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living in the netherlands

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 

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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! 

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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! 

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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?

 

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27 Things Before I'm 27 Challenge!

Today, I am officially on the other side of my 20's. Yep, it is my 26th Birthday! Also known as, the first birthday I will celebrate whilst living in The Netherlands! I think we are going to keep things pretty low-key over here, But since it is now tradition, here are the 27 Things I want to accomplish by this day next year.

  1. Get Top Marks this year in my HBO Program. Instead of being letter grades, Dutch Students get  their grades out of 10's. So this year I want 9 and 10's. Apparently no one gets 10's...
  2. Pass the Staatsexamen or NT2, with this I will get a diploma stating that Nederlands is my official second language!
  3. Read more classics! I am trying hard until 2013 to meet my 100 Books in 2012 Good Reads Challenge, but a lot of Classics have had to be bypassed because they take me a bit longer to get through. What is your favorite?
  4. Try 3 New Sports. Yep, I have been Olympically inspired. I am thinking Running, Rowing, and Archery.
  5. Learn to love my bike. I'm not afraid of it anymore, but it is still not my favorite method of transport.
  6. Leave The Netherlands this year. Not for permanent or anything, I just haven't been outside of  The Netherlands since I moved here, and there is so much of this world to explore.
  7. Go to more Festivals. Maybe this year will be the return of my festival/ concert going days!
  8. Work Hard. With going to my degree classes fulltime, my dutch classes part time, my job part time, and wanting to start a more vigorous exercise program. My new motto is going to have to be Work Hard to Play Hard.
  9. Run in a race this year. Or several. I have my eye on the Den Haag Half Marathon in March.
  10. Write a novel. I plan on participating in November's National Novel Writing Month Challenge.
  11. Be more socialable. I have friends, but sometimes I am too much of a hermit, and I get really intimidated in large groups of other women.
  12. Stop Comparing my Life to Others. As FDR is quoted to say, Comparison is the Thief of Joy. And besides, my life is pretty incredible all on its own.
  13. Do more art. This used to be my life's greatest passion, I need to get back into it.
  14. Learn to Meditate. Quieting my mind is not something I am good at.
  15. Practice my cartwheels. It  is ridiculous that I can no longer do one.
  16. Furnish the Kitchen. I have dreams of a crockpot and immersion blender.
  17. Learn to sew.
  18. Join more clubs. Really, I should put attend more club meetings also.
  19. Be more organized.
  20. Make meal plans. I think this will help me eat better.
  21. Spend more time in the Southern and Eastern parts of The Netherlands. I haven't gone exploring there yet.
  22. Become a morning person. If you sleep all day, you can't get as much done as you would like.
  23. Continue to grow my blog.
  24. Continue to save for retirement.
  25. Eat more veggies!
  26. Keep better in touch with friends and family in The States.
  27. Do what I say I am going to do and honor my commitments. 

What do you hope to do before your next birthday?

 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How I Fared in My 26 Things Before I'm 26 Challenge!

It is a week until my 26th Birthday! Happy Birthday Alice! Since there is only a week to go before I am 26, I wanted to revisit my list of 26 Things Before I´m 26. I didn´t do as well, but to be fair, when you move to another country, all your plans go topsy/turvy. Hopefully, now that I know what life is like here, I can make a better list next week for 27 Things Before I´m 27.

 

1. Move to Utrecht.   Done and Done!

2. Be able to communicate in Dutch. I´m so much better than a year ago, but I am far from fluent.

3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump. I feel married, does that count?

4. Take up ballet again. I finally have a job, maybe I can look into this. 

5. Find a core group of friends in my new country.  I am happy to say I have friends, and I am meeting new people all the time!

6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly.Maybe when I lose weight I will buy some new clothes!

7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen  I cook almost everyday.

8. Start my tour guide business. I decided to go to Uni for first!

9. Learn to sew. Curtains count right? 

10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time) Maybe this year...

11. Write letters to my friends back home. Christmas cards.

12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame. Not yet, but I have been re-inspired by the Olympics!

13. Read 100 new books, including some classics. Probably should have added some more classics, but I did alright. 

14. Start making metal jewelry again. I've made some designs.

15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding. Not relevant until we get married.

16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child.  I've been a lot less selfish this year.

17. Become an expert bike rider. Still working on it.

18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week. Maybe this year?

19. Knit a sweater. I made half a scarf. 

20. Learn the art of light layers.

21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet.

22. Start bringing in money again.  Yay, new job!

23. Continue adding to the retirement fund. Yay, new job!

24. Laugh more.

25. Get over my fear of boats.

26. Stick to my plans.

Look for my new list on the 14th! 

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The Vacation That Changed My Life

This post was originally supposed to be posted as a guest post for the 20 Something Bloggers Blog Swap back in July, but after I sent it to my blog swap partner, I never heard from her again, so I have decided to just post it on my blog instead. The theme was Childhood Summer Vacations. Here was the post.

My family did not go on typical family vacations when I was younger. In fact, I vividly remember being insanely jealous every new school year when everyone would come back tan, and I would be my same old incredibly pale self who had spent the whole vacation in my room reading. I would even lie when people would ask me where I went. Yeah, I know probably not the best thing to do.  We did end up going camping at the beach every year, but I am a sunburn magnet so even then I spent the whole time in the tent reading a book. One year however, when I was 10, my family- (My mom, Uncle Jim, Nana, and cousin Alice) went on a trip that would forever change my raison détre (reason for living). We went abroad for the first time. To Paris.

In fifth grade, I was at the height of my Joan of Arc obsession. I like to think that this was the reason behind picking Paris, but it probably has nothing to do with why the adults chose to go there.We did every touristy thing you can think of to do in Paris, with the exception of the Louvre, as luck would have it, the staff went on strike the day we arrived and went off strike the morning we left. We attended a fashion show at a department store and my cousin and I were asked to come up and walk the catwalk after the show, by a model who in my mind looked exactly like Cindy Crawford. We went to Versailles, we ate hot dogs in baguettes, and drank hot chocolate out of bowls where you added your own sugar. I remember being in awe of everything, the architecture, the parks with the carousels, the food, and the fashion. I was in love!

Our last day there, I wanted to go back and see the building that to me best represented everything I feel in love with in Paris- Notre Dame Cathedral. As I stood outside the beautiful Gothic cathedral with its magnificent flying buttresses, I remember bursting into tears at the thought of having to leave the first place I ever felt I truly belonged. I felt at home amongst the ancient and historic, the glamorous and the tiny.  I knew right then and there that I would move to Europe someday.

I didn’t leave the United States again until I was 18. This time I went St. Petersburg, Russia. My college years, I was obsessed with getting back to where I belonged across the pond that I would skip whole semesters in order to spend a few weeks abroad. Finally, I quit school and found a decent full time job in order to bankroll my trips. I gave up on my dream to move abroad because I didn’t see how I could make it happen. Then something amazing happened, I met my soul mate, who just happens to be from The Netherlands. After doing the long distance thing, we got engaged and I moved to The Netherlands last year. I couldn’t be happier. I am even going back to finish my undergrad, this time in International Tourism Management. I believe that a trip can change your life, and I want to be part of giving that joy to others.

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New Job, Birthday, Parents, and School Orientation. August is Shaping Up to be a Great Month!

I started my first official job here in The Netherlands this week! I went in for my interview on Tuesday and was able to start on Wednesday! Right now, I am working five days a week, but that will change in September, when I start my HBO program and will probably go down to two. Words can not describe how great it feels to finally have work after being virtually unemployed the entire time I have been here.Plus I really like my office, the work itself, and my colleagues!

In addition to starting a new job, there are some other really exciting things happening for me this month! My birthday is on the 14th, but I'm kind of ignoring it in favor of other things. Plus, I don't really love the way the Dutch treat birthdays, but that is for another post. I have orientation on the 30th and 31st, and I am excited to meet my new classmates for the next four years, in my 3rd attempt at  But most important, my parents are going to be in town from the 23rd to September 1st. Luckily, my new boss is flexible enough to allow me to have that time off!

I am so excited for my parents to come. It will be my mom's 2nd time, she came in Jan, but this will be my stepdad's first time and I am excited to show him where I live! We are also going to Germany for the weekend when they are here to visit some family friends, and it will be the first time I have left The Netherlands since I moved here in October!

What does your month look like? 

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Let The Sunshine In!

Sorry, I´ve been noticeably absent from the blog this week, I was working on a blog exchange for 20 Something Bloggers, but my swap partner disappeared off the face of the earth, plus the sunshine came back to The Netherlands. For those of you who didn´t live through it, this July was miserable. Like rain jacket, scarf, didn´t see sunlight for the whole month miserable. To be fair to the weather, I somewhat expected it. I mean, I did move to the same latitude as Edmonton, Canada and to possibly the rainiest place on the planet, but it is really weird to be cold in July! 

All that changed this last weekend however, when the sun came back with a vengeance. Not a cloud in the sky, nothing but blue skies. Since this is supposed to disappear tomorrow, I have become fully integrated and took advantage of the sunshine while it lasts. 

How was your week?

 

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Thoughts on Renewing My Visa

Saturday was an exciting day here, I unexpectedly received the paperwork to renew my residence permit. I know, it doesn't seem like enough time has passed for me to be thinking about renewal! I'll  be sending in the paperwork tomorrow, you need to have a black pen to fill out part of it, and even though I just had 60 black pens sent to my mom's house from Amazon so that she can bring me a ton of school supplies when she comes in August, we didn't have a single back pen in the house! So I had to go buy one today. The paperwork itself is so far considerably less than last time. 

For me, the decision to renew my visa, which should be for 5 years this time because I am on a partnership visa,was not something that required any thought on my part. I am happy with my partner, in the process of inburgering, starting an undergrad program in September, and I have great friends here. Sure, life is a lot different than what I imagined it would be when I was planning to move here, but I am not sure that I would change it back to my original plans, even if I could. It was tough there for awhile, trying to figure out where I fit in here after getting rejection after rejection on the career front, but I look back at that time, which coincidentally coincided with the darkest, coldest months of the year, and I never once thought about packing up and going back to Georgia. I think this had a lot to do with my attitude that this is my life, this is not temporary, so I better make it work! 

Not everyone renews though, I've heard that the first year in a new place is the hardest. Hopefully that is the case, this year was pretty tough. I would be really interested to see some data on how many expats return home during the first year, or decide not to renew. After all, according to several polls, The Netherlands is the least friendly place for expats. There is no shame in not making it. This life definitely is not for everyone. However, If you are currently a struggling expat, or you are about to become an expat, I have two pieces of advice. 

1. You have to really, really want to make it work. Nothing is going to turn out the way you thought, and you are going to have to be prepared to roll with the punches. 

2. Don't give yourself a timeline. If you say you are going to give it a year, your entire experience will be a countdown until the year is up. Instead, treat it as this is your life for the foreseeable future. If you are really unhappy you can always go back home. But as a very wise man on TV is known to say, "Make it work!"

Thanks for sticking out the rough months with me my dear readers! Your support means the world to me! 

 

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