When we landed in Amsterdam my dutch partner, Thomas Tichelman, picked me up from an airport. Then drive to his house about an hour away. When we got to his house, the showed me around his house and I unpacked. His house was amazing. It was a five story story traditional Dutch house. I had the luxury of having my own floor and shower. Five stories is rather unusual for a Dutch home. Most Dutch homes are three stories high.
I sent Easter Sunday with Thomas’ mother who lives a few house from Thomas’ dad. They are divorced but the transition was very smooth. I spent have the week with Thomas’ mom and the remaining week with Thomas’ dad, Justus and his step-mother. Marine. The food was amazing because Marine was French and cooked many great French recipes.
On Monday, all the students took about a two hour train ride to Den Haag. In English, we call it The Hague and it is the center for the government in the Netherlands. We visited the Mauritshuis Museum where I saw many famous paintings. I saw one painting called “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Johann Vermeer. We also saw two painting by Rembrandt. One of the Rembrandt painting was called “The Anatomy Lesson” and the other was called “Self-Portrait”. When we got there we walk around and looked at the sights.
On Tuesday, I went to school with my partner and sat thought some Dutch lesson and English lessons. I think that their school system is a lot better than ours because the classes are more interesting.During the week, I rode my bike everyday to and from school. It was great exercise but it rained for the entire trip; so I was also getting wet.
On Friday, my partner dropped me off at the train station. Then we got on the train and rode it to Amsterdam and got on the flight to Lisbon, Portugal.
We were on the plane to Lisbon it landed and we got off and went on the bus to the hotel and unpack my bag and I slept. It was a long week.
This week was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my whole life. We kicked it off by biking to school for an hour and a half. Cycling to school was very different and challenging to my normal driving to school. It made me so grateful to have not only my license but also have access to a car.
The school was the weirdest experience I have, I’ve realized the staff has so much trust in the students that the rules are often very different from what we know back home. I am amazed by the responsibility the students have too. They bike to school, sometimes from long distances, and enter school. At school, they don’t ask to use the restroom they merely go. It’s unique that teachers and students have mutual understanding and respect.
This trip was an excellent opportunity also to see how they grade and how different that is. They use marks on a scale of 1-10, with six being sufficient. This system allows the school to judge on work rather than on performance. It’s interesting to contemplate what life would be like if we adopted a similar policy.
After making sure everything was fully completed with our video, we headed to coffeelicious to celebrate our final full day in the Nederlands. We all ordered different drinks, I tried my first cappuccino, and left satisfied. After cycling home, we got ready for our film festival and left.
Cycling to the school for the final time was bittersweet; it reminded me of the first time I cycled there and made me happy with memory. That night was filled with smiles, laughter, and eventually, tears as some of us said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Those of us who were lucky enough to have two families said goodbye to some of our host moms and dads.
After the final movie was shown and awards were given out we all headed to hang around with friends. Having that last night together with people I had grown to care about meant more to me than I can describe. I was so overjoyed to know that I had indeed made some lifelong friends. Though I do understand I won’t see everyone again, to most of you guys, I can say with honest intent, see you later.
My time in the Netherlands has been such an amazing experience. Being away from home seemed like it would a lot scarier but with the help of Evy, Mika, Eric and Yvette its been simple. Starting with the drive to Dordrecht from Schipol I already felt at home with the Vermeulen family. Eric and Yvette were exceptionally kind and easy to talk to. Mika, although sometimes in his own world, was so kind and reminded me of my own little brother back in Merced. Evy quickly became a close friend and I felt immediately comfortable with her family. I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to worry about an awkward stage in the middle of an already confusing, foreign country.
The time I spent in Dordrecht was so much fun. I was able to see so many things that I never had before. This experience was once in a lifetime and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I used to think that travel was reserved for retirement but after this trip I want to make travel a priority. Being able to see different cultures and ways of life is something that I will always cherish. I’m so grateful that I was able to have such an amazing time. My friends made this such a fun time and I don’t think it would have been the same without them.
My Experience in Europe
Before we headed off to the Netherlands on March 30,2018 we had to experience an unexpected 5 hour delay in the airport. We later found out that the delay was due to the other airplane that was scheduled to to take us to Amsterdam had a malfunction with the door. This actually worked out for us better because we left later and arrived when there wasn’t much to do except walk around for a little bit, perfect for the amount of energy we had. We decided to eat at a pancake restaurant and the Americans decided to order Dutch pancakes and the Dutch ordered American pancakes. This was my first time in a foreign restaurant and when the waiter came up to he didn’t say, “Hi how is your day going?”or something along those lines, he just said, “Hey, what do you guys want?”. This rubbed off on us Americans the wrong way and we thought he was being rude but according to the Dutch this was actually considered a nice waiter. This was also my first time eating Dutch pancakes and I didn’t even know they existed until then. I ordered pancakes with the honey yogurt and strawberries, it was actually pretty good. The only thing that surprised me was the size and how thin the pancake was. The pancake took up almost the whole plate but was super thin like a crepe. We also had tiny pancake bites with powdered sugar and butter which was really tasty. After we finished eating we tried to decide whether American or Dutch pancakes were better and it was close but American pancakes won the majority.
The next day it was Easter Sunday and my Dutch host and I, along with Nick and Rubin went to a movie in Rotterdam. We woke up early and got on the bus to Rotterdam where the movie theatre was and Watched Ready Player One. At the movie theatre there weren’t any major difference except you didn’t have to talk to someone in a ticket booth to buy a movie ticket, you could just go to the machine and select the movie you wanted to watch. This wasn’t super out of the ordinary but when I saw the size of the skittles I was in shock, they were a little larger than a box of raisins. I knew the Dutch age in small portions but this blew me away. After the movie ended we got back in the train to go back to Dordrecht. Once we got off the train we walked to a restaurant that serves kebab, a meat that comes from a lamb and is from the country Turkey. I ordered a Turkish pizza which was the exact opposite of a pizza it was actually more of a burrito or a wrap. Inside the pizza was lettuce, tomato, curry, mayonnaise, cheese, and kebab. To add extra flavor tomas recommended I add spicy curry(which I like hot sauce). The pizza was actually pretty good but not better than carne asada, which was what Rubin and Tomas thought. Later that day Tomas and I went go bowling with a group of other students that were in the exchange program. Even though I lost it was still fun.
On Monday the group went to an art museum in Amsterdam. Mrs. gave us a tour and explained the paintings and we also got to look at the parliamentary buildings and some statues of prominent figures. When the tour was done tomas and I headed back to Dordrecht on the train. We we got back to his house his cousin from Italy made us some pasta based on a Jamie Oliver recipe; it was really good. After lunch we rode our bikes to the bowling alley where we had gone the night before but this time we were going “go-kart-in”. About 6 other students from the exchange program met is there and we went go karting. It was super fun and it felt like I was in a video game. After we raced 2 rounds we said goodbye and got on our bikes and cycled home in the rain. This was actually very relaxing because there were not any cars on the road and I would never ride my bike around Merced in the pitch black at 11:00 pm so it was like I was in a dream for a little bit.
The next morning it was my first day of school!!! Well not really, it was my first day of school in the Netherlands. As expected I took his moms bike to school and tomas took his scooter but before we even got out of the drive way he crashed his scooter and cracked the windscreen. Tomas called the school to tell them what happened and that we would be late. When we arrived at the school it wasn’t what I expected, it looked really small from the outside but on the inside there were 3 floors and it was huge.
Wednesday we went to school and I went to most of Tomas’ class with him. I could not understand what they were taking about in most of his classes because they were speaking Dutch. Once school was out we rode our bikes to Tomas house and got ready for the concert. The concert was in Amsterdam and we were running late,if we didn’t leave soon then we would miss the train. We actually missed the train even though it felt like we were going as fast as possible. Everything was alright thought because we could catch the next train that was going to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was super crowded and the line for the concert was out the door. We eventually got in and lost track of the other 2 students who we saw in line with us. When the concert was over we tried to look for a place that had kebab but nothing was open so we got on the train and went home.
Thursday was the same as the days before we went to school and took our bikes. The only thing different was we were having PE. I was surprised that the teacher trusted the students to ride their bike off of campus in order to go to a facility for PE. After PE it was back to the school to work on the video. This video would be showed at the farewell dinner later that night. At the dinner we had some Dutch food that was pretty good. Afterwards we went to Rubins house and watched a movie.
Friday was not all that interesting we got on the plane to Portugal. After we got settled we went to a restaurant down the street from our hotel.
Saturday was going to busy and it all revolves around the tour in the Red line bus. The red line bus reminded me of the the double high buses in San Francisco. This red line bus took us all around the city and we got tot see some very interesting things, ancient forts the tygarus river, and many more. The day concluded with the group going out to eat at an Italian restaurant, which had very good pizzas.
Sunday morning we met in the lobby at 8:00 and went on a tour of Sintra with our tour guide. Our first stop was a tour of the National Palace of Pena. Although the walk to the palace was up a very steep hill, once we got to the top there was a beautiful view of Sintra. Then we went to the site of a masons initiation. The area was very mysterious, had various secret tunnels, and had a spooky vibe. This didn’t take way from the experience it made it even more of an adventure. Once we walked out of the cave and finished our tour it started to rain and this ruined the plan of going to the beach so we just went back to the hotel. At he hotel, after the long day off exploring Sintra we ordered pizza and since Mrs Spurlock recommended we don’t go to sleep, we decided to pull an all-nighter.
Before I write anymore, initially when I saw that I was assigned Monday I thought that nothing interesting would happen. I thought we would just get on the plane and I would go to sleep and watch a movie, well I was wrong. When we got off the plane in Amsterdam I was just waking up from my nap and didn’t realize the predicament we were in. The plane that was taking us San Francisco was going to leave in 15 minutes and we were still in the plane. At that moment mostly everyone started freaking out and Mrs. Spurlock told Connor and I that we had permission to run across the airport and hold the plane. So as soon as we got off of the everyone started running and looking for gate E. It turned out that gate E was all the way on the other side of the airport and we had to get our boarding pass and passports checked in order to get to the other side of the airport. The line to get these documents checked was very long and time was ticking. As each minute went by we kept on looking at the TV screen to see if our flight was still on the screen, it eventually disappeared and we were pretty sure that the plane had left. Little did we know Mrs. Owens had gone ahead and made sure they held the plane for us, if she didn’t go ahead I would’ve been in Amsterdam typing this blog. Thankfully we made it back to America but our luggage did not it was still in Amsterdam. This was a major surprise and this type of thing to happen to you but all we could do was fill out papers with out a dress and description of our bag and have it returned to us.
This trip was full of adventure, suspense, comedy, and action. I enjoyed every part of the trip and this was truly a once in a lifetime experience. A special thank you to my mom and dad for allowing me to go on this trip and thank you Mrs. Spurlock for planning this trip and giving up your time so we could have this trip.
April 5, 2018
A year ago from today, I would of never imagined that I’d be here, dreading our last day in The Netherlands. I recall being so excited when I first learned of the Dutch-American Program, and even more so when my parents agreed to letting me travel overseas, alone practically.
As you may have inquired, today marks the last night of our stay in Dordrecht. It is quite a beautiful city, and I am at a loss of words to describe all of its wonders. Over the past week I have had many amazing adventures. We were able to squeeze in lots of sightseeing despite the short amount of time we had. I was even able to see a REAL castle (not the Disneyland one), visit Kinderdijk, get a canal tour of Amsterdam, and see the city of Rotterdam by night. Which leaves us with today-our last day attending the school Stedelijk Dalton Lyceum.
With anything, a wave of sadness hung over us girls heads’ as we cycled to school this morning. Knowing that this was the last time we would cycle together, we would try to laugh, but somehow it always ended with complete silence. Within a short amount of time, we had arrived at school, and went our different ways.
The first hour of school was the same as it has been for a couple of days now. Us Americans enjoyed our down time in one of the classrooms, allowing ourselves to work on various projects. After that, it was on our way to P.E. different from America, we had to cycle there!
One hour later, we were cycling back to school for the remaining periods of the day (they call them lessons). However, my partner Maartje and I ended up leaving around lunchtime in order to get one more attraction in. We headed towards Keukenhof, a tulip farm close to Dordrecht.
Never before have I seen so many extravagant flower patterns. The arrangements were beyond amazing and color flowed all over the landscape. When my host family first told me about Keukenhof I was in anticipation to see if it stood up to their memories of it, and so it did! I can’t believe that a full week has already gone by, here in Dordrecht. It saddens me as I write this, because I know it is my last day of taking in all of my beautiful surroundings. Hopefully I will be able to come back soon and further complete my experience of this beautiful country, the Netherlands!
Monday, April 2
After an exciting weekend of trying to sleep on a plane and traveling to places with our Dutch hosts, I got ready for our next destination, The Hague, or as the Dutch call it, Den Haag. Today was the first day in which everyone involved in the exchange traveled together in the Netherlands, which was great as I got to see some Dutch hosts that I became friends with when they visited the United States. My day started off with me waking up to my partner, Ronald knocking on my door asking what snacks we should bring, then realizing I had slept in a little bit; luckily I had prepared the day before so getting ready was no big issue for me. The Smits family, as well as Brianna, another American exchange student, left the house to get to the train station via car. Since I had came to the Netherlands a year before this exchange, I was no stranger to the train system of the Netherlands, and I enjoyed the hour long train ride.
We hopped off in The Hague and started to walk to the center of town, we did however stop to take a big group photo overlooking Binnenhof, a government office where many historical Dutch events, and Mauritshuis, a well known art museum in the Netherlands which I will get to later. We then walked through market stands selling goods and Dutch food until we reached the center of the city, and we had to be weary of busses, cars, bikes, and trams while crossing the streets. We then passed many stores, old statues, and government buildings while on a guide of the historical aspects of the city, given by a social studies teacher who also took part in the exchange. We then stopped at Binnenhof and everyone was set free to eat lunch somewhere, I had just went to a Subway because we had a limited amount of time. One thing that stood out to me was that the Nacho Cheese Doritos bags here are orange here instead of red which I would have never expected.
After lunch we went inside the Mauritshuis and we were required to but our jackets and bags into these big metal lockers. Then we were given a tour of the art here in the museum by another teacher, and from her I learned a lot about the museum, the paintings, and some general things about art as well. Although we observed the most well known painting in the museum, Girl with a Pearl Earring, I found many other paintings to be interesting and a few that were just funny looking. I have been to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the most notable difference between the two are that this museum was much more crowded, and smaller. Afterwards we made plans to go to Rotterdam for the rest of the day with a small group, and then walked to the train station.
I really looked forward to going to Rotterdam, as it is another one of the larger cities in the Netherlands. We got off the train and stopped by some buildings with interesting architecture, including apartments that looked like a chain of blocks, and a pencil shaped building. We then lingered in a place called Markthal, a giant marketplace full of people, shops, restaurants, and performances. Afterwards we went to a shopping mall nearby and I bought some stroopwafels and candy at a cheap price to bring back home. We wandered around the different shops and took pictures of places for about an hour or two until we started to get hungry. We then walked to a restaurant farther from the city center called Happy Italy. This place was an Italian chain in Europe, and their portions were larger than expected. On top of that there was a play-place for kids with a ball pit in the basement of the restaurant which I found odd. It started to get late, so as a group we walked to a WaterBus, which was a boat that took us from Rotterdam to Dordrecht. I had fallen asleep during a portion of the ride because not many people were on the bus besides us, so it was a good opportunity to take pictures. It was dark when we arrived in Dordrecht, and we were picked up and driven home.
I came to The Netherlands again with the idea in mind that I would go to places I have never been to before, and despite myself coming to the Netherlands beforehand, this truth was ultimately met and more. Today was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time, and it was a great time to get to know people and to see new things. Given the chance, I would definitely return to either of these locations again.
Tuesday, April 3rd - Anna Gueorguieva
Tuesday was our first day at Stedelijk Dalton Lyceum. Many people biked to school or rode the bus. I biked with my partner, Demi, for half an hour from her town ‘s-Gravendeel to the school. Even though it was cold and early in the morning, I enjoyed it thoroughly as I got to see so many beautiful houses and scenery. Everywhere I go I am amazed at the narrow brick streets, numerous rivers and canals, and especially the unique architecture. After arriving at school we had a tour around the school and had a dutch lesson where we learned how to ask for a stroopwafel in Dutch (which we received!). I then joined Demi to an economics class (it wasn’t even her class - she had a free period at the moment - but we decided to go so that I could see how the lessons were. After eating lunch (sandwiches with spreadable cheese and chicken) I went with Demi to her English lesson where they learned about George Orwell’s “1984”. After school, the Dutch and American students were seperated into groups and went together into Dordrecht to look for landmarks. Not only did I see the beautiful churches and waterfront but I learned that Dordrecht was actually the oldest established city in the Netherlands, which I didn’t know before. After our tour, my partner and I met up with some friends and went for a short shopping spree at Primark and ate some noodles at a restaurant. We then biked some more and went to a bowling alley with friends which was tons of fun even though the Dutch students are all somehow way better than me at bowling. Overall, it was a great day filled with meeting new people and seeing new things, I feel so grateful to have experienced Dordrecht and the Netherlands with a great partner and a great group of people.
BLOG 2018: Nick Cantrell
From the moment I found out I would be able to go on this trip, I was very very very very excited! I never thought I would ever be able to travel to a different continent, let alone a different country. My Sister went on this trip a few years back and it was so amazing to know that I’d be following her footsteps.
The flight ended up being WAY better than I thought it would be. I didn’t expect it to only be 9 hours, I expected it to be longer. Since I slept through half of it it was actually a decent experience. When I got there, I was ready. Customs went by smooth and I was finally able to see Rubin! It was very nice to meet his parents and to meet up with people who I haven’t seen since they visited in February. That whole day was nice just to look around Amsterdam and become familiar with the country that I was going to stay in for the next 9 days
Sunday was an excellent day! Especially one to remember, we did so much that day! First I woke up and got ready for the day for I knew Thomas and Brian were going to pick us up to take us to the train station. I had my Dutch breakfast once I was dressed, we ate saucijzenbroodjes, German schnitzel which was super good, and also we had mango.
Once I finished my breakfast, we got picked up by Thomas and Brian and got dropped off with them by his dad at the train station where we would take a train to Rotterdam. In my Opinion Rotterdam is way cooler than Amsterdam and is one of the coolest towns I’ve ever been in. It is very modern and has very interesting looking buildings. We went to the theater to see a movie on IMAX 3D which was an awesome experience and was way better than the theater in Merced. Another cool thing we did after that was that we went to the art museum of Rotterdam, the art was very unique and had lots of things that I thought was either mind blowing or super confusing. There was a lot of work on Jesus Christ since it had a lot of old work, so that was also a good way to celebrate Easter. Once we were finished with that we took the train back to Dordrecht where I tried Kebab which was Turkish meat that resembled Shawarma a lot. After that we topped the day off by going bowling where I won one of the rounds and we had Dutch Fristi and Chocolate milk which was very good! Sunday was a very good way to start off my stay in the Netherlands!
Sunday April 1, 2018:
Today I woke up extremely tired, I never understood the term ”jet lagged” until now. All I want to do is sleep but I have to much of The Netherlands I want to explore. Today is Easter and we had a traditional Dutch breakfast, that consisted of 8 different kinds of breads, sprinkles, nutella, peanut butter, jam, and chocolate. I don’t understand and still don’t see how Dutch people can consume huge amounts of bread for meals. Don’t get me wrong, the bread here is amazing and if I could too, I would eat all of it.
Danique (my Dutch Partner) and her mom had planned a full day for me. My Dutch family brought there 7 month old dog, Kia with us to explore the Netherlands. She was a bit crazy in the beginning of the car ride, but she calmed down and was a great dog for the rest of the entire day.
We started off our day driving to the Vaalserberg. The Vaalserberg is the only hill in The Netherlands and is located in the province of Limburg. It was about a 45 minute drive but it was worth it. The Vaalserberg is a point that connects three countries; The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. The Vaalserberg was 5 stories high and when you got to the top the ground was made of glass. It was to give the illusion that you were going to fall threw the glass. Besides the fact that it was freezing cold outside and windy, the view was gorgeous! I had never experienced something like that and experiencing a point where three countries meet, and it being in Europe was very memorable.
Then, we went to Germany. I was beyond excited because I never thought in a million years that I’d be going to Germany. At first, when we were driving into Akens, Germany I didn’t think I’d like it because it looked like we were just driving into a “ghetto” part of Oakland, California. But, then we went further into the city and it was beyond beautiful. It was everything I’ve ever imagined when I pictured Germany. The buildings, churches, and reastrauants were memorizing. It’s hands downs one of my favorite things I’ve seen so far while in Europe.
We went from Germany to Belgium. It fascinated me how you could drive to different countries in short amount of times. Belgium’s country side was beautiful to look at. As we got further into Belgium, the architecture in Belgium is old but very unique. Danique’s mom showed me very important sites in Belgium like buildings, churches, and monuments. I liked seeing Belgium from the car, I didn’t really enjoy walking around the city. We only stayed for a little bit and then left because we were all starving.
Happy Italy, was an amazing restaurant to eat at. It was very warm inside which was great because we’d been so cold all day. I ordered a pesto pasta which came out in a matter of seconds. The place was known for serving their food very fast, which was true. About every food I’ve eaten in has had pine nuts. I’ve grown to love pine nuts on my pasta, bagels, and sandwiches.
I’m extremely grateful for today and everything I’ve experienced. This is a whole new world, I’ve explored and I never thought I’d be able to do something this amazing.
March 31,2018 Dutch Blog
On Friday, March 30, 2018 we were supposed to depart on our plane at 4:30 pm. Due to technical difficulties with a door we had a four hour delay. The delay was not posted online to let all the other flyers know about the problem. Mrs. Spurlock, along with all my other classmates had a long wait at the airport gate. As we boarded our flight, the captain announced it was a lighter flight, meaning not many people were aboard this fight. I sat down at my assigned seat and realized I had a whole row to myself. This allowed me to sleep the whole fight which was a total of nine hours. The delay caused us to arrive in Amsterdam way later than expect. Our original time of arrive was 11:50 am. My dutch family had a lot planned on this day such as visiting the red light district, seeing the Anne Frank house, and even the Van Gogh Museum. On Saturday, March 31, 2018 we met with our dutch families at 5:30 pm. This timing gave us no time at all to tour the city of Amsterdam so instead my dutch family to me to Ridderkerk to eat at a pancake house. This was my first “Dutch” dinner which had an atmosphere that wasn’t common in the States. Kids where everywhere, they were screaming and everyone talked much louder it seemed. Dagmar ordered me a pancake with banana and Nutella on it. Once it arrived it was bigger than the plate which was very surprising. The pancake tasted like something you could get in America it wasn’t anything too special. Over all the start of this trip was very good other than the four hour delay. I hope we get to go to Amsterdam another day this week so I can experience as much as possible of the culture they have here. This is going to be a very busy week.
March 30, 2018
“Passport, check, outlet converter, check, medications, check, Euros, check.” As I go down my list preparing for my departure from home, I say to myself, “Breathe deeply.” The hardest part of traveling for me is the preparation.
Friends and family have been asking me for weeks, “Are you excited?’ It’s hard to explain my feelings of anxiety to those asking about my level of enthusiasm.
They only think that a trip to The Netherlands and Portugal should produce excitement. However, I have the added responsibility of preparing the home front for my absence. Laying in supplies for my kitties, meeting with my pet sitter, stopping the mail, calling the credit card company to let them know I will be making charges in another country, arranging for international service on my phone, and making decisions about what I will pack all tend to dull any anticipatory feelings of joy that others believe I should be experiencing.
“Is there anything I’ve forgotten?” I ask myself as my departure time nears.
Soon my ride to the airport pulls into the driveway and the reality of my trip sets in. I am going to Europe. I am on my way with two members of the group with whom I am travelling. The car hums down the road loaded with backpacks, suitcases, and expectations when all of a sudden, the lyrics from a song pop into my head. “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.” I inadvertently change the lyrics to make them fit the moment. “Over the river, and through the freeways to SFO we go.” I do whatever I can to make the trip to the San Francisco Airport from California’s Central Valley seem shorter and less tedious. Traffic, traffic, traffic. Merging from one freeway to the next. Waiting in one line then another.
As we approach the terminal, looming above the horizon with the maze of roadways at its base is the grand entrance to San Francisco International. My chest tightens. This is the beginning of a new unknown journey. I’ve never been to Europe, nor have I stayed with a host family in a foreign country. Now mind you, I am not a novice traveler. I have been to South America, Australia, and Japan so I do know the ups and downs of international travel. However, each trip presents itself with its own challenges and unknowns. “Breathe deeply,” I once again remind myself as we approach the drop-off for departures.
The hum of cars pulling up to the curb, the buzz of passengers saying goodbye, the scurrying of people to the kiosks inside, and the clacking of luggage rolling over the hard surface of the floors brings me to the present and out of my thoughts about lists, tasks, and errands. I begin to relax.
“Do you have any of these items in your suitcase?” queries the counter agent.
“No,” is my short but polite response. As my suitcase is tagged and sent down the conveyor belt, I let out a relieved sigh. “Now,” I think, “I am excited. Let the adventure begin.”
Today was a sad day it was the day that honestly felt like it was never going to happen; the day everyone dreaded; the day we were to depart. This morning we all went to Dordrecht Central Station to go to Amsterdam and from there going on plane to Wales. When we got to Wales, we met part of the Boggs family who were going to show us around Wales while we were there. When we were on our way to Swansea, Wales, our driver was scheduled to take us to the hotel. However, he ended up getting lost so we were just driving around in circles. Finally when we found the hotel, Mrs.Spurlock went inside and asked about our rooms but it turns out that they didn't have our rooms ready. So we decided to eat in their restaurant which also happened to be the lobby of the hotel. Once we ordered our food, we ended up not getting it for another two hours and they still didn't have our room ready so we decided to go and explore the shopping center that was less than a block away from the hotel. We also went into the market that was connected to the shopping center. It was located on the side of the shopping center and there we saw a lot of venders that varied from local foods and foods from other places to local drinks and drinks from other places. We also saw some clothing displayed for sale and Welsh souvenirs. Then, we decided to head back to the hotel hoping they had all of our rooms ready. Surprisingly, they had them ready, we went up the stairs and into the only room they had ready. We were assigned our rooms and from there we got our luggage, and went to our assigned rooms to get settled in. Right when I got to the room, I put all my stuff down and decided to get my clothes ready for the following day. I had moved all my toiletries to the bathroom and got my stuff ready for the shower. From there I just layed down on my bed on my phone and then I saw the time and saw that everyone had to go down to the lobby because we were going to go eat dinner which was Fish and Chips. We all had to get into taxis and have them drive us about 30 mins from our hotel to a place that was kinda like a small beach to look at.Once we arrived there they handed us what we got and we all took our food and went to the benches nearby and started eating,about 20 minutes or less into us eating Aiden and Garin started to feed the seagulls some of their food which then caused more and more to start coming and in less than a minute there about 10 seagulls waiting or eating food. After like 2 minutes me and Taylor turned to look at the table where Aiden and Garin were feeding the fish and noticed them getting up to walk away because there were so many of them and in that split second a seagull ended up pooping on Conners sweatshirt which just made everyone just burst out laughing and what made Aiden and Garin run away from the table afraid of being pooped on also. After everyone calmed down they started to kinda go their own ways so,Dillen decided she wanted to go walk on the beach and collect some seashells to bring home with here so my teacher had me and Taylor go with here so she isn't alone and so she doesn't get to close to the ocean. From there everyone decided to take a group picture so we all took the picture and then Annie decided to bring her dogs so everyone got distracted and ran towards the dogs, after about 30 minutes of just walking we all left and went to one of Annieś friends house where they performed a type of skit that was so cool because we saw how one person can change their voice to make them sound completely different yet at the same time the exact same.After they performed they taught us the Welsh national anthem and sang us some more welsh songs so, we decided to sing them the anthem from the United States, after we just went around and started talking to everyone.
Honestly this trip was so much better than I ever imagined and I'm so happy I went and saw and meet some Welsh people and their culture.
I have a record of having really bad luck. Seriously. Some of my incidents have included me (accidentally) putting two people in the ER on two separate occasions, getting stung by a scorpion, and having my hair catch on fire in a church. So I can’t really say I was surprised when I came down with a cold shortly before our trip. I arrived with my bag stuffed with different kinds of medicines: cough drops, sore throat medicine, vitamins, decongestant pills, and of course, DayQuil. Nevertheless, I had spent the first few days of the trip coughing and sniffling, and the cold, rainy weather of Holland didn’t quite help (although my host family informed me that at least I could experience typical Dutch weather!) Worse, I had developed a pretty bad cold sore, and I think everyone who has had it before will agree with me when I say that cold sores are the absolute worst. And in addition to all this, I had a mysterious red eye. When my condition didn’t go away after a while, the teachers arranged for me to go to the doctors on Tuesday, and while I had to skip out on an activity about Dutch phrases, I think this was worth it, because, in the end, how many of my fellow exchange students could say that they’ve been to a Dutch doctor?
One of the first things I noticed was that the doctor’s office was very similar to the ones we have in America, a waiting room with both elderly patients and younger patients, and magazines and children’s toys to entertain them. I did, however, notice that instead of a nurse or the receptionist telling you that the doctor is ready, the doctor herself comes out and greets you. Once I was in the examination room, I also noticed that the room was bigger than in the states, since it combined the doctor’s personal office with the typical examination room. After getting my eyes checked, the doctor prescribed me medicine for my sore and my red eye.
Just like in America, we then headed over to the pharmacist to get the medicine. Unlike the states, however, the pharmacist was in the same building as the doctor. And lastly, while I personally do not have much experience or knowledge of such things, my mom did observe how much cheaper the medicines and the doctor’s visit were compared to here. Then again, I saw this as a tourist, not a citizen, so I can’t really grasp how their healthcare system truly works, but these were a few observations I made.
And thus concludes my thrilling adventure at a Dutch doctor. I returned to school, where all the American students had to follow our Dutch partners around for the rest of the day. I recall attending an English class, a French class, and a maths class with my partner Eva. In English, we looked at rhetorical devices, which is not something I am too familiar with myself, so it was interesting to learn something about my own language alongside non-native speakers. Next was French, which I partly understood since I have rather basic knowledge of French. Lastly, there was math. Math is my favorite subject, but in Holland, I couldn’t understand a single thing not only because the class was entirely in Dutch, but also because the math was above my level. Interesting, there were only 6 people attending the math class! There were a few other things I noticed that were different at their school. For one, they didn’t have laptops. However, many schools in America do not have laptops, and it’s possible that many schools in Holland do have laptops, but this is a comparison of Stedelijk Dalton Lyceum and El Capitan High School, so I will only be comparing the difference between these schools. Another difference I observed was how much bigger their school was. Perhaps it’s because their school is indoors, whereas ours is outdoors, but to me, it felt easy to get lost in the different hallways. In fact, I did get lost in the school while returning from the bathroom! Luckily, after much wandering around, I made my way back to class. They also had three stories, as opposed to our two stories. I imagine this would be quite tiring when you’re tired and carrying a heavy bag, especially if you’re a somewhat lazy person like me! One thing I thought we should incorporate at El Capitan was the room in their library where you had to be completely silent. I think this would be really beneficial to people who want to study, or just enjoy some quiet time. They also had vending machines, much to the delight of everyone (including the teachers).
I can’t write a blog post about Holland without mentioning the cycling. In Holland, they cycle everywhere. Most of my peers cycled as well, but I was too short to use my host family’s bicycles, so instead I just rode on the back of Eva’s bike. It was a bumpy ride, but it was also quite fun. On Tuesday, we had visited the city center, and saw many of the landmarks, and ate poffertjes, a Dutch treat. Dordrecht is very different than Merced. It’s older, and you can see this in the architecture and the streets. It’s an absolutely beautiful city, and I enjoyed touring the streets. Eva also showed me a Dutch supermarket, which is much smaller than the ones here in America (but bigger than the ones in Italy, which is quite interesting to me. Perhaps because Italy likes independent markets and sellers? It’d be quite interesting to learn more about the different supermarkets around the world) and to the McDonald's where she worked. There, I had my first ever McDonald’s burger. For me, however, the highlight of it all was the egg rolls we bought from a street vendor. I’m Vietnamese, so it was nice to have a bit of home while overseas.
[10/10 would recommend]
Today was the second to last day of our trip. We were going to make the most of it. We got up in the morning, ate breakfast, and then went to the bus station. It took us a long time to find the right bus, but we eventually did. We were on the bus for forty five minutes to an hour. We passed King Arthur’s rock and saw the countryside in Wales. We arrived in Gower. It was one of the most beautiful, amazing places I’ve ever been to in my entire life. We met up with my great aunt, Annie, and about 15 minutes later we began our long hike around the Gower Hills. It was steep on the way up. Most of us were exhausted and we were only five minutes into the hike. It was worth it though. There were so many great views from the hills. We took many amazing photos. My friend and I took photos that resembled a scene in the movie Titanic. I took some photos that were even movie worthy. Eventually, we hiked seven hundred feet in elevation. It was pretty awesome. The view of the beach and everything else around us was absolutely beautiful. Some of us had trouble getting up to that point but it was worth it. The view was stunning. The rest of the hike was downhill and pretty easy. We made it back to sea level about fifteen minutes later. It was about eleven o’clock. We still had to walk all the way back to where we had started. The kids were so hungry. By that time, I felt as if I could have eaten a cow. It took us an hour to make it back to where we started. It was a six to seven mile hike. I enjoyed it but was quite tired and hungry.
When we got back, Annie,my great aunt, was waiting there with a huge lunch. It was like I had seen Heaven. It was the best thing I’d seen since the trip began. I was so happy. The food was amazing!I was very hungry. So was the rest of the group. I think we could all agree that Annie’s food was exactly what we needed after our long hike. Usually, it’s cold and wet in Wales, but the weather had been great in the last week. It was hot enough to give my siblings and I a sun burn. Some of Annie’s closest friends were there. Two of them had stayed with us six or seven years ago. It was good to see them after so long.
After lunch, some of us laid down and closed our eyes for a bit in the grass. It was very peaceful. Afterwards, we bought some stuff at a gift shop and walked down to some cliffs near the beach. The photos we took were amazing. They were like something you would only see in a movie. About an hour later, we took a bus back to the youth hostel. It was an hour back to the hostel. I slept most of the way. Towards the end, I woke up next to an elderly lady who was yelling at me to give her a boost up. Apparently, the words give me a boost up really meant that she needed help with her backpack strap. She asked my teacher, “What’s wrong with the boy?!?”, in her British accent. It was quite hilarious.
We had some free time as soon as we got back. We had two or three hours before we were scheduled to meet Annie at an Indian restaurant. In the meantime, Aiden, my best friend who came on the trip with us, and I went to Topman. We bought some pretty nice clothes. We then came back about ten minutes before we had to check in. We went back to the bus station to catch a bus to the restaurant. We missed the bus by a few minutes and ended up having to find another bus to take us where we needed to go. We were thirty minutes late, but our reservation was still valid. We had an excellent meal. We had another fifteen minutes before we had to be back and at the bus stop so we went to the beach right across the street. We were going to touch the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.
Saturday ended up being my favorite day of the week. It was packed with activities that everyone loved and I got to spend time with family and friends. There wasn’t anything better I could have thought of doing that day. I would like to thank my great aunt, Annie Bath, for making the trip to Wales possible and for helping us to do as many fun things as we could in three days.
I was woken up by the vibrations of Rahiq pounding on the door, as usual. Like every normal school day, I got out of bed at about 7:30. Only today was no normal school day. Today, we we are having our first day at a school not only out of our country, but almost half way across the world. I got dressed and came downstairs to find a warm melted “Tosti” sitting on my plate (a tosti is pretty much a toaster grilled cheese sandwich). I was staying with a Bangal family; so of course they always had their own little twist on things. Next to the sandwich was a small puddle of “Curry Ketchup”. Not my cup of tea but I still slurped up the whole thing.
After breakfast we grabbed our bags, headed out the door, hopped on our bikes, and were on our way. As we biked to school, I started to fall in love with the city of Dordrecht. The cobblestone roads, the countless trees, the bridges over rivers, lakes, and ponds. Ponds that were full of fish, frogs, and lily pads, all these wonders just on their daily path to school. When we arrived at the school the search began. The search for a spot to park your bike. Not only does Dalton have less than half the amount of kids we do, but it has 10 times the amount of spots to park your bikes, and they were all in use.
We walked inside to see a school that looked vaguely similar to Bayside High from Saved by the Bell. My partner Rahiq walked me to class where I met up with all of my teachers and classmates. We talked about our previous days spent here and what we thought of the school so far. We then attempted to log onto the computer for the whole period. We figured it out the last two minutes of class. Not much was able to be done in those two minutes. The bell rang and we headed over to Ms.de Hoon’s classroom. In her class she attempted to teach us a few easy dutch phrases such as “Ik ben” which means “I am”. After we learned a few more phrases, we combined them to have a short conversation with Ms. De Hoon. At the end, we asked for a stroopwafel and she delivered.
We then met back up with our partners. THey took us down stairs to a smaller room that wasn’t as busy as the cafeteria. I met a few of our partners friends and they all seemed very nice. Break ended and we attended some of our partners classes. One in english, the rest in Dutch. The English class was lots of fun! We learned all about rhetorical devices. We were then instructed to make a persuasive paragraph using rhetorical devices in a scenario they created. My group was Ragib, Rens, David, and I and our scenario was to convince the teacher to postpone the test. Ours was mostly a joke but we made sure to include at least 3-4 rhetorical devices. After English, I went with my partner to the rest of his classes which were in Dutch. In those classes I just conversed with some of the English speaking Dutch students. Overall the school day was a lot of fun. After school, we met back up in Ms. de Hoon’s classroom. She gave us pamphlets which were an itinerary of what we were going to do later in the Dordrecht city center. Only problem was that it was all in Dutch. They claimed this was because they wanted our Dutch partners to translate it to us, but really, they just didn’t feel like translating it themselves. They gave a little speech to our dutch partners and then we were off.
We hopped on our bikes and started our journey to the city center. About twenty minutes later we arrived. When we got there Mrs. Spurlock and Connor were there waiting for us. Connor didn’t have a partner so we let him tag along. He didn’t have a bike so he hopped on the back of Eline’s. We took a picture in front of all the designated spots the teachers had assigned for us and learned a little bit of history about each one. After we followed the directions from our teachers we had freetime downtown. We met up with Alex and the rest of her group and walked around to all the different shops and stores. Rahiq and Eline bought us fifty poffertjes to share. Poffertjes are practically little pancakes coated in butter and powdered sugar. We approved. After we downed every last one of those I went to a little food shack and bought 3 lumpia. When we were walking around we came across a fountain. It looked wet and cold but I was anonymously offered twenty dollars to run through it, so of course I did. I took off my shirt, sprinted through, and collected my well earned money. That was practically the end of our night. We all split ways and headed home.
I ate the dinner Mrs. Ullah prepared for us then went straight to bed. I didn’t get much sleep the nights before this one so I passed right out. I could not wait to see what was in store for the day ahead of us.
In the morning we woke up very early and went to the train station. When we arrived, we said our goodbyes to the dutch students and their families. It was a heartbreaking moment for everyone; we had all grown so close to one another and truley loved each and every student for who they were. I soon learned that it was quite hard to go from seeing someone all the time, to not seeing them at all and not knowing if you will ever even see them again. In the midst of all this sadness, we managed to board the train; we had finally started our journey to Wales, where we would make new friends and meet family.
The flight to Wales was only an hour and a half. It is crazy to think that in Europe you can fly for that short amount of time and be in another country. This is very different from the U.S., where you have to fly a little over 3 hours just to go from Los Angeles to Mexico. Everything is so close together in Europe, where as in the U.S. most things are very far apart from one another. After the short flight, we got off of the plane and were greeted by Annie, Eryl, Lucy, Rodrey, and Gabs. Annie is my great aunt. She planned everything for the trip to Wales along with the help of Eryl. Lucy, Rodrey, and Gabs are my second cousins who we have not seen in over 7 years. It was fantastic to finally see people who really cared about us. The drive to our hotel took about an hour and the scenery along the way was magnificent. Wales is very green all year long because it rains there during every season. This is much different from where we come from. In Merced, we have our set seasons; it mostly rains in the winter and it is very dry and hot during the summer. This means that Merced is only green for a short period of time until it gets hot again and the green grass turns brown. We met up at the hotel with the others and Annie and Eryl led us to a market just down the street. The markets in both Wales and Holland are also very different from the ones in Merced. The markets that we have contain a lot of processed foods and a small variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In Welsh and Dutch markets, however, there are many fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and pastries showed in display cases. After visiting the market we all took taxis to the beach where Annie met us with a traditional welsh meal of fish and chips. After spending some time at the beach, Annie’s friend took everyone to Klyne Gardens, where we walked around for about an hour. We were lucky that we came when we did because all of the flowers were blooming and the water was running continuously down the waterfalls. Klyne Gardens was a magnificent sight with beauty beyond compare. When we were finished, we walked a short distance to a lady name Stephanie’s house, where we were greeted by 6 of Annie’s close Welsh friends. These friends had prepared for us a Welsh play, which we all watched while sitting on the floor and drinking squash. Squash is a fruit flavored concentrate that you add water to. We do not have squash in America which is quite depressing because it tastes so good. We sat in Stephanie's house till late at night listening to welsh stories and learning welsh songs. They taught us how to sing the welsh national anthem. It is very hard to sing their national anthem, but the 6 of them sang it with great might. It was truly beautiful. After we were done singing, Stephanie’s mother, who is 95 years old and going blind, played piano for us, while Annie sang along. Welsh people have a lot of talent; many of them can sing, and act, and play musical instruments. The whole night was a lot of fun. We rode home that night with a couple of Annie's friends. They were so kind and they wished us much happiness throughout the duration of our trip. When we arrived to the hotel we went to our rooms and stayed up late talking about how fun our day had been and how excited were for the next day.
This trip is coming to a close, and while I might be forgetting the little things that occurred throughout this week, I will never forget the lessons that this trip has taught me. The two most important things that I have learned is how to deal with certain personalities and how to become a friend to people who have very different interests than you. I appreciate that I was able to go on this trip and I hope to continue the friendships that I have made throughout this program.
Today was the first time several American students were going to experience a European school. I was really excited to see the similarities and differences that both of our schools had. The time to wake up was around the same time that I wake in America to catch the bus. Here in the Netherlands they to go to school by bus or by car. The one thing that I found strange was that the students here rode their bicycles to and from school. Were the weather is very cold when they go to school. Luckily for me my Dutch partner only lives five minutes away from the school so I didn’t have ride for a long time. I was grateful that when we arrived to school I didn’t have an accident or cause any traffic because of the tempo that I was going. When we arrived to school I was amazed on how many bikes there were and it looked the exact same as the picture that Mrs. de Hoon showed the teachers at El Capitan. I got little tour of the ground level from my partner, then found the rest of the American and Dutch students in the program.
We then all went to the classroom that we were assigned to go every morning for the rest of the week when class began. There Naomi and Eva two of the Dutch students were extremely generous to give us a tour of the entire building. After taking the tour of the amazing building we met of up with our partner and had English. The English class here is quite similar compared to mine in the U.S., but their class schedule was strange. Here they don’t have the same classes everyday, they have it every other day. Their breaks are longer than ours but lunch is shorter. When I went into their regular classes the teacher was speaking in Dutch so I had a difficult time to follow along with the lesson. The Dutch students that were in my classes would giggle because of the look of confusion on our faces when hearing the lesson being taught in Dutch.
On the final hour of class which would our eight period we all met up in the Dutch teacher’s classroom that was in charge of the program. She gave us each a small packet and split us into three different groups with tasks in an random order as the other groups. After explaining what our jobs were, we had to Dordrecht Center and go to famous placed there and provide an picture to show proof that we were there. While there in the center the weather there was Bipolar. When we got there it was cloudy and windy. Five minutes later it started to rain, then two minutes passed by and it started to hail. The sun started to come out to shine over the city. We went to the last location on our list we went to some of the stores there to take a look around. The stores there all close at six in the afternoon, so we decided to leave and head back home. On our way home it started to rain again and this time it was rain harder than before. To get home we had to go down a slope that leads into a tunnel. When going down the slope I had slipped and scraped my hand on the wall.
After getting back on the bike, we went on our way back to school to then get home. Just before we got home it started to hail again and my glasses fogged up and I couldn’t see what was in front of me. Luckily I didn’t crash into anything and arrived unharmed and nothing was broken. The clothes that I wore was soaked from the rain. After changing we had dinner which was fantastic and different to I normally would eat back home. Rens’s parents wanted to take me see some Windmills and take some pictures. I took some really nice pictures of the landscape and of the sun setting. We got back home it as late but I found it strange that there was sit sunlight when in California it would be dark. It was windy and had some hot chocolate to get warm. When we got comfortable they turned on the television to watch a soccer game. When we turn on the T.V the team that we wanted to win scored and we were really happy. After time passed the other team scored and won. By the time the game was over it was late and I went to get ready for bed.
My first experience to a different lifestyle on going to school and life was very exciting for me to witness and say that I’ve experienced it. I am grateful for the having the opportunity to join the Dutch Fulbright program and travel to Europe. Also to travel with an great group of students and to be with them for the week and get to know them even more.
Our last day in Holland was spent at school with our partners. Their school is a lot smaller than El Capitan and is all indoors. Unlike American high schools, they do not have sports teams connected to their school and instead they play with different club teams around the city. However, they do have PE lessons at school once a week which we were able to attend today. I played tennis with my exchange partner, Eline. Eline led the class and taught us some basic tennis skills since she has been playing since she was younger. A Dutch student who has played the sport before often leads the class in the activities. Some of the other American students participated in dance, hockey, and rugby. I learned that the Dutch students sign up for a new class every four weeks and the classes offered changed. Imko, a Dutch exchange partner, said that when the classes are posted all of the students rush to sign up because they only have a short time to do so and everyone wants the best ones.
Their school schedule resembles more of a college setting. The first classes begin at 8:30 and the last class ends at 4:20. There are 10 class periods offered every day but the Dutch students vary in which hours they have class or not. It is not uncommon to have a few classes in the morning, a break, and then more classes in the afternoon. Some Dutch students are even lucky enough to not have class in the morning and then get to sleep in a little bit. The classes the Dutch students go to change daily giving them a different schedule every day of the week. This allows for time between classes to relax and catch up with friends or finish some homework. Another difference to American schools is that when a teacher is sick, class is canceled instead of a substitute teacher coming to fill in. Classes are typically filled with about 25 students. This small class size allows for effective learning for students. The teachers use different methods of teaching in order to help the students understand the topic. In geography class the teacher did a lecture and the students listened and took notes while in English class the teacher gave the students a speech and had the students work together in groups to analyze and search for rhetorical devices in the writing.
We also had our farewell dinner and movie night on Thursday evening. We spent the night reminiscing about the Dutch students trip to the United States and reliving our more recent memories of the American students here in The Netherlands. All of the students were paired up together to create a short movie highlighting our favorite parts of our trip, the differences between American and Dutch food, and then one additional topic that varied between the groups. My group had the topic of “What I love about America/Holland”. Our movie included clips of Yosemite, which was the Dutch students favorite part, and tulip fields and the city of Dordrecht, which was mine and David’s favorite part. We included videos of our meals, what we did over the weekend in Holland, and videos from our trip to Rotterdam and Dordrecht City Center. Another group’s topic was the differences in transportation in California and Dordrecht and showed clips of the busy roads and parking lots of the US and the crowded bike paths in Dordrecht. A difference between American schools and schools in Holland is how we have parking lots for our cars and they have parking lots for bicycles. There are rows and rows of bikes filling the bike racks outside instead of rows of cars.
After the farewell dinner the students all went back home to pack their bags and get ready to depart for Whales the following day. Many of us are sad to leave our Dutch partners and families but we make promises to visit one another again.
April 20. 2017
Daily Life in the Netherlands
Today is Wednesday, April 19, 2017. It was the first day I could finally sleep in. I was able to wake up at 9:00 am and I think that helped with my jet lag. The past few days I continued to fall asleep during the day because I did not realize the jet lag hit me so hard. Jose’s house was much different than mine because of the fact that he had so many stairs. My house is only one story, but Jose’s home contained four or five flights of stairs. I guess that is pretty normal in the Netherlands, but in America the homes are usually either just one or two stories. Anyways, it was my second day of school with my Dutch partner. His school was called Stedelijk Dalton Lyceum, and that was also extremely different from my school. For example, they had a whole parking lot just for bikes, which is the opposite of what we have. Secondly, the school also does not have any school sports, so the closest sports recreation center is about five minutes away by bike. Lastly, their school consisted of six different years. This means that students there ranged from twelve to sixteen years old.
My first class today was theater. I was extremely nervous because there was only Loren, Aliyah, and myself. In theater class, we met the teacher Mr. De Bruin, and he split us up into groups. Luckily, Loren and Aliyah were paired up together while I was paired up with a girl named Fleur. Our assignment was that I had to sell her a pencil for two euros. The point of the little play was to use different methods to get people to do what you want. These methods included arguing, threatening, begging, bribery, and more. We did about two more plays using the same type of methods, but were placed in different situations.
After theater class, it was time for the Q&A by the Dutch kids. I sat with Loren and we met up with two different sets of Dutch children. They all asked the same questions such as, “How do you like America?” or “What do you think of Donald Trump?” Through this Q&A, I realized how different our culture was compared to the Netherlands. They have LOTS of more bikes and the weather is rather bipolar at times. The country is extremely small and it only takes about two and a half hours to reach another country. All the Dutch children that interviewed us were extremely kind and it was fun to talk to them. I recognized some of them from the theater class and they waved “hi” at me. The Q&A did not last as long as I thought it would and it was already time for lunch.
Later was geography. The class was full of first year students and we studied tectonic plates. Afterwards there was a short question and answer from the kids. They asked about what you could probably guess: Donald Trump. Finally, school ended and I went to go play soccer. Jose, Rens, David, and I travelled to a little field where we did a two on two. We also did free kicks and went on the playground. We stayed there for about half an hour, but had to leave because it was almost time for Eline’s party. Another difference I found between the Netherlands and the United States is the amount of soccer fields there are. Since soccer is the most popular in Europe (the whole world while we are at it), it would make sense that there are multiple soccer fields in each city. Soccer is probably the fourth or fifth most popular sport in the U.S., hence why there are not as many soccer fields.
The party at Eline’s house was a potluck style and Jose made some chicken satay. When we arrived at the party, I showed up in a pair of clogs because “I had to stunt” on some people (I also got two dollars from David). To clarify, clogs are Dutch wooden shoes that are larger than normal. The ones I wore was yellow with tiny red flowers where the laces would be. At the party, I ate so much food I felt as if I could explode. There was chicken satay, salmon sandwiches, chocolate eggs, pasta, and tons more. I had an awesome time there and it was a night to remember. We played multiple games and watched the FC Barcelona game against Juventus. I wished they came back from their 0-3 deficit, but sadly the game ended in a draw. Besides that event, we all had a wonderful time. Both the Dutch and American students bonded more than ever and now they are like a family to me. I will truly miss them when we leave and I could only hope I can see them again in the future.
Today was our trip to Rotterdam. I was excited for this trip because it gave me another chance to see a Dutch city before we left to Wales. Luckily, we did not have to be at the train station until 11 am, so I got to sleep in a little longer than I have the past couple of days. After I was done getting ready this morning, my host family surprised me with a traditional Easter breakfast spread. There was a lot of meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, and spreads laid out on the table as well as sweets. It looked very good and tasted even better. My favorite thing I tried was a meat spread, which turned out to be raw meat. After finding out that it was raw cow meat, it didn't look quite as appetizing. Many of the foods they eat here are very different to the food we eat in America. The food item that I have noticed the most is the use of bread or pastry in every meal.
After breakfast, Melle and I left his house and walked to the station. It was about a 10 minute walk but in my mind it felt like 45 because of how tired I was mentally and physically. Once at the train station, we checked and in and then caught a bus, which then took us to the outskirts of Rotterdam. After we arrived at our first destination, we then took the train into the city. Something that is different here in the Netherlands is the use of development of public transportation. It seems like nearly everyone uses public transportation. But it also more practical here because of how close the cities are to one another.
After we arrived, we all filed out and began our walk into the city. We started our tour by going to the see the Kubushuizen, or the cubed homes. They were very impressive and I had trouble figuring out where one room ended and the next started. We then went into De Markthal, or the market hall. This was my favorite part of the day. The building itself looked like a giant upside down horse shoe. The walls on the inside were painting to look like berries and flowers. The market was massive and it seemed like every type of food was being sold. There were many colorful displays of donuts, cookies, cheeses, raw meats, raw fish and fried foods. I decided to try a Kinder Bueno gelato, which was basically a Nutella flavored gelato. It was very good and I wish I would have asked for two scoops instead of one. We were allowed to roam the market for an hour or so and even though we had a lot of time there, it did not seem like enough because of the size of the market. After roaming for a while, a large group of the Dutch and American students went to the level under the market, where a supermarket was to look at Dutch foods and snacks. I bought various cookies, candy bars, sprinkles, stroopwafels and other candies at this super market. My favorite thing I bought was one kind of every Milka Bar I saw.
When our hour was up, we met outside and continued walking through the city until we reached the Verwoeste Stad, or the ruined city sculpture. While at first this statue looked odd to me, I came to realize that it was actually quite meaningful because of the story behind it. The statue was made to represent the city itself after it had been bombed by Germany. It really represented how the city had to rebuild itself afterward. It was quite sad, and the statue reflected that.
After looking at the statue and hearing the history, we were given free time in the city with our partners for the day. We went to the main shopping center and looked at a variety of skate boarding, trendy clothing and very odd shops. One of the main differences I noticed in American shops and Dutch shops was that the Dutch shops were much more clean and structured than American shops. After awhile, we walked back to the statue to see the other shops on that side of town and to make our dinner reservation at a place called Happy Italy. I found some really nice tourist shops on this part of town and bought some gifts for my friends and teachers back home. My favorite thing I bought was a Dutch-themed blue and white snow globe. Originally, I was going to give it as a gift, but I liked it so much that I decided to keep it for myself.
After shopping for a little while, we walked towards a different part of the city, where Happy Italy was. Once we were all seated, we were given menus (some in Dutch and some in English) and our drink orders were taken. After ordering our pizza, it only took about 5-10 minutes for it to come back to our tables, which was amazing because of how hungry I was. I ordered a four cheese pizza and Melle ordered a pizza with truffle sauce, mushrooms and Italian ham. The pizza itself was bigger than my face and was larger than I expected considering how little it cost. It was also very delicious and if I ever come back to Rotterdam, I will go back to Happy Italy for a meal. After we were done eating, we had to speed walk to the theater to catch our movie. We had to walk very fast but none of us minded because it was cold and windy. The main difference I noticed between American theaters and Dutch theaters is that you have to pay on a machine and also choose where you sit. We decided to see the new King Kong movie and while I enjoyed it, it was very hard for me to stay awake because of how tired I was.
After the movie, we walked back to the train station and arrived back at the outskirts of Rotterdam, where we then had to take a 45 minute bus ride back to Dordrecht. When we finally arrived home, I was so tired that I went straight to bed. Overall, our trip to Rotterdam was amazing and something I'll never forget
When we arrived at Rotterdam we saw the Cubic Houses which are houses where people live but designed like cubes. They looked similar to the house on top of one of the buildings at UC San Diego. After this, we went to the Markthal which is a building full of many vendors selling a variety of food. We tried krokets, poffertjes, and hutspot. My favorite were the poffertjes, or miny Dutch pancakes. Next we went to the Maritiem museum. There was a cool statue in front of the museum commemorating the bombing of Rotterdam at the beginning of the Second World War. Most of Rotterdam was destroyed during the bombings and had to be completely rebuilt after the war.
While some of us went to the museum, others went downtown and did some souvenir shopping. Then we all met up again and had dinner at a really tasty Italian restaurant. After this we went to the movies and watched Kong in 3D. The movie itself was in English but there were Dutch subtitles. It was a really great day filled with fun and many memories, we all loved Rotterdam and can't wait to see more of Holland!
April 24-28 is Global Leadership Week. If you teach, what kind of a global educator are you? What do you know about global education? According to the U.S. Department of State, the ability to succeed in almost any career today depends on a person’s ability to understand the world around them. As an educator, I have been a hardy advocate for the preparedness of students as global thinkers and agents of change. Over the past 15 years, I have watched education change. Recently, I have also watched the concept of global education sprout and begin a growth that has become more than a trend but a pathway to student success, global competency, and some much needed cultural tolerance. I am proud to say that I was an early advocate. My goal has always been to create a global pathway for students. A pathway similar to an arts pathway or a biotech pathway.
Whether students travel by way of an exchange or immerse themselves in an online experience, they become globally aware and this can be an academic and vocational game changer for many students. Elma de Hoon and I have been diligently (and mainly without much understanding from our administrators and district offices) building an exchange program that has changed the perspectives of many students and their parents. Contrary to popular beliefs, we spend our own monies to insure our programs remain and continue to grow. We get no financial support from anyone. And yet, we have helped create over 300+ young globally minded citizens and we are still counting. On Friday, a group of 15 ECHS students will be heading to Dordrecht, the Netherlands. If a student is studying with our project they are learning how to adapt to different circumstances, work with different global players, and (maybe) practice a new language. They are learning that we all have stereotypes, misconceptions about cultures, and are victims of prejudice and bias. All of us. Dutch and American students go into our exchange program to learn about another culture and ultimately they learn more about who they are and what they believe. Thinking globally has that impact on people.
Over the years, I have marveled at the depth and scope of the curriculum in the Netherlands. From the teaching of Latin and Greek, to the embedding of the Dalton Hour. This dalton hour is quite interesting because it allows students to discover a passion. Inspired by an American educator, Helen Parkhurst, it allows students an hour a week to do anything: check out a guitar and play it, spend time with a counselor, work with a science teacher, or even rehearse a scene for a theatre class. I have learned and observed so many wonderful and transformative things while in Holland. Stedelijk Dalton Lyceum is a wonderful school. Every year, it is full of gracious hosts and it is also the place of dedicated teachers and administrators. Not to mention, a group of amazing students. During the past 10-15 years, while we in the United States tested our students beyond compare, burned them out, and stifled their critical thinking and creativity; the Dutch were fostering thought, creating global citizens, incorporating the arts, and teaching global tolerance like no other.
I retell a story often to my peers. The story goes like this…
In 2009, the first year of our Dutch Fulbright Exchange, I took a group of students and we presented at the MUHSD board meeting. I remember an administrator and board member ( who will remain nameless) conversing, “ Oh” one said, “How wonderful for the kids, what a “nice travel” program but there really isn't anything to learn from the Dutch Educational System. What are their scores? Do they use explicit direct instruction? Oh, they have that vocational piece but that could never happen here”. I remember feeling a little deflated and quite surprised. First, I was shocked by the arrogance of their verbal exchange. Secondly, I was saddened by the inaccuracy of the statement between to educated professionals. I wanted to shout, “We have so much to learn from the Dutch. We have so much to learn from the world!.Our American educational system is testing the students to death!” But, I didn’t yell. I did not react. Instead, I withdrew to my classroom. I had big plans. I saw a plethora of wonderful things to replicate and share with my own students.
Over the years, I kept my thoughts to myself and continued to learn. I implemented strategies and ideas that I learned from the Dutch educators into my classroom. I brought my students up to a higher standard. I kept the art. I fostered their creativity. I helped them find a passion in their educational pursuits. Or at least, I tried. As policy makers in the United States mandated more testing, more testing prep, and more quantitative data, I hoped for a day when things would change.
Fast-forward to 2017, Mrs. de Hoon and I are in year 8 of our Fulbright inspired program. We continue to advocate for relevant experiences and rigorous academics for our students and we also look for opportunities for more global experiences for them. We work to see the whole student and work with them to meet their potential. Good teaching is good teaching whether you are in the United States or Holland. I am happy with the small changes in U.S. Education even if it has been snail-like and piecemeal. I guess the policy makers are seeing the light. Maybe. My fingers are crossed. I am still advocating for more innovations and global pathways. Mrs. de Hoon and I still give up our spring breaks, engage our own time and energies to make this program available for our students. We have been successful and persistent. We have learned too that constructing your own personal or professional pathway can be historically challenging. As we enter into the time of Passover, I am reminded of a quote by the Hebrew sage, Hillel the Elder. I keep pondering his question, If not now, then when? When will we in American education fully embrace innovative changes and commit to creating true and authentic global pathways and experiences for ALL our students and teachers?
I guess I cannot remain silent about it any longer.