Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Week One.

Goedemorgen all!

I can’t believe it has already been a week since I arrived in The Netherlands (or Nederland as they say
Iconic windmill shot
here since there is only one…). After a night of zero sleep on the plane, but plenty of good movies and surprisingly delicious airline food (they gave the vegetarians Indian cuisine), I made it! I was able to hop right off the plane and onto a train that took me into the central Leiden station. More than anything else, I was awed by the number of bicycles. I was told beforehand that there are more bikes than people here, but now I really understand. I mean picture, parking garages of bikes. Directly across from the train station is the Visitor’s Centre that was incredibly friendly and just as bureaucratic as I was warned sending me to 5 new locations. With my giant backpacking bag on my bag and over packed luggage, I eventually dragged my things over the cobblestone roads to Kaarsenmakersstraat 85 (it means candle maker street!) As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the layout of the city absolutely baffles me. Unlike most cities based on grids, Leiden follows the canals that twist and turn throughout it.

            At Kaarsenmakersstraat or K-straat, the dorm is nestled between a canal (obviously) and across the street from a nursing home still in the city center. I have a huge single that I have been plastering the walls with anything I can find (recent addition was an old South Africa calendar) and a huge window that overlooks a lovely courtyard that the caretaker lives in with his wife, a rooster, a giant rabbit, and various other animals. The dorm is for internationals since finding housing is very difficult here. Although, Brandeis has about 10 students here too which is like a little taste of home.

With little time to settle in, orientation started the next day. It is a very different system here! Registration is an entirely different process depending on what faculty you are taking class in and I am in 4 different ones! They also had us attend a Dutch language class (impossible). Although Dutch is similar to English, they have rolling Rs, a “ch” sound similar to Hebrew, and overall sound like the language they speak in the Sims. Alas, as soon as I give someone an “Ihavenoideawhatyou’resaying” look they switch right over to English.

Microwaved gouda pizza bread...American contribution
Every night so far seems to be a different reason to head to one of Leiden’s Heineken themed bars. The only night the bar was packed with just Americans was for Superbowl Sunday. One of my favorite events so far was the international dinner that my dorm held. The foods from around the world were incredible!! Fish and chips, crepes, omelets, risotto, gnocchi, it was heavenly—with the exception of the American contributions that included pizza bagels (my contribution and even sadder since they had to be microwaved because the Dutch aren’t big on ovens), PB and J, Coca-Cola, and even McDonalds. Dutch cuisine has something to be desired as well, although the city’s markets are enormous and have no shortage of warm stroopwafels, fresh produce, and TONS OF CHEESE. You can never go wrong with cheese and bread here for any meal.

Me and Maxima
Each day has been a new adventure especially now that I have my own bike (I named her Maxima in honor of the new Queen who will be taking Queen Beatrix’s spot when she steps down on Queen’s Day). Getting lost each time I’ve discovered the city’s old fortress, paved roads outside the city, and neighborhoods of houseboats (this country is ready for global warming). Hopefully, I will start to get the hang of the city and avoid crashing into any other bikers or pedestrians (cars are few and far between). Things on the agenda for next week include heading to Southern Holland for Carnaval or Mardi Gras, testing out a “coffeeshop,” and surviving my one day of back to back classes across the city. Tot Ziens! (see you later!)

Love and cheese,
Sharon Bort

They LOVEEEE Obama here

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