Hallo Holland

This has been the hardest day(s) of my life.  Today–or today and yesterday, or whatever I can call the time between leaving home and getting here–has challenged me so much.  I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up to study abroad, but I absolutely hate flying.  I feel like I’m constantly on the verge of death while on the airplane.  So what do I do?  Fly twice in one day(ish).  Across the ocean.  With a window seat.

In all actuality, I think I like flying.  It’s way easier than driving myself somewhere, and I get there faster.  However, my trans-Atlantic flight was a little disarming.

1) I could not hear anything the pilot said or any of the instructional videos at any point in the flight.  Mostly because of the engines, but I’m fairly certain the pilot was speaking some freaky deaky Dutch a couple times.

2) The fact that I could not hear what was going on probably contributed to my alarm when, after take-off, what appeared to be everyone in the entire front section of the plane came scurrying back to my section.  Is this normal?  Anyway, my first reaction was obviously, “Oh shit he just said we are crashing and all the people in the front came running to the back so as to avoid fatal impact ala Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic!!”  But they all looked happy so I figured we were okay.

3) That is, until the turbulence happened.  I mean worsened because it seemed to be omnipresent.  We were awakened from our sleep (Also I failed to mention that the flight was pretty empty so everyone just claimed a row and laid down…is that normal?) by the flight attendant saying to put on our seatbelts.  I had finally just dozed off for about ten minutes before that happened, and couldn’t get back to sleep after that.  And as always, I thought we were going to die.

Okay so blah blah we survived and we got off the plane and I got my bag.  And then I had to go through customs.  So far I’ve been in the Netherlands about 2 hours and I can tell you that they are mostly unhelpful, relying on vague pointing motions.  So I followed one of these vague pointing gestures up to a certain point.  A fork in the road, if you will.  I either had to declare my items or not have any items to declare.  I checked the list, and as I was not carrying any live animals or over 10,000 Euros in cash or any handguns, I felt I passed the declare-your-items test.  So I go through the no-declare line and out into the main airport.

No one stopped me or asked me any questions.  No one was even there.  Which I found quite disturbing because couldn’t I be carrying 50,000 Euros, a couple guns and a few dozen squirrels?  I naturally felt that I had failed customs so I went to the airport information and told them that I needed to go back through the line because no one had asked me why I was there or anything.  And they said no, that I was okay.  So I’m probably an illegal immigrant!

Next:  The train.  Um…first of all, I have not started my Dutch classes yet, therefore, I was basically as effective as a five-year-old when attempting to buy a train ticket.  Do I want to take the train to Gemeinsheft via Gemellscheft? (I’m also blatantly pulling German words from my sociology class to try to illustrate my point)  Uh…I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.  I went and asked the lady at the train information kiosk (this is like the 300th person I’ve asked something to in 7 hours) and she said I could get my ticket “over there.”  I go and get my ticket to Amsterdam Central Station and again get a vague pointy thing from the lady working there.  Apparently, I’m to go downstairs.  I go downstairs and watch the train leave.  Okay, I’ll get the next one.  Oh wait…I know the last train with this number said it was going to Amsterdam Central Station, but this one is NOT going there.  I walk over to the other side of the platform and ask the nice man with the pink scarf and suit if I can get on his train.  “Do you have the special ticket?”  Am I Charlie and the freakin Chocolate Factory?  But, this nice man (I can’t tell if he was gay or just Dutch) said I could get on the high speed train (more expensive) with my ticket, just don’t tell anyone.  So I immediately assumed he was going to high-speed rape me in the passengerless train, and thus I slyly practiced my neck-jabbing move my dad taught me.  But as it turns out, he was just nice.  He could see that I was frustrated and confused and gave me a free high-speed trip to Central Station.

Getting the tram ticket was frustrating and confusing, getting on the tram was frustrating and confusing, getting off the tram and crossing the street and finding my hotel were frustrating and confusing.  But here I am, in Amsterdam, in a hotel room (cold, but fine) and I’m hungry.  So I’m going to venture out to get some food.  Wish me luck that I won’t have to cross any streets again.  I love you all and will update with more positive things when those things happen!

–Mary

P.S. Here is a picture of my hotel room:

Here is the view from my window:

This is what I miss:

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6 responses to “Hallo Holland

  1. Mary – You are doing great so far, even with all the frustrations! Before you know it, you will look back at this entry and giggle. Enjoy your time and keep documenting the fun.

    A quick story about the Nederlaender as a people. Doug and I took a trip to Germany and stayed at a vacation “resort”. Basically a bunch of A-frame cottages with no real amenities…but lovely none-the-less. The majority of fellow vacationers came from the Netherlands. They were all a bit aloof (and quite slender). The europeans have a tendancy to be a little less empathetic – at least outwardly. Keep smilin’ and tell them to suck it!

    Take care!
    Marti

  2. Lol – Will you kill me if I say all Dutch Railway ticket vending machines feature an English version and help menu’s…? Sorry to hear your arrival was so problematic – it usually is a lot easier than that :(

  3. leeanne dollins

    oh my goodness!! this is a book in the making! I am laughing out loud (dad is looking at me concernedly from the other room)
    keep updating with your wit and wisdom, i will collect your writing for publication! i love you!

  4. Ha ha Atte I tried using the machines. The English version was great and I had everything figured out but it kept kicking me off and going back to the start menu whenever I went to pay. Everyone has actually been pretty helpful, other than the fact that they cannot make me have a proper sense of direction!

  5. Lol, yeah, that might be a pretty difficult thing to give you haha. I’m sure you’ll manage though. I’ll send you my number on facebook in case you need it. Feel free to contact me with any questions that might arise.

  6. I am laughing out loud at the sight of you “slyly practicing your neckjabbing move your dad taught you”! You crack me up Mary! You will learn how to navigate in no time. Press on and enjoy the wonders of the Netherlands! :)

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