Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From Holland with Love

            I haven’t traveled quite as much the past week or so as I gear up for my upcoming adventures, but I am finally mastering Leiden. Classes are going smoothly and there were no bike crashes this week on my mad Thursday dash. I am amazed though at how much Dutch students know about every detail of American politics. There were quite a few laughs when discussing the Republican primary candidates in my Decision Making class. I clearly still have quite a bit to learn about the Dutch government.  I have also made it to two awesome museums in Leiden. The first is called the Naturalis, full of fossils, dinosaur bones, preserved plants and animals from around the world, and an exhibit on Herman the Bull (the most controversial cow in Holland because he received human hormones). The other museum was the Museum of Ethnology or Museum Volkenkunde. Each room held different parts of the world including South America, North America, Asia, and many others. My favorite parts were the special exhibits, one containing a few of the terracotta soldiers from the buried army in China and the other on totem poles. 

At the Naturalis Museum
BIRDS! At the Naturalis
Totem Pole at Ethnology Museum
Terracotta Soldiers from China at Ethnology Museum

            Since the weather has been so beautiful, I have been able to bike more (I accidentally stumbled upon one of the Heineken breweries—you can smell the beer in the air!). I have managed to find a few thrift stores and second hand shops, which is particularly important since I often think I am getting a good price for something… until I convert Euros to dollars! I was able to find my self a lovely basket and attach it to my bike with a fake sunflower and some zip ties (any small details are important when you’re trying to track down your bike in a packed parking garage). When the sun shines in Leiden, it’s like a different place! Everyone takes their coffee and meals outside and the canals are absolutely radiant. I was able to take my friend Nancy and her companions (they're studying abroad in Montpellier, France) through the city to see the Saturday market, Leiden’s fortress, and taste warm stroopwafels. 
Almost Spring in Leiden


             Beyond Leiden, I made my way back to Amsterdam. My friends and I avoided the super touristy areas and headed for the outskirts where the museums are. Unfortunately, we did not make it inside the museums due to poor timing but we are able to have quite the photo-op at the iconic “IAMsterdam” monument before having an amazing Thai dinner. That evening I saw Two Door Cinema Club (they’re an Irish band) at the Heineken Music Hall. Heineken is basically the equivalent to Budweiser in the US. After the concert, some Dutch students invited us to go out with them to the Leidesplein in Amsterdam where many great bars and clubs are located. Overall, take two in Amsterdam was much more successful and I am excited to see more of it, although I am still glad I chose to study in my cozy Leiden. As I mentioned in my other post, the student associations are still quite an oddity to me though. This week I visited Minerva. This is the oldest association (founded in 1814) and second largest (although they claim to be the largest since it’s quality that counts). They have a reputation for elitism, men and women can't talk to each other before midnight, and the men love to slick back their hair with loads of gel (ew). Yet again, I couldn’t be happier that Clark avoids the exclusivity of these groups.
Two Door Cinema Concert
With Megan and Danean!

I'm curled up in the d!

             My most recent adventure was to Rotterdam, the biggest port city in the Netherlands and known for being one of the most diverse cities in the country. We saw huge ships and admired the modernity of the city. Unlike other historic looking cities like Amsterdam and its leaning buildings, Rotterdam has impressive skyscrapers and bridges. We did our fair share of shopping too (more reasons I need to master converting euros to dollars), but I am excited to be armed in “European fashion,” ha!
Welkom to Rotterdam!

Rotterdam train station

Rotterdam with Megan and Danean in front of Erasmus Bridge

            Get excited readers, the rest of March will be quite a trip! Friday I leave for Barcelona followed by Ireland from Belfast to Cork for St. Patrick’s Day and finally Paris! Before all of that, I take on the Dutch healthcare system to treat my infected eye, oy vey.

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