Cheese, Clogs....Cow Golf?

Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2010

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Flag of Netherlands  , North Holland,
Friday, September 25, 2009

Well, I'm into my 5th week here, not much longer and I'll be moving on to Vienna. On Friday we had a trip to Amsterdam.  We sojourned to the Clara-Maria Farm just outside of Amsterdam.  The owners of the farm opened it up to tourists about 30 years ago and it is now a very popular "quintessential Dutch" trip.  We lucked out, one of the undergrads at Webster - Leiden is the daughter of the couple who currently owns it, so we got a little special treatment.

I have to admit, however, the cheese farm almost didn't happen.  While we were all very excited about the prospect of fresh cheese and the chance to do our Dutch tourist shopping, there was a little "issue" regarding the cost.  Since this was an extra outing it was going to cost us money, something we were forewarned of, however it got a little out of hand.  Initially we were told that it would cost 20-euro with transport, so we all said "sure!"  Then came the email from Alex, the TA who arranges the trips and such, who says "20-euro plus transport, for a total of 35euro," to which we all said "WAIT A MINUTE!!"  Now, you might be wondering what would get 11 students all upset, after all it wasn't like he said "hey, it's now 50-euro."  Well, we were all a little suspicious and upset after our experience in Brussels where we each ended up spending about 100-euro more than we expected (very long story, I won't detail).  Additionally, we had been a little put off because Alex has this habit of not telling people things.  He's very much a control freak, in fact we all got whistled at in Brussels (yes, as if we were dogs, not too happy about that one), he also found the need to count us every time we did anything (got off the train, got on the train, left a room, entered a room, went to breakfast, went to lunch, stopped at the bathroom.  You get the picture).  Someone finally asked him, sarcastically, if he wanted to just assign us numbers and we could call them out when he ordered us to ("Number 7, where's number 7??  Any one seen 7?!!??!”).  When we all left Alex in Brussels we were feeling a little bit like kindergartners and were none too pleased.  We are after all adults, if we get lost I think we are all mature enough to ask for directions and figure it out.

But I digress....

Cheese farm nearly didn't happen because we all just could not fit 35-euro into our budgets.  So, we did what any good American Grad student and future diplomat would do.  We Bitched.  A LOT!  To anyone with power or who had sway with someone in power.  The result?  Cheese farm was free!  Behold the power of the people!

And it’s a good thing too, because we had a great time.  We played in the hay barn, then we got to learn how clogs are made, and I have video of Kim helping throughout the process.  So enjoy.  This is, of course, the modern way they make clogs; they used to do it by hand.  After the clog making lesson came the cheese making lesson.  The Farm, of course, makes Gouda, in about 20 different flavors.  Regular, Jalapeno, Garlic and Dill, Whisky, Italian, etc, etc.  It was all delicious.  Afterwards we enjoyed a simple farmers lunch of tomato-beef soup, peaches, bread, and, what else, cheese, along with wine.

Once we were all nice and full it was off to play Boran Golf.  This is farmer’s golf, played with a clog on a stick and a ball slightly smaller than a soccer ball.  And the holes are scattered throughout the cow pastures.  Gives a whole new meaning to obstacles!  We broke up into teams of 4, and you hit the ball in rotation, until you get it in the hole.  Aside from the cows and sheep in the pastures, we also had to contend with cow pies and one horribly located ditch.  In the process of hitting our ball around it ended up in several cow pies and in the ditch numerous times.  During one hole my group had a little incident.  We had hit the ball, it went into the ditch, and Abdul (who, as the token male on the team was assigned the job of fishing the ball out whenever it went in) was trying to pull the ball out.  While he was busy we were trying to figure out how to cross the ditch because the hole was on the other side.  I wandered down further to see if I could find a crossing; Nicole and Kim contemplated jumping the ditch, since we had seen the guy that taught us how to play the game doing that all day.  As I walked down I finally found a board placed across, and was just turning around to tell my group when I hear “SPLASH!”  When I turned, Kim was gone.  And suddenly up from the reeds waves this little hand and I hear “I’m stuck in the mud!  I’m stuck.  It’s not funny guys” (by now we were all doubled over laughing hysterically).  Our “guide” had to jump the ditch and pull her out, she then sat on the opposite bank for about 10 minutes, sopping wet.  Unfortunately I left my camera in my purse, so I have no pictures, and I’m waiting for others to post theirs, then I will repost them here.  They are hilarious and I haven’t laughed that hard in a while, my abs actually hurt the next day.

Once we got Kim back on the other side of the ditch (via the board I found) we continued our game, poor Kim squishing the whole way.  Once we finished we had a really fun tractor ride back to the barn, then shopped the gift store, played some more in the hay and left to come home.  I came home with 3 wheels of cheese, some clogs, and several other things.  All in all a great way to spend the day!

I’ve spent the last several days researching my paper for International Relations (Illegal Antiquities trade and civil unrest, and Repatriation of Artifacts) and my paper of International Law (Laws of the Seas and the Arctic’s).  Lots of work to do the next few weeks, papers to research and write and a simulation game to prep for where I get to play Vladimir Putin.  This weekend however is the huge October 3rd festival in Leiden, commemorating the victory in the 30 years war.  My understanding is it’s a lot like Mardi gras, just a big party, and apparently there is herring involved.  So Friday and Saturday we will be soaking up that experience.  If it’s interesting enough and I have enough pics I’ll post another update.  Also, my plans for break are set, Nicole, Sahara, Kit and I are leaving Oct 18th for Berlin, we will spend a few days there, then head to Krakow, several days there and a side trip to Auschwitz and Berkenau and hopefully a trip out to the Wieliczka Salt mines, then on to Vienna by Friday Oct 23rd, where I will check into my apartment there, meet up with Amy (Yay!) throw my stuff in my room and jump on a train to Budapest for the weekend.

That’s it for now.  Hopefully I will have more farm pics to post in a few days, so keep an eye out.

Love, Heather

P.S. I'm including a few extra pics from Brussels that I didn't have when I did the posting for that.
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