Michael Nocella

Michael Nocella Terra Incognita

Taking on a class for the first time is like asking a beautiful girl out on a date. You always know what you want to say, but it comes out like mashed potatoes.

Michael Nocella (1988) studying chemistry at Illinois State University does undercover research in Dutch high schools. In three months he explores terra incognita using the NHL-University in Leeuwarden (NL) as his station. From the Chicago suburbs to the “rural” Frisian area, his study serves as an investigation of international student life. He takes a glimpse at (chemistry) teaching in high schools in the top of the Netherlands. Journals of personal exploration of wind mills, kroketten, stroopwafels and an inside view in Dutch family life. A pleasant report written in a vivid style showing opportunities of studies abroad.

Terra Incognita
From suburbs to Frisia

From suburbs to Frisia

Editing House Ter Verpoozing, Peize (NL) ISBN / EAN: 978-90-73064-06-5

Terra Incognita
From suburbs to Frisia Michael Nocella

Editing house: Ter Verpoozing ISBN: 978-90-73064-06-5 NUR 300 / 525 © M. K. Nocella first print 2009 Photo cover: M. K. Nocella Cover design: Myrthe Heuzinkveld Photo’s inside: Gerard Stout Print: NHL-University, Leeuwarden Financial support of NHL University of Applied Sciences www.nhl.nl & Financial support of the science department. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced without written permission of the editor and the author Michael Nocella mknocel@ilstu.edu

Omne ignotum pro magnifico est Tacitus

Dedicated to Gerard and Willy

Michael Nocella in front of the new NHL-University Campus.

1/02 Today I arrived at Schiphol, the airport in Amsterdam. This followed a long flight that seemed much shorter than seven hours. On my flight, there were eighty-six vacant seats. As luck would have it, the seat next to me was occupied. It was not suppose to be occupied, but a friendly Norwegian father of two decided it was a better seat than his original seat in the row in front of me. At the time, I was skeptical about this arrangement. However, it worked out nicely in the end. His name was Arne. We got acquainted during the first two hours of the flight. Throughout this time, I learned many of his interests and career aspirations. He spoke English well, having lived in Atlanta for many years due to his wife’s work. She was an accountant for a stroller company and he was a salesman. He has two children, an eighteen-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter. Before moving to Atlanta, he sailed his yacht nearly everywhere, only falling short of around the world. He had attacked the seas in and around Europe and has conquered the Atlantic. On his return adventure from the US to Norway, his eighteen-year-old son accompanied him. Someday he claimed that he would sail around the world via the Panama Canal. I certainly hope he does. Following our chat, we were served a light dinner and were provided with an evening movie before bed. We chose to watch Eagle Eye, a new film with Shia LaBeouf. Then we caught some shuteye for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the blinding lights rudely woke us up when it came time for breakfast. Thank goodness for their sake it calmed me to find out I was being fed. It wasn’t much, but it served its purpose. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the airport. There, Ciska and Kirsten picked me up. Ciska arrived just as I did because my plane arrived twenty minutes early. We enjoyed a drink at Starbucks while we waited for Kirsten to arrive by train. Once she did, we took off in Ciska’s car with Leeuwarden set as our destination. Our route took us North across the dammed in sea. However, the dammed in part has turned into “sweet” water as they call it (it now lacks salt water). The dike was so narrow that on our right we saw the lake and to our left we saw the ocean. When paired with the amount of windmills, it was quite the spectacle.
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When we arrived in Friesland, we went straight to the housing office where I received the key to my room and paid for two months of rent. Ouch, what a blow to my wallet it was. It depleted nearly half of my checking account. Next, we ate some lunch at a small café in town before touring the city. Leeuwarden seemed intimidating at first to navigate because everywhere the buildings look similar and there are always canals. However, eventually it will become second nature. Later on, Kirsten walked me to the supermarket where we picked up some dinner for her and Ciska to cook. It is the easiest place to get to, although it helps also that I can sniff out food from miles away. Dinner was relaxing at Ciska’s house, but I was tired and needed to get back to my room to unpack. Though it was late, my roommate had still not arrived and I was beginning to think I would not have one in my creepy torn down hotel looking room. Yet, right as I was turning off the lights to go to sleep, Wonil Park from Korea showed up at my doorstep. My roommate had at last arrived. He reminded me of a subtler version of my buddy Shin Lee from high school. Naturally, we hit it off well and have been enduring this vastly different environment together ever since. Despite the fact that I should have gone to sleep, I decided to go out with the rest of the international students that night. We went to a club with multiple levels and multiple bars. Just picture the strip in Vegas as a single bar. Yet, Wonil and I were tired though and wanted to socialize rather than get a headache from the loud music. Thus he, Katri (a friend we met from Finland), and I went to a quieter area and enjoyed each other’s company until one in the morning. Then we came back to Kanaalstraat (our area of residence) and collapsed in our beds.

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1/27 The late night plus a day of traveling had taken a terrible toll on our bodies, so Wonil and I started off our day at noon. After a shower, breakfast, and checking our emails, we quested our way over to the supermarket (Albert Heijn), which was the one that Kirsten had showed me the day before. It took us a while to navigate the store and find all or our necessities, but we did it. At four, we met up with other students planning on studying at the NHL and walked over to a plaza near the city center. We took a group picture and broke up into smaller groups. My group from the party the night before (Katri: Finland, Erdal and Ali: Turkey, Wonil: Korea, Pablo: Spain) and two newbies (Rossana: Italy and Bori: Hungary) assembled. Then we went on a picture scavenger hunt and had a blast. Our travel led us in a big circle throughout the city. During that time, Ali acted as our leader and Erdal became our video tour guide. For one picture, Erdal, Wonil, and Katri pretended to lick a statue of an ice cream cone. In another, I got up on a huge statue of a horse and pretended to ride it. Although I got a lot of weird looks from the locals, it was totally worth it. When we returned to the city center, cold and tired, we waited in a pub for the other groups to come back. Upon their arrival, we ventured to a pancake house that was on a boat in one of the canals. They specialized in almost every imaginable sort of pancake (even those filled with fish!). I got one with bacon and kaas. Unfortunately, I was split up from the group. They sat at the table next to mine, but I got to meet some Dutch and German students. They were Margerie, Andrew, and Laura. Margerie and I spoke a little German back and forth, but for the most part everyone conversed in English. Actually, I am hoping to help the members of my group or herd if you will (hopefully you all have seen the movie Ice Age and will understand) in learning more English words and phrases in order to help them expand their vocabulary. For the most part, they have seemed interested. This week is taking a toll on everyone so it will have to wait for now. In the meantime, Wonil is helping me make a list of helpful things to learn.

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1/28 Well after another late night, we began with another early morning. At ten, the ESN (Dutch student guides) picked us up at our residence and took us to Tesselschadestraat Campus. When we arrived, we were treated with Coffee and Tea, courtesy of the NHL staff (Note: this is not the National Hockey League). They then gave an introduction speech and had us participate in fun trivia game testing our knowledge of the Netherlands. Apparently their favorite people to joke about are the Belgians, not the Germans, and 45% of the country is below sea level. Upon finishing this, we watched a short video about the NHL. They definitely made our residence look a lot nicer than they really are. Then came lunch. It had an assortment of traditional Dutch food and some fruit. Then Melchior and Martha took us to Hempenserweg Campus (the main campus for education and communications majors). Shortly thereafter, we had a brief media center orientation and had to complete a web quest. At this point, having no idea where we were, we had to somehow get back to Kanaalstraat. Fortunately for Rossana, Ana, and myself, Katri knew the way back because she had spent so much time at Hempenserweg earlier yesterday getting her computer fixed. Along the way back, we stopped at a few stores in hopes of finding headphones with a microphone and a pillow for Rossana. This was also in addition to the necessities at Aldi needed for everyone else. People there must have thought there was something wrong with me because two days in a row I showed up with people that bought toilet paper. Once we got back, we grabbed a bite to eat and I finished my journals from the other two days. After my meal, Ali, Erdal, and Katri showed up at our room. I had told them earlier to come by if they wanted to play cards. I taught them ‘hearts’ and ‘texas hold em’. Hearts was very difficult to teach, as was poker, but everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. Of course, Won with his beginner’s luck, won all the games. However, we were limited on time because we had to go to a party with the other international students at seven fifteen. At seven thirty the ESN students picked us up and took us to a dance club. During the middle of the night and our
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time spent at the club, Won and I had to walk back Rany (a tiny innocent Korean girl). Originally, Won had planned to walk her home by himself, but thank goodness I did not let him go without me because her place was forty-five minutes away by walking. It also was not in the safest area of Leeuwarden by any means. Thankfully, though we got lost on the way there, we found our way back to the club quite easily. The dance floor seemed to be calling us… or at least everyone else that could dance, but I danced anyway. Erdal was by far the best of us. I think it is his confidence that carried him on the dance floor. Every time I see him at the clubs lately each time I look he seems to be dancing with a different girl. What a life! I’ll have to learn some of his tricks. After our legs were too tired to move with the music, the ESN students took us to a Karaoke bar. Somehow the nights seem endless here. It is hard to keep up, but it is also a lot of fun, so it is worth it. After listening to some songs, Pablo convinced Ali, Erdal, and I to sing with him. However, I joined under one condition: I got to choose the song. We sang “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Unfortunately, I think we did the King a disservice, but the whole bar was guilty of it then. On top of that, thanks to Won, this precious moment was documented on video. So, I will forever have to face the embarrassment. After we sang, we took an early retirement and headed back home to get a “good enough” night’s rest.

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1/29 Today Won and I were again slow at getting up, but we still managed to find time to do a short workout (morning calisthenics if you will) in preparation for another long day. At eleven, we met up with Rossana, Ali, and Erdal. We sought out Aldi because it is much cheaper than the other grocery store (Albert Heijn). There we got some more rations for the weekend. We still need to head back for a sponge and detergent. That will be the next big adventure after classes next week: laundry. Surprisingly, for some of the others this will be their first time doing their own laundry. Instead of calls home to their mother, I think they will be consulting me. Maybe they will know better than to do that by the time we all need to do laundry. Following this adventure, Rossana came up to our room to use my bed as a desk (the sacred bed of wireless internet). It still seems to be the only place that anyone can connect to the internet and stolen internet at that. Then at one, I met up with Sanne. Through his kindness he’s allowed me to borrow his extra bike. It is much older, perhaps an antique, but it suits me for getting to the campuses. Hopefully, it will be suitable for longer trips too. After he showed me how to unlock the bike and the best way to lock it, we headed to the Tesselschadestraat campus of the NHL. There I was finally able to purchase health insurance. In addition to that, I had some extra time to meet with the teacher of the science department Gerard Stout and tell him we should meet after my meeting with Martha regarding my class schedule. In a hurry, due to Sanne needing to get back to work he got me halfway to the other campus (where I would be meeting Martha) before he had to leave. At Hempenserweg I met with Martha briefly to discuss my intentions and generate an acceptable schedule that would fit my goals. Here’s how it goes so far: on Tuesdays I have comparative education, on Thursdays I have a Dutch language course, and on Fridays I have a Dutch history course. I still have to figure out when my classroom management course will take place. However, that will be with Gerard, so no worries there because he will keep me posted.
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Upon finishing with Martha, I called Gerard to see if he was still at his office. He was, so I sped over there on my bike. Once I got there, I had a little bit of a wait. In that time I called my parents to keep my mind off how thirsty I was. In the Netherlands, I do not have the luxury of water fountains or free refills. It is quite depressing. I actually asked one person where I could find water to drink at the NHL campus and she replied “the toilet”, so I gave up on searching. At about ten till four, Gerard was finally free. First, he introduced me to his contact in Groningen, Paul Cloo. He is a chemistry, physics, and biology teacher at a high school in Groningen. He said I was welcome to visit anytime. So hopefully on one of my free Wednesday’s I shall go to see him. In the meantime though, I am going to Appingedam with Gerard on Tuesday to visit high schools all day. It should be a great experience and I am really looking forward to it. I will be finalizing the details on Monday with Gerard. Later in the night, there was a party at our residence. The Dutch students split us up into groups, so that there would be one group per floor. Each floor was to play a different game, all geared towards trying to get to know those around you a lot better. The first game we played was a memory game. And the second game was a card game. After that game we all ate pizza. Then, the third game was asking questions to people. However, it got out of hand and the questions became inappropriate. Once we finished the third game, we all went to a club. Our circle of friends was tired though and did not dance much. At least everyone, aside from Erdal, did not dance much. He is a machine on the dance floor, always doing a different dance with a different girl. Most of the time we spent though was at a table drinking cola and socializing. Yet, since we were tired we left early and decided to play cards in our lounge. Again, I acted as the teacher and taught them how to play spoons. I think this was the easiest (aside from go fish) and most fun game they have learned yet. Afterwards we polished the evening off with poker. Somehow I won both in spoons and poker. Had it been for real money, I would have definitely lost.

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1/30 This morning started off with a shock. Rossana came to our room as we were getting ready and was the bearer of bad news. She told us that Ana was returning to Lisbon because she did not enjoy the NHL. It came as a surprise to both Won and I because we had always enjoyed her company tried to include her as much as possible. We stopped by her room just to see if she was still there, but it was already too late. However, Rossana said that she has her email, so we are looking forward to contacting her again and to keep in touch. Due to all that, and the fact that we woke up later than usual, we had to hurry to the first floor in order to be picked up for iceskating. The place was not far from one of the NHL campuses and on our way there we met two more of the Turkish students. They typically have more trouble getting visas for studying due to the strict regulations of Western European governments imposed on people from Turkey. After a brief introduction, we continued onward to the ice rink. Each step closer my heart beat faster. I had never been ice-skating before and for most Europeans, it is second nature. As we arrived, we signed in and found out our skating partner and buddy for the day. The Dutch students told us to use the smaller skates, but of course the person at the counter gave us the long skates used for speed skating. Feeling nauseous I was wondering how I would ever succeed at this. Unbeknownst to me, Ali and Erdal were in a similar predicament. Other members in the group such as Katri, Bori, and Rossana were really good at skating. Fortunately for Erdal, he picked it up quickly. On the other hand, I had to use a contraption similar to a walker for the elderly because I was at such a remedial level. However, with the advice later given by Erdal (how he was able to give me such helpful advice as a fellow beginner I will never know), I was able to succeed. By the end, most of us were doing laps around the rink like naturals. For Ali, he was not so lucky. The long skates were not the right fit for him as a beginner. His appearance was hysterical; he looked like a cat being held over water. With sweat dripping down his face, he clutched the walker or the side of the ice rink for dear life. Although it was funny at the time, he also fell on his back and at the end of the night it was really bothering him. Hopefully, everything will be just fine and he
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will not have trouble with it in the future, but he was definitely in a lot of pain. During the skating, we met up with our buddies as well. My buddy had a Dutch name that was similar to Janet and then we were ironically paired with Won and his buddy Jolanda. They took us to a small restaurant/pub for lunch called De Dikke Van Dale. They had really good food and a comfortable ambience that gave us warmth in the cold weather. Won got a calf meat sandwich and I got two kroketten. Kroketten are like Twinkies in appearance and size, but they have a crumbly crust and are filled with shredded meat and a thick sauce. To be blunt, they are fantastic, the most authentic Dutch cuisine. From there, we went to a shoemaker’s shop to look at wooden shoes and wooden shoe souvenirs. We then learned the appearance of the Frisian flag. It is blue and white striped with hearts on the white stripes. After browsing a little bit, we went to an eyeglass shop to visit one of their friends for a short period of time. Then we went to a bookstore to search for typical Dutch children’s books and a book about Friesland in English. We found one book about the Netherlands in English and one book about Friesland in Dutch. They were on the expensive side, but maybe it is something to keep in mind. Soon thereafter, we finished our adventure and headed back to the NHL for our international dinner. There we were required to present our country with some facts and cultural information to the other international students. Some students gave a few facts, or taught us some words in their native tongue, and others dazzled us with songs and dances. All in all, it was a very informal ordeal. I just gave a few facts about the United States, Chicago, and asked them to raise their hands if they were a Barack Obama fan. Everyone here seems to have followed our inauguration very closely and is strongly in favor of Barack Obama. It is surprising to me because I care little for politics in the United States . For people of other countries to be more interested than me in my own country simply baffles me. Although there was another party following the dinner, we all decided to skip it and enjoy each other’s company. Can you guess where we were? Our whole group spent the evening in our, Won and my, room checking email, talking via webcams with family, and sharing stories about pictures on our computers with each other.
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Katri showed us pictures of her house in Finland, where her and her boyfriend reside. Then we got to see a picture of him. She had told us the wonderful story of how their friendship grew into a relationship. Maybe someday I will find a similar happiness as she has. In addition to that, she showed us her biking club and some pictures of the Finnish countryside. It has an appearance similar to Oregon and Washington, which was very beautiful indeed. Then Rossana showed us her most recent summer trips with her boyfriend to Portugal, Iceland, Germany, and Ireland. Though she was hesitant at first, when we urged her to show us them, she told us wonderful stories and revealed some funny videos that she made on her trip. Then Ali introduced us to his girlfriend over the webcam, she was a beauty. He made everyone type to her “I LOVE YOU” in his or her language. She appreciated it a lot. Once everyone had shared his or her stories, people started to slowly file out and head to bed. However, Ali stayed with us for a little while longer. He enthusiastically showed us several videos promoting tourism in Turkey with hopes of having our next big trip be one to visit him. He especially pressed for it to be in the summer time because then we can enjoy the comforts of his family at their summer home where the weather is absolutely wonderful, so he claims. I believe him and Istanbul would be a wonderful city to visit. Finding the time and money is another story though. When we finished the final video (probably the fifth or sixth one) Ali decided it was finally time for bed. I then taught Won a new card game, which we only played for ten minutes or so because we were beat as well from the long day (and week for that matter). However, Won was able to fall asleep quickly. He would sleep through a fire alarm if it went off. Needless to say, he didn’t wake up when Ali came back. At first I thought he had another video for us, but thankfully it was only that he forgot his cell phone. Then I stumbled back to bed and collapsed.

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1/31 Nine seems to be a good time to wake up out here in order to get things done. It also is a good time to wake up the neighbors who are obnoxious and party every night until five in the morning. It’s ok I get my revenge with music. Anyway, I’ve started to get Won in a good routine of working out every morning and Katri will probably be joining us soon too, especially with jogging. How I got started on jogging I will never know; I thought water was my only environment. Aside from working out our day was pretty relaxing. We (along with Ana who we found out that morning thankfully hadn’t left yet!) helped Katri get rid of some food by helping her prepare chicken in marinara sauce, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and rice. It was quite good judging by the fact I’ve been living off of cereal and lunchmeat the whole time I’ve been here (which isn’t bad here because the food is fantastic). I did also discover an amazing juice combination too. At Aldi I found peach/orange juice combo, let me just say to die for. After we finished our hearty lunch, Won and Katri went to the city center to find some necessities and I took Ana to Aldi. Every little bit we do with Ana we all help convinces her that five months here isn’t so long away from home and that she should stay. When Ana and I arrived at Aldi, the lights started to turn off. They were closing!!! So we ran around looking for whatever we could find on her list, but we weren’t able to grab much with the time we had. At least the Dutch people are getting used to the confusion and craziness of international students. It is not common for Europeans to say hi to strangers on the street as well (their parents taught them well), but I say hi to everyone anyway. Today I went 20 for 22. Twenty said hi, the other two did not. It was a solid day of warm greetings. Katri finds it amusing that I do this because if my eyes meet with someone’s on the street, I can’t help it; it’s just out of impulse. On our way to finding Katri and Won, Ana and I ran into Ali. He was rushing to the train station because the final Turkish girl was arriving. We decided to go with him, to welcome her as the last student to come to the NHL. Outside the station, some guy kept
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trying to talk to all of us. It seemed like he was looking for money, but he was so hard to understand that we gave up. Erdal just said, “hey we don’t understand you”, and totally brushed him off with the cold shoulder. We’ve now encountered two bums like that. Then we walked everyone back to Kanaalstraat for a night of relaxation. I prepared dinner for Katri and Won, and we were joined by Shazad. I made grilled cheese/turkey: a typical American college student specialty. It was nothing special, but everyone seemed to enjoy it with the addition of apples and carrots on the side. Shazad was also very kind to offer us homemade French fries. They are spectacular compared to the gross McDonald’s fries. Thus, yet again, we enjoyed another diverse meal. Rossana caught up with us later to give us cookies at the end of our meal. It was very thoughtful of her. Our group seems to have established a very strong trust relatively quickly, which has made us grow into a little family. That alone makes it easier to deal with the distance from our real families back at home. Upon finishing dinner, everyone was invited to our room’s cinema tonight playing Braveheart. Unfortunately, Won only had Korean subtitles so we had to watch The Girl Next Door on Shazad’s computer instead. It was an interesting film, which portrayed an image of American culture of which I think is exaggerated. Regardless of that, everyone (Ana, Katri, Shazad, Won, Erdal, and I) seemed to enjoy it, but more than that, we all enjoyed each other’s company.

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2/1 Waking up to snow, I felt as if I were back in Chicago. However, the calming image of cottage rooftops convinced me otherwise. As usual we started off our day with some morning calisthenics. We are starting build up soreness from the previous days, but that will go away in time, if we stick with it. Then we had a small breakfast, only this time we combined a sweet light pudding called vla with our cereal, along with some raspberries. It was the perfect start to a busy morning. Then, we went on an hour jog in search of soccer fields with Rossana and Katri. With little trouble, and no assistance from a map (aside from our initial gaze before we left) we found it. All of us decided it might be a good idea to buy a soccer ball and a frisbee for when the weather gets nicer. When we returned from our jog, we did some more exercises in our room. A thorough job of stretching was done too. Rossana then told us she would cook us dinner (a fine Italian spaghetti she said). So after a quick shower, we joined her in the kitchen. We brought carrots and apples as side dishes (our usual treat). Pablo and David from Spain were also eating there. Time flew by and before I knew it, it was five and time for my Basic English presentation/lesson. I had thrown a small PowerPoint together, nothing fancy, but everyone seemed appreciative. They also gave me suggestions for topics to cover in my next lesson. It will cover school, supplies, and business. Needless to say, I am excited because of their enthusiasm. After that, Erdal and I went to see if the Turkish grocery store was open, but it was not. It was a very cold walk too! When I got back to the room, everyone was still waiting for me to start Braveheart. We got through about two thirds of it before having to call it a night. However, we are excited for tomorrow and to start a week of new adventures!!!

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2/2 Last night became more eventful than we thought it would with only watching a movie and relaxing. Downstairs, the Hungarians had a huge party with people (most of whom do not live in Kanaalstraat). Of course, this would make it nearly impossible for anyone living in that hallway to fall asleep. Thus, we took Katri’s mattress and brought it upstairs to our room. Obviously, a mattress being brought down a hallway at nearly midnight is quite bizarre so everyone from the party was giving us looks. With their expressions, they clearly put a definition to “clueless”. So needless to say, we had a fun sleepover with Katri. Our room has now become an internet café, an English classroom, and now a bed and breakfast. What can I say? We are Jacks-of-all-trades. Being secluded from the noise of last night, we all woke up peacefully (well almost) to the sound of my alarm. In addition to that, we have our building’s internet again!!! Now we don’t have to be a hotspot for everyone to come late at night to talk to his or her families. It’s not that we don’t mind the company; the nights just get late sometimes. Bori finally sent me the pictures from our city tour too. Her camera is unbelievable, so the pictures are of a much higher quality than mine. I mostly wanted the pictures because I wanted to see the one of me riding a majestic horse statue in the city center. Yes, I did get lots of looks from the Dutch, but it was so priceless. However, there were many other good pictures too. All of these will add to my collection on facebook, my future scrapbook, and presentation for ISU. After our usual breakfast, Katri and I had to go to see Gerard about our classroom management course. We also finalized details about going to Appingedam. Katri is coming with! It turns out our class will be focused on taking trips to visit high schools and reflecting upon our visit. Each time we have to go on a visit we have to devise five questions to answer (or hopefully answer depending upon the experience). Gerard is now the second person to have told me a particular philosophy. “There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.” Once we can think like that, teaching will become much easier and less stressful. He also said his goal was to confuse us, because it
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forces us to think. I found this striking too because it really does work. It seems like I will really enjoy keeping contact with him and will learn a lot from the course. While we were at our meeting, we also met two teachers from Groningen. They both told us we are more than welcome to visit them on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, this Wednesday does not workout with the teachers, but we intend to go the following Wednesday to see one of them. One of the teachers comes from a Montessori school and the other comes from a “free” school (at least I think that is how Gerard phrased it). I have a feeling that school is more like a lab school. So, it will be interesting to compare and contrast the environments of the different types of schools. The size of our classroom management course is also quite small. We are four people strong: the smallest class I have ever been in. Thus, the amount of personal attention will be much greater, increasing the potential gain from the course. Next, Katri and I tried to get some food from the Canteen. First, we had to load our ID cards with money. The machine did not take my debit card, so I had to use the other one and use cash. It took a while, but we finally figured it out. Yet we soon found out all our work was for another day because the Canteen had closed. So we enjoyed a simple lunch at Kanaalstraat. There we also found out that the internet was not working again. Perhaps, they will finally get their act together and fix it. Speaking of which, we had a meeting with them (Short Stay Solutions) after lunch, but I could not attend until later because I had to find an ATM that worksed with my debit card before I ran out of money. It took me over an hour walking around the city from end to end trying to find a sufficient ATM. I was surprised to find that ING did not work with my card, nor did Fortis, but Rabobank (pronounced rob a bank ironically enough) actually did work. Wouldn’t you know it was the closest ATM to our building, but it took me all day to find it? When I returned, everyone was on the first floor talking with Hendrika (the Short Stay Solutions representative) about all of our complaints we have. For instance, not all the rooms have the same furniture. Not all the heaters in the rooms work. People that do not live in our building host parties on the floors every night. The bathrooms are never cleaned. The internet is not working and, yet we are paying for it. All of the new plates and silverware we received
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easily break when you hand dry them. Also, the person who formerly occupied Ali’s room left the keys in the mailbox. Hence, someone may have duplicated them (because they do not say “do not duplicate” on the keys). They knew about this since he moved in, but neglected to change the locks and bring it to his attention. These are just a few of our concerns. By then it was already four thirty, so we needed to get a move on it if we wanted to help Katri find a used bike. Everyone seems to brag about how easy they are to get and what a deal they are, but I swear they are the hardest things to find. All we could find were new bikes, which were way out of our price range. We gave up after an hour and a half of searching for a few reasons. One, it is really cold here oddly enough. Two, Ana had plans to cook us dinner tonight at seven. Three, shops were closing anyway. So, we will have more adventures on Wednesday now that we are completely free then. To say the least, dinner was wonderful. We had cubed pork in a cream sauce with mushrooms complemented by fried potatoes. It was very good and of course, being the only two guys that could eat pork at the dinner table, Won and I gladly polished off any of the hopes for leftovers. Following dinner, Ana played a simple “get to know you” game with us. We had a lot of fun until Shazad came. Won thinks he was high, but I think he just has an odd presence about him. He was quite annoying and made everyone feel a little bit uncomfortable. He has now been outlawed from our room, for the time being, but it needed to be done. Shortly thereafter, we headed up to get ready for bed and ate some chocolates similar to peanut m & m’s (but a European version so you can only imagine how tasty they were). I have an early day tomorrow. My train leaves at 7:59, but it’ll be very exciting nonetheless.

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2/3 Yesterday evening had its fair share of excitement. It was someone’s birthday so there was a huge party again. This is nothing new on our side of Leeuwarden, but frustrating nonetheless. Most of the students don’t even have a residence in our building either. They just come, trash the place, and leave. I would say, it’s quite a fun and easy lifestyle for them. Anyway, to say the least it was so loud that even I was disturbed on the floor above at the opposite end of the party. Being that I was cozy and in bed, although lazy might be a better word, I decided to live with it. However, this was not possible due to the noise and the fact that Katri knocked on our door to wake us up. Won was out like a rock, so it was up to me to answer. Of course, Katri and I needed our sleep because we were to get up early and catch a train in the morning. So, I composed myself and decided to have a word with the hooligans. Very politely, I told them our situation, asked them to wish the girl a happy birthday, and then I suggested that if at all possible it’d be nice if they keep the living room door closed. This would hopefully help limit the amount of noise and be at least a little more respectful to the people that also live in the building. Then I bid them goodnight. Keep in mind, this happened at around eleven thirty at night. Their party continued until three thirty in the morning. As I am a very light sleeper, I only got sleep in the form of a few minutes here and there. Waking up the next morning with a furious urge to eat and use the facilities, I found my path to the bathroom blocked. The fine gentlemen from the night before had used our fire hose to flood the corridor. So, in an Indiana Jones fashion, I scaled the railway of our staircase to get to the other side of the hallway and achieve urinary relief. Thankfully, it wasn’t too hard to get back the same way I came. My time was limited though because I had to be out the door with Katri at seven thirty to catch our train to Groningen and meet up with Gerard. I was in such a hurry that I even brought my good sandals with me into the shower. In the end though, I was at her room two minutes early, with my lunch packed and my shoes tied: a perfect combination for my first day of school. Now it was only a matter of catching my bus (or train rather). We talked a little bit
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about the night before on our way to the train and next time we are calling the police, no questions asked. At the train station, we discovered our debit cards were not acceptable. We came prepared though with plenty of cash and just as easily received our ticket to Appingedam from the sales desk. Since we had a rough night, Katri decided to help herself wake up with some coffee. However, despite our fatigue, we were still on time for the fast train (in the Netherlands you can either take a fast train with less stops [Sneltrein] or a slower train that makes many stops [Stoptrein]). This allowed us to meet Gerard a lot earlier in Groningen. He took advantage of this too. As he is a talkative individual, he enjoyed the brief opportunity to be our tour guide of the immediate area surrounding the train station. From the origin and symbolism of certain statues to the reason a building is shaped like an open phone book, with his tour, I feel like I can now tell someone more about Groningen than I can about the city of Chicago. It is nice to have someone as knowledgeable as him on our adventure and though our encounter with Groningen was very short, what we gained in those ten minutes will be of great benefit to us when we return there to visit schools. After concluding a fact-filled tour, we hopped on our train to Appingedam. The countryside in the Netherlands is very green, but nearly as flat as Illinois. Thus, at least despite the flatness I don’t have the monotony of cornfields. Upon arriving in Appingedam, a small less wealthy area, we had to walk for a good twenty minutes to reach our destination. The school was technically in a town called Delfzijl, but in relation to train stations, it was between Appingedam and Delfzijl. Walking is no trouble for me though, especially since it allows me to get acquainted with the general area. Plus, a little fresh air doesn’t hurt anybody. After passing homes, construction sites, and a car dealership, we finally reached the Fivelcollege Delfzijl. Do not let the name deceive you; though it contains college, it is a high school. Due to the amount of building renovations and additions over time, the building winded like a snake on the grassless campus. Unlike many of the high schools in the United States, the school contained within it four different high schools based on ability. There are a total of four different ability school types in the Netherlands, two of which are interchangeable,
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outside of Latin and Greek lessons. This school had what is called a VMBO, HAVO, and an Atheneum. Students from the VMBO can only go to a trade school after graduation, whereas students from the HAVO and Atheneum can eventually proceed to the university. Also, whereas our high schools are typically ages 15-18, here the high schools start at age 12-13. It is frightening to think about seeing as students need to make serious life decisions at 12 because they only get one shot at high school and where they go will determine if they will ever have the opportunity to go to the university.

Inside the school, we were soothed by all of the colors and windows. We also were cordially received by the principle (or headmaster as they call it). It is so neat to be able to walk into a school and not be frisked or have to hold hands with a police officer or an employee to go to different classes. Basically, with the handshake between the headmaster and us we had free range of the school. For the first two classes, Katri and I met with a chemistry teacher Frits Pals. His students were between the ages of 12-14, slightly younger than what I will be working with when I graduate, but they were a lot of fun to be around. We didn’t necessarily get a chance to see them in an actual “lesson” environment, but we gained a lot from the experience just with the little interaction they had
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with Frits and us. Gerard told us before we arrived, as something to keep in mind, “The students do not need to hear your story, so don’t tell them unless they ask you. Always ask about their story”. So, we asked them what their interests were: one by one. Then we wrote up on the board all the ones that we remembered and had them correct us if we forgot anything. They really seemed to enjoy it, as did we.

Next it was time for lunch. We ate in the teachers lounge, or as I like to call it the VIP section of the school. Some of the teachers were very interested to talk to us about our native lands and cultures. One history teacher was particularly interested in the Ivy League universities. Personally, I don’t think there is anything too special about them, but maybe if I had lots of money and a better ACT score I would think otherwise. Another recurring theme always seems to be Barack Obama too. It is starting to get old because I strongly dislike politics, but I can’t help their excitement and need to remain friendly. Aside from that, lunch was great. They had a special universal coffee, tea, and hot chocolate machine. Someday I shall take it from their little clubhouse and bring it home with me because they had the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Step aside Ghirardelli!
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From there, Katri and I split up for the day. Katri went off to observe classes that focus on “crafts and recreation” (in other words things like home economics). I, on the other hand, went to a science classroom. Both of us were in the VMBO. Thus, the level of instruction was very basic, as these students are being prepared for the workforce, not the university. However, also note when I say classroom, that it does not necessarily mean that there is a physical classroom. Classes seem to take place everywhere. The school is literally utilizing every ounce of space for education. I saw lessons conducted in rooms, hallways, and open areas. One would think that this would be a very distracting environment, but it works like a well-oiled machine. While I was at the science classroom, conducted in an open area by Frans van der Vlugt, I socialized with the students about their lives and daily activities. Yet, it was hard to get my questions in because they were so curious about the United States. I felt like a celebrity. They even had me show them where Chicago was on GoogleEarth. Everything fascinated them. Some students even told me they wanted to move to New York to work for the FBI. American TV has such an astounding influence here, especially Prison Break. Apparently that show takes place in Chicago, so I will be forever known here as the Prison Break boy. That may have also been why one student asked me if I owned a weapon. I should have told him that I had not only a weapon, but also my own army. I couldn’t be that cruel to children though. After my last class, I ran into Gerard and he said Katri was ready to go if I was too. So, I did a victory lap around the school to see some last minute things and then we left. Unfortunately, with me dawdling we missed the first train back by about three minutes. We saw it leaving the train station from about 100 yards away. As a result, we had to wait thirty minutes for the next train. Leo, the student teacher Gerard was visiting, took this time to show us around the nearby neighborhood and describe the makings of traditional Dutch architecture. It was very interesting, but it got harder to pay attention to as time passed because it had been such a long day already. Once we reached Groningen, we bid Gerard farewell and continued with Leo until he got off at Buitenpost (one of the last stops before Leeuwarden). In Leeuwarden, Katri and I went to Aldi
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to replenish our stock of food. She got nearly four times as much as I did and yet she still fit it all into her backpack! How do women do it? We then returned to Kanaalstraat for some dinner. It was relaxing, but by nine I needed to head upstairs for bed. Won and I did a little journaling and reading before lights out, but it was very brief.

Peerd van Ome Loeks, Groningen train station.

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2/4 Waking up to the sound of an old fashioned alarm clock is perhaps the most frightening thing for a person in a deep sleep. I experienced this excitement at six thirty this morning. Won had class very early, but today was my day off. Although I had planned to wake up at the same time as him to check my email and finish journaling, it was probably better that I fell back to sleep. I then woke up at nine thirty. At that time, I was able to have a nice breakfast and finish most of my journaling. Soon thereafter, I grabbed Katri and we went for an hour jog. Still no luck in finding second-hand bikes, but we found the Vietnamese market right behind the cathedral in Leeuwarden! We returned there later to buy chop sticks for everyone, since Won, Rany, and I are cooking Korean food for everyone on Friday night. Well I shouldn’t say I am cooking, I’ll just be assisting whenever possible. Anyway, back to the bikes, we told one store owner we were looking for bikes between 30 and 50 euros and she scolded us because she said only stolen bikes are that cheap. Yes, I disagree with stealing, but whatever I don’t know won’t hurt me. Plus, people need to get around quickly somehow. Again, that is another reason I am thankful for the bike that Sanne gave me. I just need to make an appointment with him to fix the light so when I use it at night I don’t get into trouble with the police. Speaking of which, we stopped by the police station after lunch today. We decided to tell them about our situation as far as parties are concerned and ask them what we could do about it. They gave us a sort of non-emergency number to call so that we get one cop car to come by and not the entire department. This brought everyone some closure, especially Katri because the people that are responsible for this know that she has been complaining about it. Thus, more than anyone else, they single her out for blame and ridicule her for speaking up. After we made a visit to the police station (literally across the street) we took Rossana and Ana to the Short Stay Solutions office. That is the company with whom we hold the lease. There we discussed the fact that Won and I still need heat in our room, as well as a bookshelf. We got our heater immediately after returning to
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our room and the shelving unit could come in the next week. Then our room will be a little bit more organized. Ana on the other hand, signed her lease officially while she was at the office. Hopefully, this means that she will be staying with us for the entire duration of the semester. She has been a nice addition to our group and seems to mesh well. Dinner came around a lot sooner than I expected. The days just fly by here, which has its pros and cons. Regardless of how fast time goes though, this has been one of the greatest experiences and decisions that I have made in my life. Back to dinner, today was extremely challenging. Won prepared Korean food for the two of us and I refused to use anything other than chop sticks. Slippery noodles are not friendly to novices. However, I managed and had a filling meal of spicy noodles and rice. Spicy food is not typical for me, but tonight was a night of new experiences. After all Gerard says “you have to throw yourself into situations that are beyond your comfort zone to know if it is right for you or not”. So, I decided to go all out by having some kimchi and seaweed. The kimchi was fantastic, but seaweed was not my thing. Now I know though and that is what is most important. Also, Rany offered me a stroopwafel after I finished dinner. Let me just say that is one more Dutch food that I am addicted to now. Jan Jurjen Salverda (JJ) was so right to warn me about those. I am afraid that will be a wallet breaker on my next visit to the grocery store. Yikes! Other than that, not too much is going on here. We have to steal internet again. I don’t mind too much because we get a pretty good signal in our room and it is even much faster than the internet we have in our building when it does decide to work. It is still a frustrating situation though, especially since people want to use our room or computers because they know my bed is the sacred bed of wireless internet. As of now, I am just polishing off journaling and anticipating a few good chapters of reading before I hit the sack.

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2/5 Well today I finally was baptized Dutch; it rained for the first time since we have been here. We had been lucky so far, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. It was actually quite pleasant because it was a soft drizzle opposed to a rampant downpour. Today I was actually able to wake up early with Won too. Each day gets a little bit easier to do so, as I continue to mesh myself in the Dutch lifestyle and time difference. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred this morning, I just checked my email (with stolen internet of course), showered, worked out, and ate a small breakfast before grabbing Katri to head to class. Unfortunately, Ana could not join us because she was sick, and Rany and Rossana were already at the NHL because they had an earlier class. Surprisingly, Katri allowed me to lead the way to school. Naturally, I decided to try a shortcut I had never done before, nor did I know if it was officially a shortcut. News flash: it was not by a lot. As many of you know, I am terrible with directions to begin with, so you can empathize for Katri. On the bright side, we had a wonderful walk and with how concerned we both are with being punctual, we still arrived to class on time. Actually, we ended up much earlier than we expected because we originally thought our class began at twelve thirty, but it turned out that it began at twelve forty five. Our teacher was an enthusiastic middle-aged man, with a worn out sweater and an off-colored pair of dress pants. Once you hit a certain age you stop caring what other people think of your sense of style and wear what is most comfortable. That day will soon be coming for me. I just need a job and perhaps tenure first (wink). Anyway, we received the classroom from the previous lesson disorganized and chaotic. Raymond Fabriek, our professor, told us to organize the desks (a job meant for the other class, or so I thought). Neglecting to think out of the box, I went with the traditional approach thinking we would organize the desks in rows and columns (much like the periodic table… sorry bad chemistry joke). So, I began with the back row. Others did not follow by my example. Perhaps this means I need to work on my leadership skills? They decided to arrange the desks in a square fashion. Once I saw
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this, I preferred it. In our cramped room, it kept everyone involved in conversation and also allowed everyone to make sufficient eye contact: a much better way to encourage personal interaction. As we all know, almost all communication is body language anyway. Despite our expectations, we discovered most of the class revolved around Dutch culture and history, opposed to learning the language. Although I get around with relative ease because everyone here speaks English very well, others aren’t so lucky. This is especially true for those coming from countries that speak languages with Latin roots. Knowing please, thank you, and see you later is only cute for so long. I need more to impress the Dutch honeys over here that are twice my height. That is not to say that our lesson was not fascinating. We learned about the Queen, Dutch provinces, everyone’s perception of what is typical Dutch, and also had a quiz of other knowledge at the end of the lesson. From there, Elin, Katri, Hanne, and I had to head over to the other campus to meet with Gerard. Elin and Hanne had the easy trip through the rain: by bike. For Katri and I, our feet had to bear the burden, but we shared an umbrella so it was romantic. Too bad I don’t go for older women and her boyfriend sounds like a hoot. I look forward to meeting him when he visits. Needless to say, it took us a little while longer than the others to get to Gerard’s office. With Gerard, we had another insightful meeting. His philosophy is so amazing; it feels like I have Dr. Hunter of ISU over here in the Netherlands. It is so nice having both of them as mentors. I cannot even describe how much I have learned from them. At our meeting though, we discussed how to maintain composure in tense situations and how to condition students and ourselves like Pavlov’s dogs. We also talked about mimicking and leader recognition. All of which can be helpful in establishing control in a classroom. Utilizing space in the classroom was another topic. It goes hand in hand with conditioning. One must find spots in the classroom to perform specific tasks or actions, or as I like to call this the “baseball diamond” method. Your most comfortable position is home plate. First base can be where you discipline students or where you stand when you expect them to be quiet. Second base can be for something else, along with third base, and the outfield can be when you are roaming the classroom. Overall, it was a very productive
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meeting. Then we met with Paul Cloo to talk about visiting his classroom at the Harm Jan Zondagschool in Groningen. I will be there on Monday and Wednesday. Also I intend to join Gerard on a trip to Utrecht for a national chemistry standards meeting for the Netherlands! Talk about exciting, I nearly wet my pants when he told me I could join him!!! After the meeting, Katri went to pick up her bike from Hanne. Elin joined them as well. Thus, they split up from me. However, I stayed with Gerard for a few minutes extra to pick up some pictures from our previous trips and a few movie clips as well. I look forward to watching them when I have time tomorrow. In addition to that, I need to contact the two teachers I will be visiting. Also, being the most proficient in English here, naturally as a native speaker I should be (although sometimes I wonder; other international students often tell me I “eat my words”), I have to compose a formal complaint to our landlords: Short Stay Solutions. In other words, they are the spawn of Satan. They continue to tell us they are doing the most possible to accommodate all of our needs. Somehow, I find that difficult to believe because our internet does not work, our building smells awful, we pay much more for what we have compared to other people, and our building is hardly ever locked. Aside from my missions on paper, I also had a mission on foot today. Rossana had not returned from class all day and it was seven thirty. She usually joins us for dinner and all of our classes typically end by four. So, I was getting very worried about her whereabouts because it was dark outside and she would have no one with her. Obviously, it is easy for Dutch individuals to pick out foreigners because they are so ridiculously tall. Hence, a short Italian girl with dark features clearly stands out in a crowd. Thus, I set out to find her and told Won to call me if she returned. Go figure, once I got all the way to the campus and was searching the building and classrooms,Won calls. She had forgot to mention that she had had soccer practice that night. At least she was in one piece, but I still had a thirty-minute walk back to our building. Once back, I worked on my journal as the others finished off Braveheart. Tomorrow is an earlier morning because our class starts at ten fifteen or ten thirty… I already forgot. I just know I should be out the door at nine thirty. So, off to bed for me.
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2/6 As a college student, waking up is never fun. Either you get too much sleep or not enough. There’s no happy place. Feeling fatigued, my instincts told me I was on the lack of sleep side of the spectrum. Keeping up with my journals and getting back into the swing of doing homework is taking a toll on me. On top of that, colds are floating around. Erdal and Ali have it the worst, but Rossana and Ana have both been battling them too. The close proximity of the living space, sharing a kitchen, and the lack of cleaning service makes for an easy spread of illness. However, mom always tells me that with her “German stubbornness” and dad’s appetite I’ll manage. So chances are if I take care of myself and with those genes on my side, I’ll be in the best condition out of all of us. Although it probably doesn’t help that ever since we got a space heater every time Won leaves the room I open the window to cool down. Lord knows I sweat like the dickens and can’t survive extreme heat without a pool. Anyway, today was another first day for a class: “Places of Memory”. In other words, it is a glorified Frisian history course. With my thirst for knowledge and the fact that we have field trips on nearly every one of our meetings, this class should be pretty awesome to say the least. I must say they treat their international students quite well, well aside from the living accommodations of course. There the only complaint still remains the internet. Everyone from the past generation would say that’s an easy sacrifice, but in these times it is half our life. I almost value the internet more than my social security number… well that might be a little bit extreme, but you get the point; internet is essential for college students. So, I’ll get back to that in a little bit. Somehow, although I have a bike, I never find the opportunities to use it. It’s almost like the fact that it always rains whenever I forget my umbrella, but when I bring it the sun shines. Someone upstairs just likes to play practical jokes on me I guess. Perhaps that means I have a good sense of humor? Let me explain the situation at hand though. Rossana does not yet have a bike. She’s the only one without one to be exact. Due to this, I feel compelled to join her on
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the treacherous thirty-minute trek to class because that would be horrible to endure alone. Plus, each time I get to spend with her she seems to open up more and more, which is great because she was initially the most reserved when it came to socializing with me. It is intimidating to talk in English with someone that is fluent, so I completely understand. Yet, it still confuses me because everyone speaks it so well, but they just lack the confidence. When we were talking this time, she told me for the second time that I was in her dreams (I know! Exciting for a single guy to be in an Italian girl’s dreams!!!), but this time I was attacked by a person while I was sleeping and was too scared to do anything. What a blow to my ego! No, I found it amusing as always, so we both had a good laugh about it. Then we had class. As I said, it sounds like it will be interesting, but the first day is usually nothing special. We just had our introductions and the teacher did most of the talking. I would have preferred some sort of activity to accompany the introduction, but it was neat to jump right into the history of Friesland too. The most fascinating aspect of early Frisian life that I learned today involved their infamous “battle against the sea”. As many of you may know, because I think I included this tidbit in an earlier journal, that 45% of the Netherlands is below sea level. This has been made possible through the development and construction of several dikes. However, in the good old days they were not so fortunate. They basically had to construct their own artificial islands for each town. These were called terps or in Dutch terpen. At the center of each terp and corresponding town was a church because these were the most important buildings of the time and for many people they are still. Hopefully, you find as much enjoyment in learning that as I did. History is quite an interesting subject, but don’t you worry Dr. Hunter chemistry is my true love. Naturally, after class, I walked with Rossana back to Kanaalstraat. Since she has been feeling ill, we stopped at a little pharmacy to pick up some throat lozenges. I totally would have picked the orange flavored ones, but she jumped all over the eucalyptus. It came as a surprise to me, but I ought to start being more open-minded. At the time, the sun was also out, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures. She noted that I do that a lot, but I can’t help it. I love
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documenting trips and the more pictures I take, the more I get to choose from when making an album. With the sun also comes heat, and despite the forty or less degree weather, I was burning up in my jacket. Of course, this meant all I had underneath was a tank top, but it felt so amazing to walk around like that. Rossana first called me “mad” (crazy), and then documented it via camera. Personally, compared to Chicago cold, this is a paradise. Some people are just weak when it comes to weather. My body is like the postal service, “rain, sleet, or snow” I can handle it all. When we got back, we all enjoyed a simple lunch. For me, it was just meat, cheese, and bread. I’m becoming Dutch in a sense, but that also means no one thinks I can cook because I never buy food that needs to be prepared. I’ll show them soon enough, but I am also limited in specialty because we lack an oven and a grill. It is really lame. The best food comes from those. We get along just fine though. Similarly, I’ve found that the less I bring to each meal, the more compelled the girls feel to give me food. They’re training me to bring nothing. I always initially tell them no, but they don’t take that as an acceptable response. Anyway, despite my cheap grocery habits I am well fed. After that, Won and I worked on some homework before the first congressional meeting of Kanaalstraat residence convened. Our hot topic was the internet. We all agreed that until there is a permanent solution for consistently working internet, we should be slightly reimbursed for our rental expenses. I made sure I was the one to write the proposal because a lot of people are expressing their feelings in a passionate way, which will ultimately get us nowhere. Hence, it is most important that we resolve this in baby steps or at least try and solve this in the most diplomatic fashion possible. At least we had a good turn out, more than I expected at least. It seems like everyone is very upset about the situation, but how can you blame them? Our landlords are basically doing nothing for us, or are just plain dumb. Personally, I would be willing to say it is a combination of both of those conclusions. Immediately following the final touches to my declaration of reimbursement, we all signed it in a very rebellious democratic fashion. While I am in Groningen tomorrow visiting Paul Cloo, most of the residents will be marching
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on the Short Stay Solutions office with our signed document. I can only hope they don’t get out of hand. Around seven, Won and Rany cooked us an authentic Korean dinner. Our main course was Kimchi and rice. It was a splendid meal to clear out all the illnesses and my intestines. With all this ethnic cooking, the last food I am craving is from the states. How I do miss mom’s cooking though. Being on my own in a foreign country has been good for growing up and taking on more responsibilities. It’s a lot different when you don’t have a security blanket of family within reach. Other than that, we concluded our night with another movie extravaganza. Won and I voted to watch Batman the Dark Knight, but we lost hands down to the girls. They wanted to watch The Notebook. What a typical movie for the girls to have chosen. Oh well, they are the best company to have around so we have to abide by their wishes. Additionally, until I cook something for them, I am forever in their debt.

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2/7 As soon as the alarm rang this morning, I hustled about the room in a frantic mania. Not only did I have two weeks worth of laundry to do, but I also had to be ready by noon to go biking with Katri. I inhaled my granola (muesli), peanuts, and vla (along with some stroopwafels and a few glasses of peach/orange juice). Then came a force to be reckoned with: laundry. For those of you that have never had to live in Europe, let me just say laundry is not as simple as in the US. This is especially true when you live in an international housing development, but they still put the instructions in Dutch. Additionally, the machines we have are far more complex than any college student could possibly ever need or should ever be allowed to touch. With that in mind, you may now understand why I stood before the machine in utter confusion for the first ten minutes. My dilemma: should I run the risk of ruining my clothes or should I stink for the rest of my vacation here? I chose to take a chance at wearing tattered clothes, opposed to the alternative: no more contact with foreign women for the remainder of my stay. Despite the situation at hand, we had experience on our side… or the experience of another I should say. Thankfully, Katri had encountered the same obstacle a few days before when she attempted her laundry. Afterwards, she had told us the settings she had used, so I modeled it around that. The washers were much smaller than I expected too, so that made things a little bit of a squeeze. On top of that, there was no timer on the machine. Just my luck too that there would be five hundred different settings and no timer. Thus, it took a little longer than I expected to do the washing portion. However, my struggle with everyday tasks is always never ending. Therefore, when the load was done, I finally realized there were no dryers. Everything needed to be hang dried! Try and imagine how two weeks worth of laundry would possibly fit on one drying rack about the size of an end table. To be quite frank, it does not work. Again, Katri came to my rescue (and Won’s too because he will be doing laundry tomorrow). She was nice enough to let us borrow her drying rack. Somehow, everything fit comfortably. Then the only issue remained drying in a timely fashion. Our solution was not the most comfortable or the most
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logical, but it seemed to work. We turned our room into a sauna by setting our space heater at full blast. Though I am cooked to perfection and ready to be served at the dinner table, my clothes will be dry by morning. Wet clothes are in style here anyway with all the rain we receive. So, in the event, they aren’t done. It is a win win situation. As can be inferred, the bike ride got postponed by about a half hour. That’s not too bad when you are at the liberty of a stubborn wash machine. After brushing the dust off my bike, we headed to the tourism office. Yes, ironic I know, but we needed a map of bike trails surrounding Leeuwarden. Then we assessed the best towns to head to based on location and proximity to trails. Starting at one, our travels first led us to Stiens. It was the second largest town we hit today. Wooden windmills surrounding Stiens marked its age. Littered with traditional cottages, it invited us to take a closer look. Hidden within the historical exterior of the city were a bustling central market and several construction sites. With how exciting our adventure began, I was worried that we would not return before dark. As Dutch law states, all bikes must have a light on in the dark. Since neither of our bikes had working lights, I bought a flash light at a local store as a precaution. After all, no one wants to pay a fine while on vacation; it reduces spending money. We also found a large church near the center of the city. Amazed by different types of architecture, we took lots of pictures. However we did not realize literally every town would have some sort of monumental church. Though we found Stiens to be a wonderful place, we hungered for more and started our trek towards the next town. The next stop would be St. Annaparochie. We found it even more beautiful than Stiens. I never expected the little towns to be anything exciting, but they seem to have just as much character, if not more, than the big cities. In St. Annaparochie we found another glorious church. This one dated back to 1682. Unfortunately, we were unable to get into all the churches today. If they were so neat on the outside, I can only imagine the spectacle waiting on the inside. While we were in St. Annaparochie, we grabbed some lunch. It may not have been quite a filling meal, but it definitely suited our taste buds. We shared some garlic bread and some traditional Frisian cookies. These cookies were extremely moist with apple dough in the center. Each
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cookie was also crowned with a single almond in the center. By observing their bag we also learned that they had a location in Leeuwarden. We will be sure to promote their business as soon as we locate their bakery. After lunch, we wound our way back to Leeuwarden. Along the way, we hit three other small towns. They were much smaller than the first two though. These towns were Berlikum, Beetgum, and Marssum. Every town had its own church, which shielded the sun from the small upward gazing cottages. Yet, when we got to Marssum, the last town before Leeuwarden, we found a castle!!! What a way to end a biking adventure! Although it was small, it still had a moat. We even met a nice elderly man. He made nice conversation and seemed genuinely interested in the US and Finland, but seriously the sun was going down and we needed to get back. To my surprise, he said goodbye first once he realized we hadn’t traveled there by car. However, it wasn’t that big of a ride back, only a mere three kilometers. As soon as we were in a familiar part of Leeuwarden, we scrambled to get to Aldi before it closed. A lot of people seemed to have the same general idea because when we got there it was packed. Through the crowd we even found Won. Hunger pains seem to attract people to the same location: the cheapest grocery store around. I took this opportunity to restock my bread, cheese, meat, and apples. This time I switched it up and got liver sausage and brie cheese: yummy. Later I enjoyed this at the dinner table amongst good company. Rossana and Ana were out shopping, and the Turkeys (Ali and Erdal) have been sick all week. Hopefully, they get better soon because we really miss their entertainment and company. Despite my intentions to have light meals, somehow I always end up getting fed again and again. It switches everyday between which girl decides to give me their leftovers (again I don’t ask and this time I was at the opposite end of the building, but they still found me). Ana knows I have an addiction for typical Dutch food. Specifically, my addiction is for kroketten. Ironically, I almost bought some at Aldi today, but resisted. I guess I was meant to have them today though because she bought them too and gave me two along with a hearty helping of her homemade rice. I am salivating now just
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thinking about how delicious it was. In fact, it happened while I was in the room journaling. I don’t know what I do to deserve this, but why should I complain? Anyway, tomorrow we will have another biking adventure and Rossana will be joining us now that she has acquired a bike. Keep in mind I use the term bike loosely, since the bikes we have are like the dinosaurs: extinct. There is no telling when they will turn into dust. With this in mind, there is no telling whether or not we will make it to our desired destination: the sea. We hope to head west of Leeuwarden, through Franeker to Harlingen, which is a coastal city by the Wadden Islands. We should have good weather and I am really looking forward to it. It will be quite a hike so we are leaving at ten thirty tomorrow morning. Pack a good lunch! Oh well, that isn’t stopping us from watching The Dark Knight tonight. Late nights, early mornings, and a lot of appointments this upcoming week, hopefully I survive to see our vacation the week after.

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2/8 Today was most certainly a leap of faith. According to the Finnish, duct tape is called “Jesus” tape. This meant Jesus held parts of my bike together. On top of that, we had a good idea of how to get to the sea, but were not completely certain. Again, I started off my day with some hearty granola and peanuts. I would need the energy for the ride ahead. Similar to yesterday, we headed towards Marssum. However, instead of heading straight north, we headed directly west. This was not the quickest route to the sea, but Harlingen was supposed to be a beautiful city so we thought it would be the best option. On the way, we passed through many small towns (all having familiar looking churches at their center of course). These towns included Schingen, Peins, and Dongjum. All of them had maybe less than a fifty residents, but they were all well kept and fun to pass through. In between these towns were vast fields. However, I think the people are very sheepish in Friesland when it comes to taking pride in Frisian cows because we have been all over our portion of Friesland and can only find sheep. We have yet to find Frisian cows. Perhaps they have all gone south for the winter? I would not blame them if they did. Despite the relative ease of finding the right directions, the trails were treacherous. Although they were paved and well kept (that is all except one that took us winding on stones through muddy grazing fields), the wind was our biggest enemy. Powerful gusts sent a blistering chill down our spines and defeated any effort by the sun to provide us with warmth. At least that provided us with hope that the way back would be much easier since the wind would be at our back. Once we got past these few small towns, our sights were set on Franeker. A few years ago, Dr. Hunter and his family had lived there. We found it to be a beautiful town with canals similar to Leeuwarden. In fact, if one were new to the area, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two towns. There, we also stopped to use the facilities of an Italian bistro. From the exterior it reeked of suspicion. However, the kindness of the owner led us to take a closer look. Inside we found a little taste of Tuscany with the relaxing environment of a thriving vineyard. Someday I hope to see
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if the food matches the ambiance. Shortly after taking a few more pictures in Franeker, we pressed onward. Halfway between Franeker and Harlingen (our intended destination) we found another small town: Herbaijum. Again, a quick snapshot of the church, and we waved goodbye. Harlingen was within our reach. The wind was relentless, but the fresh ocean breeze fueled our will to prevail. We found our final obstacle to be a hill, but at the peak we found the promise land. Hallelujah for Harlingen! As compared to most Dutch cities, it also had canals, tight knit buildings, cobble stone walkways, and roundabouts. However, this town contained a gateway to the sea. Hence, we also found a large dike and harbor. With no surprise, to us, we found a church too. Yet, we could enter this one under one condition: no camera. That did not mean I could not take pictures with my phone (wink). Unfortunately, two gentlemen came in to pray so I only got one off before feeling the urge to leave. It was so beautiful. Maybe I will have another opportunity to return there and get a few better pictures. However, if and when I return, I will be sure to go when the weather is much warmer. On the sea, it is freezing! Due to this, we took a few pictures and tried to find a warm shelter. Of course, on Sunday nothing is open here, so we had to eat our lunch at the train station outside. Though it was awfully cold, it was very enjoyable. Katri made us cheese/lettuce sandwiches. With my apples and carrots, this made for a healthy lunch. While we were there a few trains came in and out, but definitely nothing like the hustle and bustle of Leeuwarden. Upon finishing, we unlocked our bikes and headed home without looking back. Although, we did catch a glimpse of what was beside us. Off in the distance we could see a torrential downpour. Fearful that we may be its next victims with a little under an hour left in our ride, we peddled ever faster. For me, this was nearly impossible due to my seat discomfort. Not only had my legs cramped up from all the biking, but also I could not feel my groin. Bearing the pain of sitting down was difficult and it looks like I’ll need a cushion for the next few days. Luckily, the rain did not hit us. When we got back to Leeuwarden (which was much warmer than the sea), it was sunny and snowing. This did not last long, but it was a very confusing situation nonetheless.
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Once back at Kanaalstraat, I split up from Katri and headed over to Ciska’s house to drop by and say hi. The last time I tried she had not been home. At this time, I had not seen her or Kirsten for nearly a week and a half, so I was hoping she’d be around. When I arrived, I had just missed her saying goodbye to Sven (her new boyfriend). Thus, I still have yet to meet him. We had a wonderful talk and I showed her my pictures from the day. I told her I would start sending her and Kirsten pictures because I probably won’t be seeing them to often. She was glad to hear things were going well and although she enjoys spending time with me, she is overjoyed that I am meshing well with the other students. We then wished each other well and I headed back to Kanaalstraat for a much needed shower (not had one for two and a half days) and some dinner. At dinner, I had the pleasure of having Rossana, Katri, Won, and Ana as my company. I ate my trademark meat, cheese, bread, and carrots again. Yet, it wouldn’t be a day here unless someone fed me more than I brought myself. Ana again said that she would not want to have her food as leftovers. I first told her I would not eat it, but when I found out it was going to be put in the garbage I changed my mind. I also did the same with Rossana’s pizza crust. How can people let food go to waste? Anyway, with all the biking I had done it still was not enough food. Not even the two apples I ate later did anything for me. Katri and I shared our photos later on, while Won and Rossana talked of their day in Leeuwarden. They had beautiful weather aside from the snow. Rossana was even compelled to make a video because of this. She enjoys film and that is her current area of study, but she ultimately wants to do anthropology. I guess to document research she could use her skills in film, but for now it is just fun to watch the smaller ones she makes of everyday things. Time to sign off and get some sleep. There is a long week of work before my week vacation.

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2/9 Anticipation always distorts sleep patterns. Feeling the excitement of another high school visit led me to wake up several times before my alarm. Finally, with only fifteen minutes to go, I decided struggling for a nickel’s worth of sleep wasn’t worth it. On the bright side, it allowed me more time to get ready before heading to the train station. I even had enough time to have two helpings of cereal. Wait, it gets better. When I got to the train station, I made it just in time for the train before the one I intended to take. Thus, I got to Groningen an hour and a half before Paul was suppose to pick me up. Having only briefly stepped outside the train station with Gerard and Katri the week before, I decided to explore. Each step led me into a mystifying frontier of Dutch history. Eating up the architecture and traditional buildings, I took as many possible pictures as I could within my time limit. Unfortunately, the gloomy weather did not allow for the greatest pictures. It does however add to my list of reasons to come back and truly experience the city. That’s the beauty and downfall of traveling on short notice. The nice aspect is that a lot is experienced. The negative is that each experience is merely a taste. Most of the time it always leaves you wishing you had another bite. I saw two or three churches, along with a few other buildings with clock towers (one of which I think was a university), but I only made it as far as the city center before having to backpedal towards the train station. Once I got back to the train station, I still had just over a half an hour before Paul was suppose to pick me up. So, I decided to grab some lunch at the restaurant there. Being a cheap college student, I got a ham and cheese sandwich for three euros. It got the job done. I also think the waitress was surprised when I gave her a fifty cent tip. Maybe the Dutch are as cheap as we portray them? After waiting five minutes in the newspaper shop, I spotted Paul. I thought we were going to walk to the school, but we drove instead. It wasn’t far at all. Actually, it was right off the main road, so in the future if I miss the bus it’ll be easy to find the Harm Jan Zondagschool. Catering to only 250 students and being one of two campuses only for a VMBO, it was much smaller than the high
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school I visited last week in Delfzijl. Again, I found no security and waltzed right in to the building. Filled with colors and windows, it seemed to create a comfortable environment for the students. Apparently, the Dutch government even requires that windows facing outside have to be on at least one side of each classroom. In addition, there are certain life skill classes that every student, regardless of high school level has to take by a particular point in their educational career. I even got the opportunity to help students a little bit in the computer lab today, but I have yet to see a chemistry class or an official lesson for that matter. Although, I have really been gaining a lot from just talking with the teachers and observing the workings of the schools. Hopefully, when I go to Jan Jurjen Salverda’s (JJ) class at Zernike in Groningen on Wednesday, I will see some actual lessons. I can’t complain though because (knock on wood) everything has been falling into place really nicely here. Anyway, about a half an hour before our school day ended Andries a prospective physics education student for the NHL showed up. He had misunderstood the instructions from Gerard and showed up late because of it. Good thing he did show though. He helped me fill out the Dutch application for a discount card for the public transportation. We’ll see if I ever take a train late enough during the weekdays to even be able to use it. Lately, I’ve been leaving so early in the morning that I wouldn’t even be eligible for the discount. It will save me a lot for big trips though and that’s what counts the most. Anyway, aside from having to fill out a form completely written in Dutch, I had to go to one of those silly little booths to take a picture of myself for a card that I will never receive. The card comes three months later and I will be back home by then. I told Erdal since my card is valid for a year he should just use mine because he’s the one who looks the most like me out of everybody else. Won could never do it being that he is Korean. Hopefully somebody will get good use out of it. Then came the beautiful train ride home. It was the one time of my day aside from late at night that I can completely relax. Using the trains led me to discover a new favorite past time for me: reading on trains. I finished “Why don’t penguins feet freeze?” today. Then I have three other books to work on. Katri and Won are each
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reading one to expand their English, so I have one to work on for the time being: “Sneaky uses for Everyday things”. I highly recommend nerdy science books by the way. They always give me a chuckle, but also make me think. I always think to myself, “How did someone ever stumble upon this silly of a question?” but the explanation is always worthwhile. Anyway, I enjoy it. Back in Leeuwarden, I withdrew some more money after breaking my wallet paying for a discount card. How ironic is that? Paying for a discount card never makes sense when stated outright. Aside from that, I finished off my liver sausage for dinner, while enjoying everyone’s company. Erdal and Ali even managed to join us for a few minutes. Ali sounds a lot better. Erdal, on the other hand, still has a little bit of a fight left with his cold. At least seeing them is a good sign. Towards the end of our dinner, Katri’s phone rang. She was doing dishes, so I answered. Of course, it was her boyfriend. He was not at all surprised that I answered and even knew who it was. He even spoke perfect English, without any sort of accent. Now the tables had turned and I was the shocked one. Having little to say because of the shock, I stammered some phrases out and handed the phone over to Katri. That was about as exciting as my night got. Following a busy day, all that was left was journaling and some emailing to finalize plans for visits. Time to collapse, no class until two fifteen tomorrow.

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2/10 On slower days, it is hard not to think of home. A chain of events this morning triggered these feelings. It all started with the snow, firm packing snow. Anywhere in the Netherlands, it is just as much a stranger as I. Waking up to its pleasant dance from the sky to the Earth made me reminisce of Chicago. We would get mounds of snow this time of year, perfect for sledding, snow ball fights, or just an excuse to stay in and drink hot chocolate by the fireplace. Truly it is a stranger here, as am I, because the locals seem confused on how to deal with it. As I walked to Aldi after my usual morning routine (breakfast, workout, and shower), I found people using umbrellas, others with ponchos over their thick coats. They did so with their bodies hunched over as if to hide from this treacherous unfamiliar beast, while I inhaled its greatness as I walked down the street. While at Aldi, I further realized the expenses one must endure to live alone. This is especially made difficult in the absence of employment. Thanks to the park district, I was able to keep busy over winter break and save up some money before this trip. However, it goes quickly, which is even harder to believe when I’m only one step away from the canned beans diet. If you didn’t appreciate your mothers cooking before, you certainly would now. For me, I always have, so I just miss it tremendously. After a long day at school or work, it is soothing to walk into a home that has something baking in the oven or just has that presence of calming. Even the dog helps and he’s my competition for love and affection. As far as classes were concerned, I only had one today: comparative education. It didn’t start until two fifteen, so when I returned from Aldi, I had a lot of time on my hands. Not feeling the urge to go outside and explore after lunch, I decided to continue reading. Most of my reading lately has pertained to physics related experiments more so than chemistry. Although it has been quite fascinating, it did not relate to experiments I could work with in my future classroom. Sooner than I thought, it came time to head to class. The snow had slowed from a blizzard to a dusting, but trudging through the slush would still prove difficult. Preferring to stretch my legs, opposed to using my bike, I left fortyfive minutes before class was intended to begin. I arrived with
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fifteen minutes to spare. It has been unusual for other students or the teacher for that matter to be this early to class too. So, I waited. Finally, with two minutes before the intended class time, some familiar faces showed up. Magali and Laetitia from Belgium, along with Maria from Spain showed up. Shortly thereafter, Hanne, another girl from Belgium came to bring us to another classroom. On the schedule, there were two locations for the class and we lost the coin toss for the correct room. In class, we learned about two different types of curriculum: overt and hidden. Then we also heard a presentation from the Belgium girls about their native education system. Every nationality has to do one, but I don’t present for three weeks. Needless to say, I have plenty of time to procrastinate. It was very neat though. I love learning about different cultures, especially historical events and educational systems. So, I think I will find this class particularly interesting. We also were supposed to hear a presentation from the students from Northern Ireland, but we ran out of time. They will be presenting next time, along with Turkey and hopefully Sweden. After class, I headed back to home sweet Kanaalstraat. The walk was really cold and the snow had turned into an icy rain. When I returned, I typed my notes and prepared for dinner. Tonight I finally used a fry pan. Cooking green beans was my warm up for Saturday (Valentine’s Day) when I have to cook for everyone. I plan to cook tuna patties with green beans and for dessert I will prepare baked cinnamon apples since we now have a toaster oven available for small dishes. I also intend to have flowers and cards for the ladies. I’m going to try and do this day the best I can so everyone stays quiet about my cooking abilities and so I hopefully don’t have to prove myself again for a while. Aside from that not too much else is going on here. I have to catch a train at seven tomorrow morning for another high school visit in Groningen. Hopefully this means I will actually be seeing lessons this time. Also JJ said he might show me around Groningen after school, so that should be fun as well. Time to relax before bed!

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2/11 Usually the “early bird gets the worm”, but this morning, after waking up at five in the morning, this Illinois State Redbird got on the right train, but not the right bus. I specifically asked the bus driver if he was going to Zernike College. He said, “but of course”. Little did I know this Zernike fellow was such a famous man that half the schools in Groningen were named after him. Thus, the bus driver rightfully labeled me as a university student and brought me to the Zernike Hogeschool, which was on the other side of the city. I found this out when I politely asked the receptionist why their campus was so huge. With my new found love for public transportation I backtracked all the way to the bus station at the train station. It gets better. I then started asking people which bus to use to get to my desired destination. Nobody knew. How can you live in a city and go to the schools and not know where something is located? Shame on them, for this ignorance cost me an hour and a half. Puzzles are fun, don’t get me wrong, but not when they involve appointments, especially really exciting appointments. Frightful as I stepped onto the next bus because I merely got a “yes we are headed that direction”, I got off at the second stop. Although I only had a general idea of where I was headed, it was probably better that I was on foot. Despite the amount of time it took and the embarrassment of being late, I made it to the school (it was an hour and a half after I intended to be there, but I only was ten minutes late to the first lesson). Standing before me was an older school, but life and the flare of the title “Montessori” had rejuvenated it in these most recent years. Montessori schools are much different from normal schools. They tend to emphasize group work, projects integrating several subjects, and combining certain similar classes (i.e. combining physics and chemistry). After introducing myself to the receptionist, she escorted me to one of the two classrooms I had been invited to attend. Although, at that time I did not know the honorable fact that teachers were fighting over me. It was quite gratifying to find out after how rough my morning had been in my eyes. The teacher leading the class (I say this because I found that sometimes two teachers would be in the same class) was Bas Siebring (no dad not
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the Chrysler convertible you own). He seemed generally enthusiastic and excited to have me as a guest in his classroom. Though my introduction was belated, the class still gave me a cordial greeting. This would be the first of five classes and three teachers I would see today. Two students doing their student teaching and one other teacher accompanied Bas for this lesson. On this particular day, the students were to perform a lab. It was one I had done before during my high school career: the copper-recycling lab. However, they did all five (or at least as I recall five) steps in one day. For a one-hour class period, that is working pretty diligently if you ask me. The next two classes were the same ability level, but they were younger and had a lecture that day instead of a lab. Bas taught one class and the other was taught by my contact: Jan Jurjen. Also, in the younger grades, they were not learning chemistry/physics, instead they were taking a combined health education/biology course. Again, keep in mind this is not a traditional school here. Some methods they employ may be similar, but the school functions in a completely different manner. When the students had free time many of them showed great curiosity about the United States and asked me several questions about Chicago. They also asked silly questions like have I met anyone from MTV or someone from Hollywood. It was cute, but if I had connections like that I would be in the Bahamas right now living it up on a yacht sipping fresh squeezed juice in a bathing suit (quite possibly a Speedo). Anyway, I enjoyed their company and excitement. Starting with the fourth class, things got a little more interesting with respect to behavior. I hate to attribute behavior to ability because I think it is more that the methods used by the teacher need to be different based on ability. So, as you may know from how I’ve worded things, these students were of a lower ability. The fifth class was the lowest ability and their teacher also encountered the most problems with them. However, she (their teacher) did not employ all the methods necessary to control the students. It was actually quite ironic because after the class she expressed the remedy to me: movement. Students that have a more difficult time paying attention need to be active or continually participating. Thus, the material needs to be conveyed in that fashion: a constant
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bombardment of activity. Not only may this tire them out, but there’s no telling how much learning they may experience. Why she does not modify her lessons, I will never know because the classroom was so tense between the students and the teacher that you could just feel it by observing the classroom. I couldn’t even understand what they were saying, but the body language spoke so strongly that I would have to be a fool not to know what was happening. It was just sad because when I spoke with the teacher after the class, I could tell that she had already given up on the students just by her attitude. Once that happens all hope is lost. Aside from the bumpy road getting to the school, the observations were fantastic! I finally got the chance to see actual lessons. Hopefully, that’s how things will continue to be as I visit more schools. In fact, I plan to return to this school several times because they want me to come on a consistent basis and perhaps teach a lesson. What an experience that would be! To teach chemistry, not even as a certified teacher, in a foreign country. How good would that look on an application? Think about it. When I finished observing the lessons, Jan Jurjen took me to the train station. He found no sense in me walking back. I was too distraught from my earlier experience with the bussing system to give it a go again in one day. Then, as I did on the way to Groningen this morning, I continued my reading. I finished the “Sneaky uses for Everyday things” and moved on to “Why do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?” Trust me it is as interesting and vulgar as it sounds, but I am not too far into it and already I highly recommend it. After about forty pages or so, our train arrived back in Leeuwarden and it was time for me to head home. With the enthusiasm my fellow international students show to learn English from me (they speak it well, but they always have so many questions), I’ve almost contemplated becoming an English teacher. Sometimes, I even feel like one. For instance, today I had to edit the papers that Rossana and Ana wrote. Of course, I couldn’t rewrite it to the point that it looked like somebody tweaked it, but I definitely pointed out some better ways to word things and made sure I explained my thoughts. Naturally, they were quick to agree that it was the right choice. I can only hope that they learn from my
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suggestions. After all, I can’t hold their hand throughout their English class. Not too much else is new, well aside from the good showers flooding. Hmm, well the showers aren’t necessarily flooding, but the floor drain in the shower room is, which is odd because it is backwashing dirty water. It smells like a fisherman’s wharf, looks cloudy, and would probably eat away at my shoe if I touched it. Thank goodness I am on the second floor, but I used the first floor showers because they didn’t have a peculiar odor. Now that they do it is picking the lesser of two evils, or in this case the one without the plumbing problem. Irony seems to surround my life because our landlord was here today, but the flooding occurred after she left. Such an odd coincidence wouldn’t you say? I protest it is sabotage! Her and her money hungry minions are out to get us poor international students. I worry that this problem will not be fixed quickly. The people that have been here since last semester said this happened then too. Perhaps we will start a new plague with our water? Then I’ll really become part of history! Record this journal as a historical recap and you may earn the copyright. Sorry, just working the old hyperbole. It shouldn’t come out to be anything serious. It is just annoying things like this that seem to surround our building. Such is life. As I wrote this journal, I talked with one of the Turkish guys. His name is Mustafa and by George every time I think of his name I think of Mufasa from The Lion King. He’s also got a scraggly beard and a particular hairstyle that could probably reflect a lion’s mane. A scary thought, but at the same time it is kind of cool. Just thought it would be a fun fact for all you Disney buffs out there. Goodnight.

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2/12 Sometimes I feel like I’m just part of some psychological research study. What was going to become a beautiful night’s sleep was obliterated this morning by the piercing sound of the fire alarm (talk about an alarm clock). Yet, I’ve already been trained (whether by a Pavlovian course of events or perhaps I’m actually getting smarter) to know that in Kanaalstraat nothing ever is what it seems. Thus, the instant I woke up to the obnoxious symphony of what seemed to be an air raid alarm from World War II (at 7:50 A.M.), I knew there couldn’t possibly be any fire in our building. One tenant (Dominick) shared his frightening account, “I was on the toilet, suddenly everything went black, and then it happened”. Apparently, some of the lights went out at the same time the alarm went off. Perhaps, it was an electrical problem then… or a conspiracy against us! There is a camera in the corridor; it holds the answers. I know their (Short Stay Solutions) tricks, but I won’t fall for them, no sir. To say the least, living here has been quite an experience. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not this is the European version of the hit series Lost, this is my training to become Batman, or if I’m just on some budget reality film series. Either way, it’s had a profound impact upon me. The inner thrill seeker and action junky has been activated within me. I live for each day, each adventure, but it still eats away at my soul and dignity. It’s not about that though. What it’s really about are the people around you, your fellow soldiers of confusion. Despite the peculiar events that surround and disrupt our daily routines, the fence that has separated us by our differences in personality and culture has burned to the ground. Like it or not, we have become a family. We need each other to survive; if anyone leaves the island (like in Lost), bad things are bound to happen to those of us that remain. With respect to the rest of my morning, it went pretty smooth compared to earlier events. Won and I went to Albert Heijn to restock on some breakfast necessities. A couple of packages of stroopwafels also found their way into my shopping bag. How did that happen? On the way back, we talked a little bit about education and our situation at Kanaalstraat. A common theme
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seemed to be that a lot of education has been geared towards tests and meeting “standards” opposed to learning. Marks mean nothing without learning. So, why is everybody so hung up on them? Right before reaching Kanaalstraat we split up. I headed back to the room, while Won had to go get a tuberculosis test. Better him than me; shots are awful. After having a well-balanced breakfast, I aimlessly searched the internet and composed the first part of today’s journal. Once I got bored of this, still having quite a bit of time before class, I plowed further through my most recent book. Allowing my mind to rest between chapters, I went to the fridge to grab a glass of peach/orange juice. Feeling my sock caught to something on the floor, I stooped down to take a look. Latched on with a vise like grip was a spider web of ginger hair. Gagging at the sight, I quickly wrenched its fibers from my sock and disposed of it in the trash. Still in shock, I searched for any of its relatives hidden about the room. Tufts of hair were woven into the wire carpet nearly everywhere. Either someone was murdered in our room or the previous tenant clearly broke the “no pets” clause of the lease. I preferred the latter of the two, but the evidence did not strongly support this conclusion. By the end, I think I had enough to donate and earn a solid paycheck. It would have made a wonderful tumbleweed for a John Wayne western. Following the detoxification of my room, I had to scurry to the shower and then head to class. We learned a little bit more Dutch in our Dutch Language and Culture course or at least enough to survive the public transportation here. What a mess that was the other day, but a good experience nonetheless. In addition to that, we also learned of our four projects to be completed for the course. At the time, it seemed like a tremendous amount, but I think it will be less than meets the eye. One exciting aspect of it was that I found out that Rossana and I would be doing the group project together. We have to conduct an interview, comprised of seven questions, with a random Dutch person. She is really into making films, so not only do we plan to answer the questions, but we plan to capture it all on film as well. Essentially that means one down and three to go. So much to think about on my break! Then I had to bike to the other campus for my favorite class: classroom management. Run by Gerard Stout, it explores methods
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for teacher conduct in order to control and manage the classroom. I also enjoy it because it is very philosophical and psychological, which prompts me to think. On top of that, I always find myself wanting to fast forward to the next class meeting. Today, we watched some films and discussed abilities to change behavior. Of course, we saw both examples of what works, and what clearly does not work. Katri and I got to watch the video of our visit to Delfzijl again, but we also saw the first lesson that Gerard observed alone too. The lesson was conducted by a student teacher, which in that day found out that he really did not want to attempt teaching. A sad story, but it happens. Better to know now than when it is actually your profession though. After class, Katri, Hanne, and Elin all left, but I had to discuss plans for tomorrow with Gerard. With his invitation, I will have the pleasure of joining him to a chemistry content standards meeting at Utrecht University. It will be another early morning, but it will be so worth it. Utrecht is two hours away by train, so I will have to catch the seven o’clock train. I already have my ticket, so I am all set and filled with excitement. I’ll be lucky if I get any sleep tonight. Gerard also got me to be featured in a Dutch science education magazine! They have a section that features future young teachers and he conducted the interview for it on me today. Thus, I will be in March’s issue. Wait, there’s more! I will also be at a science workshop, again in Utrecht, with Ciska. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Ciska, her and Kirsten studied at Illinois State University on exchange last semester. I had the pleasure of getting to know both of them and also my family hosted them for Thanksgiving. I like playing host, so it was quite the awesome experience. Anyway, that takes place on April 3rd. So, it will be busy busy for me throughout the remainder of my trip between those, visiting schools, and somehow keeping up with my own class work. Rejection set in at dinnertime. Usually Won and I gather the troops for the mess hall, but today we forgot. Needless to say, none of our comrades came to get us from the frontlines of homework. So, I was playfully A.W.O.L. for the dinner to make a useless statement and ate in the confinements of my foxhole. During this time, I was also able to complete my notes from class and work on my journal. Aside from that it turned out to be a pretty typical night, early to bed and early to rise yet again.
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2/13 Waking up at five in the morning never feels routine. Roosters don’t even get up that early. Yet, in the name of science, it had to be done. Slowly, I unwrapped myself from my snug warm blanket and eased myself up. Checking emails was next on the list of the hierarchy of morning rituals, and after that a nutritious Dutch breakfast for champions: muesli, vla, and blueberries. Then came time to shower, shave, and of course clothe myself. Although walking around town in a Neolithic fashion, being that my specimen has a remarkable resemblance to the statue of David, the weather and the police would have created too many complications. Maybe, if I return to Europe in a summer month, I will have the opportunity to give it a try. Upon brushing my teeth and making one last pit stop, I was ready to leave. As I walked out the door, I remained oblivious to the potential implications of today’s date. Leaving the island (Kanaalstraat), especially on Friday the 13th, was like playing with fire. Despite overly cautious tendencies, I still got burned. Thus, today totally evoked past feelings of buried superstition. People may believe that superstitions are merely overt compulsive nervous habits, myths if you will, that prevent professional athletes from being identified as insane, but I assure you they are completely valid and verifiable. A typical consensus amongst American youth is, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt”. What if somebody is masochistic and thereby dies? Allow me to explain. Our train left Leeuwarden at 7:04 A.M. and was scheduled to make several stops along the way to Utrecht, nothing out of the ordinary. Hence, everything started off smoothly. I even got very close to finishing my book by the time of the incident (approximately 8:20 A.M.). Following the general trend of strange events surrounding me in the Netherlands, the unspeakable happened. Some lost soul, helpless and depressed, likely due to the current global economic crisis, kissed the world goodbye. In their last moments, they became one with our train in a devastating collision between Zwolle and Amersfoort. With only forty minutes left in my train ride at that time, I found myself more enraged than sympathetic for the person and the conductor whom indirectly aided their suicide. I had thought I was done quarrelling
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with the public transportation system, and now this! It’s come to the point where there is potentially a personal phobia pending. Due to the inconvenient timing of this self-fulfilling endeavor, we were delayed for an hour and a half. Thankfully, we didn’t feel or see any of the resulting “mess”. All we were able to see were the police patrolling up and down the sides of our train. However, after waking up my mom and Ciska to find out the phone number of the NHL, I made better use of the time. This is because being stuck in the middle of nowhere on the train with ample time always allows for striking conversations and I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to socialize. The guy across from me had been helping translate the announcements over the intercom and it just took off from there. As usual I didn’t find out his name until the end of the conversation: Jos. However, he and I had a thorough chat until we were moving again. Overall, it was a neat conversation because he seemed innately curious about the U.S., while I showed the same feeling towards the Netherlands. Once we started moving again, one gentleman, whom obviously had not woken up on time for a decent cup of coffee, complained to the train attendant that we all deserved refunds for our tickets. As if today’s events were really preventable. Anyway, we did have the opportunity to get coupons for coffee for our inconvenience today! No one knew where or how we could get these, but the thought of warm deliciousness soothed our anxiety stricken bodies. All of this happened two stops before my destination: Utrecht. Maybe I could have walked the rest of the way? Yeah, right. Unfortunately, Jos got off at Amersfoort, one stop before Utrecht, so he would be unable to help me find the correct bus. Shortly after my initial fight or flight response to this knowledge, I realized that the two gentlemen across the isle from me could do it since they had been conversing with us a little as well. Relieved, I eagerly followed them off the platform. Though I never learned their names, I did have the pleasure of finding out some tid bits about them. One worked as an information technology consultant/technician. He fixed servers, networks, and all that jazz for corporations and schools. The other had just explained that he just got a job in Utrecht and planned to move their tomorrow. So today would be a hustle bustle day to get his apartment keys and get acquainted with
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his new job. One of them split up from us at the elevator and then we were two. The latter helped me get on the right bus to Utrecht Hogeschool. However, Gerard had also referred to it as Utrecht University, so thankfully they were both on the same campus. Getting off at the university, frantic and embarrassed, I went to the nearest building in hopes of finding a helpful receptionist. This would be the first of four I would encounter throughout my quest to find Gerard. First and foremost, they told me I was in the wrong building and directed me towards the next one. The second, also a male would initiate and further my eventual conclusion that men are not fit to be receptionists. This is not to say they should not be in a chauvinistic sense, but that men lack the skills necessary to help people. Women are generally maternal and helpful. They have an instinctual sense of sweetness to be exact. Whoever said the human body was limited to five senses? Biologists, goodness everyone knows physics and chemistry are the only sciences. Anyway, therefore women are much better at the job than two of the male dirt bags I encountered. Thank you ladies, especially all the moms out there. Again, they had heard of no such gathering of the greatest minds in chemistry in the Netherlands. Cursing them to the four fathers of chemistry, Aristotle, Avagadro, Bohr, and Boyle (there are many others, but I figured these fools didn’t deserve to be cursed by more than four), I moved on to the next building across the street. Finally, I found myself in the loving care of a woman. Eager to help out, she made several phone calls to most of the other buildings. Unfortunately, no one knew anything about this meeting. I guess this Hogeschool was an unbeknownst Camp David, a haven of security if you will, for great minds of chemistry. Though I admired the confidentiality and secrecy, which had a sort of spy movie flare, it did not help the fact that I was extremely late. When all seemed lost, I suggested I check my email to see if it could give both of us some direction. I knew I was in the right place, but I had to assure them of the same. No questions asked she let me past the red tape and into the office of gracious reception. My email clearly demonstrated I was in the right place, aside from the address number of 92, but I insisted it was a typo and I should really be in 97, the last building on the block. Mothers know best and she agreed. Feeling like the infamous General MacArthur, I continued
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building hopping until I achieved success. Little did I know I was going to meet the pompous jock superstar from high school that failed at academics and turned into a receptionist. Deep down I should have known his sweet Prussian blue eyes hid a monster. He insisted that there was no such meeting at this office. I would later find out that Scheikunde meeting would clearly be on one of the digital boards by the staircase. At the time, it was hidden from my view and had decided to go with standard procedure of asking the receptionist. He made a call to look official, but then had the nerve to tell me that I should print and read my emails. What a jerk to suggest this to a poor international student who doesn’t even have a printer! Plus, I didn’t need a full itinerary to get to Utrecht Hogeschool, nor did I need further instructions than to meet there. I am clearly not incompetent. Furious with the fact that the personal touch of customer service has clearly gone out the window, I went back outside into the rain. However, I refused to give up. I called the NHL again to talk with Gerard’s secretary or at least one of the three he has. Right before she could tell me that his train was on the track right behind mine, I spotted him from afar dismounting from the horseless chariot: a public bus. Overjoyed, I ran to him; tears almost streamed from my eyes, I was so happy to finally be found on this island of confusion. Almost strutting, I reentered the building with my ticket to triumph: Gerard. I met eyes with the receptionist. We both knew my sarcastic grin and thumbs up for “it’s all good” was really a big fat middle finger. I still can’t believe the petty mongrel accused me of ignorance in order to dismiss his general stupidity and lack of importance. Victory was mine and it never felt so good! Almost running up the stairs with excitement, Gerard and I gallantly made our way to the ninth and highest floor. Having not realized that the Netherlands was tremendously smaller than the U.S., the thought of only having seven Hogeschools never crossed my mind. Thus, when I met King Arthur’s Knights of the lab table, one lord from each of the Hogeschools, I was surprised. Then again, how much bantering do you really want when you create standards for students intending to become chemistry teachers? That’s what I thought. Although there was only twenty minutes left in the meeting, I was intrigued by everything I learned in that short
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amount of time. I could truly tell a lot of thought had gone into how to conduct teacher education just by the way electrons and protons swirled about the room in their deep thought. Upon the meeting’s conclusion, which was shortly after we arrived, one teacher remained with us to tour the school. We talked about the Dutch students’ observations and student teaching requirements. It has been interesting finding out how much the emphasis is more on practicality and experience, opposed to over qualification through content mastery. The facility was also brand new of last year. Most rooms were equipped with “smart boards” and the classrooms all had very modern technology and design themes. I also had the pleasure of meeting Menno, one of the student editors for the young teachers section of the science education magazine I will be featured in for March. He seemed to have a lot of answers pertaining to my questions regarding Dutch science education and he seemed particularly intrigued in the U.S. system. Thus, it will be nice to keep contact with him. Of course, Gerard had fun whipping out his video camera too. It’s nice that he captures a lot of events on film. It’ll make for a nice DVD of my trip; something I can use for personal and academic documentation. Shortly thereafter, Gerard and I headed back out into the rain. I think the rain lives here and occasionally decides to vacation elsewhere, but not too often. We took the bus to the city center and strolled the historic streets of Utrecht. Before doing too much sight seeing though, we stopped to get lunch at a castle that had been turned into a restaurant and a hotel. I felt like a feudal lord enjoying a fantastic feast. This meal had been the biggest and best I had enjoyed since arriving here. We both had a seafood salad consisting of trout, salmon, and shrimp adorned with nature’s greens. After taking a picture with the waitress, we slowly carried our full stomachs around town. Our first destination was the Dom. Built between 1321 and 1382 (the time of completion) it stood as the tallest building in the Netherlands for a very long time at a height of 112.5 meters. To this day, it is still the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. From there we checked out the corresponding cathedral. Almost half of it had been burned down and black cobblestones marked the previous locations of pillars and walls. We went inside, but I had to refrain from taking pictures. The Gothic
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architecture was so fascinating. It’s so hard to believe how many buildings were built in such a delicate fashion and today time is money so the aesthetic value of buildings is sacrificed (at least in most cases). Only Chicago has pretty modern buildings (wink). From there, we moved on to a museum. Along the way, we found an orphanage and a psychiatric facility. Although Utrecht has a beautiful historic city center, today it typically attracts a poorer part of the population. Needless to say, it’s not too safe to be there at night. We found the museum to be a converted chapel. Inside, we found an old Roman boat that was recovered from the canal and priceless paintings. I also caught my first glimpse of Frisian cows outside of Friesland, but it was only a painting. Someday I will find out there hiding spot. Once we hit every exhibit, we found the sun heading down quickly and our time running out just as quick. The time finally came to end our adventure and head to the train station. Unfortunately, Gerard and I went our separate ways starting at Utrecht instead of splitting in Zwolle because two separate trains were running due to rush hour. Despite missing out on an invigorating conversation with Gerard, the train back still offered some excitement. Off the bat, we were crammed in like cattle. Surrounded by people standing in the corridor by the doors, I uncomfortably squirmed the whole way until the next train station. During this time, I saw a scraggly scrawny individual roll a joint. He was very meticulous in his method, though I’ve never seen the excitement in it: to each his (or her) own. To the benefit of my legs, and aching body, most people got off at Amersfoort and I was able to find a seat. Little by little the seats cleared on the way back to Leeuwarden. It allowed me to finish my one book and then begin, “Why don’t eyelashes grow?”. On the way, we also had a rowdy group of working men. If McDonald’s sold beer, they would have each had the supersized cans of Heineken. About a half hour in it totally kicked in and their behavior showed it. They were quite hilarious, but they got a little physical and almost started brawling with each other in our train car. My money was on the youngest one. Although he seemed to receive the most heat, everybody always underestimates Little Mac. For those of you that have played “Punch Out” for regular Nintendo you totally understand.
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Eager to get home, eat, and relieve the pulsing pain in my bladder, I power walked the entire way back to Kanaalstraat. I did not arrive a moment too soon either, for everyone was planning to eat dinner downstairs at 7:30 and I showed up at 7:27. So, I quickly performed the most important of the above things to do and gathered my dinner. In the kitchen we each enjoyed a candle lit dinner. Of course, it was a warm up for tomorrow’s superb Valentine’s Day dinner and dessert. It will be our last hoorah before we go to Amsterdam for three days. At tonight’s dinner, Won and I had the pleasure of joining Dominick (Phillippines), Sanket (India), Ana (Portugal), Katri (Finland), and Rany (Korea). At that dinner, we talked about our days, found out that Dominick is 34 and has a wife and kids, and shared some historical events surrounding our countries. Dominick and Sanket also talked me into indulging in a few glasses of wine with them. Tonight we toasted to each other’s company, the fact that we are surviving our stay on the island, and to another glorious night. (Later, I would work on my journal while listening to a Korean thriller. This time it would only be Won, the ladies (plus Rossana after returning from soccer practice), and myself: another glorious night indeed.)

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2/14 Already a step behind, I began this morning by finishing off the monstrosity of a journal. It turned out to be an epic five pages… wow! I needed to get hopping though because today was my dinner extravaganza. Then, I remembered that my grocery plans were going to be delayed because I intended to go on a jog with Katri. We left at about eleven thirty and got back around one fifteen. It took a little longer because we decided to walk, not only to enjoy the day, but because my chicken legs can’t handle the burden of land (I need water people!). I thoroughly enjoy our jogs/walks because we have a particular trust in one another that allows us to vent our troubles or engage in deeper conversation than otherwise possible with others. It has been tough at times for some of us to assimilate, so it has been nice for us to have each other to confide in. We can both do the same with Won, but he’s been busy lately with things like laundry when we have decided to go on our adventures. On our walk, we decided to head East towards Groningen, obviously there is no way we could ever walk there. However, we discovered a Cuba Marsh in Leeuwarden. It had a few lakes and a lot of open land. Of course, the path was paved to perfection as well. In that area also resides one of the nicest communities in Leeuwarden. As we passed through, we noticed two children (no older than nine or ten) playing in an open window. The girl smiled and shouted to us in Dutch. Right to her left was her brother. His trousers were pulled down and a full moon shown in our honor. We all got a good laugh out of it (despite not understanding a word that they said), and cheered for them in the name of fun. When I got back to Kanaalstraat, it was go time. I hustled about the room comprising a shopping list and ordered Won to attend my adventure. Originally, I figured finding certain items (relish, bread crumbs, and chicken broth) would be nearly impossible. I was basically right, but I could improvise. For the relish, I used the finest diced pickles. Then, instead of stuffing (which is none existent due to no form of Thanksgiving here) I crushed rye wasa up into a fine powder. Finally, for the chicken broth, I drained a can of chicken soup. However, before I tried the wasa, I bought this dark brown bread. I would later find out that it was similar to fig bread. Word
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from the mouth of the unfortunate experienced, don’t eat or buy this bread. It tasted awful, which made me glad in the end that I used the wasa. While at the grocery store, I also helped an elderly Dutch woman in a power chair load her groceries on the conveyer belt. Later, I would help her with her bag at the end of the conveyer belt too. I don’t know what she said (as usual), but she seemed eternally grateful. What else was I suppose to do though, stand there like a deer in headlights and do nothing? It should be the duty of an individual to help any other person, regardless of the situation. “Never leave a man (or woman) behind.” Preparing the dinner took the greater portion of the afternoon, but I got it done with ample time to shower and beautify myself. I even gelled my hair today! With a splash of cologne, Won and I were finally set to cook and serve our guests. Well at least, I did most of the cooking (if you don’t believe it I have pictures, so bet your booty it’s true). All the patties came out wonderfully delicious, and equal portioned. The only mishap was the last one, which was reserve anyway. They still got moved to the front lines because we ended up having two extra guests at the dinner: Elin and Hanne. So, excitedly, I let them try it too. Everything went great for our Valentine’s Day feast. The girls bought chocolate cake for dessert, but got one for free because the market had a deal on that day. Also, Ana made everyone Sangria, which I would later accidentally spill on my good shirt. Fiddle faddle. Regardless, it was a fantastic evening with lots of pictures and a required toast from myself. At the conclusion, we gave each person a flower (a tulip because we needed some hint of the Netherlands) for attending. Now after nursing my wounded Sangria stricken shirt with salt, cold water, and dish soap, it is off to Amsterdam!!!

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2/15 Waking up is only easy when it is to the smell of bacon. After a late night of valentines and fine dining, we were all exhausted. Hence, this morning was difficult. Trying to catch up with my journals, I woke up at seven. Since Won was still asleep, I had to listen to my inspirational writing music (Berlin, Bonnie Tyler, and Edwin McCain) through headphones. Won rose about a half an hour later. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, he headed straight for his computer to check his email. He still seemed a little dazed and confused that it was already the morning, but I was allowed to play music aloud anyway. Suddenly, a familiar song started to play and he perked up. At the end, he finally asked, “Who sings that?” I then responded, “Peter Frampton.” Seemingly surprised, with the utmost sincerity he answered, “Oh really? I thought it was Bob Marley or Stevie Wonder.” I felt bad, but I found it hard not to laugh. We have good times. Within an hour, I completed my journal. Finally, it was time to get ready for our big trip! All in all I only packed one backpack full of items. I hoped it would be all I would need to survive (to name a few, I took my passport, wallet, phone, camera, two changes in clothes, and a bountiful amount of light snacks). Bidding our room farewell, Won and I continued on to the rendezvous point. After five minutes of waiting for Bori to arrive from Egalantierstraat, and Ana to put something back in her room, we were all set. Thankfully, at the train station, Bori and my magic discount cards allowed everyone to travel to Amsterdam for under 17 Euros. Walking out onto the platforms to the flash of cameras, the only way to escape our paparazzi, (Bori and Rossana), was to board the train. Unlike the Hollywood movie stars, we actually enjoyed their presence. We also knew this train had to be ours since we encountered soccer super fans decked out from head to toe in orange. However, this train would only take us as far as Hilversum. Then we would have to connect to another train that would take us directly to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Fortunately, not many people travel to Amsterdam from Leeuwarden, so in the first train we were all able to sit by each other.
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As I am bad with directions, I initially suggested that we were headed due east. Quickly, I realized my slip and corrected myself. However, this led Katri and I to tell everyone about the beautiful area we found just east of Leeuwarden on our romantic walk the day before. As we were trying to describe the natural setting with lakes and grasslands, Katri blurted out, “It’s like a water park for animals!” Caught off guard by the description, I found myself laughing hard for the second time today. It’s nice to be able to surround myself with people that make each day better than the last. With each step closer we got to Amsterdam, the more crowded the trains became. We felt the true effects of this when we transferred trains. Each of us had to endure the last thirty minutes in solitude. It actually turned into a nice opportunity for some of us to get in a quick catnap and recharge a little from the early morning. I had to wake up Rossana once we pulled into the station. She can sleep anywhere during the day; it’s unbelievable. She lives at night. At the station, we could truly feel the population density. The culture was tremendously different from Friesland and Groningen. You could feel the difference in the pace of life. Living in a big city is certainly conducive of this fast-forwarded lifestyle. I for one prefer the countryside, but cities can be nice places to visit. Thus, it took a while, but little by little Amsterdam grew on me. Also, in the everchanging Dutch climate during this time of year, experiencing a city to the fullest can be difficult. Needless to say, the cold and the rain after a long day of traveling made me a very sleepy boy. First and foremost, Won had a mission for all of us. We had to help him look for his bike, which had been locked up outside the train station for over two and a half weeks now. After searching for over fifteen minutes, I already concluded that it was gone and lost forever in the hands of some petty thief or miscreant taking part in Tom Foolery. Next, before any official site seeing was done, we all had one thing on our mind: our accommodation. Optimistic to find a better situation than a hostel, we consulted the nearest tourism agency. Our cameras and bags didn’t give away our identity in the slightest bit, but honing in on this office like a heat-seeking missile totally confirmed the label of tourist. To my surprise, we had an accommodation within ten minutes. All six of us were to share one bedroom and one
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bathroom. We all also had our own beds, but barely any room to walk. At least it was a place we could leave our belongings so we could travel lightly. The best part was that it only cost 15 euros per night! The aspect of sharing a room with four girls had nothing to do with it. When we arrived at the hotel “Y-Boulevard”, named for the fact that the canal across the street was called the “Y”, we found our room in the middle of cleaning. So we got all the paperwork and deposit for the key straightened out during this time. Another plus we found out there was that breakfast was buffet style and free: a perfect situation for starving college students. During our wait, Rossana gave us some cookies to munch on, for it had been a long train ride. Soon thereafter, our room was ready to have a new set of occupants. Won and I took the bunk bed and the girls each shared the double beds. After dropping off our belongings, perhaps our identities as well, we set our compass for the Anne Frank house. I feel so silly saying this, but I never realized that her and her family lived in the Netherlands. Their house was quite a walk, but nothing for us strapping young individuals. We even enjoyed some Dutch French fries (if that makes sense) along the way. Each time I have them, I am further addicted to the concept of mayonnaise with fries: delicious. They gave us such a heaping helping, that they lasted us all the way to the house. The line, long for the rainy weather, was still shorter than I expected. I even met somebody from Chicago, who had temporarily lived in Palatine. This is due to the fact that I heard American being spoken in front of us (I don’t care what you say, American is totally an official language derived from English). Her and her friend were only two spots in front of us in line. She had been recently transferred to Amsterdam for business. Chicagoans are everywhere: true story. Inside the house, we found several original artifacts, videos, and quotes from her diary. I wish they had left the furniture in the house, but her father insisted on moving it out. Also, I am saddened every time I cannot take pictures. So, I was sure to take all the free brochures I could find. The last survivor that had helped Anne and her family, Miep Gies, turned 100 today. It is hard to believe how much change she has probably seen in her life.
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From there, we found a restaurant by the center to satisfy our taste buds and empty stomachs. I got a club sandwich with bacon and eggs on it. While our food was being prepared, we told stories and jokes. Rossana on the other hand, played with the owner’s cat. Although it was a beautiful, playful cat, I am a dog person until the day I dy and I still say cats are creepy. Then the food came… It was fantastic! Not only did I get a hearty portion, but it was loaded with all sorts of greens as well. Ironically, we were nearly all alone in the restaurant. I thoroughly enjoy the pace of eating/dining here much more than in the states. It seems to be more about the experience opposed to one’s speed of food consumption per hour. Being here allows for much more relaxed socialization. On our way back to the hotel, we cut through the red light district to see what it was all about. It really didn’t seem to have the flare of a Las Vegas strip that I expected to see. In addition, I caught a glimpse of quite possibly the only overweight person I’ve seen in Holland and she was for sale for a “good time”. That moment took all the interest (which there wasn’t much to begin with) out of site seeing in that area. From there we tried to get a peak inside one of the big churches. Within thirty seconds of entering they rushed us out. No time for pictures. I have yet to find a church willing to let us take pictures. It is quite depressing. Our adventure back also led us straight through the center of the city. We took some pictures by some statues and continued onward. I had the most fun taking pictures inside enlarged wooden shoes though. At last, we got back to our hotel, a home away from home if you will (that is if your really consider Kanaalstraat worthy of the term home… I’ll stick with accommodation, but even that is a stretch). We all got in our pajamas and then began reflecting upon the day. I did so by working on my journal up on the top bunk, while the others did so out loud. Then I leant my cards to the kids. Before they started playing Kemps (a common childhood game that got me through many swim meets), Rossana used the to read my future. It was really more of a personality reading though. Surprisingly, its odd foolishness, which I would typically claim to be hardly worth the time of day, seemed to fit me quite well. However, what it told me about myself is for me to forever keep secret.
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2/16 Surviving the Netherlands requires only one item: an umbrella. They may not have the monsoons of Vietnam, but prepare to be wet. Eager for what the day held, along with the free breakfast buffet, I rose from bed first. To my surprise I woke up to a partly clear sky (I would encounter rain later). However, being the first to rise can be awkward in a room of six people. This is also reinforced by the fact that I resided on the top of a rickety metal bunk bed. Amazingly, with my short stubby arms, I found a way to retrieve my phone from my backpack below. Without having to dismount my bunk, I could listen to music via headphones and not wake the others. Little by little, everyone started to get up. Rossana took a little bit of coaxing though. However, the sheer fact that we may miss the free breakfast got everybody hustling. For as much of a bargain as our hotel was, the breakfast outmatched other nicer hotels I had stayed in before coming here. They had hard-boiled eggs, toast, cheese slices, ham, pound cake, and a few more selections. Taking advantage of the free aspect, I had a gluttonous four helpings. At breakfast, Won and I also learned of the mischievous behaviors of the women. Apparently, after they had gone out for pizza, whilst we were asleep, they took pictures of us. Won had fallen asleep with his computer on his chest (movie still playing of course) and I was sleeping like a baby curled up in the covers. Licking my lips in satisfaction, at the conclusion of our fine meal we split into groups. Bori and I, though perhaps interested in seeing the Van Gogh Museum, decided it would be more fun to go to the science museum. We planned to meet up with them later at the Rijksmuseum. To our convenience, the NEMO Science Museum was almost right across the canal from our hotel. For a mere price of 6.50 euros, we could enter this science entertainment park. I found it comparable to a Dutch version JFK Health World (for those of you that do not know what that means, basically picture a museum geared towards middle school and high school students that can make college students feel young again). There were five floors altogether. Each floor fueled my inner drive to bust out my dust accumulating LEGO set. A lot of the exhibits were more physics
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based (boo), but I still found enjoyment in them. One of my favorite exhibits was the whisper reflector. Basically, two people sit at opposite ends of the room facing a curved apparatus. By simply whispering, the sound waves bounce back towards the other person. I have done this in the U.S., but it felt great to visit an old past time. We also raced different cylinders (hollow and solid) down an incline and sent McDonald’s Play Place balls through an intricate system of loops and conveyor belts. As we tried to explore every nook and cranny of this intellectually intriguing fun land, we encountered trouble towards the upper floors. We did not realize we had entered the forbidden grounds of teenage puberty and almost watched a sex education video on accident. I wiggled us out of that situation before it was too late because the museum attendant looked all too eager to give us a magic token. There wasn’t too much to see after that. So, we took the elevator up to the fifth floor café to take pictures of the panoramic view. At that time, we were still lucky to have a partly cloudy sky and no rain. Thus, we took as many pictures possible. Finally, when our camera flash was nearly burned out, we tried to board the “Amsterdam”, a tall ship docked on the west side of the NEMO. To our demise, they used this ship as a plot to earn more money, so our tickets to the museum were not sufficient boarding passes. As stowaways the mutinous crew made us walk the plank without any photos. So, we took some from the port and starboard side instead of from the crow’s nest. Feeling a sense of urgency, we worked our way towards the opposite end of the city to meet the others. However, we did make a few scenic stops along the way. No one could pass up a good photo opportunity. One of which was an epic flower market. I almost got lost in a sea of tulips along one canal, but finally escaped after a few minutes of wandering. Although they were expensive, they were some of the nicest assortments of flowers I had ever seen. Not too long down the main road, we found the museum courtyard. On the epic campus of museums, one could find the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, a concert hall, and an open field for soccer. In front of the Rijksmuseum there was also a temporary ice skating rink. If we had known how long the kids were going to take in the Van Gogh Museum, we would have taken them up on
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their offer. Instead, we enjoyed the fresh air of the courtyard and ate a simple lunch. We also had a few uninvited guests. The pigeons managed to get a few of my dropped peanuts. We still had no news after our lunch, so we planned to walk to a nearby park to see what sights it may hold. In the park, we found solitude from the hustle and bustle of the crowded city streets. Although, so did many others. We also passed by the Film Museum. This would come in handy later when everyone would want to go there. Once we were nearing the end of the park, we decided to turn around and head back towards the museum. About halfway back, we received a text message saying they just got done with the Van Gogh Museum. It was a good thing that we started heading back early because then they weren’t waiting too long for us. During that time, we also received a text from Hanne and Elin. Since they were also in Amsterdam, they wanted to meet up that night at seven for dinner. That gave us roughly two and a half hours to see the Rijksmuseum and the film museum. With a little fire underneath or feet, we made everything according to plan. The Rijksmuseum contained glorified paintings of the rich and famous (in other words a great portion of the museum was dedicated to them and their portraits). This is why I did not care for the second floor as much as the first floor. The first floor presented more artifacts and went more into the historical detail, including colonization and epic conquests of Dutch admirals. Hence, I found it tremendously more fascinating than the dedication to the Dutch aristocracy. Upon finishing, we had one last stop before dinner: the film museum. People say “don’t judge a book by its cover” and they are absolutely correct. The museum stood with majestic pillars and an overall exquisite exterior architecture, but the interior was lacking according to the others. I did not go in because I refused to pay for fear of ruining my budget for the trip. Let’s just say they were in and out of the museum within ten minutes. To put it in perspective, we spent between an hour and two hours in the other museums. In the Van Gogh museum they spent over three hours. So yes, it was clearly a disappointment for them indeed. From there, we moved our tired rumps as fast as we could through the rain to Nieuwe Kerk. That was about a block from where Hanne and Elin were staying (in a Christian shelter). Won, unfortunately had to head back to the
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room before dinner. Earlier, he had a hotdog from a roadside stand. It didn’t settle well with his stomach and the walking was making it worse. When we caught up with Hanne and Elin, it seemed like a scene from a movie when the long lost friends find each other in the middle of the pouring rain. Of course, the hardest question always presents itself: “Where should we go for dinner?” We all agreed upon Asian food, and ended up in a fancy Thai restaurant. Playing it safe, I got a fried rice dish with chicken. The others were a little bolder, preferring curry dishes to my non-spicy dish. Overall, it was a very relaxing meal and we all enjoyed the company of one another immensely. By the time all was said and done, we had probably spent a good hour and a half there just socializing. Then came time for dessert. On the way to meeting Hanne and Elin, we had found a street stand with different types of waffles. A distinct impression was made in our minds and stomachs that led us on a quest to rediscover the location of this dessert treasure chest by retracing our steps. It ended up being a lot further than we thought, but we definitely made it. I got a white chocolate covered waffle. Again, it was simply delicious. If I must say, it made a perfect ending to my meal and night.

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2/17 Not having an alarm clock to wake up to is a beautiful thing. Although I typically wake up at the crack of dawn, which here is around eight or so with the clouds, I feel refreshed waking up at my own pace. Again, everyone slowly rose from his or her slumber. Won and I were definitely the first two though. Feeling some serious hunger pains, we didn’t bother waiting for the others and headed straight for the food. Piling the food as high as I could with each plate, I tried to get my money’s worth before we were to check out. When we returned the key, I got my ten euros deposit back. It was nice bonus cash in case I ended up spending too much beforehand. Then Ana, Won, and I hit one last museum with Bori, Katri, and Rossana before splitting off from them to head back to Leeuwarden early. Ana had extra bags and there was no way that she would have been able to carry them around to see other museums today. Not to mention, it would have been annoying checking her bag in at the museum every single time we went in one. It was about time for me to head home anyway (lord knows I had plenty of journaling to catch up on from the vacation). Taking the train is always pleasant. There is always the fantastic view of the countryside and the seats are quite comfortable. Our train exchange took place this time in Amersfoort, about a half hour away from Amsterdam. Then we had to get into the second half of the next train in order to head directly to Leeuwarden. In the trains that head to Leeuwarden and Groningen, they start from the same location, so they begin as one train. Then at some train station, usually Zwolle, they split. One then heads to Leeuwarden and the other heads to Groningen. The front always heads to Groningen because it is further than Leeuwarden and they use the same track. Within two and a half hours, we returned safe and sound. Everything here has started to become routine. It certainly feels like I have been living in Kanaalstraat for much longer than 3 weeks. Since I carried Ana’s extra bag, which was extremely heavy for her, back to Kanaalstraat, she told us that we had to let her cook us dinner as a payment for our kindness. Of course, how could Won and I refuse such a generous offer? She served us ground beef
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complemented by pasta and a cream sauce. Then we had two desserts tonight. Ana supplied one and the other was by Katri. Ana gave us a heaping portion of an aged honeydew melon. It was much healthier, but equally as satisfying as the leftover chocolate cake that Katri gave us from our Valentine’s Day feast. We polished off the evening by watching Walle. I was the only one to stay awake for the entire film. Katri and Ana went to their rooms in the middle and Won fell asleep somewhere in between. Late nights and traveling finally were starting to get the better of us. For me there is no escape. Another early morning awaits Katri and I tomorrow as we plan to venture to Gerard’s house and assist with building a green house. The experience will add to the highlights of the week.

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2/18 Caffeine addictions ran most rampant on the morning train. It seemed to be a method of survival. Work would cease to exist without it. Fortunately, the slightest scent of a fine brewed cup of Joe provides me with all the energy I need to start my day. I would need it today, for it would turn out to be a much busier day than I had expected. Starting my day off dark and early at seven, my Facebook and email obsession almost got the better of me. By the time I finished sifting through my mail and writing responses, I only had a half an hour to shower, get dressed, and perhaps wipe my disgusting goatee off my face. For those of you that have lived with me, you know this is impossible. Well today I proved all those doubts wrong, aside from one minor issue. I ended up forgetting my shirt on the way out. Katri showed up at the room right as I was finishing and I walked out in an undershirt, clearly missing the fact that my t-shirt was still staring longingly at me from my bed. It’s always something. At least it wasn’t my pants. At the train station, we picked up a set of tulips for Gerard and Meta. It was the least we could do to show how much we appreciate their hospitality and invitation. With only a few minutes to spare, we hopped on the train to Groningen. As I was holding the flowers, people probably thought Katri and I were lovers. I knew my place in society though. I was only the fling while her boyfriend was home in Finland (kidding). At Groningen, we waited about ten minutes for our bus (number 82 headed for Nieuw Roden). Heading out to the countryside during rush hour, it came as no surprise that we were the only ones on the bus. The bus driver was also very courteous to let us know which stop we had to get off at. It must have been a lonely ride from there on out. Our scavenger hunt for Gerard’s house then began. Like bloodhounds, we sniffed out his house. The sneaky fox could not fool us. After a brief wrong turn, prompted by my sense of direction of course, we found it. It was a quaint Dutch cottage with a luxurious garden backing up to the forest. Walking in, we found a spiral wooden staircase heading upstairs and a glass door leading into the kitchen, dining, and family room. The walls were adorned with
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artwork and in every room we found beautiful Japanese cabinetry. However, my favorite room was the newly added dining room. Natural lighting from the skylights complemented by the wall of glass sliding doors created a tranquil environment perfect for escaping the troubles of the day.

Even with all the construction that took place surrounding the house this was still possible. Men were working on the second floor windows and we were building, or attempting to at least, a green house. First off, we helped by securing the base flashing to the foundation. Then I drilled a hole through the shed, yes on purpose dad, to feed an insulation tube through for electrical work. Next, we moved on to assembling the building. Thankfully, we were supplied with the kit. However, reading manuals was never my strong point. Needless to say, by the time we figured out the instruction manual (I knew picture books would have helped me more than novels as a child), it was already time for lunch. For lunch, Gerard prepared for us a delicious tomato and cheese on toast (with an assortment of spices as well). It was similar to bruschetta. Our participation in the “honey do list” project ended there. We barely got the frame for the back and front wall constructed.
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Following lunch, we took an afternoon cycling tour of the area. Along the way we went through three other towns before returning to Peize. In order, we hit Eelde, Donderen, and Vries. However, not only was this a trip solely for cycling, but for education as well. No one would have guessed this though while traveling through the beautiful Dutch countryside. First, we stopped in Eelde to try and visit a retirement home. This would prove beneficial for Katri as she is working towards a degree in creative therapy. I am particularly unfamiliar with the area of study, but it seems to be very broad. For some reason, I always have a little bit of discomfort inside of retirement communities. On this visit, we were given the ability to explore the premises on our own, which didn’t take very long at all. We took a quick photo and were on our way again. Passing through Donderen (the town of thunder how sweet is that!?), we set our course for De Brink in Vries: a community for people with physical and mental handicaps. When Gerard told us to stop, Katri and I were caught off guard. A small business building that could have passed as a middle school stood before us. We soon learned that we were on the outskirts of Vries at De Brink. After cordially asking the receptionist if we could look around, we were on a guided tour within ten minutes. Thinking that it wouldn’t last more than a half hour after a question and answer session in a small conference, at its conclusion we paraded around the campus (housing more than 180 physically and mentally handicapped people) for an hour and a half. Although all of the residents were on their holiday, we got a good feel for the goals of their community and what they had to offer. Overjoyed, Katri seemed to have a much better fit at this location than at the retirement home. She even got an invitation to spend a full day there once the holiday was over. Up until now she has been involved in an identity struggle as far as a career path is concerned. This certainly should give her a sense direction. At this point, the sun was starting to fall and we were more than 10 kilometers from home. It went by relatively quickly due to conversation and lack of traffic. When we returned, we had just beat being in the dark. With our earlier construction project, we dragged a lot of dirt into the house. So, after locking up the bikes, Katri and I came down to business with some serious sweeping. We
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were determined to have the house spick and span by the time Meta arrived. Once we completed our task, Gerard invited us upstairs to take a look at his collection of novels, his novels that is. They ranged from his diary from Africa to short stories written in a local dialect. Eventually, I intend on buying a couple from him, not only to practice my Dutch, but also to experience his writing.

When six o’clock rolled around, Meta arrived with some groceries for tonight’s meal. We had enough food to feed an army, but at the same time it would have been impossible to have too much. Katri and I helped out where we could. She helped out more so with the cooking than I did, which was a smart choice. So, I mostly set the table and tried to stay out of the way until I was needed for the potatoes. Little by little, everything came together quite nicely. Gerard was summoned from the second floor; he was working on a presentation for senior chemists in the Netherlands on food chemistry. It was a lavish four-course meal. To start it off we had a rice salad with avocado, mango, cucumber and walnuts. Then we enjoyed another salad with a sesame/raspberry dressing, baked chicken, Irish potatoes, and a green bean casserole. This was followed by warm applesauce and a typical Dutch dessert of cherries, ice cream, and whipped cream. With the ice cream we also mixed some of Meta’s homemade blueberry preserves. Just thinking about
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them makes my mouth water. Of course, a mountain of dishes followed this. Katri washed and I dried. Everyone has to play his or her part. With open arms, Gerard and Meta have provided us with the utmost love and care. We truly have been blessed to have them and truly feel as if we are part of their family. Someday we would like to do more for them, but for the time being all I could do was say “thank you” and I mean it every time. Afterwards, Gerard courteously dropped us off at the train in Groningen. Certainly our wonderful night was not over yet! There we even got some after dinner entertainment. The train got delayed, while we were on it of course, because two people got in a pretty serious fight. Naturally, the police were summoned to intervene. I’ve never seen so many cops for such a silly incident. All in all, there must have been ten. At least their scuffle gave us time to get to know the gentleman sitting by us. He gave us a website to check out for when we plan to visit the Wadden Islands. After a half hour, we were on our merry way again and before we knew it we were back in Leeuwarden: home sweet home.

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2/19 My hopes of waking up in a tropical paradise surrounded by beautiful women are crushed every morning. I’ll keep trying. Like the lottery, one of these days I’m bound to get lucky. This morning really began with the flurries we should have received on Christmas. The weather really needs to catch up with the calendar. With the assistance of a breakfast, I had the strength to endure continuous journaling this morning. Tiredness has been hot on my tail for this entire break. It definitely made it more difficult to complete my objective. Also, my punctuality has been suffering as well. Thanks to high school sports, I used to arrive fifteen minutes prior to my appointments. Lately, it has been five minutes after my intended time of commitment. I need to stop that because I disappointed the wife two days in a row now. Usually, I pick her up, but these past two days, since I’ve been lagging, she had to come and motivate me to move quicker. This morning in particular was bad because I ended up taking a longer shower than expected (always happens). On my way back to the room, Katri caught me as I passed through the stairwell. Embarrassed, I shuffled quickly back to the room nearly losing my towel in the process. No longer than five minutes passed and I was ready to go, again forgot my t-shirt and ran out in only an under shirt. I just think of it as less laundry. Although I was ready, Won let me know last minute that he would be joining us, so we waited. Today, we planned on getting some information about the local professional soccer club: Cambuur Leeuwarden. Trudging into the ticket office, wet from the annoying drizzle we hoped for news that would brighten our day. The sunshine shone through the clouds via the ticket attendant. She told us that it would cost only eight euros. At that moment, in our elation, the rain seemed to disappear. We shall be attending the game tomorrow evening. Thanks for the heads up Dr. Hunter. Following our discovery, we went to the supermarket for our weekly rations. I decided to try something other than liver sausage this time. Inspired by Gerard’s lunch dish the other day, I purchased some cherry tomatoes and bread. However, I am tweaking his recipe slightly to include lunchmeat.
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On the walk back, my cheap grocery bags self-destructed and its contents proceeded to spew out all over the drenched cobblestone. I didn’t have too many, so I was able to cradle them in my arms. It was still a chore though to walk back. For once, the return trip seemed shorter than the ride there. When I got back to the room, I put away my goodies and enjoyed a couple of stroopwafels. They’re addicting (like cigarettes morphed into a cookie), so beware of their power if you ever venture to the Netherlands. That is if I don’t capitalize on their unique quality by selling them as a franchise in the US. Earlier in the week, I had promised Ana that I would take a look at some of her writings. She likes to write free verse poetry in English. Might I add, she has a knack for it too. When I read her writing, although it is not always grammatically correct (that’s where I come in), I can truly feel the emotion. This may be because I have a personal connection to the author, but I refuse to believe that it is the dominant factor. So, instead of making direct changes and saving it, I utilized the “track changes” function of Microsoft Word. Then she can compare what I’ve modified to what she previously had and see if it fits better. In addition, it should also help her with bettering her English as well. With a jump drive handy, containing vital information for Ana, I sought her out. To my surprise, she was not in her room. So, I went to check Rossana’s room because that would be the only other place she would be if she were still in our building. She was not there, but Bella (Rossana… she also calls me Bello) beckoned me from the kitchen. Seeing her made me remember the news I heard from Katri about Easter. Apparently, Rossana’s boyfriend Davide planned on coming to visit her during our Easter break, so Italy is not happening now. Boyfriends ruin plans, enough said. Anyway, we ended up having a nice conversation that jumped around several different topics: gardens, Route 66, and Native Americans. It was quite intriguing actually. I enjoy having alone time to talk with her because I feel like she is still somewhat apprehensive towards me. This may be due to the fact that I typically speak very quickly and I think she has a more difficult time following what I say than the others do. Nonetheless, each time she opens a little bit more than the last, so hopefully this trend continues.
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From then on, Won and I tried very hard not to work on homework, but failed. The easiest solution is to put work off until Sunday: the epic day of procrastination. Yet, on days when it rains so much that most of the time you are kept inside, it becomes a lot harder to put things off because you feel more compelled to do them. So, I put a little time into working on my presentation for comparative education. I have to present the United States educational system. Along with that, I have some other projects to complete for other courses as well. Everything is due in either March or April, but I don’t want to hold off until it becomes too late. Aside from that, not too much else went on tonight. We had dinner without two integral components of our herd (Rossana and Katri). Katri wasn’t much for socializing today. I think she spent most of her time painting in her room. Rossana, on the other hand, had soccer practice today. So, she did not return until after eight thirty. Thus, that left Won, Ana, and I to fend for ourselves. Won did a classic breakfast for dinner (muesli and milk). Ana was the most creative by making chicken filled with cheese and sautéed with vegetables. It looked yummy, but I made my bruschetta with cherry tomatoes: a new fan favorite. As long as it fits in our toaster oven, I am good to cook. At the conclusion of our evening Won and I checked our emails, spoke with Rossana via skype, and watched The Terminal. Cambuur soccer game is tomorrow!

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2/20 Insanity is the driving force in making inside jokes a reality. Thanks to alarm clocks, this dream became possible. Rossana and I always joke around that we will see each other at one thirty in the morning for a romantic date. Compromises always have to be made to accommodate the other’s preferred time frame. So, since she lives at night, that’s when we joke to meet. However, according to her, she comes on some nights to our room. Do I believe it? Not one word. I sleep as light as Richard Nixon during his election campaigns. If anyone had come to our room, I would have heard it like a pin dropping in an empty auditorium. Thus, figuring what else would I be doing other than sleeping at one thirty in the morning, I decided to call her bluff. To give myself a little time, I set the clock for one twenty-seven. I also brought a gift better than flowers: stroopwafels. As luck would have it, she was still awake and I got a good lecturing of how she came to the room already at twelve thirty. I can never win. She seemed to enjoy the wafel though and again claimed that I am “mad” (crazy in Italian I guess). Every now and then she claims to jokingly hate me too. I feel bad about it because I always talk too fast for her to keep up, but I am getting better at taking breaths between concrete ideas. Somehow I’ve got to find a balance between hooked on phonics and common speech. Anyway, after we shared a wafel together, we ventured to Ana’s room. The three of us then decided that we should wake Won up and watch Rossana’s film from our trip to Amsterdam. Although it was only five minutes in length, it made us laugh at the confusion we encountered when searching for Won’s stolen bike. We also got to see a clip of Bori, whom we now know is extremely camera shy. Once we finished the films, the girls left. Won and I, on the other hand, were wide-awake at this point. So, he started another movie, and I browsed Facebook until three thirty in the morning. There’s got to be a twelve-step program to wean me off of it. Miraculously, despite my late night/early morning, I woke up refreshed just after nine o’clock. Won was snoozing like a baby, so I took the time to surf the internet and work on some homework. Homework seems to exist in irony. For one thing, homework hardly
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gets done at home. Secondly, the less homework people seem to have, the longer it seems to take them to complete it, which leads into the first thing. Hence, as a member of procrastinators anonymous, I am doomed. Until lunch, not too much went on around here. Rossana walked into our room randomly to check to see if a vacuum worked. Somehow our room has always been the information kiosk. That was about it though for this morning. Pretty soon I am going to start asking for tips each time someone comes to our room with questions. At lunch, we were short one key member: Katri. Ever since we got back from Gerard’s Wednesday night she’s been relaxing in her room. Yet, she seems to be more distant. Perhaps she is that exhausted, but she didn’t come to the soccer game or to our group dinners. I can only hope everything is ok. After lunch, we went to the Friday market. Of course, Won had to use the ATM and send a letter first. Each time I do things with a group of people here, I realize how much plans get delayed because of other people. If everyone would just take care of their business before going places with others, they wouldn’t have to make everyone wait for them. When it is an honest mistake, I can understand this, but when this happens every single time, it gets very annoying. Not only is the time of those around me wasted, but also my time is wasted. Oh well, that’s half of my venting for the day. Friday’s farmer’s market reminds me of Michigan peaches and Amish baked goods found at the corner of Brockway and the train tracks back in Palatine. However, here the market is about ten times the size of that back home. It’s like a nomadic strip mall. Food is the dominant product, but clothes and accessories can also be found. I always have to laugh too because I never need groceries on Friday and the market has some of the best deals in town. Soon enough I will have my purchasing schedule in order. It is fun just to browse the Dutch agora, especially on a full stomach. Psychology would advise against shopping on an empty stomach. Then you shall see the true meaning of your eyes being bigger than your stomach. At the market Rossana got some fried fish and tartar sauce. I don’t know what type of fish it was, but she let me sneak a taste and boy did it hit the spot. I also tried to help Ana find some small calamari, but no luck. Most of the fish we found looked great, but it was way
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too big a portion for the kind of cooking she’d be doing. Plus, food here needs to be consumed quicker due to the lack of preservatives. I have no problem with that, eating is one of my many talents. We then took a stroll past the post office so Ana could buy some stamps. It seems like everyone is getting some last minute shopping done before our spring break ends. At least, we call it spring break, but it surely doesn’t feel like it at the moment. With only two hours to spare before dinner, I made a quick Skype call to home and checked emails. For dinner, I made my makeshift bruschetta again. Perhaps, I’ll work towards cooking something new every week? By the end, I’ll not only be able to write a book from these journals, but also be able to open my own restaurant. Somehow, teaching chemistry will have to fit into my schedule too. That’s it! I’ll teach food chemistry! Again, for dinner, it was Won, Ana, Rossana, and myself. Rossana had spaghetti. Can you tell she’s Italian? Of course Won followed this trend, being Korean he ate rice in a curry sauce. Ana and I broke the tradition. I figured mac and cheese as an American gets old after a while and Ana ate pizza. When it came time to leave, we were all overjoyed with the fact that we should now all be able to take bikes: wrong. Won and I could not. My bike’s light is broken and I am not in the mood to take chances with Dutch laws. So, Won used Katri’s bike and I ran to the stadium. Surprisingly, everyone went slow enough for me to lead. I guess no one knew where the stadium was but me anyway. At least it’s not too far away. Walking takes about fifteen minutes and running takes about eight to ten because my run is more of a heavy panting jog. We were even joined by Oscar (from Sweden), Phillip (Hawaii). They were originally looking to go to a bar, but then when they heard our plans they quickly changed their minds. Pablo came too; we hadn’t seen him in a while since his girlfriend Eva had come to visit the week before, so it was nice to have him with us. Nothing ever goes as planned. That’s why I like to leave early. Fiscal irresponsibility came into play here again today. Thus, ATM’s have become my mortal enemy. Giving me money has a twist: a sick banker’s version of sales tax. I get my money at the expense of a three percent tip and I don’t even get free refills. That’s why I use them as little as possible. Somehow their parasitic power of
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accessibility has manipulated Ana. She goes to the ATM to draw out twenty euros. It’s nice not to have to carry a lot of cash around, but I think this task should have been completed before we arrived at the soccer stadium. Eventually I will prove to the world that humans are smarter than machines and we’ll have a fantastic Boston A Tea M party.

Needless to say, her mission was complete within ten minutes. Getting money takes longer in crowded places (hopefully lesson learned). Right as we were about to buy her a ticket to ensure our seats, she returned. We sat on the oost (east) side of the field offset slightly to one side. Luckily, our side would catch all the action in the second half. During the first half however, the game was very slow paced, at least for our team (Cambuur). The other team had two laser beam shots on goal, but our goalie deflected them with dynamite saves. When the second half rolled around, we were still trying to figure out whether we were sitting next to the visiting team or our team. About fifteen minutes in, we found out the answer. With a double header we scored our first goal and our whole section went nuts. They even had a song for each time a goal was scored. It was pretty sweet since we got to experience this a second time as
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well. We almost got a third encore, but our striker missed the header from a perfect corner kick. It’s ok though because we shut them (Omniworld) out 2-0. The whole game only cost ten euros too. It cost eight euros for the ticket and two euros for fries with mayonnaise. Don’t you dare cringe at the mentioning of mayonnaise, I was initially a skeptic too, but it’s phenomenal. Again, I had to walk back from the match. This time alone because the rest of the gang raced ahead. Not to mention, the light on Ana’s bike stopped working so I had to walk it back with me. She sat on the back of Oscar’s bike the whole way home. I initially tried riding her bike with her on the back, but our route turned destructive both times. First, we fell nearly missing the pile of vomit. Then, we almost hit an oncoming car and a parked truck in the same run. So, we decided against it. It was probably better off for her safety anyway. Pegs would have come in handy more so than a poor excuse for a seat covering the back tire of the bike. So, I took the lonely road home walking with Ana’s bike and holding onto Rossana’s bike lock. When I returned, I briefly saw Katri and set up a time to meet tomorrow. Then, I returned Rossana’s bike lock to her and headed straight up to my room. Thankfully, I had a chance to talk to mom via Skype for a little bit, but then it came time for bed.

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2/21 Aging comes with many perks, better looks, wits, and opportunities. Facial hair remains unnamed. Countless cuts and the burn of aftershave have never been an appealing way to start a morning. The very sight of my five o’clock shadow makes me cringe. However, it is the price one must pay to go outside without facing the scathe of public ridicule. Thus, having dinner plans tonight at Gerard’s house made it an obligation. Always fearing the worst, I typically perform the art of shaving with the utmost meticulousness. Today, a miracle occurred. As I dropped my four-bladed nemesis, I found my skin silky smooth and… unharmed! Adrenaline pumped through my veins. For once, I hadn’t lost an ounce of blood! According to Won, that meant today would be a lucky day. Without hesitation, I agreed. On time today, Katri and I left for the train station at eleven thirty. From Kanaalstraat, two streets must be crossed to reach the station. If the intricacy of the Dutch traffic control system does not suit you, they have simple crosswalk lights. For some odd reason, they were not working today. At the time, Katri and I could only come up with two conclusions. Either the circuit shorted out, or stoplights get a break on weekends too. As usual, the train went really smoothly during the morning. Even when we pulled into Groningen we were able to spot Meta from the train. I think she even spotted me inside the train because she smiled and waved. Gerard was waiting for us at the car. He then headed to the computer store and we went to the city center. Unlike Leeuwarden, the market in Groningen takes place on Saturday instead of Friday. Meta, Katri, and I were in charge of groceries for the night. Like the members of Top Chef, our mission was to prepare dinner within time constraints. Before Meta set us loose at the market, she gave us a thorough orientation. By the time we were done, we had a general idea of where to shop for certain items. Yet, we lacked a menu. On the bright side, since we planned to meet up Meta and Gerard at three, it gave us two hours to figure everything out. Wandering like lab rats, we aimlessly fought our way back and forth through the crowded maze in search of the best produce. In the end, we came up with four dishes: guacamole,
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Greek salad, mashed potatoes, and fruit salad. Meta supplied the main course: smoked trout. A good meal deserves a warm-up meal though. We were fortunate to have two of them. Our first came at the market. With all that walking, we worked up quite an appetite. The sight and smell of food just got to be too much to handle. So, we headed over to the fish fry and each got a small dish with tartar sauce on the side. Every good meal ends with chocolate, regardless of its size. Therefore, a hundred grams of assorted chocolates was in order. It lasted no longer than five minutes. By that time, we met back up with Gerard and Meta. Gerard would bring about the second meal warm-up. He had a magnificent plan to put this into the works. On the way back, he told Meta to stop at the camera store because he had a problem earlier while taking pictures. In the meantime, whilst Gerard, Katri, and I were in the store, Meta felt compelled to buy four slices of cake at the famous Polish bakery next door. Trying to suppress dessert urges is like single-handedly fighting off an army. Don’t try it. Coincidence for the stop, I think not. Within the hour, we arrived in Peize. Déja vu? Although it was reminiscent of our previous visit on Wednesday, this time we found the green house fully assembled and packed to the brim with plants. It fit nicely in their flourishing garden that consumed their backyard. Initially, we dropped off the grocery bags in the kitchen. Before any cooking madness ensued, we took a brief break to enjoy the four slices of cake that Meta bought from the bakery. There were two slices of strawberry cheesecake, one slice of turtle cheesecake, and one slice of an apple cheesecake. I got the turtle cheesecake. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. During this time, I also learned the reason for Katri’s distance over the past two days: Finnish culture. She enjoys having significant amounts of alone time. I’ve really got to stop worrying so much about the wellbeing of others. Then came crunch time. A symphony of clanking pans and chopping knives echoed throughout the kitchen. Time was of the essence. In that moment, Katri and I became one unit, a single chef: a master of cuisine. Trading roles synonymously to fit our personal comforts. Thus, we both played equal roles in the salads, but she did the potatoes and I did the guacamole alone. Synchronizing dishes
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has never been my forte; that’s another reason why Katri was such an asset for the dinner. She brought experience to the table. Hence, everything clicked. As the bell chimed, the candles were lit, glasses were poured, and the food was set on the table. Meta started us off with a wonderful piece of herring with a dab of honey mustard. It set us off on the right note and our taste buds were dancing the rest of the night. In between dinner and dessert, Katri and I showed them pictures. They were pictures from past vacations and family gatherings. I always take pride in showing my pictures from Oregon and California. It’s not often that I get to see family, especially those out there. So, just like it has been here, I have to cherish all the time I’m given. Both Gerard and Meta seemed to enjoy all of them. I particularly enjoyed seeing Katri’s pictures because I got to catch a glimpse of Finland (or in other words, where she claims I have to do my master’s thesis… how does that sound Dr. Hunter?). Aside from the astronomical amount of snow in Lapland (the most northern part of Finland), it had a very similar landscape to Oregon and Washington. Evergreen trees were everywhere, so I think it qualifies for my “bucket list”. Immediately thereafter, we busted out the dessert. Not only were we excited to satisfy our sweet tooth, but we had to giddy up a little bit because the night was getting late quicker than we thought. It didn’t give us too much time for socialization. Gerard didn’t let that stop him though. He utilized all the time we had down to the wire to show us a picture book of his. I found it to be very interesting. When I have time I will have to take a closer look at it because Katri and I were given a copy of it too. Then when we showed further curiosity with respect to the certification requirements of teachers being trained at the NHL, he took the opportunity to explain Ciska Mak’s final submission. Time was running short though, so we didn’t get to go over it as extensively as I would have liked, but it gave both us a very good idea as to how things are done in the final years of study. Again, we were lucky to have enjoyed the company of Gerard and Meta. They never give us anything short of the best, which includes a complimentary car ride to the train station. No fight tonight on the train. I guess pay per view quality only comes free by sheer
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chance. As we were crossing the street I realized the x-factor of the day: the stoplights. They quit working to show the subtle, immense power of someone leaving the island: psychology. It was a warning. Potential imminent danger could enter my life at any moment I go outside the bubble. Later on, I was finally invited to the “Finer Things Club” of Kanaalstraat. In other words, I attended the daily tea party that now takes place with Won and the girls only I didn’t drink any tea. I’ll stick with water thank you very much. We not only joked around about each other’s day and caught up on the latest gossip of the building (apparently Shahzad has a girlfriend: the girl next door to Won and I who recently moved in from Poland!), but we also talked some serious politics regarding our building and paying rent. At the end, somehow our conversation led to language acquisition. Rossana usually takes pride in moments like this because everyone always wants to learn Italian. This night however, the tables turned. Katri ended up saying something in Korean, but this time I didn’t know what she said. So, I told her to quit goofing around in Korean. Yes, believe it or not, I know a little Korean thanks to a buddy from high school (Shin Lee). Catching Rossana confused, I then told her I loved her in Korean. Won couldn’t contain himself and exploded in a fit of laughter. Still confused, Rossana started to get angry. She gets very frustrated when she doesn’t know what is going on; I don’t blame her, I think we all do. To bring her up to speed, Won explained what I had said. Then came the moment of truth. How well could she pronounce it? Let’s just say it took a while with some of the phonemes, but she got it by the end. By then we had all had enough fun for one night and it was off to bed.

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2/22 Growing up with Mario Teaches Typing has finally served its true purpose: preparing me for countless hours of journaling. I am forever grateful for Nintendo. As I burned fingerprints into the keys of my computer, slowly the kitchen came to life. Springtime fever is starting to hit. Love is in the air and still I am married to my computer. Despite this lull in my life, others have prospered. Listening to music, plowing away on journals and political matters, I saw Shahzad work his magic. This was my first observation of his courtship. Making coffee is usually a pretty menial task. Well, that is if you aren’t dazzled by the presence of a woman. Captured by her beauty rather than their conversation, Shahzad forgot all about the boiling brew. “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” Needless to say, in the heat of the moment, literally, the forgotten morning mixture spilled all over the stove. It appears he’s got a big heart, but no game. His princess seems to enjoy it anyway: that a boy. Entering about ten minutes later, Won missed the big show. Originally, I had moved to the kitchen to let him sleep. It may be my new office because it gets more natural light than our room, which is more conducive to writing. After finishing my first morning objective, I moved on to breakfast and a letter that Rossana wanted me to write to the administration of our housing. Most of us won’t be living here in July and they’re charging us for it anyway. So, we’re going to see if we can do something about it: nothing ventured, nothing gained. It seems we’ve been quite ambitious with our goals lately. If possible, we would also like to clean up our backyard. It’s more of a large garden or porch. At the moment it is infested with the neighbor’s ivy and garbage from last semester’s parties. I’m going to draw something up and make a proposal for shovels and other tools to borrow. Again, we’ll see if anything happens. Then came the dreaded part of my day: laundry. It is not clean fun, but rather dirty business. Taking longer than expected, I decided to get a few things done in the meantime. It didn’t end up being very much, but I started some writing assignments and had a good chat with my parents. I’m still working on convincing dad to
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come here with mom. Yeah, the economy sucks, but why not have one last hoorah before it tanks? Oh well, I hope he comes around. We won’t be able to travel for ten years after this, but at least we could say it was worth it. In hopes of finding some tools or buried treasure, Won and I also decided to explore our basement. Instead of finding a pot of gold and the leprechaun from the Lucky Charms commercials, we found graffiti ridden walls, a few broken bikes, and a ton of trash bins. Ten thousand years from now, maybe all of that will be worth something. For the time being, it was a dead end. Once my laundry was done, I had to borrow a drying rack from Rossana. It’s impossible to hang dry everything with only one. At the same time, I found out that I had to redo the letter. It wasn’t general enough. I have no problem with that. It’s just that writing, when coupled with the weather, completely drains me. Walle and solar powered calculators would never survive here. After I managed to hang everything up, Won and I went out the window of the first floor kitchen into our backyard. We hope to convince the landlords that we deserve better than an enchanted forest full of broken bottles and cigarette butts for a back porch. I’ve noticed that my peers are all stricken with a serious condition: defeatist syndrome. They all lack motivation to make a difference. Perspiration never killed anybody. Thus, I hope today’s cleaning efforts by Won and I weren’t in vain. I cut myself twice on broken glass from beer bottles and am hoping I don’t get some odd form of hepatitis. From there, I tried to work on some homework. I got a list of questions devised for our video interview. Now Rossana just has to add some that she wants and subtract the rejects from my list. I also tried to list three really “Dutch” experiences that I have had. It is for my final project for my Dutch language and culture course. So far, I have listed two: biking and eating. I’m toying with sports too, which would include soccer and ice-skating. Each experience has to be a page in length. Seeing as I write more than that each night, it shouldn’t be a problem. Before dinner, Won and I took a short recess to send a letter to his family. It felt great to get outside. Being cooped up all day can make a person sleepy and irritable. I also got a second chance to get some fresh air shortly after we returned. Earlier, I had told Rany and Katri if they wanted to go for a walk I would be up for it, but they had to
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work on a film project. When their script was complete, it took them outside. So, they invited me to tag along. Figuring my nerves of steel and Chicagoan blood would be immune to any climate condition, I exited the building in shorts. Unless you are from Finland, Alaska, or Canada, do not try this. Comfort at a sustainable level lasts only ten minutes. After that, without the aid of hot chocolate or a fur coat you may run the risk of becoming a permanent resident in the form of a living ice sculpture. Plus, film projects never go according to plan. So, what would normally take fifteen minutes turns into a half hour. That’s exactly what happened today. I enjoyed helping Rany and Katri. Of course I enjoyed their company too, but after I had to pick up confetti size paper for a second take, I knew the cold would be too much for me to stay any longer. Although, I have to admit, running around trying to pick up all these bits of paper in the wind must have been quite amusing for any passerby. Actually, more people noticed my shorts than they did the paper. I even got a car to honk at me. It made me feel so special, like a cute girl on the street when the immature teenage boys pass in their hand me down Fords. Anyway, by that time dinner was long overdue. Luckily, tonight Won and I split our meals. My side of the refrigerator is getting low. I got some kimchi from him and he got some bruschetta from me. In my mind, I had the better deal. In addition to that, I also finished Katri’s meal. Nobody here keeps leftovers, so I’ve become the designated garbage disposal. With the talented cooks among us, food is a better payment than cash. Tonight, we also had the pleasure being joined by Dominick and Sanket. Each time we encounter one another, I feel like I learn so much more about them. It is sometimes difficult to understand Dominick when he speaks English, but I think I got the gist of it today. It seems he and his wife experienced difficulty having children. Although it was a long road, now they are blessed with two beautiful children. Both, however, were born several months premature. It is easy to tell how difficult it is for him to be here, despite the great company that we are, because of his strong family ties. He is an admirable man and I look forward to continuing to get to know him. Sanket, on the other hand, dazzled us with his palm reading skills. He went one by one around the table foretelling the future. Between him and Rossana,
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right now he has my vote. He told me I’ll have a long life, two kids, money will build up after time, and that I have a fairly good marriage line. When compared with Rossana, who has now told me I will have no kids and that I have past issues to workout, Sanket’s method looks pretty darn good. Later, the lovebirds joined us at the dinner table: Shahzad and his Polish princess. She must be good for him, even if she is only a friend, because he seems to be in much better moods these days. Won and I often hear them laughing in the hallway and next door too. There may be other factors contributing to his elevated happiness as well. Part of it may be that he also intends to transfer to Rotterdam University, which would be an easy escape from Kanaalstraat. For the time being, this all seems to be up in the air. Time will tell. Just before bed, Rossana stopped by the room. She’s been doing English exercises from an old book she kept from Italy. I volunteered to give her suggestions and offer corrections as well to help improve her abilities. Often, the sentences that I correct contain the simplest errors. Although she may be frustrated with them, they will be very easy to correct. The environment here also helps tremendously. Being forced to speak a language day in and day out makes a bigger difference than any classroom or book. Her knowledge is far greater than she gives herself credit for, so she’ll do just fine.

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2/23 Bedtime stories are my favorite. They may even explain the cloak and dagger behavior of Frisian cows. Since, my arrival, I have yet to see a Frisian cow. Last night, Shahzad told us of his epic birth. The moment he was born, his neighbor’s cow died. If that was the capability of his birth, imagine the potential destruction of his life. I think he has these cows running scared. One of my professors offered another explanation. She stated that they are always in the stables during the colder months. With hair all over their bodies, they should be able to survive the cold better than myself, so I disagree. Shahzad is the true culprit for their hiding. Eager to start my day, I got up at the early hour of nine o’clock (that’s early for here unless I’m visiting a school). I had some errands to run and since I’ve been here I’ve become quite disorganized. Where has my trusty assignment notebook gone? Those should be issued. Otherwise, I am too lazy to go purchase one. Although, the day of giving in to this necessity is nearing. On my to do list were many errands. First, I stopped by the Short Stay Solutions office at Stenden University to pay my rent for March. I also took this opportunity to discuss the state of our backyard. It’s tricky business though because a lot of the previous tenants (some of which are still residing in Kanaalstraat) have tarnished any trusting relationship between tenants and landlords. Hence, making things happen can be an issue. Hopefully, ground can be reclaimed within the relationship (without others ruining it) and we’ll both see positive results. At least they said that they would discuss the matter and get back to me. It’s better than a definite “no”. From there, I headed to Aldi and Albert Heijn. It would be nice if one or the other had strictly better prices for all items. Quality is not an issue for a college student, only quantity: bang for buck. I can survive without eating tiramisu and filet mignon. I get apples, meat, and cheese from Aldi. I saw mold on the cherry tomatoes there, so I can afford to sacrifice a few extra euros at a different store for those. At Albert Heijn, I purchase muesli, peanuts, and vla. I’ve gone on a hunger strike from stroopwafels. We’ll see if I can last one week. It looks like it will be extremely tough though. Every time I passed through the sweets isle, I felt the true effects of withdrawal
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symptoms. Resistance will certainly be a true test of character and strength. Noticing the warmth of the day, I longed to spend more time outside. In the Netherlands, that makes for perfect bike riding conditions. I knew just the person to join me: Katri. On past rides, we’d explored the north and west of Leeuwarden. Having found a nice park leading east on a walk this past week, we decided to explore it further by bike. The cleanliness and extent of the paths still mystifies me. An intricate spider web of trails, solely designed for bikes, virtually connects the entire Netherlands. Today, our journey led us through Tytsjerk, Hurdegarijp, and Bergum. As tradition would have it, we took photos in every town of every church. Tytsjerk, the town of heresy, did not have a church. Therefore, it was not our fault. After reaching Bergum (Frisian: Burgum), hunger pains and declining weather conditions forced us to back pedal. Throughout the ride, the wind was relentless. Somehow, we had a healthy dose of it heading both directions. I’m surprised neither of us toppled over. After my hearty lunch of apples and peanuts, I returned to my room. I finally got around to sending a necessary email to Fran LeBeau, a former teacher and coordinator of mine. She ran the educational internship program at Palatine High School. That coupled with the enthusiasm of Michael Comerford in the chemistry classroom led me to seriously consider my career path. At Palatine High School, we were fortunate to have such a terrific faculty for all subjects. Shortly thereafter, during one of my regularly occurring fits of writer’s block, Katri came to our room. She needed the services of our internet café and soon to be physical therapy clinic. Dr. Won and myself did the best that we could after she sent her email. I gave a neck/back rub (long bike rides do a number on one’s upper back), while Won provided her with a heating pad. By the way, payment is mandatory, so we’ll be expecting an insurance check in the mail as soon as possible. Then Katri and Won ran off to the supermarket for some last minute groceries, while I finished up folding my clothes from yesterday’s laundry. Immediately following, I had to rally the troops and inform them of the later time. Dinner usually takes place at
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seven, but it had to be pushed back to seven thirty to accommodate Won and Katri. When I told Rossana, I dropped off her drying rack that she had been so kind to lend me. She also made me put some final touches on the letter I devised the other day. Next I had to inform Ana. As I entered her corridor, I caught a whiff of something fierce. The pungent stench of marijuana reeked throughout the hallway. That’ll put hair on your chest almost as well as a drive with the windows down through Decatur, Illinois. When the time came, dinner was quaint. The usual crew was there too: Dominick, Sanket, Rossana, Ana, Won, Rany, Katri, and I. It was easy to tell that classes were back in full swing. Not too much conversation tonight, everyone looked really exhausted. Usually, we are down there for almost two hours every night. Tonight we barely lasted forty-five minutes, if that. Fatigue is setting in… and I’ve still got the whole week ahead of me.

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2/24 Cleaning turns the best of us into monsters. It’s forced me to use those dreaded five words that children and husbands fear most. “Did you notice anything different?” Coming face to face with this frighteningly ambiguous trick question launches an all out attack by the pituitary gland. Fight or flight? The heart rate quickens, and eyes dance about the room. Stop! Never base the answer to this question off of your gut. That’s the trap. They know, as well as you or I, that the first three things that come to your mind are going to be completely absurd. For example, “there’s dust on the countertop”, “your home from work early”, or the mother of all mistakes “dinner’s not ready yet”. Be patient and call their bluff. First, go over your “honey do list” and make sure everything you were suppose to do is finished. Then look over her physical appearance. Did she get a haircut or a new blouse? Perhaps, she has an air of confidence. Did she get that promotion she had been hoping for? If none of these ring a bell you may proceed with, “I’m sorry darling, but I’m so happy to see you that I’ve lost my train of thought.” Needless to say, after Won left for class this morning, there was a pretty even mixture of homework, cleaning, and relaxing. It’s still taking a little time getting used to not having class until 2:15 on some days. Not that it’s a bad adjustment, just confusing my body clock that’s been programmed for the past twenty years to rise at six a.m. every morning. Then came class. Wait! What is this so called “class”? It appears that less than half the time I’ve been here I’ve had it. Routines are rough to break once they become comfortable. However, practical approaches to education and the aspect of actually having useful classes outside of Chemistry 161 is mind-boggling. Not to mention, this is a wonderful semester without Livetext. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a program for developing an online portfolio for education majors and it’s about as user friendly as a windows vista. Yes, it’s that awful. Anyway, today is an intriguing course: comparative education. So far, we’ve just been focusing on presentations of different educational systems around the world
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based on where the international students come from. I am next week woo hoo! As usual, the class started late, despite the fact that the teacher had arrived fifteen minutes early. This worked out well for Chris, Rory, and Cathrine (the students from Northern Ireland) because their smoke break lasted longer than expected and they were to present first. Chris sat next to me. We had a nice talk about our break. His family came down to visit and they stayed in Amsterdam. They were there the same three days as us, but of course in a big city it is hard to run into people unless it is planned. The diversity of the city surprised him. This came as a shock to me. Sure, being a city Amsterdam had some cultural diversity, but nothing compared to the United States. I guess when you come from different countries you notice different aspects of societies. He noticed the ethnic variety, while I noticed the canals, coffee shops, and tall people. During our intermission activity that kept us busy, while technical problems were attended to, I had the pleasure of talking with Rory. Irish is probably the hardest variation of English for me to understand, and his lack of enunciation does not help matters. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation nonetheless. When he spoke, I had to unscramble his laryngitic speech. Piece-by-piece, I put his puzzling messages together. In so doing, I learned that he has traveled to Chicago several times to visit family. He even spent a summer working for a summer camp in Wisconsin. When I inquired about the specific location of his family members, he replied “Porsche Town”. According to him, they live in the more affluent suburbs. My guess is the north side of the city, perhaps in Wilmette. Like it or not, it is definitely a small world. At the conclusion of what seemed to be an endless struggle of man vs. machine, we finally heard two of the three presentations for the day: Northern Ireland and Sweden. Turkey’s presentation got pushed back until next week. They better not bump me back a week too. I’ve been itching to get mine over with. Class ended promptly after Elin’s presentation on Sweden though. Then, I had a nice talk with her, Hanne, and Maria (Spain), as we biked back to Kanaalstraat. I love the curiosity that people have about the US, but I want to ask questions too darn it! They’re stealing all my fun, but I love to answer questions too, so I guess that’s not entirely true.
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Since class ran a little late, by the time we got back it was nearing dinnertime quickly. So, in the time I had, I sent a few emails and worked on my homework for the upcoming weeks. Everyday I get more of it done, but it’s definitely a slow process. Thank goodness Katri came by to change the time for dinner to six thirty instead of seven. As it was my stomach was already singing at five. Soon enough, dinner came for my yodeling engine to keep chugging. Yet, when I knocked on Katri’s door, I found her trying to sleep. Scratching my head in bewilderment, at least I knew I was on the right floor for eating. Our kitchen has been decommissioned, as it has become a Chinese restaurant. Well, not literally, but it’s used quite frequently and it smells like rice. Maybe that’s why I’m always hungry? I love that smell though. Makes me reminisce of eating shrimp fried rice from Sun Kwong, at the intersection of Quentin and Northwest Highway, before they closed. Aside from that, she admitted it indeed was dinnertime and I moved on to Rossana’s door. She’s one to eat late, but today she gave in to peer pressure. Won would be joining in a little bit. He had work to attend to for the time being. In the middle of cooking, I realized I had forgotten Ana. With a spring in my step, I rushed up to her room (all the while hoping my food wouldn’t burn). When I arrived, I found her bed ridden. She had been sick all day, partially due to trouble breathing (asthma I think). However, with a quick shower she joined us as soon as she could. It was still easy to tell that she was out of it. Burning the candle on both ends seems to catch up to everyone around here. I can only hope that it doesn’t happen to me.

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2/25 Six Flags season passes should be valid for the trains in Europe, or at least the strip from Leeuwarden to Groningen and vice versa. I’ve traveled that piece of railway enough to qualify as a resident. VIP membership should be in order. With all the money I’ve shelled into that ticket kiosk, they could make the rails to Groningen gold. I’m sure Fort Knox could lend a helping hand. In the Netherlands, there seem to be about as many types of high schools as there are colors of Crayola crayons. Thus, I’m always kept busy with visits. In addition, most of them occur in Groningen. Today was no different than any other in that respect. The format, on the other hand, was different. Considered a “free” school, named not by price, but in principle, its establishment came from the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. He was a German educator in the late nineteenth century and originally put his theories into practice there.

Originally, I had thought I would be venturing alone with Gerard to this school. A pleasant surprise this morning changed everything. Katri knocked on our door at seven as I was brushing my teeth. She hadn’t made a decision last night, but I was glad to see that she came
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around. Train rides are a lot more fun when you have a buddy. Although, I think the prospect of following Gerard to the frontlines is a little more exciting than a train ride with me. We enjoyed each other’s company though, even if we were practically asleep the entire way to Groningen. Fortunately, our train arrived earlier than expected, so it gave us some more time to reach the bus station before Gerard. His bus arrived about two minutes after we did. The timing couldn’t have been better. From there, we were able to walk to the school. It took no more than ten minutes. At first, we found an entrance from the street, but it was locked. So, taking a more simplistic approach, we followed the students. Undercover, we breached their security seemingly unnoticed. Actually, in most schools I’ve visited, I don’t even have to check in with reception. As long as the teacher knows we are coming, we can go straight to their class.

First and most importantly, we saw the chemistry lesson. Jos van Vliet cordially accepted us. Shortly thereafter, we were introduced to the class. They were a mixed ability batch, but they meshed together nicely. In addition, they seemed to work well independently, aside from random impulses to be put on film. Towards the end of the period we also had an opportunity to socialize with the students as they worked. It’s always nice for them
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to talk with someone older and genuinely interested in their daily life. So needless to say, the presence of Katri and I in the classroom would be as if you or I could meet Michael Jordan in person. The effects of this would be evident in the later classes. We stayed for two more periods after the chemistry class. Both were fine arts courses: a woods/sculpting course and a two-dimensional art course. Being in these classes definitely provided a strong support for handson learning. So many students can be lost in a simple lecture, especially since strictly auditory learners are quite possibly the smallest in number.

Since the art department catered more to the desires of Katri, I became the cameraman. Gerard had an appointment to attend with Jos during this time. He should have signed the disclaimer. Giving me a camera can be dangerous. Hopefully he enjoys the bloopers. Martin, a student I met in the chemistry class, pulled me into the weaving class while Katri and I were visiting the 2D art class. His project then became my project as he turned into my teacher. Weaving’s not so hard, just tedious. It only took a few rows before I had enough. Then I relinquished his project back to him, with it ended my weaving career. When I returned to the art classroom, I

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found a student dancing with a paper-mâché upper body of a mannequin. Video cameras are beautiful. Need I say more? On that note, Katri, Gerard, and I bid the school farewell. Check it off the list because there are more to see! For the time being, our course was set for Aldi. Boy was I starving! At least, an orange from Katri on the train home made up for my not bringing a snack. Food still clouded my thoughts, which never helps the wallet at the grocery store. Hunger along with my lack of stroopwafel intake for the week, prompted me to buy chocolates and cookies. Sugar is amazing in any form, but stroopwafels would have been a much smarter purchase. During my lunch, I decided to call dad via skype. One thing led to another and soon our conversation turned into a get to know your computer seminar. Now I know how the commanders at missile silos must feel when training new recruits. The slightest misinterpretation could lead to disaster. “Don’t press the red button!” At times, customer service is like talking through a twoway mirror. The observed hear your voice, but they can’t register how to act. They’re too concerned with the task at hand. Somehow, after two hours of back and forth “turn right, turn left” I think dad got the hang of uploading and printing photographs from the computer. If I can survive that, I’m pretty sure the real world is nothing. Hence, by the time this session was over, it was practically time for our evening meal. I made myself three biscuits with lunchmeat and cheese, complemented by carrots and an apple. Later, I would be nominated taste tester for Ana, Katri, and Won. Won’s goal was to make me cry with spices. Each time he prepares a sample for me it gets a little bit more intense. It’s almost as if I’m leveling up in some video game or martial arts. I should start asking for belts to mark my progress. Ana provided me with a delightful soup and Katri gave me chicken chunks in a spiced beef sauce. Basically, even though I try to lead a plain life, others allow me to have the luxuries of a king: a four-course meal and the company of wonderful women. After dinner, I did a follow up on dad. He had the pictures printing, but very slowly. In the middle of our conversation, I got a surprise chat message from Steffi (a cousin of mine from Germany)! At first we tried to speak English to English, but by the end I had to
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recall my high school German knowledge. It was very exciting to talk with her. I don’t think we have seen each other in person for eight of nine years. So, spending Easter with them will be amazing if it works out. We are scheduled to discuss the details via skype on Sunday! Talking with Steffi also refueled my enthusiasm for speaking German. By the end of the conversation, Katri showed up in our room. Apparently she has taken German in high school as well. Therefore, we are at similar levels of fluency, which makes it easier for conversational practice. We held onto a half-hearted German conversation for over a half an hour before Won got frustrated with the inability to understand us. Then, we fetched Ana and Rossana to work on the birthday posters for Rany. We posted them up on her door at midnight. Of course, I had to suit up for the occasion (I wore my Dutch national team water polo Speedo: bright orange with a lion on the butt). Then, I made the biggest mistake ever. Never play practical jokes on people from another country, even if you are on great terms with them and with someone else from their country. Erdal had me knock on Ali’s door and ask him if he’d be my valentine. Finding a practically naked individual at your door while you are talking to your girlfriend via video chat at midnight isn’t exactly something someone dreams of happening to him or her. Also, having this moment caught on candid camera doesn’t make matters better. So, I think Erdal is ok because birds of a feather flock together, but I’m definitely in the doghouse. Ali came by the room about five minutes later. He said everything is ok, but he wants to talk tomorrow. You can guess who won’t be sleeping tonight.

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2/26 Clarifying misunderstandings takes a tremendous load off one’s shoulders. Ali and I got everything straightened out at two thirty in the morning. I’ve always liked to start my mornings early. His initial shock threw me in the wrong direction. Speaking to Erdal in Turkish to help understand my actions did not help me read the situation either. I’m still baffled though. We have yet to see each other in person, but in a note to comfort me he referred to me as “brother”. I’ve always valued our friendship and admired his selflessness/concern for others. However, I never realized the strength of our relationship. Perhaps, this twisted turn of events has made it stronger? He’s a big teddy bear, but those that cross him or his friends will see a ferocious grizzly.

Roughly five and a half hours later, I started my second morning. Despite the lack of sleep, I woke up refreshed. The sun was shining: truly a new day from the night before! With little time to spare, I skimmed emails and Facebook. Then I rushed to the shower. Leaving the forbidden fire exit door open across the hall from it made the shower reek of asparagus. Don’t ask me why the scent of asparagus tortured my nostrils as I bathed. My senses have suffered enough chlorine damage from swimming to kill a small animal.
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At ten til nine, I cycled to Piter Jelles: a local high school. There I had the pleasure of visiting Dick Eekman’s HAVO chemistry class. He has been teaching for around twenty-five years, so it was nice to see someone with experience as well. Before that, he too was a student of Gerard’s. His pedagogy depended on guided-questioning of students. After my introduction, I assumed a seat in the back of the class. Later I would get acquainted with the pupil next to me. Her family had moved to the Netherlands from Iraq (Kurdish part). We talked a little bit about her visits to see her family in the United States. A lot of her family has relocated to Los Angeles. Overall, she seemed very enthusiastic and bright: key qualities of a strong student. Unfortunately, I could only stay for one lesson because I had an appointment with Martha regarding my learning agreement. I have to agree to learn? That’s no fun. We had a nice talk though. She’ll be in Asia visiting her world-traveling son in April, so she’s bummed that she won’t see mom. Now she just has to stop in Chicago the next time she is in the US. Feeling the earth shake beneath me, oh wait no, just my stomach. I headed over to the canteen to have a sandwich. An apple tart would mysteriously become part of my lunch too. In the distance, I spotted a long lost love… or Kirsten rather. It had been ages since I saw her: more specifically, the day I arrived. Her and Niels are pretty serious I guess, so that leaves less time for younger men. Since he lives far away, finding her in Leeuwarden is like finding a male calico cat: slim to none. Thanks to Dr. Katz of the biology department at ISU, breeding calico cats has become one of my growing list of schemes, along with bringing stroopwafels to the US, to be a millionaire under thirty. If I do, Dr. Hunter will be getting a pickup truck and a parking spot at ISU for a camper (sorry Rebecca, Sanne told me all about Willy’s dream of a Dodge Ram). Anyway, I snuck up behind Kirsten and gave her an “eagle hug” (a supreme bear hug… thanks Uncle Jim). We definitely agreed to get together soon. With last week being a holiday, it’s hard to get into the swing of things and find free time. As Kirsten and I were talking, Katri came out of Martha’s office. So, then we said adieu and I ran off with Katri to the canteen. I can’t help it; I like food. We had a nice converation waiting for class to start. Then, Rossana joined our tea party. Within five minutes,
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her and Katri played musical chairs. Katri had to go to class, but Rossana and I still had a good hour or so before our Dutch Language and Culture course. It’s always entertaining talking with Bella. Italians use every ounce of their body in their expressions. It is good that they are able to convey their thoughts passionately. Our intriguing chat touched upon natural disasters, architecture, and my all-time favorite past time: people watching. That’s right… I’m watching you! Then came time for class: boring. Our teacher is passionate and I enjoy the material, but I just don’t feel the love. Putting too many expectations on the amount of projects and the overall workload early on makes me rebel. My eyes wandered to the windows. The sun slowly faded in the clouds and it got much colder. Tired from the lack of activity, he even forgot to ask us ten questions relating to Dutch or Frisian culture, I biked to the other end of town for Gerard’s classroom management course. There, I found Ari, whom I finally had the pleasure of meeting in person, and Katri. Hanne and Elin were lagging behind. As always, our class was really engaging. With Ari (Katri’s boyfriend) there, it was neat to hear a different perspective and also reflect on what we’ve talked about and learned. Everyone always remembers different aspects, which makes it nice to bounce ideas off each other. During, our intermission or “mental break”, I ran into Ciska in the hallway. We plan to get together briefly on Sunday. Somehow, after not seeing people for a month, I run into everybody in the same day. When I returned, we watched two video clips from two consecutive lessons performed by the same student teacher. We had to notice differences in his conduct from the first to the second. Then, I walked back to Kanaalstraat with Ari and Katri. It slowed me down a bit, but I enjoyed it. Hence, when we returned, I barely had time for a pit stop, a good tooth brushing, and a makeshift shower (a few swipes of deodorant and dousing myself in cologne) before I met up with Sanne for dinner. He was to pick me up in front of my building after he finished work. Usually, he’s had to wait for me, so I went down a couple minutes before our meeting time. Wouldn’t you know today would be the day he’d be a little late? So, I played doorman/security, for people going in and out of our complex. It’s one of my many occupations here: doorman,
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security, English teacher, proud owner of an internet café bed and breakfast. Any questions? Good. Unlike Neverland, no one but Robin Williams can imagine a gourmet dinner for a few trouble-making boys. Thus, Sanne and I had to stop at the supermarket beforehand. When we ventured to his place, I learned that he was not too far from me either. Actually, had I booked a room on time and decided to live at one of the other locations, I would have been right next to him. Thus, here or there I couldn’t have gone wrong because I would have either lived near him or Ciska. While he cooked, I got acquainted with his two cats. Cats typically frighten me. They’re inherently sneaky and evil. Yet, these two youngsters were basically lapdogs that don’t kiss and tell. They also enjoyed ping pong balls. Seeing as ping pong is the greatest sport on earth, aside from water polo, these cats could be seen as exceptions. For dinner, Sanne made some typical Dutch dishes with some flavorful twists. We had a salad with bananas, bacon, lettuce, cranberry jelly, and yogurt. You may turn up your nose, but it was pretty fantastic. In addition to that, our other dishes included fried ham and cheese schnitzel and mashed potatoes with a garlic sauce on the side. Afterwards, we shared pictures of our experiences with one another. His were on a modified Xbox that he changed into a media center and external hard drive. I never knew that he had such a fascination with sailing and windmills. As of now, he is taking an internship type course that consists of volunteer work and independent study for becoming a miller. Thus, he had plenty of photos of windmills and told me he’d take me in the near future to the one he works at on the weekends. We even pulled out a book of all types of windmills that he has to study. It may be a neat purchase if I could find one in English. During this time, we had a very traditional Dutch dessert. This is a poor description, but it was like a sweet combination of pudding and cream of wheat. Basically, a specific section of wheat grains are boiled in milk with some vanilla and sugar. When it cools, it has a cream of wheat consistency, but with a sweet taste. I found it simply delicious. Ironically, I forgot that I had brought cookies in my backpack as a showing of thanks. Despite that, just as they become addicted to Mountain Dew and fast food in the United States, I’ve become addicted to all their
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sweets and fried food here. Thank goodness they cost way too much to eat on a regular basis. Being that we are both workingmen, there came a time for me to leave. Plus, I also had hoped to make it back in time for the conclusion of Rany’s birthday party. First, Sanne had to help me with my bike light though. I didn’t want to get in trouble with the police, especially after such a wonderful day. There was no hope for fixing the current lights I had, so we attached portable battery powered lights. They seemed to get the job done. However, much like other parts of my bike, they are only held on by duct tape. So, hopefully no one yanks them. With speed on my side, I made it back just in time for a piece of cake. They were very considerate to save it for me. Only fifteen minutes remained for the party, but I had a great time and sat right next to Ali. He was happy to see me and we had a nice conversation. As American culture would have it, a lot of people in the States eat and run. Here everybody stays late. We even had a cleaning party immediately following the original party. One of the Korean girls and I initially took on washing and drying together. We had the fastest team out of the five functioning sinks. Then I moved on to sweeping with Ali. Between the two of us, we had the floor cleaned in no time. If I must say, the kitchen and dining room have never looked cleaner. There’s a big difference between us using the accommodations compared to others that live in this building.

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2/27 Superhuman powers skipped a generation in my family: mine. I’m still waiting for some genetically modified spider or a herd of bats to attack me. Actually, having adamantium grafted to my bones sounds better. Maybe, if I work with the right chemicals in lab, I won’t have wait for one of these events to occur. As long as I can hover or develop wings, all my problems will be solved. No longer will I suffer at the hands of clumsiness or carelessness. Take this morning for instance, I went to the shower not realizing until I got there that I wore my comfy sandals. One of two things has to change: my genetic makeup or all sandals need to be suitable for bathing. Seeing as the common consumer does not share my passion for practicality, especially those supporting brand names like Coach, Abercrombie and Fitch, Rolex, and Tiffany’s, the better solution appears to be evolving. Eager for the weekend, Katri, Rossana, Rany, and I grudgingly biked to class this morning. However, Places of Memory takes place a lot earlier than our other courses, so we were hopeful for an extended weekend. Boy were we wrong. Today’s class, both parts that is, dragged on forever. Initially, we went over the article that we had read for homework that reviewed the formation of nation-states and postulated that the world is working towards the formation of a global nation. I remain uncertain and doubtful. Prosperous countries will never give up their natural resources for others, nor should they have to do so. Also, the establishment of a global government allows for too much power in the hands of too few people: the smaller the governments, the better. Following the lecture component of our course, we took a brief recess for lunch. At the bottom of stairs, I met the new kid in our class. Or, at least I thought it was a fellow international student. It turned out he, Harry, is a Dutch student interning in our class. Harry had been born in the United States when his parents moved there from Holland. Yet, due to an economic crisis in the early nineties, his family had to move back. So, he only spent the first two years of his life in the United States: too young for any fond memories whatsoever. Seeing as we both had ample time to kill, he invited me to join him in the canteen for lunch. At Harry’s table, I met other
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crazy history education majors: Karin, Dan, and Jon Paul. I particularly enjoyed their philosophy on life. In a nutshell, it goes something like this. “Ethnicity makes no difference, there is no nationality that divides us; we are all people.” Although I thoroughly enjoyed their company, once Harry had to leave for class, I felt it was time to join my fellow international comrades at their table. Before that though, I had to grab a kroket. They’re only seventy cents at the a la carte line. With a price like that, it’s as epic as chicken nugget day in grade school. Call me crazy, but anyone would be crazy to pass a deal like that up. After his smoke break, Chris (from Northern Ireland) sat down next to me. We both agreed that the classes for international students are extremely easy. Catherine even suggested that she got dumber by taking them. I don’t know if I would go that far. For me, the classes are intriguing because it is more of a cultural experience than anything, but it’s not as much of a Dutch cultural experience. We haven’t learned nearly as much about the Dutch culture as we would have liked by now. It’s actually amusing. They exhibit an enormous curiosity for all of our cultures, which is great because we all get to know each other better, but that eats up so much time that Dutch gets left out of the lesson. However, that is only this is only the case for the history courses and the slower pace is understandable because only a handful of us are native English speakers. Lunch lingered on for a little bit longer, but finally it came time to leave. Bella and I quested to Oldehove together to meet up with our professors. Of course, I’m no GPS, but I’ve still got to suffice as the compass for our adventures. Today, we both learned that days of the week are also not my specialty. I took us straight through the Friday market with our bikes. It was a zoo. I’m surprised we made it through alive and without any dismounts. Aside from that, I’ve noticed something about Rossana. She’s a very observant person. I think it confuses her that I treat everyone so well because when I do something goofy she makes note of it. “Ah, you’re not so perfect after all.” We both laughed about it though. It’s like a game now, forcing me to keep track of what I do. I just have to figure out a point system.
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Arriving early at Oldehove, Rossana and I had plenty of room to lock up our bikes. Well, I locked my bike, but her first attempt ended in failure. She locked the lock to the pole without attaching it to the bike. It appeared that she had an invisible bike. Kodak had never seen such a perfect moment. Finally, I was able to make up for her taking my picture when I slept in Amsterdam. As soon as everyone arrived, we found out our destination from the professors: across the street. We were to browse the Frisian literature and historical archives. The archives were neat, but the presentation was as bland as a blank sheet of paper. Sitting in a conference room, listening to a monotone monologue on how to use the internet for forty-five minutes is not my idea of a good time. Then we visited the archives. The penmanship and artistic accents inside the literature were flawless. Words cannot describe their unique beauty. In our last room, at the point where I was beginning to think this excursion was worth it, Magali (from Belgium) asked a question that got our guide to rub me the wrong way. As you may know, the Dutch and the Belgians like to poke fun at one another. So, anytime there is an opportunity to reclaim ground either side takes it. In this case, Magali phrased her question in such a way that it came out as more of a malicious attack on Frisian culture than anything. Yet, somehow whenever anybody is put in such a defensive situation, they have to bring America into it. Our duties as saviors used to be seen in a positive light. This guy killed this image from yesteryear. He kicked us right between the legs by disrespecting the relevance of the pilgrims. Someone has obviously not experienced the glory of Thanksgiving. Instead of having this particular individual tarred and feathered for such blasphemy, I kept my cool. At that point, I had seen quite enough and was ready to leave. However, I would be unable to do so until after one more visit to the conference room and a brief visit to a temporary art exhibit (that I liked very much!). Feeling fatigued, Rossana and I headed home with hopes of ample relaxation time. Again, I had to lead the way. This time we avoided the market. At Kanaalstraat, we went our separate ways. Won got to the room shortly after I did. It would be just the two of us, until we got a knock at the door a few hours later. Ari and Katri were our first visitors. They talked with us a little bit about their day.
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Apparently, they were at the Friday market as Rossana and I weaved through the sea of people. The four of us then set a dinner date and we took them to the Kanaalstraat dungeon before their nap. Walking down a dark stairwell of narrow steps to a musty humidity with the pitiful luminance of a flashlight does not set high expectations. Sloshing in a thin layer of water at the bottom of the stairs, we found a gangster’s paradise: white walls covered in graffiti, mangled bikes, windowpanes, and a row of garbage cans. Now I’m thoroughly convinced that a murder occurred in our building. Whether I intend for it or not, as tradition would have it, through the courtesy of others I always get food thrown at me when I go to dinner. Tonight, Ari and Katri made an enormous colorful salad with a vast assortment of greens. I couldn’t stop the beam of kindness that shined on me. I tried to deflect it, but it was too strong. They made me take two helpings, well not like I minded. Then Rany gave me one of her homemade egg rolls. She advised me to eat it with ketchup: delicious. After dishes, we moved upstairs to our room for dessert and a video presentation. We were introduced to a Finnish comedy: Kummeli. When complimented by stroopwafels (my feeble attempt at a week long strike is over) and Finnish dark chocolate, it makes for a pretty fantastic night. Overall, the comedy routine was interesting. I enjoy simple humor and by the end of the night, it started growing on me. Many of their skits would not be socially acceptable in the US though. We’ll leave it at that.

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2/28 Equipment malfunctions must have been frustrating for Inspector Gadget and Peter Sellers. I know they certainly are for me. A call to Harry Potter may be in order because I seem to be having difficulty turning off my invisibility cloak. Heading to Rossana’s room this morning, I saw someone in the kitchen. Figuring that they heard my clumsy flatfooted trot, I shouted out “good morning”. Eventually, it dawned on him that someone was talking. Slowly they turned and glared into my eyes. With an idiotic grin, I waved. I received no response and they went on cooking. Negative reviews are in order for eBay selling me faulty magic sets. On the weekends, people seem to operate on sleep savings time. This fluctuates from person to person, but a good rule of thumb seems to be to add four hours to when you normally rise before contacting others. Otherwise, you’ll find out quickly who are morning people and those that most definitely aren’t. So, unless you wish to put your life on the line, it may be best to exhibit patience. After all, it is a virtue. However, all rules have their exceptions. Rossana is one of them. Her body clock is at least six or seven hours off from mine. Therefore, when I knocked at her door at eleven thirty, I received no answer. I did hear some rustling in the kitchen though, which would be the only other location to find her. Although I did not find her, I did discover the whereabouts of Katri and Ari. We had planned to uncover the location of a so-called “flying bridge” in Leeuwarden. It operates unlike any other bridge I’ve seen. When there is boat traffic, a crane lifts the entire bridge out of the way. From the pictures, it looked pretty sweet. Since, Rossana was nowhere to be found, we all agreed to go together after they had finished breakfast and I had showered. Surprisingly, this time I wore the right sandals to the shower. In the corridor leading to the shower, I ran into Phillip. He may be joining us for dinner at the Mexican restaurant tonight. Of course, after I got out of the shower and composed a letter to Rossana regarding our film project, I found her in the kitchen. She had just woken up, so we pushed off our film until tomorrow. Hopefully, we will have good weather for it.
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Soon thereafter, I took off with my Finnish escorts. Judging by the canals and countryside found in the photos that we saw of the bridge, we assumed it was on the East side of the city. A smarter decision would have been to double-check the location on Google Maps because later we would find out that it was on the southwest side of the city: big difference! On our quest for this engineering feat, we ended up with a round trip total of roughly ten kilometers of walking. With how beautiful the weather had been, the distance made no difference. It gave us the opportunity to explore a different section of our favorite park and me more time to get to know Ari. He always poses a lot of interesting questions that lead to extremely intriguing conversations. After stopping briefly at the supermarket, we headed back to Kanaalstraat for a brief lunch. We still had much to accomplish. Coming up short with respect to the bridge didn’t help our motivation though. We needed a spark to rekindle our fire. Halfway through the lunch it came. Ari and I had an overlap in interests: board games and cards. Finally, there’s another evening homebody like me! Our new destination became the epic game store that we found just outside the center of the city when looking for “secondhand” bikes. Itching to explore, we cut our lunch short. However, I still had enough time to try some Finnish rye bread. It doesn’t taste like the typical rye bread I’ve had some at home. Thus, with a lot of butter to combat the dryness and some Dutch cheese, it tasted pretty fantastic. On the way out, we ran into Won. He just got back from his “date”. Actually, he met up with a Korean girl that was adopted into a Dutch family shortly after birth. Without hesitation, he joined us. At the game store, Ari revealed some great games to me. Most of them are Italian games. They always knew how to have fun. I intend to buy one of them this week. It’s a card game called “Bang!” Similar to Mille Bourne in the interactive aspect of every card, this game takes place in the Wild West. Hooked already? Don’t worry the internet solves everything… if it works. With our dinner plans already set, we didn’t have too much time to linger at the game store, especially if Ari and Katri intended to nap before dinner. Understandable, eating Mexican food always requires energy. It may have been the marathon of walking catching
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up with them too. So, Won and I worked on journals and homework. At seven, we all (Phillip, Ari, Katri, Ana, Rossana, Bori, Won, Rany, and myself) headed out for the Mexican restaurant. Five of us went to reserve a table, while the other four went to use an ATM. Amazingly, with it being Saturday night and after seven, they had a table or two that could accommodate our group. While we waited for the others, I explained the glorious choices available on the menu. For many, it was their first time eating Mexican food. That should be a crime. Shortly after sweeping through the menu, the others arrived. Hungry and eager to eat, we ordered immediately. I got enchiladas, my signature dish. They gave us heaping portions (I’m glad they follow the trends of typical Mexican food even in Europe). Stamina almost became in issue. I finished about two bites from explosion. That would come later.

As a gentleman always does, Ari paid the entire bill. Since they didn’t give us separate checks, we reimbursed him later. In every horror film, the first step of the killer is turning off the power. They’ve been a little late with us, but now we’ve been initiated. It appears we’ve only got a limited time left to live. So far, we’ve had
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fire alarms, floods, suicide trains, hair in our carpet, and poor internet service. Tonight, our power went off within the two and a half hours we were gone. No surprise for our building. However, it was localized in a square set of four rooms. Ours was included. It makes no sense though, since the circuit breaker is connected to more rooms than that: creepy. According to the Bible, if we’re going through the seven plagues, we’ve only got one left. There’s no telling how catastrophic that one will be. How many of us will survive? Furious with the fiasco, I frantically paced the hallways searching for a solution to the problem. Thwarting such a cunning enemy that slowly cuts you off from the outside world can be dirty business. Questions fly through your head. Starting with the simple, why me? Then they move on to plotting revenge. Is this an inside job or is it the housing company? Whoever they are, they started with the internet, but we prevailed. Escalation ensues. Power is a triple whammy. Electricity takes out the internet, one’s food supply, and destroys morale. Thankfully, some battery power remained in Shahzad’s computer and he was able to launch an email SOS to Short Stay Solutions. In the darkness, they somehow found our flare of despair. Based on their previous response times, I expected to be rescued from the island of isolation by Monday at the earliest. Tonight turned out to be an exception to the trend. A team of electricians showed up after ten at night (only a half hour after arriving home from the restaurant). Within five minutes of their arrival, we were back in business. We’re getting to close to the secret operations of our building, so they had to throw us a bone. Let them, it won’t fool us. There’s more that goes on here than meets the eye. Once that was fixed, we had a photo expo with Ari and Katri. I only got to see bits and pieces because the Mexican food caught up with me. Montezuma’s revenge is not the greatest way to end a night, but it probably was amusing to watch. I ran back and forth between the lavatory and the room every ten photos or so. That worked itself out within half an hour, but the long day of walking had made me exhausted. So, near the end, I started to fade. All in all, after about an hour of photos, we could finally say we were finished.
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3/1 Life in the Netherlands is like a big jigsaw puzzle, only half the pieces are missing and others don’t fit. It’s a chaotic circle of confusion. I’m caught somewhere between no man’s land and Timbuktu. Riddle me this, how can their dikes (quite possibly some of the greatest engineering feats in the world) or their intricate canal system even exist when there seem to be no building restrictions whatsoever? High quality with low expectations… it doesn’t seem to fit. Take into account one key disaster. Oldehove has a bigger leaning angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That’s a significant flaw in foundation. Let’s not even bring Kanaalstraat into this. Utilizing every ounce of time this morning, I sought to find the “flying bridge” alone. By bike, it ended up only being a fifteenminute adventure. However, on the way to the bridge, I took the long way. It appeared that both sides of the canal would offer a direct route, but the side I took definitely was a big half circle instead of a straight line. Next time, I will follow the hypotenuse method. Normally, bridges here operate like medieval drawbridges. Either one side or both sides lift on a hinge. In contrast to those bridges, a monstrous muscular arm effortlessly lifts this one into the clouds. Thus, it is not just raised; it is completely uprooted when boats pass. Unfortunately, this time of year, the weather isn’t favorable for boating, so the traffic is very low. Hence, I didn’t see the bridge in action. Maybe I will get lucky later in the spring. As I headed back, the shorter way this time, I made a miraculous discovery. A flux capacitor may exist. Train tracks extended no more than five or six meters in length, emerging from a grassy patch and ending on an overhang leading into the canal. As it would seem, a train has been used in the Netherlands instead of a DeLorean to make Back to the Future a reality. Yet, I was at the end of those tracks, so it came time to head back to Kanaalstraat. When I returned, I found Rossana ready to leave for our film project, but our technical assistant (Won) still needed to shower. So, we left at two o’clock instead of one thirty. Eager to unveil the beliefs and customs of the Netherlands and Friesland, with a camera as our witness, we headed for the city center. Out of the two, prying answers from proud Frisians would be the tougher task. Just before
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we hit the city center, we found our first victim. On the opposite side of the canal, at a canal-side café, sat a tall blonde. A perfect Dutch specimen, it doesn’t get any better than that. Being the social butterfly, I had to be the one to break the ice. It got easier every time. By the end, I’d be shattering it. Jumping at the opportunity to elevate the entropy of a given day, I honed in on individuals, preying on the weak if you will, like Brian Urlacher on some helpless quarterback (presumably Brett Favre). Short of running, I chased them down like a nerd fixed on a cheerleader. Each chase was more thrilling than the last. Going stag to the dance wouldn’t have been a problem. We only got shot down twice and for good reasons too (at least that’s good enough for this heartbroken soul). One had to get home and another had a movie date with her husband (Ugh! Older men ruin everything). During the rest of our quest for knowledge, we encountered a wide variety of people. We joined a couple at their restaurant table, caught some fresh air with an elderly trio at the park, and embarrassed some other NHL students. My personal favorite was our final interview. With a little reassurance and motivation from Rossana, I disrupted another person’s daily routines. A middle-aged man of average height stood before us, working diligently on remodeling his 100 year-old boathouse. These are very common along the canals. To our surprise, he excitedly participated in our interview. On top of that, he (Chris) even gave us a grand tour of his boat. Inside, we found a portable Lake Geneva cottage. The walls were lined with painted and stained wood panels. It was completely furnished with a standard kitchen and appliances, three bedrooms, a large living room and a bathroom. His family graciously greeted us. They then told of their travels with the boat and put in a little sales pitch as well. Starting with the history, these boats used to transport potatoes. The middle, where we were, was used as storage and the families would live in the small rear component of the boat. We didn’t see the front, but it too was furnished for five more people to have bedrooms. On our way out, Rossana and I each received a business card: a viable accommodation option for mom (and possibly dad), when she comes. By then, it was getting late, so we made a stop at one more location: the colored cow statue. Since it was Sunday, it was locked in a screened room of a
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restaurant because all businesses, for the most part, shut down on Sundays. Luckily, the owners saw us and let us take our five second video clips. He said we would be the last to see it because it moves to another city on Monday. Having woken up to sunshine, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yet, as luck would have it, it’s impossible to escape the rain here. Meteorologists are never right; it’s a known fact. But, even this knocked my socks off. Although, I previously deemed it impossible, weather can occur indoors. When we returned, we found rain in our kitchen. In the Netherlands, anything is possible. Never forget that. I’m a firm believer. That is, if you have booby-trapped ceilings. Among the long list of growing problems in our building, plumbing had remained, for the most part, low profile until now. Pipes from the second floor kitchen sinks were leaking through to the first floor. Being that we had already moldy drywall panel ceilings, it didn’t take long before one of the panels completely deteriorated. On its crash landing, debris scattered about the countertop and floor. I guess we’ll have to file a permit with the village to install skylights. After the premature accidental notice of renovations, I stopped by Ciska’s for a brief visit. As I typically don’t expect a call or text on my US phone these days, I overlooked the fact that she wanted to reschedule. She accepted me with open arms anyway. While she ate dinner, we caught up a little bit. It was a nice heart to heart. It’ll be fun doing the chemistry education workshop together. We’ve even set up to try and meet on Sundays if possible, so I’m excited. I have still heard no word from Kirsten though. Dinner went quick. Although, I still had time for some invigorating political discussions with Ari. He will be missed after he leaves tomorrow. After a thorough amount of debating that yielded perspiration, I ran upstairs for my Skype date. At first, I only anticipated talking with Steffi, but I got an invite from Dani as well. So, we had a group chat for the next two hours to come. It’s really nice to talk with them, especially since it allows me to practice German. They invited me to join them for Easter and in one night we’ve already made all the travel arrangements. I’ll be flying from Amsterdam to Munich. Upon arrival, either Walli or Axel will pick me up. I can’t believe I get to see them!
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3/2 Troubleshooting, in its most common form, applies to computers. Today, we fit it into teaching. Gerard and I were the software support, the students were the viruses, and the teacher was the central processing unit (CPU). Allow me to clarify this technical jargon. With the permission of the teacher, we entered a problematic classroom as observers. By the end, we (more so Gerard) hoped to provide some insight as to how to regain control (at any level) within the classroom. Kickoff occurred at quarter till nine in the morning: the start of the school day. At the Vrije School in Groningen, the first class is always a double period. In a classroom with behavioral issues, that could feel like an eternity for a teacher. Although it was painful to endure, even as an observer, she handled it like a champion.

Immediately following the lesson, we had a conference with the teacher. First, she told us her thoughts on the lesson. Then, I came off the bench: show time. The ball was in my court, so I got to put my two bits worth in. I’m a very active person. Thus, I acted out what I saw. I probably came across looking like a fool. Afterwards, I got to see Gerard work his magic. He practices what he preaches and it works: Pavlovian conditioning in its finest form. Classroom
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management is not a gift; it is a technique learned through practice and proper execution. Consistency is the key. Without it, the students will walk all over you. Attention is their aim, misbehaving is their game. Subtly show them that you are the boss. Emotions fuel their actions, so avoid negativity at all costs. Provide positive reinforcement and patrol your kingdom. Students can sense the presence of their commanding officer, so they’ll do whatever it takes to get you to another desk. Thirty seconds ought to be just fine in a particular location to spark some perspiration. Dominance is therefore established. In Gerard’s name, “gladly would we learn, and gladly teach”.

Just before noon, we finished our meeting with Jolanda (the teacher we had observed). Already, our work was finished for the day. Gerard headed back to Peize, while Jolanda and I took the train back to Leeuwarden. Jolanda and I had met on our previous visit to the Vrije School to visit Jos van Vliet’s class. Yet, I hadn’t truly had the opportunity to get to know her until now. Her roomie is her twin sister. She enjoys to write, but never finds the time between school and her passion for music. Time is always running short. At the end of the ride, she gave me her email in case I want to visit again. Katri is welcome to come too. However, she also extended the offer to showing us around her hometown and the area around
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Leeuwarden as well. When the weather gets nicer I may have to take her up on it.

As I had anticipated, I made it back in time for Ari’s glorious send off. Aside from Katri, his parade consisted of Won, Rossana, and myself. We walked him only as far as the train station because Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kicked in. A visit to Aldi was necessary. Rossana and I were quick. We shop with a mission, whereas Won and Katri tend to browse. I spend more money that way, so I have to resist the temptation to dawdle. Anyway, so while they were browsing, I took Rossana to Albert Heijn because they have French bread there. Unbeknownst to us, they were remodeling that particular location, so she’ll have to go a day or two without crisp crunchy baguettes. Tonight, we had dinner and a movie. Rossana, our Quentin Tarantino, presented the film project from yesterday. With a length of seventeen minutes, it stretches far beyond the desired allotted time of three minutes. What if quality takes the form of quantity? Hopefully, they make an exception because she really did a fantastic job with the editing. Any limitations would strip the video of sentimental and aesthetic value. Copyrights and release dates are pending.
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3/3 All work and no play are the makings of a rainy day. When the morning bell chimed, I hit the books. As of now, I have three projects and two final papers to complete. They are due in April, but it would be nice to have time to focus on research as well. So, since I had thought that I figured out my intentions for one of the final papers, I started with that. I ended up changing the focus over three times. Getting nowhere, I moved on again. This time, I shifted to the other final paper. Finally, these journals came in handy. According to the rubric, we were to describe three of our truly “Dutch” experiences: no sweat. I’ve had a million already, so it was easy to get all three figured out. I chose ice-skating, biking, and a grand tour of a Frisian boathouse.

Within an hour, I was able to shell out one of them. Each was supposed to be a page in length. One paragraph is for description and the rest of the page is for the experience. Soon thereafter, it was time to head to class. Today the students from Turkey, Spain, and myself were to present our educational systems. Due to presentation anxiety, I didn’t focus too much on the other groups. They gave nice presentations, but many systems are so similar that once you’ve
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heard one you’ve heard them all. It’s more beneficial at this point to experience it firsthand. In comparison to the other groups, I think mine went quite well. The entire class even joined me in the recital of the pledge of allegiance. Spreading American nationalism in a scheme to take over the world may be easier than I thought. Actually, that was totally not my call; my teacher told the students to do it. I did not intend for that to happen though and immediately explicitly said that no one had to participate. Aside from that, winging the rest of the project went fairly well. In addition, at the end of the lesson, I received further details as to my guest speaking opportunity in an American studies course at Comenius School in Leeuwarden. Currently, my professor is sending an email to her contact. Hopefully, I will receive further instruction from them. If not, I will be seeing them next week at our required class visit there. Back at Kanaalstraat, I plowed through the second of my three “experience” papers. However, just before finishing, Katri interrupted my work. She longed to go for a walk or jog. Having a body meant for water, the choice was easy for me: walk. Although I had just gotten a groove for my homework, getting a breath of fresh air never hurts. When we came back, it was time for dinner. As usual I got dibs on taste testing meals. This time, Rany let me try her food. It was a lot better than the overcooked fish that I wouldn’t let Ana throw away. I’m still confused as to when I should say yes and no, when they offer for me to try food. So, I just mix it up randomly depending upon the day. Regardless of that, I still think they enjoy having people try and enjoy what they cook. With my mind on school, I cut out of the kitchen early: back to the drawing board. Another important school visit on my schedule tomorrow. I’m going to see a chemistry class in the Northern regions of Friesland in a small town called Ferwerd. According to the map, it lied only one or two kilometers from the sea. Perhaps I’ll catch a glimpse.

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3/4 Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. That’s not promising for the young man headed to the sea for a high school observation, especially if he is superstitious. “I think, therefore I am.” Although, ignorance is bliss, so I chose that mindset. Itching to visit another school, I rushed through my morning rituals. In fact, I took such a quick shower that by the time I got out, I had already air-dried. With a little bit of stubble, I figured I could forgo shaving. Classrooms are fairly informal here anyway. Arriving to the bus about ten minutes early gave me plenty of time to bring my engines back to neutral after racing through the morning. At the cost of seven bus strips, I was able to go straight to Ferwerd. Nonstop is a beautiful concept. If only I could have that every time I headed out to the west coast. Fort Worth isn’t worth a dime. Anyway, train or bus, it is always wonderful to see the countryside and the quaint towns along the way. Speaking of which, we passed through Stiens, Finkum, Hijum, Hallum, and Marrum before reaching Ferwerd. Eventually, perhaps this weekend, I intend to bike that same route. Within thirty-five minutes, I reached Ferwerd. Gathering a sense of direction can prove difficult when the towns all look alike. Ferwerd was no different. It too had winding cobble stone streets, small, sculpted brick buildings, and a central church. The school was on the northeast side of the village, right on the outskirts. With the size of the town, it was less than ten minutes by foot from the bus stop. When I got to the campus, I saw a big sign off to the left of the main entrance that said verboden (forbidden). Not knowing what the word next to it meant, I moved on. At that point, I received a lot of funny looks from the students in the building. I had been identified as an intruder, but thankfully a teacher saw me in the back of the building and let me in there. Later, I would find out the sign that had scared me was really the front entrance. Being a farm community, the school was much smaller than usual. It enrolled around two hundred and twenty students, but it was still growing. The cramped environment of the classroom showed that even now they needed a new building.
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Before, I was officially let into the school, I needed to present my password: Douwe Anema. He was the teacher I intended to visit. After presenting his name, the older teacher who had let me in acted as my escort. It wasn’t long before we found him. Douwe then gave me a brief tour of the school and brought me to his classroom. Until class started, I interrogated him on the workings of his school and classroom. Ten minutes later, he had to start setting up shop and I braced myself for fresh faces. Much like my other visits, the majority of the period passed in the same fashion. Yet, students in the VMBO are much more rowdy than those in the higher levels. Also, they are not afraid to express their feelings, whatever the circumstances. Thus, they can be very outgoing, which is not a bad trait. This led to some excitement for me. During the middle of the second hour of the period (the students are given a coffee break after the first hour, but I think it’s more a refueling session for the teachers), Douwe was occupied with three students on the left side of the classroom. I sat in the back of the middle section. Yet, a student still managed to get me out of hiding for a question. Having not the slightest idea for the reasoning behind correct answer, which he had chosen, I became the next accessible source of knowledge. So, without any hesitation whatsoever, he broke me from my trance of note taking. Startled, as I had worked in silence for the entire lesson, I stuttered out a few incoherent sounds. As Douwe was coming to the rescue, he paused. Once he realized the student had asked me the question, he encouraged me to help out. Mustering up some courage and suppressing my fears of steering the student in the wrong direction, I proceeded. His question regarded one of the worksheet problems. It asked, “Welke van de volgende stoffen is opgebouwd uit macromoleculen?” (Which of the following stuff is built up with macromolecules?). The choices were as follows: aardgas (natural gas), plastic, suiker (sugar), water, and zout (salt). As previously mentioned, he knew the answer was plastic, but he couldn’t remember what macromolecules were. So, I had him start off with what he knew by asking leading questions. For example, “What is salt made of? Can we rule that out then? What is water made of?” and so on and so forth. After we had determined what the others were made of and that those clearly weren’t macromolecules, I described what macromolecules were. At
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that point, I had had my two minutes of fame and resumed my silence for the remainder of the lesson. Following the lesson, Douwe usually has another class. However, today he had an appointment during the time of his later lesson. Coincidentally, it happened to be in Leeuwarden. Out of the kindness in his heart, he offered to drive me back. My bus card would live to see another day. His car was full of dirt and tools: the makings of a country boy. Seeing as I wear jeans everywhere these days, I had no problem getting them dirty. Then we were off. Even though he was running late he decided take a detour over the sea wall. Although we weren’t able to reach the sea, it was neat to see some of the man made fortifications to prevent the invasion of a tidal wave. When we got back on the main road, we talked a little bit about farming and his childhood experience growing up on a Frisian farm along the sea. At certain times of the year, the sea would come right up to the border of his property. It may have scared foreigners, but Frisians have been living with it for hundreds of years. We also spoke about kaatsen, a Frisian handball. He plays in a league and also prefers speed skating to soccer. I’ve got skating down, well sort of, so now it is time to learn kaatsen. Although the sun took a peek at us this fine morning, by noon it went back into hiding. Shortly thereafter came the rain. It’s climax came after I exited Douwe’s car. Such is life. Naturally, I tried defending myself. Feeling confident, I brandished my umbrella. On came the wind. An umbrella isn’t the most effective sail, especially when you are downwind. It impeded my progress tremendously to the point where I almost lost ground while wielding it. Sheathing my failing instrument of dryness, I continued on, naked to the treacherous conditions. Working twice as hard, I achieved only half the time efficiency. A walk that normally takes ten minutes took closer to twenty. Arriving back at Kanaalstraat with a broken spirit, I collapsed on the bed. Only by eating peanut butter straight from the jar, along with three mandarins could I regain my energy. Of course, my weekdays are not meant for luxury, so as soon as I put fuel in my tank, it was back to work. I labored tirelessly at the computer from that point until seven thirty that evening. During that time, I found out Won would not be joining me for dinner. He had a date with
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some Korean girls. He made up for it though by buying stroopwafels and replacement toilet paper. You’d be surprised how much we go through, both of those that is. Later I would also find out that others from the gang would not be at the dinner table for various reasons. This included Rany (going with Won), Katri (cycling club), and Rossana (soccer practice). And then there were two: Ana and I. When the clock struck seven thirty, I headed for the kitchen. Ana had started cooking a little bit earlier, so when I got down there the burners were on full blast. As I toasted some bread in the oven, the smell of her dish drew me to the opposite end of the kitchen. Mushrooms and ground beef simmered in one pan, while pasta in a cream sauce boiled in another. Her and Rany seem to be the best cooks among us. While we cooked and dined, we had wonderful conversations. They touched upon Portuguese culture, hot spots where she likes to travel and would like to travel, and various aspects of her university lifestyle back home. At the end of the meal she also fed me. With Won not around that meant more for me. To make up for it, I tried to pay her back with a stroopwafel, but that hardly matches up to a main meal. Right as we were about to head upstairs, Katri returned from biking. Beat red and exhausted, she could only offer us a few minutes of time. A much-needed shower was in order. However, she did promise to meet up with us later and I held her to it. In the meantime, Ana came to my room. Won had yet to return. Of course, my giving her a single stroopwafel upped the ante. So, walking in, each hand had an ice cream bar: a treat that brought me back to my childhood days of Dilly Bars from DQ. Summer time never felt so missed. As we indulged with our second dessert, Katri entered with a full plate of leftovers. She ate dinner, I worked on papers, and Ana watched Portuguese news online. To top off the night, Katri and I watched a few clips from The Office : her first taste of true comedy.

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3/5 Napoleon gives me hope for all the short stacks in the world. Not only did he come close to taking over a large part of the world, but he also did it in style. Someday, I’d like to have my portrait painted. I’ll be mounted on a valiant steed, perhaps a stallion or a Harley Davidson. It depends on whether I’m going for classic or flare. Currently, Katri is working on portraits for her art independent study course. She holds the key to getting this fantasy up and running. Today would have been the perfect day for it too. Anytime I shave that means I have serious business to attend. In other words, I had another school visit. Dick Eekman has extended the offer for me to come every Thursday if it suits me. Flattered, I took him up on it. Last time, I had only enough time to visit his first class, but today I was able to see three. Much like viewing a movie or reading a book a second or third time, each time I visit a particular classroom, I notice a lot more that had previously been overlooked. Thus, I am able to dissect and nit pick classroom environments to a greater extent. For instance, I’ve noticed many involuntary habits of students. Wandering minds create a spectacle for perceptive observers. Oral fixations come to life in high school classes. This is most obvious in the form of chewing utensils. Either lunch periods need to be longer or children of the twenty first century are malnourished. Thank goodness they have a coffee/bread break after the first two hours of classes. I can only imagine how useless paper would become if the students had to forgo these breaks. Speaking of which, on the coffee break, I talked with Dick about my mission here and his travels throughout Africa and to Brazil. People in Europe seem to be more comfortable than those in the US with traveling to Africa. Something doesn’t add up when civil wars and genocide come to mind. Maybe it really is as beautiful a continent as people say. One day I hope to convince my parents that I won’t get killed if I go there. In fact, I may even make a difference in a few lives. After all, I am still young and invincible. With ten minutes left in his period, and fifteen minutes to spare, I headed next door to the NHL for class. Walking past the windows of the canteen, I saw Dilsad and Deniz from Turkey at one of the
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tables. Since we had ten minutes before class, I decided to grab an apple tart from the lunch line. Trying to swipe my card initially ended up in failure. I came up a few cents short. So, I scurried over to the money machine around the corner and added a few euros to my card. The second time was the charm. By the time all was said and done, I had about five minutes to enjoy a short chat with Dilsad and Deniz. Then we had to go upstairs for our afternoon lesson. In our Dutch Language and Culture course, we’re starting to learn a little bit more Dutch, but it’s still very basic knowledge. For example, today we learned how to count to ten, the seasons, and two more food items. Knowing English has its benefits, but when it comes to getting in touch with the locals it becomes a crutch. Everyone can speak English. Yet, they as well as I would like to speak Dutch or Frisian. Aside from my list of grievances geared towards international courses, this lesson held several highlights as well. One of which was our video presentation, but I will elaborate on that later. The other two were Rany’s presentation and the Belgian presentation. From Rany’s presentation, I learned a neat aspect of Korean traffic control. People walk on the left side, but cars drive on the right. That’s too complicated. Stay right has been permanently drilled into my cerebral cortex. There’s no turning back. With respect to the Belgian presentation, it caught my attention with its uniqueness. They did a PowerPoint presentation multiple choice trivia game based on numbers significant to Belgium. Out of the eight questions, I got six correct. Rory beat me with seven, so I missed out on the grand prize: Belgian beer. Needless to say, I’m not missing out. Perhaps they have six hundred and eighty brands of beer (one of the questions I missed) because they are still trying to figure out the best combination for taste that can actually compete with Dutch and German brews? Second is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since winning meant more to me than the prize. So, Rory deserved to win; he’ll drink up his success. Noticing greater productivity outside the room, I decided to follow Rossana down to the media center after class instead of heading directly home. On the way down the stairs, I even ran into Meta. She seemed to be doing well and I think she looks forward to seeing Katri and I again as much as Gerard. We’ll be spending the
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night at their place in two weeks because a high school visit on the German border we’ll require an early morning travel by car. Thus, it would be most efficient to ride with Gerard from Peize (just outside of Groningen). Anyway, at the media center, while I wrote at a table, Rossana uploaded some videos onto Facebook. She is quite talented when it comes to cinematography. Everyone seemed to be very impressed with our film interview. It coupled culture and comedy. Even we enjoyed it so much that it didn’t feel like homework. Overall, it turned out to be a great learning experience and a lot of fun too. Unfortunately, our teacher cut us off after viewing just two questions. Although, he did suggest that we revisit the video later during pockets of free time. Hopefully the class will see the entire finished product. Ending with a cliffhanger wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. Halfway through uploading, Rossana craved coffee. As her knight in shining armor, I vouched to watch her station and belongings. Even though I sat across the way, I watched them like a hawk. A suspicious pair took the computer next to her. The guy pushed her chair slightly and I nearly jumped out of my perch. Before I could act on this aggressive attempt to conquer a larger computer station, Rossana returned. Life returned to normal. After twenty minutes, or two full pages of writing in my notebook, she had finished uploading her videos. She gave up on the last one because it would have taken over an hour to complete. Leaving had pros and cons. The pros were satisfying hunger, whereas the cons meant biking in the rain. No matter how cloudy, there’s always a bright side to every situation. Here the upside of the weather is that I don’t have to shower ever again: kidding. However, it does feel refreshing. Returning from a long day of work, when it looked like all our chores were complete, there still remained one task at hand: grocery shopping. So, we dropped off our backpacks and headed for the supermarket. Yet, choices always lead to decision-making. I lost the vote of where to shop. Instead of Aldi, we went to Albert Heijn. This ended up working out in my favor though. I found a larger container of peanut butter for half the price offered at Aldi. Needless to say, that furthers the fact that I have to split my shopping between the two stores. For some odd reason, I left the
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supermarket earlier than everybody else. I did tell Rossana when I left though. That way I didn’t leave the rest of the group (Won and Katri) hanging. Sometimes when I feel swamped I get impatient and feel it necessary to get things done. In addition, since I go shopping with a set list, don’t fall into the trap of impulse purchasing. It’s a tough battle, but I’ve learned to overcome it with budgeting time in certain isles, while avoiding others. Hence, I finish a lot quicker than everyone else. Furthermore, empty rooms are conducive to getting work done quickly. In that time frame, I was able to type up my class visit notes, send a few emails, and work on finishing up the journal for yesterday. Won would return within fifteen minutes or so. When it came time for our evening meal, we found Sanket and Dominick in the kitchen. Both are very animated, so they make for an entertaining pair. They’re our international odd couple. If Sesame Street were looking to increase their diversity, they should replace Bert and Ernie with Sanket and Dominick. Later on, Katri joined us in our room again this evening after she returned from the gym. This time we knew she hadn’t been cycling because she didn’t look so flushed. If she’s going to keep coming home late there are definitely going to be consequences from her den mother. After a good scolding, we watched a few short clips again from The Office. Slowly, she’s becoming addicted. Today we also added super bowl commercials, which caught Won’s attention. Signature American advertising shows its true colors once a year.

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3/6 Boys and girls ought to listen to their moms more often. Don’t wait until the last minute to understand their reasoning behind the madness. This especially pertains to the consequences of sitting too close to the television set for prolonged periods of time. I have been learning the hard way. People say that “builds character”, but it’s only a matter of time before my eyes spontaneously combust. Depending on my computer, as my lifeline and connection to the outside world, has prompted long hours of journaling in dim lighting. However, there’s only so much the body can handle. For the time being, I’ve developed a sensory immunity, but there’s no telling how long I have left.

Beating the sun, as usual, with my alarm clock, I prepared for the long day ahead of me. Yet, Facebook proved to be a time consuming distraction. So, when it came time to shower, I had Won gauge the time it took me. Remarkably, I made it there and back within six minutes. That gave me plenty of time to finish getting dressed and pack a small lunch: a lonely apple. Then I fetched the girls. Bella and Katri were prepared, but Rany had a late night, so she hadn’t showered yet. Knowing it would be a while, she told us to leave without her. As we mounted our bikes, Rossana noticed her back
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tire had become flabby. She seemed skeptical that she would be able to make it to Hempenserweg without sufficient air in the tire. With a little convincing from Katri and I, she agreed to give it a try. If she made it there, they would have pumps available. Then we could determine if it were a flat or just low pressure. She made it two thirds of the way on the bike, but after that she had to walk the rest of the way. At Rossana’s request, Katri and I continued without her. Getting to campus ahead of significantly ahead of schedule allowed us to relax. I took this opportunity to get a second breakfast. A solid snack for brunch would have to hold me over until we returned. Simon, one of our professors, arrived on time, but the other did not. We waited at a table in the canteen for over half an hour for him. If we were able to use a bigger van, we could have left without him, but we needed every inch of space we could get. With his car, we had just enough seats for everyone. Thankfully, him being late also allowed for some stragglers to arrive. Wasting no time when he arrived, we filed into the vehicles. I went in the van. Mustafa, Katri, Laetitia, Maria, and Dilsad joined me. Simon drove and Harry was copilot. They even brought along KITT’s daughter: the talking GPS. With a long drive ahead, we started off with a simple game of tag. In a closed environment, that gets old real quick. So, we moved on to “I Spy”. After one round, Mustafa unpacked his breakfast: Nutella chocolate spread and Turkish bread. He was nice enough to give his fellow occupants of the back seat, Katri and I, a nibble. The only problem with samples is they leave you wanting more. However, before I could dwell on my shortcomings, we were already at our destination. In between Sneek and IJsselmeer, the roads led us straight to Sloten. There was no getting around it, only through it. No wonder it was such an important city for the Frisians during the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time, the Dutch and Frisians were fighting the Hapsburgs from Spain. If anyone wanted to take the road through Sloten, they had to pay a toll. Although the city was still fortified, there were no more tolls. With the amount of people in our caravan, that worked out in our favor. Stretching our legs would have to wait though, until after a coffee break. De Zeven Wonder Café answered our call. I do enjoy the smell of coffee, but I only drink hot chocolate. Boy did we receive
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premium service. Not only did my hot chocolate have a bargain price, but I also got a mountain of whipped cream and a fancy truffle on the side. Following our intermission, we were able to roam the city for thirty minutes. It only had one main street, so we were able to give it a thorough once over and move on. During that time, Mustafa and I “fired” a warning shot from a cannon to ward off any potential threats to the city. Then, we also took turns facing public mockery by locking ourselves in the stockades. With places to go and people to see, we pressed onward. On the road, we passed many more lakes as we neared the sea. Flocks of birds consumed fields normally grazed by cattle and sheep. Swans are the Canadian geese of the Netherlands. They should definitely send some our way. In addition to that, we also passed a house with a wooden stork in the garden. It is the typical Dutch marker for a newborn baby. I always thought that Hallmark had made that up. There must be many storks, especially if they have to fly all the way from the Netherlands to the US to deliver babies. Soon, trees grew sparse, the air moistened, and the soil reddened. Time reversed as we went forward. The year was 1345. Clouds filled the sky, but the sun shined on a band of Frisian locals, farmers and fisherman alike. Dutch ships lined the IJsselmeer, but their anchors would not drop in Friesland. Not on this day. Frisian townsmen decimated an entire professional invasion force of knights (some of whom were French and Flemish returning from the Crusades). With the rising sea at their backs, the invasion force lost not through force or strength, but tactical errors. Today, 60 or so Frisian nationalists annually commemorate the Battle of Warns. It occurs on the last Saturday of September at the Red Cliffs monument that was built in 1951. This location’s red soil actually holds the blood of dead Frisians. Ironically, the monument was placed where they would later lose to another Dutch force. However, placing a monument in the true location would be impossible because the sea has consumed it. Embedded in the massive boulder is the Frisian inscription leaver dea as slaef (rather dead than slave). Frisians take pride in their ideals of freedom about as much as Lee Greenwood does about being an American. They even wrote a proclamation in the nineteenth century claiming that Charlemagne granted them freedom and that should be evidence
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enough to be free from any Dutch state. In fact, believe it or not, the document was dated as if it were written in the time of Charlemagne. I won’t even get into The Oera Linda Book. Let’s just say some practical jokes go to far when they’re geared towards fanatical freedom fighters. As we huddled in a cultish circle, cigarettes seemed to serve as our candles. Only smokers stayed somewhat warm. The fierce sea squalls bombarded us like punches from Mike Tyson. Standing took stamina. Thus, our visit and speech were brief. Most of the trip we had spent below sea level, so it was nice to be on higher ground. It provided a nice vantage point for viewing the vast plains. After painting a picture of the medieval bloodbath, we learned some tid bits about the landscape. The soil near to the sea is very water logged, but it’s extremely fertile due to the concentration of peat. Hence, canals and drainage ditches litter the countryside. Yet, when the land dries, it sinks. Thus, it’s a self-defeating endeavor because as it sinks, the sea slowly creeps up. Mother nature is a niche nuisance. Sloshing about in sheep feces, our stinky battalion meticulously worked our way back to the caravan. On the way back to Leeuwarden, our third and final stop was Bolsward. We parked at the ruins of a church built in 1580. The interior had been burned to the ground in 1900. Then we all walked over to the town hall and roadside fish stand. Our teachers showed us how to eat raw herring. Sprinkle on a little onion, dangle it from its tail above your mouth, and chomp away. Although we weren’t so bold as to try that method. The owner was nice enough to make a sampler plate with Frisian flag toothpicks. Hoity-toity midday appetizers never tasted so delectable. After licking our chops, Maria, Laetitia, and I walked around together. With them, I got to see the inside of a Catholic church. Finally, we found an open one. Then we passed a wood carving of a father and son fishing above the canal. From the hook hung a black boot. Whoever said Frisians didn’t have a sense of humor? We met back up with everybody at three thirty. Of course, our teachers still were at the café sipping coffee, so we sat on the bench, filled with fatigue. In the meantime, Harry gave us Frisian thumbs (traditional cookies). On the ride home, he also taught us some Frisian. If only it stuck with me.
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Arriving back with only a few hours to spare before my next set of plans, Won decided to join me for an early dinner. That night, Oscar and I planned to watch the Cambuur game. Tonight they would be playing RBC Roosendaal. They weren’t supposed to be anything special, but they would take first blood. Locking our bikes together outside the stadium, we headed for the box office. Again, we decided to sit on the east side. It’s got the cheapest seats, but the second best view. Plus, it’s fun to sit by the rough and tumble of Leeuwarden. Before the game, the fans were going nuts. Yellow and blue streamers shot over the goal posts. Our mascot paraded the field. We could feel the energy in the air. This time we had third row seats at center field: not too shabby. Last time we could afford to sit away from our intended seats, but this time we didn’t have such flexibility. The stands were packed. As previously noted, we got off to a slow start and they scored first. There’s no way our goalie could have blocked it. A free kick from a forward sent the ball sailing between the upper corner. The shock sparked a motivational flame and we brought on the heat. As it built up, we got more opportunities. Near the middle of the game, we finally tied it up. At halftime, Oscar and I wrestled the crowds for a fresh batch of French fries and mayonnaise. They helped us thaw a little bit in the bitter cold. For the most part though, we froze our fannies. In the heat of the moment, it’s hardly noticeable. When the teams took the field for the second half, Cambuur dominated the attack, through numerous onslaughts on goal. Technically, there should have been more goals scored on our part, but all it takes is one to win. With less than ten minutes to spare, that wish came true. That and a red card against the opponents crushed their spirits. Victory came at last.

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3/7 Every knight in shining armor has a princess. They’re that person you’d drop anything for without hesitation, if only they just said that one word: yes. Fair ladies are few and far between. If you’re lucky you’ll see them once every blue moon. Some people never do. Fortunately, I’ve found my princess: the sun. She seldom shows her radiant smile to this side of the world. Seeing her almost brings tears of joy. Last night must have been a blue moon because today she showed the world her beautiful face. Waking up to daylight drove out my cruel heartless character from insufficient vitamin D. At once, I wrote a letter summoning Katri. As I slid it under her door, she opened it. For once, others were up at the crack of dawn too. We decided an hour and a half would be enough time to prep for a long bike ride. When sunshine is a rarity, take advantage of every moment. Judging by the time of year, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. They’ve been working too hard lately, so it’s about time they had a break. Due to this, a jacket was unnecessary. However, gloves and a hat were to combat the wind. Finally, I didn’t look silly wearing sunglasses either. I’ve been longing for summer weather too much lately, so I’ve been wearing sunglasses in all conditions to sooth my sorrow. Before we hit the trails, we stopped at some shops in town to look for leather gloves. Katri’s been looking to replace her knitted ones because the wind passes through them like a knife. Visiting three stores led us nowhere, so we moved on with the day. Knowing the glorious Wadden Sea was closer than the map suggested, we combined routes that I had previously traveled. We would first head through Stiens and follow the trail North. This would take us through Hijum, Hallum, Marrum, and Ferwerd. All of the towns were very small and similar in appearance. On my school visit this past week, I had passed through Hallum, Marrum, and Ferwerd by bus, but to truly experience the Dutch countryside, one must use a bike. Plus, then I can stop for pictures whenever I desire.
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Initially, I thought Ferwerd would be our final destination because it is extremely close to the sea. Heading over the sea wall, we found out that a vast marsh stood in our way. On top of that, it was a bird sanctuary. As we got closer, that would become quite obvious. In the thousands, we found them in one congested blob. Any physical match would have been lost to their army, so we beat them with wits… or cowardice. A birdwatcher was kind enough to inform of us of a proper detour. We would have to go ten more kilometers to the next town if we had any hopes of catching a glimpse of water. Having encountered few obstacles on the way and a bountiful amount of time, we proceeded. Smelling out the sea is as easy to identify as mom’s chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. Not only is the air fresher, but also the wind is stronger. That certainly gave us a workout. Just shy of the sea, we stopped for lunch in Holwerd. Although we craved De Echte Baker, we had to make do with a phony wAnabe bakery. Katri and I split some fresh bread and almond cookies. Sitting at a bench felt great after an hour and a half of steady biking.

Then came the last stretch of biking, onward towards Ameland! The Wadden islands are an essential component of Friesland. Terschelling is the most popular, but requires a ferry from Harlingen. Ameland, on the other hand, is more of a nature reserve
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and less touristy. Its mainland port is Holwerd and it is clearly visible from the city on a clear day. We were able get as far as the end of the pier. I was surprised to see how gradual the sea depth increased. Wading or walking out to the islands is a possibility depending on the time of day. Low tide offers many possibilities. After thoroughly basking in the ocean breeze, it came time to return to Leeuwarden. Seaside gusts don’t help bikers. With already throbbing quads and a sore rump, we had to make a couple of pit stops. The first came at a Texaco station: nature calls and I answer. Then we stopped on the outskirts of Hallum to catch our breath. Five minutes later we left and never looked back. Back in Leeuwarden, Katri and I stopped at the market. She needed to purchase some bread and fruit. I don’t understand how people can continuously spend money around me. Groceries are a necessity, but it still seems frequent. Every time I leave Kanaalstraat money burns in thin air. With the beautiful weather, the market was swamped. So, I stood off to the side while Katri shopped. At the end she flagged me down, but I had gotten myself trapped by kiosks and bikes. Working my way through the maze proved to be a tedious task. When I got out, I stood on my tippy toes. Seeing over people twice your height can be difficult. Needless to say, we lost each other and following ten minutes of scrupulous scanning, I left. Thankfully she reacted instinctually as well and we later met up at Kanaalstraat. Through the careful planning of Won, Rossana, and Rany, tonight’s dinner turned into a pleasant reunion. All of the international students are spread out between four main residences. Once the first week passed, we hardly saw those living in other locations. Out of the thirty or so international students, around twenty attended tonight’s pancake ship extravaganza. I even met somebody new. Sitting next to me was a pretty young lady from Hong Kong. Her name was Tracy. Also noticing our in depth conversations were Ali and Won. They’re already trying to marry me off, goofs. As far as the meal was concerned, Won and I split a pineapple/banana pancake, got some leftovers from a Southwestern style pancake and a fairly good portion of Rany’s meal. No matter how hard we may try, Won and I will never go hungry.
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3/8 Scratch dripping faucets, nails on chalkboards, and Richard Simmons off my list of auditory grievances. Ingestion takes the cake. Munching mandibles make me squirm. I can’t stand the sound of eating. How can people work at restaurants? The combined consumption chorus of the patrons would create a symphony of aggravation. Go ahead, step on my head when I am drowning, but never make me endure this. Ready to shoot myself in the face, I held back from murdering Won this morning, while attempting to write my research paper. With hopes of going deaf, I scrambled for my headphones and browsed itunes for anything upbeat. Mr. Mister came to my rescue with Kyrie. Crank up the volume and bring on the eighties rock! After working on my paper for an hour and a half, I decided to take a break by workout. The other day I talked to my cousin Brad. He works out pretty regularly, which makes me proud, but I heard he did 75 pushups in one sitting. That’s an awesome feat and much more than I’ve been doing. The last time I came close to that was in eighth grade, coming short by one. I remember telling my swim coach, Tom, that I couldn’t feel my arms afterwards. He made me practice anyway. It builds character. Anyway, as a carnivore, I couldn’t stand defeat to an herbivore (Brad). Motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically, I sought to match his mark. To my surprise, I made it to 100 and my arms didn’t feel like Jello! Once I finished, I loaded the laundry. When I returned to my work, headphones proved to be a temporary fix. Focus seemed to be unattainable in the room. Ironically, I moved to the kitchen. There I found Ali. Out of the kindness in his heart, he always asks me if I am hungry. Being polite, I systematically decline, but he’s such a good cook that I really just want to scream YES! Rossana came next. She didn’t understand the reasoning behind my tactical move either. It worked though, so that’s all that matters. As soon as my battery ran out, I was forced to vacate the area. I would jump between areas on and off all day at the liberty of batter life. On my final visit to the kitchen, I would enjoy the company of Pablo. He and I seem to be the busiest around here. The NHL has assigned him to devise a boat engine that is over ninety percent
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efficient. This will significantly aid their annual sailboat competition. However, before he designs the engine, he has to get acquainted with the functions of every part. That’s the tedious part. Back in Spain, Pablo worked for Hewlett Packard, so that background will help, hopefully everything else will be in ship shape. Later on, I stopped by Ciska’s place. She wasn’t there. Not making an official appointment caught up with me this time. Thankfully, she lives just behind us. Then I stopped by Rossana’s room. We don’t feel too good about a situation involving other international students. They’ve invited us to participate in an international dinner marathon, but haven’t invited everyone from the exchange. Of those currently not invited are Won, Katri, Ana, Bori, Erdal, Ali, and Rany. That’s practically our entire group. If they’re not open to including them, then we most likely won’t join. Also, Rossana and I agree that one person should not have to cook for twenty people. The dinners should be more like the pancake ship from last night. Invite who you know and spread the word. We had only planned for fifteen people or less, but over twenty showed up. Everyone had a blast too. In addition, these activities should be at restaurants, not crowded residences. We spend quite enough time at them. Tonight turned out to be relaxing. We had dinner at six thirty and talked about the good ole days. Apparently, when Koreans graduate from high school they throw roses, eggs, and tear their uniforms. I guess you better treat people nicely there because I’d prefer a lovely rose to being pelted with an egg. Then we moved on to more rebellious aspects of high school and April Fools Day. Of course, I told of the best American past times: cow tipping and snipe hunting. Won and I still have to discuss how we’re going to get everyone on April 1st. In a building like this, there are too many choices to choose from.

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3/9 Why can’t I wake up every morning smelling like sweet roses in the spring wind? Deodorant is such a chore. That is if you wake up at 5:30 A.M. Only a brisk summer morning swim practice could knock some sense into me that early. Daylight savings losing an hour in Illinois is still programmed into my body clock. So, my six hours of sleep really felt like five. However, Mondays are rough, so I wasn’t the only one lagging behind. In fact, for once the trains seemed to be lethargic. Like die hard shoppers of Black Friday, we crowded around the entrances to the train. The lights were out until only five minutes before departure. Then it took three official giddy ups to get the train huffing and puffing. We entered on the second attempt to get things rolling. During the transition phase shortly thereafter of alternating cardiac arrest and stable breathing, one poor soul got locked in between two cars. I anticipated the worst. As the power went out, scenes from horror films seemed to unfold in my mind. Imagining an eerie fog down the corridor, his figure vanished. All that remained of the trapped individual was their silhouette in splatters of blood on the glass door. This conjured up morbid fantasy escaped within thirty seconds as the power flickered back on. Closer to Groningen, I got a train buddy. It’s not always the most comfortable, but it reassures me that my morning shower or striking looks are sufficient. From Groningen’s station, I walked all the way to the Zernike Montessori College, which took about twenty minutes give or take five. Having been to the school before, I didn’t have to ask where to go when I entered the building, so I just waltzed right in. It’s not common to see a security guard or a questioning face. Everybody just assumes since you’re there that you must belong. However, it could also be the “somebody else’s problem” fallacy. Either way, I like the relaxed environment much more. After all, nobody likes a full physical examination when picking up their sick son or daughter from school. Pediatricians already scarred me for life, cough! So, let’s not make it worse with officer so and so. Although my instincts told me to head to the classroom I had previously visited, I headed for the teacher’s lounge instead. There I
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joined Jan. He’s one of the student teachers in his second year of study at a university. In accordance with his student teaching requirements, this year he’s been following Bas Siebring and as of today took over one lesson. As soon as the other student teacher showed up, who had taught for the first time on Friday, I went downstairs in search of Bas. I found him at the classroom preparing for his first class.

Within moments after I got settled, class began. The students were a mix of middle and lower level ability students. Differences between their learning capabilities and the higher class of mixed middle and higher ability students would be evident later in the day. Their lesson revolved around the fundamentals of the scientific method. This would be their first time using it with a report as well, so Bas specified the desired length in sentences of each component of the scientific method. After fifteen or twenty minutes of lecture, the students were given the majority of the period for independent work. They were also able to use the last ten minutes of the class to study for next period’s German test. Next came Jan’s lesson. He carried himself quite well throughout it, but his nervousness was evident in his soft tone of voice. That’s
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typical for a first-timer. Taking on a class for the first time is like asking a beautiful girl out on a date. You always know what you want to say, but it comes out like mashed potatoes. In a large classroom, one must project their voice. In addition, when desks are arranged in a group/table format, it may be best to have the students pull their chairs to the front of the class. Then it’s easier to manage the students that would have been causing a ruckus in the back. Along with that, Jan also had to deal with a few teachers coming in during the period. One pulled a student from the class and the other came to gather the attendance. Why they can’t do attendance via computer or have a student bring it to the office, I’ll never know. However, keeping these disturbances in mind, he recovered nicely. Once he finished his lecture on series configured circuits, the class had independent work time. Then they worked quite quietly for the remainder of the period. For the next period, Bas’s class would be in the media center. His regular classroom wasn’t ideally equipped for presentations. Initially, the students were to receive fifteen minutes to work on putting finishing touches on their posters. It turned into twentyfive minutes, especially since one poster went missing. That gave the students thirty-five minutes to present to each other within their large groups, five minutes per person. It worked out to be plenty of time for all the groups to hear every member. On a side note, they’ll be the class I’ll be teaching in two weeks. They are a mixed class of HAVO/Atheneum, so middle to very high ability students. Most are Atheneum. I will be giving them a lesson on very basic characteristics of acids and bases. Hopefully it goes well because one of the students already inquired to Bas about my ability to handle them. Following that, Bas and I had an interview with Jan to discuss his lesson. First, he gave us feedback as to his self-assessment. Everyone is always more critical of themselves than others. He didn’t feel too good about the results of the lesson. For example, he didn’t feel the classroom was adequate for a lecture. Also, the pen-pitching pest gave him some trouble as well. Initially, Bas gave suggestions in Dutch. Then, I got the floor. Some of Bas’s colleagues doubted the benefit of me being in the classroom when I cannot understand Dutch. Well we showed them! Despite the language barrier, we
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both said the exact same suggestions and compliments. Getting a pat on the back feels good. Before the final class, Bas and I hit up the free soup. Today they had tomato with meatballs: exquisite. While we ate, I brainstormed a little bit for the lesson I will conduct. My mind is fried though from these past few days, so making significant headway poses quite a challenge. I’ll figure something out eventually. In Bas’s final class, they learned the exact same material as the first class. However, as mentioned, they were of higher ability. Thus, they finished learning the material twice as fast. Also, Bas only had to raise his hand for attention twice, which was seven less than the first class. Hence, it made a significant difference. For the first class, he’ll have to repeat the lesson, but for this one he won’t. Within thirty minutes of its conclusion, I hit the road. I’m starting to doubt the existence of an express train from Groningen to Leeuwarden. Every time I leave Groningen I have to take the stoptrain. At least it allows me to eat up the vast Dutch countryside. When I depart for the states, it may be a while before I see it again. Once I got back to Leeuwarden, I had to stock up on food. I had already run out before dinner. Aldi came to my rescue. Amazingly, I got gargantuan carrots, liver sausage, cheese, and baguettes for less than 3 euros. Now that’s a bargain. Although, I have found cheaper peanut butter at Albert Heijn, so I have to head there tomorrow because that’s my main item for lunch. When it came time for dinner, we assembled in the kitchen. In the middle of cooking, Katri surprised me with a question. She asked if I would be her brother for the time I spend in the Netherlands. Something tells me Gerard was partially behind this sentimental moment. Although I had already considered her as close as a sibling, the official title carried significant weight. With such a prestigious honor sealed with a bear hug, I was beaming for the rest of the night.

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3/10 Chronic headaches and memory loss surely can’t be from lack of sleep. They’ve got to be from uranium exposure. I’m still convinced that the past presence of uranium in the Dockinga College storeroom is responsible. Radiating an already over stimulated mind would be about as bad as a hamster hooked on crack and Mountain Dew. At the very least, insanity ensues. I’m a workaholic hung-over on information overload, but I’m addicted to knowledge. Try quitting that with a pack of patches and a few sticks of gum. On top of that, I’m becoming aware of deteriorations in fine motor skills and sensory perceptiveness. For instance, Won determined this morning that luck can be attributed to the pitch of one’s flatulence. I can’t hear it. Then, the men’s bathroom was temporarily decommissioned, so I headed downstairs to use the ladies lavatory. On the way back up, I tripped while going upstairs. I may be a klutz, but when there’s a hand railing and tiny feet involved, I deserve the benefit of the doubt. Extraneous circumstances are at fault. As soon as Won left for class this morning, after picking up a fresh jar of peanut butter from Albert Heijn, I hit the books. It’s always easy in the beginning, but the more I write, the more I fade. Fatigue helps me understand the significance of mental breaks. All it takes is five minutes here and there. Usually, it results in a burst of thirty minutes of solid work. Fluids and food help too. By the end I didn’t get as much done as the other day, but at least it is progress. Plus, I looked at Wikipedia to make sure I had some correct information (shame on me), and I, aside from lack of sophistication and Dutch vocabulary, had essentially a paraphrased replica of their article on the setup of the Dutch educational system. I rest my case on the fallacies of accused plagiarism. At least that gives me hope that if I see eye to eye with Wikipedia now that for my final draft I’ll be somewhere up there with Oxford and Cambridge scholars. For class, we were to visit Comenius in Leeuwarden. Since Elin and I found out that it was right down the street and across the tracks from Kanaalstraat, we decided there would be no point in heading to Hempenserweg first. Thus, we were able to leave much later. This allowed me to get a little more work done in the kitchen.
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I’ve been having difficulty focusing in the room lately. Anyway, Comenius is basically the Christian version of Piter Jelles. They accommodate relatively the same amount of students, but they have a religious affiliation. Upon arrival, the administrative head of one of the HAVO levels graciously received us. She offered us coffee, tea, and cookies. There’s always stuff I don’t drink with stuff that I eat. How am I supposed to wash it all down? Tea may be sophisticated and coffee a teacher’s fuel, but I like some high quality dihydrogen monoxide. Since I don’t drink either, I guess that makes me a primitive student: no comment. Then, we got a tour of the school. Some of the facilities had been recently renovated, so they were on the nicer side of what I’ve seen here. My favorite part is still the underground bike garages. Too bad we only have those for cars back home. Throughout the tour, we stopped at an art class, the media center, and a few science labs. Not all of the rooms are used at once, at every time of the day, which intrigues me. Although it is nice to walk through hallways of high schools and reminisce teenage drama, I desired to get down to the facts. This opportunity came at the conclusion of our visit: open panel for questions.

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During this period, I dominated the questioning. As she punched out numbers, I wrote. At first, I got a lot of information pertaining to typical demographics: school size, grade level of students, and things of that nature. Then a juicy uncertainty came to mind. Feeling daring I asked, “How are students tracked when they show exceptional abilities in math and science, but struggle with language arts?” Her answer suggested that it would be more common for students to be held in the level of their weakest subject. Of course, all circumstances vary, but this answer came as a shock to me. I am still unsure as to the validity of the comment, but if true it shows the difficulty for students to completely fit into a particular tracking level for all subjects. Afterwards, I inquired about visiting and teaching. She seemed very enthusiastic and eager, so I’m glad that I’ve established this connection. When I returned to Kanaalstraat, Won shared some information with me. Last night, an interesting turn of events apparently occurred in the ground floor kitchen and hall after some people returned from the international party at the Fire Palace. I don’t go to these sorts of shindigs. After the first week, they ceased to interest me. Anyway, some guys seem to take pleasure in tormenting Katri. One of them, who no longer lives in our building, sang obnoxiously outside her door at some God forsaken hour of the morning. Although they got her upset, they’ve caused some collateral damage bringing Ali and Rossana into the situation. Also, rumor has it that they threw Sanket’s bike in the garbage as well. There’s not much I can do about it if I don’t see it nor do they treat me poorly. So, I wait. Following our evening meal, Won and I joined Pablo and Dominick in the living room for the Liverpool soccer match. At the time we joined, they were up on Real Madrid two zip. After the half, David joined us too. I couldn’t stay too long though because I will have an early morning tomorrow. Hence, after I finished my drink from Dominick, I went to bed. When I left the score was three nil. The final score ended up being a shutout of four nil.

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3/11 Ever since birth, everything has been backwards. According to my parents, and those that know me, I run like my mother and dance like my father. It’s a dangerous combination that seems to be neutralized by water. Yet, even in the country of canals, I cannot escape dry land. Thus, my flip-flopped habits come to life. My ability to make simple tasks complex and vise versa tends to be the biggest downfall. On the train ride to our school visit this morning, Katri showed me the self-portrait she had been working on over the past few days. I only saw a picture of it on her phone, but that’s all it took to know its beauty. She has an exceptional talent for painting. Then she asked me to analyze the work. I’m no expert, but I gave it a shot. Warm colors were concentrated on the forehead, whereas the rest of the painting was consumed by cool colors. To me, this meant that she’s always got a lot on her mind. Perhaps, it is something held in that ails her. Whatever the case, it seems to take a lot of energy away from the rest of her body, which seemed stressed, saddened, and exhausted. The slight frown coupled with the deep blues and purples added to this effect. I still think she should pursue art education. She would make an excellent teacher. Yet, she refuses to believe it is her intended path. Someday it’ll dawn on her. Finding Gerard at the train station wasn’t too difficult either. He took us directly to the school. After a reception in the teacher’s lounge, we were able to join a biology lesson. Katri and I were introduced at the beginning of the class and the teacher tried to conduct the beginning in English. That was courteous of him. However, I disapproved the teacher’s attire, food and drink policies, as well as his nosiness towards my notes. Starting with the most obvious, attire, he wore a t-shirt and jeans. Not to mention, he clearly hadn’t shaven within the last few days. Also, he drank coffee as he lectured. That should be completed before class. Finally, at the end of the period, I asked him to write down his last name and he began reading my notes instead. Those are my business. If he’s so curious about what I observe, then does he have something to hide? I didn’t agree with the length of the period. One hundred minutes is painful to endure as a student and an observer.
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Later on, I got to spend some time in the science teacher’s lounge. One of the teacher’s daughters had recently gotten married in Morocco. So, as part of the celebration, the proud father of the bride brought in an apple tart. Without hesitation, they gave me a piece. For someone that only brought three mandarins that piece of cake got devoured like a piece of steak. After the break, I watched another teacher’s class before being with Gerard’s contact Menno Peterson. When I got to his class, they were doing a lab. It would involve comparing the rate of reaction of sodium thiosulfate, hydrochloric acid, and water for the salt formation. Their independent variables would be heat and concentration. The dependent variable was time. Within five minutes of class starting, I was introduced and noted to be a valuable source, which implied I would be assisting students. It’s not very often that a teacher does this, so I was pretty psyched about it. However, at times I still lack confidence in my knowledge and capabilities, so I have the tendency to over think my actions. This leads me to make something more complex than it should be. Hence, initially tried to apply kinetics to something that simply needed the dilution equation. I noticed this through trial and error, but I still felt a little embarrassed. Someday I’ll beat my inner struggle. I have the tools, but I just need the reassurance through experience. Towards the end of lab, Gerard fetched me from the lab. He knew that I was having too much fun, so if we wanted to see our homes again he’d have to strip me away from the classes. On top of that, he also had an informational seminar to conduct. Being particularly interested, as always is the case when anything pertains to Gerard, Katri and I tagged along. There, we found about the NHL trying to attract students through the attractiveness of two baccalaureate degrees. However, there’s a catch. Every time a student graduates with a degree the university receives twenty-two thousand dollars. So, if students receive two certificates they get double the money per student. It’s brilliant, but about as bad as those people that double dip their chips. Although it had already been a quite fulfilling day, we weren’t done just yet. We got a complete tour of the chemistry department at the University of Groningen. The exterior showed a modern flourishing campus, but a few gray hairs remained. For example, the
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elevators required a little muscle. They were the first elevators I’ve seen with manually opened doors. Thank goodness we didn’t have to pull ourselves up with a cord from floor to floor. Aside from that experience that could have kept me amused all day (think of the pranks that could have been pulled on people), Gerard stole my attention yet again. I asked him his beliefs on conducting several study abroad trips. By now, I should know to never expect a yes or no answer. We had the most enlightening conversation of the day. Find pieces of yourself by exiting your comfort zone. How do you know yourself if you don’t explore? Do what you love and don’t let others take you away from that. How much, in percent, do you know about yourself? As we past Martini Tower, the bullet holes from World War II could still be seen in the sandstone. The past may leave imprints, but we’re ultimately in control of the path the future takes. Walking and talking with Katri usually helps workout some of the scars from the past. Tonight I helped her with some of hers. Sometimes it takes breaking the law. The only solution for tonight’s endeavor: arson. No women, children, or animals were hurt in this memory cleansing. In a vacant factory lot, we burned some personal letters. Even though I practically had a heart attack as the watchman, it took a tremendous load off of her shoulders, so it was for a worthy cause. I’m glad that I can be a shoulder to lean on; everyone needs one. And the word of the day is FANTASTIC!

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3/12 Parties exponentially expand social networks. Going deaf doesn’t. Deteriorating hearing plagues many a young men. It starts as selective hearing and state of the art stereos in teenage years do the rest. Hence, remembering names and faces is made even more difficult, but saying the wrong name is downright embarrassing. Since the introduction week, I’ve convinced myself that the French guys had completely different names. I thought Antoine’s name was Altwin. Also, I thought Jonathon’s name was Jeanital, pronounced “genital”. I just figured his parents didn’t like him. That just goes to show how loud music and thick accents distort conversation when paired with my hearing. Despite my hardships, the blunder of the day goes to one of my teachers. All people of the same ethnicity clearly do not look the same. Perhaps it is about time he get acquainted with his students or take a personal day to visit the local optometrist. Today, he thought two Asian girls were the same person. Please note, they do not look the slightest bit alike. Anyway, one had left the room to fetch something for her presentation. During the time she was gone, he almost got into a full out debate with the other girl that she had to present today because someone was speaking about China. Singling out the only Chinese-looking girl in the room, he stood firm to his beliefs that it had to be her. She was actually Korean. Finally, the other girl returned and he apologized. His mortified expression: priceless. After losing in the lucky draw from the girl that did present, I biked to Aldi to replenish my refrigerator. Spending less than five euros on every visit is a great feeling for the wallet, but not for the stomach. However, I had little time to spare, so I hurried home for a quick lunch of muesli and vla. Then, I had to be at Ciska and Karin’s study abroad symposium as soon as possible. Luckily, I got there with over a half hour to spare. Although it did take me a while to find the exact location because I originally thought it would be conducted in a large open area like the canteen. One of Gerard’s three secretaries helped me out. Before the workshop, I was able to talk with Ciska and Karin a little bit. Karin had been to the Dutch Caribbean for her stage
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(student teaching), but also during the semester vacationed to Canada and New York. She seemed very friendly and I look forward to talking with her again. Ciska and I, on the other hand, compared our experiences between the Netherlands and the United States with respect to the education systems. Initially, I had thought my coming here was to find a superb system. Yet, the more I have visited schools, I’ve come to the realization that neither one is right, wrong, or better than the other. They’re just drastically different in several ways. In fact, if I could put them in a blender I would because there are so many aspects of the system that I love here, but I also have attachments to home as well. If only it were as easy as taking chocolate vanilla swirl soft serve ice cream from the dining center. For some reason, people love to find ways to feed me. Tonight dinner came courtesy of the NHL and the students that conducted the symposium. Economics says there is no such thing as a “free lunch”, but I disagree when dinner is concerned. I had a soft shell taco with chicken, pineapple, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce at no cost to me. Can you tell that I’m hungry at the wee hour of writing this? It gets better though, not only did I enjoy these candle lit comforts for free, but Ciska and I yanked some of the desserts on the way out too. I enjoyed one tonight and saved the other for tomorrow. Stealing never tasted so sweet.

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3/13 Short attention span syndrome paired with information overload is like drinking water from a fire hose. Sparks fly from my noggin nucleus. A Geiger counter can’t even keep up with the radiation spewing from my skull. I’ve got so much to do and so little time: story of my life. My control center needs more neurons hyped up on caffeine because this weekend is going to be full of early mornings and late nights. Speaking of which, today turned out to be a natural early morning. I woke up to the sunrise without the aid of an alarm. Refreshed, I worked ahead on some papers and did some morning calisthenics. Then as usual, I was ready to leave much sooner than everyone else. I hate being late, but I also need not worry so much. Besides, class turned out to be pointless anyway. Well, I shouldn’t put it so harshly, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry at the moment. Today, after arriving almost ten minutes late (I have to quit being a gentleman and waiting for the girls), we started the class off by discussing the article we had previously read for homework. It revolved around the issue of multilingual education in Friesland. I found this particularly interesting because it relates well to the current dilemma of non-native English speakers in America. However, Frisians easily acquire English, Dutch, and Frisian due to the Germanic roots, whereas Spanish speakers in America have a more difficult time because of the Latin roots of Spanish. If I had more free time, it would be neat to learn Dutch and/or Frisian, especially since they are both similar to English and German. Plus, I’m disappointed that I can barely make an effort to interact with the locals on a more personal level. Although they can all speak English very well, it feels as if I am disrespecting them by not even being able to try and speak Dutch. Fortunately, people are no longer condemned for this in Friesland. No more than sixty years ago, all legal disputes, even those conducted in Friesland, were only settled in Dutch. Frisians were not allowed to speak any other language during testimonies. Sooner or later, this was bound to create turmoil. On one particular instance in 1951, a Frisian individual was not allowed to speak before the court in Leeuwarden because he could not speak Dutch.
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This came as the straw that broke the camels back. A journalist wrote an article condemning the judge the very next day. That journalist, Fedde Schurer, was held in contempt of court. Riots ensued in the streets of Leeuwarden. These were the first steps towards reestablishing Frisian pride. From that moment on, the courts have been more sympathetic to monolingual citizens. Learning about history always is fascinating, but alas, bodily needs are first priority. Lunch couldn’t come a moment too soon. At least they always have fresh soup and baked bread. It’s like the RitzCarlton compared to dorm food. Another plus of lunch was the company. I ate a table with about seven or eight girls. Being an education major definitely has its perks. This only served as a break between two halves of the class period though, so I had to turn my brain back on after eating. The second half didn’t seem so long and before I knew it I was on my way to Ciska’s. In a few weeks, we have our workshop before the Lions Congress in Utrecht. (LioNS = Leraar in opleiding Natuurkunde & Scheikunde: Student teachers physics & chemistry). We intend to advocate studying abroad for future teachers to open their eyes to a worldly perspective on education. There are a variety of systems around the world. Most have broad similarities, but everyone can learn from their unique individual characteristics. Is it possible to determine what type of teacher one will be if they don’t experience other systems? Too many people fear learning. Embrace it. You’re in the wrong profession if you don’t. Anyway, today was just the initial step in the process: filling out an application. As we formulated a title and our goals in a hundred words or less, she forced me to play with Brownie her bunny. The excitement eventually was too much for me, so I became more of a distraction than an asset. At least there are some positive aspects to my bouncing off the walls. She’ll be prepared for the worst possible scenario when she has kids of her own. Two Friday 13ths in a row must cancel out the chaos of each other, so for once I got to bed at a timely hour.

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3/14 Disney princesses have it easy. Where are my seven dwarves, talking furniture, and fairy godmothers? With the combination of these three, I would be virtually carefree. Seeing as I am neither female nor beautiful, I have to make due in solitude. Yet, this morning defied all possibilities of attaining self-sufficiency. Either I need a mental vacation or I need to consult the nearest retirement community for vacancy. Hopefully, they won’t have an age requirement because I seem to be quite forgetful lately. This morning, I went to the bathroom without toilet paper. At least I caught that one before firing. Showering did not fare so well. I left my towel behind. Dorm life has conditioned me to believe every shower will end up in me walking back naked. Pajama pants served as a worthy loin cloth. It’s not as inventive as my toilet paper diaper a year ago, but it got the job done. Thankfully, morning mishaps did not continue into the afternoon. I could not afford them on my trip with Sanne. Working at a windmill requires the utmost patience, precision, and precaution. Near to Bergum (Frisian: Burgum) , he volunteers at a grain-grinding windmill. In less than two years, he’ll be a certified miller and be able to run one on his own. Most commonly, however, other mills are used to pump water out of the farmland. Built in 1867, it has five levels. It’s taller than the majority in Friesland, but it is nowhere close in size to the eleven level one in Rotterdam. Pulling up to the mill, I could hardly believe any business could possibly have enough room to take place within it. Entering through red and white double doors, we walked across the cobblestone foundation to the break room. Inside, we found a handful of tough looking Frisian men. Their rough skin enhanced the hard stares that analyzed my every movement. It would take a lot more than a handshake and a smile to convince them I was worthy of their acceptance. Disliking coffee didn’t help matters either. Shortly thereafter, they finished their morning coffee and conversed about daily news and travels in Dutch. Kees vented about a recent trip to Arizona. He claimed that too many visas and other documents are required to travel to the United States. It shouldn’t
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be so much of a hassle. I agree whole-heartedly, but one bad apple spoils the entire bunch. Thus, drastic times call for drastic measures. Teatime only lasts so long though, so we hopped to it. Sanne and I, being young and nimble, climbed all the way up the head of the mill to get things rolling. A vast network of gears, beams, and axels surrounded us. As we puttered around, Sanne described and demonstrated the function of each. Limited on playtime, within ten minutes, we had to get down to business. So, we headed down to the third level and went outside. Fashioning sails on the wings of a windmill is very tedious. Fashion it tight, but fit it right. That’s where I learned lesson number one of milling from Kees. On fastening the third sail, I took over more of the duties from Sanne. Thinking I had it down pat, I tried to move quickly to come across as a natural. Kees called my bluff as I let go of three key ropes before tying them down. Always hold on to those three ropes. If the wind takes them, you’re in big trouble. I lucked out since there was hardly any at the time. At that moment, he noticed my ability to understand a handful of Dutch and took an interest in me. Afraid of his wrath, I let him steal me from Sanne. From that moment on, I received a personal guided tour of the entire mill. This was on top of the thorough job already done by Sanne, but I bit my tongue because it would have been rude to refuse. Plus, he took a lot of pride in sharing his passion with me. It’s nice to find people that care about preserving history and culture. This tour lasted until the lunch break. Sanne had brought some muffins, so we all dug in. After doing manual labor, it’s nice to refuel. During that time, Kees also showed me the daily and monthly logs of the windmill. He keeps track of the number of visitors per day, the budget, and specific notes pertaining to weather conditions and the overall shape of the mill. Previously, the house next door had owned the mill, but they did not take good care of it at all. They just used it as storage and over time it deteriorated tremendously. So, the village intervened by purchasing the mill in 1963. The renovations would be completed in 1993. It’s been run smoothly by a steady set of volunteers ever since. Kees noticed that I enjoyed his stories and had an innate fascination with windmills, so he gave me a book he wrote as a souvenir. All in Dutch, it explores the history of windmills in the Netherlands and goes into as much
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detail about their mill as possible. Hard work and interest pays off in the long run. Throughout my time period at the De Hoop mill, I got a sample of almost every aspect of being a certified miller. With the help of Sanne, Rein, Jaap, Meindert, Kees, and Harry, I had the experience of a lifetime. Each came from a different background, so they all offered unique hints to help me learn various skills of the trade. All in all, I got to pour grain, sift flour, fetch items for customers and calculate their change (grade school math gets more and more difficult over time), start and stop the mill, and setup and take down the sails. I also learned that millers have three hands when it comes to checking flour and a lot of safety goes into running a windmill. In addition to that, I helped out with cleaning the grain-grinding stones. This usually occurs only once or twice a year, but due to consistency issues with the flour we had to take a look. Uncovering and lifting the 1200 kg stone would have been impossible without their nifty contraptions. Typically, people just tour the windmills and receive no hands on experience whatsoever. Sanne hasn’t even taken his closest friends to do this. Being put at the forefront of people to treat is quite an honor. Along with that, judging by the fact that there are no more than a thousand old-fashioned mills in the Netherlands, and that maybe three people at most run each mill says that maybe 3000 people and myself have experienced what I have today. There truly is more to a windmill than meets the eye. Seeing the backbones of these engineering feats was truly remarkable. Gratitude from a truly unique experience will forever be imprinted in their guest book. On the ride home, Sanne took me to another functioning windmill. However, this one was used to pump water out of the fields to prevent flooding. It wasn’t as exciting as the hands on experience as I had just received. Plus, it ran on an automated engine. It kills the ability to work with your hands. That’s no fun. Nonetheless, it was really neat to see. It too was constructed in a similar timeframe: 1863. The owner even gave me a postcard of the mill on the way out: victory achieved. Before hitting Leeuwarden, Sanne talked about WWII. Somehow we got on the topic by talking about the holidays in May. May 4th and 5th are significant here for remembering those that fought in
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WWII: remembrance and liberation day. He told me about how one of his grandfathers had hid from the German soldiers underneath the floorboards in his home in Utrecht every time they came by looking for men to do work. The other apparently worked with the resistance forces in Friesland. Ever so often they would steal food stamps from a German staff car. People were starving with the rationing of food. I can’t even imagine living through such a time period. Yet, other areas of the world still face similar situations to this day. For instance, as Dominick, Pablo, Sanket, and I shared a few glasses of wine, Dominick shared his odd experiences in the Phillippines. Being that he works for a wildlife conservation agency, he has to deal with all extents of society: tribes, government soldiers, and separatist guerrillas. He told us how it is impossible to spot separatist guerrillas and that they hate Americans. They also steal people from their homes on occasion to gather information. Then these people are brought to remote locations and blindfolded before questioning. However, Dominick said that they already know everything so it is best to agree with them and answer no more than what the question entails. Although I respect and admire Dominick, with this information, I’m afraid he won’t be receiving a house call from me in the near future. I’d prefer to sleep soundly at night.

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3/15 Stoplights between synapses ought to always be green. Potholes in the myelin sheath don’t help matters either. If brain plasticity were at its full potential, the little voice inside my head that promotes naughty behavior would always be on time. Then I’d be able to shun the angel that prevents me from taking a break from reality. Today, Katri, Won, Bori, Ana, and Rossana all went to Haarlem. It’s a fairly large city near to Amsterdam. Rany and I hung back and held down the fort. Actually, she just wanted to go see some art cinema and I have a boatload of work to complete. So, I labored intensively for countless hours, interrupted only by the laundry and snack breaks. Harmoniously, this vicious cycle of productivity continued well into the early afternoon, until I got a striking email of disdain. Ignorance and egotism are quite infuriating traits amongst the greater general population. Yet, when found in higher education staff, it’s just plain absurd, especially if it dares to impede my progress with respect to research and personal development. One of my professors, nay a motivation roadblock, needs a reality check. Go ahead and claim insubordination. I’m guilty on every count! She’s just oblivious to her heinous subjective narcissism.

In her eyes, there is never a good excuse for absence. I disrespectfully disagree. Experiencing a high school classroom
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environment at its finest only occurs in the classroom, not from a distance. Oh well, it’s not worth devoting too much stress towards. Once my head started feeling like a helium balloon pressed up against a thousand pins, it came time for an extended break. On rare occasions mental fatigue has forced me to nap. Today definitely was one of those days. Within thirty minutes, I entered a temporary vegetative state. Weird dreams invaded my slumber. In them, I joined Darrell Phee and Ray Sophie on the basketball court. There was a big commotion about Darrell not being able to speak Japanese because someone of Japanese descent was on the court and shooting hoops with a baby in their arms. Shortly thereafter, I woke up drooling. I thought that was Duncan’s department. With no idea whatsoever as to why I dreamt this obscure scenario, I must be seriously losing it. Afterwards, I fetched Rany for supper. She’s usually very quiet. To sum it up, imagine the good ole days of silent ball in elementary school. She’d win every time. Thus, since booze is mostly what gets her to talk, I expected very little conversation at the table. However, others can have the drowning out effect on people by dominating discussion. So, today ended up being a pleasant surprise. There was an even amount of questions exchanged in both directions and she opened up a lot. It turned out to be a beautiful experience until Pablo, Dominick, and Sanket came. Then she locked it up and threw out the key. I’ll pry open the safe again eventually. Everybody returned from the adventure around 9:45 in the evening. Won’s camera died, so I have to wait for pictures until tomorrow. As he left for his dinner, Bella came in to steal the detergent. I think she just wanted to see me like usual. We vented about papers for class. The plight of a procrastinator continues.

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3/16 Time is of the essence. We realize this as we mature. That’s why people continue to get up earlier with the sands of time. Thus, old age doesn’t allow for beauty sleep. Business supersedes pleasure and stress builds up. At least, that’s my reasoning behind the sneaky accumulation of gray hairs and wrinkles. As of now, I am at the top of the reception list. Senior night bingo here I come! Taking it easy after a long day of work, I lounged around until a knock came at my door. Katri wished to go shopping quickly before Gerard was to pick us up. At that time, it was quarter past three. Gerard said he’d be at Kanaalstraat between four and five, which theoretically means four thirty. I don’t like to gamble with punctuality though, so we set our goal time for returning to be four. Off to the city center we went. In charge of watching the bikes, I waited outside the HEMA department store for Katri. Standing between the two bikes, I hardly realized that my location would soon become the convergence point of destiny. In the distance a familiar figure biked towards me: Bori! She hardly looked surprised to see me. Why? No more than five seconds later, Rossana came from the opposite direction. Hanne managed to find us too. Women seemed to be coming from North, East, and West: my lucky day. Either we were all strongly drawn the sweet aroma of Oma’s apple tart, or fate had fallen upon us. I’ve always worn the same cologne, so unfortunately it dawned on me that they weren’t there for me. Bori and Rossana had previously planned to meet in front of HEMA. Somehow it just happened to be at the time of Katri and my random shopping spree. Hanne was completely coincidental. She just found us in the crowd on her way back from her student teaching. False alarms of fatal attraction are not funny. Shortly after our sidewalk charade scattered, Katri returned. Noticing that we had ample time before being picked up by Gerard, I requested a visit to the boat where mom and dad should be staying when they arrive in Leeuwarden. As luck would have it, Chris was not at the boat. Payment and reservation procedures are quite unusual, so it would be nice to meet with him to discuss the situation. A quick email should answer my cry for help.
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Arriving back at Kanaalstraat, we gathered our belongings within fifteen minutes and then waited outside for Gerard. During our wait, we ran into one other tenant of Kanaalstraat and Moose (Mustafa). The other tenant happened to be the French girl that lives two doors down from me. There still seems to be a language barrier between us, but with a lot of smiling I think she’s come to understand that I am harmless. She said they’d be having a party on our floor that night and I’d be more than welcome to join. Flattered, I told her I’d be out of town and maybe next time. In reality, with that news, my absence was more of a relief. Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight not having to deal with the noise and air pollution seeping into my room from down the wall. Before we ran into Mustafa though, I saw a car that resembled Gerard’s. For some reason, I thought they owned a Volkswagen. Later, I would find out that it was a Citroen. Mirages can appear outside of deserts. The mind plays tricks during periods of anticipation and excitement. Seeing a familiar silhouette in the car, I ran to it. I found a middle-aged man that probably deemed me crazy. Then, when Gerard did pull up, I did a triple take before I believed it. In the car, he said something that struck me: “I belong to a group of people that like making things, not consuming them.” Life is about changing the world for the better. Some people are givers and others are takers. Gerard is definitely a giver. He lays it all out there for each and every one of us and there’s something to be said for that. In addition, he does put a comical twist to the meaning behind backyard scientist. His half-life of beer foam experiment was a perfect example. These are ongoing endeavors. At his house, we also used one as an excuse to get out of setting the table. It involved extracting pigments from various fruits and vegetables using bleach. He had used carrots, tomatoes, and oranges. Carrots seemed to be the greatest affected. The exterior, up to one centimeter deep, turned completely colorless after just two days of exposure. However, matter is neither created nor destroyed, so the effects upon the bleach were equally as interesting. The extracted pigments and or sugars significantly thickened the consistency of the bleach. I’d love to do a separation and qualitative analysis of it.
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Halfway through cleaning up and our scientific photo shoot, Meta beckoned us to the dinner table. She had prepared for us a typical Dutch meal, reminiscent of Thanksgiving break when we hosted Kirsten and Ciska. We started off the evening with a salad, Meta intended to only bake the cheese topping before putting it on the
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salad, but she put the whole dish in the oven instead. For those of you that have never tried it, oven baked salad is actually pretty fantastic. Put it on the “to do” list. Red cabbage, pork chops, applesauce, and potatoes followed this. To seal the meal, we had a yogurt-like ice cream sweetened by cranberry jam. The best meals here always come from their house. Once the table had been cleared, Gerard and I talked philosophically. Meta set Katri up with a movie. During this time, we explored the differences between the United States and the Netherlands. Also, he told of another teacher in training that had previously been a marine. He too sought the wisdom of Gerard’s suggestions. In so doing, he’s noticed flaws in other classrooms throughout the school. Tip one domino and the rest will fall. We spoke too of technical gymnasiums. They are few and far between, but hope to address the issues revolving around students that show exceptional abilities in math and science, but seem to be held back due to their language arts skills. Thus, these schools provide a scapegoat for students hindered by the general practices of the education system. Before heading to bed, Gerard gave me a “how to make a PDF” tutorial. That’ll come in handy when I want to make a few copies of my journals in a paperback form before I leave. Then, Katri and I looked at a book of his paintings before going to bed. Oh yeah, and we also took silly pictures. It’s fun having spur of the moment getaways that take me away from Kanaalstraat.

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3/17 Bill Gates has everyone fooled. Technology is hardly the thing of the future. Computers and nanotechnology can’t compete with the human brain. After all, they are the mind’s creations. As parents always say about children, “we brought them into this world, and we can just as easily take them out of it”. This morning I put technology to the test, thereby testing the validity of this controversial claim. I had two alarm clocks: Gerard and my cell phone. Like clockwork, promptly at half past five, I woke up to the combination of Gerard’s soothing serenading outside the door and “Faint” by Linkin Park. Alternative should never be mixed with classical. Next time, I’ll just wait for Gerard. Knowing I would hold everyone up if I showered second, I hurried to claim it first. It felt so wonderful not having to wear cheap sandals. Without them, my feet can breathe. In and out, within ten minutes I was able to hand it over to Katri. While she showered, I met Gerard downstairs for breakfast. Two loaves of bread, a full block of cheese, and homemade cranberry jam awaited me at the table. I wanted to wait for Gerard and Katri, but with the time crunch, Gerard insisted I begin. As Gerard went to finish getting ready, I prepared a lunch of bread and cheese. When Gerard returned, he gave me the rundown of today’s visit. Leaving no time for hesitation, we headed out right after Katri finished her morning coffee. The air was brisk and I missed my blanket, but I made do. During the car ride, I dozed off between conversations. Late nights at the computer coupled with early mornings for these visits have vicious bouts with my body. At least, I got to see the sun rise, which is always a beautiful sight for tired eyes. When we arrived in Ter Apel, we didn’t have to check-in, but we did to please the administration. Dropping by the teachers’ lounge, we found Gerard’s contact. He steered me in the direction of their chemistry teacher Dennis Pol. I then joined him for the remainder of the day. His first lesson was a block period with a break halfway in between. After the break, Dennis brought me tea, which I prefer not to drink. Not wanting to be rude, I obliged. Each gutwrenching gulp was worse than the last. The cocoa machine came to
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my rescue after an unsuccessful attempt to find a biology lesson upstairs. Needless to say, I was not well received as a stranded wanderer. The big “SOS” stamp on my forehead screaming “searching out science,” meant absolutely nothing to them. So, I met up with Katri in the teachers’ lounge. We had a nice conversation with the art teacher, whom could easily relate to our international experience with hers years past in Finland. She also extended an invitation to us to visit her home for a weekend. Now we’ve got two places at which we are welcome to stay for a night. Meta’s son plans to host us in Rotterdam and now this. My weekends look like they’ll be booked until I leave. In the coming moments, Gerard and a brigade of teachers also added on to our group. As we ate lunch, conversations took a variety of turns. The English teacher argued with the economics teacher’s suggestion in favor of bringing in English-speaking mathematics teachers to the Netherlands. Chomping at the bit to cause a little friction, I jumped in adding, “Why not? Then students here could learn capitalism!” With that comment, I thought I may have to put my foot in my mouth, but thankfully, they took it in jest. When the break was over with, I returned to Dennis’s class. He would have two lessons in a row for me to watch. At the end of the first lesson after the break, one student asked me about the meat market in Illinois. They had heard on the news that more cows were slaughtered in Chicago in a variable amount of time than the amount of people that lived there. Granted, Chicago had a huge, perhaps the biggest, meat market in the country during the “roaring twenties”, but in these days how am I supposed to know these things. As it is, I barely know how to navigate the city limits. So, I just said that claim might be true. Any question other than that would have been at bare minimum attemptable. Kids ask the strangest questions. Although, aside from that, both did not have management problems since he conducted himself in the same manner. Thus, instead of watching silent students creepily, I spent the greater part of the period trying to decipher a Dutch chemistry book, taking note of familiar words. Afterwards, Gerard took us to the kloster (monastery) in town. It’s been around since the fifteenth century
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and in the recent century has been converted into a museum of sorts. We spent a good amount of time strolling about the premises analyzing past and modern art.

Then, we headed for the German border, which was merely a kilometer away. Without a passport or check-in, we crossed over into the town of Rütenbrock. Even just over the border, the architecture and landscape was extremely different. Land was much cheaper in Germany, so the houses were bigger. Also, the land was less flat. It seemed to roll with rippling hills. A quick glimpse at the motherland felt refreshing, but we couldn’t afford to dawdle. Already it was getting dark, and our stomachs were moaning. Neither Katri, nor I, can understand how the Dutch can survive on simply bread and cheese. I’m a growing boy and still need my fair share of protein. On the drive back, Gerard talked with us about some observations we had made during the day. He noted a common phrase said by ignorant teachers when addressing ineffective classroom management, “I moved Hell and Heaven”. I laughed. Archaic phrases need to be brought back to the forefront of informal
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dialogue. People of the 21st century could use a cultivated vocabulary.

Within an hour, he dropped us off at Groningen station. Bidding him farewell, Katri and I rushed to the kiosk to fetch our tickets. Having an empty stomach waiting for a train in close proximity of junk food never ends up being a healthy combination for the wallet and one’s wellness. Katri took the expensive route, while I took the cheap fast track to a heart attack. The train arrived shortly thereafter. As I wrote on the computer, Katri got some shuteye. We seem to have the busiest schedules out of everyone. It takes a toll and finding time to recuperate can be tough. Later on, in the kitchen, Rossana had the giggles. It appears there’s an inside joke that Katri and I missed out on when we left for the past day and a half. Sometimes it’s better not to try and figure out the thought process of others. If I’m meant to know then I’ll find out eventually. After dinner, Won and the gang went to the Irish pub to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be celebrating with an extra hour of sleep and some peace and quiet: Amen.

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3/18 Dim the lights and butter up the popcorn. Pull the curtain and roll that beautiful bean footage! No, this is not another add for Busch’s Baked Beans. I’m just convinced that all my alter egos and past lives have been connected with movie stars, aside from a few years as a musketeer. But, that’s an entirely different story. This notion hit me when Katri and I took an evening adventure tonight. I chose to bike as she jogged. It was reminiscent of some training exercise for Rocky Balboa. Although, it would have been too cliché if “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor had been playing in the streets. Then I’d have to file for copyright infringement.

Starting my morning off early for the second day in a row, I rose a minute before my alarm in an excited anticipation. Today I would be visiting the Singelland School in Bergum (Frisian: Burgum). There I’d be observing the classes of Alwin Dodewaard. He had two VMBO classes and a study hall to supervise. As usual, the VMBO classes were quite active. It’s as if they constantly have ants in their pants. A lot of teachers seem to blame the students directly for the classroom management. A good phrase to describe a lot of
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Montessori and VMBO classes is controlled chaos. However, I’ve seen VMBO classes, and Montessori classes for that matter, with perfect management. Although, defining acceptable management may vary from teacher to teacher and as always there are tradeoffs for every action. When a teacher governs too strictly, students are afraid to participate, but if the leash is too loose, the students take control. Karma causes more friction in life than sandpaper rubbing up against calluses. Even Newton was too smart to explore the physics behind it. In the teacher’s lounge, the rest of the faculty cordially received me. With a school population below 250, that’s not too large of a staff. I ought to get more acquainted with television programs here though because they have an awful lot of questions surrounding American pop culture. The latest I received involved Oprah. This led to American stereotypes: a wonderful way to break the ice. I’m sure they feel the same way when people ask them about wooden shoes. The lessons of the day corrected their impression of relationships between blacks and whites, loud New Yorkers, and big sizes for coffee. I blame reality TV for this mess. Additionally, MTV and Jerry Springer should not be played in Europe. However, I did take a positive stance on free refills. Dehydration is the enemy. During the second class, I got to play around a bit. Mingling with students finally allowed me to implement some of Gerard’s techniques: observational discomfort and the torture of a loitering teacher. Students don’t like teachers standing close to them when they are not working. They’ll do anything to get you away from them, even sing. With today’s experiment, most students went straight into explaining their situation, but some students didn’t even require speech. After standing within a foot of their desk, bending over close with a big smile on my face, their instinctual giggling transformed into work. After a fulfilling visit, I bid Alwin and the staff farewell. Walking to the bus stop, a twenty-minute journey, I found multiple sets of violets sprouting along the sidewalk. It’s a very soothing subtlety of spring. Upon my return to Leeuwarden, I checked the currency exchange outlet for American pennies: not one of my brightest moments. Why in the world would anywhere else have American pennies? That should have dawned on me before looking like a fool
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at the counter. Oh well, the two receptionists and I had a good laugh about it and one said she’d check her house and I could come back Friday if I desire. I’ll give it a shot, but in the meantime I found another solution. The Hawaiian, Phillip, came of use to me. After consulting Ciska about leftover pennies, I knocked on his door. Luckily, he had three. Yet, I could only use two because they were dated after 1983. That’s when pennies became copper coated instead of being solely copper. The whole class won’t be able to keep a souvenir, but at least they will get to see the results and it will cut down on time, which I may have been running tight on. Once I got that worked out, I finished my term paper for another class. Every little bit I finish allows me more time to focus on observing and teaching. Katri then knocked at my door for a jog. As previously mentioned, I biked instead. Not too far into the adventure, she brought up Rossana’s fortune telling days in Amsterdam. She reminded me of a particular card that she drew for both of us. It symbolized an older man that meant a lot in our life. Fortune telling can often be mumbo jumbo, but Katri did have a point. Take a guess at their identity. On the way back, we got somewhat lost, but the sunset led us home. Then I went to grab a bite to eat. As usual, I found the two stooges in the kitchen: Dominick and Sanket. They like to play mind games. One of which I learned today: talking by shouting. So, we put on a confusing display of excitement for the others. Screaming at the top of our lungs, along with other phrases for small talk, “HOW ARE YOU? SO GOOD TO SEE YOU!” Being in close proximity with a variety of people leads you to do completely ridiculous things. Maybe that’s why I found the random chair statue in the living room? Don’t even try comprehending it.

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3/19 Gladiator matches amongst children should be compulsory in all levels of schooling. We need to weed out the weak. In other words, join a Facebook group to bring back the spelling bee. It can’t just be in primary school. Although, ten words a week did teach me table etiquette between mouthfuls of mashed potatoes. However, the last competition scarred me for life, and I never got a second chance at redemption. You’d never believe how hard spelling “cricket” could be when the judge plays mind games. Yes, laugh it up, but ever since that moment of utter humiliation, I still struggle with spelling the simplest words. Ironically today’s word of despair was “succeed”. This morning, I met Gerard at Hempenserweg at half past eight. I came a little bit early, but at least that gave us a lot of time to talk in the car and enjoy a lengthened school visit. The school was called Lauwers College and this particular campus was in Surhuisterveen. Today, we’d be meeting up with Fred van Amerongen. He’s now becoming a chemistry teacher, but seeking the advice of Gerard. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any lessons today. Despite this, I did get to see his actual classroom and an art lesson.

During the art lesson, comprised of third year VMBO students, I got to interact a lot with the students. The most outgoing of the
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students, Peter, gave me a typical Dutch cookie. No one can pass up pastries. That’s just crazy! Although they had social tendencies, they got a lot accomplished within the period. Then, I moved on to the home economics department. There, I found fourth year VMBO students. In their fourth year, they spend all day twice a week in the home economics department practicing skills and preparing for their examinations. While wandering about, I was tossed between students until two gentlemen gave me a complete tour of the facilities. It didn’t take long for a school with less than two hundred and fifty students, but as always, it’s more about the interaction with students than the actual itinerary of the visit. Plus, they love practicing their English skills and are very excited to meet foreigners. One girl even asked me if I had a girlfriend. Don’t worry mom, it was borderline awkward. From there, I interviewed Fred for about five minutes after his talk with Gerard. It didn’t allow for too much information to be passed, but hopefully I can visit his classroom eventually. At the end of the visit, I got a picture with about fifteen or so students in front of the building. Moments like that are the best to reflect upon in the future.

Not too much else happened between there and Gerard’s class back in Leeuwarden. In class, we tried something new today. Create solutions to problems through experimentation. For me, it
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wasn’t a new concept because I’ve followed Gerard on most of his adventures and he had used this trick before. He’s got a lot in his playbook though. This one entailed writing a brief phrase that applies to us on a small piece of paper. Afterwards we had to slip it into our shoe. During lessons, it serves as a reminder of things to accomplish within the lesson. Unbeknownst to students, it gives a teacher extra strength to make it through even the toughest days. On my note, I wrote, “I have the tools to succeed.” One of my biggest problems seems to be confidence in times of broken focus. When I lose my train of thought, I crash and burn. Every bit of practice helps in taking a step back and starting from the last endpoint.

After the lesson, I received three textbooks from Gerard. Earlier, I had also received a copy of a science magazine. With the help of Gerard, I got featured in it for the March issue of NVOX. It’s as if I’m bringing home a library. More or less, it feels like I’ve been given a whole set of flight manuals and by the time I get back I’ll have to be ready to fly the plane. However, that would endanger too many lives. So, I’ll just drink Red Bull instead.
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3/20 Electronic propaganda has a horizontal asymptote. Common calculus thereby limits my creative advertising. In accordance with my mission here, I have to advocate studying abroad in the Netherlands. Recently, Dr. Hunter brought to my attention that one person in particular is interested: Alex Paulsen. We were in the same Introduction to Teaching Chemistry class back in the day. Despite our past connection, she may need some strong convincing. Therefore, emails are inefficient for the task at hand. I need more firepower, but it is hard to come by. As of now, I’ve got my sights set on a WWII bomber capable of dropping millions of leaflets. I’m still waiting for one to be posted on eBay. However, if worse comes to worse, UPS or a pizza delivery boy will suffice. That is, as long as I don’t have to tip… filthy thieves.

Our trip with Places of Memory led us to the Frisian academy today. There they are working on compiling a complete Frisian dictionary. When it is finished in 2011, it will have 26 volumes! Again we had a conference room reception. Of course, they only offered coffee and tea. Where’s the high quality thirst quencher? No, not Gatorade, but good ole H2O. Shortly following, we got a tour of the facility. What was supposed to take an hour took two.
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Needless to say, we got out so late that I had to race back to Kanaalstraat for fear of being late for Kirsten. Despite this, I got back with plenty of time to prepare myself for the fun-filled weekend ahead. When I got downstairs, Kirsten picked me up from the sidewalk next to Kanaalstraat. It wasn’t too hard to spot me. I looked like a hitchhiker with a sore thumb. Then, we drove to IJsselmuiden. On the way, we had a really nice conversation. It felt amazing to catch up. I had ten million stories and adventures to tell, but my mouth wasn’t big enough. Picture the Earth fitting through a pinhole: exactly. As we neared IJsselmuiden, we found a traditional Dutch windmill on the outskirts. Despite it’s history, it signified the gateway to an ever-thriving town. Her and Niels’s house sat smack dab in the central portion of the city. Standing between two older homes, thanks to Niels’s expert craftsmanship, its spectacular renovated interior would hardly show its age. When we got inside, Kirsten showered me with cookies, sweets, Bugles, and the Dutch version of cream cheese with garlic and herbs (Vla Blanc). There goes my movie star figure. I guess I won’t be able to tell anyone that dad and I are related to Tom Cruise now. Once we got settled, we began peeling potatoes for the dinner. Kirsten planned to prepare stamppot, a typical Dutch meal of mashed potatoes, vegetables and meat all mixed together in a glorious mound. About halfway through peeling, we realized we’d hardly have enough potatoes to go around two growing boys. So, we called Niels to tell him dinner would be later than expected. Then, it was off to Aldi by bike. Thank goodness I’ve found someone else that likes to shop and run. However, on the return trip, I found biking with a bundle of potatoes requires a lot of balance. I wouldn’t have passed the straight-line test. When Niels got home from work, we enjoyed a wonderful meal. Initially, I was very worried about how I would come across to Niels with limited knowledge of the Dutch language. That gave me motivation to try as hard as humanly possible though. It appears that he saw that, so we seemed to hit it off quite well interacting back and forth in a grammatically incorrect hybrid of combined Dutch and English. However, I’m working towards only having to speak Dutch. My first coherent phrase got directed towards the
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appearance of the kitchen, “ziet er mooi uit” (it looks nice): baby steps. Then, while Niels went to workout, Kirsten and I drove out and around to see if any tulips were sprouting. We came up short and decided to swing by Niels’s company instead. Being that Kirsten has only lived in the area for two months, we weren’t leaving directly from her house, and the fact that she only goes to the company during the day made it difficult to navigate. Thus, wink wink, we took the long way to his business. It was a brick building in the middle of a newer business park. He had built it and some of the other buildings. Despite the economic crisis, he seems to be doing quite well for himself, especially considering his age. When we arrived home, Kirsten and I watched television. During that time, I also showed her all my pictures from the first day until now. Finally, she could put a picture with the stories. Niels came back towards the end of my slide show. However, he did get to see the interview video that Rossana and I had made for our Dutch Language and Culture course. They both seemed to enjoy it. A creator always likes to receive some praise. All it takes is one “that a boy”.

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3/21 This morning, I surprisingly woke up first at half past seven feeling quite refreshed from the amazing bed. Niels had work, but he slept like a baby. So, he came downstairs, before Kirsten, about an hour later in a t-shirt and underwear. At first, it startled me, but he seemed really cheery so I chuckled. That’s the luxury of owning your own business; you can create your own hours. However, it made for a nice morning because he got to join us at the beginning of breakfast. After he left, I think I came as close to bathing in chocolate as putting a giant fondue fountain in the foyer gets. Kirsten brought out the works: vlokken (chocolate shavings) and a white/milk chocolate swirl jar of Albert Heijn’s version of Nutella. Talk about a diabetic initiation ceremony! In a few years and a couple thousand stroopwafels, I’ll be officially sworn in and receiving benefits. Anyway, on top of those, I enjoyed some bread with peanut butter as well. Time to bring myself up back to the heavyweight class. After finishing our breakfast, Kirsten and I headed to Kampen to buy a board game: Kolonisten. Little did I know, they would be buying it for me. The great thing about hosting people is that they tend to reciprocate. Yet, when they do, they always insist on paying for everything. It’s very generous, but I would wish to pay for all of the expensive things or at least have the pleasure of treating them to a meal. Nonetheless, I am very grateful. Back to the big picture, Kampen seemed to be a beautiful town. They had a large Saturday market and live statues stood outside the museum. However, time was of the essence with our big plans for the day. Before we could start, we had to drop of Niels’s lunch. This time, I got to see his business in broad daylight. Also, I got to head inside and snoop around. The width hides the deep depth of the building. Inside there were two huge floors full of industrial equipment for welding, a large break room, and an executive office upstairs for Niels. We found Niels on the second floor of the workshop teaching his intern from the MBO how to work some of the machines. After a brief chat and making our special delivery, we were off.
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At the time, we were reassured by the comforts of a GPS. However, those feelings can be deceiving. When it came to our experience, it steered us in the right direction until we encountered road construction: its demise. Just minutes from Zaanse Schans, we required an alternate bridge to cross into the city. Following the signs, best as we could, led us away from where we needed to be. Our route didn’t feel right, so we turned around and hoped to find signs again. This time they took us straight to our destination. Once we parked, we had more important business to attend to than site seeing: finding a bathroom. Toilet taxing, even in tourist towns, shall not be tolerated. Bladder blocking is a serious crime. Lavatories should not be treated as a luxury, when they are most certainly a necessity. Today, Kirsten and I paid fifty cents to keep our kidneys from kicking and our sides from aching. Crossing legs is only a temporary fix that is not suitable for road trips. Thus, we conformed to the “pay to pee” principle. In addition to that, targeting tourists also leads to higher prices for gifts and souvenirs. Hence, although a lot of books and key chains looked really neat, there was no way I’d purchase them at that shop. Next, we headed to a pancake café for a quick lunch. I got to treat this time, which made me happy that I could reciprocate on some level. Kirsten made the better choice in pancakes. She got a bacon and cheese pancake, whereas I got one with eggnog, apricot jam, and whipped cream. Mine tasted great, but I figured out that I REALLY don’t like eggnog. Aside from that, in Zaanse Schans, we walked through more gift shops, a cheese maker, a wooden shoe shoemaker, and along the trail of windmills. Towards the end of the trail, we thought we could walk around in a huge circle to return to the car, but that proved impossible. So, after I took a few more pictures, we headed back the way we came. Then, our next destination was Volendam. Getting there proved pretty simple, so I napped. An already fun-filled weekend, along with a busy previous week, made me extremely fatigued. An oldfashioned mill welcomed us on the outskirts of Volendam. It marked its history, but hardly concealed the thriving city within. The city sat on IJsselmeer and seemed to attract a lot of tourists with its sea of traditional buildings and seaside cafés. At first, we walked around and visited the museum at the heart of the town. They had
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an exhibit of traditional Dutch clothing worn in the nineteenth century. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but we still had a goal to accomplish. Where could we take a photo in traditional clothing? Thankfully, one of the receptionists at the museum could direct us to their locations. Low and behold, we found them by all the gift shops scattered along the sea. Jumping at an opportunity to do something unique, we got two photos for two. That way, we each received a copy to cherish forever. In a half an hour, they were ready and we set our sights on home. However, our adventure was hardly over. Again, the GPS lagged behind. As we passed our intended exit, it told us to turn. That sent us into Amsterdam. This led to higher gas prices when Kirsten decided to refill the tank. Note to self, cartographers are trust worthier than computer programmers. Thus, we took another omleiding (detour). That was okay with me because I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Kirsten this weekend. Although Niels expected us home within an hour after our call, it took us an extra half hour. Shortly after we returned, he ordered fries, kroketten, and frikadel for all of us to share for dinner. This was my first time eating a frikadel. It’s a special type of sausage cut in half and then dressed with mayonnaise, ketchup, and onions. Essentially, it’s the master hot dog with a different type of sausage. When we finished, Niels took me to watch some car racing taking place nearby. I hoped to see a few crashes, but we saw none. Yet, there were some comical near misses with a tree. Despite this, the car racing was great because it allowed for Niels and I to spend some time getting to know each other better. Again our Nengels (combined Nederlands en Engels = Dutch and English) worked well as a method of communication. To top off the night, we busted out the Kolonisten board game. Perhaps the best description is that it contains a mixture of Economics from monopoly combined with the tactics of Risk. From the start, Niels and I battled on and off for the top position in the game until about eleven o’clock. Both he and Kirsten were good hosts though and let me win. I still think it was beginner’s luck.

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3/22 Never buy two hundred dollar sunglasses unless you are willing to suffer the potential consequences. Again, I woke up first, so I took it upon myself to get my belongings stowed away. Then I wouldn’t waste time and make Kirsten wait for me later. But, being a bull in a china shop makes even the simplest tasks chaotic. Hence, packing my backpack proved to be a chore. As a scatterbrain, I put down my sunglasses beside my backpack, while I gathered larger items such as clothes. After my last round about the room, I carelessly had forgotten the whereabouts of my sunglasses. Snap! Just like a twig in the forest, something crumbled beneath my boney feet. I had stepped on my Maui Jims right as I put the last few items in my backpack. They have since been retired to a garbage can; forever, resting in pieces. With knowledge of my other pair back in the States, I soon overcame the overwhelming grief of the tragic loss and headed downstairs. Again, I had about an hour to myself before I began to see signs of life. Kirsten came down first. I must have been consumed with my work though because I didn’t see her until she was already showered and dressed. Maybe there’s a secret stairwell that I don’t know about? Old houses are full of tricks. While Niels snoozed through the alarm, Kirsten and I enjoyed some stroopwafels and cookies. With Niels’s appetite, and sense of sweets, we needed to capitalize on the opportunity. However, I still left one cookie and stroopwafel for him. As I watched television, Kirsten got our brunch rolling and ran upstairs to rouse Niels. He came down shortly thereafter and joined me in the living room. Yesterday, I had heard Bon Jovi playing at his workshop, so this morning I felt compelled to inquire about his taste in music. Browsing through songs in my play list, we discovered that we shared similar interests in music. So, now it’s my duty to prepare a few mixes for him to enjoy at work. Within minutes, at Kirsten’s beckoning we were summoned to the kitchen for breakfast. She served use cream of mushroom soup and garlic bread. It hit the spot. Hot meals don’t happen too often when I prepare food for myself here. Frugality is a fatal flaw of mine. After breakfast, we had a quick photo shoot. I vouched for a few pictures with Niels and then took a nice picture of the two of them.
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Apparently, it was the first picture of them outside of the reflection from the Millennium Park “bean”. Needless to say, I felt quite honored with the knowledge of this. Then, we hit the road. We weren’t even out of the town and I yearned for a photo op. At the first stoplight, I jumped out of the car to take a couple snapshots of Kampen from across the river. Blank stares shadowed me as I clumsily darted back and forth with my camera. If that doesn’t scream tourist, I don’t know what does. Since I was short on time, I didn’t have an opportunity to position myself with the best angle, but two of the photos came out pretty nice. When the light changed, my getaway car awaited. Without using the GPS, we encountered no detours. Explain that. Despite this, it is hard to realize how tired you are until you sit in the passenger seat of a car. Somewhere between five and ten minutes on the highway, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. Thus, the drive variably shifted between light conversation, mentally dozing off, and softly listening to music. In under two hours, we reached Kirsten’s hometown: Baflo. There, we intended to surprise her parents with a visit. Entering with Kirsten’s key, we found her mother and father in the living room. Their house was quaint and welcoming. Apparently, her mom had been cleaning for the past few days, expecting the possibility of my visit. Luckily, we caught her right before she left for her choir group. Although it was brief, I’m glad we at least had the chance to meet. When she left, Kirsten’s father and I fantasized about fishing. He and a few friends head up to Denmark every year for trout. In fact, he got so excited when he learned that I enjoyed fishing as well that he pulled out a DVD from last year’s trip. The past year hadn’t been the greatest for numbers, but by the footage, it appeared as if they did really well compared to most people. A few years back, they came home with a total of over a hundred kilograms of fish! Denmark must really be a gold mine. At the conclusion of the video, we finished our drinks and cookies. Immediately thereafter, we walked over to Kirsten’s sister’s house. They lived just down the block and around the corner. There, we met her sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, and niece. Thiemen, the youngest, appeared shy at first. Yet, by the end of our visit, he came out of his shell. With his makeshift wooden fishing pole and
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fuzzy wire hook, he ran around trying to catch us. I proved to be his biggest catch. Hooked on, he paraded me around the backyard four or five times until his parents snatched him for naptime. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Kids have so much energy these days that they wear out their parents. Therefore they should take the naps, not the kids. Just a thought…

From there, Kirsten took me to a lookout point at Noordpolderzijl. The wind was relentless. Kirsten even said that at times it’s been so strong that someone could put his or her entire weight on it and not fall over. We didn’t stay long though. A few deep breathes of fresh air and pictures were enough for me. It was too cloudy to see an island under Germany’s possession. Moving on to our next destination, we drove to Pieterburen. There we found a seal hospital. For the time being, over thirty seals were residing there. All of them came from the Wadden Sea. Heavy tourist traffic, pollution from the three main rivers of Europe, and fishing nets created a lot of trouble for them. Thus, I found no surprise in the fact that most of the seals came from Terschelling, which is the most touristy of all the Wadden Islands. We found them to be beautiful animals. I really wish we could have fed them. A closer
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look or personal contact would have been unbelievable. Jumping the fence into their pen seriously crossed my mind. Aside from that, on the outskirts of the premises, we found an exhibit of piled fishnets recovered from the Wadden Sea. All in all, they added up to over 800,000 kilograms in weight. Imagine how much water that covers and the implications for seals. More people ought to think about the consequences their actions have on the environment. Feeling a little bit hungry, we headed to Lauwersoog for a bite to eat. It’s border puts the Mason-Dixon line to shame. Lauwersoog lies right on the border of the provinces of Groningen and Friesland, as well as the sea, whereas Washinton D.C. is only overlapping two areas: Maryland and Virginia. At the Visser Vis restaurant, we shared kibbeling and another fish. I couldn’t let her treat me the entire weekend, so thankfully the other day I was able to buy lunch, and today we went “Dutch”. In addition to that, we ordered a fresh herring. Time to eat it the Dutch way: raw from head to tail… yummy. Actually, I’ve grown quite fond of it. Kirsten got great footage too. Although I didn’t want to see the weekend come to an end, I still had to be dropped off afterwards. I’m not so good with goodbyes, especially when the weekend was so wonderful that it left me at a loss for words to express my gratitude. So, after a big hug, we went our separate ways. I felt like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday we’ll see each other again. By the conclusion of the day, I had eaten enough garlic and onions to kill off an army of vampires with my bad breath. Mom won’t have to worry about girls any time soon. That’s for sure. Along with that, I seem to be developing my own English to Dutch dictionary because I’ve learned more Dutch this weekend than the two months here altogether.

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3/23 When it comes to teaching, there is now officially a level zero. Kung Fu is the only other activity with that honor. Today was definitely semi-controlled chaos. The kids were extremely active, which was great for participation, but hard to manage due to my lack of experience. At least they chomped at the bit for an opportunity to do a lesson of solely labs. Aside from overdoing the worksheet, which turned out to be six single-sided pages, I had their undivided attention for the first fifteen minutes. Then transitioning between activities proved difficult for me and they got restless. In addition, I stressed about the time instead of just focusing on working through what we could in the time we had. That’s the dilemma of planning too much. How will the tempo affect their learning and what do you cut out of a lesson? At some point, there is a significant difference between achievable and beneficial. I’m still searching for that happy medium. In the meantime, however, I’ve seemed to land between my legs on the balance beam. Oh well, it only gets better from here on out.

After the lesson, Bas and I discussed various aspects of the lesson. These included the pros, cons, and how to improve. He gave a lot of great suggestions. It seems like managing a classroom is the buildup
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of a lot of little things. Despite the deceiving nature of the relative ease of this, remember all it takes is for one domino to fall to knock them all over. At least, the students seemed to enjoy today. I received applause at the conclusion of the lesson. However, on their way out, one of the students lit a cup partially full of ethanol from our DNA experiment on fire in the sink. I don’t think they realized the potential danger of doing so; they just wanted to light something on fire. Fortunately, I saw it in the early stages as some students stared in awe and put it out by turning the sink to full blast. So, today was definitely a phenomenal learning experience. During the train ride back to Leeuwarden, I realized how deadly sweets could be when in close proximity. Over the weekend, Kirsten supplied me with enough treats to feed an army. Too bad I have the appetite of ten men. As a result, these chocolates and stroopwafels have become history. Currently, they are moving along quite nicely through my digestive tract. Their mission will be complete soon enough. Throughout the remainder of the day, I found myself working on papers for school and revising my lesson plan for next week. I may have the opportunity to conduct this same lesson five more times. It’d be great to gauge the improvement. Aside from that, I also caught up with journaling and had a skype date with dad. Towards dinner, I also caught David in the kitchen. He seemed chipper. We both briefly chatted about our weekends and I offered some travel advice based on my recent experiences for places he may wish to take his girlfriend when she visits this upcoming weekend. On top of that, Won and I spent some time in Ana’s room after dinner. For the past few weeks, she’s really been struggling with periodic occurrences of the stomach flu. Since she’s been somewhat bedridden, we figured she’d enjoy some company. I stayed until my computer battery ran out. Then I had to continue my work back in the room. Finally, I get to sleep in this week.

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3/24 Dry erase markers and a portable white board are in my future. Yes, I will see them as a teacher, but also sooner than that. A tree’s life is hardly worth the value I’m paying to print a single sheet of paper at the NHL. Each sheet costs five cents! That may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. With the amount I spent, it could have been exchanged for a pack of ten stroopwafels. For an addicted foreigner that’s a life or death expense. Although, grades pay off in the long run, so the tradeoff appears worth it for now. Also, punctuality proves to peeve professors, but life decisions are an individual’s prerogative. Dictatorships seek to prevent such liberties. Thus, this morning, Rossana almost brought our teacher to his breaking point. She and Rany came in about five or ten minutes after class was intended to start. He’s never been too fond of people coming late, nor is he afraid to speak his mind about it. When he inquired about their whereabouts, Rossana said it had to do with her alarm clock. As she responded, she had a smile across her face. Everyone knew he was overreacting. Plus, he was the one that allowed it to disrupt his lesson through his own actions. So, taking a confronting stance, he stepped closer to her and asked where there was humor in the situation. Having not gotten a lot of sleep lately, I was in no mood for nonsense. Had I been a wee bit more tired, I may have interjected and told him to cool off. Thankfully, both Rossana and I just let him get his two bits worth in and left it at that. After class, we all headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I sat with my usual set of girls (Laetitia, Magali, Catherine, Rany, Rossana, Lee and Maria), as well as Moose, Chris, and Rory. The company turned out great, but we dreaded our next class. Apparently, our visit to Comenius had been cancelled due to their exam weeks. I received no notification, so thank goodness everyone else knew about it. Of course, when we entered class we had a crying for Comenius ceremony, which turned out to be more of a pity party for our teacher. That’s fine with me. Teaching students in high school how to make postcards and key chains doesn’t exactly expand their horizons. Granted, it would have been nice for them to socialize with international students and us to interact with them.
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However, if those were our teacher’s intentions, we could have accomplished that just as easily by having a huge BBQ or another “red tape” event with them. Anyway, because the workshop got cancelled this would be our last meeting with the Dutch students, so our teacher spur of the moment decided for us to have a party with them. Five minutes following the feeble effort for festivities we cleared out. See, by being sectioned off into international housing, it provides bountiful opportunities to get acquainted with other cultures, but it limits interaction with the locals. Thus, I have learned next to no Dutch here outside of my visit at Kirsten’s. What would have been cool is if we got to live with Dutch students or have their families act as hosts. Unfortunately that would take away from the relationships amongst international students. Tradeoffs take the fun out of solving problems. Despite her despair, not having the visit worked out well for me. I’ve certainly got a ton still left to do before I return home. At least, that’s how it feels. I can only hope my observation notes are enough to develop something substantial. Expository writing is such a drag. I feel so bland, like a dry piece of toast. Thanks Tim for comparing my life and personality to that. Although he’s right, being tofu would be worse. In between working and playing, I found a Sarah Nocella on Facebook. Yeah that’s right the one from good ole Moline, IL. I don’t even know how long it’s been since we’ve talked or seen each other. Within the last twelve years, we’ve maybe seen each other twice. We plan to meet up this summer in the Quad Cities for some Rudy’s, Happy Joe’s, and Whitey’s. It’s a trifecta of artery lard, but heck, you only live once. Shortly thereafter, Shahzad came to the room. To my surprise, he knocked first… on the wall that is. His girlfriend lives next door and he’s been basically living there for the past two or three weeks. Ever since his love life took off he’s been even more interesting to observe than before. Shahzad’s infantile presence often makes things awkward, but I can deal with his bizarre mannerisms and sporadic visits. That way it gives me more time to officially determine if he’s always tripping on acid or just naturally ridiculous. Initially, Dominick, Pablo, and Sanket joined me for dinner. Pablo had just gotten back from visiting his girlfriend, Eva, in Berlin.
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She’s studying there for the time being with more comforts than us for half the price. How does that workout? Then, we discussed the sights: Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. That led to other conversations explaining the situation following WWII to Sanket regarding the Berlin Airlift. Then David stole Pablo to watch a soccer game. As they left, Rossana and Ana came down. Somehow destiny has brought them together. They can read each other like open books. It’s some sort of girl code or something along those lines. Speaking in abbreviated speech can equate to complete stories, whereas I always end up repeating myself. Oh well, I’ll never figure it out. It takes too much energy. Anyway, towards the end, Rossana fed me the remainder of her soup. If I don’t eat it, the garbage does. I can’t have that. Oscar the grouch appreciates it too. Would you want a wet garbage bag?

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3/25 Now I understand the psychology behind my junior high bus driver playing the entire Mama Mia soundtrack by Abba every single morning. Despite the redundant nature of it, you can’t help but smile. Won will never cease to confuse me. He’s like a puppy; I can’t get mad at him because it would cause recoiling regret. This morning, he just had to make tea during my half awake, half asleep stage. Pots and pans clanked and the ground squeaked with his clumsy movements. As he saw me slowly waking up, he gave me a cordial “good morning roomie” and turned on “People need Love” by Abba. I slowly came around and forget all my frustration. Life’s all too cliché. Won and I both need love and have yet to find it. Other aspects of the past few days have been reminiscent of good times as well. For instance, two nights ago, I had to open a beer for Moose with a fork. Don’t ask. It reminded me, however, of the time Tim and I opened up a bottle of wine with a screwdriver, screw, and a hammer. Yes, it worked without any serious damage. Being resourceful is a quality shared by thinkers. Aside from that, I’ve grown quite fond of the general architecture of residential buildings. Picture windows are wonderful. Peeping eyes of neighbors aren’t. Although it allows for an efficient neighborhood watch program, there are some parts of daily life that are better left behind closed doors. As I dressed this morning, with the curtains wide open, I saw mine eating breakfast. Hopefully they didn’t glance at me during in inopportune time. Just a glimpse would have been quite the meal spoiler, but then again, how many people have seen a spitting image of Tom Cruise in his prime? Once I got dressed, I headed over to Short Stay Solutions to pay my April rent in advance. Recently, some interesting news came to my attention. The Irish students are only paying for four months rent. Both the NHL and Short Stay Solutions told me that those sorts of arrangements were impossible. When I inquired about it, Catrien brushed me off. I’m not too concerned about the money, well I am, but it’s more the practice that bothers me. That’s a hate crime. I’ll just say I’m part Irish and see if it gets me anywhere. At the bare minimum, I’ll get lots o’ kisses on St. Patrick’s Day: jackpot.
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From then on out, I worked tirelessly on typing up a revised paper for Dr. Hunter. As I started to fade, Katri paid me a visit. Indirectly, I convinced her to skip class and join me for a bike ride. I’m a terrible person and education major. We made it to Lystegeast. It’s about a five or six kilometer trek southeast from Kanaalstraat. With it’s size, on a drive, you could sneeze and miss it. The village constituted of a circular block of brick homes. On the way back, I led us to take a turn too soon. Katri tried to stop me, but I just used the fresh country air as my guide. Thanks to my blunder, we ended up trudging through a farmer’s field, nearly ankle deep in a hearty blend of peat and feces for a good two hundred meters. I’ve got such a wonderful sense of direction. As soon as we got back, I went to Ciska’s for an hour to talk about our workshop coming up on April 3rd in Utrecht. Somehow, our good intentions always lead us into enthusiastic conversations about our experiences, but we never actually write anything down. Oh well, that’ll change by next week. If worse comes to worse, we’ll just talk our audience to death. Our first “serious” meeting will take place on Friday. Then it’ll be a week countdown, so a lot will have to be accomplished in a short time frame. Towards the end of my evening a great number of miscellaneous events occurred. It ended up to be a p.m. of potpourri if you will. I started off dinner alone, but ended up eventually spending the greater portion of it with Dominick, Sanket, and Katri. Ana, Ali, and Erdal also worked their way in and out of the kitchen as well, but their visits were brief. Although, I did get a pretty intense back rub from Ali, which led me to realize how out of whack my back is at the moment. Erdal has yet to do 100 pushups. For now, he’s all talk and no walk, so I’m not impressed. After dinner, Katri showed me her latest paintings. They seem to be showing warmer colors now. Her self-portraits reveal less tension, age, and sorrow. What used to evoke grief, is now exhibiting slow revitalization. No longer to the shackles of the past weigh her down. She’s becoming independent. Progression is a beautiful process.

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In addition to that, I got a few fun emails tonight. Alex keeps bombarding me with questions about studying abroad here. I love it. It’s funny too because a lot of her questions are the same exact ones my parents and I were asking before I came. So, I should be able to answer most of them. With an open mind and a lot of excitement, she’ll be just fine. Also, I got an email from Brigitte Kusevskis! It’s been too long since high school water polo. Not a day goes by without a piece of me missing it: a lot of memories. Then, just when I thought my night would be winding down, I ran into Shahzad. Tonight he was role-playing someone in between a hip-hop singer and gangster rapper. Maybe there is something in the water? That’s the only explanation I have for his peculiar behavior outside of the fact that he’s either plum crazy or showing off for the young lady next door.

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3/26 Lewis and Clark paved the pathway across the American west. Cartographers put their travels on the map. After their famous expedition and later the launch of satellites, the globe seemed to hold no more secrets. Although the world may no longer contain uncharted geographical terrains, within every individual there is a new frontier: personal discovery and the notion of self-actualization. Every day is an adventure into terra incognita. Piece by piece, identity falls into place. There are multiple paths to reach it, but few find them. Bright and early, I met with Bas Siebring at the NHL to discuss ways to improve my teaching for the upcoming week. Rome was not built in a day; neither are lesson plans. Trial and error seems to be the best option. It can be painful, but labor and learning have a direct relationship. At least, that’s what people keep telling me. We’ll see if the backbreaking reaps any benefits come harvest. Anyway, as far as improvements to my lesson were concerned, we started off with the worksheet. A once three page double-sided monster had now been condensed to a succinct single double-sided sheet. Then, a few minor adjustments were made to the format and organization, but other than that everything looked ready for the assembly line. Aside from that, we also addressed what to write on the board and potential time savers. With all the modifications, my prototype lesson was molding into a semi-finished product. Speaking of progress, our Classroom Management course with Gerard not only covers classroom dynamics, but also fosters personal development. As usual, we started off the day with a reflection. This entails looking back at the past week, noticing changes, and perhaps making predictions on what the future holds. Working down the line starting with me, everything went smoothly until Hanne. She’s been feeling the pressures of work and an uncooperative home university. With time running short and exams creeping up, the pressure finally became too much. Fortunately, she vented it all out before us. Sharing in front of strangers takes a tremendous amount of strength. It’s a piece of cake after that, well at least in comparison to taking the first step.
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In addition to that, I’m still trying to figure out if Gerard plans his course of action or his impromptu detours just naturally come full circle due to experience. Story telling is his gift, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Dad’s jokes take a similar circular trajectory. Yet, by the third, the black hole of hackneyed humor is apparent. One would assume I’d be used to it now, but that’s hardy the case. I may just have too much on my mind to keep up. Anyway, today’s lesson somehow related personality, implications of society on expression, and self-growth. Everything clicked, so it ended up being pretty sweet and Hanne felt a lot better too. At the conclusion, I retrieved pictures from Gerard and my visit to Lauwers College in Surhuisterveen. He had taken some nice ones of about twenty students and I in front of the school. Every time we bid him adieu, it’s easy to tell how proud he is of Katri and I, especially Katri. She’s come a long way. Being her adopted sibling is quite an honor. We’ve been able to help each other grow and provided support when necessary. As a result, getting by in a strange environment has been so much easier. On the way back, much like most of my biking done today, was in the rain. It’s quite refreshing, but the corresponding visual impairments are hazardous. Wet eyes can lead to a great simulation of drunk driving. However, that’s not the reason I tumbled to the ground. Height deficiencies are to blame; being short stinks. Pediatricians ought not lie about potential growth spurts. That gives an individual hope, taking that away crushes dreams of following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan. Oh well… so, my seat is just barely too high to rest my crotch comfortably at a complete stop. To make up for this, I utilize raised sidewalk barriers that divide them from bike lanes at the stoplights. Today, I informed Katri too late. She blocked my path to comfort during a red light. On a feeble attempt to go around, I lost my balance and gravity took over. I didn’t even try to brush off the fact that I fell before a million natives. Embrace thy embarrassment and feel no shame. Hence, it’s not so hard to notice a Yankee in Frisia, but that just put it in the spotlight. At least a few people probably got a good laugh about it, including myself.

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3/27 It’d really be a pity if that light at the end of the tunnel were a freight train. I can hardly afford two steps backwards at the moment. There is little room for errors. As of now, the promise land feels within reach. All that remains for the NHL is a comparative education paper. Yet, speculation has seeped into it. Any information regarding the education system in the United States is based off the best recollection from my own personal experience. Thus, it may not be totally valid, but it meets the rubric’s requirements. Polishing off two and a half paragraphs never seemed so painful. However, once it’s done I can allocate all efforts to the most important aspect of my trip: compiling observations into a synthesis paper. Speaking of work, I met with Ciska to finally make some headway on preparing our workshop for April 3rd at the second annual Lion’s Congress in Utrecht. We will have one hour of presentation time to entertain science teachers from across the Netherlands. Filling that time in less than a week seemed pretty scary, but like any busy students (or hard core procrastinators rather), we managed. Ciska came up with the introduction activity. As she got started on the PowerPoint format, I had to sit still. That can be nearly impossible, so my mind began to wander. Then it dawned on me. We’re going to keep them involved through a series of multiple-choice questions that pertain to personal ideals. From there, we’ll share our experiences and show them where they fall in place on a scale of educational beliefs. For once, my random thoughts and short attention span paid off. Within two and a half hours, we were basically finished. A couple meetings will suffice to put on some final touches. When I got home, I worked ahead a little more on assignments for school and ate a quick dinner. After all, I had to be ready in time for the soccer game. SC Cambuur is currently ranked third in their league. Tonight they’d be fighting the fourth place team to hold onto their position. At quarter past seven, Oscar and I left for the game. We seem to be the only die-hard hometown fans from Kanaalstraat. Thank goodness we left that early. The game’s start
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time was set for eight, but already at seven thirty the stands were packed. Out in front of the stadium, someone looking to get rid of an extra ticket stopped us. He said he’d sell it for three euros under the retail price. It seemed too good to be true, I let Oscar go for it. Figuring he took the bait of a crook, I felt pretty lucky to have avoided the scam. All people aren’t con artists though, so everything worked out really well. To celebrate, Oscar ended up buying French fries for both of us with the money he saved. Taking our seats, we ran into a season ticket holder. He seemed genuinely interested in our backgrounds. First he talked with me about Chicago and then with Oscar about Sweden. I tried to make an effort to speak Dutch with him, but he jumped at the opportunity to flaunt his English skills instead. He also tried to explain to me the standings system and the implications for Cambuur with a win or loss. In addition, I found out he too was a referee for youth soccer. It’s nice to see people take part in their community. Before the kickoff, we also had to move down a few rows because we had taken the seats of another season ticket holder. I didn’t mind though because the seats were still near to the center of the field. During the game, the penalties were definitely not called in our favor. We outplayed them, but I’m surprised we didn’t lose with two less players on the field. The final score between Cambuur and Excelsior ended up to be a draw 1 – 1. Both scores were off of penalty kicks. Normally, I don’t like to see sports end in a draw, but I’m afraid the turnout would not have been desirable had there been an extension. As we say about Chicago sports, “well there’s always next year…”

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3/28 Finding an alternative route to avoid the expense of international calls is fairly simple. First, rule out the ridiculous. Pigeons are inherently dim-witted and everywhere, so they’d get distracted in the process. Telegrams are out of date. Cups attached to really long wires only works in the movies, not to mention the inconvenience of a transatlantic apparatus. Also, handwritten letters are too romantically cliché. So, get out of the Stone Age and seek the assistance of Skype. Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks should retract that statement and submit a letter of apology. Dad and Gerard are living proof. Both are now certified to Skype. I taught dad before coming to the Netherlands and introduced Gerard to it today. Our frenzy of instructional emails was hardly as efficient as the videoconference to come. At first, he startled me by calling my cell phone. It appeared that he learns quickly. Then, we shifted to using the computer. That saved both of us money. During our chat about turning these journals into a book, Katri entered our room. Breaking free from conversation, I beckoned her to the computer. They both lit up with the sight of one another. Our trio has become very close knit and it shows. Anyway, as far as the book is concerned, I’m somewhat confused as to what is going on. Partially, this is because so much is on the menu for this week. I’m at the point where I can pay the tab for the meal, but tip’s going to hurt a bit. With respect to work, preparation has three P’s: planning, pacing, and practicing. In my current situation, I’m working on not planning too much, setting a steady pace to complete everything in a timely manner, and practicing for my upcoming lessons. In the time I spent working ahead on those, Won, Ana, Rossana, and Bori went shopping for Katri’s birthday dinner tomorrow. I love birthday dinners, but waiting for everyone else to figure out what they can agree on buying is a pain. So, it’s a lot easier to let them duke it out, while I be productive. However, it always comes back to bite me in the butt in the form of money. I’m not too fond of paying for items I won’t consume (beer), but that’s the price I pay for choosing to stay at Kanaalstraat, opposed joining the shopping brigade, although birthdays are a worthy cause.
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When I return home, I may just sleep for a week straight… that is after I present work at ISU, go to a clubs game, start cleaning the pool… then again, maybe I won’t have time for such luxuries. One thing is for certain though. Skype, ISU, and the NHL now all owe me part-time employment for recruiting efforts. Need I say more? To bring my evening to a close, I joined Katri on another ceremonial step in furthering her strive to establish personal identity. Breaking free of the shackles of society takes courage and strength. Both run through her veins. Tonight, we set out for the flying bridge. The gateway of Leeuwarden now served to segue to a new beginning. Messages in bottles symbolized aspects of the past worth forgetting. Exerting all her frustration, she hurled them into the canal. The current took them towards the sunset and the sea. As one chapter of life comes to an end, another begins, and the endless circle of life continues…

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Mi cha el Nocella v is it ed th e t op of T h e Neth erla nd s: Leeuwarden (O.S.G. Piter Jelles) www.piterjelles.nl Leeuwarden (C.S.G. Comenius) www.comenius.nl Ferwert (C.S.G. Dockinga College) www.dockingacollege.nl Bergum (O.S.G. Singelland) www.singelland.nl Surhuisterveen (C.S.G. Lauwers College) www.lauwerscollege.nl Groningen (O.S.G. Zernike, Vrije School, Harm Jan Zondagschool) www.zernike.nl Groningen (C.S.G. Wessel Gansfort College) www.wesselgansfort.nl Delfzijl (C.S.G. Fivelcollege) www.fivelcollege.nl Ter Apel (Regionale Scholengemeenschap) www.rsgterapel.nl (O.S.G = public school; C.S.G = based on Christian identity) other Vries (De Brink)

High schools in The Netherlands. ☐ main location o subsidiary branch ■ number of schools per location. Lines connect schools & subsidiary schools Courtesy of Noordhoff Uitgevers, Groningen, The Netherlands. From: De atlas van het onderwijs ISBN: 978-90-01-20300-9 www.noordhoffuitgevers.nl

Fur th er r ea di n g Detailed results of the investigations will be published elsewhere. Results of the investigations will appear in NVOX, the Dutch magazine of NVON, organization for Dutch science teachers. www.nvon.nl

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