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6 posts from October 2011

10/25/2011

Nederlandse boer... voor een weekend

 

Nothing says good morning at 7:30am on a Saturday like the prospects of going to a farm.  This past weekend that is precisely what I did---dug into my genes and pulled out the dirt-lover inside of me and headed to Meppel for an excellent weekend at Het Blauwe Huis met Henk en Jan Kees.

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Of course it rained.  It wouldn't of been a true Holland experience without the ever-falling liquid from the sky.  But, it really did add to the experience on the spice/herb farm.  Upon arrival it was work time and it felt good to get the hand dirty again after a summer of no gardening.  I helped to re-pot, pot, and cover plants for the weekend.  Also, I helped move some plants around for the coming chilly season, and can say I took a little part in helping out quite a unique farm in Northern Netherlands.  Oregano inBerghuizen? Who would of ever of thought it. Luckily I got to work with a local village girl, and we had quite the rousing conversation ranging from our distaste of listening to German, to the ever-prevalent Geert Wilders, to the possibility of me introducing "slakken" into the US. I thought it was real neat to be able to meet and converse with a local girl and to see how a slightly younger age group grows up in Northern Netherlands.I must say I am eternally grateful for Henk and Jan Kees allowing me to see the farm.  They allow curious souls to venture out and experience their work, and I was both enlightened and had some curiosity fed during that weekend that I'll will be ingrained into my memory.  Luckily though, working out on the farm was only the beginning.....

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One of my goals here was to get into a Dutch Birthday Party. I've heard many-a-things about them, and I finally got to participate.  Let me put them into perspective: pompoen soep, bacon-thyme-brie-honey pancakes, and a glass of a Northern Dutch liquid calledBerenburg on the side.  If one ever has the chance to experience this, please take it, you won't be let down.  The family was a very close with Henk and Jan Kees, and very open to me.  The fascination feeling was mutual.  With quite a swath of ages, I had an entire spectrum of conversations, everything from about Pittsburgh, to my current relationship status, and to the finer points of Amaretto.  When it was time to leave, it was quite hard for me to get out, they didn't want me to go by any stretch of the imagination.  Food, drinks, and bedrooms were offered, but I eventually said by goodbyes and left with a smile on my face.  The big question was whether I was ever going to come back, and after the royal-hospitality and wonderfulness of the entire family I'm glad my Block 2 frees up!

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After sleeping in a barn full of spices (which puts one out like a nice NyQuil) it was Day 2.  We had the ritual Sunday morning walk throughout the surrounding area with Henk and Jan Kees' dog Worteland I got an interesting lecture on the Ice-Age geography and ice-skating friendly lakes that dot the landscape. After the morning walk I went out to see their horses, which are a smaller, Dutchie form of a Clydesdale.  Powerful, yet for the most part very personable horses that can be ridden (like the one on the left here).  After seeing (and getting bitten once by a little guy) it was off to see the local villages.

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Naar Giethoorn! Known as the "Little Venice of the North" because of its ample canals, it truly was Amsterdam-rural.  Everyone has a boat, and some homes are only accessible via waterway.  Talk about total isolation! On my way here, I believe in Zwartsluis I found my retirement place.  A little village with reed-roofed homes facing open pastures one way and the little busy center in the middle.  Everything symmetrical and old, it felt like a fairy tale, and definitely great for those who want to GET AWAY.  And one even has a choice, straight and narrow villages, or the circular, contained ones, your choice...what type of dirt and historical farming are you feeling?  Decisions..Decisions.....Retirement plans aside, in Giethoorn me and Jan Kees saw the little canals of the town, and the hilariously high and narrow bridges that lead to everyone's home.  Also, which was of astute interest was to see the reeds that are on people's homes.  It literally looks as though someone took a marsh and dumped it on top of people's houses.  Well, as with anything that happens in the culture, they've made an effective use of their surroundings.  
The reeds are actually harvested, processed, and made into a "poor man's" roof.  When water quality was at its finest they would stay waterproof and unrotten for up to 40 years.  Also, the land surrounding the harvesting area is literally "floating" on top of the water due to the natural movement of dirt, debris, and plants, so its not exactly an easy thing to get together.  After a wonderful tour of the "Venice of the North" it was time to head back, through the rain and lachenvelder filled fields to Het Blauwe Huis.

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Who knew that a rainy weekend on a farm could be such a grand time.  And only a 2 hour trip from Amsterdam and one is completely in an entire different place.  Instead of people, cars, and buildings its all cows, tractors, and the inability to move on Sundays (religion is still HUGE up here).  I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself and on thespoor in Meppel I truly felt that I had an experience that will be with me forever.  I am grateful for the weekend that I was offered, and hopefully the next time I go back won't be for my search for a retirement home.

 

Name: AaronAaronCIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Pittsburg

All pictures by Aaron. Read more of Aarons blog at http://anorangeexcursion.weebly.com/de-blog.html

 

10/24/2011

Gotta work hard to play hard

I know it’s been over a week since my last post, but I’ve been keeping myself busy studying. I had one final (yes final, if you can believe it) on Monday, I have a midterm today at 5 pm, and I have a midterm tomorrow. So, yeah, I’ve got quite a work load at the moment. I needed a break though so here I am with the weekly report:

Wednesday (a week ago) – I volunteered at J.P. Coenschool in the afternoon. It was the best time so far, and when we left the kids told us they wanted us to come back every Wednesday. Probably because we brought cookies instead of “forbidden cakes.” I won’t make that mistake twice. Then I had class. Then we had a “family” dinner on F floor with my buddy Adam’s dad and sister who were in town. Adam made a really bomb stir fry. Then we all celebrated with a fun night out to Paradiso, an old church that has been turned into a nightclub. Paradiso is probably my favorite nightclub in Amsterdam, or anywhere for that matter because the atmosphere is really unique. Plus the music is good.

Thursday – I had class, but one less class than I usually have on Thursdays on account of my midterm being this week. With the extra time, I jumped at the opportunity to do just about anything. Kez invited me to a dinner at a squat so I agreed to go. [For those that don't know what I'm talking about, a squat is a building where "squatters" kind of take over and, if they can make a productive business or shelter out of it, the city allows them to stay. They're literally squatting like gold miners.] The only downside to the squat, since it only cost 3 Euro for the whole dinner, was the fact that it was a vegan dinner. I don’t really like dinners that lack meat, but I gave it a try. Not too bad minus the grayish or greenish color of most of the dishes. Then I finished the day celebrating Lily’s birthday in Nieuwmarkt (Lily is a girl in my CIEE program and Nieuwmarkt is a square with an old fort and lots of cool cafés).

FridayCarnival – No class so I rested most of the day and went on a bike ride since it was a beautiful, sunny day. Later, Pete and I went out for dinner to the cheapest (but also the nicest) Argentinian steak place we could find in the Red Light District to celebrate the good news he received from the travel insurance company. After that, we met up with some friends at home and went out to a carnival that was happening in the middle of Dam Square (see pictures). That was a cool experience, and we went on a spinning ride that was so tall you could see all of Amsterdam when you were at the top. I also shot some arrows at a carnival game booth, and then we went home to call it a night.

Saturday - I went with some of my friends to “Occupy Amsterdam” which is supposed to be like “Occupy Wall Street.” It was…interesting. Nobody really knew what they were protesting. Greed? That’s not really something you can protest, it’s human nature. But alright. Then we all went to the Brouwerij ‘t Ij, the windmill brewery. I invited my friends from different groups and they all came together and we had a good time. 

Sunday – Pete, Matteo, Enrico (Matteo’s friend from home), and I went to the Amsterdamse Bos. It’s a huge forest in the south of Amsterdam that is bigger than all of the parks combined and then some. We’ve been wanting to go and we were waiting for a nice, sunny day. This week blessed us with many of those. Thank you! After the forest, we had “family dinner” on my floor which was Adam’s (“Opps” a.k.a. “Beaver Daddy”[it's really not what you think]) famous chili. He used a secret ingredient (Ok, it was tuna. Now it’s not a secret.) and it really was one of the best chili recipes I’ve ever tasted.

Monday – Dutch Culture final

Tuesday – Picked up my residence permit. Had a meeting with CIEE about midterms. And studied.

Today – I have a midterm in about 4 hours. Better get back to studying. Especially because when I get back from that midterm I get to study for another that’s tomorrow. Yippee…

Anyways, I’m still having a great time over here regardless of the sudden work load. It actually hailed today which is crazy to me. Also, my plans for later this week can get me through the rough times. Amsterdam Dance Event is this week and weekend, and I am going to see Fedde Le Grand (again), Calvin Harris, and Betatraxx. Pretty good motivation to get through these tests.

Miss you friends! Don’t worry you haven’t been forgotten. If I haven’t Skyped with you yet, know that I’m still telling stories about stuff we’ve done to my new friends over here. I’m also missing L.A. and CA a lot lately.

Love you family! I love talking with you on Skype. Good luck with Halloween and all that comes with it. Go Sneery! Stee loves! Talk to you soon.

JeremyName: Jeremy
CIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Southern California, USC

All pictures by Jeremy. Read more of Jeremy's blog at http://abroadinamsterdam.com.

 

wooden shoes, fascinated japanese and raw eel

Now that almost 2 complete weeks of cloudless, warm, and glorious weather, it has come to an end.  I felt the heavens come upon me this eve, and the beautiful, gay weather has moved on.  But, within that time span, I covered countless kilometers, saw many windmills, and yes, shared the experience of klompen maken with Japanese tourists.
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Zaandam, a small, green (literally everything, even the grocery store was dressed up in its historical green) and gorgeous town lays right north on the Amstel River.  Me and a good Spanish friend took the almost hour and a half trip north by bike to Zaanse Schans to see some good ol' fashioned Molen.  With liquid blue sky, crystal clear water, and a seemingly endless entourage of Japanese tourists, the day couldn't get much better.  Not too mention the cheese tastery, which I sampled heartedly, and the cleanliness of air made for a perfect time.  It's good for one to get out of the congestion of Amsterdam to get some fresh air and some open road.
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I am a big fan of wood working, I've made it all, pool table, fusball table, toilet paper holder, staggered rustic frontier planter, but never footwear.  It is a process that takes under 5 minutes, all starting with a hand split block of wood, put into machines to be shaped and sanded down, then a little hand shaving at the end and "voila" you have yourself some traditional Dutch tree-footwear.  But, me and my friend didn't even catch the demonstration, but knew something was up when we heard "ooooh" and "awhaaaaa" from a crowd of no less than 40 Japanese tourists.  Simply mystified. That's all I have to say about that.  After seeing how Holland's famous footwear was made, it was time to head back, and after a few Aaron twists and turns (who says a straight line is the fastest way home? Using signs? I frown upon that!) we ended the day with some stroopwafel ijs at Metropolitan Deli on Warmoestraat. Very good day, well over 45kms biked, and wij hebben veel klompen gezein. 
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My biking adventures were well from over.  After an interesting interview with an ex-prostitute (for a research paper of course) and probably the best Bokbier that I will ever have (Texel Brouwerij) it was off to the fishing town of Volendam. I went with my homestay and her son, a fellow future political science phenom like myself with a taste for American politics (no thank you Remco, I'll stick with my frustratingly made IR).  The bike ride was literally on top of water most of the way.  Zee to the right, bedijkte water on the left, boats everywhere, it was straight out of the travel books.  Upon arrival inVolendam, a town known for its: a)fishing, b)singers, and c)welcoming of tourists, I can say I witnessed all three.  
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I needed to have some type of zeevruchten.  Needed something. So, after finding the perfect little vis stand I whipped out the Euros for a wonderful Eel sandwich.  Or, a paling broodje as they say inNederlands. It had a mellow fishy taste (much less than a Nieuwse haring) and had the consistency of Steak Em's.  A definite must if one is presented the opportunity.  But while eating, there were seaside pubs that blared traditional Netherlands tunes that ranged from Amsterdam's  Jordaan sector to fishing songs of the old yore.  Imagine a polka with Dutch, and you have the round-about idea.  Its okay in small doses of no less than 10 minutes and can cause severe brain damage if left unhindered for more than 30 minutes.  It was quite interesting though, as everyone in the bar seemed to be in their 20s.  Can anyone name me the last time they saw 20 year olds listening to gentrified polka music that their great-great grandfathers made up in a modern day bar?  Yea, only in Volendam. After the trip home, we had a nice Dutch meal of patat frites with my first encounter with a frikandel. Um....looks sausage like, with a pepper sort of rubbery texture....probably something the would never be able to make it through customs.  

Busy, busy. busy.  On top of this, lost my Kriek virginity from De Prael beer bar, along with an almond filled piece of gingerbread (gevulde speculass----zeer geweldig). And to top it off, to show why the Dutch are kings of the fryer, had a cherry filled concoction with real cherry sauce and double dipped in sugar.....W O W . A very good week, busy, but so many kms traveled and so many things seen. 

Name: Aaron
CIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Pittsburg

All pictures by Aaron. Read more of Aarons blog at http://anorangeexcursion.weebly.com/de-blog.html

 

Dutch Samples (Monsters van de Nederlands)

 

Well, sorry for the lack of Blog updates, but it has been quite the busy week.  National Bier Proeflokaal Weekend (beer tasting at De Prael---6 out of 6, the Willecke is awesome), volunteering at a mid-level school teaching kids English (me..around kids...), and not too mention one exciting weekend around medieval Holland!!
Well where to start, I say the tour of Zutphen, Deventer, and Kampen.  Small, medieval, and cities that say they could practically be in the same millenium as the death of Jesus.  First was Zutphen, the pictures above, it was in central-eastern Holland, and was a major site for trading and fighting, as seen by the huge wall that cut through the middle of the town.  We took a nice quite boat ride through their little stream/canal, and were almost decapitated many a times by low bridges.  The perfect retiree spot, assisted living homes dotted the landscapes as we sailed down a Dutch waterway that had houses with watery backyards....not too mention a neat city square with a cool market, intriguing brewery, and a massive cathedral. Next, to Deventer!!!
Deventer, unlike Zuthpen, was not demolished during WWII and kept many of its medieval buildings.  From the house of the Bishop of Utrecht circa 1100ish, to the main church with the founding well before 1000, to the hoome of the first and true Waalstraat Deventer was everything America is not----old.  Because we went on a relatively gorgeous and lazy Saturday, people were at the restaurants, at the market, or in their homes, one could really feel get the sense of blacksmiths pounding out swords, wagons carrying goods, and people dumping their personal sewage into the streets, (of course their 21st century!).  The image of the city, home of Erasmus, the biggest book market in Europe, and seriously rich off of Hanseatic traders early on is nicely blending the medieval importance of its roots with a very modern society (They had that therapy where those fish eat your dead skin off your feet---the is NEW AGE).  After Deventer, it was a short overnight stop at one very smelly, loud, and hip hostel, and to Kampen, a city situated right on the Ketelmeer and had its own type of ship, the Kogge, and with a surly seaman to narrate the story of his town, and his ship, it made for one hell of an experience.  All I can say is this, old guy with grizzled hands and a worn face who talks like he's choking on soup and starts his story with, "Now we must go back many years," yea, he was the town's designated story-teller, and if would of busted out a Stephen King novel I probably would of lost it.  The man topped the cake.

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(the black ship is Kogge) So, after this, the CIEE Americans came home, but all was not finished.  Because their was football to be had.  Me and a good friend, after partaking in some taste testing atDe Prael wondered into the Red Light District for some sights, sounds, and another spot.  Well, after many small alleys, scantly dressed females, and some guy asking me if I wanted "good stuff" (I cordially refused) we descended on a bar playing the Giants-Eagles game.  Got a Duvel and sat back, thought the beer was overpriced, it was well worth watching good ol' 'Merican football.  

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There is one event however, that I had, until yesterday, deferred until the perfect locale with the most perfect cuisine was researched and selected.  So, alas, my eerste pannekoeken belevenis happened.  Yes, I lost my Dutch Pancake Virginity.  The Pannekoeken Upstairsestablishment was the one to have the joy of treating me. Ascending the extremely steep steps (80 degrees at least) and into the squeezed a space no bigger than my apartments living room with the threat of falling pots was worth it.  Call it a, "trial of pancakes."  Luckily 5 of us went, and 5 of us got different things, so obviously we shared, and obviously it was all delicious.  Coconut, banana liquor, chocolate, cherries, cream, tomatoes, more bananas, cheese, and ham all celebrated this triumph of Dutch cuisine.  Yes, with the ability to put almost anything on them, they are a nice substitute for the ingredient laden and syrup covered pancakes of America.  A good weekend? I'd have to say een uitzonderlijk weekend full of traders, pancakes, water, and loads of colorful people and hostels.  Prachtig!!!

 

AaronName: Aaron
CIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Pittsburg

All pictures by Aaron. Read more of Aarons blog at http://anorangeexcursion.weebly.com/de-blog.html

 

10/05/2011

I like bike

 

Now, the "Green Lantern" (my bike) has done me well.  We triumphed over weather, bumps, and one partially flat tire, but alas, all is superb.  On Friday, since I have no class, I decided, "lets go for a bike ride." Its much easier to get out of "town" by going about 5 minutes south of de Pijp, in fact, you get right up alongside the Amstel and take one of the most gorgeous, relaxing rides one can take.  In fact, if I ever have lots of money, time, and the opportunity, I am moving here. This wonderful guy just pops out of nowhere when you round a corner:

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As you get past this house/windmill, you get nothing but green pastures, sheep, fishermen, and the delicate smell of well fed cattle.  Oh and mansion upon mansion upon mansion-farm.  The dijkor that thing which holds back the water (which, contrary to popular belief is not some 'wall' or brick structure, but are actually some strategically placed dirt mounds) is literally some homes front yards.  There is green everywhere, literally I cannot stress this enough, and I really felt that I had biked hours and hours to get to where I was, but I was not 3km from my apartment.  

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I think I am truly assimilated into A'dam culture.  I now frequently swear at blatant tourists, and have rung  my bike's bell more this week than I ever have.  For some reason, the past week was " de week van domme toeristen ." I mean, not everyone can ride a bike fairly well, but at least don't look idiotic during the process.  Anyways, my homestay mom recommended to head south, and luckily, once you get on the trail, its pretty much you, the road, and tons and tons of manure.  The farther one goes, the more rewards you get, and with my habit of going and going, making lefts and rights and lefts again until I am satisfactorily lost, has its benefits, a.k.a Ouderkerk. 

Ouderkerk is this quaint, truly Dutch village that makes one feel like you're in Holland.  Everything felt homey, and best of all, the coffee looked super cheap.  The people spoke slightly different from in Amsterdam, which seems to be the generic, English-bastardized version. These people are hardcore Dutch, and let me tell you, I wouldn't mind to join them.  What felt like forever to get there (mainly because I was thoroughly enjoying the ride there) took about 30mins.  So after perusing the small town of Ouderkerk and crossing one bridge about 5 times deciding what to do, I journeyed West to Amstelveen.

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This town is a modern, upscale, and 21st century town.  Skyscrapers, paved roads, and one enormous shopping plaza.  it is a very nice foil to the home city of A'dam.  Schipol Airport that hub of Europe, was a short 15 or so kms away, and Haarlem was only 35km, but alas, I had dinner waiting and a very quickly coming thunderstorm the looked quite ominous.  So, I found my way back quickly, still enjoying the wonderful way back, and decided that since this country is so compact, I'll have to fill up the Nalgene, pop in the Zune, pick a destination, and take some twists and turns to get there.

 

Name: Aaron
CIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Pittsburg

All pictures by Aaron. Read more of Aarons blog at http://anorangeexcursion.weebly.com/de-blog.html

10/03/2011

On "The Fringe"

September 17, 2011

To those who have never been to Amsterdam, it is seen as a city mainly built for partying and reckless decision-making. Although these preconceptions may hold a grain of truth, there is so much more to this city than meets the eye.

When I first arrived here, my senses were working overtime. I was surrounded by the historic buildings that line the city streets, the beautiful canals that cleverly bridge the different neighborhoods, the deep-fried delicacies being sold on every corner, and of course a subtle aroma that seems to calm everyone walking through the narrow alleyways. Despite the undeniable beauty of Amsterdam, I am most impressed with the people, the culture, and the way of life that the Dutch enjoy.

Amsterdam is a densely packed city with a rich cultural background and a thriving artistic community. One of my first cultural experiences here was attending a theatrical performance of “Incidents and Other Crimes” based on the Tales for Children by Daniil Charms. Thanks to CIEE, a group of about 10 international students were given the opportunity to attend this intimate performance through the “Fringe Festival”; a wide-variety of theatrical performances held in venues all throughout Holland. Coming from Los Angeles, California, I consider myself lucky to have seen so many different types of shows and events in my hometown. However, I had never seen a performance like this one.

The Plein Theatre is a small, unassuming venue in a relatively quiet neighborhood, located only 5 minutes away from my dorm by bike. It was a shock to realize that there was such an wonderful theatre so close to me. The group of 10 met there shortly before the performance to pick up our tickets and have a drink in the bar before the show. When the show started and filed into the performance hall, the first thing I noticed was how small it was. I knew this was going to be a unique experience because there was almost no separation between the performers and the audience.

Photo: INCIDENTS and other CHARMS - OLIFANTTAKEOVER TEATRO, from the Fringe website: www.amsterdamfringefestival.nl 

"Incidents and Other Crimes” consisted of only 3 performers; 2 actors that played multiple rolls throughout the performance and 1 DJ that set the mood with experimental electronic sounds and prerecorded narration. The whole performance was based on the surreal. It played with the audiences preconceptions of how a play is supposed to progress and left meaning up to personal interpretation. I left the play feeling a bit confused but also impressed by the performers free and playful artistic expression. I had never seen a play that was as raw and simplistic; yet as memorable as this.  

After seeing this performance through the Fringe Festival I feel like I have a stronger understanding of the culture of Amsterdam. It made me more intrigued by what was actually hiding behind the beautiful buildings that I pass by every day on my way to class. It is truly amazing to live in a place that is infamous for “Drunken nights on the town” while still being able to enjoy world-class artistic and cultural experiences.

 Pete Name: Pete Rosales
CIEE Amsterdam
Semester: Fall 2011
Homeschool: University of Southern California (USC)