Saturday, May 28, 2011

four fifths. eighty percent. zero point eight. four months.

Travel is only glamourous in retrospect - Paul Theroux

So yesterday I didn't want to do two posts. Don't want to wear you guys out ;) and as such I didn't get to do my monthly "I've been here this many months and only have this many months left" reflections.

I have to say, I find a great deal of pleasure that I arrived on the 27th and I will leave on the 27th. Seems like a great closing. Exactly 5 months.

Well yesterday it had been exactly 4 months meaning I only have 1 month left. This is both awesome and scary. I am not ready to say goodbye to this thrilling lifestyle, but who would be? Eventually reality has to come kick you in the head and drag you back to your Monday to Friday work. I'm okay with this. At the moment I am getting ready to go to Croatia and trying to plan my last trip through Normandy, Scotland, and England as I won't have a lot of time to do that in between trips. This makes me stressed, which makes me look forward to going home where the toughest thing I'll have to deal with is drag myself out of bed in time to open the pool at 5:30am three times a week. Hmm.

Both have their perks. What I can say is, I am surprised at how quickly this all went by, but then again 5 months isn't very long. I will also reflect on the fact that coming home makes me a little nervous. People's lives have been changing, things will be different, I will be different, they will be different. Oh personal growth and getting older. And then there is the fact that I'll be coming back broke, I mean don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have spent all my money, but life sucks when you are broke.

On a lighter note, I was in my waste-of-time class yesterday afternoon listening to my professor lecture about how resume can be spelt with or without the é while calling it a resu-me which made me think she didn't understand the point of the é. Anyways, she was talking about resumes and what is considered good/bad and was interested in perspectives from different countries. As much as I detest speaking in that class I offered my opinion being the only resident of North America in the room. I would tell her how we did it in Canada, then she would ask if I meant the States, then I would reiterate that I lived in Canada, this happened a few times. The rest of the class found this rather humours. There was also this little gem of a conversation we had:

Have a great weekend! I probably won't be posting again until after I get back as I don't want to lug my heavy mactop around Croatia.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Very Special Day and other good things too

The Academy Building yesterday:
Don't know why the Canadian Flag was up, but I was pretty excited about it.
I figured they were wishing me a happy birthday. Obvs.

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a lovely day. I always try to keep my birthdays really low key, that way there is no pressure for there to be some sort of 'epic' event that doesn't live up to expectations. My last few birthdays have involved trips to Calgary's Heritage Park, Colour Me Mine ceramics, the Premiere of Pirates 3, casual dinners, etc. Last year I celebrated my birthday early in Mexico because we traveled about 18+ hours on a series of buses, planes, and cars to get home.

This year I had a final exam. This meant that I was up fairly early, studying until just before noon, then I went to write my exam. It took about 2.5 hours of constantly scribbling down answers. My hand was in such a cramp afterwards, but I feel really good about it so I'm certain I won't have to resit it.

Afterwards all I wanted to do was sit around. The rest of my afternoon involved a lot of 30 Rock and my new pink nail polish! It was actually quite lovely. I even did a little workout then showered. At this point in the evening I started getting "what are you doing tonight?" questions. Not many people liked my idea of a quiet night in for my birthday, you see, that just isn't what one does for their birthday here. When people have birthdays here there is generally a big party in a common room followed by trips to the city centre. I was not about to make any promises.

What did happen was that I had dinner made for me! Life win, because I was going to cheap out and have scrambled eggs for dinner, sad? Yes, but it was the only thing I had left in my fridge. So after some chicken parmesan and a few beers I was quite content.

It must have been close to 11pm when some lovelies that I hang out with rolled up singing happy birthday holding a rhubarb crumble! (made by two lovely Swedes) Loved it. I was so surprised. They also gave me a new charm for my Pandora bracelet! It is a tulip. How perfect is that?!

Mostly we just hung out all night until I was guilted/convinced/shamed that I should go out. But the thing that threw me off this the most was the all the girls I usually hang out with couldn't go out. Either they weren't in town or were catching the train at 6am. I ended up leaving the house at 2am, going into one bar where shots are 1euro, having a shot, then leaving. ha. I didn't really want to be out, but I could still say that I went out for my birthday. Ha, I'm such an old lady sometimes. It was raining lightly when I biked home but it was still quite warm. I really love it like that.

I had a really lovely day. It made me miss home and all the great people I know there but it also made me realize how little time left I have with the great people I've met here. From today I only have about 10 more days left in Groningen. Most of my remaining time here will be spent traveling, which is amazing, but at the same time I realized that it is going to be really hard to say goodbye to this - mostly awful - house and the people inside it.

When I got up this morning I discovered someone had vomited outside my door. The vomit is still there. Yes, student housing has its ups and downs. Hopefully it gets cleaned up soon!

Today after class I got together with my group to discuss our next and last paper over coffee. We tried to wait out the rain but eventually gave up. I biked home in the pouring rain. I soon discovered that the seams of my jacket were not waterproof. I was soaking.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Study Break

Yesterday night I went to a Pancake Boat here in Groningen. It is really one of the only tourist attractions. I went with a number of people from my intro week group. It was kind of odd to see them all again together, I mean I've seen most of them around, this place is only so big, but it seems like forever ago since we first met and it has only been 4 months.

So normal Dutch pancakes are thin like crepes but served with things inside. Back in January when I first arrived I had one with apple inside. What I've learned is that savoury pancakes are more the Dutch style whereas sweet is more of a deviation.

That said, when you sit down at the table there was still a huge thing of syrup and sugar on the table. Both were very dark, the syrup was very molassesy. I didn't have it on my pancake, but that's because I had one of the savory variety.

So I ordered the Holland Glory pancake which came with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, or maybe tomatoes too. Don't totally remember. You can see the picture below. I took it on my phone so the quality isn't the best, it was kind of dark inside. So you get this pancake that is huge like a pizza and between two layers of pancake dough they have filled it with cheese and your other 'toppings,' maybe ingredients is a better word. Then the bacon was on top. It was so tasty! But essentially it was a pizza on the inside and covered in pancake batter, really, you can't go wrong. I hope to get back there before I go and get a sweet one to give it a try too.

Today I spent a large majority of my time in the library studying for my final exam tomorrow (boring). It went alright. As I was reviewing the textbook I came across this passage that I had underlined and found it quite humerous. Clearly I am in the wrong country. I certainly do not have an aversion to nonsense. Nonsense runs through my veins.

For interest sake, don't know if I mentioned this already, you aren't allowed to take your backpacks or jackets into the library, which can be very annoying. Instead you go into this locker room, put everything you need in a grocery basket, then lock your bag or whatever else you aren't taking upstairs into a locker. This can be a hassle and generally leaves me locking an empty backpack in the locker, or running up and down stairs to get things I forget. This was my basket today.

When I got home from the library a package from two very lovely girls at home was waiting for me. This is a package that we thought had been lost to the sea or somewhere worse as it was taking forever to get here. It was filled with thoughtful and wonderful surprises. Seeing all this great stuff from home made me really excited about the end of June and my return to beautiful Southern Alberta for a summer in Calgary!! It'll be hard to leave, but at least I'll be going to a place I adore to hang out with people that I miss and love!

They know me so well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kajakken Leuk

Yesterday I told you I was going kayaking through the canals in Groningen. It was great fun. There was only one problem, in the main stretch there was a strong head wind that meant that you either paddled as hard as you could or got pushed backwards. As such I didn't really get to take many pictures. Here are a few:

It's always fun to see the city from the canals or rivers that run through them, it gives you a whole different perspective. At first we weren't very good and kept running into the houseboats along the edge but by the end we were doing alright.

After kayaking I came home and did a bit of studying before heading out for dinner, what a novel idea! Tess' parents are visiting and they wanted to take a group of us out to dinner. We swung by their hotel, had a drink, then ventured out to find somewhere to eat. Sadly for us it was after 10pm and all the kitchens in Groningen shut down at 10pm. Weird right! We ended up eating at a pizza place that you really only ever eat at at the end of your night when you are far too drunk to see the grease pouring off of it. Ha. It was good in a kind of I'd never eat this again sober way. After that we went to another pub for a drink. The rest of the night was a bust as there wasn't much going on in the city centre. I made it home and to bed around 2:30am.

Today I am studying, so far so good. Final is on Thursday; it is written so I think I am at an advantage. Well really I am always at an advantage being a native English speaker when writing tests in English.

Tonight I am going to a Pannekoekschip aka a Pancake Boat to eat Dutch style pancakes with my ESN group from intro week. Sounds very Dutchy and delicious. I'll try to capture a picture or two.

I am quickly realizing how limited my time is here. I head home in less than 5 weeks now. On Monday I am going to Croatia, then I'll come back, write a couple papers and I'll be done school here. After that I'm traveling for almost 2 weeks. At the end of those 2 weeks I'll return to Groningen, have a weekend to pack up my European life and move home the following Monday. It all seems to be happening so quickly! Especially because time spent traveling zips by.

Can't believe it is almost over. I'd love to stay longer but I am looking forward to coming home to see my friends and fam! I can't wait to go camping July long! I have always thought that it is the best time of the year so it'll be great to get home just in time to enjoy it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Motivation is running on low

This is what my life has been for the last little while:

Well that might not be entirely accurate. I have a final exam on Thursday, but I also have had nothing else going on so I've done a lot of nothing. The thing about having so much free time is that it makes you all sorts of lazy.

I attended a birthday party here in my student house on Friday night - got to bed around 4 - then stayed up late watching movies on Saturday - bed around 3:30. Last night I made it to bed some time after midnight and was quite impressed with how early I was getting to bed. Yes, this is what my life has become.

The other day I booked plane tickets for Croatia. I'll be going Monday the 31st to June 6th. I'm really looking forward to it. Croatia looks amazing!!

Otherwise I have all this school stuff, life stuff, and other errands I should be doing. It seem so pathetic that I can't get myself to do these things. It really easier to get stuff done when you are busy all the time.

I've been studying today but I'm headed out to kayak around the canals in town. Afterwards I'm thinking I'll make an evening trip to the library. The rug library space doesn't compare with my beloved 10th floor McKimmie, but I'll deal.

Happy Victoria Day Canadians!! Hope you are having a lovely day off. Hope the sun is shining in your part of the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Snap Shots

I've not been up to too much the last few days. Studying, relaxing, watching a lot of 30 Rock, the usual. You see right now I only have one class a week, on Friday, for two hours. The rest of my time is largely unscheduled. I have a final on Thursday so I'll be studying for that over the next week.

The plan was to go to Disneyland tomorrow, leaving this afternoon on the train to Paris but after all things considered it ended up being quite expensive for only one day so we cancelled. Sad about it.

Oh, and I did get my bike back. It had been confiscated so it only took me a 10 minute bus ride and 25 euros to get it back. So relieved.

Because I've not really been up to much I don't have much to update you about so I thought I would post a few pictures I have laying around. Enjoy :)

I love trying new chip flavours when I'm in different places. That said I don't really eat that many chips at home so maybe we have a similar flavour? It is pretty tasty. They also have "Mediterranean Herbs" which basically tastes like it sounds, very basil-y.

My map is really filling out!!

One of my new fave necklaces and cause of recent owl obsession.
Purchased in Barcelona.

There is a fair in the city centre. Seemingly putting small children in life-sized hamster balls and getting them to roll around on water is a popular activity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brugge According to Hipstamatic

Brugge, May 15

Sunday we headed an hour north via train to Bruges. We were slow going in the morning so we didn't make it out of the house until near noon and with a bus trip and train ride we arrived at about 2pm.

The great thing about Bruges is that it is small and adorable. This meant we didn't bother with a map, well really we didn't bother with a map and tourist info because the tourist office at the train station closed at 2pm on Sunday. As such we just wandered around the town. It is adorable! Think a touristy version of Belgium, but not really in a bad way. Because it was quite touristy things were a little more expensive, like eating. We walked around for quite some time trying to find somewhere to sit and eat before eventually settling with Subway. I had a meatball sub because it is so filling for the small price you pay. Funny though, no one must ever order meatball subs because they had to bring the meatballs out from the back frozen then microwave them. Ha. Not really the most appetizing, especially because when we did get our subs some of the meatballs were still a little frozen.

After lunch our only goal was to see the town, eat a waffle, and buy chocolates.

Bruges is a good town for wandering, there are tons of cute streets attached to other cute streets that leads you to a canal where you can see old churches and castle like buildings.

Eventually when our appetite returned enough to justify eating a waffle and getting a coffee we walked back to a place we had seen previously. It purported to have the best hot chocolate and fresh home made waffles. Really, you can't go wrong. That is the wonderful thing about Belgium, even if the chocolate isn't the highest quality it is still delicious! I'm not normally a huge chocolate fan, not that I dislike it, I'm just not really drawn to it, but there it is so delicious.

So we both ordered a hot chocolate, I got dark chocolate, we also both ordered a waffle with just sugar. All of this is served with a tray of chocolates and cookies.

The hot chocolate was a real wonder. And the sign did not lie, it was in fact the best hot chocolate I had ever had. They serve you a large bowl sized mug of hot milk with a whisk. Then this is accompanied by a chocolate cup full of chocolate chips. Basically you dump the chocolate cup into your hot milk and whisk it until it becomes a delectable chocolaty concoction. It was divine. The waffle wasn't the regular fluffy variety, it was quite thin and covered an entire plate, this was covered with powdered sugar and served with white and brown sugar. Naturally all this was put on top of the waffle before consuming it. Sugar high is an understatement. I think I made out pretty well though because I felt wonderful afterwards.

From there we did some more walking and perusing of chocolate shops, which are literally everywhere. We came across a fair like set up, which must be popular this time of year because we saw rides and games like that in Brussels as well and there is one set up in the main square in Groningen this week too.

Being a Sunday not too much was open so we did a little window shopping before finding a chocolate shop we could commit to buying things from. I walked away with quite a bit, so family be prepared.

We walked on and spotted a bar that shows off a hundreds of different types of Belgian beers. We stopped for a pint. I really enjoy the glasses they serve them out of. Each beer has a very specific cup for it to be served out of and a lot of them take on the shape of a chalice or goblet. It is nice. The sitting area overlooked part of the canal in town. It was nice to sit and relax.

After beers we headed back to the train. It was quite late but we didn't need to get anything to eat because Lily said she'd have dinner waiting for us. We made our way through a lovely park in Bruges, found the train, then caught the bus and showed up to some fresh spaghetti. We didn't think we were hungry until we sat down with food in front of us. It was so tasty. That was followed by a banana milk shake. Ha, we were like lost kids being stuffed full.

After dinner we watched 'Wolf Creek' which is a horror movie based on a true story about a serial killer in Australia who kills backpackers. This might make more sense if I tell you that Tess knows Lily and Fabrice from when they were backpacking through Australia for 6 months and met Tess' family and subsequently stayed with them for some time. So Australia was their connection. I have to admit that I only watched the first part of the film before tuning it out because it was so disgusting and unnecessary, but I'm biased by my blind, unconditional hatred of scary movies.