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May 2012

I Still Love Against Me! Always Will.

This post is a little different than normal, it has nothing to do with living in The Netherlands, but does have something to do with my life and loves. 

Today, I found out that the lead singer's of one of my favorite bands has gender dysphoria. Even though the news broke in March, I have been living a separate life from cultural news since moving to The Netherlands. For those of you who don't know, gender dysphoria means that a person does not feel like they belong in the body/gender they were born into. 

I have been a fan of Against Me! Since I was 18, I can accurately remember the first time I heard one of their songs, Caviler Eternal, it was on a University camping trip/ protest for off shore drilling. It was also my first time ever streaking. I have fond memories. I have seen the band 7 times and I really enjoyed Tom Gabel's solo album. Yes, I do like their earlier stuff better than Trash Unreal, but it is not as bad as everyone who has been a fan for a long time claims. 

Last night, the band had their first show with their new front women, Laura Jane Grace. She is currently undergoing hormone treatments. Tom was married to a women and Heather her wife has been very supportive and is sticking by. As a fan, it makes me so incredibly proud that the band is sticking by their lead singer during what has to be a difficult process. 

It will be interesting to see where the band goes musically. I can't wait to see them live again. Come to Europe! 

 

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Le Guess Who May Day and De Zelf Gemaakte Markt

This weekend was soo much fun! The sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky, could this really be The Netherlands. Since I have been traveling non-stop this month, I wanted to actually spend this weekend in Utrecht! 

Saturday, there was a ton of stuff going on in the Center! I checked out a bit of the Le Guess Who May Day Festival and de zelf gemaakte markt.

Le Guess Who is a music festival that takes place in the Fall every year in Utrecht. I have never actually been, but I think it is kind of a big deal. They also have the Le Guess Who May Day and Mini May Day. The Mini May Day has bands popping up and playing mini shows at local businesses. The businesses would receive a new band about every 30 minutes. You could tell the local businesses that were a part of it by the giant question marks stationed outside. This one is in front of The Village Coffee and Music on Voorstraat. They actually sell coffee there, it isn't the other kind, and it is the  one coffee shop that reminds me the most of the ones I would hang out in, in ATL.

What happened to my text here! Anyway, I also went to de zelf gemaakte markt. For those of you who can't translate the Dutch, think of it as an indie craft fair. It is still fairly small, but I think it is new so it will be interesting to see how it grows. I didn't buy anything, but I was inspired to start crafting again. The next one is June 30th, at the Mariaplaats.

As fun as these things were, I think probably my favorite part was walking around the Center with The Verlo, and later meeting up with All Mussed Up and making some new friends.

Oh, and randomly there were some Romans, complete with chariot. I still have no idea what this was about!?!

What did your long weekend look like?

 

 

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This Week In Instagram Vol.5

It had been unbelievably gorgeous here in the Netherlands this week. In fact, it might have even been a little too hot. This is coming from a girl who was born in Florida and grew up in Georgia. But in the Deep South, we believe in air conditioning! Which is something I've discovered Europeans do not take much faith in.  I've met some great new people, traveled a bit, hid from the world because I was sick of traveling. And, I took some great pictures.

On Monday, I helped out a new batch of journalism students with the same project I helped out with back in March. And, I took some time to hang out in my favorite building in Utrecht. The Centraal Branch of the Library. There is some lovely stained glass in there, including this window.

I like to call these flowers which are actually weeds, Dutch Morning Glories, because they disappear as the day goes on.

I had my second Inburgering meeting this week. The office was about a 25 minute walk from my house. It would have been faster by bike, but as a novice, I make it a point to not bike when I don't know where I am going. Walking also allowed me to take in the scenery more. I discovered this park on my way. It has the mounds that make it interesting because, The Netherlands is flat. This is De Hoge Weide Park.

I feel really bad for my really fluffy cat Atticus, I am sure he is hot. This week, he has been using his paw to open the door to my wardrobe. He then gets stuck in there, but he seems to be happy about it. I think the material it is made of stays cool, so he likes it. Or he is just a freak!

Like I said, it was gorgeous here this week!

We don't have a balcony because we live on the bottom. We also don't have a garden, so we have no outdoor entertaining space to speak of. We do however have garden walls which are just wide enough for my butt. This week, I have taken to sitting outside on the stone with a glass of wine and a book. I'm reading The Discovery of Heaven for my Utrecht Book Club. It is a very popular Dutch novel, but we are reading it in English. Also, notice my awesome foot tan line.

Yes, I live here! Utrecht's Dom Tower looks magnificent in the sunshine!

How was your week? 

 

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Inburging Update: I Left With More Questions than Answers

I was really excited about today. After applying to start the process in January, having my first meeting and my placement test in April, I was finally going to find out when my actual classes would be. 
Unfortunately, that did not happen. I guess I misunderstood when I had read some of the few other blogs that mention the inburgering process. I thought that my second meeting would be where I would find out when and where my classes would be. Instead, we went over the results of my four other tests that I had to take for placement. Turns out, I didn't do so hot on those. I will be starting at level one. Which is fine, that is where I thought I should be. 
Because I am going to a Hogeschool in September, my contact and I had previously decided that I would take daytime classes this Summer (because they are more intensive) and I would switch to evening classes so I could do both schools. Yep, you might as well kiss my butt goodbye in September. Anyway, I had to make sure that this was still okay. My contact was a little skeptical but finally she agreed, again.
Then we had to decide where I would go to school. I was given the choice between the ROC and someplace I have never heard of. Since I am going to be living at the Centraal Station, when I go to Hogeschool and Inburgering I chose the ROC because it is located the closest. I will go in for Orientation sometime on June 4th.
That's it, that is all I know. I will get a letter from the ROC with what time orientation is, and then at some point I will find out when my classes are. My contact also mentioned that there are four classes a week! Four!?! Anyone else have this experience? I guess I will see when I finally get my class schedule! 
For being such an agenda happy group of people, they sure don't make it easy for a girl to plan her life! 
Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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13 Things I Took for Granted

Waffle House

I love living here in Utrecht, but some things the US just does better! Here are some of the things that I took for granted about the US.

Shopping-

  • Prices, everything besides food is cheaper in the United States. I don't think it has that much to do with the exchange rate either. 
  • Mega stores! I really miss one stop shopping. While specialty stores are really quaint, it takes a long time to know where to go for what. I miss knowing that I could get it at Target!
  • Store hours, I respect that people need to spend time with their families. But if you discover that at 3pm on a Sunday that you need a calculator for a test first thing Monday morning, you better hope you live near a major train station that has a book store, because otherwise you are shit out of luck. Unless it is a grocery store, the store will close by 6pm on a weekday, unless it is Thursday when it might be open until 8. Open for four hours on Saturday and closed on Sunday. It is anyone's guess as to when it will be opened.

Food-

  • I miss a good cheeseburger, I haven't found a good one just yet.
  • Mac and Cheese requires some heavy searching for cheddar cheese. 
  • If you forgot something, you have to bike all the way back to get it!
  • Being able to bake a cake when I want to, my oven is the size of a microwave.
  • Taco Bell, Chick fil a, Sonic,Zaxby's,Waffle House, Taco Mac, Marlows. 

Odds and Ends-

  • Magazines, I miss my subscriptions! Subscriptions do not save you any money here, and magazines are expensive.
  • 3 ringed binders, paper here has holes all up and down the side.
  • Office supply stores.
  • Stand up vacums. Seriously, why are all vacuums the kind with long hoses that you have to drag all over the house?

What did you take for granted about your home country?

 

Image Some rights reserved by Guillaume Capron

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This Week In Instagram Vol.4

Whew, this has been a crazy week! I had testing and an interview in Amsterdam for school, Book Club, an interview for a tutoring job, and a last minute freelance job start. It's been great! But I forgot to take a lot of pictures of my explorations. I did however manage a few.

After my test, I went to go meet up with my friend in Amsterdam, I missed the metro stop and decided to walk. Those are swans.

One of my interviews was in the lovely Dutch countryside. How picturesque are these horses?

These wildflowers are popping up everywhere, they also come in bright yellow!

The weather is finally starting to feel like Spring, which means it is time for Spring Cleaning! Today's task was going through all my clothes reorganizing for the warmer weather. I own a lot of floral and a lot of mustard. Who knew?

 

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The Vacation's Over, Real Life Begins, And Why I Am So Glad!

I've been extremely lucky to have an unplanned 7 month adjustment period to my new life in Europe. I realize this, of course I do. I've gotten to explore a little bit of my new corner of the world, spend time cultivating new friendships, read books I've wanted to read, finally realize what I want to do with my life and put a plan into action, and watch A LOT of television. 

It hasn't all been fun and games, I have had to make adjustments, search for a job, get really nasty rejection letters that left my  self esteem in crumbles. I've had to figure out how to apply for inburgering, school and financial aid. I've had to rely really heavily on my partner, which comes with its own self-inflicted heavy guilt.  

But, if I am really honest, I have had it pretty easy so far. In fact, I've been a little bored! Especially since I turned in my applications to start inburgering and to go back to college. I feel like I have been very inpatient and wishing my time away, just so I could have something the.fuck.to.do, and my real life here in The Netherlands could begin. 

You see, I have always been a hard worker. In University in The States, I juggled (not well sometimes) a full class load, 50 hour work weeks, two clubs, and friendships.In my career, I consistently, had one of the largest account loads and still took the time to train new employees, and develop training guides just for my clients. I thrive on having full days. I need structure, and to feel useful. I just do. Otherwise, I will allow myself to sleep my life away. I can be incredibly, appallingly lazy, when I don't have things that I have to do and this is when I can become depressed.

I was just at this point of going stir crazy, and being depressed because I haven't made a single penny in months, that I decided to really throw myself head first into finding a part-time job. I have had four interviews in the last week, with families to come and work with their kids. I have been offered all of the positions, but some I can not take because they would interfere with my inburgering and later school schedule. I have also been contracted to do some freelance writing start this week. On Tuesday, I will find out when my inburgering classes will begin. I'm about to be busy, which is great preparation for September when I will be adding my HBO classes, and I will be . I couldn't be happier. 

To those of you expats who are struggling to find your place, just give it time. Everything will work out in the end, even though  life is looking much different,( in a better way) than I thought before I moved. If you are thinking of becoming an expat, just know that it can be great, but don't plan your life to much before you move, because it will be different than you though!

If neither of the above apply to you, just know that nothing great ever comes unless you are willing to work for it. 

 

 

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Going Back to School as an Expat

I didn't finish University in the States. I won't bore you with the details, just know that I escaped with less than 3,000 dollars in debt, and found a job that allowed me to make enough money to save for my move here in 6 months. I always intended to go back one day, but I couldn't justify spending the money until I was sure of what I wanted. I have never regretted my decision.

Until I moved to The Netherlands. Because going on to higher education is so inexpensive here, tuition is generally less than 2,000 Euros a year, and the government gives away tons of grants. Almost everyone goes. I soon found out that even though I had experience in a rapidly growing field, because I didn´t have a degree I couldn´t so much as land an interview. This gave me a lot of time for self reflection. I realized, I moved across the ocean, why I am trying to get a job in the field I was just using as a place holder, and actually really hated. So, I began looking into colleges here to pursue my ultimate dream job, I want to have my own tour company. 

The Higher Education System here in The Netherlands is different than that at home. For example, there are different levels. There is the MBO level, which I confess I don´t know much about, but it is the lowest level. Then there are the Hogeschools or HBO programs, these can´t really be compared to something in The States, they are very hands on learning. Think anything from Journalism, Marketing, and Midwifery. Universities here are more for things that are very research intensive. Think Science, Literature, Medicine, thinks of that nature. Confused yet? 

Since I want to study Tourism, that is a HBO program. I then had to look for Hogeschools with International Programs that offered International Tourism Management.International, so I can go to school in English. I found three. Two are over a two hour one way trip from Utrecht, and one is in Amsterdam. Due to the fact that Loek´s job and our life are in Utrecht, and that Amsterdam is where the tourists are, I choose the one in Amsterdam. Now, I just had to figure out how to apply and pay for it. 

Luckily, because I am under 30 and on the Visa I am on I will receive some aid. To apply for the program, I had to go on Studielinks and fill out the application. I then had to send in a certified copy of my high school transcripts and diploma. Which means I had to fax in a request to my old school district and have my parents go pick them up and send them to me. I then heard from my school, there was a questionnaire that was required. It was confusing for a few months, because I was being sent all this paper like I was accepted into the school, without an official acceptance letter. 

Yesterday, I had to go in and do an interview and entrance exam. It turns out these things are not a part of the are you in the program or not, but are more of a diagnostic exercise for when we will later be replaced for group projects. One thing that I do like better about the HBO program in comparison to my experience in The States is that every class I take has to do with tourism in some capacity. No core classes for this girl! 

It turns out, I am in to the program! For the next four years, I will be a full/time student. I couldn´t be happier! Look forward to a bunch of posts about this. 

Anyone have any advice on going back to school, or better study habits? They are more than welcome!

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An Ode to My Mother

Yes, yesterday was Mother's Day, but my mom was traveling, so I figured I would write this to her when she would see it. Probably one of the last things that any mother wants to hear is that her daughter is moving across an ocean and is doubtful that she will ever return. Which is what my mother had to deal with when I moved to The Netherlands in October. That being said, she has been amazingly supportive! We have always been incredibly close, but I think moving away from home might have made is even closer. I am so lucky to have her in my life! 

Mom and me at my going away party! Look at the amazing cake!

Me, Nana, Mom, and my Godson Logan

Love you Mom! 

 

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This Week In Instagram Vol.3

It was a super busy week for me, I left Utrecht for interviews on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! Luckily, I managed to get a job from one of them, so it wasn't entirely time/money wasted. Even though I was busy, I did manage to take some photos with my phone. 

I have a book club meeting on Monday, so the beginning of the week I spent a lot of time reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I have some mixed feelings about the novel, but since I have been getting more and more books from the library, instead of buying them for my kindle. Because of this, I was in serious need of a bookmark. I decided to make my own after something I saw on pinterest. Although, I forgot to pin it! Isn't it cute, it slips right over the page! 

Atticus thinks he is the master of our home! He's probably right. There was no more reading for mom!

Leidsche Rijn is an up and coming area. Last year, when we visited the construction site that would be our new apartment, this area was virtually uninhabited and this park was meticulously groomed, with planted lilies. Fast forward a year later, when people are actually living here and it is overgrown and they lilies are gone. What gives?

It wasn't all work and no play on my interview day. Before my appointment in Amsterdam I got to check out the Rembrandt House Museum. (Rembrandthuis) This is where Rembrandt lived before he lost all of his money. If you have a spare afternoon, go there, it's on the Museumkaart! 

When riding my bike to the Jumbo, I discovered there was a thrift store on my way. I finally went and I found a pretty decent selection of English books and this antique speculaas mold. For those of you not in the know, think of speculaas kind of like gingerbread cookies. You place the dough in a wooden mold. This one is huge, more like a speculaas cake and really old. I don't plan on using it for baking but for decoration. It is two sided, there is this one. 

But this is the side I will be displaying, aren't the carvings amazingly intricate?

Last but not least, here is the calzone that The Verlo- made for dinner last night. Mine had cheese and black olives. So lekker! 

 

Tell me about your week! 

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