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3 posts from December 2011

12/09/2011

Soaking it all up

Now that my parents’ arrival date is exactly two weeks away, I’m scrambling to re-live all of my favorite things in Amsterdam. Of course I’ll still be here for a few days once they get here and I need to show them around so it’s not “goodbye” quite yet.

Last Wednesday was my last day of volunteering at J.P. Coenschool. I learned a lot helping out those kids. Much more than I thought when I went for the first time. They taught me how everyone has their own views that are affected by their environment, but everyone also has an innate base to be able to relate to another person. Some of the kids even told me I was their favorite teacher, and that was a self-esteem booster. (See picture)

Jeremy school

This past weekend, most of my close friends were gone traveling to either London or somewhere else so I had the whole weekend to myself. I re-visited some of the places I’ve been meaning to go back to like De Pizza Bakkers, Happy Corner, and De Beste Doner. I skated for the first time in awhile which helped clear my head and made me feel like I wasn’t wasting away all weekend long. As you can see in the pictures, I decided to make some homemade burritos with the ingredients available at the Albert Heijn. At least in tamed the beast until I can get some real Mexican food back home.

Monday was Sinterklaas’s birthday and we celebrated in the CIEE office and afterwards we celebrated with a group of my close friends here. The CIEE office celebration was cool because they had all of the traditional Dutch sweets and my CIEE teacher, Bonny, dressed up as Sinterklaas (which, if you are unfamiliar with Sinterklaas, kind of looks like Santa and the Pope had a Dutch saint as a love child). The story of Sinterklaas is this:

He was born in Turkey so long ago he can’t remember. Now he rides his steamboat from Spain (impossible) with his white horse Americo and his helpers Zwarte Pieten (literally, Black Petes). Yeah he has little black helpers…

Anyways, after the CIEE celebration my friends had a little Sinterklaas game planned and we drank and enjoyed each other’s company. There were some great gifts in the pile, and we all, no doubt, had a blast.

So far this week, I’ve been mainly trying to get all of my exercises and summaries and anything else together since my classes are wrapping up pretty soon. I finished up my last actual assignment to turn in today and now all that leaves are the finals. They shouldn’t be too difficult and the timing is pretty good too because I’ll be all done by the time my parents get here.

It’s really starting to feel like the semester is coming to a close. Especially because the weather is nearly driving me crazy. (I’ve included a picture of the only nice day that hasn’t hailed in the past week or so.) Everyone is getting things back home settled so it’s starting to become a reality that, yes, you do actually have to go home after this. Personally, I’m ready to go home right after traveling with my family. I am definitely going to miss the fun times I’ve had here, the great people I’ve met, and this place I’ve been living in for the past four months. However, I can also say I’ve learned a lot of the things I wanted to learn since I’ve been over here and I’ve grown up a little. Plus, I can’t wait to get home and see everyone again!

Miss you all! See you very soon! [countdown is at 28 days]

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.

 

I <3 Belgium

I love Belgium.  No doubt about it.  It's my second time there, and after spending 2 days in Brugge (at the end of October), 2 days in Antwerp, and 3 days in Brussels, I must say it suits me. The land of chocolate, beer, waffles, and EU bureaucrats, I'd say all my personal interests are covered there.  So that is why I love it, and that's why I spent a half week there.  There is simply too much to write about, as I am a pretty efficient and no-holds-barred traveler, I get places, and see stuff.  So I'll just pick some of my favorite pics and explain.  First we'll start with Brussels, then I'll move on to Antwerp.

Pic number 1 is the Arc de Triomphie or Triomfboog depending on whether you're Walloon or Flemish.  (Belgium is actually physically and politically divided into the Vlaamsche speaking north and the French speaking south; everything in Brussels.  EVERYTHING is in 2 languages, streets, road signs, chocolate names, EVERYTHING).  TheTriomfboog is a massive, overly sized structure that you see from the end of Wetstraat. You see the green statues on top, and the shiny gold medallion from well over 2 kms away.  Its quite cool because to get there, you have to walk through the entire EU superstructure--Council, Commission, Regions--and the eclectic robustness of all the buildings, they really evoke that Schumanplein is the center of Europe.  The buildings are all glass, all massive, and invoke the sense of "So,  this is the place that runs a continent?"  Behind the Arc is Autoworld, with a special Volkswagen exhibit, and a National Belgian Military museum.  

Picture

The next one is unique to Het Schelde Dal and one can only truly get it in Brussels.  Its call Gueuze, Lambic, en Kriek.  It's a "spontaneously fermented" beer that tastes like a mix between wine and beer.  After some processing, it sits in a tub, where natural yeasts blow in from the countryside, ferment the mixture, and produce probably the most interesting beverage.  At Cantillon, its the last place in the world that brews it to the real process---and takes up to at least 3 years to produce one cask of Lambic. When in Brussels, you have to drink Brussels.  The last picture there was the by far the most interesting, intimidating, and awe-inspiring structures I have ever seen.  It is the Paleis van Justitie and has more space in it than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and is built where they used to hang people.  It was started in 1866, and well, it still ain't finished.  To say how awesome and mind-boggling this is is an understatement.  You see it no matter where you're at, with that gold cap always telling you that justice is there.

Picture

You feel miniscule, and King Leopold's structure does quite that.  All I can say here is that the eventual building killed its creator, as the architect who designed the place eventually went insane and committed suicide.  I would never want to have to go there other than for tourist related activities, and found myself weirdly drawn to the building.  I think it's just my Pitt-fixation with anything stone and tall!  I must explain that, as a side because there's some space here, that the waffles and fries are awesome.  They do something special here, and just a plain, suiker wafel is just tremendously delicious.  There is a hint of maple syrup (but it's definitely NOT that).  Going and getting about 2 lbs of double fried potatoes smothered in Belgium mayo is an act of unhealthfulness that I can say I indulged in.  Was the cone of fries only 3 Euros? Yes; Was the cone the size of the Fiat's tire next to me? Yes; Did I see a paradox as I walked through the park eating my fries as kids did PE class next to me? Yes; But boy was I happy.

Picture

I love pulpits.  I have not been in a kerk yet in Europe where the pulpit wasn't completely unreal.  But the gothic themed St. GoedeleKathedraal was fantastic.  The pulpit had a battle between heaven and hell, some random farm animals on the bottom, and a carved dark cherry stair case that mimicked climbing ivy and leaves.  This one takes the cake though, because not only is it an entire story in one wooden masterpiece, but it was built on ancient Roman ruins.  Also, this kerk was full of dead saints.  Tooth here, skull fragment there, even though a lot were taken back from the Crusades, and a lot of blood and gore were flooding the streets of Palestine at that time, its neat to see it even if its some random guy's dead skin tissue in that golden tabernacle outlined in diamonds.  
Next pic is Grotemarkt.  It's Brussel's main civic square.  And, as you can see, was just getting ready for Christmas.  All the surrounding buildings are glittered with gold statues and ecclesiastical statues, and is one main destination for all of one's mains trysts.  It is really nice to actually be able to guide by monuments in Brussels.  Because there are these things called "hills" (heuvels)you can navigate without having to memorize concentric streets and grachten. The occasional visual is wondeful. Lastly, I must discuss my favorite let-down.  The Manneken Pis. It is truly the one reason why people come to Brussels, and people flock to it like crazy.  It is simply this, a small "cherub" looking figure who is urinating(What's the big deal? In Belgium there's an open bottle law, so public drunkenness is tolerated, and I saw many a people urinating in places that I could clearly see everything happening).  The entire statue would fit into a shoe box, and Asian people love it.  Luckily I was there to see him in a sombrero looking outfit, which made it kind of more enjoyable.  All I can say is that there is a bar right by there that has the same figure, only inside with really great beer (De Poechenellekelder).  Below are a few extra Brussel's pics, like before, too much to say, but a few pics can sum it up.

 

 

 

If Brussels is the place to work, then Antwerp is the place to reside.  I personally find Antwerp to be perfect.  It's not French-itized like Brussels, is solidly Belgian, and is old, a little less old, and really old in some respects.  Once the financial capital of the world, it is now simply the diamond capital of the world.  And if I had to choose, it would be my home.  Brussels is too modern, Brugge too tiny and too far removed.  But here are some sites I hope to see again.
My favorite gothic/Art Noveau building this point in my life is Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal. It's tall, pointy, and the outside is just plastered with all sorts of statues, skulls, and neat columns.  The thing is the tallest building around, and besides having a really nice open space in front, has Henry Consciousplein right behind it (pic 3).  It has this nice green tree that opens up into a sandstone style Spanish courtyard.  It is a great place to trot through and listen to the guy on the guitar playing for beer money (last time I was there I watched him wrap up the night, then enter the bar right next door).  Then there is Het Steen with its castlely figure.  It is techically my second adventure around a castle in Europe, and it's always exhilarating to come up from it to see the big river on the other side.  Pic 6 there is of Het Schilderstraat, or where they used to exclusively paint ships (hence the boat jutting out of the side of someone's house).  It was so quiet on the Sunday we were there.  Everyone was taking it easy, and with tourist season for Northern Europe finished, a leisurely stroll was all that was needed (besides the brisk jog to catch our train, which we caught with no more than 4 seconds to spare).

Picture

Of course, a trip to Antwerp would not be complete if you didn't go to't Elfde Gebod, an ecclesiastically themed restaurant where you eat next to the Virgin Mary and sip your Koninck next to St. Peter.  With a completely ivied exterior, literally  15 feet from Vrouwekathedraaland great Abdij brews on tap, you feel very medieval.  The city is nothing but the 1300s all over again, and if the city looked as it did then (I would imagine the cement and stop lights are about all that have been added) I wouldn't of minded much.  Of course I would of only lived to be about 35, but eh, enjoy life while you got it right? I mean the plague wasn't that bad......So I will say that I've been to the BENE of BENELUX (with LUX to come, I got to go for the trifecta at this point).  And those two countries couldn't be better for me.

 

 

Name: AaronAaron 

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

 

paris!

My trip to Paris was fun and brought back a lot of memories. Memories of high school when I went to Paris and throughout France with my friends and Mr. and Mrs. Holmes. It brought back memories of USC and some fun times I had at the lofts with my buddies. And lastly, it brought back memories of who I was compared to who I am now; it made me think about what I’ve done in life so far. Enough of that introspective analysis, onto the daily breakdown of days leading up to Paris, my time in Paris, and up till now:

Wednesday: Last Wednesday I had an exam in my comm science class. I am sure I did well. Weird way of taking tests though – they put us in a huge warehouse-type room and watch us all silently. Some old guy even moved my hat away from me as if I had written a secret code in the hat. After the exam, Nichole, Denise and I met up with my friend Adam from USC. We hung out in Leidseplein and then I went to Paradiso after.

Thursday: Thanksgiving! I stuffed myself even though there wasn’t any stuffing. Well supposedly there was, but the stuffing I’m used to doesn’t resemble Spam. The dinner was great, though. It took place at an old fort in Nieuwmarkt in the area I guess they use for large parties who rent it out. I’d been using that building as a landmark for the majority of my time here, so it was cool to eat inside of it. When I came back from the CIEE Thanksgiving dinner, I was greeted by my close friends in my kitchen for a second serving of Thanksgiving. (Thanks Alli, the pumpkin pie bars and mashed potatoes were delicious!) All in all, a pretty good Thanksgiving for my first one away from home.

Friday – Sunday: I left for Paris in the morning and when we arrived, Pete and I met up with Manon. She took us all around Paris and by the end of the weekend we’d seen most everything someone would want to see in Paris. The Notre Dame, drinking wine on the Seine, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, drinking champagne under the Eiffel Tower at midnight when it sparkles, Champs Elysees, a Christmas Market, etc. So I would say we did all of the touristy things. However, thanks to Manon, we also got to see the Paris only Parisians get to see. Manon took us to the park and we ate camembert and french bread, she took us to the best falafel place in Paris, she took us to her favorite pastries store and chocolate store, and most importantly she taught us to use the metro.

Jeremy Paris

* A notable story to tell is that on the last night, we all were at the Christmas market and met some guys in the US Navy. They were pretty cool and we all went out to a bar and hung out and laughed for hours. Talking with them put something into perspective for me. It made me realize how lucky I am to be doing this semester in Europe on my own accord (thanks Mom and Dad), but it also taught me that it’s not the only way to see the world.

Jeremy paris 2

Anyways, it turned out to be a really great trip. We got home late Sunday night so I just went straight to bed.

Monday & Tuesday: I had a to-do list, but I ended up not getting too much of it done. I instead took advantage of the time I’ve had with the internet since my internet has been really crappy the past week and a half or so. Pete and I watched How I Met Your Mother for hours and Kevin and I watched Weeds for hours (Both great shows btw).

Wednesday: Today I’m about to go to my very last volunteering day at JP Coenschool. I’ll be sure to take some pictures of the last day so I have proof I’ve actually been helping little kids with their English language skills.

I’m really getting homesick at this point, but I’m also trying to appreciate every last moment I have here in Amsterdam. It’s hard knowing that a lot of the people you’ve become so close to, though, may never be in your life again. I really want to make sure that doesn’t happen with some people, but for others it’s inevitable that I’ll never see them again. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with that because I don’t want to invest too much in them if that’s the case, but I also don’t want to have already seen them for the last time. In my own opinion, there’s only one sure thing I can do and that is enjoy myself while I’m still here and still with these people. My philosophy is that there is no reason to not enjoy every situation you find yourself in. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do (and have been doing).

I miss you Mom, Dad, and Snee! And Aaroneill, Jakeneill, Con Con, and Poagey. And Peter and Joe and Kevin Wee. And everybody! I hope you all have a good rest of the semester and a good holiday season. It’s been weird not being with everyone during these times in the year when I usually get to see everyone, but I know what to expect when I get home and I’m looking forward to it. Love you family and talk to you soon!

- Jeremy

 

Jeremy amstelveen

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.