, it says From Dieuwke ( her name) and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna keep it forever. When we all were leaving, the parents invited us to come back anytime we wanted to come see more of Den Haag. I think I'll take them up on that offer !

Ok, random story time! So November 11th, I am biking down to Maastricht to go buy something for school,minding my own buisness. la la la , bike bike bike... Then I stopped at a light (bike lanes have their own traffic lights!) and someone pulls up beside me and says "hi!" I look over - it's a dude in a tiger costume! hahah full face paint, tail and everything. I just said "um. hi!" back, and then kept biking.. but when I got to the city, there were people everywhere in costumes! Elves, cheerleaders, lots of tigers, I saw a koolaid man, and everyone had a beer (or 4) and a cigarette. It was crazy! I guess it was the opening of the carnival season, and so the whole downtown area was a big street party. There was a marching band, and lots of buskers in the streets, and so many amazing people in their bizarre costumes! I really wish I had brought my camera, but here's a pic to give you an idea of what it was like. You can see a person in a lion costume in the bottom left corner - the tiger costume was similar, but more stripey. Hahaha at first I thought, oh my goodness, someone please tell me this is not the way the dutch do rememberance day! But it is not, so no worries! Crazy crowded! but SO MUCH FUN! I'm lucky that I accidentally went on the right day. There is a full blown carnival in january or febuary I guess, this was just a warmup.
Another weekend in november I went to go visit Cindy. She actually lives within walking distance of my host councellor's house (where I will be living after January!) which is really cool. She also is next door to a castle. I'm not sure which of those two things is more awesome. But long story short, we had tons of fun together. When I move, we'll be going to the same school, which will be great!

Last week, I moved in with my current host family, who are really wonderful. They live in a great big house that's super close to my current school. The first weekend, I went on a 3 hour hike with Aggie ( my host mother ) and some of her friends, and then we all went out for dinner together afterwards. It was really fun! I learned that my Dutch is going better than I previously thought - I was able to understand almost all of what people were saying to me! YAY! Breakthrough! I still don't understand any of the local dialect though, which what most people speak when they are being informal.
Friday, I went with Aggie to go see my host councellor and meet the superintendant (or dutch equivalent, I didn't understand his title) of my new school. He explained my classes and gave me a tour of the school (it's huge!) and then we surprised Cindy in her class! She was helping out with the younger student's english class, which is something I'll get to do when I go to her school. Because Cindy and I both speak english as a first language and it's important to learn dutch, he made it clear that we are not to speak english to eachother when we are at school. I predict a lot of signlanguage and giggling. I am so excited to change schools! I really like my current school because I have lots of friends there, but I do think the administration have no idea what to do with an exchange student. My classes still change on a weekly basis and the security people (yeah... my school has security people) are consistantly bewildered by me when I try to get through the doors. Me: "Uitwisseling! Exchange student?Ik ben Morgan!! I'm the Canadian! yes I DO go here". and so forth... hahaha.
This new school already has a clear idea of what I'm there for, and they already has opportunities set up for me to help out with teaching younger kids conversational english! yay! And, my new host mom used to teach dutch to foreigners when she worked, so twice a week she is going to give me free dutch lessons. Fantastic!
Friday I went to a sleepover party of a girl in my class. It was really great! there were about 15 people there and we stayed up all night. First we watched Earth, and then we watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies.... alll of them. I fell asleep through some though. :)
Saturday, I went into Maastricht with Aggie and Inge (my host sister, she lives in Amsterdam though, so she is only home on the weekends) and finished up my Christmas shopping. Mom, Dad, Jake, prepare yourselves! You get excellent gifts this year, even if they are a bit late.
Saturday was also the first time it snowed. Yay, dutch snow!!
I have a presentation I should be translating into dutch, so i'll blog more later!
Cya! Tot zo,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October !

A quick summary of my October.
I turned 18 on 10 /10 / 10. It was so great! My host parents, along with some friends from school, planned a surprise party for me. I went out exploring in Maastricht with my friend Liza (from school) and exchange student friend Cindy (from Texas) in the morning, and had what I thought was the best day ever. But then, when I came home, I found out the fun was just starting because there were a bunch more of my friends from school standing in the living room! I'll always remember how cool my 18th birthday was. . . Really, who'dve thought I'd be sitting in a living room in Holland, surrounded by new friends from all over the place, eating Limburgse "rice pie" instead of birthday cake? 10/10/10 really was a perfect 10.
The next weekend I went to stay with my Rotary councellor at her house, half an hour away from Maastricht. It was great, we went to the Sittard Oktoberfeest, went exploring and found an old windmill, and she showed me a T.V program called "Ik hou van Holland" which was absolutely hilarious. I'll have to post pictures soon!
The weekend after that, I went to go stay with my friend Giuliana, who is currently living in Oldenzaal ( a 4 1/2 hour train ride north of where I live). She comes from Argentina, and she's so much fun! I went to her school with her on Friday, and we explored Oldenzaal in the weekend.
This weekend, she came to stay with me! She came to my school on Friday, and after school we went into Maastricht and checked out the Bonnefante Museum and the public library, and visited the bookstore in Maastricht. ( Anyone who's reading should google the bookstore, it's amazing) The bookstore is rated as one of the most beautiful in the world, it used to be a church. Then we went to the city center, where there was a big fabric market going on. It's so cool to see things like that! We bought ourselves dinner at the Albert Hein, (apples and gouda cheese) and wandered around looking at all the expensive fabrics and threads and fruit stalls and everything. Saturday we went on a 2 hour hike through the woods, (beautiful!) and then to a "tea party" a friend of mine had. It was so funny, we drank tea and she had made really beautiful cupcakes and things, and then we watched horror movies. :) It was hilarious when something scary would happen in the movie, and everyone on the couch was startled - with full cups of hot tea! Everyone was soaking wet and a little burned by the end, but it was so funny! Today we went to Belgium for lunch, and tried all kinds of traditionally Dutch foods, and then Giu went home, and I went with my host family to dinner at one of their friends's houses.
And that was my October, in weekends!
Happy Halloween,

Monday, September 27, 2010

This week has been pretty amazing. I have officially been in the Netherlands 1 month. Of course there are good days and bad days, but so far I really haven't hit any really bad homesickness - hopefully it stays that way! The language is coming along slowly... Some days, I feel like I won't ever possibly understand what everyone is talking about, but other days I feel like when people speak slowly, I understand about 40% of what they say... I think it all depends on how fast my brain feels like working that day! I understand way more words when people talk to me than what I can speak if I am trying to respond.

Kids at school have been, for the most part, totally welcoming and very nice to me. My class has only 15 students in it, so they are all quite close with one another - it's cool to be able to see them all interact with eachother. They're really different people, but as far as I can tell they're not as worried about "cliques" as kids in Canadian highschools are. I've made a couple of really great friends already. The teachers are mostly nice to me too, especially my History teacher, who found me a book in english that covers what the class is doing now (it's so helpful when I'm trying to follow along in class!)

Last week, I went with my friend Liza to her old elementary school on what I think was something like "PTA" night, all the parents of kids who went there went on a tour of the school, and Liza and I tagged along too, so I could see what a dutch elementary school was like. It was pretty similar to a Canadian elementary school, but if I were back in 2nd grade, I would be so jealous of the kids who get to play on this playground! It was huge! And all the classrooms were decorated with art projects and stuff... very cool. Their gym was tiny, but they had a climbing apparatus and so many nice toys, it made me almost wish I was 7 again so I could play!

Then on friday night, Liza, a friend of hers, and I went to a horse show in Belgium together. The show was called "Zangershiede", and although I'm not really sure, I think it was kind of a big deal in the horse world. Liza knows lots about jumping, and there were some really famous jumpers there. There was even a Canadian competing.It was really cool to go to a big show like that! Totally different from a rodeo. :)

Saturday, my host mother took me on a trip to a park called "Drielandenpunt" which is where the borders of Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium all connect. I managed to stand in 3 countries at one time! We went up in a viewing tower, then we went on a really nice walk through the woods, where we found some of my host mom's favorite mushrooms. She really likes hunting for mushrooms, and we found almost a dosen of her favorites, so that day was a good one!

Sunday, my host grandparents came over, and we all had a yummy meal together. We were talking after dinner and somehow Saskatchewan came up, and I realised how funny Canadian place names are. I mean, really : Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Nunavut, Banff?

Makes city names here, like "Esloo", and "Heer" seem more normal

Speaking of "Heer"..... Today I decided to try biking to Maastricht all by myself for the first time. It was really amazing, being able to just walk around in the city and check stuff out by myself. It went really really well, I shopped a bit and was able to deal with all the cashiers in Dutch, and park my bike in the underground bike lot, and more importantly FIND my bike in the underground bike lot afterwards - I was feeling pretty good by the time I had to go home. Then, on the bike back, I took a wrong turn somewhere, and 15 minutes later I was in a little town I had never seen before. It took another 5 minutes of scouting around to determine that this strange town was "Heer". Now, at this point, I was thinking about maybe calling my host family for directions home, but as I thought of it, I pictured the conversation going like this:

Me : Hi, I think I'm lost, could I get directions home?

Host: Sure, where are you?

Me: Heer.

Host:.... well, yes of course you're there, but do you know where you are?

Me: I'm pretty sure I'm just in Heer?

Host: In where? Are you in a building or something?

... and so on ... silly place names!!

So I just decided to turn around, go back to the modern art museum in Maastricht, and then start biking home from there. The second time, I made it! And, I finally got around to writing a decent blog post! So all in all, today was a very successful day.

'till next time,



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Rotary Meeting!

Tonight I had my first rotary meeting with my host club.
This post is for anyone reading from my home rotary club :) Of course, if you're not from rotary, you're still allowed to read it!

We met in a castle! It was very cool.

Everyone was very friendly, and several people offered to take me with them on a trip or to their workplace. Yay for Rotarians! :) Tonight I was invited to : A trip to Brussels, to learn about the European Parliament, visit a small animal veterinary clinic, visit an institution for helping people with mental health problems, meet a rotarian's daughter, and have dinner with my host councillor. (I feel like I am forgetting something)

I exchanged banners with the president of the club, and told the story of why Medicine Hat is called "Medicine Hat". I also introduced myself to the club, and was able to speak with my host councillor. We're going to meet again on Saturday to get to know one another better.

The Esloo-Maaskant Rotary club has roughly 30 members, most of which are older men, but the club does also include women. It started around 1990. Tonight was a dinner meeting, and we all sat around tables that were pushed together to make one big rectangle. Everyone at the table had an opportunity to tell a story, or share some news at some point during the meeting. ( I think... It was hard to tell exactly what they were talking about )

I haven't made my Canada presentation yet, but I'll work out a time with the club to do that. Lots of people were interested in hearing more about Canada, so it'll be great to answer some of their questions!

In other news, some blog posts about school, friends, and more pictures are in the works! Sorry about the wait, it turns out I'm not a very motivated blogger.

'till next time,


Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Crazy Busy Week...


Sorry it's taken so long to update this!

Let me start by explaining the places I've been this week. At this time, 7 days ago, I was walking into the Calgary Airport, crazy nervous about starting my exchange year. Yikes! A whole year? So far away? What am I thinking? Why did I apply for this again!? But then I remembered all the reasons I wanted to go, and all the good stories former exchangies had told me, and everything was Ok.

I made it through 8 or 9 hours ( I can't remember exactly) of fairly uneventful plane ride, then tackled the Frankfurt airport. Long story short, I eventually made it to my gate. Then, just a quick flight over Germany and into Amsterdam, where my host family and rotary councillor were waiting to greet me! I drove with my hosts down to Cadier en Keer, which is where I am living.

Monday, we went into Maastricht to tour around a little. It was amazing! I can't get over how beautiful and old and European everything is. I tried bitterballen (lekker!) and had some Italian food at a restaurant with my hosts ( also lekker!).

I am trying to remember Tuesday... I think we picked up groceries at the "Jumbo" and went to a pet store and I got a very nice pair of rubber boots, but that may not have been Tuesday... oh well, that happened on one of the days. It was fun.

Then on Wednesday, my host father needed eye surgery in Utrecht, so we all drove up there. He had his surgery, and we all waited in the clinic's waiting room, and I read (tried to read) comics. Donald Duck in Dutch is hilarious! I believe I actually came across the word "Zeebonk". hmm...?
Later that day we went on a canal tour through Utrecht. It was really pretty, some of my photos on my earlier post are from that tour. We had really really good food again at the hotel we stayed at, I tried some more typical dutch things. One was a Bitterballen with a rice and truffle filling, and another was very dark bread with some cheese on it. Yum!

Thursday, we drove back to Maastricht after driving around "The Green Heart" of Holland, and seeing all the mansions and the castle that belonged to the previous queen. That is the white building in my pictures. Then I got my bank account set up and my host mother and I went on a 2 hour walk through some woods that are very close to the house. There is a giant potato field on one side of the path, and woods on the other, and we walked down into the woods and saw some caves and a beautiful view of Maastricht, and all kinds of slugs and snails and frogs and other creepy crawlies. That walk is very beautiful, I'll have to do it a lot this year!

Then, Friday was just kind of a relaxed day. My host parents had to drive back up to Utrecht for another eye appointment, and my host brother was working at his school, so I had the house to myself, and just kind of slept in, read, and was lazy until they came home. I came with my host mother when she went to pick up my host bro at the school, so I got to take a little tour of it. It's bigger than my school at home, and has lots of windows! But the lockers are smaller (way smaller!) and there are some INSANE tiny spiral stairs that lead up the levels. Bandies : read scottish-castle-level stairs. They're terrifying. I'll try to get a picture of them sometime!
Then, today, I drove to Arnhem ( I probably spelled that wrong, but give me a break, I'm sleepy ) with my host parents to meet all the other exchange students and attend Dutch Orientation Camp , which will last all this week. From the look of things, this is gonna be an incredible year with some incredible people. Well, I'm off to bed!
G'night y'all.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some pictures

Hey! Sorry, I really should update this thing more, I've just been really busy!
I'm off to Dutch Orientation in the morning, but here are some pictures of what I've been doing in the meantime. I'll catch you all up next week!