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living in the netherlands

There is a New Little Lady in Our Lives

I'm still hanging out in Berlin, but I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of our family. This is Lulubell. She is four years old and we adopted her from the Utrecht Dieren Asiel, a no kill shelter here in Utrecht. We adopted her at the end of January, but I wanted to give her time to get used to our family before I introduced her to the world. 

When Loek and I went to visit the shelter, we both were not sure what to expect. Loek and I had looked at numerous cats on the website and had a few that we wanted to look at. We first had an interview with the staff at the shelter to make sure that they could match us with a pet that would be a good match for our family. We were then taken to a few  different rooms to look at some possible matches. Lulu was in the last room. When we saw her, we knew she was the one, even though she had a huge attitude and wouldn't come out of her box. Because Lulu was so new to the shelter, she came in on Friday and we saw her on Saturday, it was a few days before we could take her home. 

When I went to get her, it was the first day of major winter weather. Poor kitty had to travel to her new home by bus in the snow. When she first got here, she wasn't so sure about us. She spent a lot of time swatting at us, Loek and I were pretty bloody. In her defense, it was probably a big adjustment for her, former owner to shelter to new home in less than a week. A little over a month later and she is a completely changed cat. She has almost stopped swatting us, she gets nervous sometimes, and she now has a place on the couch between Loek and I. 

If you are looking for a pet in the Utrecht area, I recommend the Utrecht Dieren Aisel. They have both cats and dogs, and your pet will come up to date on shots, fixed, and micro chipped. We even have her pet passport. 

As much fun as pets are, they also need stability and care. So think before you commit. 

We also changed Lulu's name to Lulu, because her other name I as a native English speaker could not say it with a straight face. 

Have you ever adopted an animal from a shelter?

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For the Love of Travel Series- Amanda from Poppies and Ice Cream (Guest Post)

This week, I am introducing you to Amanda a fellow expat here in the Netherlands who blogs over at Poppies and Ice Cream. Amanda is fluent in Spanish and has offered to help me improve my language skills. This is one of the many, many reasons I love having a blog, you get to meet so many interesting people. 

Here it goes. 

Tell the readers a bit about you.
 
I am a Mexican-Swiss-British (by accident) girl. Sounds complicated, but, it’s not so much. I was born in the UK (because my parents were studying there), my mom is Mexican, my father is Swiss and my lovely husband is Dutch. I am a biologist / veterinarian who loves baking, reading, traveling, discovering new places, jumping around like crazy and red dresses.
 
Where are you at this moment?
 
I currently live in The Netherlands.
 
Where did you grow up?
 
I grew up in Mexico, where I lived in different cities.
 
What is your favorite destination and why?
 
After thinking long and hard (there are just so many places I love), I think the answer is Barcelona. The first time I went there I was just “passing by”, on my way back to Geneva, Switzerland, where I studied at the time, after having spent the summer working at a Physiology lab in Santiago de Compostela. I went to Barcelona to visit a friend, whom I had met in Venice at the youth-hostel where we stayed, and also, because back when low-cost airlines were just starting, cheap flights were only available from “La ciudad condal”. As soon as I set foot in the
city I knew I would be back. To live. And I did. First I stayed a year, as an Erasmus student, and then I went back for 4 years to study my second degree. The city is full of life, and magic I would say. It is lively, young and international. It has everything you could wish for: mountains, check. The beach, check. Lots of parks, check. Cultural activities at every moment, check. Lovely medieval streets where to get lost, places full of history in unexpected places*, delicious food, friendly people, buildings that could belong in fairy tales**, perfect weather, beautiful avenues….
 
*For example, the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya lays in the building which used to be the very same Hospital, dating from the 15th century, where Santiago Ramón y Cajal worked and made his fascinating discoveries on the ways neurons work.
 
** Doesn’t the houses in Park Guell look out of Hansel and Gretel? And what about Casa Batllo or Casa Milla? Green dragon backs, towers that seem made of soft ice-cream….
 
What is your least favorite destination and why?
 
I have yet to find a place that I haven’t loved. I guess we always try to make the most out of any trip and even if I find myself in a seemingly abandoned train station in the middle of nowhere, I can always read a book, go to the supermarket to search for the local treats, or go to a movie theater or a square and just sit and people-watch.
 
What is your favorite vacation memory?
 
It must have been the time I met my husband on an airplane. He was sitting right next to me and we did not stop talking for the duration of the flight. (You can read all about it on Poppies and Ice Cream
 
What is your profession and do you ever travel for business?
 
I am a veterinarian, though I do not currently work in my field. I used to work for a big hotel-reservations website, but I spent my time reading guest reviews and learning all about which hotels had mice, lizards or squirrels and which were located near good restaurants, among other crazy stories. I did not really get to travel for work though.
 
How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
 
I normally pack in the last-minute rush; sometimes early in the morning of the day I am traveling. I try to bring items that can be used more than once and combined in different ways (jeans, one or two thick sweaters, a scarf, t-shirts in colors that go with everything else). It is important to bring a good jacket, a rain-coat depending on your destination and comfortable shoes that will not make your feet hurt after lots and lots of walking. If it’ll be warm lots of dresses and a denim jacket do the trick. I bring an extra plastic bag or two as well as Ziplocs. Snacks, tissue and some first-aid supplies* are always good to have with you.
 
** anti-inflammatories, Pepto-Bismol tablets, band-aids, disinfectant…
 
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
 
Yes, we are headed to Northern California (San Francisco and the surrounding area) later this year. I am so excited.
 
How do you plan your trips?
 
I think of a place (I pretty much want to go everywhere, so that is not normally a problem), I figure out the cheapest way to get there (bus, low-cost airline, train) and try to find out if there are any offers for our destination of choice (for instance every now and then airlines release discounted tickets for short periods of time). Right now there are many websites that let you compare rates among companies, I use these to check prices and then book directly with the company involved. Road trips are also lots of fun, Google maps is a great tool to find the places where you would like to stop between A and B and to calculate reasonable distances to travel every day of a journey. Once we sort all of that out, we find a place to stay. We like clean places that are well communicated (even if we have to take public transportation, that´s ok, it adds to the travel experience). I have stayed in youth hostels before, but nowadays in Europe the rates start at circa 25 EUR per night, and since I travel with my husband, with that price we can already stay at a nice, simple hotel, with lots of added comfort and privacy. Staying at apartments is also great because you get to cook your own meals and spare some pennies that you can spend otherwise. After that it is just a matter of studying the place, figuring out if there are specific sights / museum exhibits / restaurants or bars / places that we would like to visit, and otherwise, once there, we just get a map (often free at Tourist Offices) and proceed to get lost in the city and let it surprise us.
 
What is your dream vacation?
 
Oh this one is hard. I really would like to see South East Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia… Costa Rica is also pending on my list. But if you just bring me to France or Italy I will be happy as well. I still have to go to Chiapas, Tulum and Palenque in Mexico. I like to see the places, know the people and experience the local culture, so pretty much any destination will suit me.
 
What kind of traveler are you?
 
I tend to prefer city trips, and I love flying, airports are among my favorite places on earth. Traveling by train is also exciting though, I would like to take the Trans-Siberian train from Russia to China, through all the countries in between once.(Kaitlin here, this is my ultimate travel dream too!) I normally travel with my husband, or with my family. I have also traveled with my 2 best friends, during college. I don’t normally take group tours, I kind of hate being told what to do and given a limited schedule. I prefer discovering things by myself, and stumbling upon places by surprise, which is why we like to walk and walk and walk. Beach vacations and camping are also fun, but I think those are a lot more fun as children or if you are traveling with kids. These days, we kind of get bored if we are just laying in the sun not doing anything. For our honeymoon we combined 3 days of beach- chilling in the Mexican Pacific coast (which were more than enough) with a road trip that took us to other cities (Colima, Guadalajara, Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Tenacatita).
 
Thanks so much Amanda, I had so much fun reading about your adventures. If you have any comments, leave them below. Nothing would make our day brighter! And, if you want to participate in the For Love of Travel Series, send me some love at gapeachabroad@gmail.com
 
Barcelona 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out?

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Kaitlin's Guide to March in Utrecht

Isn't it always the case that you find out about a great event the day it is happening? Or, you browse a ton of sites looking for what is interesting to you, but you are 5 pages deep and everything has to do with techno music or mommy and me? Sorry, just tried to think of things I have no interest in. I mean this happens to you too, right? Which is why I have decided to put together a guide for people like me on what to do in the Netherlands each month. 

Let's start with Utrecht, because well this is where I live.

Utrecht

  • Cafe Theater Festival: March 1st-3rd, Various Locations. FREE. Even if you don't speak Dutch, this free festival which happens in cafes throughout the city will be entertaining, All you have to do is look at the schedule and go to the performances of your choice. Last year, Loek and I stumbled in on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Unfortunately, I'm home sick today and have to work all weekend. 
  • Big Spring Sale: March 3rd, 13:00 to 17:00, Utrecht Central Library Branch. This sale of movies, cds, and books is a great place to get some materials for practicing your dutch.
  • Stitch 'n BitchEvery Tuesday, 19:30, Winkel Van Sinkel. FREE. Bring your knitting needles and engage in some gossip every Tuesday.
  • Delivered Ideals- Peace of Utrecht: March 11th, 20:00, Academy Building University of Utrecht. FREE. I am sure I mentioned before that this year marks the 300th anniversary of Treaty of Utrecht. As such the University is putting on a series of lectures about peace in our times. Lectures are in English.
  • Rock-a-oke: March 16, 21:30, Stairway to Heaven. FREE. Have you ever sung karaoke with a live band? I have once and it reaffirmed everyone's belief that I should never, ever be allowed to sing in public. But it was really fun! You can live like a rock star for just one night.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar: March 25th, 20:00, Beatrix Theater, 30 Euros. I have a thing for Rock Operas, I have no idea what language this will be in and I'm particularly broke this month. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't go!

Did I miss something awesome? Let me know! Tomorrow, we will check out what is happening in the rest of the Netherlands. 

 

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I Found Noah's Arc! Apparently, it was Hiding Out in the Netherlands.

What I love most about living here is the unexpected happens on a daily basis. For example, you could be on your way to a castle, and never actually find the castle but run into an ostrich. Yep, that happened. Or if back in August, you went with your mom and fiancee to see the Kinderdijk (place with all the windmills) and you find Noah's Arc. I told you this place is weird and magical. 

Apparently, this Creationist guy here in the Netherlands had a vision to built the 450 foot boat. He outfitted it with fake creatures. Crazy huh? 

Here are some pictures of the area surrounding the Kinderdijk. Getting to the Kinderdijk itself is quite the adventure. First, we took a train and then a water taxi. I'll tell you more about it in Thursday's post. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is weird where you live? 

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We Need to Talk About the Bathroom Situation...

Bathroom time is not normally something I talk about. However, going to the toilet in the Netherlands is way different than going in the United States. Well, I mean the mechanics are still the same, but using the bathroom here is much more complicated than one might be used to. Also I am an American so to me, bathroom, rest room, toilet are all the same thing. Perhaps, I should clarify. If you can find a public restroom and that is a big IF on most days, you have to pay to get in. 

That's right for the privilege of emptying your bladder whilst not at home or not in a moving train (which I refuse to do) will cost you .50. You better have exact change too. Some places have attendants that can change out a euro or two, but some places just have a machine. Sure some restaurants will let their patrons go for free, but others still charge a fee. The plus side is, the bathrooms are mostly pretty clean. 

On the street, it can be easy to find a urinal for the guys. Although to be fair you could mistake a few for some avant garde statues. So if you are a male, you have a much easier time. Or if you are a lady you could use one of those disgusting lady peeing thing. 

Yep, this is reusable and portable!

The home situation isn't much better. Your toilet will not have a lot of water in the bowl and will have what is called an inspection shelf. You know to examine things. Actually, it is not as bad as it sounds. While you are in the toilet, don't forget to glance at who's birthday is coming up. The Dutch have special verjaardag calendars that list everyone's birthdays for the month and are kept in the bathroom. Actually, this is kind of convenient. 

Another and perhaps the strangest thing that pulls all Dutch bathrooms together be they public or private is the fact that the sinks only have cold water. Ice cold water to be exact. I really can not think of a possible reason for this, so if anyone has any guesses, I'm all ears. 

Sorry if this post is a little crude. However, when you move to a foreign country you are supposed to have culture shock and this happens to be the area that continues to shock me.

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Calling All Travel Lovers!

I need your help you guys. As much as I love writing about my experiences living in a new country, and I still have loads that I need to share with you lovelies...I want to start taking the blog in a new direction. Since I am a student of International Tourism, I really want to start including some posts that focus on this aspect of my life. Plus, as part of my studies, I am required to submit proof  on how I am involving myself in my future industry and because I really believe in the power of blogs and social media to network, I am getting school credit for something I love to do.

However, being a full time student limits the amount of time I can spend traveling myself, and what I am really interested in is how you guys travel. Therefore, I am opening up my blog for some guest posts. If you would like to help a student out and participate, just leave a comment or send an email to GAPeachAbroad@gmail.com I have a questionnaire waiting. Eventually I would love to do some interviews. Thanks so much in advance.

For the rest of you dear ones, I hope you will enjoy this new phase of Georgia Peach Abroad.

 

 

Image courtesy of [digitalart] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Years and Counting

Two years ago today was the most nerve racking day of my life. The boy I had been talking to online on and off for nearly four years was finally flying in from the Netherlands and we would get to be face to face for the first time. As nervous as I was, it probably was nothing compared to what Loek was feeling flying all the way across the Atlantic. 

The plan was simple, I would meet him at the top of the arrivals gate at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Unlike many airports, the Atlanta airport has two terminals but everyone comes up the same way to collect their bags  and met the people who are waiting for them. Everyone that is except Loek. Somehow, and I still don't know to this day how he possibly accomplished this, but Loek came up an entirely different way. We completely missed each other, and of course my phone was on silent. It was about 30 minutes before I looked at my phone, I thought perhaps there was just a very long line in customs. I had 7 missed calls. Poor Loek, had already got his luggage and in his first time to the US, I wasn't where I said I would be. He thought that perhaps I had decided that I didn't want to meet him after all. 

Of course, this was not the case and finally we found each other. The rest is history, four months later we got engaged and 6 months after that I moved to the Netherlands. Perhaps, not the most ordinary of love stories, but it is ours and we like it. 

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3 Ways to Beat Those the Winter Blues

It is freezing this week in the Netherlands. Beautiful, but freezing. Which means that trains aren't running as frequently, causing me to have to leave two hours early to make it to my final. I also totally ate it and slid like a meter on the snow leaving my whole body sore. See that kids, I said meter, I'm becoming so European. All these factors can come together to create some winter blues. 

I'm doing my best to combat these, here are some of the solutions I have found:

1. A nice cup of tea. In the States, the only tea I would drink was sweet. Hot tea was just something I did not do. Lately, especially since working at a company with so many European Internationals, tea drinking is part of the culture. I am pleased to say that I am now an  avid tea drinker. Personally, I find that the tea I favor tend to have flowers or mint in them. My mom recently sent Loek and I the yellow submarine tea strainer, I can't wait to get some loose leaf teas to try it out.

2. Sweaters. I just bought this Mango sweater from Mode Republik. Having enough sweaters to layer is key to staying warm this winter. I love the embellishments on the sleeves. Hopefully it will come today so I can make sure it fits!

3. My kindle paperwhite. When my old kindle broke, I was heartbroken. I use it everyday! Which id why I am so glad I splurged on the paperwhite. Plus, it has the added bonus of being backlit and the ability to turn the light down so that I don't disturb sleeping people. Some of the other features I love are, the ability to change font, the touch screen, the timer for chapter, and the book covers instead of just names of the books, so I can remember why I selected the books in the first place to add to my collection. Since I have a smaller reading goal of just 75 books this year, I am curling up with the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

What keeps you from beating the winter blues?

Image credits: 

1,2,3

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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? 

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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

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