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American in Europe

This Week In Instagram Vol.6

This week has been a whirlwind of emotions. I am happy to report that I have them now mostly in check. Sometimes, a girl has just got to vent! Especially when she is an obsessive life planner who calls and checks on things at least twice before making her decisions, only to have been told the wrong information. But I digress. I also didn't take that many photos with my phone this week. That is because we got my phone bill and it was 35 Euros over what it was supposed to be. I thought maybe that had to do with my data usage. I have no sense of direction and last month there was a lot of traveling to new places for interviews and to meet up with new friends, so I thought maybe my incessant use of Google Maps and GPS was taking its toll. But no, apparently the problem is I talk too much! This should come as no surprise to people who know me in real life. Probably a few readers could have also guessed that I am very loquacious. My plan for the next phone bill ends in 3 days and I am already 13.50 over. So, the moral dear friends is expect a lot more texts from me to coordinate plans. But, the good news is my data usage is hardly anything. So more pictures! 

As I mentioned in the happier of my two posts this week, on Sunday the Verlo- and I stumbled upon Zumba at the Domplein. Here are some more shoots I took with my phone. As you can see, the weather was yucky, but dancing sure was fun!

Then I caught Mr. Atticus looking adorbs. Seriously, I might be partial, but you would be hard pressed to find a cuter cat. Just look at those furry toes!

I don't know if you know, but the European Championships for Football (Soccer) are happening right now. Voetbal is huge here in The Netherlands. Stores have been stock piling oranje gear for weeks! Holland is in what is know as the Group of Death, with Germany, Denmark, and Portugal. Our first game was last night against Denmark. I went all out with my adorable lion mane that we got for buying a lot of Holland Edition MM's. Too bad we lost! Even though we had possession of the ball I'm guessing 95% of the game. We just had a bit of trouble with too much heat on the ball, as our shoots kept flying over the goal post. Oh and Denmark's goal was absolute shite. Seriously, luck was not on our side. Next up we get to play Germany who beat Portugal last night.

Next week I promise to be in a better mood! I am excited for my inburgering classes to finally begin on Tuesday, but the shy kid I was in high school is starting to sneak back in. I am convinced that I will have to introduce myself in Nederlands before the class that already knows each other, so I have been rehearsing what to say about myself all week! Yep, I'm nerd. Also, this was my first full week of giving up soda, and I have been exponentially more tired. Next week, I'll be consuming more coffee.

What did your week look like?

 

 

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Zumba in Front of the Dom

Sometimes, you stumbled upon marvelous things in Utrecht. One Sunday a month, the city hosts Culturele Zondag, (Cultural Sunday). Most of them have theme's, I missed the last two months, but I wrote about March's. This month's theme had to do with Dance. There were different stages of set up all over the city for different dance troops to perform, the only problem is that it was freezing and raining here on Sunday. We are talking in the 50's!

The Verlo- and I did venture out for a bit, where we came across a Zumba lesson going on right in the Domplein.

This is the instructor who worked really hard to get the crowd into it!

The crowd really got into it! Including me, although there is no evidence of that.

On Saturday, Utrecht celebrated its 890th birthday. Although, the city is much older than that. This booth was set up to have people make flags in honor of the city. They are to be hanged all over. 

Despite the freak out Monday and Tuesday, I can't imagine myself happier in any other place.

 

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Inburgering Orientation, Or When Culture Shock Finally Hit Me and I Burst into Tears.

This has been a rough week and it is only Tuesday! Yesterday, I had my Inburgering Orientation. I was going to write this post then, but thought that maybe things would seem better in the morning. They haven't. Let's start at the very beginning.

You might recall from my last post about Inburgering that I was waiting for the letter telling me at what time and where my Inburgering Update would be. I finally got that letter last week. My orientation was to be from 1pm-3pm. The location, is really hard to get to by public transportation. Already not ideal. I went to look on Saturday so I would make sure I didn't get lost on the way to the school. It took me 45 minutes by bus. 

Now to the actual orientation. This was fine, the lady was really nice, but people were very disappointed because they only offer 3 classes in the morning, a really slow class, an A1-A2 class, and a B2 class. I know this probably doesn't mean much to you, but these are the different levels they have for learning Nederlands. I was put into an afternoon class for 0-A1, even though when I tested I was between A1 and A2. When people asked about the evening class, they were told there was only one and it was really advanced. Shit, I need to switch to evening classes in September because, I am going to school. Freak out moment number 1. To be fair, my contact did tell me to call her when I am ready to switch, so I am hoping at a different location, they will have an evening class that fits me. I also switched to the A1-A2 morning class, because I looked through the other book and I knew it all.

One of the weirdest things I think about Inburgering is that you join a class already in session. My afternoon class is already on chapter 5, and my morning on chapter 3. Doesn't language build on itself? Doesn't it seem like you are already setting up people to fail? Wouldn't you want to make sure people have the basics down if you are paying the 5,000 Euros I read somewhere that the inburgering process costs per person?

Also, I start classes next week, but the school is on vacation from July 7th until August 27th. So, I will be in class for four weeks and then out for a month an a half. I'm going to forget everything! So, basically, I was so frustrated with the worry that I might have to teach myself an entire level of dutch to be able to take the evening class, that I came home and cried my eyes out. Because, here is the thing, I want to be a part of society here. I want to get a job, I want to attend school and better myself so that I can be a contributing member of society. Why does it have to be so hard?

To compound my frustration, I also found out that I might not be entitled to as much financial aid for my HBO program as I was originally told. Don't get me wrong, I am appreciative that I get any. But when you were told to expect 509 Euros a month, but you might actually only get around 250, that is kind of a big difference. This on top of the sorry you don't speak Dutch email I just got from the student employment agency in Utrecht. I guess I will try the one at my Hogeschool which I was told help International Students. But all this together makes someone even with my resolve that this is where I am supposed to be, curl up into fetal position and wonder if I can even afford to stay here with the love of my life. 

Don't worry, I am a fighter, I'll make it through, but why's it got to be so hard? 

Words of encourgment greatly appreciated! 

 

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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This Week In Instagram Vol.6

Welcome to the first This Week in Instagram of June! I traveled a lot this week. I might as well get used to it, come September, I'll be going to Amsterdam for school at least four days a week! I continued one tutoring job and started another. I also attended a Trial Study Day for my Tourism Program and it got me even more pumped to be back in school! Here is how my week looked in pictures! 

Light is so different here than in Georgia! This is the beginnings of a sunset, at 10:22pm! Don't worry, it starts coming up again around 6am!

There is a street in Utrecht where the lamp posts all have sayings or ads. This is my favorite, it says "Evening Time is Reading Time". I wholeheartedly agree. 

One of the families I tutor live in the most beautiful countryside. I get to see all kinds of animals I miss by living in the burb's. This week, I was greeted by close encounters of the swan kind. 

Just a little but closer.

Then I came upon these cuties. 

Last week, I took a photo on some unknown flower. I found out that these are actually poppies! They are everywhere this week!

Some more poppies!

Next week, I finally have my orientation at my Inburgering School. Look for that post Monday afternoon!

What did your week look like? I would love to hear! 

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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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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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