A Good Place

I’ve learned that most people I tell that I lived in the Netherlands really don’t care. Steef in all his infinite wisdom informed us this might happen. Most of the time I don’t tell people. And, if I do 90% of the time a conversation about marijuana ensues. So, it’s almost not worth it to mention it. Or I get a “that’s awesome!” and the topic of conversation immediately changes. Not like I want everyone I tell to ask me a million questions and be enthralled over it but if I cared enough to mentioned it a few questions would be nice. Even if it’s “did you like it?,” “what city did you live in?,” “can you speak any Dutch?” I’m not entirely sure what made me think about this or what possessed me to blog about it. Perhaps it just bothers me. Because I care about what other people have done and are doing with their life. I think it’s interesting to find out what made people who they are. It’d take me forever to explain all the things that happened in my life of any significance but I can definitely pinpoint a number of occurrences in my life that have shaped who I am right now. And, the months I spent in the Netherlands is most certainly one of them.

Another is presenting at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research last year in Missoula, Montana. If you know me you are aware I’m rather reserved and a nervous wreck. Well, I volunteered to not only continue research that I did with a class on my own but I also opted to be the one who presented it at the national conference. First, I am terrified of flying. I live in North Carolina- the conference was held in Montana that year therefore I had to fly there. Third, I didn’t know anyone who was also going from my school. Lastly, I had to speak to people. Lots and lots of people. And these aren’t just regular people to me- they are incredibly intelligent people. If you have the desire to do research as an undergrad and it is good enough to be accepted to NCUR then I’d consider you a smart individual. Low and behold I had a fantastic time. My research and poster was a hit and I spoke gracefully. I sat my note cards down on the ground and didn’t look at them once. That was one of the first times I was legitimately proud of myself.

I’m proud of myself for going to the Netherlands not knowing what I was getting myself into and not knowing a single soul. And of course there’s graduating college. I’ve sort of forgotten how important that is lately. I’m the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college. It was no easy feat. There were many odds stacked against me but I did it. I did it in four years. Sometimes when things don’t turn out how you want them to you forget even the most significant things in your life. Or at least I do. Not being able to go straight to graduate school and taking a job that has little to nothing to do with my major is helping shape me big time. I’m coming out of my comfort zone and pushing myself. May not always be fun but I feel like it needs to happen. Especially if I want to be the best person I can be. So if you’re scared to do something don’t be like me and refrain. Go for it. The few times in my life I have it has paid off big time. I met some of the best friends I will ever have while in Leiden. Amazing men and women that I am thankful for each day. That in and of itself made studying abroad in Leiden worth it.

The experience turned out to be so much more than that though. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I learned a lot about other people. A lot about the world. There is an infinite amount to learn. I feel pretty bad about being lazy lately when it comes to learning. I haven’t been reading as much. I haven’t been writing as much. I haven’t been doing the things I love. And you better believe I’ve made countless excuses about it too. I’m tired, I’m broke, I’m unhappy with my situation. It’s all a bunch of crap. A very smart person once told me you choose your attitude towards life. I didn’t want to hear it but he is right. I feel inspired again. So, if I know you then hold me to it. Ask me how I’m doing and make me be honest with you. Ask me if I’ve been reading, writing or taking pictures lately. Ask me what I’ve been eating lately (when I get down I eat the exact same thing for weeks). If you want I’ll do the same for you. We can be accountable to each other. So, not only can we be happy but we can continue to be happy. Life’s too short to lose yourself. Because do you ever really find yourself? I think that if you’re constantly searching to be better than you’d have to rediscover yourself everyday. Maybe I sound like a walking cliche. Or a walking contradiction even. But I’m simply expressing myself. That’s something I need to start doing more.

The song that inspired this post:

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What now?

Studying abroad makes everything else suck. Before I studied abroad I thought my life was pretty okay. I was going to school, volunteering, and babysitting to make some money. Normal stuff. I have friends, we went shopping, out to dinner, to see movies, took weekend trips but now none of that seems to be enough. I realize how pitiful I may sound but if you’ve studied abroad or lived/worked in another country other than the one you grew up in you probably understand. For instance, today I went to H&M in my local mall. For the most part the clothes in the H&M’s I went to in Europe and the one’s in the US are exactly the same however it’s still NOT THE SAME. They were playing songs that you hear on Top 40 stations. In Leiden they played music you’d hear on a Top 40 station at least 5 years ago. And weirdly enough… I miss that! The people working in the H&M’s I went to in Europe were dressed what I’d consider rather normal and here they are completely hipstered out to the max.

You try waking up in the NETHERLANDS everyday for over 4 months then try coming back to NORTH CAROLINA and tell me it doesn’t suck a little. Not like there’s anything particularly wrong with North Carolina it’s just so empty and plain to me. Don’t get me wrong I love the beach and the mountains… NC has both. Raleigh is… okay I guess. It’s growing and there’s new stuff popping up all the time. I’ve realized it’s not where I want to be permanently but it works for now. I’m attempting to make the best of it. I mean in comparison to a weekend trip to Paris a weekend trip to Wilmington just isn’t in the same ball field. Maybe I’m just jaded, I don’t know.

What I do know is I miss Europe. Waking up and going to work each day is just not cutting it for me. That’s not life to me. I’ve explained this to the people close to me many times. I see no point in working a job to afford a place to live in order to have a place to go to sleep so you can wake up and go to work. GAH. So pointless! Another thing… it seems as though SO MANY people I’m around are doing things just because they feel like they have to or that it’s just what you do at this particular time in your life. Why? So you’re supposed to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, after college you get married, after that you have kids, buy a house and furnish it with all things Pottery Barn, buy an SUV or two, go on trips to typical and predictable tourist locations, shop at Baby Gap, buy and prepare all organic meals, host jewelry parties… I’ll stop because I think you get the point. To me that stuff is so meaningless. When you die do you think people are going to think wow that Amy and Jim had REALLY cute strollers and great Tupperware. I certainly hope not. I just cannot fathom myself turning out like that. And because of that I feel out of place big time. Although I feel like I shouldn’t. We’re all entitled to live life how we want to right?

I think back on living in Leiden and I don’t remember struggling with this at all. It was freedom there. And no, not just because I didn’t have any rent to pay, no job to go to and hardly any responsibilities. I realize that part of the experience was unrealistic. Despite the fact I dislike the daily grind I do understand that because of the way society is set up I am required to have some sort of income if I want to hold a particular standard of living. Okay so… as I was saying while living there I felt happy I felt like people were just being themselves and letting me be myself. I really miss that. There was no pressure to complete a checklist of cliche rights of passage. Now that I’m back I’m still trying to navigate my way through my much too typical life. It’s not like I want to be someone special I just want to be happy. Maybe I’m just impatient and expect things to happen instantaneously. There goes my typical American need for instant gratification. I’m working on it.

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Things you learn (round twee)

I just read over my “Things you learn” post and cracked up the whole time. I’ve decided to make another list. Again these are often silly and inside jokes. It’s all in good fun.

Dutch men have more style in their pinky than most American men do in their entire body.

American’s should be outraged that we allow genetically modified and hormone filled food in our markets.

American’s don’t take enough coffee/tea breaks at work. Maybe that’s why we’re so cranky.

If you can get through Dutch language class with Rene you can do anything.

Having friends all around the country rules but also sucks ūüė¶

People don’t say “muderball” enough.

Life without Dutch male models is a dull life.

All ‘party’ (any holiday you celebrate by drinking heavily i.e. 4th of July) holidays pale in comparison to Queen’s Day.

Frank needs to move to America and teach at my next university.

Not gonna lie I’m looking forward to wearing boots and chunky scarves this winter.

Zimbabwe is a land locked country.

I consumed more wine while in the Netherlands than I think I will in the next 5 years.

The clothing items I purchased in Europe mean more to me than the ones I purchased here in America.

Daily trips to H&M aren’t the same. The one in my mall isn’t filled with as beautiful of people.

I miss getting home after 1 am and drunkenly cooking a full meal with friends.

The stairs to the loft in Hugo are not meant to be ascended or descended while intoxicated.

The paper thin walls in Hugo are not missed.

However, I do miss Lexi and I’s peep hole.

Muderball is not yet an accepted word in my vocabulary. People just don’t understand!

AWKWARD

Our government really is as screwed up as it appears to other countries.

I’d trade a 5 euro train ride over a 60 dollar tank of gas any day.

I think Lexi, Carly and I consumed a metric ton of dairy products while in Leiden.

Their milk and cheese is just so delicious!

Nobody puts Steef in the corner!

There is no university library with as many hot guys as Leiden University’s.

Pregaming during class… drinking alcohol from a water bottle. Yes, that happened.

“I’m not above it!”

I can completely half-ass every assignment for every single class (except photography) and successfully pass.

I miss Lotte!

Dennis is a hottie.

Everyone should try a stroopwaffle.

Nine hour bus rides from Amsterdam to Paris ARE fun.

When the fire alarm in my apartment goes off hot Dutch fireman don’t show up ūüė¶

The Netherlands is where I actually belong.

Telling people I lived in Europe for over 4 months never gets old.

R.I.P. brown boots, black pea coat and cheetah print flats. You will be missed.

Your head and your heart truly can be in two locations at once.

I regret never going to one of those huge parties at the frat house down the street from Hugo.

My weather widget on my desktop will always remain set to Leiden.

I miss my Leidners more than anything.

I have scars on my feet but I don’t regret them one bit!

Picnics here will never compare to our Leiden picnics.

Because Diana and Dorien won’t be there to Martha Stewart the hell out of them! (Maybe soon ladies)

Kip nuggets met ketchup ūüėČ

There are no funnier women than Lexi, Liz, Stephanie, Amy, and Fulani.

There will be a political demonstration in every city you go to.

Walking to the Frisian bakery and getting a sandwich during our break was the best part of Globalization.

The bad kids room in Texel…

Steef will, no matter what, walk far ahead of our group and talk about the most random things he possibly can whether or not we’re listening.

Never again will I get away with using Wikipedia as a source.

In comparison to studying abroad not much else holds up.

Every time I have to get in my car to go to the store instead of putting in my iPod and walking there I die a little inside.

Homesickness in reverse truly does exist.

There’s nothing wrong with being upset that you can’t get Lion and Mars bars as easily in the states.

Every time you see something Dutch or Netherlands related it’s okay to get excited.

Something you’ll strangely miss… the frigid bathroom in our one room school house.

The fact we had a one room school house for that matter!

I’ll never get over watching those people ride their bikes like nobody’s business.

Rene will be secretly flattered that Lexi Googled him and made him her profile picture on Facebook.

It’s normal to still think “It’s 6 AM in Leiden right now.”

Or If I were in Leiden right now I’d be…

Marc’s voice was oddly high.

The anxiety in the computer room on the day we all had to take the Dutch final.

Dreading having to tell someone you lived at Hugo de Grootstraat because it’s so difficult to pronounce.

Going to walk around town and coming back with clothes, shoes and chocolate.

American’s should be introduced to frite sauce.

As well as Dutch frites.

You may be sitting on a bench at a bus stop in the middle of the night illegally drinking a bottle of wine in public (but you didn’t know it was illegal yet) and creepers might drive up and ask if you want to come to Amsterdam with them. You’ll pass.

Herengracht is party central.

Steef will “play a game” where he makes fun of people’s laughs.

Mike will drink copious amounts of Heineken.

Not gonna lie not much beats a 2 euro Heineken.

American dollars aren’t as cool looking as euros.

Four months is not enough time to live in Leiden.

Thank God Dorien can speak Dutch.

MTV should have filmed us and aired it.

I NEVER GOT TO TRY POFFERTJES!

Dutch pancakes > American pancakes

I really miss doing photography assignments.

Lexi hitting a pole on her bike will forever be one of the funniest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

And the fact that Steef just kept going will be too.

Monsoons… still not fun to bike in.

A liberal from New York and a republican from Texas can be bestfriends forever.

Dorien will forever be associated with kittens in my mind.

No matter how much I missed my favorite foods and stuff while I was there I definitely miss Leiden a lot more now.

I’d give anything for a re-play of Queen’s Day.

If this reunion doesn’t happen next summer I’ma be sad!

I’ll surely be updating this as I think of more witty things to add. Also, Leiden folks suggestions are welcome. Send them to my Facebook!

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I miss Leiden

I have in fact found a job. Though it is tough but I am gradually starting to like it more. I have never worked in the restaurant business before so I have no idea what I’m doing. Hopefully soon I will get the hang of it and start making great money. I have a lot of things I want/need to save up for. I really want to invest in a few retro analogue cameras. I also want a new digital one as well. I have fallen in love with photography and want to do it as much as possible. I also want to invest in a MacBook Pro. I will (hopefully, fingers crossed) be attending graduate school next fall so it will be well worth it. Not to mention I am a fashion junkie so a new fall wardrobe is in order.

I have been struggling lately when it comes to being what I call “Leiden sick.” I miss that place immensely. Sometimes my heart actually hurts. I think about the beautiful cobblestone streets, architecture, cannals, boats, bikes, flowers, stores, and people I saw each and everyday and I yearn for it. I want to sit by the canal with a book and read. I want to feed the crazy ducks. I want to walk to the store, buy Dutch milk, bread, cheese and goodies then walk them back home. I want to see all my friends. While most of us are back in the US we’re all over. I’m the only one in the Southeastern United States. It’s amazing how close we got over that period of time. I miss my room in Hugo de Grootstraat. My loafted bed and my big window. I miss hearing Dutch being spoken. I miss attempting to speak it. I’d do anything to walk into a store and hear “goedemiddag!” Or “dank u wel”, or “alstublieft”, or “hallo!” I miss riding trains. I really miss the trains. It was a time I could clear my head. I dislike driving and in the city I currently live in you have to drive everywhere because everything is so spread out. While I was in the Netherlands I don’t think I realize how much I had fallen in love with the culture. Reflecting back now I truly have and I absolutely cannot wait until the next time I land at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I’ll feel like I’ve arrived home. Or the next time my train stops at Leiden Centraal and I can walk on Haarlemmerstraat, Breestraat and Hugo de Grootstraat! That is something I am thoroughly looking forward to. What I’d really like to do is take someone I care for. Hopefully a significant other and/or my sister and show them around. I want to take loads and loads of pictures as well. I can’t wait. It will happen.

All in all… I am pretty happy right now. I’m currently staying with one of my bestfriend’s Eva. I’m hoping that in the next few months I will be in the groove of things at my job and things will be more stable. There are a few other things I’m hopeful about/looking forward to but I don’t want to jinx them so I’ll update in the future. I don’t REALLY want to be living in Raleigh but things are all going to fall into place and hopefully within the next few years I’ll be able to relocate to a place that I feel suits me more.

I’m working on investing more time in my interests and what makes me happy. I definitely lost a lot of that while I was in my last relationship. I lost myself basically. And I can gradually feel myself coming back together. Even better this time. I am trying not to get my hopes up because I tend to do that but I feel like things are just going to continue getting better. I see no reason as to why they wouldn’t. I want to go on more hikes, road trips, concerts, try new restaurants, photog adventures, and shopping ops! It’s time to have some fun.

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Things I’ve Learned Since Returning to the US

Being American REALLY skews my view of the world. I think I knew that before I left but now it’s in my face obvious. I stated previously that being called the “American girl” got old. It got me thinking why did it bother me to have that as an¬†identifier? What about being American makes me so different than say a Dutch person?

I had no idea how much of a microscope America is under by the rest of the world. Everything we do is scrutinized. This is a great country to live in but it isn’t always peachy living here. We are so different. I think about the state I live in- North Carolina. I’m from the farthest east you can go on the coast. When I am driving from my home west to another part of the state the geography and people change within a matter of hours. We have the beach, country, cities and mountains in North Carolina. Region has a huge impact on development. We have almost any type of ‘American’ you can name. Businessman, homeless, working class, white collar, redneck, surfer dude, stay at home mom, rich, poor, black, Asian, Native American, Indian, Latino, the list goes on. I mentioned in previous posts how¬†homogeneous¬†the Netherlands is (for the most part). That cannot be said for America. I understand now why it takes so long for legislation to pass, why we can’t agree on anything, and why there is so much hatred. We’re taught to be ourselves, be unique and we should be accepted for just that. But, we aren’t. We ridicule one another for being fat, skinny, rich, poor, from one part of the country or state, having a certain accent, profession, race, religion, etc. I love the fact that in the apartment complex I live in I can see all sorts of different people on a daily basis. I go to the store and I see people of different shapes, sizes and colors. We dress differently, talk differently and live differently. That’s part of the appeal of America or at least I thought. But is loving and accepting diversity something¬†ingrained¬†in me because I am American? The Dutch promote parsimony and sameness. Being ‘normal’ is important to them. I’m not just saying this because it’s what I think I’m saying it because my own Dutch professors told me this was so. If I were Dutch would I be so keen to diversity? I don’t know.

I didn’t stand out while I was in Europe (or at least NL). I’m tall, blonde haired and blue eyed and many assumed I was Dutch. So maybe if I had looked different than something people were accustomed to seeing I would have had a different experience. But also, I believe, that because I was able to blend in I was able to observe discretely. People treat you according to the way you look you can’t escape that. Not until someone found out I was American did they start treating me differently. I got the “Are you from NYC?, Texas?, Los Angeles?” basically immediately. When my answer was no they were often disappointed. Then the stereotypical questions began. “Do you own a gun? Or do you like George Bush?” Many Europeans make it seem like individuals who answered yes to the two previous questions and yes to being from Texas are a joke (or we’re made to believe that). But while I was over there they were completely enamored by people who fit that profile. They wanted to know all about it. Perhaps because it is so different from their lifestyle. I can understand that. I am enamored by someone who lives in a 9th floor apartment in Paris. I can’t relate to that fabulousness I live in Raleigh!

I think that the way of life in the Netherlands works for them. Their political system and way of life suits the Dutch people. I think that America needs to stop comparing ourselves to countries like the Netherlands because we are another entity entirely. I think that we can model legislation and things after other countries but I think we need to focus more on what works for us the way we are right now and what can make us better. Not “look at the Netherlands political system why can’t we be like that?” Well, because we’re not them. They have consensus politics we DO NOT and I seriously doubt we ever will. We can’t even agree on the¬†simplest¬†things! I can only hope that somehow our¬†government¬†can make the decision to focus on what needs done here and takes into consideration all the historical events, differences, likenesses, successes and tragedies that have made us the country we are today. I’m sick of us looking like a joke to the rest of the world. I’m sick of having to defend the country I live in. I didn’t chose to be born a caucasion, middle-class American woman. But, I am so I’m doing what I can with the cards I was¬†dealt. Live and let live. Think logically. Be objective as possible. Why is the US the way it is? Why is the Netherlands or China or Columbia the way it is? Is what they are doing work for them? Maybe in some ways it’s not. But in others it is otherwise they would have collapsed. I think no matter if your country is¬†homogeneous¬†or diverse we all have something to contribute the world as a whole (take that as you want). I know it’s impossible to not have biases while looking at the world. I’m doing my best everyday to learn and grow. To be educated about cultural differences within my own state, country and the world I live in. I realize all this might sound preachy or pretentious but I don’t mean it like that. I’m just reflecting. I’m ready to do more traveling around the world. Not as a passive tourist but as an active learner.

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Back in America

Well, as most or all of you know I’m back in the US now. I graduated from Peace College May 7th and now I’m on the hunt for a job. I went home to the Outer Banks for a few days but that isn’t where I want to be if I want to make it on my own so I came back to Raleigh. I had an interview on the 13th but it wasn’t what I was expecting and even though I got offered the job I declined. So, I’m still looking. Being back is weird. I’m not going to lie I really wish I was still in Leiden. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t do the things I got so used to doing there. My life has been pretty chaotic since I got home. Seeing as I immediately graduated pretty much the day after I got off the plane and being gone for four months I have no where to live in Raleigh so I’ve been bouncing around. Hopefully I’ll get a job and a stable place to live shortly after. Return culture shock is real. I was doubtful when I first learned of it but believe you me it happens. Needless to say I’m searching for ways to get back in the future.

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Coming Home

I fly back to North Carolina tomorrow. In preparation for my return I want to make a couple things clear. I have a lot of things to do when I get back. I have grad practice, baccalaureate ceremony and graduation all within 48 hours of being home. I also don’t have a cell phone anymore so for those of you who were planning on texting or calling me it isn’t going to work. I’ll get one soon though. When graduation is over I plan on going home and spending time with my family. There will be plenty of time for me to see friends seeing as I’ll be back in the same country as most of them! However something I want people to understand is priority goes to those people who made a sincere attempt to keep in touch with me while I was gone. I don’t mean this in a rude way I just want to make it clear that those people who stayed in contact with me while I was here will be the ones I want to see when I get back. They helped me work through homesickness as well as were just great friends to me. So priority goes to them and my family. When I return don’t expect me to be the same person I was before I left because I’m not. Be patient with the fact I have to readjust. Considering my life is about to change immensely, AGAIN. Last year my life changed drastically, I came to Europe and my life changed and now I’m going to graduate college and look for permanent work and start life post-graduation. So yes, I’m going to be busy and probably a tad stretched thin. I finally feel myself again so I’m going to want to keep busy and start fresh. I have that chance so don’t take it personally if I’m not interested in doing the same things I was doing before I left because I don’t really want to. I hope this post isn’t coming off harsh, if it is it’s probably because I’m just overwhelmed right now and I don’t want to disappoint anyone who thinks that things are just going to go back to exactly how they were because chances are they won’t. For the first time in such a long time I have the chance to completely start over in North Carolina, the state I love, and I’m going to take it. I am looking forward to seeing my family and I can’t wait to hug them and tell them all about my experience in person. Coming home isn’t going to be easy. I don’t have any definite plans lined up so you can imagine that feels a little weird but it’s also exciting and I don’t want anything to ruin that. I hate flying so if you pray I’d appreciate you pray for my nerves so I don’t get an ulcer (lol) as well as my safety. I’ll be seeing many of you soon.

This isn’t goodbye Europe. I’ll be back.

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