Week 1

Trip Start Aug 21, 2007
Trip End Jan 21, 2008

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

After two days of challenging travels and long waits, I made it to Holland. But...to begin I should tell of what happened before I made it to where I am today. Okay...prepare yourselves.
Day 1: Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport. I said my goodbyes to my relatives and siblings the night before I left and to my mother before I left for the airport. My dad and I arrive at 1 pm. My flight is due to leave to Chicago at 3:30 pm. I was there very early in case of problems. We arrive to find long lines, which I suppose it not rare at airports, but there were LONG lines. We got into the proper line and waited. We waited over two hours! Along the way we heard that flights were delayed and I was told I would most likely miss my connecting flight to Amsterdam in Chicago. People started to get crazy as well. They were acting very rude, selfish, and yelling wrongly at people. Example one of the selfishness found at the airport would be a man standing in line a little behind my dad and me. A woman in full army uniform, carrying her bag and standing with her husband and young child...she had been waiting in line for over 2 hours and was nearing the front when she was told she was in the wrong line. She tried to move over to our line, which was fair! It isn't like she hadn't been waiting! And a man told her no! He sent her to the back of the line to wait all over again. My dad yelled at him "Give her a break! She is a soldier!" And the man responded with this "If you let her in line I will call the police on you and have you arrested or ticketed!" First off...we should let soldiers skip lines like that! Secondly...she waited in the wrong line! That guy should have cut her some slack. Thirdly...why in the world would you threaten to call the police on someone for that?!?! It was HORRIBLE! It made me very sad for this man and for that woman. She had a look of total despair, frustration, and worry. I wish I could have allowed her in front of me. I fear that I may have been too scared...which also makes me sad. Okay...so that was one example of crazy people. After all that my dad and I reached the desk to "check in." We got there to find that all the flights had been delayed because one runway was closed and the weather was causing delays with the other working runway. The clerk said I would miss my flight to Amsterdam unless I got on an earlier flight than my original one due to the delays. She put me on standby and said that if I could catch that flight I would have a 40 minute layover to catch my connecting flight. That wasn't so bad. I took the tickets and went to the security gate. I hugged my dad and said goodbye, he waited until I got through security. I looked back and waved with a smile...but inside I was breaking to see my dad go. It was so hard to say goodbye to my mom and dad. My heart broke that morning saying goodbye to my mom. I cried, which really does not happen that often. I continued on to my intended gate of departure to find a mob scene. There was another HUGE line and no available seats for waiting. I had at least an hour before they were due to load, so I got some food and took a seat on the floor by some people's feet. I know...gross, but it was the best I could get and I was tired from standing in line the other hours before. After a while I didn't know what to do...so I got in line. Ha! I didn't even know why I was in line, but I got in anyways. It was something to do. Okay, well I waited for a half hour and got out when they said they were calling for those trying to get on standby. I knew that I was number 15 on the list because I was international and a priority. There were over 100 people waiting and 45 seats available. The lady calling for standby was like a game show! If some one heard their name, they jumped up and screamed "IT IS ME!" and sprinted with all their bags to the counter. It was sort of humorous actually. Well, after some time my name was called. I went up to the desk and received my ticket. After a few minutes I looked up and saw that the flight had been delayed an extra half hour meaning I would have less than 10 minutes to reach my next plane. That was a stretch, but I was going to try. Then...it was delayed 10 more minutes. I would not make my next flight. I skipped the line and went directly to the woman saying I would not make my flight unless they held it...she rudely replied "Well, make a decision...we will not hold any flights. Go or stay, you choose." I walked away a bit flabbergasted at her words. They called for a final boarding of my flight. I got in line to board and 10 seconds later I walked to the desk and said..."there are a lot of people trying to get on this flight, give them my ticket, I won't make my flight, let some one else have a chance." She ignored me at first, so I said it again. Then she took my ticket from my hand. I told her firmly that there were two Northwest flights that went directly to Amsterdam at 7 and 9:30 pm. I told her she needed to get me on one of those. She checked for openings and found some on the 9:30 pm flight. She said..."go sit down and come back when this mob is taken care of." I went to sit down ticket less and with very little in the ways of a plan. Many people around me thanked me for giving up my ticket and said good job for standing up to them without being rude. It was really funny to me. I made jokes to lighten the moods of those around me. It made life a bit easier that way. After sitting for a half hour I saw that the line was not getting any shorter, so I got in again. By now it was 5 pm. I had to figure something out soon. I stood in line another half hour (I had heels on this day...so by now my feet hurt a bit). Finally I made it to the desk, I had to explain what was going on to the man at the desk, which took a while because he didn't understand why the lady said I could get on a different flight, etc...I tried to be patient with him. Finally, he understood and checked his computer for tickets available. He called Northwest and asked them. He came out with nothing. He said the flights were both booked. Yes...I waited and lost my seat. A bit disappointed and frustrated, I asked him what else could be done. He said that the soonest I could get to Amsterdam would be 9:15 am two days from today. Tears came to my eyes...it was an emotional day. I tried to control myself. I told him to book me for that because I had to get to Amsterdam by Wednesday. He gave me my tickets and I was on my way. I called my dad and went to meet him outside. I thought to myself that I could not bear to say good bye again. I started to cry...ugh, how I hate crying. It was so hard to think about doing. I waited outside because inside the mobs were still crazy and I couldn't be around that any more. I sat on my backpack and waited. After a few minutes a man came out stood 5 feet from me and started to smoke. I hate the smell of smoke, so I got up off the ground and moved. Same thing happened again, then again...ick. There were so many places to stand and smoke, they chose right next to me. I was frustrated. Finally, I saw my dad and brother pull up. My dad told me he was taking me to dinner and then my grandparent's house. My mom and dad both had to work and they could get out of it if I wanted, but it would be hard (they had both gotten out of work that day as well). I was fine with that. My grandparents would drive me the next day, which would be fine. It would be easier than saying good bye all over again. My brother, dad, and I joked all during dinner and afterwards the dropped me off at my grandparent's. This good bye was much easier because I was exhausted. I said good bye and went to bed soon after.
Day 2:
The night brought huge storms that kept me awake for it all. In the morning I got up around 7 am and got ready. My grandparent's had a fruit plate ready for me, so I ate that and we left for the airport. My flight was due to leave at 11:15. Yes...I got there over 3 hours early once again (although this time I was already checked in). I said good bye and went to find my luggage. No luck there. I found my gate and went to sit for a bit. After a while I got bored and got into the line that was forming. Once again, I got in a line for no reason but boredom. God knows best...you know that? He puts things in our minds and we have no idea why, but it is for the best. I got all the way through the line with very little knowledge of why. When I got to the desk I told them my baggage situation and flight situation. The person working said..."oh, well, let's get you on this flight leave right now and when you get to Chicago you should talk to some one at the desk to help you find your bags." I got my new tickets once again, walked to the gate, and boarded the plane at 8:50 am. I got on the plane and maybe 5 minutes later we took off. It was crazy. It was only an hour long flight, so I stared out the window for most of it. When I arrived it was 10 am. I went to the desk and they found my bags within 5 minutes. Now...it is 10:30 am and my flight for Amsterdam leaves at 5:57 pm. I have over 7 hours to sit around and wait. That is exactly what I did. I was still very tired because I had not slept in a day and a half, so walking around didn't sound fun to me. I found my gate and sat. I tried to get people to play cribbage, but they thought I was a bit strange for asking strangers to play cards. They didn't know how to play anyways. Well, 7 hours of boredom and very little socializing passed, and I boarded my plane. I found I could tell Americans from the Dutch by their clothing. It was interesting. That was my entertainment. The plane ride was long and dull...I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. The man next to me was very nice, but I ran out of things to say to him after the first hour.
Day 3:
Yes, day 2 ends abruptly. I lost 7 hours on the plane and arrived in Amsterdam at 9:30 am their time. I got off the plane and found my way to passport inspection easily (even with all the signs in Dutch). Then I went to the baggage claim, which I found by recognizing a man on the flight with me who I had been sitting near before we boarded and I found interesting. I found both my bags within ten minutes of standing. It was great. They must have been the last ones on the plane (which is funny cause we had to wait 20 minutes for them to find some baggage that was still needed before we could take off). I got my bags and headed towards customs. Before I reached there I saw a sign for train tickets...which I needed. I went to the machine and tried to get my ticket...every thing was in Dutch and I had NO idea what I was doing. I asked two kind ladies behind me if they could find my station for me...'sheretogadehmbasch. Yes...that was the station, something similar to that. I went to pay for it and my credit card and debit card both did not work...so I had to go. I did not know what I was going to do. I had Euros though, which was good. I went through Customs with no problems because I had nothing to claim. When I reached the other side I saw a mess of people and lifts. I wandered for a bit until I found more train ticket machines. I tried again, this time finding that I could select English for the language. Again, my cards did not work. I found a machine that accepted Euros, but only coins, which I did not have. I got desperate and asked a man that I had spoken with earlier to buy a ticket for me on his credit card and I would pay him 20 euros...my ticket was only 13,75.  Yeah, I was desperate as you can see. I got my ticket and went down the lift to the platform where my train was supposed to come. I stood there for a few minutes and got worried that I had the wrong platform, so I went up to double check. I came down again...got restless...went to go to the bathroom. Came back down again...this time I stood for a bit. My train came...I tripped up the stairs with all my luggage...made some people laugh. I was pretty mortified...It was hard to fit my stuff through the doors and in the seat with me. An hour later I started looking for my stations. The woman next to me was going to the same place, so she told me when it was. She also helped me with my bags and then walked me to the front door where I was getting picked up by my aunt's mom, Petra, and her bf/partner, Peter. I found them quickly and they welcomed me. I thought Petra wanted a hug so I began to hug her when she started to kiss my cheeks. Three times...Dutch custom that I was not yet accustom to...very awkward at first. They took me back and allowed me to shower and such. It had now been over 48 hours since I had slept and I was tired. We ate and they said I could have a nap. An hour later they woke me up saying my aunt would not let me sleep because I would have a hard time getting rid of jet lag if I did. So they got me up and Petra took me on a long walk around town. I met Petra's mother who was 89 years old. We then got back and ate dinner. I made it until 8 pm before I passed out in bed with all my clothes still on. It felt amazing.
Day 4:
When I woke up, Petra made breakfast and we sat and ate it while I waited for Twan (Petra's ex husband.) He came to pick me up at 8 am and we drove to Arnhem together. It was an hour drive and he is not a good driver. I was a bit scared actually. We got to town fine, but then got lost two or three times. I knew town pretty well by the end of the drive, which was humorous. We were looking for the office of Nederwoon (my housing agency). I was very nervous about this because I had not heard that they received my money wire. I could not move in until they received my full payment. Finally, we found it and I walked in and talked to them about the money wire. She called her co-worker to ask about it. Twan came in to join and spoke some Dutch to the two ladies working. She got off the phone and confirmed that they had received my payment just that morning. WOW! If I had arrived as planned I would not have been able to move in. See! God does know best! It was crazy how the timing all just worked. Made my thankful for sure. I got my key and bedding and we left for my housing. We found it right away...and what a mess it was. There was dirt on the floor, food in the cupboards, mice, spots on my walls, broken parts on my door, sticky stuff on my windows from a sticker, one very small bathroom and one push powered shower. Things were dirty and I was a bit grossed out. Twan left soon after I got my stuff inside. I unpacked and didn't know what to do. I had missed my intro group for the day so I did not know what else to do. I decided to sleep since I was still pretty tired. I slept for a few hours, woke up, got bored...went back to sleep. I was waiting for my roommates to come back home so I could figure out what was going on, where to buy food, etc... I had not eaten since breakfast and had no food to eat. I finally got impatient and hungry and went outside to find people to help me. I found these girls on a bench and asked them. They were all from Europe and told me they would take me to the grocery store nearby when they were all showered. They had gone out partying the night before and were still hung over. It was 4 in the afternoon and they were still out of it. They also told me that exchange students had a reputation of partying, drugs, drinking, and orgies. Sounds like fun to me, huh? Yeah, right. Well, they said they would come get me when they were ready. Two hours went by...no help. Luckily one of my roommates came home! Donata from Lithuania. She is VERY nice! She got lost coming back from school for three hours which is why she was so late in getting home. I will get along well with her I think. We walked to the store which was about a mile away and got some food and wandered a bit. Everything usually closes at 5 pm, but we were lucky tonight. We walked through this park that had cows and sheep in it, very strange! Center of a city and there is livestock. We got followed by a strange man for half a mile...I got nervous, but finally he left. Donata is bad at directions, it made me giggle. She got lost often and I had to re-direct her. I had never been there before, but some how I knew where I was going. I made pasta for her because she had never had it and she made me homemade tea from her mother's garden. It was a mint flavor. I don't like tea, but I tried it anyways. Oh! By the way! Lithuanian chocolate is incredible! Yes...that is that!
Day 5:
I know, this is getting long, but bear with me! I have a lot to update since internet has been gone since I arrived. I woke up late and missed my roommate going to "internet day" on campus for welcome group. I took my time since no one would be online until 3 pm here anyways. I walked to campus which is a bit over a kilometer away. (I have to get used to using the metric system, sorry!). I couldn't find the library so I wandered around aimlessly for a bit. I gave in after a while and asked for directions (I hate to do that) and in broken English I was directed to some red building somewhere. I wandered until I found some buildings...none of which were red. I walked into a random one and found some books and computers so I went up there. I went the computers and tried to use it...but I had no password or username. The rude librarian did not help me much, so I left to go home. I walked through the park, stopped and watched the ducks in the pond and such. I stayed until people sat on the bench behind me and it got awkward. As I was leaving the park the police came up behind me, so I moved off...I waved as the passed...then they stopped and backed up! I thought for sure I did something wrong...luckily they had to use a different way because there was a bridge that they couldn't fit on! I am special. I walked the rest of the way home and sat around. I read, made dinner, read, and went to bed. I had not heard any students speak any languages I knew ALL day! It was a very strange experience. I hadn't had a conversation but asking for directions in almost a day and a half (since my roommate and I had gone to market).
Day 6:
Almost there! Today I finally met the welcome group and the other international students! We made a city trip. I met a group of people my roommate knew (she has two other girls from her school living above us, so they have been more social). I have been very nervous to talk to people. I am out of my element hear and have lost almost all confidence because it is so hard to understand people and I am one of two native English speakers living in this resident area...the other of whom I have not met. Well...city trip, I saw a guy in the group that had a UW-Whitewater shirt on and got excited. I asked him if he went there...he said yes...and I said I went to stout and thought that was pretty cool. He didn't reply. I felt a bit foolish. Oh well. Turns out there are three of them from whitewater. I think there may be only 4 Americans total here. I think we are all from MN and WI. Funny huh?! Yeah, small world after all. Those guys are nice, they are definitely WI boys. But...I think their main reason for being here is to smoke pot and get drunk...not really my thing.  I did spend a lot of time with this one group...they will probably be my primary friends...four from turkey...three boys, one girl...all from Istanbul...three girls from Lithuania...one boy from Mexico...one boy from Poland...and me. I also met a nice Aussie as well. He was the only one with similar interests as me. Oh! People in Turkey watch basketball...and it turns out many of them love the MN Timber wolves! I thought that was pretty cool! Today I walked over 10 miles. I may have walked more, but I didn't really keep track. We walked around the city and saw the famous living statues contest. People dress up and act as statues according to themes...I will show pictures soon. It was very cool! We played laser tag, wandered about, and then came back. When we got back at 9 at night we all sat outside and talked. Many people here do not like the Chinese people...they are very prejudice. One guy I met introduced himself and said..."I hate Chinese people." I was impressed...the Lithuanian girls stood up against the prejudices. It was really cool to see! I also tried to catch a mouse that one of the guys screamed and stood on the bench about! I ran and got my headlamp and tried to catch it. This guy was FREAKING OUT! It made me laugh. I am very different from many of these people, it is interesting. I miss home a lot. I miss family and I miss friends...my English is going to be horrible when I come back (I have to speak in fairly broken English and use simple words so people will understand me). I am also going to have a crazy horrible accent. You thought it was bad before...it is not a mix of Dutch, Lithuanian, Mexican, Polish, and Minnesotan. RIDICULOUS! Just wait, you will laugh as soon as you hear it! I will laugh when you hear it! J I miss the internet as well. I have not had it since I arrived at Nederwoon.
Day 7:
Today, we walked the 10 miles to the town park and back. My group had a picnic lunch and hung out all day. We had hoards of food. We also went to the town center and saw the adult living statues competition. It was super busy, so we did not stay long. After lunch at the park, we wandered around the walking paths, it is an absolutely beautiful park and I plan to spend a lot of time there in the future. It felt like home to me and there were so many beautiful photo opportunities. J I can't wait to go back! Tonight I plan to read some more of my book The Grapes of Wrath. I am almost done with it! I have been doing a lot of reading lately. I love John Steinbeck's writing, it keeps me in raptures. I would like to attend a church here, but I am not sure where to go and I don't think they will be in English, so I won't understand a thing. Hmm...Internet tomorrow!!!! YAY!
Week 1 is done...let's welcome a new week!
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