Blog posts

In Memoriam: Atticus Hawthorne Baak July 2010 to December 27, 2012

This post fills me with such sorrow. Last Thursday, Loek and I had to put our beloved cat Atticus down. He suddenly lost a lot of weight and was sleeping a lot over Christmas so we took him into the vet when it reopened. We were quickly told that he had an incurable virus and which was made more complicated by his inability to breath through his nose. Because he was in so much pain, we really had no other choice. 

For those of you who have been reading for a long time, you know that I brought Atti with me from the States. He was the best cat that anyone could ever ask for. 

Part Two of School Daze in Holland Series: You Better Like Your Classmates, You See Them Everyday.

The process for class scheduling in the Netherlands and the US, could not be more different. In the United States, students who are pursuing higher education are given the chance to make their own schedules. In the Netherlands, you are placed into a class, and you have the exact same schedule as the rest of the 25 people in your class. While the smaller class sizes are nice, and the chance to really get to know people well almost instantly is there. For someone who previously got to decide if she was going to make her schedule so that she didn't have 8am classes, or classes on Friday, if she was lucky, this can be quite an adjustment. 

In the States, if you were having a bad week, no one knew. You probably only had one class a week with a group of people, and your next class would be full of completely new people. Now, if I have a bad week, everyone knows about it because I have the same 25 people in my class for every single class. There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to both systems. 

Advantages to US System:

  • Students get the chance to feel that they are in control of their education.
  • Students are allowed the opportunity to mingle and make connections with a massive group of people.
  • Students get to try out different things to really see if they made the right choice in their major. 

Disadvantages to US System:

  • It can be incredibly difficult to make new friends when you first get to college.
  • Large class sizes.
  • The feeling that you are unsupported by your classmates.

Advantages to Dutch System:

  • The ability to make friends easily, because of the sheer amount of time you spend together.
  • Smaller class sizes.
  • Every single class has to do with your field of study.

Disadvantages to Dutch System

  • You see the same people over, and over again. There is little chance to meet anyone else.
  • You have no control over your schedule. Which particularly sucks if you take two buses and a train to get to school and you have a four hour break between classes. 
  • For someone who had the freedom before, it can feel like a step back. The last time I was in school and couldn't pick at least one of my classes was 7th grade.

The jury is still out on to which system works better. I am pretty lucky in that I like most of my classmates. The two girls above are some of my favorites! However, if you didn't, it would be a long two years. 

What is scheduling like where you are from? 

The Kaiserslautern Fountain

Back in August, my mom and I went to Germany to visit some longtime family friends. You might recall our bus tour in Frankfurt. Most of our time however was spent in Otterbauch, Otterburg, and the larger town of Kaiserslautern. 

Kaiserslautern is a charming town in Rhineland and is located on the edge of the Palatinate Forest. It was the favorite hunting spot of Holy Roman Empire of Frederick I who lived in the 1100's. Kaiserslautern is located on the Lauter river, hence the name. 

Nowadays, Kaiserslautern is home to 50,000 NATO employees. I want to show you more of this charming place, but today, I want to show you one of my favorite featured of the town. This lovely fountain is a representation of all the industries through out time that made Kaiserslautern thrive throughout its very long history. Check it out!

The fountain topped by a king, actually 2.

I just love this owl with its glasses and gears, very steampunk!

The elephants are another of my favorite features. I have no clue what industry they represent, but they are charming!

I actually love these insects, and the fact that the water is coming out of their bums. 

It wouldn't be K-town without the Kaiser fish!

Mom and I joking around. This photo is to remind me to never have bangs again!

This was one of those pieces of art that you could stare at for hours and still find some new detail you hadn't seen before. This has got to be one of my favorite fountains. Do you have a favorite fountain? 

 

Part One of School Daze in Holland Series: MBO, HBO or WO, Higher Education Levels or TV Channels?

Welcome to part one of my series of unknown length trying to explain my experiences in Higher Education in the Netherlands. This series could go on indefinitely, or, it could be 3 posts long. We will know when we get there. 

In part one, I would like to explain some of the different types of Higher Education available in the Netherlands. Today we are going to focus on MBO, HBO or Hogeschool, and WO or Universitit. These different levels are hard for foreigners to grasp mainly because they try to compare them to the Higher Education Systems of their home countries. Don't do it! 

*It is important to note that the levels start in high school, but since I haven't attended high school here, you are going to have to look elsewhere for this information.

MBO is for immediate entrance into vocational studies. The type of things available for study here are graphic design, computer languages and multimedia, teaching assistant, youth worker, and so forth. MBO get a bad rap sometimes due mainly to the different level and deregulation of the schools. I have yet to see a MBO available in English. This is strictly for the Dutch and doesn't really have an international equivalent. 

HBO is often referred to by Americans as a Community College equivalent. I don't really think you can compare the Dutch System to the American one due to the fact that International HBO students do earn a bachelor's degree. The difference mainly between HBO and WO is that HBO is more practical and hands on where are WO is more theoretical. For example, if you want to be a teacher, journalist, social worker, or manager you would go to HBO. I am currently in HBO for International Tourism Management. I wish it was more of the cake walk that people who do not understand the system make it out to be. I am more intensely busy in my HBO program then I was at either of the two US Universities I attended. HBO students are also said to be more prepared to go straight into the work market due to the many practical aspects of their studies. 

WO or Universitit is as I said before more theoretical and research intensive. This is for your scientists, future doctors and lawyer, historians and so forth, go. 

HBO students can get a HBO Masters, or they can get a WO Masters after the HBO Masters. 

I hope this cleared up some of the differences between the different levels of the Dutch System. I know it is confusing, so questions are always welcome. 

 

Image from Wikipedia

6 Reasons Trains are Better than Cars

Audrey Hepburn

I do not miss driving. Seriously, the process to get a driver's license in this country is insane and I have no desire to have one again. I quite enjoy my daily commutes by train. Sure, it can be annoying when they are slightly late, and I hate not finding a seat, but these things are rare enough that the trade isn't even comparable. Here are 9 reasons trains are better than cars. 

1. I get more done in my daily commute. When I lived in the US, I would drive to work each way for at least 30 minutes. In that time, I could only accomplish one thing, drive. In the same amount of time on a train, I can read, study, or do my homework from the night before. I can also eat my lunch or dinner. I can plug in my computer. My commute is no longer a time suck, I am more productive. 

2. There are bathrooms on the intercity's. A little background, in the Netherlands there are sprinters which stop at every train station along the route, or there are intercity's which stop only at major stations. Intercity's have bathrooms on board. While I have never used on personally, it is comforting to know that if I needed to I could. Unlike in a car where you have to find somewhere to pull over and go. 

3. Trains are better for the environment. If there are 100 people on a train, that is 100 cars that are not on the road. The carbon footprint is less.

4. Traffic sucks. Let's face it sitting in traffic is a bummer. I would much rather be the person in the train whizzing past the cars stuck in traffic. 

5. The view is better. Even though I take the same train from Utrecht Centraal to Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena four to five days a week, I always see something new when I glance out the window. If you are going to a new city, this can be even more exciting. 

6. Trains are romantic. For me, traveling by train makes me feel more European. Like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Or another equally glamorous film star of Hollywood's Golden Era. For me train travel is like being in an old movie or reading Agatha Christie. There is a pure sense of romance about being on a train.

I love trains, for me they are the best way to travel. My ultimate travel dream is to do all the great train routes of the world.

Who's coming with me?

 

Image from http://vintagelifestylemag.co.za 

Date Night and a Golden Calf

We are not really the couple that gets all dressed up for regular date nights. For one, it just isn't really our scene, and we were on one income for a very long time. We do make the occasional exception when it is a special occasion. Which is why we found ourselves in the center of Utrecht Friday night to celebrate my one year Nederland anniversary. We ended up having dinner at our favorite restaurant on the Oudegracht, Den Draeck or The Dragon. 

Loek ordered his usual, the Steak Den Draeck, but I decided that I would try the new surf and turf. This is what arrived. 

I know, it is the weirdest surf and turf I have ever seen, too! To be fair, I snapped this photo after I ate most of the shrimp. It was really tasty too, just not at all what I was expecting. After dinner, which ended at about 8pm because we like to eat early (Loek likes to eat early) we were walking through Hoog Catharijne (think like a mall that attaches to the train station) and we were stop by a girl asking us if we would like to attend the closing movie for the Nederlands Film Festival for free in about 30 minutes. Of course we said yes, and that is how we found ourselves at my first Dutch movie sans subtitles, Pizza Maffia. Both the girl who gave us the tickets and Loek were concerned that I wouldn't be able to follow the movie. But, I didn't have a problem at all! The movie actually wasn't bad. I think maybe I liked it a little more than the average because it has to do with my with job. 

After the film, the director and the camera man stopped by to answer the audience's questions. All and all, not a bad night to celebrate being here for a year! 

The First Year's Over!

I can't believe it, I have now lived in The Netherlands and with Loek for a year today! Soo much has changed in what could be classified by some in a brief amount of time. As, I reflect on the last year, I can't help but feel that although things did not go exactly they way I thought they would when I first moved, I am still incredibly glad I got on the plane with my cat and decided to make a life here with Loek. 

When I first moved, I had no idea what I was really in store for. I did not realize how hard it would be to find a job. I also didn't realize that I would feel like I was in everyone's way whenever I walked out of my house. I have since -found a job, re-enrolled in school fulltime, and I am a speed walker. Here are a few other things that are different now then when I first landed.

I am really good at ease-dropping on conversations in Nederlands, I can read all menus without translation. I know what almost everything is in the grocery store. I can also order and hold a small conversation. I am still really uncomfortable speaking it, but I am sure that will come.

I know how to cook stampot, hutspot, and hachee. I know when oliebollen season is and which fish monger to go to at my local market. This year, I am going to try my hand a homemade speculaas. 

I have almost survived my first period  in an International higher education. It is not harder than the American system, just more work then I remember.

I can help both international and dutch tourists find their way or train in Utrecht and Amsterdam. 

I also learned that no matter where you live, you are the combination of your experiences and where you grew up. 

It is incredibly important to find friends that you can share your experiences with.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who stumbles across this blog. No matter when you started reading, your kind words and questions have made this journey a lot easier than it could have been. Sincerely, thank you! 

A Bus Tour Through Frankfurt

I think I mentioned that when my mom was visiting we went on a very brief trip to Germany. Even though I live just next door for almost a year now, I had never actually visited the country. So, we decided to take a weekend trip to Otterbach, a tiny town just out side of Kaiserslautern, in order to visit one of my mom's greatest friends of the last 35 years. We decided that we would go by train. We left Utrecht and took the ICE high speed train to Frankfurt. We had about a three hour layover in Frankfurt so we decided the best way to see it in such a small time would be a bus tour. Here are some of the pictures I took. 

 

The Train Station

Despite what you might think, German is not actually that similar to Dutch.

Europeans everywhere love the terrace garden. 

I take lots of pictures of churches...always. 

That's it, just a few short hours and we were back on the train to continue our journey. I would like to return when I have more time and visit some museums. Have you ever been to Frankfurt? What did I miss? 

What Has That Girl Been Up To Anyway

I know, I know, it has been forever since I've sat down and blogged. Life got in the way! First, my mom came to visit, then we set off to Germany to visit some family friends. Actually, my mom's good friend of 35 years and her husband. That is an incredibly long time to be friends! Then about two weeks ago, I started back at my 3rd attempt to get my bachelors. This time in International Tourism Management. I like my  , but there are some shocking differences in Higher Education here vs. what I am used to in the States. I'll be sure to write a full expose later on.

I hope to get into a rhythm soon. It has been tough going from staying at home all the time to only having one day off a week. I haven't even added in Inburgering back into the mix, because I have been waiting to be sent my new schedule, and every time I call, they refuse to speak English to me.

I am resolved to get the situation handled this week. So, what have you been up to dear ones?

 

The Oh So Brief Dutch Summer.

living in the netherlands, living in holland, expat in the netherlands, utrecht, summer in europe

This summer has been a tough adjustment for a girl who grew up in the Southern United States. Most of the time, it has been rainy, jacket weather. Last weekend however, it was in the 90's here. It was even too hot for me because very few places have AC here in The Netherlands. The sunshine would not last as it is supposed to be back to its normal rainy self here. Just in time for my mom to visit. But, I do have the photos to remind me of the beautiful, but oh so brief summer weather. Here are some snapshots I took around Utrecht.

 

I love exploring this city! How was your summer?

 

Pages