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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Back to my roots in The Netherlands

Day 242: 04/05/14

Life never stops to give you the chance to catch up on things, for that reason I have not had time to update my blog since last month! Hope everyone has been well! We have now arrived in May and , for me,that means that there are only a few 54 days left before my journey will come to an end. Sad and exciting thought right there! I am looking forward to seeing everyone again but I don't want to leave behind all these awesome people here!

So probably the most exciting thing that has happened over the last month would be my trip to The Netherlands! Okay no, definitely the most exciting thing! Absolutely beautiful I must say. This opportunity came about when I met my host family's family from Holland who came to visit us in Spain. I got along really well with the 19 year old daughter and was invited to stay with them in their home sometime if I would like to! Of course I wanted to but I wasn't sure if it was possible. So after about a week of thinking it over I went about planning and organising and doing all I could to make it happen. After getting my real parents' permission, I then got my host parents' and then AFS's. I was worried that I wouldn't be allowed to go but was relieved to find that no one had any objections. Holidays were coming up so I had a few days off school for my trip . I bought tickets and arranged a trip from the 16th of April until the 23rd of April, so I had 6 days in Holland. You can imagine how excited I was!

I arrived in Rotterdam (the city where my host aunty and uncle etc lives) at about 11pm and was collected from the airport and driven back to the house. First thing I noticed was that the houses were all so perfectly aligned and it was just such a different atmosphere compared to the one in Barcelona. I somehow felt more at home. I think this might have had something to do with the fact that there was a lot more nature, more green and canals everywhere, but also might have been because I have a little Dutch blood in me! My Grandfather on my mum's side is originally from Holland but moved to New Zealand when he was young. Consequently I felt like Holland had some sort of special connection to me!
Entering the house I discovered that my bedroom for the week was in the attic, I had to climb two sets of stairs and a wee ladder, and the stairs were crazy! The steps were so thin and I felt like I had only enough room to place my tippy toes on each step as the stairs went upwards rapidly. I suppose that they are this way to save space but people who live in The Netherlands are used to these stairs anyway.

First day in Holland I rid my first typical dutch bicycle! There are more than 13 million bikes in Holland with a population of approximately 16.5 million this is almost one bike per person! There's honestly bikes in every direction! I can understand why though, I mean first of all, the bikes are cute as and after that, the way you sit is just so relaxed and comfortable and since Holland is a flat and small country, the bike is a great way of getting around. I really wish I could have a dutch bike back at home!
Francesca, my host cousin and I rid our bicycles to the metro station as we were going to go visit The Hague, another town close to Rotterdam. In The Hague we enjoyed a nice lunch, a little bit of souvenir shopping and some sightseeing. I loved absolutely everything from the old style buildings to the bright blooming flowers. I don't really know what I had expected to think about Holland but I think that my expections were not nearly high enough! I'm sure that I went on and on about how much I liked the houses and gardens!

Notice all the bicycles lined up in the first picture?? Crazy huh!

After spending the day in The Hague we went home and had a nice family dinner. The dinner conversations were mostly in english but there was also a bit of dutch and catalan in there too. It was so strange to be talking in english so much as I was so used to speaking in spanish but whilst I was in Holland I spoke mostly english. There was a noticeable difference in the english ability in Holland compared to that of Spain :3

After dinner Francesca and I made plans to head out for the night. After not dressing up too much, due to the cold but also due to the fact that Francesca had warned me that the type of party we were going to was quite a different kind of party. By this I mean that people wore whatever they wanted. A onzie, a dressing gown, paper bag if you felt like it. The party was in a town named Delft which is a town full of university students and the party was being held by a specific group from the university. You could call it a sorority party? You know like what you see in the american movies? Makes me realise how boring the parties for the youth are in NZ... am I right? haha
In Delft we met with some of Francesca's friends and it made for a pretty enjoyable night. Though I am always happy when there is good music and a good dancing atmosphere!

Second day in Rotterdam I woke up to a nice typical breakfast with toast and butter! There´s never bread and butter in Spain, only oil and tomatoes! Both countries will argue that their way is better I´m sure :p
The weather for the day looked like it would be alright so we decided to do some sightseeing around Rotterdam and a little bit further. First stop was the famous windmills. Of course I couldn´t go to Holland without seeing the windmills!

After the windmills we just travelled around looking for beautiful churches and buildings. I tell you, I´m absolutely in love with the way the houses are in Holland!

Don´t you just love it too?? The countryside and sheep really reminded me of New Zealand, though I don't know of any other country that has as many sheep as we do!

Francesca and her family have a garden behind there house and this was so nice! I mean Spain is great but it could really do with some more grass, more green!

Just behind their house and over a little bridge there was also a huge park with a mini zoo and an amusement park for kids. This was pretty awesome I must admit. I mean, if I was a kid again I would absolutely love to play there, I would probably be able to play there for hours and hours on end... it was that awesome. Entrance would usually cost but Francesca and her family have a full year membership and can enter whenever they want so I got to go in and have a good look around, even had a turn on the swan pedal boats :3 There were heaps of playgrounds, big and small, a go kart zone, a water ride that shot you into the water, and this house that had everything giant sized inside. Giant jumping beds, hide and go seek wardrobe (not quite like the wardrobe from Narnia) and a huge bird cage.

On the Saturday morning my host mum took me in the car to find tulip fields and take photos! I was very lucky to be in The Netherlands at the time I was because the tulips were all blooming! There were sooo many colours, I had no idea there were so many! I wanted one of every colour to put in my own garden back home!

After the tulip fields we paid a visit to Madurodam! Madurodam is a big centre that has a lot , if not all, of the beautiful and famous attractions of The Netherlands in miniature version. The miniature versions were done so well, with such great detail, that I think if anyone couldn't visit all the places they wanted in real life, they could just visit them in this centre. I really enjoyed being able to see everything from bird's eye view too as I think I would not have been able to see things so clearly from street level. In fact, I had visited one of the buildings that was shown off in Madurodam but I hadn't even realised it before because it looked so different walking through the middle of the actual streets. The only annoying thing about Madurodam was that it was crowded with tourists, but hey, I guess I was one of those annoying tourists too :p

After enjoying a nice afternoon snack at the expensive Madurodam cafe, Francesca and I met up with her friend and hung out in a park close to the centre. It was a really nice day and we made the most of it listening to music, making daisy chains and climbing trees. I have come to realise how much I love just laying down in the grass, I could pass hours reading in the garden...if there was one here :p We really take grass for granted in New Zealand!

Saturday night we had Indonesian food for dinner! First time I had tried it and it was really nice (not quite as spicy as I would have thought though)! After dinner we took the bicycles and biked for half an hour to the central and stopped off at a bar where we were to meet up with Francesa's friends who were celebrating a birthday. On the way to the bar we met up with another one of Francesa's friends and because we were 3 people with only 2 bikes we had to do that very typical dutch thing where they carry someone on the back of their bike. I did a wee run and jump onto the back and felt ever so dutch hahaha. It's funny imagining my Grandad doing the same thing with one of his dutch girlfriends back when he was young and living in Holland.

Easter morning, Sunday of course, it was a nice day and I shared a lovely breakfast with the family. I was surprised to find out that eggs had been hidden in the garden... by the easter bunny of course. It's a Tucker family tradition to have an easter egg hunt and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I still love doing it. Usually I would go to church with the family on easter sunday too but I didn't end up going this time. Instead I spent Sunday out in the sunshine with my host aunty on the bicycles. We had a tour around the town and just talked about life. It's surprising how much you just appreciate the little things in life as you get older. I can imagine my younger self getting bored so easily, but now I take life day by day and always find enjoyment in the small things. There is so much to be thankful for, it's so sad when people just can't see it! My exchange has definitely helped me in this way, to be more positive and grateful, and I would definitly recommend the experience if not only to improve the way you or your child views life!

Anyway! Monday seemed to come around so quickly and before I knew it I was off to visit Amsterdam. Amsterdam was about 30 minutes from Rotterdam by train so it was super easy to organise a visit there. Unfortunately I have lost all of my Amsterdam photos as my Iphone has been stolen and I had not had the opportunity to upload any photos from Monday onwards... sooo I would recommend looking up pictures of Amsterdam to get a good idea of what I would have seen. In Amsterdam we went around the central and saw the typical things including red light district. In all honesty I actually enjoyed Rotterdam more than Amsterdam. I am not sure why but I think that I am just a small town kind of girl. I have grown up in tiny Timaru all my life and I could easily live a bigger town (in fact, I would like to) but it might take some time to adapt to a big city. I mean I am very sociable but I don't like when people are always in my space and I don't like getting lost or feeling insecure. In saying that, I feel more confident with independent travel now that I have done an exchange. You really do have to learn to navigate, use maps, translate messages and ask strangers for directions.
Overall I thought Amsterdam was a really cool city and just like what I had thought it would be, definitely a good place to visit if you are young and looking to have some fun with friends. I did some souvenir shopping there and found some nice wee gifts for my family back in NZ including some dutch treats! I am really struggling with the concept of repacking my bags for the trip back home. Even if I do leave the things that I don't want behind I am sure that I will have to wear like 10 layers of clothing on the plane to get away with all the shopping I have done during my exchange! First world problems right there...

As you can probably tell I loved The Netherlands and I am so glad I got the opportunity to go! This has got me thinking about how bad things might really have happened for a reason during this exchange. Maybe if I hadn't been with my first host family for so long I wouldn't have ended up here in this host family. I might not have had the opportunity to visit The Netherlands like I have which is pretty lucky I must say! Well that's just what I think anyway :)

I hope you have all enjoyed reading about The Netherlands and that you also all had a great Easter! I know a lot of time has past since then and I thank you for your patience :p As I mentioned, my Iphone got stolen just recently and so finding internet access and a good device to write my blog with has proven to be quite difficult!

Thanks for taking interest in my life and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask me, I love hearing from everyone :)

Love from Victoria,

The Spanish Girl :p

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