Note: Once again this was written about 2 weeks ago but I want you to be up to date and get all the history … in other words the full story!
So here’s my first blog entry from the Netherlands, I hope you guys enjoy it.
I have been in the Netherlands for over 4 days now and I can’t believe how happy I am. Aside from a few minor stresses like finalising my visa and wanting to get into a routine as soon as possible I could not be happier. In the past four days I have left a support network that has taken me 20 years to build and it feels as if I already have another support network on the other side of the world.
The Shocks in the first 24 hrs
The first thing that shocked me was how hot and humid it was when I arrived. I am kicking myself because I was so close to throwing in some denim shorts and thongs into my bag but decided not to!! Seriously who thinks that coming from Australia to Holland the weather is going to be hot? Touring the city yesterday with everyone was damaging for my Aussie pride because I had to admit the weather in Europe was hot. That said I didn’t need to slap on layer upon layer of sunscreen to prevent sunburn like many of the Europeans!
Once I had got off the train from Schiphol airport to Utrecht central station I had met an Irish guy who needed to go to the same accommodation as me so the two of us shared a cab and I was shocked to see a line of Mercedes and BMWs– FOR TAXIS!!!! Also crossing the road was …. Scary is an understatement. For a start they drive on the opposite side of the road and add to that not only 2 lanes of cars but 2 lanes of bikes too… it wasn’t easy for a jetlagged Hannah! My next observation was ‘Wow I don’t feel like a giant here’- the Dutch are very tall. Having only ever been to Italy (as another European country) I expected the driving habits to be much like those in Rome…. Thankfully (no offence to Italian readers) the driving is very ordered and relaxed (at least from a pedestrian/passenger’s perspective).
Getting a new support network…
The New Family
My room mates are really lovely people it’s like we have already created our own big family. We are all so different and it appears that joking about a person’s stereotypes applies to all cultures. I am living with 3 Dutch guys, 1 Belgian guy (who had a good laugh at me for not being able to say his name correctly, after about half an our of him tutoring me how to I can now say Marik successfully with the French -Belgian accent!) 1 Chilean guy (who last night along with the Spanish girl and guy I live with were teaching me how to dance) 1 girl from Denmark who I get along very well with and a girl from China who if you were to look up the definition of ‘sweet’ in the dictionary I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a picture of Sunny there!
The New Friends
I made friends yesterday on the tour of Utrecht run by ESN (the international student association). There was a girl from Finland called Jenna who was very interesting to talk to. I met a guy from New York who was kind enough to help me ‘get back on the bike’ literally I think it must be at least 5 years since I have ridden a bike and now that I am back on one I never want to get off it again. There is something about riding a bike that takes me back to being a child and having your first taste of freedom. So here I am riding home from Utrecht to Zeist with my new bike and sporting the cheesiest grin you could ever see on a fully grown adult. Speaking of cheese… wow the Dutch sure know how to make it! Honestly I have been too busy and exited to be eating much but me being the person I am have made time to try some cheese. I’ve made friends with a guy from Denmark and we went for a nice jog yesterday morning. That was a strange experience because the weather was warm yet it was foggy, a climate I am not used to at all. Also we ran for 35 minutes and we had gone through farm land, city/town and forest type terrain. All in all I’ve met too many new friends to mention them all but I can tell already 4 days in it is going to be hard to leave this place.
Sharing the experience with my Aussie buddy Dale
On my first day in Zeist after a 35 hour flight other than sleep what I really wanted was to go shopping buy some fresh ingredients and cook myself a proper meal so I trekked down to my local supermarket delirious and jetlagged and it happened again… Dale and I bumped into each other. So we completed our first grocery shop together, which was very fun. Everything was in Dutch so there we are walking around the supermarket laughing uncontrollably about the 0% vet melk (o% fat milk) saying the Dutch words with I am sure AWEFUL pronunciation. We were convinced that there was some formula for shopping that all the Dutch innately knew but nobody had told us ‘this formula’, as we tried to decipher the shampoo from the conditioner to the body wash. The next day Dale and I bumped into each other again ( I believe we bump into each other so easily in massive crowds because I’m a giant and he has red hair so we can’t really miss each other) this time it was at the international students’ orientation day. Our first realisation was that most people in Holland are very tall and very attractive, so once the pain of our low self esteem had numbed a little we went for a stroll around De Uithof campus and it truly is a strange place. For a start as you’re walking around the campus you can hear about 20 different languages being spoken and secondly the campus itself is like a mini city so it is busy with buses, bikes, people and cars yet the ‘city’ is surrounded by farm land so you can smell the country (i.e. cows and cow poo) while you’re there.
Just a little more to add…
I have booked 9 Dutch classes starting on the 20th of September in the hope I can learn enough to get through everyday situations like shopping. If I have time I will book Dutch level 2 after I have completed that course. Tomorrow I am going to my first Muay Thai class which I am very nervous about partly because I don’t know how different the class will be and partly because I think I may get lost on bike on the way there, time will tell.
That’s all for now folks.