Friday, December 25, 2009
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Tomorrow morning I will be heading off to Argentina. As I fly through three countries to arrive in Buenos Aires, Gabriel will be halfway across the world, beginning his journey at the same time as me! We'll meet up in Buenos Aires within twenty minutes of each other...I'm so excited to see him!
The next two weeks will be filled with delicious Argentinian cuisine, lots of sightseeing, some great shopping, meeting Gabriel's extended family, and driving around Uruguay. If my posts aren't frequent, it must mean that I'm finding it hard to locate a good internet cafe! I can't wait to share all of my adventures with you here once I'm back. Until then, enjoy the rest of your holidays, and have a safe and enjoyable New Year!
See you in 2010!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Yesterday, my Dad, Oma, and I went to a local Dutch imports store. We have always gone there, especially to pick up some Gouda cheese or Haagel Slag, but I hadn’t visited since my time in the Netherlands. It was like stepping back into the Dirk or Albert Heijn grocery stores! I was so shocked at the aisles upon aisles of imported jars of vegetables, crackers, meats, cheeses, candies, cookies, drinks, and kitchen items. Seriously, I felt like I was back in the Netherlands. They had all of the same brand names, and even some stuff from the Albert Heijn brand.
In the evening we invited over my other grandparents, and we had a feast fit for a Dutch family! To begin, we ate some fresh Gouda and cold cuts, followed by my Oma’s favourite, raw herring with onions. Since I loooove sushi, I can easily stomach herring. It’s not my favourite, but it’s fine.
Then we enjoyed some traditional wintery Dutch fare. Rookworst (smoked sausage) with Boerenkool (kale mixed with mashed potatoes). This is the kind of meal that you could have found Dutch families eating out on the farms throughout Dutch history. I had never had Boerenkool before, but absolutely loved it!
We ate on my Blond Amsterdam dishes that I had collected during my time in Amsterdam. For dessert, we used a mix from the Dutch import store to make a traditional Dutch appelgebak (Dutch apple tart). Oh wow, I had really missed my appelgebak! I’m so happy that my Oma was here to translate the directions!
It was such a nice family evening, and I really enjoyed sharing my stories of the Netherlands with my grandparents, and of course hearing their own stories about when they lived in Holland (Terschelling, Ede, Amsterdam, and Naarden).
I wore my foamy Dutch clog slippers, and my red and white Ajax Amsterdam soccer scarf! Yay for Dutch dinner nights :)
Monday, December 21, 2009
I’m so excited for Canada to host this year’s winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler, British Columbia. I’ve always loved watching the Olympics, and am especially proud that my country will be highlighted this year. Vancouver and Whistler are both beautiful places, and it’s nice that the rest of the world will get to see the Canadian spirit and the beauty of our West coast.
My friend Yvonne and I went to watch the Olympic torch as it ran through our town. To see everyone, decked out in red and white, wearing the special 2010 Olympic red mittens, and cheering on our country, was a wonderful feeling.
At first, a huge motorcade of Royal Bank of Canada and Coca Cola sponsors came through, handing out tin coca cola commemorative bottles and Olympic flags. About ten minutes later, the torch was passed off to a woman who ran it the rest of the way through our town. Afterwards, everyone flocked to the local park and we all sang “O Canada!”, our national anthem. It was a pretty cool moment.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Left hand smudging all of my calculations, boy next to me sniffling every 2.5 seconds, exam proctors whispering loudly at the front of the gym, memory trying to resurface any of the information I've studied....
I'm happy to say that I can now indulge in all the holiday festivities, happy and guilt-free. Tomorrow's agenda looks like Christmas shopping, a big family feast, some gift-wrapping and baking.
So while Gabriel has tortured me all week long with his stories of traveling to Cologne, Germany for their famous Christmas markets, eating steaming hot crepes and collecting large German mugs, I can now partake in my own festivities (although I do envy his Christmas market adventures!)
Welcome holidays :)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Four final exams down, one to go! It’s been quite the challenge focusing on studying this year, when all around me Christmas preparations are taking place. Last night I finally gave in and baked these shortbread cookies with my mom, decorated gift bags for my niece and nephew, and took pictures of all the Christmas decor around our house.
Tomorrow at 5:00pm cannot come soon enough! When my last exam is finished, I will feel completely free to enjoy the holiday season in all it’s beauty! Until then, my nose is in a book. I have so much to look forward to this Christmas, including a visit with my Oma from Prince Edward Island, my nephew’s first Christmas, my niece’s first year understanding about Santa and the concept of Christmas, seeing old friends (like you, Yvonne!), and taking that special trip to South America with Gabriel.
Can someone please just fast forward the clock until tomorrow night?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sometimes I feel like part of me is still in Amsterdam. I suppose, with Gabriel still living there, that this is partially true. When I see our apartment on webcam, and hear the sounds of the Amsterdam street through the window, it makes it really hard to feel completely separated from that wonderful city.
When we moved to Amsterdam, I was very adamant about staying positive on my blog, and used that positivity to help me adjust to life abroad. There were, of course, negative aspects about living in Amsterdam, but I was often quick to forget about them. After all, those annoyances and nuisances made the city that much more interesting and real.
Having been away from Amsterdam for 3 months, I can safely look back upon my time there with an objectivity that perhaps I didn’t fully have before.
Here are my top 10 lists of what I really really miss about Amsterdam, and what I’m very content to live without.
What I Miss About A’dam
1. Nights at the Bioscoop – The movie theatre in Amsterdam where we frequented (Muntplein Pathe), served up delicious popcorn that is completely different than in North America. It’s also fun to drink a Grolsch beer while viewing the movie, especially if it’s one that your boyfriend forced you into watching (ie. Transformers).
2. The fruit and veggie stall at the Albert Cuyp – I practically visited this stall every day during the spring and summer. There’s nothing like picking out your meals daily from interesting little market stalls.
3. Fresh flowers on our table – The flowers are just so cheap in Amsterdam that it was criminal to just leave them sitting there in the roadside stalls. We always had fresh tulips, roses, peonies, or daisies throughout our apartment.
4. Cafe culture – The Dutch know how to enjoy a cup of coffee. In a cozy bruin cafe, while the rain softly falls outside, with a flickering candle atop an ancient wooden table. Gezellig.
5. Taking the tram – I didn’t have a bike while I was in Amsterdam, but I did ride the tram almost daily. I miss stamping my strippenkaart and catching the tram at Stadhoudeskade.
6. The shoe stores – I once read somewhere that Amsterdam has more shoe stores than any other city in the world. One trip to the Kalverstraat, and you’ll believe it. The boots are unlike any I’ve seen!
7. Church bells – There were always bells ringing, somewhere, in Amsterdam. I miss hearing the bells from the old church in De Pijp, and especially the melodic sounds of the Westerkerk.
8. Fries with mayo – No ketchup served with fries in Amsterdam! The delicious mayo with crispy frites in a paper cone is sorely missed, although my waistline may be thankful :)
9. The Dutch language – It took some adjusting, with all those guttural G’s, to enjoy the sound of Dutch. Once I began learning, I really enjoyed trying to decipher the language daily. Now it’s gone, just like that, and all of the vocabulary I spent hours learning is going unused. Sometimes my Dad and I will converse in Dutch though!
10. The photo opps – Everywhere you look in Amsterdam, there is a beautiful, interesting, or shocking photo opportunity. One of my favourite (and free!) activities to do was to grab my camera bag and head out around the city. I would come home with hundreds of photos of the craziest people, most beautiful architecture, and quirkiest shops.
What I Don’t Miss About Amsterdam
1. The smell of the canals that would often drift into our pipes and fill our apartment.
2. The mice – They are everywhere in Amsterdam.
3. The grocery stores – I often felt that the grocery stores in Amsterdam left a lot to be desired. With unfresh produce, rotten milk, old merchandise, and yes, mice running around, I really didn’t enjoy that task.
4. Pushiness – Canadians are known for being extra polite. Many times in Amsterdam I encountered especially pushy people, whether it was at the market or the movie theatre, it seemed like the concept of a “line” was a bit difficult for some to grasp.
5. Not being able to drive – It’s so nice here in Canada, with my new car, and a clear understanding of the rules of the road. Numerous times Gabriel and I were caught driving on the tram tracks, or incurring some other traffic infraction. Oops!
6. Pigeons – If you don’t know about my fear, click here.
7. The smell of marijuana – We lived very close to a “coffeeshop” where marijuana was the main item on the menu. Sometimes the smell was so unbearable in the summers when our windows were always open.
8. The public urinals – I always thought these were disgusting, even though they are slightly genius. I guess they serve their purpose, but the older ones in the center definitely have leakage problems.
9. Ordering food via phone – Ordering take-out was my responsibility, and it was so difficult sometimes trying to order food in half-Dutch, half-English. We were often happy if they made it to our house, even if our order was completely wrong!
10. Drunken yelling – We lived in a very popular area of Amsterdam with lots of great bars. At nights, in the summer especially, the shouts from the street below as people parted from the bar were quite annoying. Dutch people like to yell “Doeg!” (bye!) reaaaally loud.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
This weekend, in the midst of studying for final exams, I took a break to visit our local town square with my parents and niece. As the Dutchies were celebrating Sinterklaas on the other side of the Atlantic, Santa Claus was just arriving to our little Canadian town.
My one year old niece brought Santa a letter, which read, “Dear Santa, I would like some toys.” Surprisingly, she wasn’t afraid of Santa and eagerly accepted his candy-cane gift.
Complete with horse-drawn carriage rides, carolling, a miniature Christmas village, Santa Claus, and a lots of local press, Saturday’s walk into the town center will not soon be forgotten. So beautifully “small-town”, I cherished that crisp December afternoon with my family.
What do you do to get into the Christmas spirit?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
This past year, Gabriel and I have traveled throughout Europe, and I’ve enjoyed sharing all of my experiences here with you! Today, as the first snow fell here in my home-town, I looked back at my computer’s desktop background of Cinque Terre, Italy. The water, so blue and mesmerising, captivated me. I could stare out at the Mediterranean sea for hours on end.
Whether we were browsing sea-side fishing markets in Malta, boating out to abandoned islands off the coast of Spain, climbing through the rocky villages of Cinque Terre, or splashing in Mallorca’s wavy waters, the Mediterranean was one of the high-lights of my year abroad. Before last year, I had never visited a Mediterranean country, or dipped my toes into the sea. I dreamed of its warm, bright blue waters. When we boarded the plane to Malta exactly one year ago, I remember my excitement to see the sea! The water was freezing, and it wasn’t until our trips to Spain this summer that we finally got to experience its warmth for ourselves.
While my list of Mediterranean countries is not complete (I’d still love to visit Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Tunisia, and Morocco), I’m happy that we got to experience these countries: most of them with close friends! Oh to be in a warm, Mediterranean climate right now!