When you give a student a day off lecture…

Unlike some of my friends studying at the Vrije Universiteit, my course schedule has lecture five days a week, meeting multiple times a day. I recently experienced the two gruesome weeks of finals followed by the next period’s courses with no break in between. While this sounds like a whole lot of “not so much fun”, throughout this process I have learned that I thoroughly enjoy my holiday breaks. I have also learned that sometimes, it is about the little things.

Keith Haring, Stedelijk Museum

This past Monday I had a day off of lecture *gasp*. I took this opportunity and, in my opinion, lived it to the fullest. I slept in until 11:00am (plus I was sick so I really needed the sleep) and took my time enjoying a slow morning. I got dressed, bundled up and biked to Museumplein to visit the Stedelijk Museum by myself.  

It was sunny for the first time in three days and while the wind was brisk, the sun made up for it. Once I found a parking spot for my bike Makda, I made my way into the museum. It was lovely to pace through the museum on my own timeline. The Stedelijk Museum had a Keith Haring exhibit, and I sat on a beanbag chair enjoying it for I don’t know how long. When I was ready I made my way to the “family room” where anyone was welcome to draw on anything in the room. I gladly took part. When I was ready, I made my way back to Makda and biked home.

The Cactus Blossoms

In the common space of our apartment (realistically, it’s just our kitchen) I was surprisingly productive before heading out with a group of friends to go see The Cactus Blossoms, a band from Minneapolis, Minnesota (my home!!). As we walked into the venue, we laughed noticing that we definitely brought the age demographic down by quite a few years. We all had a great time. Afterwards, some people from our group got fries (classic) before we biked home is the frigid wind. I made some tea to warm up once I got home, and reflected on my amazing day before setting my alarm for lecture the next morning.

You can say I’ve been a bit busy..

This will be a post, unlike the rest, that will hopefully summarize all that has happened between this post and the last (via photographic representation).

Places I have been:

In the Netherlands:   Utrecht, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Grou (in Friesland)

Kayaking through the canals of Utrecht, Netherlands Featuring: Feline

Pride Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands Left to right: Mary, Katherine, Feline

Maastricht Caves and “grafitti”

Ajax Stadium Netherlands vs. Sweden (2-0) but sadly not enough to qualify for the World Cup 🙁 , Amsterdam

In the Ajax ArenA in Amsterdam

Dressed for Success Left to right: Feline, Jenna, Donika, Mary, Allie

In Belgium: Bruges, Gent

View from the Gravensteen Castle in Gent, Belguim

Alley in Gent, Belgium

View from the castle in Gent, Belgium

My favorite five sequential buildings in Bruges, Belgium

In between traveling on the weekends, I have been studying hard and have taken two final exams (which composed 90% of my final grade [no pressure..]).

I also encountered my first flat tire with my trusty steed named Makda. Fun fact: Makda is actually a children’s sized bike.

Makda and I

Now that exams are over (for now) and new classes are beginning, hopefully I can get a better grip on blogging once again! Until then, Tot ziens!

DAM You Look Good Running

This past Sunday I had the joy of participating in the Dam tot Damloop, a 10 mile run from Amsterdam to Zaandam. It is the biggest running event in the Netherlands with about 40,000 runners and is the only time you can run through the IJtunnel. I don’t consider myself a serious runner, so lining up at the start was more than a bit nerve wracking. As the announcer counted down from tien (ten in Dutch), I was more than thrilled to use my very new, and poorly executed, dutch speaking skills (courtesy of my beginning dutch course). Drie.. Twee.. Een.. Beep!! And we were off!

One of the first landmarks is the IJtunnel. What is so amazing about the tunnel is that it is normally serviced as a highway, and is one of the two ways you can get from Amsterdam to Noord Amsterdam due to the body of water separating the two districts (the second way is by ferry). As I approached the downward entrance of the tunnel, a wave of thunder from the live drumming band in combination with the footsteps from the herd of runners washed over me. The adrenaline took over my system and an involuntary grin spread across my face.

Taashi and I before the race!

From the tunnel we made our way to Zandaam running on freeways, cobblestone streets, and bike paths (ha! take that bikers!). I ran with Taashi, a fellow IES abroad student, for the first 8km (fistbumping at every kilometer) before I took off and found my own stride.

While I found it challenging to run by myself, I made personal goals in order to not only keep myself motivated but to keeps others energized as well. My three challenges were to wave back at as many people (that waved to me) as possible, to applaud (and dance to) all the live musicians and DJ’s that were set up along the run, and most importantly.. give as many high fives as possible. The spectators along the way were so fun to interact with, and many homes were generous to give out water and citrusy treats to runners.

Look at those smiling finishers! Pictured Left to Right: Taashi, Erik, Mary, Margo, Rosa (IES staff member!!)

At the 14 km mark the crowds became more dense and so did thepercentage of people drinking beer and becoming a little more than rowdy. While I may have been going slow compared to all the people who had finished before me, I felt like a superstar running the last 2.1 km. It was an unreal experience to be inside the metal barriers running rather than standing and spectating. Around the 800 meter mark I let my stride take control and started sprinting. Simply seeing the finish line approaching was ever so rewarding. When I finally crossed the line I felt a wave immediate relief and pride wash over me (could’ve been sweat too.. tbd).

While I had my doubts about finishing the race, I am more than proud to say that with no training and a self-diagnosis of being a “non-runner”, I was able to take part in one of the biggest races in the Netherlands. This run was much more than a physical accomplishment and a hell of a good time. This opportunity provided me with the sound reminder that with enough determination and support, you can do anything if you’ve got the right attitude.