Sunday, June 27, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
This weekend 11 of us went to Rome, Italy! Jillian Maggard and I took a hop on hop off tour bus around the city and spent some time at the Colosseum and the Vatican, as well as shopping. The Colosseum was my favorite. It felt so powerful there, to know that so many gladiators and other people died there, mostly for entertainment. I'll just have to go home and watch Gladiator to relive the good ole days. The Vatican was amazing! We walked through the Vatican Museum which houses the Sistine Chapel. All the millions of hallways that led to the Sistine Chapel were amazingly beautiful. So many intricate paintings on the wall as well as the walls and ceilings themselves. The Sistine Chapel was awe inspiring. There were guards that kept shushing everyone. Apparently the Sistine Chapel needs complete silence to work. Whatever. Also no pictures. I got yelled at... Oops. Well I wasn't going to pass up the illegal opportunity to get my own picture of the famous ceiling! We did some major shopping after that and stumbled back to our hostel. Then we left to go home (Maastricht) on Sunday.
Today I had to say goodbye to my year 6 class. They left for camp this morning and my last day at their school is tomorrow. I had a harder time saying goodbye to them than their parents did. At least their parents get to see them when they come back from camp on Thursday. I really had a great time with my class and I already miss them all! So many different languages spoken in that class, yet a very tight sense of community. I have gotten email addresses from teachers and substitute teachers. One sub told me that she would do anything for me because she so enjoyed working with me. This lady worked with me for ONE DAY! That was pretty cool.
Tonight our professors took us to a nice Italian restaurant that GVSU paid for. Also Gelato for dessert. Did I mention that while we were in Rome, Jillian had 4 Gelatos in one day? Also she got pooped on by a bird. But not a pigeon because they are all too fat and lazy to fly in Rome.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
This past weekend Jill and I went to London, Belfast, and Amsterdam. We arrived in London around 6pm. We walked to all the main sites (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace...) and had blast! We absolutely adored London! We spent way too much money on souvenirs, but hey, it was London! We went back to Buckingham Palace on Saturday morning to see if we could tour the palace. Next weekend is the Queen's birthday so they were practicing Trooping the Color. We got to see a great ceremony but couldn't go into the Palace. So we shopped!
We left London and arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland around 6pm on Saturday. Um... Belfast. We stayed in the slums, pretty much. We were terrified. We were followed by groups of men, catcalled, witnessed a fight involving the throwing of beer bottles, and we ran back to our hostel. Our hostel... was in an alley. Also terrifying. We shared a room with 18 men and women. Sheets were not washed. We slept in our clothes and got out of there by 8am. Then we went to the outskirts of Belfast which were really beautiful and thankfully much different than the city centre. We hiked a bit and saw Belfast Castle. I was standing in the middle of a forest in Northern Ireland overlooking a cliff and it hit me. I was in Ireland! My whole life I dreamed of going to Ireland. It was amazing and gorgeous (except the city centre of course). We hated Belfast Saturday night and loved it Sunday morning. Fun fact: the Titanic was made here. If it was made in the city centre, I know why it sunk. Damn.
On our way back to Maastricht, we stopped off in Amsterdam. Here, we went into the Anne Frank Huis (house). This was an experience that I will never forget. I stood in the Secret Annex. I saw Anne's bedroom, complete with her decorations on the walls. I saw the marks that Anne's father made on the walls to record the growth of Anne and Margot during their hiding period. I saw Anne's diary and loose leaf pages in glass cases. I went behind the bookshelf that hid the Secret Annex. Amazing. Really one of the most amazing experiences in my life.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend filled with unforgettable experiences.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
It was kind of an exciting weekend for me! On Friday the whole group (18 of us) went to Brussels, Belgium for a conference at the European Union headquarters. After that, we broke off into groups and explored Brussels. Brussels is a great medieval town! The streets and buildings are very old and beautiful. There is a small statue called Mannekin Pis that is a little boy peeing into a fountain. There is a myth about this boy ending a war because the soldiers were laughing so hard at him. Needless to say, Brussels is full of crappy gift shops filled with little naked boys peeing. Keychains, magnets, t-shirts, chocolate, you name it. Peeing boy. Mannekin Pis.
Friday night, Jill Jensen and I were supposed to catch a flight to Berlin for the weekend. We found out our flight was canceled! So we got a transfer to Geneva. GENEVA! That is in Switzerland! We were pumped about an adventure until our flight was delayed several hours until past midnight. Can you get a hostel past midnight in Geneva? NOPE. So we decided not to go. The airport paid for us to stay and eat at the Sheraton across the street. The next day we called the airline to see about a refund. The airline swears up and down that the flight left. Um, excuse me? No it didn't. Everyone we talked to at the airport said that all flights to Germany were canceled on Friday night. Even the airport website listed our flight as canceled. But the airline said that they have a record of the flight getting to Berlin with over 100 passengers on it. Okay. So we got credit on our account for a flight anywhere they fly. Look out London and Ireland next weekend!!!
Today was a Memorial Day celebration at the Maastricht cemetery. On the train from Brussels airport I met an elderly couple from Denver who were on their way to Maastricht for this ceremony. Mary and Rich. Rich's uncle was lost at sea during the war and it is customary for a dutch family to adopt a grave and honor the dead several times a year. Today was the first time that Rich and his family got to meet this adoptive family. I think that is awesome! I had a good time talking to Mary and Rich about Europe.
Today I went to Valkenburg, a town just a short train ride from Maastricht. I went with two girls, Jill and Kelli. We climbed castle ruins, took a chair lift to the top of a tower and tobogganed down. We shopped. We had a blast! We have a small trip planned for Wednesday, then London and Belfast this weekend! Whew!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Yesterday we went to class then to St. Pietersburg Caves. The caves were quite a hike but amazing! There were charcoal drawings on the cave walls. The caves were used as hideouts during WWII. Really interesting and cool. I'm enjoying the city but walking everywhere is not so amazing.
I figured out the bus system today while going to and from my placement. I'm going to be working in a 6 year classroom which is the equivalent of 5th grade here in the states. The school I am in is a school that teaches English to children from all over the world. There are about 30 languages spoken by students in that school. I meet the kids tomorrow!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
First "good" omen for the trip: We met a couple of very nice Belgium women at O'Hare airport. We compared trips (they took a music tour through Texas). When we told them we were coming to Europe for a month, they said, "Oh much better food there than here." We said, "Oh really?" They said, "Oh not the Netherlands though! Oh no! Belgium." Drat. We are not staying in Belgium. We are staying in the country of windmills and bad food, apparently.
After getting here in one piece, we walked to Hell and back (grocery store and back to the dorms). Then we walked past Hell and back to the bike shop. I'm hot, sweaty, nearing cranky and I hate bikes. Ergo, I will be touring the Netherlands in style... via foot! Some people who were with me and saw how upset I was that I couldn't do the bike thing helped me to feel better about myself. I will be able to maneuver better! I will learn all the good bus routes! I will dominate Europe!!! Pictures to follow when I am not so bloody tired.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I mentioned my flight anxiety in my last post. Well, did you know a plane from the Netherlands crashed last week, killing all but a young child? YEP! Great for my nerves. But, as Mom said, what are the chances of that happening twice in one month? I'm taking some Jesus literature along just to make me feel better. Right now my literature selections are The Shack by William P. Young (courtesy of Annie Truesdell), Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Modoc by Ralph Helfer, and The Hand of Dinotopia by Alan Dean Foster. That's a lot of books, but with the potential for volcanic complications and long flights, delays are almost imminent and I am a power reader. I'm looking forward to reading on the plane and sitting outside in Europe, weather permitting.
Speaking of weather, yes, the Netherlands is just as cold and rainy as Michigan this week. At least I will feel at home in that respect! Thank God I have a leopard print raincoat and pink umbrella. Whew.
I'm attaching a few pictures of the places I will be staying. The first is Maastricht University and the other is of the town in general.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I leave next Friday to study abroad for four weeks. I leave from Grand Rapids and go to Chicago. From there it is a 8 and a half hour flight to Brussels. 8 and A HALF! Did I mention I am afraid to fly? I used to love flying, so lets hope that I can get in a good mindset and enjoy flying again. So. Friday. That means that I have less than a week to get ready. I'm enjoying my favorite activities at home as much as I can because I will have to do without them in the Netherlands. My bed, for one. I looked at pictures of the dorms in the University of Maastricht and they look like prison cells. A slab of wood for a bed. I will miss comfort.