Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brussels and Valkenburg

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

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!

> On Sunday I explored Maastricht's town square called Vrijthof. It was really cute and very old. The streets are made of cobblestones and the churches are ancient. I explored on my own for awhile and stumbled upon a printing museum called Museum de Historische Drukkerij. There was an artist exhibit there that was really cool even though I have no idea what the tour guide was saying... Later we went out for pizza in Vrijthof and there was an entertainer who looked like a cross between Elton John and Liberache. Some of our group joined the Conga line which was hilarious. My roommate is the one making a funny face. :)

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


Whew. I'm here at Maastricht University dorms. What a journey! The flight from GR to O'Hare was worse than O'Hare to Brussels (Belgium). The longer trip was smoother and I was able to sleep. Dare I say I enjoyed that plane ride? It helps that I had a neck pillow, an iPod, and a sleep mask on...
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

Getting Ready to Leave

I leave Friday morning for Grand Rapids. Then I will catch a flight from Grand Rapids (2:25 pm) to Chicago (2:20 pm Chicago time). From Chicago (4:45 pm Chicago time) I fly to Brussels (8:00 am Dutch time). Then we travel to Maastricht where we are staying. Settle in at the prison cells, ahem, dorms, then grocery shopping! As a fatty, I'm overly excited about seeing/eating Dutch groceries.

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

The Netherlands

Since I leave in less than a week to go to the Netherlands for a month, I decided to start my blog finally! I have always been meaning to do it, but I haven't really had the drive to do it. So, here we go!

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.