american expats in the netherlands

Halfway There: 50 Books Read on my 100 Books GoodReads Challenge

At the end of last year, my prospects were slim. I hadn't yet done any research to go back to school here in The Netherlands, and I was receiving more than my fair share of rejection letters, I decided to sign up for the GoodReads Reading Challenge. I figured, if I was going to have all this free time on my hands, and limited funds, I might as well do something valuable with my time. In the GoodReads Challenge you are allowed to pick the number of books you want to read. Since I had all this time on my hands, and I am a freaky fast reader. Seriously, I am not even trying to gloat, everyone has some weird special talent and mine is reading faster than the speed of light.

Well, I finally did it, I made it halfway through the challenge. Officially, that makes me 4 books behind.Not exactly the position that you want to be in when you are about to go into what could be the busiest time in your entire life for the last 4 months of the year. But, I will catch up. I listed some of the best books I read when I was 1/3 of a way through the challenge, so here are the good one's I read from 34 to 50.

  • 1Q84 by Haruiki Murakami: This is probably the strangest book I have ever read. It should be said that I never read Science Fiction so maybe it isn't that weird for the genre. Some part of this book really turned me off, like the obsession with describing all the female character's breasts. But the story itself is interesting and beautifully written.
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman: I knew almost nothing about Hasidic Jews except for what I learned by watching I Love New York. This book really opened my eyes to the fact of how generally lucky I feel to have been brought up in an extremely secular household. 
  • The Surgeon and The Apprentice both by Tess Gerritsen: I really like Rizzoli and Isles, the detective show based on these books. Normally, if I see the show or movie first,I don't bother with the books, because I get bored if I already know the story. In this case however, I enjoyed learning more about the strong female characters.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Interesting take on Zombies, I also read the follow up, but that one is just the same story retold. 
  • The Naming by Alison Croggon: I love love love well written epic fantasy. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The story of one little German village during WW2, as told by the Grim Reaper. It is an interesting concept with great execution. 

You can keep up with everything I have read so far this year here. What is the best thing you have read this year? 


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


Subscribe to RSS - american expats in the netherlands