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Sarah Holland 04-05
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14-02-05 Happy Valentijnsdag, otherwise known as Valentine's Day. Yes, Hallmark has done it's part to corrupt/Americanize yet another corner of the world, thus warranting the red and pink heart displays everywhere. My school here even has a Valentine's Day rose service.
In other news, I haven't really posted about my host family, so I've decided to do that now. My host brother Mark is never home, thus I stuck to subjects of the Frans/Annemieke/Dorothe variety:
Frans Libregts- born in Breda, a city nearby Roosendaal. Frans works for the American company Forever Living, which imports the products (which are made in Arizona) to Holland. He is dol op soaps (crazy about soap operas), including the American classic "The Bold and the Beautiful" and the Dutch "Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden" (Good Times, Bad Times) and "Onderweg Naar Morgen" (On the Way to Tomorrow). He never misses a day, thanks to the wonders of video recording. Frans and Dorothe met on ski vacation in Austria.
Annemieke Libregts- host sister, lived in Roosendaal for her entire life. Annemieke currently studies in Tilburg (city about an hour from Roosendaal with the train) to become a teacher. She also has a morning paper route (correctly insinuating that she has to get up around 5 every morning) and works in the weekends for the Postoffice. She loves to work hard. She has an amazing voice and also plays the piano, and, like me, use to swim competitively. She spent 6 weeks in Switzerland 4 years ago with YFU.
Dorothe Libregts- has lived everywhere in Holland. Works for the newspaper. Is in charge of dealing out the daily papers to the paper boys and girls, a heavy job considering someone is always sick/not doing his or her job properly. Dorothe loves traveling, especially Austria and Yugoslavia. She's always wanted to go to Scandinavia. Dorothe is always cheery, or so it seems and is very easy-going.
Porky- a sweet, adorable dog who I enjoy occasionally walking. Was very seriously sick a couple of weeks ago but miraculously recovered.
 
9-2-05 Lekker rustig... if you read below (by the first entry), I've added some of my first emails after arriving in NL. Verder, lees door...
 
Holland- "Our Little Kikkerland"... what does that mean?
 
Holland, more officially refered to as "the Netherlands", is a low-lying country in Western-Europe, home to 16 million people (and growing). Holland may be a tiny country (about the size of Vermont), but it's influence on the rest of the modern world is hard to ignore. The country is one of the biggest importers of American products (did I just make that up?) and thanks to people like Mike Meyers and his hilarious 2002 production of "Austin Powers and Goldmember", NL and the Dutch will never be off our radar.
The "kikkerland" refers to Holland. Kikker in Dutch means frog, land=land. This gezegde comes from the fact that NL's location is a veritable swamp-- wet and cold and heaven for our good friend Kermit.
 
The Dutch: Who are They?
 
Thank you, Mike Meyers. You've officially introduced the Dutch to us Americans. But long before M.M.'s box-office hit, we from the U.S. of A. have harbored stereotypes of Dutchies (or Cloggies). We think of wooden clogs, windmills, sex shops, drugs and really really lekker chocolate. We go "Dutch" if we split the bill, jump "Double-Dutch rope" if we jump-rope really fast.
In fact, the Dutch were some of the first inhabitants of the U.S. Before it was known as New York City, our favorite metropolis was known as "New Amsterdam". There are multiple places around the U.S. named "Holland" or "Nederland". Our friendly Amish population is referred to as the "Pennsylvania Dutch", although they are from German descent, not Dutch. Thus, the Dutch have a powerful influence on us all.
The Dutch are known for their liberalism and stinginess, although Dutchies like to point out that although they limit their guests to ONE cookie with coffee, they're an incredibly generous country, donating millions to the less fortunate. A recent example: the tsunami in Asia, where NL topped the U.S., and continues to rake in so much money they have absolutely no idea what to do with it.
The Dutch love french fries (friet or patat) and love to fiets (bike). They are one of the most self-assured, take-no-prisoners populations of the world. We can't hold anything against our low-lying neighbors-- they are truly one-of-a-kind.
 
Dutch-- What did you Say?
 
Although many words in Dutch may be similar (or the same) to English words, the language is NOT easy. It is often said that Dutch is one of the most difficult languages in the world, joined by Arabic, German and Chinese. The Dutch grammer is extremely irregular and doesn't like to play by any rules.
Ex.
English: I'm going to school tomorrow.
Dutch: Morgen, ga ik naar school. (Tomorrow, go I to school).
 
There are exceptions, exceptions, exceptions to the Dutch language. Don't let anyone fool you-- it's a rough taal.
 
Inspired through the hilarious (and often true) book "The UnDutchables", available in select book stores in the U.S. and overal in NL.
 
6-2-05 People told me that my year would go faster after January but I didn't expect this! WOW! Everything's going too fast! It helps having a family where you feel entirely comfortable and yourself (well, as much as one can be away from one's family). So...
Den Haag didn't end up going through (jammer dan) because much to my dismay, I ended up having school that day, though I thought that I didn't. Saterday's plans to Amsterdam also didn't go through because John's wife Irena was sick and thus they didn't go. So instead, I spent the day in Antwerp. Immediately after stepping in the train, I left Nederland and entered Vlaanderen, i.e. land of the Dutchies who speak Flemish (Vlams), an extremely accented Dutch. Once in Antwerp, I walked to the City Park in search of the Jewish neighborhood. Then, BAM! One Hassidic-Sabbath worshipping Jew after another. I felt weird taking pictures (they're not zoo animals, and I have seen religious Jews before. They spoke all different languages-- Polish, English, French, Vlams, German, greeted eachother with "good shabbos" and were all dressed in black, the girls in skirts and tights. It took me a while to realize why everything was closed (Shabbat, hallo?) and I snapped fotos like crazy... the Hebrew signs, the Kosh delis, etc. I then got very hungry and spent atleast 20 minutes beating it out of the Jewish district because NOTHING was open, not a grocery store in sight. In short, I loved the day, walked EVERYWHERE and ended the day eating a humongous veggie burger at the coolest restaurant I've EVER been to. It was heated by solar lamps, which were incredibly LEKKER warm. Everything was cooked without egg, butter or mayo and with organic ingredients, etc. The menu instructed me to "fuck fusion and food, because it doesn't work". The menu was written in English, and the eclectic waitor switched between Vlams, English and French. WOW.
Vacation plans: tomorrow I leave for two days in Tillburg, to celebrate Carneval with Lida, Norwegen girl. Friday I go to Amsterdam for the weekend, to visit Sarah Nauss and family. We're going to a concert Friday night, and further I have no idea what we're doing, seeing the city I guess. Wednesday I will probably spend doing my "job", i.e. my paper route. I love it! As far as "getting involved", I'm going to a meeting for the school paper when vacation is over. Thursday I'll think of something cool to do. AND, the coolest news: in May, Annemieke and I are going on vacation! We'll go first to Hamburg, Germany to visit an old exchange student who lived with my current family, then onto Denmark, i.e. Copenhagen. We might also go to Sweden (Stockholm)!
If you're wondering what Carneval is, it's being now celebrated in various Catholic-areas of the world. Italy, New Orleans, Montreal, etc. The Dutch personalize with costumes (just like Halloween) and tons of beer. Carneval songs are irritatingly fun and upbeat. YAY! I heart Holland at the moment!
 
30-1-05

Here’s  along overdo (over-do?) update from me...

Last weekend (Saturday to Sunday) I was in Veldhoven (near Eindhoven, about 90 minutes away from Roosendaal) for my YFU Mid-Year (send me an email and I’ll send a link for my pictures from then)! Yes, I am now more than halfway through my year. It was literally awesome to see everyone, catch up, swap stories. We talked, made new friends (and caught up with old ones), took a language test (I scored a goed! on the highest level), talked, played games, etc. I got back Sunday night in Roosendaal, joined my wonderful host family for dinner and went to bed early, given that the next day was my FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! (at my new school!)

I was sooo nervous. I introduced myself in my class and was basically alone for the first two hours. Then people started talking to me as opposed to about me and things got better. I’m still in HAVO4, this time in HAVO4D in plaats van HAVO4A... (random info f.y.i.) I have basically the same classes, only no biology and I have drawing! It’s hard knowing where to sit in the breaks, but people have been inviting. I’ve done plenty of question and answer sessions, the boys in my class are amazed that I don’t know who Tony Montana is (still have no idea) and that I don’t own/drive a Hummer. The rest of the week went okay, felt very slow as I was looking forward to my trip to AMSTERDAM the following Saturday (yesterday) with two excange student friends—Amy from Iowa and Asuka from Japan.

As nervous as I was for the first day of school I was just as excited for my trip to AMSTERDAM! Amy and Asuka took the train up Friday night (Amy lives in Arnhem, Asuka in Eindhoven) and we watched Dodgeball (typical Ben Stiller-comedy) and went to bed a little too late to wake up at 7.00 the next morning. We shoveled down breakfast, got ready and Annemieke drove us to the station. Our train left at 8.19. We took pictures in the train, chatted and had a good time, though we were still tired. Upon arriving in Amsterdam (Amsterdam Central Station) we ran to purcase tickets for the canal boat trips (touristy-boats that let you stop out as often as you like), but sadly missed the first trip. Thus, while waiting for the second boat, walked to Dam Square (big square nestled between huge architectural masterpieces). We ran back to the boat, hopped on, only to find ourselves on the wrong line (the same package, only the stops are in a different order.) The first stop was the Rembrandt House. I’m in no way an Art Buff, but it was pretty amazing to stand in the very room that Rembrant slept in, to check out some of the many ORIGINAL paintings from Rembrandt and other artists he collected. I’m also reading Rembrandt’s Jews, a book about the artists use/relation of Jews in his art (a wonderful Hannukah gift from Baba) so that added to the interest level.

Next we wandered through a flea market, a second hand clothing store and several cafes in pursuit of lunch. (I chose foccaccia with chicken). Next stop: Rijksmuseum. Again, Sarah is no Art Buff but she did marvel at the ORIGINAL COPY OF NIGHTWATCH  from Rembrandt and other paintings from Dutch masters. Pretty darn cool. Next stop: Anne Frank House. This was the one stop that I was looking the most forward to. I read the book a long time ago but have always had a sort of fascination with Anne Frank, the Holocaust, etc. The one horrible thing about the museum: cameras were NOT allowed. They were everywhere else. I was so overwhelmed and amazed by the museum. I saw Anne’s original diary (in Dutch, I can understand it!) I walked along the path that Anne followed and up the stairs to where Anne, her family and later the Gestapo were. It was interactive, amazing and moving. I recommend to EVERYONE who’s in the city.

Next: I met the Queen! Queen Beatrix! Really! Okay, not really. Our next stop was Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum, which was incredibly fun. I mugged with the afforementioned Queen, our president (and presented a speech alongside him), Ghandi, J.Lo (you could dress up with pseudo-designer gowns and heels, jewelry, etc). I took a ton of pictures, which will follow soon. After an hour or so there, we headed back through Dam Square, grabbed dinner at a sandwich restaurant (and dessert at McDonalds, so lekker!) Last, we walked back to the station, said goodbye and took our respective trains. All in all, a wonderful first trip to Amsterdam. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. And what’s even better is that next Friday I’m going to Den Haag to visit friends of Unkie Joey and Auntie Dinah and Saturday I’m going back to Amsterdam! (my host family’s good friend John is going to visit relatives and is taking me along so I’ll get to see more of the city!)

 

 
24-1-05 I just got back yesterday from YFU's mid-year get-together. That means that, (you guessed it), I'm more than halfway done! I rode the train to Eindhoven, was waiting for the bus to Veldhoven when I (thankfully, as I haven't quite mastered the art of riding the bus) saw Kaisa (Estonia) and Christopher (Germany)... Kaisa and I ran toward eachother and hugged, then Ginny (California), Yvonne (South Africa) and Amy (Iowa, arrived too late for the orientation camp in August)... was so happy to see everyone. The bus ride was about half an hour... we were the last to arrive. The kids from Frieseland and Groningen (Northern provinces approximately 4 hours away) had arrived the night before. Put away our stuff, sat down and Hans (director) gave a short speech in Dutch, as we obviously all speak (passable) Dutch. There were 4 new kids, Santiago (Ecuador), Sammie (California, hello valley girl!) and Talia (Australia) and Amy. We split up into small groups, talked about our experiences... after hours of chatting we had lunch. After lunch more gezellig kletsen (chatting) and then the Nederlands exam! I took the hardest level and recieved a 42/50, which is a "goed!" by YFU... I'll be taking the exam later this year. More gezellig kletsen and dinner! More gezellig kletsen, games, fun, sleep (around 1 a.m.)
The next day: woken up cruelly at 8 a.m., pack up, breakfast at 9 a.m. Clean up, take bus to skating rink in Eindhoven. Due to lack of room, sat on Ginny's lap the entire way, which was difficult when the bus turned corners. I'm not really a huge fan of skating (it's cold, my feet hurt) but it was fun just talking and taking pictures. Bus back to train station, say goodbye, ride back via Tillburg with Lida and Maxence (Norway and Belgium respectively). Home in Roosendaal, host dad Frans picks me up, home! Dinner, went to sleep early cause today was my first day of school at Jan Tinbergen College!
School- was VERY nervous, more nervous than my first school. Introduced myself in the first lesson, was complimented on my Dutch. I was largely ignored the first class, but talked with people the second lesson. The third lesson became a crazed question-and-answer session: You can't drink in the U.S.? Can you drive? Where are you from? Do you have a Hummer? etc... The rest of the day was fine, very tiring but people were nice and I (yes!) SURVIVED! Did I mention I was in school from 8.30 to 3.30? Wish me luck tomorrow!
 
18-1-05 I can't believe it's almost February. People weren't kidding when they said time goes faster (in your excange year) after January. The computer is being very slow and old so forgive the multiple spelling errors... where I left off... Friday Dorothe and I rode the train into Breda, a city about 15 minutes away, the hometown of my ost father, Frans. We spent about 4 hours there, walking areound, talking, eating, sigtseeing. She swears we haven't seen half of te city, but what I did see I liked. We went to Onze Lieve Vrouw Kerk (Our Sweet Lady Church), where various Dutch war heroes were buried. I made lots of fotos but have yet to upload them... that will follow. The reason we didn't stay longer in Breda had to do with Dorothe's job. She distributres newspapers to the newspaper deliverers, or however you spell that, every day around 3.00 p.m.
Saturday we picked up my new bike at the ome of the old district representatives for this area, who bot hwere impressed with my Dutch. Their exact words: Where are you from (insinuating that they can't tell)? Me: Amerika. Them: Wow! For an American,your Dutc his really good! Later that day we (me and m yost parents) went to visit FRans' mother in Breda, for te trditional Dutc koffee/thee visit. She was very nice and (also) impressed wit my Dutch.
Sunday t ehost parents and I drove to Belgium! The car ride was gorgeous and relaxing, the twon were we lunched in "quaint and rustic" (my mom will get te reference). Te town =was precisely on te border4 of Belgium/NL... we kept jumping over te border lines and comparing locations. Sunday afternoon te Libregt's friends John and Irena (mrried, Irena comes from Russia) came and stayed until 9.00 or so. They are very very very nice and asked questions bout VT, etc. I had met John earlier and mentioned being interested in Russia (yes, Russia) and e brough me a picture book of St. Petdersberg/Moscow. I'm more interested in my family's origins, but as far as that goes, I ave no idea whree they came from. Their visit waas fun, heel gezellig (cosy). John said that I don't have an AmericN ACCENT! He means that its obvious tat I'm a foreigner, buyt I dont' have an ?merican twang~!! That probably as to do with my origins in New England as oopposed to the midest. this computer is horrible, I'm sorry for te illegability. WE also played cataan (spelling), a board game wich I, to this point, do not understand. all and all it was  great day. I really like it in Roosendaal, in this fmily. I'm a little nervous for the strat of scool but its going good now, so why not be appy? I will try gin sometime later on  different computer!
 
13-1-05 So, I'm here... in Roosendaal. I'm the only inhabitant of the third floor in the house, excluding the computer, which is obviously where I'm at at the moment. Yesterday Hanny en Gijs drove me to Roosendaal. It's a long drive, about 90 minutes each way. Yes, Holland isn't that small. I was again nervous, but after H/G bid adieu, it went away. My host mom and I, whose name is Dorothe (pronounced like the English equivelent) was the only one home. We talked for a while. She's very easy-going and calm. My host sister later said that she's seen her mother angry only about twice in her life... wow. But we'll get to that later. We talked for about an hour or so, then I dragged my stuff up the steps and got down to business, i.e. unpacking. I love my room. My posters aren't all up yet, but it already seems more of my room than I ever felt at Aan De Wassum 33. I don't know if that's due to the space or the privacy, but its very cozy and rustig (calm). I finished around dinner time. By that time, my host dad (Frans) and Annemieke and Mark were home. Dinner was nice and gezellig (social)... I got the obligatory (don't get me wrong-- I enjoy them) questions about the U.S., where I'm from, etc. We sat around the table after dinner, talking. I showed them my fotos and my small collection of American magazines (from the Koch's), i.e. People and Vermont Life. Annemieke showed me pictures from her summer exchange in Switzerland (with YFU four years ago). Mark had gone to work again at this point. I'm the 6th exchange student here... quite a legacy I have to keep up.
It took me a long time to fall asleep last night, though I was tired. This morning Dorothe woke me up. The school was expecting us at 11.00. I got ready and had havermout (oatmeal) for breakfast. Then we fietsed the 7 minutes it took to get to school. The meeting was very short. The decaan was very, very nice and said that he wanted me to write something for the school paper (in English) and maybe teach an English class! (Oy vey). After the meeting we fietsed into the city, just wandered around. I love the center... the selection is really good. We went into the H+M (my request)... yay! I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of quality time there. We also went to the library where I checked out a guidebook to NL (in Dutch) and a book by the Volkskrant (the New York Times of NL, very left-wing) titled "Wat is een Nederlander?" (What is a Dutch Person?) It talks about every aspect of the culture, the rumored stinginess, current events including Pim Fortuyn, etc. I think it will help my integration into Dutch culture. Lunch was at the V+D, i.e. a huge department store with a cafe. I had lekker tomato soup and a sandwich. We sat out on the terrace (glassed-in) and talked. Then... we fietsed home. I read a little in the living room and now, I'm here. The End.
 
Did I also mention that I have entered stereotypical Holland? I.e. windmill-country? Since Limburg (Venlo) is so far from the sea, windmills and dikes aren't so necessary. It's the safest part of the country in times of flooding, being sandwiched by nothing but land. No watery muck? No wooden shoes necessary. But in reality, I have yet to see ANYONE walking down the street in wooden shoes (klompen), though maybe in Zeeland, when we visit Dorothe's sister.
 
To answer the question of school... my school has proefwerk week next week, a bit of a problem. If I don't have school then, I might be able to arrange to get my books and work out of them at home, or just do Dutch things... wie weet?
 
11-1-05 I'm a little nervous about starting over... with the Goddings' I had spent almost 3 weeks prior to my departure conversing by email, but with my new family I feel like I'm about to move in with a group of strangers. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to have a completely new start but still...
 
Anyways, these past few days have given me plenty of time to think. I'm realizing just how much I learned from Elly, Wim, Vera and Lianne. They were polar-opposites of my own family in Vermont, but they taught me a lot, mainly about myself and where I come from. I've realized how special our wonderful community of Central Vermont is... nowhere else in the world (or so I think) can you find such a tight-knit clan of people who honestly care about each other. Here in Holland, neighbors are people you rarely see, although you live much closer in proximity to them than in Vermont. In Montpelier, neighbors are friends, friends are neighbors and everyone is family (figuratively speaking)... I have a feeling I heard that somewhere on t.v. but it's wonderfully true in Montpelier, Vermont. Families in NL (for the most part), live in the same city, yet they rarely see eachother. It does take a village to raise a child, and people in Vermont know that. Even if I went home today, I would go home a completely changed person. I may still not know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I know how important my family and friends are to me. I know how amazingly blessed I am to be a part of the Brin-Billian family, how amazingly lucky I am to have Hannah Claire Billian as a sister. I often took these relationships foregranted, but now I know I would never again be able to do that again. Thank you everyone for being so incredibly supportive and loving during my 5 months here, and I can't wait to see you all agin in June!
 
10-1-05 My so-called koffee/thee "debut" went well. I was incredibly nervous, but the feeling didn't last long. I gave my new host mom (whose name I still don't know) the flowers I bought and stepped inside their house, a sort of duplex. It's about the same size as the Goddings' house, but my room is bigger than before! I also have the 3d floor to myself. To be exact, I share the third floor with the computer... wat gezellig! I didn't see much of Roosendaal, but they have an H+M! i.e. my favorite store! My school is about the same distance away by bike as my old house was to my old school, so no big difference there. I also found out that I'm 30 min. away (by train) from Antwerp, an hour from Brussels and 30 min. from Rotterdam! YES!
 
In entirely unrelated news, I've decided to write about something that I never touched upon in my earlier entries... school in Holland.
 
SCHOOL IN NL:
School in Holland is heel anders (very different) than in the U.S., or atleast Montpelier High School. The mentality of the students is completely different. Whereas students at MHS strive for A's and prestigious scholarships, Dutch students are satisfied with a 6 or 7 (the equivelent of a low B). Dutch teachers recieve absolutely no respect from their students... most classes consist of the students yelling/conversing over the teacher. The teacher (leraar, in Dutch) has no choice to continue talking. He/She doesn't even bother to reprimand the class, because, to be honest, what would that do? Students also rarely skip class, because (or so I think), what difference does it make to carry on a conversation with your friends inside or outside the classroom?
 
Roughly a third of the school population smokes, and files out in the 2 breaks during the day to do so. The smoking population is split about 50/50 in terms of gender.
 
EVERYONE gets to school by bike (fiets)... the courtyard is thus completely full of bikes. Dutch students can't get their license until age 18, thus practically no one (teachers included) get to school by car. Gas is expensive, as is the vehicle itself. Besides, it's much easier just to bike, and far healthier. Some students (not many) drive a brommer, or scooter. Scooter licenses can be obtained from age 16 and above.
 
Dutch schools have cafeterias, just like schools in the U.S., but 95% of students spend their lunch and snack breaks elsewhere... i.e. in the hall (screaming, shoving, anything goes here) or outside (smoking, etc). Students are also allowed to leave campus whenever they don't have class. This means trips to the supermarkets are common.
 
Lunch at school can mean something from the meager selection in the school kantine (cafeteria), like fries or kroket. There are also snoep automat (vending machines, which are quite popular. Also popular is the snack mobile that parks itself (and makes its' presence known with an irritating TOOT), which sells everything from pizza to fries/kroket/fricandel. I personally never strayed from the traditional Dutch meal of boterham (sandwiches). My personal favorites included the apple syrup/cheese combination, as well as the apple syrup/hagelslag routine. Both lekker (yummy), although I'm currently in a syrup/cheese phase.
 
I've noticed that teachers in NL tend to be predominately male. I had one female teacher my entire stay at Blariacum College, for art studies (CKV)... I'd have to say that the U.S. is somewhat ahead of NL in terms of gender-equality. Go US!
 
In terms of scheduling, schools don't offer classes like Socialogy (did I spell that right?) or Home Ec., but rather basic subjects. In place of midterms/finals, the school year is divided into 5 periods, each lasting roughly 6 weeks, ending with a week of testing. Dutch students don't tend to get worried about said tests.
 
Wrapping up my SCHOOL edition, I have just one thing to say: "It's not good, it's not bad, it's different." (YFU, much?)
 
6-1-05 een andere artiekel...
 

80% of Dutch donate to disaster relief


4 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — An overwhelming majority of the Dutch public is donating money to relief agencies following the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean, according to a new opinion poll. It also suggests the total donated by Dutch people will surpass EUR 75 million.

Conducted by Maurice de Hond, the poll found that at least 80 percent of the Dutch public has already given, or intends to give, money in the wake of the tsunami on 26 December that killed an estimated 145,000 people.

About 9 percent of the respondents said they knew at least one person who was in the region when the tsunami struck. And 83 percent said the Dutch national news organisation NOS had a duty to continue extensive news coverage of the tragedy.

De Hond said that based on the average amount donated by individuals so far he  expected the amount to double following a special televised appeal scheduled for Thursday. He said the total amount raised in the Netherlands could pass EUR 75 million.

It was announced on Monday that the public, companies and other organisations have so far donated EUR 26 million to the Dutch disaster relief bank account, giro 555.

One third of the people questioned also said their New Year celebrations were muted this year out of solidarity with the tsunami victims. Among the households that usually buy fireworks for New Year's Eve, 10 percent said they refrained from purchasing any this year and 5 percent said they bought less, news agency Novum reported.

The Dutch government information service RVD said on Tuesday that the Monarch, Queen Beatrix, had made a substantial contribution to giro 555. The RVD refused to put a figure on the amount she donated.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
 
8-12-04 een andere artiekel (another article):
 
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- A 62-year-old Dutchman will be charged for war crimes and as an accomplice to genocide for supplying lethal chemicals to Saddam Hussein's regime, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor's office said the man, who was arrested in Amsterdam on Monday, had been under investigation since the end of last year.

"The man is suspected of delivering thousands of tons of raw materials for chemical weapons to the former regime in Baghdad between 1984 and 1988," a prosecution statement said.

The materials are suspected of being used in the 1988 chemical attack on a Kurdish town that killed an estimated 5,000 civilians.

The suspect, chemicals dealer Frans van Anraat, had been arrested in Milan, Italy at the request of the U.S. government in 1989, prosecutors said. He fled to Iraq after being released and remained there until 2003.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, van Anraat returned to the Netherlands via Syria.

In a 2003 interview with Dutch television program Netwerk, van Anraat said he had shipped materials to Iraq but denied any wrongdoing, The Associated Press reported.

"This was not my main business, this was something I did in passing," AP quoted him as saying.

"Somewhere once back then, I got the request whether I could deliver certain products to them, which they needed," he said. "And because I had a very good relationship with the (Iraqi) Oil Ministry, and that's where the request came from, I tried to see if I could do it. And that was successful and we did deliver some materials."

Among the chemicals he is alleged to have shipped is thiodyglycol, which can be used in the production of mustard gas. It is alleged to be the lethal chemical that was used in the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 people.

Anraat "knew the destination and ultimate purpose of the materials he was shipping," prosecutors said.

Van Anraat is alleged to have shipped the chemicals on a route via the United States and Europe to Iraq. Authorities in the United States, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland contributed to the investigation.

Van Anraat is expected to be brought before a court in the Dutch town of Arnhem later this week.

 
25-11-04 more articles...
 

Homeless in Amsterdam advertise ice cream

24 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dozens of homeless people have appeared on the streets of Amsterdam sporting warm jackets emblazoned with an advert for ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's.

The scheme is the brain child of the Augustinian nuns of Warmoesstraat to help pay for the food and settle they provide for homeless people. Warmoesstraat is near the city's main red light district where many homeless people gather. 

The nuns say they are offering businesses the opportunity  to advertise in a socially responsible way in exchange for a donation to the convent's coffers. Due to the advancing years of many of their members, the nuns now have to pay people to perform some of their services, including distributing free sandwiches to the homeless.

Ben & Jerry's is the first company to sign up to the scheme. Homeless people who volunteer are given a warm jacket with the advert for the company on the back. The campaign is scheduled to run for several months.

"We prefer to call them 'people of the street'. The words beggar or homeless immediately give rise to a negative image," a spokesperson for the nuns said.

"We are giving them the opportunity to give something back and that is good for their self-worth, " she told newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. 

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
"The Great Dutch Ice-Skating Marathon -
Foreigners call it: 'The Dutch Disease'.


If you combined the endurance demands of the New York Marathon with the grueling climate conditions of the Alaskan Iditarod, you'd get a sense of the Dutch ice-skating race called the Eleven Cities Tour.
Known as the Elfstedentocht in Dutch, the one-day tour is an obsession for its 16,000 participants and the millions more who follow it worldwide. The event is held in The Netherland's northern province of Friesland but only in those years when the ice freezes over the 124-mile track of lakes and canals that makes up the route. The last tour took place January 4, 1997.
The fabled marathon was officially organized as a contest nearly 90 years ago by the Friesian Skating Association though its roots go back generations before that. This century, the race has taken place just 15 times; yet, it's become the biggest phenomenon in Dutch sports.
During a cold snap that made the tour possible one year, the white caps of the North Sea froze over. In 1929, winner Karst Leemburg finished in conditions so severe a frostbitten toe had to be amputated.
Because the competition hinges on weather conditions, lead-time is always short and the preparations furious. Wind chill, skating surfaces and ice thickness determine if and how the tour is run. Experts sometimes perform ice transplants to close holes in the route.
The 1997 race was organized with less than two days' notice thanks to a Russian cold front that left the country in a deep freeze. Despite nearly impossible time constraints, a virtual army of organizers and volunteers pulled the race off and, with it, one of the greatest tests of athleticism. The tour started before sunrise forcing skaters to navigate their first three hours by the light of spectator torches and farmers' tractor lamps. Some speed skaters wore headlamps. Henk Angenent, a farmer, won in 6 hours, 49 minutes and 18 seconds. By 11 that evening, those still skating were taken off the ice in police cars.
The tour always starts and ends in the Friesland capital of Leeuwarden and travels through the cities of Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker and Dokkum.
When the next race will be held is anybody's guess. And it's exactly that unpredictability that makes the Eleven Cities Tour so highly anticipated. One caveat for foreigners: Racers must be members of the Elfstedentocht Union, an organization whose membership of 16,000 was capped over a decade ago. That leaves anyone except a Nederlander with little chance to participate."
I doubt that there will ever be an Elfstedentocht. The climate has changed so dramatically last years.
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
15,000 Attend Amsterdam Unity Concert
2 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — 15,000 people attending a mini-festival in Amsterdam have
demanded community solidarity in the wake of rising racial tensions
following the van Gogh murder.
Major Dutch pop acts came up with the idea of the Stay Close! concert
in the wake of the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam on 2
November. All performers emphasised at the Sunday concert that the
people of Amsterdam, regardless of their colour, religion or race, have
to remain close by each other.
At least 20 mosques and churches around the Netherlands have been
targeted by arsonists in tit-for-tat attacks since Van Gogh's
assassination. He was an outspoken critic of Islam and a Muslim man,
26, has been arrested for his murder.
A note pinned to Van Gogh's body with a knife  warned that MPs
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, as well as MP Jozias van Aartsen,
the leader of the parliamentary faction of the Liberal Party (VVD),
would be killed next if they did not stop criticising Islam.
The artists taking part in the two-hour concert included Marmoucha dakka, Ali B., Blof, Lange Frans and Kane.
The audience was a good representation of Amsterdam's 170
nationalities. People of all ages and colour crowded together in the
city's Museumplein on a cold and wet  afternoon to enjoy the music
and support the call for harmony.
The event was hosted by Dolf Jansen and Howard Komproe, who expressed
surprise at some of the reactions to the killing. Referring to deputy
prime minister Gerrit Zalm's "declaration of war" on extremists,
Komproe asked: "We are still talking about the sober and common sense
Dutch? I haven't witnessed much of this in the last few weeks."
The concert was opened by drummer Marmoucha dakka, followed by rapper
Ali B. who told the crowd that various Dutch artists had formed a
"front" against intolerance.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

 
19-11-04 another article, this time on bike safety...
 
HOW TO BE SAFE ON A BIKE
Wed, Oct 6, 2004; by Jayne Gest.

(And what to do when you're not)
Mireya Juste and Jayne Gest


When foreigners arrive in Utrecht the first thing they notice is the herds of bikes roaming around the city as kings of the road not respecting traffic signs, pedestrians or cars. A confused visitor may start to think he is in the Tour de France instead of Holland.

After walking into the bike lane by mistake and nearly being run over, he will begin to wonder why there aren't more accidents with such chaos. The Dutch people seem to instinctively know what rules to follow and which to break without danger, but a foreigner needs to be more careful.

The most important thing to remember when riding is to not put anyone in danger, according to the Fietsersbond, Dutch Cyclists' Union, in Utrecht.

The best way is to follow some signs when cycling. When cyclists see a blue circular sign with a white bike they must use the compulsory bike lane. When there is a rectangular sign that reads fietspad, the rider can ride in the bike lane or choose another way.

When driving, a cyclist should travel on the right side. When riders turn it's necessary to use a hand signal to show what way they are going. It's also important to remember that at an intersection the person who comes from the right whether driving a bike or car has the right-of-way.

Along with following road rules, a bike should be properly equipped whether it's from a secondhand store or if an adventurous foreigner has gotten a € 10 bike from a junkie. All bikes should have a red reflector on the back, a white or yellow reflector on the wheels, four reflectors on the pedals, a bell and brakes. If it is at night or an unclear day, lights are compulsory. There should be a red light on the back and a yellow or white light on the front, as recommended by the Fietsersbond.

Cyclists need some equipment for themselves - not only for the bike because Utrecht is not known for its beautiful weather. To be comfortable on a bike, a rider needs rain clothes, usually two or three layers, just like an onion. The top layer shouldn't absorb the rain because it will be heavy and won't dry fast. Ramon Kuijpers, a member of the Fietsersbond said whether raining or not, a rider should wear clothes with reflecting material.

Sometimes no matter what preparations cyclists take they can get into trouble. A good way to minimize problems is to take out bicycle insurance, which costs at least € 100 for three years of protection, according to the Fietsersbond.

If a cyclist has an accident caused by the path, the victim can complain to the municipal authorities, but must prove that he was paying attention (so there is no reason to report it if alcohol is involved).

When a bike rider collides with a car, the motorist is almost always at least fifty percent responsible for the damage to cyclist and bicycle even if the rider was trying to be Dutch and ride with no hands.

Therefore, there are some steps to be followed after a collision. The police should be called if there is physical injury. It is important to have specific, written details about the accident that are signed by both parties. A cyclist should be sure to have the name and address of the car driver.

Finally, an uncommon, but dangerous situation that riders face is an attacker. The best solution to avoid these problems is to ride with someone at night and to stay away from lonely places.

But if a cyclist is in danger, Hans Harthoorn, an expert of karate and judo, said speed is the best weapon to escape. If it's not possible, then the victim should keep both hands on the wheel and use the leg nearest the assailant to kick out aiming for the knee or lower. It's also a good idea to use the bike as a barrier.

Following these rules will help guarantee foreigners survive the swarm of bikes in the city, but they must not expect the locals to respect these recommendations. However, maybe by the time they leave, they too will be riding in the Tour de France with no hands."
 
11-11-04 hey y'all! here is a description of sinter klaas from a dutch girl living abroad now. to clear up any confusion, all of the red is from said girl, NOT me.

Once again, hellow! It seems like I'm totaly into the month of celebrating already...See, my mom and I visited a Christmas market yesterday, I know, it's early...But then again, have you noticed Christmas starts earlier every year?Anyways, here in Holland we have our own festivity as well, and well, I feel like telling you all about it today! So I'm going to! The festival is called Saint Nicholas, and is celebrated on the evening of December 5th.
The asistants of the Saint then deliver a big bag full of presents at each house.
But before that, when the Saint arives, around half November, kids place their shoe in front of the fireplace, or door, mostly with some carots for the Saint's horse, and, of course very imortant: Their wishlist! and the next day they can find a gift in their shoe.
The fun thing is, kids under a certain age (Mostly around 9) don't know that it's actualy their parents doing all of this.
Stories go, that Saint Nicholas has saved a few children once, and that's why he became a Saint, and he's still alive, and realy old.
He lives in Spain, but comes to Holland on a big steam ship once a year to celebrate his birthday by giving all children gifts (His birthday actualy is December 6th, but we celebrate it on December 5th, because 'The Saint wants to be back in Spain on his birthday';-) )

This is what he looks like (There are lots of people who 'dress up' like Saint Nicholas, and there are even special 'Rent a Saint' company's for it ^^)

Okay, then for his helpers (Mentioned earlier) their called the Back Pete's and it's said they got their pitch black tan in Spain, but no one can ever declare why Saint Nicholas still is as pale as a ghost, most parents tell their children he doesn't like sun ^^.
Also, their said to be very acrobatic, but well, basicly, they come in all forms (Sounds like I'm talking about aliens, ne?).
So, well, anyone can play Black Pete, as long as they paint their faces, wear black gloves and pantyhoses, and a colorfull suit, like this:



You know, even I am going to play Black Pete this year at some festival, with a couple of friends, they already had volunteerd, but they still needed someone, so they asked me to help, I'm realy excited about it!

Oh, Petes also throw with candy, and not just normal candy, nooo... pepernoten, or, in English: Pepper nuts.
Now, the big misunderstanding with most of you will probably be that they contain pepper.... nope, there's just been aded some herbs to get the special flavour.
Peppernuts look like this:


So, basicly, their just tiny cookies (I've got them right here, and I measured one, it's 2 cm, witch is 0.7874 inch, and 0.0656 feet)
The Saint also like to hand out the first letter of your name, or the S of Saint in Chocolate as well, like this:



Oh, and, if you realy think of celebrating Saint Nicholas yourself (I'm SURE you are ;) you can find some typical Saint Nicholas somgs here: http://www.digital-dreams.nl/realdutch/sintgoodies.htm Complete background story can be found here: http://www.digital-dreams.nl/realdutch/sinterklaas.htm Oh, and the typical Dutch gifts you can find on the site are NOT the things we usualy hand out at the festival, check your own Christmas wishlist to get an impresion of what 'the Saint' realy gives to the children ;)

Anyways, now that you know all about this, let's say, December 5th, 7 PM at my place?
I'm shure the Saint would love to give all those good children overseas a present as well ;)

me again... nice description, eh?

--SARAH

 
8-11-04 dag allemaal! hoe gaat het met jullie? ik wil niet te praten over de v.s.'s verkiezing... ik denk het is te (sad) te praten over...
in Nederland nieuwes, vorige Dinsdag, Theo van Gogh (een heel belangrijk Nederlands filmregiseur) was vermoord bij een Islamsfundementalist (van Marrokko, maar een Nederlands burger)... paar maanden geleden Andre Hazes (Amsterdams zanger) was dood. Ik weet het niet de regen... Andre Hazes's dood was grote nieuwes maar Theo van Gogh's vermoord is (blijkbaar, denk ik) meer belangrijk... Van Gogh is een (contreversal) filmregiseur. Hij heeft een film over Islam en de Koran gemakt... wij hebben over zijn vermoord gepraten in Maatschippeleerij (ik weet nog niet hoe te schrijven dat woord!) LIEFDE~~SARAH
 
1-11-04 happy halloween all you americans! and dont forget to vote!... now that thats out of the way... een andere UPDATE!
herfst vakantie (autumn break) was nice. the first sunday was oma (elly's moeder's) verjaardag (76, net als Baba). voor de feest, elly en ik hebben rond gewandered. het was heel leuk (nice). that monday, vera, lianne en ik hebben naar Eindhoven gegaan te winkelen. eindhoven is a city in Nederland, about a thirty minute train ride away. i bought a pair of boots (60 euros in Venlo maar alleen 35 euros in Eindhoven!) and a sweater/shit bij de H & M. tuesday i met my friend caroline at school and samen met haar zusje hebben naar haar huis gefietst (she lives in Maasbree, about a half/hour fiets reis away). i stayed for dinner and then biked home (met caroline en haar zusje). het was heel leuk en gezellig. haar youngest sister just started learning english and had the cutest questions for me (in nederlands, natuurlijk). caroline wants to go to the u.s. as an exchange student, or as she says, to be my neighbor... barry, susan is that okay with you ? :) wednesday i biked into venlo to get my residence permit, thursday and friday i went sinter klaas shopping. (its a sort of secret santa deal, thus i cant say who i have). saturday i went to the city of Arnhem met een andere uitwisselingstudent, Ginny, who is from Califnronia but is living by Almelo. i didnt get lost on the trein, but spent an hour looking for her in the station. (we had said to meet at Spoor 1, but there was NO spoor 1. in addition we were in entirely seperate parts of the station, but we did find eachother). we spent a couple of hours walking around and had lunch together, then headed home at around 6. when i arrived home at around 7, vera lianne en ik watched a movie (Far and Away, a very good movie starring Tom Cruise en Nicole Kidman, two actors i generally dont like). sunday was relaxing. we went to oma and Opa goddings house where we spent a couple of hours. some other family members were there too. today was the start of a new periode (term), with new (more) classes. it was a good school day. i hung out with Caroline en her friend Baart. het is alles voor nu... ttyl!
 
19-10-04 even though i'm anti-social by nature, i'm trying really hard to be social at school. the weekend i made my last update i had a friend over that saturday, and went to Belgie with Renee (see fotos). the next weekend i went shopping (winkelen) with a group of people in venlo. the shops are open once a month on sundays, and its really awesome. they have live music/dancing/dj's in the shops, and there are sales, etc. i was good though, and all i bought was food at McDonalds. (yes, McDonalds!) mickie D's is a totally DIFFERENT experience in europe. first of all, the restaurant is three stories high, outfitted with well-dressed employees, marble tables and a practically gourmet menu. i dont think you get the disgustingly huge portions you would get in the u.s. i had a grilled chicken sandwich (so lekker!) and SPA blauwe, which is basically your average bottle water. i loved mcDonalds as it seemed so civilized. it seemed like a place that (gasp) i would be forced to take my family when they visit in the spring. the next weekend i went to Lisa's for the weekend. on the way back (i went up on a friday and came back that sunday), at amsterdam centrale trein statie (amsterdam has about five train stations), i took the train before my train (oops) and ended up in Uitgeest (beyond Haarlem), with absolutely no clue what to do other than freak out and fight back tears. i asked some woman in dutch if she spoke english, then explained my dilemna. as my debit card doesnt work in the automated ticket machines, she bought me a ticket with her own money (!), then when i was only able to pay her back some of it, waved it off. then she practically held my hand the train ride back to amsterdam. upon realizing that i didnt need that return ticket, she went with me to the service desk where a very nice guy refunded my ticket and gave me a printed-out itinerary of my return ride and a booklet on "how to ride the trains in holland". it wasnt just for stupid americans, but rather for uniformed spanish, italian, german, french and english-speaking commuters. then i said goodbye to my savior (who said it had been very nice meeting me and wished me luck) and traveled back to venlo, where i arrived a little after 9:30. i had biked to the station in venlo and stored my bike beneath with all the other bikes (you have to pay 3 euros for them to watch the bikes for three days). i then biked back to the house and went to sleep, very very relieved. that lady really made my day/month/exchange experience thus far. this past weekend i had anouk and renee over to watch a movie (Bridget Jone's Diary). vera's boyfriend Roy and Lianne and her friend Eefje were there too, so the house was packed. this friday im planning to meet with Levy and Effende (two 2-grade friends= 14 yr. old) to go shopping in Blerick at the market.
to explain where i live... Blerick has a montpelier-sized town center but is the size of east montpelier. venlo is an actual burlington-sized city. it has lots of stores, and at night (generally on the weekends), the city square is full of people having drinks. ive discovered that many things taste better here, especially the iced tea. i had it when i went shopping that one sunday, and it was zoooo lekker!! i was kind of dissapointed to learn that everyone here pretty much dresses the same way, guys included. that means tight clothes and pointy boots. they would all be totally out of place in vermont. everyone has cell phones, including 10 year old kids, and everyone bikes. you only have to be 16 to drive a moped here but 18 to drive a car, so some kids have mopeds. theres no reason (or room) for cars. when it rains (which seems to be fairly regularly) nothing is stopped. people just go on as they were doing. they seem almost not to notice it. meals are ALWAYS together, including breakfast and lunch when possible. no one freaks out about school after high school. I LOVE VLA AND FRITJES!!
 
27/9/04 school is really great right now. last friday i went into Blerick with two friends and we talked to a vendor who is from england:
him: "where are you from?"
me: "im american."
him: "someone has to be." anyways it was nice to talk to a native english speaker. saturday my friend caroline (who wants to go to the u.s. with YFU next year) came over around 3 and stayed until 10. we had fun. and on sunday i went with wim, elly and my friend renee (my neighbor as well) to Bobbejanland, an amusement park in Belgium. it was fun, a gift (cadeautje) from Wim's work for all of the bus drivers. i still feel slightly ill from all the upside down turning, twisting, etc. right now i have a free period and am in the bibliotheek (library). some more definitions:
 
broed- bread
appel- apple
appelmoes- apple sauce
appelstroop- apple syrup, kind of similar to apple butter
hagelslag- lekker (delicious) chocolate sprinkles that go on boterham (sandwiches)
hazelnootpasta- nutella-like chocolate spread
kaas- cheese
kip- chicken
broedje- roll
jam- jam
honing- honey
mes- knife
lapel- spoon
lapelje- small spoon, tea spoon
kop- cup
 
 
22/9/04 ok... so school...right now im taking Frans (french), engels (english), nederlands (dutch), maatschipeilij (social studies, im not sure of the spelling), G.S. (i wont even try to spell the real name, history), L.O. (physical education), CKV1 (cultural studies, kunst (art), muziek en theater), CKV2 (kunst (hands-on, sculpting, etc). my favorite class is surprisingly french, which i didnt want to take here, but its very fast paced and i feel like im learning more nederlands (dutch) in french than in nederlands klas.
as far as friends go, im making an effort to meet new people every day. we have a Sportdag coming up, and im playing football on a team. according to one girl here (who is very good at football... soccer that is), im pretty good (hahah). also, yfu has recruited me to be a part of a couple of events. lianne is going to. theyre mostly informational meetings for prospective exchange students. i think im also going to work on blariacum's school paper because i know some people that are doing it. one of them said he could translate my english work, but i might hold off the writing until my dutch is fluent.
food... the diet here is incredible. they eat chocolate on bread (either in the form of chocolate sprinkles, i.e. hagelslag or boterhampasta (basically nutella)), vlaa (pudding) and meat every single night (practically), yet theyre all incredibly thin and healthy. it must be the bike riding, which is nice this time of year (with some leaves on the ground) although the wind makes it difficult to ride. im in love with vlaa, all flavors, although chocolate is especially good. hagelslag/pasta (pasta meaning the nutella) is also lekker (yummy.) i have a feeling im going to miss the food a lot when i go home. anways... ttyl~~SARAH
 
16/9/04 i dont feel like doing a traditional update so here's a fun activity!! QUIZ-
 
1) non-alcoholic beer is served in the cantine (cafeteria) to 4th and 5th year students (im a fourth year). TRUE/FALSE
 
2) dutch people eat chocolate sprinkles on their sandwiches (called hagel slag), affixed to the bread with a layer of butter TRUE/FALSE
 
3) dutch bikes have a keyhole so that when one needs to leave one's bike, one (one one one) only needs to remove the key TRUE/FALSE
 
4) it is illegal to grow marijuana TRUE/FALSE
 
5) dutch people are the tallest in the world TRUE/FALSE
 
ANSWERS: (think of your answers before you look)
 
1) false
2) true, and it is incredibly lekker (yummy)
3) true
4) false (up to a certain number of plants)
5) true
 
11/9/04 if you've noticed that im listing the dates differently now, its because this is the way they do it in europe... anyways... summary of first school week: my meeting with meneer Baeten went well (headmaster). the next day i met my mentor, Meneer Kuijpers, who is a very nice English teacher w/ a british accent. i guess european english teachers learn english british, so for one class a day i feel like im in england. i sat nice to a nice girl named Viona (pronounced Fiona) who was new to that class but not the school. i was introduced to not too much gawking. the next day went well. before school started i sat with Viona and her friends, one of which (Annouk) lived in montreal for two years as a result of her father's work, so she helped me a lot. my first class was the equivilent of social studies, the dutch name is too difficult to spell right now. next came the equivilent of history with a teacher who didnt speak too much english but is very nice. then was a 20 minute break where i hung out with Viona and her friends, then french (where i was instructed to introduce myself... in french: je suis une etudiente etrangere, j'habite au vermont, aux etats-unis...), then lunch break, then gym (it doesnt seem like it will be hellishly hellish like gym at MHS), then i biked home. all in all it was a good day. thursday wasnt as good, i felt like people were ignoring me, but i had english class (very good), a free period, social studies, CKV2 (art) and CKV1 (cultural studies), then i went home. i have a very free schedule compared to most dutch students, which is nice in a way. Friday was a good day. i had dutch, french (where i sat with renee, my neighbor, who is very very nice) and met a really nice girl named Lieke (not sure of actual spelling) and people actually talked to me. then came CKV1, then gym (not too horrible). we have an all-day sports day in oktober and im signed up for football (soccer!), then history, which was really nice because i was paired with a dutch girl who was very nice and translated the lesson for me, and i also talked to some other people from the class. i get stares everyonce and a while but i dont mind. i love biking around, especially into venlo. i feel so independent shopping and finding my way there. i got an adorable Jip en Janneke lunch case, only 1,90 euros at HEMA. today is the goddings'25th anniversary party, so about 60 people will be here. roy (vera's boyfriend, vera, lianne and i will be the önly "kids".
yesterday, Wim drove to Den Bosch to pick up my camera (!!) from barry's mother. so now i have an ultra sleek digital camera of my own!! ttyl~~SARAH
 
6/9/04 anyways, summary of france: the goddings have a camper (what they call a caravan), just like most other dutch families (and european families from what ive seen). that is attached to the car, where we sit when we're driving. every two and a half hours (give or take) we would stop and have tea/coffee. i actually like tea now that ive realized that all the flavor was in how much sugar you added. the campsite was called Le Moulin de Roche, and was a two second walk from this gorgeous chateau/mansion type building (Le Roche as it was called). when we first got the campsite, it was a mix of french, spanish, dutch, british, german and irish people, but by the time we left, the only people left were dutch, as the dutch start school later than everyone. i felt very proud whenever i got the chance to speak french, even if it was only "je ne parle pas francais". vera and i stayed in the tent and every morning we would wake up and have the traditional dutch breakfast, but with the traditional french bread/baguette. each day we did something different. one day we canoed 22 kilometeres from Sarlat to Beynac, one day we went to Castelnaud (a real fortress in the middle ages), and on saturday we went to the marche in Sarlat, which was huge by montpelier standards. Sarlat was this really stereotypical french town where we went to dinner a couple of times. it was just like something out of the movies-- little old women carrying french bread, tiny, tiny cars and foie gras shops everywhere. i like the french food a lot, even though its very rich. i made a mental note of Sarlat as a possible future residence. everyone talks about european drivers being so "crazy", but its hard not to be when driving on these incredibly narrow, twisted roads. its no more dangerous than new york city, which is to say the speed was kind of fun. my favorite part of the trip was the wandering around Sarlat, hearing people babble in French and understanding a lot of conversation. i can understand a lot in Dutch now, and for your benefit, ill give a little lesson:
 
basic expressions:
hallo- hello
Dag- hello, good day
dankuvel/dankjewel - thank you
hoe heet jij? - who are you?
ik ben... - i am
mijn naam is- my name is
ik kom uit Amerika- i come from america
ik denk dat- i think that
Waar woont u?- where do you live?
in welke stad en in welke straat? - in which city and in which town?
Wanneer ben je geboren? - when were you born?
ik ben moe- i am tired
ik ben de lerares- i am the teacher
 
counting-
een, twee, drie, vier, vijf, zes, zeven, acht, negen, tien
 
hoe laat is het? - what time is it
het is drie uur- it is three o'clock
het is kwart over negen- it is 9:15
het is kwart voor seven- it is 6:45
het is tien over half seven- it is 6:40
 
vocabulary:
colors:
blauw, groen, zwart (black), rose, bruin, wit, oranje
months:
januari, februari, maart, april, mei, juni, juli, augustus, september, oktober, november, december
days of the week:
maandag, dinsdag, woensdag, donderdag, vrijdag, zaterdag, zondag
 
that is all for today :) ttyl ~SARAH
 
3/9/04
back from france!! glad to be home, although i liked it very much. we drove two days each way (the first time through belgium, the second through luxembourg and germany). im proud to say that after two weeks of dutch lessons, i can differentiate between german and dutch, as well as understand a lot of dutch conversation. we stayed in campsites where they had pools, so vera and i got to swim. i did a lot of reading (read about 2,500 pages of english books) and was VERY surprised at how cold it gets at night in france. also amazed at how similar vermont and france are. no wonder they named it "vermont"-- ver=green, mont=mountains... anyways, george (bush) is on tv, must stay tuned into my country's doings... ttyl~SARAH
 
hi! i just got back from YFU orienation camp. it was fun and i made some friends who i (hopefully) will keep in touch with. since im leaving tomorrow (early morning) for "holiday" in france, i wont be having email access for two weeks. ive started a website though, so if you want to see what ive done so far, go to http://serefinavt.tripod.com/ ttyl! love~~SARAH
 
hi all. im working on my website right now.
yesterday elly, lianne and i had dinner together. we had fun just laughing and joking around. then we had tea/coffee while watching TV. we watched SesameStraat (Sesame Street) in dutch for my benefit. i didnt understand very much but my host family keeps telling me that my pronunciation is very good, and lianne told me today she was surprised at my progress, as it was hard for her to learn estonian during her first week there. i havent even been here a week and i already feel pretty comfortable.
this morning, i woke up to breakfast. it was just me, lianne and elly. we had a good time again. then they showed me Zeeland on the map, an area that was flooded pretty badly in 1953. since then, they've worked on the dike system and its held up since then. we looked through a book on holland, and lianne and i planned to go shopping in venlo later that afternoon. when lunch and afternoon rolled around, elly and wim (who had just returned home) decided that we would go "hiking,"but in holland, hiking translates to walking. we drove to a national park and took an hour-long walk through the moors. it was very peaceful and nice. then we drove to Arcen (pronounced Arsen) where we got ice cream and checked out the historical sites. its a very historical-looking town, straight out of the travel books. we also saw a swan by the shore, which came about half a foot away from me and looked like it wanted to eat me. the ice cream was huge, and i ordered it myself!! "Aan After Eight, alstublieft,"was what i said, meaning "one after eight, please". i was very proud of myself. the ice cream was named appropriately enough because of the huge amount of after eight minutes stuffed into the dish. it was very good but too rich and i felt a little sick afterwards. we drove home to venlo and had dinner (still feeling sick i only had a little). i feel fine now and im about to sit down with the family to watch the olympic opening ceremony. elly's sister and family are coming to watch. ttyl. love~~SARAH
 
 
Hi again! Sry i didnt write yesterday. After the usual breakfast yesterday (vera’s boyfriend Roy joined us), wim and i biked into venlo and to his parents house. They were so nice and welcoming. I felt like i was with family. We had tea (i opted for water... ive been having so much tea lately) and waffle cookies that are tres bien!! Then we biked home after talking with them for a while, had lunch, and lazed around the house, reading the various english books i had picked up at the library a couple days earlier. Wim ordered me a digital camera from germany, so it will take a while to get here and wont be here for orientation camp, unfortunately. Wim is going to let me use their digital for orientation week, so ill have lots of pictures to show. Sorry i havent sent many personal emails... ive been really overwhelmed with everything. Im going to try to make a website so itll be easier to update. After wim left (for work again), elly, lianne, vera and i had dinner and sat around making cards. Vera makes cards out of leftover paper scraps that are really cool, and lianne is working on her estonia abroad scrapbook. I made a birthday card voor Mama. We had tea (i opted for lemonade) and then went to bed. It took me a while to fall asleep though, but eventually it came. This morning, elly and i had breakfast together then biked into venlo to register me with the local consulate. That went well (the whole transaction was in dutch so i could listen to dutch conversation. Im now officially legal here! (for a year, that is). We picked up some bread at the bakery and biked home to have lunch (chicken sandwiches... yay!!!) ive been updating my iPod and emails since then. Anyways ttyl... love~~SARAH

Hi again!!

 

Right now im sitting at the computer while dinner is being prepared. Yesterday after my latest email, lianne returned home from work and we, along with her best friend, went to the local pool. The water was refreshing, especially in this heat wave, but it was nice just to sit down in the shade, eating my Solero Exotic ice cream-type-thingy bar, which is, by the way, just as good as most American ice cream. I miss pigging out on frozen blueberries and eating pizza,which im told isnt a common meal here. Im not starving though. After biking home from the pool, i lounged around for a while. We had dinner, then biked into downtown venlo (which is actually a bustling city) for a Free Funk Festival, with a cover band from Belgium (lianne told me you could tell they were Belgian by their soft accents) doing covers from 70’s disco/funk hits, all in English. That was fun, but lianne had to work today, so we went home by 10. (or 22 o’clock) i had a good sleep last night, and vera, elly and i had breakfast together this morning (the standard... i miss cereal). After that vera, elly and i biked back into venlo (about a ten minute bike ride), first to shop for elly (we went to HEMA, a european version of Target, then C + A, then some other stores I can’t remember), then to the library to get me a library pass (8 euro) and to check out books (i got six of them, all in english. Right now im reading the Fear of Flying by erica jong). Then we picked up some photos and biked back home. Wim was home, so we had lunch (again.... standard), and i went upstairs to read my new books and lounge around. Im loading songs onto my iPod, which unfortunately deleted my 554 songs when i plugged it into the goddings’computer. No big deal, since they have cd’s and kazaa as well. So talk to yáll later. ~~SARAH

 

hi everyone! (hallo!)

last night i didnt get to bed until about 2 in the morning... i couldnt sleep, so i just read. this morning, everyone was gone to work except elly and i, so we had what seems to be a typical breakfast (toast and coffee/tea), then settled in the living room to read the Dagblad de Limburger (the paper for the Limburg province). i translated a caption for a picture in the sports page!! my dutch pronunciation is "really good"according to my host family, so hopefully learning the language wont be as hard as everyone thinks. after that, elly and i played Rummikub, and she taught me dutch numbers and letters (Een, Twee, Drie, Vier, etc...). its hard for the goddings to speak what they call Dutch-Dutch to me because they speak a dialect that isnt understood easily outside of venlo. but theyre trying. im still homesick and would definetly jump a plane home without thinking about it, but i like it here. im really looking forward to YFU camp, since Lianne told me that people that are coming to Holland who arent from the U.S. will be there as well, so I'll get to meet lots of other people from all over. i feel like im in the u.s. right now because the radio is playing almost all american pop music, although the announcers speak dutch. this thursday elly is going to take me into town (on bikes) to register my visa/apostille thing. i have yet to spend a euro.

anyways, i will write later!! love~~SARAH

August 8, 2004

Hi everyone!

Im sitting in my “house” (which, although cozy, willy never have the comfort of 37 Bailey Avenue), composing this in microsoft word. My family told me today that in two weeks, when i get back from introduction camp, we going on “holiday”in the south of france in their camper!!! Its a two day drive there (in a camper... yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Wim, my host dad, is on a bus trip right now to cornwall, england, and vera, my eldest host sister, is in town with her boyfriend. My stuff is mostly unpacked in my tiny room. I honestly dont feel like im in a different country. If you didn’t bother to really pay attention to conversation, you would almost think you were listenign to english-speaking people. So far i know several dutch words and phrases, but very little spelling. I can say “hello,” “goodbye”, “thank you”, “please” and with a little luck, name a lot of the “things” aroudn the house. (today my host sisters and i plastered appliances, furniture etc with post-its of the dutch names for them, with the help of the ernie and bert learn dutch book). Anyways, my flight went fine. My flight to washington was short (2 hours) and unventful. The plane was tiny and there was a lot of turbulence. I also felt pretty sick, stomach wise, but i dont think it was from the plane. I was just getting panicked about finding the international terminal in Dulles when a guy named Johnny with a YFU shirt grabbed me and led to where the other soon-to-be-dutch-YFU-ers were. Two of them were from san fransisco, one was from Dallas, TX and the other was from st. Cloud minnesota. We got on the plane, and from then on, i felt like i was in holland already. Everyone was so tall (for the most part) and blonde (for the most part), all speaking dutch to eachother like they were all heading to one big family reunion. I sat next to the st. Cloud girl and the texas boy and we all talked off and on during the flight. None of us really slept (very uncomfortable) although the plane thankfully had movies (i saw eternal sunshine of a spotless mind and 13 going on thirty), t.v. channels and music. The food wasnt horrible, surprising considering how much time my Mom (as in annie brin) had spent bashing it, being the food snob that she is. Eventually we touched down in schipol, spent half and hour getting through customs (thirty seconds for that part) and getting our baggage, then making our way out to the greeting area. I saw elly first, waving. I tried to wave but i was grabbing on with dear life to my huge suitcases. At that point i lost track of the other YFU-ers. I was so excited to be there!! Then Wim gave me a hug and a kiss, as did the girls and we made our way to the car in the parking lot. There we had sandwiches and iced tea (which is incredibly different and good from american iced tea). Then we got in the car. I talked with my host sisters the entire two hour ride back. It was like entering canada—incredibly flat and boring, and my butt was getting sore. Then we got to their neighborhood of blerick (one of about five in venlo), and Aan De Wassum 33 (their house). The neighborhoods are all made up of houses that are touching and nearly identical. Then we got inside, where we sat down and had apple cake, coffee and tea (i opted for tea). I gave them the presents (they liked them and are referring to the little book about vermont as the “little vermont book”, as in “i read in the little vermont book that...”) after tea we talked for a little while then i went to unpack. After unpacking, the jet lag started to hit me, and i felt incredibly tired/dizzy. I lay down and before i knew it elly was waking me up, telling me it was time for lunch. I didnt know where i was or what i was doing, and it turned out i had been sleeping for only an hour, which only made me feel more strange since i had felt like it was a week. We then had lunch (bread, margarine, jam and c(k)offee), and wim told me i could call home to talk to mom, which started me crying. I managed to stop a minute later, and we took a hour-long walk around the neighborhood and area. After that, i retreated to my room (where i felt certain i wanted to go home) and tried not to fall asleep. Soon dinner was ready, and we had a full meal (more dishes after dishes after more dishes...etc). after dinner we (my host sisters and i) watched a dutch movie on T.V. (Flodder)... very interesting. One of the main stars lives about “30 kilometers”away from them in venlo. It was around that point when i realized i had major culture shock. Then i went back up to my room, where i read for a while, took a shower and was told it was yet again time for tea/coffee. Coffee for me this time. After dinner (wim left for a trip around the nearby area), i went to my room, read, and went to bed my ten. I was woken up at 9:20 for breakfast (bread, jam and butter with coffee/tea), then Wim, Elly and I took a bike ride through venlo (not the city) by the river Maas and into another town who’s name i cant remember, then back again. Then lianne and i walked to the local pool, where we swam for a while. (it was basically your average pool until lianne pointed out a man behind us smoking pot, though technically you’re not allowed to smoke it in public places). We talked, mostly about american movies and things, laughing a lot. We had ice cream then went back into the pool to play monkey-in the middle. Lianne said that she was so glad we got along, then told about her horrible host families (2 because the first one got so bad) who ignored her at best. Then we returned and began the labeling process, then had dinner (chicken). Wim left...and here i am. Now lianne is watching sabrina the teenage witch with subtitles. I love you everyone and miss you all and please write!!! My adress is..

Sarah Billian

Aan de Wassum 33

Venlo

5925 HA

The Netherlands

Love again~~SARAH